Buying a camper trailer

Submitted: Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 15:32
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Peter and I have retired, leaving behind our 2 boys and heading off for between 3-5 years. We plan to travel slowly and when we find a nice place, perhaps stay for a week or two or maybe a month or two. We also plan to work sometimes. We have some limited camping experience - prefering national parks, etc. to camping grounds. although we realize that we will need to stay at these quite regularly for washing, etc. We also plan to buy a 4WD.

We have just been to the caravan show in Melbourne and are quite keen on the Trak Shak. I know there are only two of us but we like the space and since we are both such bad sleepers - we like the separate beds!! But I have to say I'm concerned. I keep hearing things about Trak Shak being made in China and all the problems they are having. The chap we spoke to at the show assured us that only the trailer is being made in China and that all the canvas and flyscreens are made in Australia (although I suspect they didn't mention that the canvas is sent back to China to be sewn). He also said that they are trying to address a number of the issues. Also some people have told us that it is heavy to assemble. I'm not quite sure what I need to look for and what questions I need to ask.

Has anyone bought one recently and can offer any comments on Trak Shak? My eternal thanks if you can.
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Reply By: ian - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:05

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:05
Julie /Peter
If you are in Melbourne you should look at Tambo campers. You won't find them at caravan shows, but they are all Aussie made and have a great reputation. Different format to Trak Shak, but strong and very workable. We have one as do a number of our friends. Highly recommended. (and I don't work there).
AnswerID: 300449

Reply By: Member - Kim M (VIC) - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:11

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:11

These comments come from my recent experience with a camper trailer and watching others. Prior to that I slept in the 4WD and looking back, life was simple.

First of all, if your heading off for that length of time, I think you'll find a camper trailer totally unsuitable for your needs.

At first it may seem like a good Idea, but after 12 months on the road you'll probably be sick of it, and start to want creature comforts.

I don't know much about the Trak Shak, but many trailers take a fair bit of effort to erect and pack up. Therefore, both you, and your husband, should spent time at the dealership going through the process without help from a staff member. After that you'll be able to make a Informed decision.

My trailer is manufactured in Queensland, but the canvas section comes from South Africa. Lot heavier than most, which is good. However the Increased weight takes a bit of effort in setting up.

Finally, if you decide to go ahead and buy a camper trailer, spend a lot of time looking at the build quality.

Hope you have a good trip.


AnswerID: 300450

Reply By: Brew69(SA) - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:33

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:33
As much as the extra room seems like a good idea you will soon get sick of the set up time of the track shack.
AnswerID: 300456

Reply By: Member - John G- Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:35

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:35
G'day Julie and Peter

The April/May issue of the Campertrailer Australia magazine (p112) begins a series of articles on "how to pick the right campertrailer for you". The magazine also provides reviews of various campertrailers.

We have a Tvan which we are very happy with, but we'd agree with the respondent (sorry, can't read his name while doing this reply) who suggests that after time you may want more creature comforts and easier set up. We have a friend who swears by his Trak Shak but it is pre-China vintage.

We usually do 2 x 7-week trips a year and weekends away occasionally. We find that the major disadvantage of a campertrailer is the setup and take down time when we are doing overnight stops - these usually occur when you are wanting to get long kms under your belt each day to get somewhere further out.

I guess you really need to try to pin down just how often you want to travel, where you want to travel (camper trailers are probably better suited to National Parks than caravans), how off-road you want to be, how fit you are are, and what your budget is.

The magazine article to which I referred starts off by saying that there are over 150 manufacturers of camper trailers!!

Good Luck

AnswerID: 300458

Follow Up By: Shaker - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:41

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 18:41
You must be on tight schedule if overnight set up time for a Tvan is a disadvantage!
We travel heaps with a Track Desert Eagle & don't find set up time to be an issue.
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Follow Up By: Member - John G- Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 07:38

Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 07:38
G'day Shaker

I probably overstated it. The start point is that in doing 7-week trips there are inevitably some 1-night stops. More and more we are trying to eliminate them and take it easier.

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Reply By: Willem - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 19:19

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 19:19

If you intend to be out on the wallaby for 3 -5 years then I would strongly advise you not to buy a camper trailer. You will get sick and tired of packing up all the time and the limited space for living.

I suggest that you look for an OFFROAD Caravan such as Bustracker, Kedron, Phoenix etc. They are quite expensive but will be well worth it with a good resale value. If you are strapped for capital then you may always buy a cheaper 4x4 for towing.

AnswerID: 300469

Follow Up By: lifeisgood - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 21:02

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 21:02
Totally agree with Willem . You will be be going through all seasons , rain and cold for days -- high and gusty winds with flapping canvas. Have done it both ways and especially since you are not youngsters (retired) you get to like a few comforts.
# 3 months in a camper may be enough.
Keep talking to others who have done very long trips.
Good Luck
FollowupID: 566638

Reply By: Martyn (WA) - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 21:14

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 21:14
Julie / Peter,
Personally haven't done the length of trip you are intending to do, sounds pretty awsome, I wish you a safe and happy trip first and foremost.
Me I started in the tent, then moved up to the camper trailer canvas over the side job, this lasted for four years, then I became we, the set up time for the over the side job was just that little bit to long for the early start late stop scenario. We then purchased a kimberly Kamper, hard floor over the back jobbie, great unit, very reliable, quick to set up and in the end retained resale value. Just sold that we are now awaiting the arrival of our Jayco Outback Eagle pop top camper trailer. I'm hoping that this is somewhere between the hard floor camper and a caravan. Personally at this time we don't have any great desire to start towing a van so we saw this as a compromise.
Appears to have some of the normal creature comforts, fairly quick to set up and take down. Will suit where we are going to go and reasonably priced. We couldn't justify paying $30k for a basic Kimberley camper trailer ending up at $46k fully optioned, so we went for the Jayco. I know the build quality and all the other stuff is maybe not as good as the Kimberley but we're of the belief that this will do us for what we intend to do.
We've heard both good and bad about what we're intending to buy so I'm not looking for a barrage of comments from others telling us what we've done wrong.
We'll make outr own assessment on the information we have and what we're looking for. You might consider a pop top somewhere in between a camper trailer and a caravan, see what you think.
Hope some of this helps, my opinions others may vary.
Keep the shiny side up

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AnswerID: 300490

Reply By: Barry 2 - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 22:22

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 22:22
Hi Julie/Peter
We have travelled Australia extensively over the past 20yrs all in various forms of tenting from your basic tent to the "targemahal"-spelling ?? anyway the biggest camper trailer. Only 2 of us now,like you have retired recently we now have a L/Cruiser tray with camper unit. Over the years the longest time spent away has been 3 months and we find that this is enough time in a tent arrangement.
We do have the occassional night in cabins in a park.
As you mentioned you are not experienced campers therefore I would sincerely recommend you have a very serious think about spending so long in a tent - "Our early explorers did it" ?????
All the other posts have great advice for you both.
Good luck with your plans and retirement, great to see you wanting to get out there and experience this great land "AUSSIE"
Safe Travels
AnswerID: 300505

Reply By: Musictomyeyes - Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 22:44

Friday, Apr 25, 2008 at 22:44
Hi Julie and Peter.

I have a made-in-China Trak Shak - (October 2006). Had looked for several years before deciding it would be the best camper for our needs at this point in our lives. (2 kids, and one due in the next week or so!) Lots of junk we haul around.

The reason I like the Trak Shak - same as most people - lots of internal space. You can actually live inside it comfortably in bad weather without feeling cramped. Especially with the full length windows with button-on plastic covers for rainy days, you really are in a bright and airy environment without feeling you're in each other's way. Excellent ventilation.
The separate beds are great. Found the (foam)mattresses a bit firm initially, but I always sleep really well. So no complaints there.I also really wanted something with heaps of storage. The whole internal section plus side pole box can be filled with gear. Internal trailer storage accessible from inside without disturbing the beds. (can start packing while the kids are still sleeping!) And then of course is the boat rack - magic! - We use it as a roofrack for the kids bikes, boogy boards etc. Can load and unload stuff from it even when the tent section is up as it folds right down and locks, and you can swing the roofrack out to the side. Room for jerry cans and gas bottles in addition to the normal storage. It is a very reasonable weight - about 800kg unladen ( I think) - and about 1100-1200kg fully loaded with gear and fuel and water. Our kids love the downstairs 'cubby' room as a play area. We often store gear in there to keep the floor area clear. For just the 2 of you, you might even want to detach it to reduce set up time if you don't need the extra room. The suitcase design is brilliant IMO...dustproof and water tight. Canvas looks immaculate.

The truth is - every design is a compromise of sorts - the trak shak is nice and large - and flipping the metal suitcase lid thing does take a bit of effort.....but it certainly does not put me off using it. (Because the payoff is a wonderfully spacious interior.) The only time I had any trouble with it was in torrential rain when the suitcase lid thing started filling up with water......adding many more kilos to the weight I had to lift! Got there in the end, but wow, it was hard. If you have any concerns at all about doing it, try it out first. (if you're in Melbourne, give me a hoy.....) And using a broom to flip the hoops over is a very helpful technique to make setting up quicker and easier.

I like the LED trailer lights. The fridges work great. I am disappointed there is no interior lighting (apart from the 2 stalk lights at the bed head end.) So you need to bring 12v lighting. (Which is not that expensive.......which is why it should be integrated!!) Also, no integrated battery charging except from the anderson plug to which you need to set up a connection at your car. SO now I have a 3 stage charger I carry along...) It tows really well. Is very smooth, and the trailer brakes work fine. I found the fit and finish is OK. The paint is OK, but not up to the same standard as some more expensive trailers (and maybe some cheaper ones as well??) which powdercoat their metal.
I think the canvas is great. No concerns at all. Once the canvas was seasoned, we had no leaks in heavy rain. Is very stable in strong wind.
Staying for a week or two at a time, the set up process won't be a hassle at all, but if you were doing it every night, it would become tiresome. One point I would mention that is if you include the time it takes to set up the annex on a camper trailer, ( we spend most of our time outside - you're going bush, afterall) then the trak shak will be quicker to set up as the annex is integrated. If you include only the tent area, the trak shak will take slightly longer. The velcro-on fly screen is fantastic in summer. Only takes a couple of minutes to do it. The velcro-on wind break/side wall on the annex is also fantastic.
I really really really like the kitchen. Very simple, very practical. We often cook in a communal area when camping with friends, which means mealtime preparation is a very social time. Lovely. Or good for getting out of the sun/wind/rain as you can move it wherever you like. Or just leave it on the trailer and cook there....(but I don't like cooking inside the tent because of cooking smells getting into the canvas and bedding.)

The whole made-in-China issue - honestly - in my experience, with this product, it's overrated. I actually think the canvas on the newer trak shaks is a better fit - the old ones seem to be quite baggy in the side walls, which would mean more flappage in windy conditions. And with regards to water resistance, no worries. Of course I would prefer if it was Made in Oz, but it ain't anymore. And if it was, it would have to be even more expensive. (They're in it to make money, no?)

In my opinion, new trak shaks are a bit overpriced compared to some of the excellent value trailers (Tambo comes to mind). But the others don't offer the package I specifically I have to pay more for what I want. So I bought one second hand, only 10 months old, as new. Saved myself quite a few thousand bucks. No regrets. Try Ebay, or the Trading post (where I got mine). There are some awesome bargains.

If you think the trak shak is the right trailer for you, have a good look at one locally (ask around on this website - I'm sure someone will be willing to offer you an inspection). It is such a popular trailer becuase it is well designed, well made and fits the 'large trailer' niche so well.


(very biased!!)
AnswerID: 300507

Follow Up By: Richo (SA) - Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 14:32

Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 14:32
We only just purchased our 2008 model Trak Shak which is now 2 weeks old. We are a family of 5 with my wife and I, two teenagers and a 15 month old. The room is something that we just had to have and it works very well. Our baby sleeps quite happily ion her port-a-cot during the night and day. Set up does take a little while to do properly but then we have HEAPS of stuff to take along.
The fridges are great as well as all the other features you mentioned.
I think your review is very accurate and honest and I couldn't agree more. Would it be overkill for 2 people? Probably but if you want seperate bed etc then its a good option. I would also consider the Adventurer campers as they also have a huge bed and great kitchen.
FollowupID: 566706

Reply By: kaymar001 - Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 08:43

Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 08:43
Hey Pete and Jules
We recently purchased a track about camper trailer from slacks creek in QLD, best purchase we have ever made. (But that's us) It suits our needs perfectly and its built for off road action.

You need to sit down and establish what you will be doing on your trip, will you be going off road if so how far and where. For example to get to the tip of Cape York you can take the Telegraph Track which is difficult and would require a strong unit or you could still get there via the by pass track, taken slowly I have seen off road caravans dragged up there and set up for the entire dry season.

If you don't intend to leave the black top then anything on the market becomes an option.

If you intend to do certain off road work and the majority on the tar perhaps you look at hiring off road camper trailers along the way, It may cost a little bit extra, however, you will save a large amount of where and tear on your set up. This way you may be able to save good money on a second hand late model caravan and put the savings towards hiring a camper trailer for those more rugged trips. You maintain certain creature comforts and can still see those remote areas that make Australia so much of an adventure to travel.

The main issue is that you must understand what you want to achieve, we had no issue with the setting up and pulling down of the camper trailer however, it does get frustrating in bad weather when you see the nomads set up or up stumps and go whilst you spend the next hour or so setting up or packing up in the rain.

In regard to camping in National Parks we spent many nights in National Parks because we love the bush, don't think that staying in National Parks is always cheaper, its not. The amenities are generally not as good as Caravan Parks and they are priced in some cases more than a stay in the local camping area.

You are setting out on an adventure the rest of us will be jelous of, make sure you research your trip well before jumping into a purchase it is important to know what you want to achieve, perhaps hire a camper trailer for a few nights and experience it first.

The main thing is Enjoy what you are doing and travel safe.


Mark and Kaylee
AnswerID: 300548

Reply By: Member - David P (VIC) - Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 10:41

Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 10:41
Best advice is to NOT go to Track Trailer with a cheque book unless you are very strong willed, TIC.....silverback
AnswerID: 300558

Follow Up By: Shaker - Sunday, Apr 27, 2008 at 11:51

Sunday, Apr 27, 2008 at 11:51
Good advice indeed ..... They are well designed & built to an exceptionally high standard!
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Reply By: Member - Royce- Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 10:56

Saturday, Apr 26, 2008 at 10:56
'made in China'.... so?

China has the full range from krapp to high quality... still depends on what you assess the workmanship to be.

I'd always go second hand for the right price. Why? Because camper trailers often don't get all that much use over the years. Some do of course, but plenty of people buy them with high hopes of travel and after the first trip... don't use them again.

However, they will have had enough knocks to shake out any problems and quite often come kitted out with everything including the cultery.. and I quite like the history and love that comes with them.

Enjoy your tripping! Cheers Royce

AnswerID: 300560

Reply By: oz doc - Sunday, Apr 27, 2008 at 10:54

Sunday, Apr 27, 2008 at 10:54
Hi julie/peter, as you can see from the various replies, there is a lot to consider when buying a camping unit- be it camper trailer or not. For what you are intending to do- I would consider taking the time to hire the unit you are interested in and doing a test run. There are many companies out there with hire units and you will be amazed at what you encounter that is important that you could not have predicted beforehand. Try out a few different types - even if is is just for a weekend at a time - it may make all the difference to your decision to purchase and the quality of your final trip. Cheers
AnswerID: 300730

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