Caravan suitable for National Parks

Submitted: Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 15:29
ThreadID: 106726 Views:2959 Replies:4 FollowUps:7
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Hello. I am a 'newbie' to this Forum, and a happy owner of a Lifestyle campertrailer.
Like many others, while I have enjoyed this campertrailer, age is starting to kick in a bit, most noticeably after packing up in the sun or rain. Phew !

Its time to make things a little easier, so I would appreciate any recommendations for a suitable caravan model, based on the following criteria :

National Parks campgrounds in the main. Not much caravan park long stays.
Towing vehicle is a 2002 Prado, 3.4 petrol in good nick
Single axle van preferred for some National Park tight set up sites
2-3 years old
Dirt road friendly, but not an off-road serious 4WD go anywhere .
Full size fridge freezer, 3 way, as most Nat Parks have no power.
Toilet and shower (in one),as most Parks have toilets but not always a shower. And the missus is a bit spooked at visiting the loos in the middle of the night if I am sound asleep.
Double bed with access all around for making up
Attached and easy to set up extendable awning, with attachable sides.
17' preferred size, so happy to sacrifice some bench space and seating to get the above criteria.

I figure we will spend most of our time under the awning and using a fold up table there for food prep and eating (like we do with our camper trailer) to make up for less bench and seating space in the van to keep it around 17'.

I dont need solar panels with the campertrailer, but imagine I may need some with a van (?).

I'd appreciate help and general advice to start a short list of makes and models that may fit the bill. And hearing about any pitfalls I may not be seeing.

Thank you, Don
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Reply By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 16:04

Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 16:04
Hi Don,
Here is my take on it having had a van since 1974 or there abouts.

I have done my time in tents, even after I had the van, and have slept on canvas on table drains, in sleeping bags and anywhere and anything else you can imagine. My experience is broad in other words.

Most vans are suitable for National Parks and most vans are quite maneuverable even the dual axle variety, especially since you have a Prado to tow with.

I would take my 24 foot Jayco anywhere there is a reasonable dirt road and have done so many times. Even to the dismay of my traveling companions.

A lot of us prefer dual axle caravans as it spreads the weight of the van over more wheels and therefore leads to less tyre trouble. It is a better supported van meaning that more of the vans chassis is supported over a larger area and therefore the van itself. I learnt this lesson a long time ago on a single axle van.

So here is my recommendation
An 18 to 20 foot van on a dual axle.
A seperate shower and toilet is preferred.
An island double bed.
Any van made after 2000 as they have a galvanised chassis.
Min 200 watts of solar capacity and a 20 or 30 amp regulator,
you need that much solar at least with the pump and lighting etc
Batteries = 2 X 100 Ah at least.
Awning is a must have.
Walls are optional and will be used only occasionally I would suggest.
Van must have a front boot.
There also needs to be 2 X 9kg gas bottles for extended stays.
Lighting needs to be all LED.

The above will see you camping where and whenever you like for nearly as long as you like in any one spot and will be a great tourer as well.

Hope this helps,
Cheers, Bruce.

At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 16:24

Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 16:24
I should have added that my preference is for a full van and not a pop top, unless you have limited height where you park it.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Follow Up By: Member - bbuzz (NSW) - Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 19:29

Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 19:29
Not all chassis are galvanised.

Pays to check and get it in writing. Many are painted with 'DuraGal' and sales people will tell you that its as good as galvanising.

Its not. Just paint.

Bill B

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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 20:05

Saturday, Mar 15, 2014 at 20:05
Your dead right Bill, many are not full gal so it pays to familiarise yourself with what galvanising looks like as opposed to what the supagal and duragal finishes look like.

Full gal is far and away the better although there some advantages and disadvantages with either type of finish from what I have read.

Cheers, Bruce
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 11:33

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 11:33
UM...while there is a duragal paint ( intended for touching up duragal steel)....duragal steel is not a is a metalic plating.....fair enough it is not as good as hot dipped gal.

But duragal steel is way better than plain blue painted steel.

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Reply By: Don B10 - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 07:55

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 07:55
Thank you for the replies. Does any brand (or brands) stand out in regard to the galvanising quality, and general build quality, particularly the stuff you cant see easily ?
AnswerID: 528439

Follow Up By: Parafan - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 08:49

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 08:49
If you liked your Lifestyle Camper give John from Lifestyle Campers a call as he is now making good small off road vans.
Everyday is a holiday
Norm & Lisa

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Follow Up By: Member - Bruce C (NSW) - Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 20:19

Sunday, Mar 16, 2014 at 20:19
I would just look at any van which took my fancy and speak to the salesman and get a general feel for what they are telling you and after a while you will have a fair idea if they are potentially spinning you a yarn.

Full gal chassis are a major selling feature and will be a major sales point in any salesman's spiel.

Ensure that the van has 6" chassis rails as opposed to the 4" rails and the underslung truss bar or whip bar on the drawbar.

Our 24' Jayco has the whip bar but then my previous van, a Gazal Champion, which was very well built, had a 6" chassis rails and drawer bar on an 18.5' van. As I said, well built.

Don't be in a rush to buy, keep looking till you are sick of it and by that time you will have built considerable knowledge of what is good and what is bad or not so good.

You could go to a full blown off road van but it will have the full blown off road price to match so unless you are going to do a lot of rough road work I would not spend the money on them.

Jayco get a fair bagging from time to time but I am a firm believer that you get a fair amount of van for your money with them. That has been my experience and they are made for the Australian conditions.

Then again, a good second hand, there is no other sort, Gazal champion will stand you in good stead also. They were last made in 2000 as far as I know. Millard or someone are currently making a Gazal as one of their range but they are not the same I as far as I am aware. I am totally unaware of the quality going into them.

I have had experience with the two brands mentioned, namely Gazal and Jayco, but cannot speak for other brands.

Just as an aside,
I was talking to a couple of chaps who work the show circuit when they were up here at Port during the Xmas tourist season.
They said they go over to America every year to attend Carnival type Conventions and while their they buy maybe 6 vans (Travel Trailers) at a time for shipping back to Australia.

He said the first thing they do is to toughen up the chassis as the American ones are not up to the Australian conditions and invariably crack if not strengthened. His words not mine.
Mind you they do get well up into Central Queensland and the NT.

Moral of this part of the story is, buy Australian as they are made for the local conditions, don't be tempted by cheaper imported units.

If you need any more info don't hesitate to ask as the only dumb question is the one that never got asked.

Hope this helps,
Cheers, Bruce.
At home and at ease on a track that I know not and
restless and lost on a track that I know. HL.

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Reply By: Member - John and Lynne - Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 10:54

Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 10:54
Any well built van with good suspension should be suitable for the type of camping and travel you envisage. Yes you should have solar power. We manage well with enough to run lights, radio/CD and 12v fans - one 190 watt panel. We don't bother with air con or microwave when camping. Fridge and hot water run well on gas. Two 9 kg bottles last for weeks. We also became very decadent and installed a gas heater last year! When it is running the fridge isn't working hard so gas usage remains economical. We love it!
Look at a lot of vans and you will soon get your eye in and know what questions to ask. You will need good clearance and sturdy construction of cupboards etc for dirt road travel. We have found that dual axle is just as easy to manoeuvre as single axle and the van is better balanced and tows easier than our previous 17ft single axle.
Don't forget you will need to be able to carry sufficient water for independent camping - we have two tanks of 240 litres each which last comfortably for a week or so when we have no other source of water. Often there is bore water or a creek to supplement tanks for non potable purposes.. A grey water tank is also worth thinking about for National Parks. If you look at Caravaners Forum you will see users groups for lots of brands and you can ask questions of owners. Good luck with your search. We find it very hard to go back to a tent these days (the ground is too far away!) but we can easily take our 20.5 feet Sunland van just about anywhere we want to go! Lynne
AnswerID: 528532

Follow Up By: Member - John and Lynne - Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 11:46

Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 11:46
Don't forget, before you start considering vans, to make sure you really understand the meaning and limitations of all the weights. It is very easy to become bamboozled by salesmen who often don't understand themselves and will sell you anything. (We were caught.) Know the meaning of
Tare (empty van as delivered from factory.
ATM (weight of loaded van and the load includes water and gas)
Ball weight (down load on tow vehicle).
You also need to know the limits of your tow vehicle: total weight it can safely tow (van's ATM), ball weight allowed and load allowed in vehicle.

Once you get your head around these figures you can start thinking about Payload -how much gear you can legally carry. (The difference between ATM and Tare.) Given that water is heavy and you are likely to take around 200 kg of water, as well as gas and provisions for bush camping away from shops, it is commonly suggested that the minimum payload needs to be around 400 kg for comfort.
Some people will happily sell you a van that will be illegal if you put 200kg in it! Your life will become a misery if you have to worry about the weight of every small item all the time! Lynne
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Reply By: Don B10 - Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 15:06

Monday, Mar 17, 2014 at 15:06
Thank you Bruce and John and Lynne. Good advice.

I am having a closer look at a Jayco Discovery 1755 layout #3. WIll take on board all comments with the salesguy, if we get that far. Don
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