4WD Camper trailer verses 4WD caravan

Submitted: Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 11:12
ThreadID: 58248 Views:10396 Replies:12 FollowUps:9
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2 adults and 2 kids aged 9 and 5 want to travel Melb - Broome, Tanami Kimberley area, needing advise on what to buy.

We cant decide on what to buy here are some questions we'd love help on:
1/ for outback touring is a 4WD camper trailer or 4WD Jayco Eagle outback the best buy
2/ How quickly can a camper trailer be set up?
3/ which is more robust caravan or camper trailer?
4/ what additional options would you suggest
5/ should we buy new or 2nd hand
6/ What are the best brands
7/ "Outback campers" in Carrum Downs. Are they a good product.

Our main requirements are:
Must be set up quick
Item needs to be durable ( last 12 yrs or so )
Have good resale value
Be reputable
Able to withstand driving on a trip like from Maree to Birdsville etc.
Dust proof

Lots of questions I know, but being new to this would appreciate some good advice.

Thanks James

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Reply By: troopyman - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 11:46

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 11:46
If you just want to stick to good roads then a caravan is the go . Just open the door and everything is ready . Pop tops are a pain in the a$$ . Carry an oztent or similar for use when unhooking the van and going to more remote places .
AnswerID: 307082

Reply By: Member - Norm C (QLD) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:14

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:14
imjames, when I saw your heading, I thought you might be asking about a Bushtracker / Kedron / Trackmaster / Phoenix type caravan v an off road camper. The answer to that would be largely a matter of price difference and comfort level.

But you are comparing an off road CT to a Jayco. At the risk of being taken to task by Jayco owners, I'd suggest the Jayco might be fine on maintained dirt roads, but would be suspect on the rougher roads you might want to travel.

If you are planning on going to the Kimberley, you really should do the Bungle Bungles, Gibb River Road, Mitchell Plateau and if you have the time, Cape Leveque as well.

Caravans are not permitted into the Bungle Bungles, but camper trailers are. Also, I would not tow a Jayco to Cape Leveque or Mitchell Plateau. I'd even be reluctant to tow it on the Gibb River Road, though others have done it.

When we were first looking at this issue a few years ago, my wife loved the set up of the jayco campers (we were not considering a caravan), but when I compared suspensions and construction of the Jayco with the better off road camper trailers, I was worried about the toughness of the Jayco. I then spoke to a number of experienced travellers. As a result we went for a good off road camper.

Of you list of 'musts', the Jayco will do the first. For the purpose you describe, I'm not so sure about the rest.

A good off road CT will serve you well, but will take a bit longer to set up (this will vary depending on brand and design).

I'm not familiar with the camper you mention. For a trip like you are describing, I'd favour one of the better known and proven brands. Otherwise, I'd be getting someone with some reall world remote travel experience to have a look at it with you (unless you have the skills to make an assessment on construction yourself).

We have seen some terrible sights in remote areas where people have tried to travel very rough roads with the wrong set up. Apart from safety, being stranded and neediing recovery and repairs in remote places is difficult and expensive.

On the other hand, if you are prepared to skirt around some of the rougher roads (and miss that area of the country on this trip; there will hopefully be others), take your time and travel slowly on the rougher roads you encounter, the Jayco could serve you well.

My view for what it is worth.

Norm C
AnswerID: 307086

Reply By: zha zha cruiser - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:23

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:23
Hi I have been through exactly what you are going thru. And was about to buy either the Goldstream or the Jayco Hawke.

I decided on neither, instead purchased a new Camper Trailer, because they are more robust, and easier to tow on the beach, and better when 4 wheel driving etc. The Jayco Eagle or Hawk dont set up real quick, and according to a camper I met out west, you need a bit of strength to slide those beds in and out. My CT brand is a lifestyle one with a soft floor, full kitchen, stainless steel sink stove etc, and wired with a deep cell battrey that gives instant lighting,but it doesnt take the engel fridge...that requires extra wiring. I did purchase the add on annex with it...and it is annoying to put up and pull down, so I have since brought a consentina style pergola which keeps the sun off you and the rain when you cook and eat...its fairly easy to put up and down. Putting the actual camper trailer up and down isnt too hard, and in fact it keeps you fit and trim when travelling. I do it with my 3 kids as they winge and fight and it takes 10 mins to set up and 20 mins to put back down. It takes longer to put down as you have all your pots and pans, clothes tables and chairs to pack away. I travel with a weber q to cook great thick steaks and roasts.

I fold the CT away with a couple of mattresses and sleeping bags left on top of my bed, the kids find it easy to sleep on them on the ground, but try to get them to set their folding beds up if we are staying for more than 3 days, or if we are expecting a lot of rain.

In all honesty, If I was retired and had more time on my hands to travel around, and I wasnt as strong anymore, I would suggest a caravan, no setting up, just wind down the stabilisers, and pull out your step, but if you wanna go just about anywhere, go the CT. I have taken mine to some fabulous places. The Jaycocamp vans are ok on dirt roads but are not guaranteed to travel too far on dirt roads, and I dont think I would be taking one too far off the beaten tracks, as they are too nice for those trips.

I was also told the fridges on the Jayco's dont work too well off battery or Gas, but are ok on electricity. That road you speak of has a lot of sharp edged stones, so youll need to consider how you would feel hearing them hit your lovely camper van....I would be so worried and end up turning around. It would be good if you could have a proper caravan for when you just go to and from c/van parks via highways, and you have a CT for the more adventurous holidays.

If you have the money check out the website for the kimberley kampers...but you might need to second mortgage your house.

Have a look at this site, and I must say the tropical roof is so worth it.


resale value,,,,they say the cheaper jayco have the best resale value, but I bought my CT for 10k, and was looking for a 2nd hand one same model for 9k, so as a banker in equipment finance I can say that trailers of any type tend to be keeping their value. More so than the things that pull them. Brand does make a difference.

I hope this helps
AnswerID: 307088

Follow Up By: Member - Matt M (ACT) - Monday, Jun 02, 2008 at 09:50

Monday, Jun 02, 2008 at 09:50
"I can say that trailers of any type tend to be keeping their value. More so than the things that pull them."

A good way of putting it Zha Zha. Towing our KK with an old 80 series I was struck by the thought that the Kamper was worth twice the value of the vehicle towing it, and depreciating much more slowly.

If we got into an accident my concerns would be 1. Family, 2. Kamper and then the car in third. Funny old thing.

FollowupID: 573167

Reply By: Outa Bounds - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:25

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:25
We've had two campers, and Adventure and an All Terrain (well still have the All Terrain but selling due to change of car).
For us we have found the All Terrain ideal, less fidgety to set up (simple and quick other words) and more room for us.
But in saying that choosing an ideal camper takes into account a lot more than just speed of set up. And in reality I find that it's all the rest of the stuff that can take a while - like getting the kids beds off ours and putting the legs on in the tent, unpack the chairs and the table. Cooking gear etc. So it depends how organized you are and how long you're setting up for as well (it would take an hour or more if you're talking awning walls & extra rooms on any model).

In my opinion an offroad camper is probably a lot more maneuverable than a caravan. And with models such as the All Terrain you can even pull it out of the bog from the recovery point at the back.
However some campers can take up a lot more room than a caravan too, because you have to take into account the trailer space plus the space for the tent to fold out and then the awning etc. So if you're going to spend a lot of time stopping at caravan parks, well a caravan would probably make more sense.
I have lived in a caravan but never had an off road one. I imagine it would be the choice for you if you want everything in it's place and ready to go without unpacking boxes of cooking gear and everything else all the time.
Rain, well not that much of a big deal, after all you're setting the camper up every night so packing away a wet tent isn't a huge worry, but of course it does mean at times setting it up to dry out once you get home. Proabbly a good practice regardless as you can give it a good clean out after the big trip.
Dust - well even with car type seals I've found no camper is going to be 100% dustproof no matter what the advertising says. It's quite amazing how much dust can penetrate!

So for serious off road and bush camping I'd say look at the vast range of camper trailers out there. With that much choice there is bound to be something that suits you to the T. For more tame traveling both off and on road, stopping regularly at caravan parks for showers and laundry I'd say look at the vans. Only drawback from my perspective is the thumping sound you get with people in vans, stomp stomp go the kids LOL.

Consider also, do you like cooking outside? With a camper you generally have to cook outdoors regardless of the weather, with a van you probably have an option. Well I suppose some people may cook inside a camper, personally we wouldn't.

Best brands, well it's all very personal, it depends what features you want and how much you can afford to spend. Most good ones keep their value well providing they're looked after.
Not sure about 2nd hand as we've purchased both ours new, I guess in some cases you get great savings and in others you may be better off spending that little bit extra and just getting a new model - paricularly if the 2nd hand one you're looking at is really old but has kept its value (good for the seller but not so good for the buyer).
AnswerID: 307089

Reply By: Matt(WA) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:34

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:34
Outback campers in Carram downs are an excellent product. Jim the owner of the business used to be my Scout master many moons ago and he is a tent maker by trade. I challenge anyone to find a better built and capable camper than his true off road campers. Everything is build inhouse and can be customised too suit. My old man has one and its been lots off places you want too go. I am sure if you wanted to contact him and have chat you could get some feedback directly from the horses mouth, so to say. They are easy to errect. He has a bunged elbow and a bad back, and he isnt all that young and he has no dramas with it. I would definatly recomend one. But I am slightly biased. Give me a hoy if you want more info or even just go and have a chat to jim about your requirements. Hes a pretty helpful guy.

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AnswerID: 307091

Follow Up By: Member - vivien C (VIC) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 13:04

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 13:04

We have a second hand Outback Canning ct and find it excellent for our needs. It's simple to set up and pack up. We've only had it two years but our first trip with it was across the Gary Junction Hwy from Alice Springs to Marble Bar, up to Broome, Cape Leveque, then the Gibb River Road, Mitchell Falls and Kalumburu, the Bungle Bungles, the Tanami to Alice Springs then the Mereenie Loop to Kings Canyon. It never gave us one moment of trouble and handled all the roads well.

FollowupID: 572955

Reply By: & speedway nut - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:38

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:38
We had a caravan for many years, it was a 1986 popt top with a family lay out, went camping with friends who have a camper trailer and discovered that they had just as much room when set up as us, and we had a 17 foot van.
as in time it takes to set up, we are quicker with the camper than we were with the van.
Trailer smaller to tow,
Carry just as much. the other down side of Camper is that there are no cupboards to pack every thing in to before we leave home. But if u have set trailer up properly then ok. Food goes in to plastic crates under bed. Fridge in back of crew cab ute.
We have our kitchen swing out on tail gate, great for o'nite stops.
Check out downundercampers.com.au , cmcampers.com.au camper trailer place in Kellerberrin do a 'double decker' trailer with king size bed at bottom and then queen up top. -

Take some Trailers out for hire, as see how easy to put up, storage. what they do in the wind, rain etc. I actually feel that we have muchmore ' room' than Van, but boys are now 9 and 11, and if for acouple of nights they set up their own tent right next door, only with bed in it. Cvan only one door, and always seems to be someone in the way of door.
Lots of choice in Eastern States.
AnswerID: 307092

Follow Up By: & speedway nut - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:43

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:43
Sorry cm-campers.com.au
FollowupID: 572950

Follow Up By: zha zha cruiser - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 13:08

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 13:08
Oh I forgot to mention, if you do decide to go the CT try and consider one that doesnt open sideways. Reason being, they are too hard to position in caravan parks on those concrete slabs. They just dont fit on properly. So look at the ones that open front to back rather than to the side.

Its the last thing you want at the end of a long day...tyring to work out and back your trailer in so it fits on the only site they have left.
FollowupID: 572957

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:57

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 12:57
Camper Trailers and Caravans provide different levels of comfort/facilities and each suit different people.

What is best for you is probably personal taste and also what budget you have.

Hard top camper trailers are the easiest and quickest to set up but generally have less "room" than a soft top camper.

There are some great camper trailers around providing their own level of features. Some enable "on board" sleeping for 4 people or more.
Others have a larger fold out annex and the kiddies can sleep there on camp stretchers or swags.
Swags are a very good investment and will last the kids a lifetime.
They can be used just as a matress inside a tent or annex, or if they are hooped type, can even be used standalone out in the open.

A separate tent can be erected adjacent to a rear entry/exit and may give more "personal" space as the kids grow. if the camper has more limited space.

The Oztent, as mentioned above is an excellent addition, as it can be used when even the camper can't be taken to some locations.

Have a look at the manufacturers listed on the Campertrailers Org site below, for details on most of the brands/models.

Campertrailers Org



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AnswerID: 307098

Reply By: Paul Grabonski. Vic - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 16:47

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 16:47
If you dont mind packing and unpacking 3 hours a day then a camper trailer is fine
If you dont mind putting up a camper trailer when it is bucketing with rain, windy or freezing cold then a camper trailer is fine
If you dont mind cooking with the flies, mossies and moths then a camper trailer is fine
If you dont mind having to make your lunch at breakfast time then a camper trailer is fine
If you dont mind wet dripping canvas then a camper trailer is fine
if you dont mind cold draughty canvas then a camper trailer is fine
if you dont mind limited comfort and having to pack and unpack a TV and TV aerial away and other equipment
if you dont mind a vehicle jam packed with gear and clothing in a jumble, a roof rack piled sky high, climbing up and down all the time to get gear then a camper trailer is fine
if you have the worlds most understanding tolerant wife prepared to put up with hardship cooking and washing up everyday then a camper trailer is fine

if you start off with a camper trailer you will own a caravan by the time you finish as many do if you can afford to change. We did and know many others who have done the same.
Nothing like opening the door of the caravan when it is raining, cold, windy and everything is in place, can stop and make a cuppa any time you like and importantly stop at heaps more places in free camps.
AnswerID: 307139

Follow Up By: Krakka - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 17:35

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 17:35
If you don't mind the black top, or well graded dirt Roads, not to mention caravan parks,....... Then caravans are fine.
FollowupID: 573002

Follow Up By: Shaker - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 17:51

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 17:51
imjames, remember it takes longer to put the suspension back in your caravan or rebuild the interior cupboards etc than any of the misleading comments above.
Although if you want to stay on the bitumen, a caravan will be OK.

Camper trailers that can be erected in less than 3 mins:

Track Traveller
Australian Offroad
Rebel Offroad
etc etc etc.
FollowupID: 573010

Follow Up By: Hairy (NT) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 18:48

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 18:48
"3 hours to set up and put away"?? Bwahahahahah try about 1 hour all up if you have done it before.

"Bucketing down rain" ???? what the hell is that??

"flies, mossies and moths" You cant spend all day and all night in your caravan?Can you?

"Making your lunch at breakfast"? Why not have a knife in your glove box and keep your food in the fridge ( in the car )????

"if you dont mind cold draughty canvas" Close the door.

"if you dont mind a vehicle jam packed with gear and clothing in a jumble, a roof rack piled sky high, climbing up and down all the time to get gear then a camper trailer is fine" Pack your gear prperly and dont put things on your roof.......

Not into camping hey????

FollowupID: 573036

Follow Up By: zha zha cruiser - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 21:15

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 21:15
Paul from Vic, you have made my day....such a funny post. I so agree with you, but lucky for me, I live in Qld and dont have to put up with the cold rain and wind that you get down in Vic. Its not nice camping in that. I did it for many years.

We dont get much rain here in Qld, and as for the cold, its nothing like the southerlys that blow up from Tassie. You do have to be a little more organised with the camper trailer, I agree. But if your willing to put up with a little bit of rough stuff, rewards will come your way. Its like driving around and admiring the views, compared to walking around the bush....its harder, but better.

Toughen up if your still young enough and enjoy the elements while you can. Its sometimes a bit of a laugh being caught in a torential storm, getting drenched to the bone, and surviving. I have so many stories.

As I said before, you need a camper trailer for the rough adventourous bush stuff, and a nice caravan for the caravan parks. Both provide great holidays.
FollowupID: 573098

Follow Up By: Outa Bounds - Monday, Jun 02, 2008 at 13:10

Monday, Jun 02, 2008 at 13:10
That's a Classic!

I think all camper trailer owners can undoubtedly relate to all your points, I know I can. But I've never found any of them to be such an issue. I thought I'd reply, purely because I've got the time (only realized it was a public holiday when the school bus didn't turn up!)

f you dont mind packing and unpacking 3 hours a day then a camper trailer is fine
Definitely never took us that long, not even when setting up for 3 days or more.

If you dont mind putting up a camper trailer when it is bucketing with rain, windy or freezing cold then a camper trailer is fine
Not many people go camping in those sort of conditions, so it wouldn't happen too often.

If you dont mind cooking with the flies, mossies and moths then a camper trailer is fine
I don't cook lunch, moths go to the light (which is usually placed away from the food, and Rid takes care of the mozzies.

If you dont mind having to make your lunch at breakfast time then a camper trailer is fine
We chuck a couple of plates, chopping board, knife in the back of the car, and stop for lunch somewhere on our travels. Lucky you, sounds like your Wife does a cooked lunch?

If you dont mind wet dripping canvas then a camper trailer is fine
yep can't say wet canvas is a plus

if you dont mind cold draughty canvas then a camper trailer is fine
We camped in the middle of winter, down south WA, and actually had a ceramic panel heater going because it was freezing one night, the canvas did a pretty good job holding the heat in, it was cosy inside (granted you can't do that if you're not in a van park without a gennie).

if you dont mind limited comfort and having to pack and unpack a TV and TV aerial away and other equipment
We don't take a tv with us, some caravan parks have tv rooms, but I've never got that desperate.

if you dont mind a vehicle jam packed with gear and clothing in a jumble, a roof rack piled sky high, climbing up and down all the time to get gear then a camper trailer is fine
Never have anything on the roof rack at all. Gear is in order - two boxes of kitchen stuff, normal clothing bags, and then other essentials. Only for the organised I guess.

if you have the worlds most understanding tolerant wife prepared to put up with hardship cooking and washing up everyday then a camper trailer is fine
Hmm I actually prefer a camper that doesn't have a kitchen sink - I can wash up in the tub anywhere I want, it's only as hard as boiling a pot of water.

I do agree, camping or cooking in nasty weather isn't exactly that pleasant. As a Wife I don't experience any hardship with our set up, it's a team effort, Hubby will set up and I'll organise the kitchen and other bits, I'll cook, he'll entertain the kids.

Trailers aren't for everyone & Vans aren't for everyone. Would you believe some people don't even like driving long distances or camping!

Sounds like you've tried a treailer and found your ideal set up in a van. Like they say if you never go you will never know, at least you can say that you've been there & done that!
FollowupID: 573191

Reply By: Best Off Road - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 17:43

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 17:43
We have gone in this order, Camper Trailer, Jayco Eagle, Jayco Caravan and now back to a Camper Trailer.

On the surface, Caravans seem to be so convenient and have such a short set up time. It's really not that clear cut. We find the set up time of a C/T to be only marginally more than the Van.

Consider your daily travel time towing a Van will be a lot more than a C/T, this more than offsets the setup time.

Your fuel usage will increase vastly with a Van and minimally with a lightish C/T.

As for Outback Campers. Let me first say they are a competitor of ours, located about 10 minutes from us. They have been doing it for years and make a damn fine product and have a great reputation.


AnswerID: 307162

Reply By: Stu-k - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 18:21

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 18:21
We got one of these for me the handbrake and the billylid seems a good compromise cause they all are that
AnswerID: 307175

Reply By: Member - Robin M (VIC) - Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 22:30

Sunday, Jun 01, 2008 at 22:30
Hello James,
When my kids were young, I owned a basic off road camper trailer, an off-the-back style. We took it to Uluru and Kings Canyon etc before many of the roads in that area were sealed. We learned to live with the corrrrrrrrrugations, dust and flies etc. as part of the outback experience. The trailer had a queen-size bed for my wife and I and the tent section accommodated the two children on inflatable mattresses at night. For most of the time, we lived out under the awning.

When the kids left home I bought a caravan which I found cumbersome to lug around, difficult to store and though it was comfortable, I opted to return to the camping experience - it's more fun ! I'm 6'5" tall and fit in a camper trailer better than I did in the caravan. I found the seats, bench height and fridge location in the Jayco-style campers too low. I'm not a fan of camper trailers that sit up high - as the offroad Jayco does. However, I suggest you talk with someone who owns one and find out exactly how they perform on rrrrreally rrrrrough rrrrroads.

I currently own a highly-featured Aussie Swag offroad hard floor camper which suits my wife and I to a tee as it can be taken places that a caravan should/will not go. Actually, it meets most of the criteria you listed. It has a ball weight of about 100kg and unladen it weighs 900kg. It can be towed in top gear on the highway at (or over) 100kph. Passing caravanners is a cinch ! You can also see what's coming behind and all the dust you're kicking up. My fully-laden TD Dual Cab Hilux pulls it along at about 11.5 L/100K at sensible speeds.

Last year, the former owner took the camper across the more demanding sections of the Simpson Desert and several verrrrrry rough roads eg: the Old Ghan Railway road from Alice Springs to Finke. If you intend travelling on similar roads and want to avoid problems, I would suggest you buy a similar sort of camper; there are many robust, high quality makes from which to chose. The best examples have a very strong chassis, independent suspension, shock absorbers, electric brakes, 12/240 volt electrics, A/T tyres etc. The Trading Post Online and this forum are great resources for purchasing a secondhand unit. Some caravans are made to travel on rough roads, however, they tend to be heavy and pricey due to their robust construction.

I'm guessing that you already have some camping gear. It may well suit you to buy a sturdy off road camper trailer and use some of the gear you already have, rather than buy new with "all the fruit salad." Weight (including ball weight) needs to be considered for the sake of economy and wear and tear on the tow vehicle. The money you save by not buying a new, fully-featured camper trailer can be put towards other things to make for a more memorable experience eg: a chopper flight, a fishing trip, more fuel or a cabin if/when the weather turns nasty.

From experience, when travelling with kids, it's necessary to involve them in the camping experience. So, buy a unit that they can help set up. Mine bailed out into their own small tents from age 10. Yours will soon reach the age where they want some more personal space. The idea of carrying a tent/s and some camping equipment is very sound !

As for the time taken to set up, a camper trailer will take marginally longer than a caravan depending on the style of construction. My hard-floor camper takes about 10 minutes for a basic set up, a soft-floor unit will take a little longer.

AnswerID: 307259

Reply By: time waster - Monday, Jun 02, 2008 at 07:57

Monday, Jun 02, 2008 at 07:57
We had the eagle out back and did the GRR,cape leveque,tamani and gregory nat park and had no problems.

Before the trip i went over it and took out every screw and glued them in put extra brackets in and so on also put extra rubber seals around and had no dust in also made dust covers for the fridge and door.

The suspension is simple same as our hilux beam and leaf springs it handled it fine the main thing is to lower tyre pressures and take it easy remember what you are towing.

We had a cavalier style before which was great because you could take it anywhere the car would go.

We know have an expanda outback but leave it and tent it into the rougher places.

The eagle was good for two years then got sick of all the velcro,two piece door,no access for lunch stops,effected by winds,pulling out the beds and low benches.

Not one camper is perfect for all.
AnswerID: 307288

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