To camper trailer or not?

Submitted: Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:09
ThreadID: 65101 Views:7748 Replies:13 FollowUps:10
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We have so many questions and so few answers!!! As we are new to this site and travelling around oz we would love to hear your insights and experience. We are hoping to travel around Australia, anti clockwise from Sydney, from April 09 for 12 months (or so). We have 2 kids, 4yrs and 2yrs and can't decide between camper trailers and RTV caravans. So far we have looked at camprite (thanks to Collin for his time today!), Trak Shak, Kimberley Kampers & Windsor Rapid. Where to from here? We certainly want to experience nature but preferably not at ground level when we are sleeping. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated, particularly as we don't have too much time to get ourselves organised!

Many thanks :o)
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Reply By: Member - one way ticket (VIC) - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:31

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:31
camper trailer any day, no restrictions, still outdoors, much more sociable in c/parks. we have a kimberley and reckon it's the best. I know they have a quick zip on liitle room for the 2 kids
good luck
AnswerID: 344206

Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:32

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:32
T & S,

A similar subject was raised by someone here last year, about whether they should take a van or C/T.

They were planning to work at different places, so would be set up in one place for some weeks/months. Much of the discussion revolved about what was better, taking into account their kids, & length of stays.

Don't remember what the outcome was, and which van or trailer they bought.

If you're only travelling, then a c/t would probably be the go, but, if like this other couple, you were going to work, then I'd suggest a van. Can't beat a van for quick camp set-ups, easy feeds & the sound of rain on the roof (not canvas).


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AnswerID: 344207

Reply By: Motherhen - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:38

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:38
Bear in mind the amount of luggage and supplies you will need to carry for your brood, as well as enough to keep the little ones entertained and exercised. Can you accommodate it all in your vehicle and a CT? Think about if you hit wet and windy weather for a few days - how would you cope folding up and unfolding a wet canvas trailer? A few things to think to help you decide.


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AnswerID: 344210

Follow Up By: trouble&strife - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 23:33

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 23:33
Thanks for your thoughts and input. It certainly requires different considerations with 2 little ones and it is always good to get a reality check on what things might be really like when we are out there. We will continue our reseach this week/end...
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Follow Up By: Member - Uncle (NSW) - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 06:15

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 06:15
Motherhen, you hit the nail on the head! We sold ours after battling for 5 mths of our 10 mth journey with a camper trailer. Our next trip around will be in a van.Image Could Not Be Found
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Follow Up By: Member - Willie , Sydney. - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 08:27

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 08:27

We had a Trak Shak, but have swapped it for an off road van, with swags on the roof rack - a very versatile set-up.

We can leave the van in places like Newman, and head off into the desert for a week, or happily sit and fish or detect for a week or two, in one spot.

If you get a van, it must be able to resist falling apart on corrugated roads.

Two young kids in a camper in the rain would not be much fun, but really, how often does it rain in Oz. I guess it comes down to how much money you have to spend on the trip.

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Reply By: Member - Captain (WA) - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:59

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 22:59
I currently have a Camprite Camper trailer and used to own a Windsor Rapid. While we never had the opportunity to do a 12 month lap of Aus, there is NO doubt in my mind that I would NEVER do it in a camper trailer!!!

As much as I love my Camprite, and it would be the BEST camper trailer for a family on the market IMHO, there is simply no way I could do that for 12 months, especially with a 2 & 4 year old.

My sister and BIL also own a Camprite and they are 5 months into a tour around Aus with their 7 & 9 sons and while they were convinced a camper trailer was preferable, my sister now wishes she had gone down the Windsor Rapid route for this trip.

My wifes sister & BIL also own a Camprite (yep, we have 3 in the family!!!) so its a pretty safe bet that if you do decide that a camper trailer is the way to go then the Camprite would be a great choice for a family (no - we don't have any affiliation with Camprite - just appreciate a quality product that suits families to a tee)

I bought my Windsor when my kids were 2 & 4 and it was a great way to camp - check out some of the pics in my profile below. We changed over to the Camprite 2 years ago as the family got older and was a good decision for us. However, if I had the opportunity to do a 12 month lap I would not hesitate to put my Camprite on blocks (would never sell it) and get a Windsor Rapid for the duration.


AnswerID: 344214

Follow Up By: trouble&strife - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 23:23

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 23:23
Hi Captain,

thanks for your reply, have seen some of your other feedback in the past on the Rapid and would like to know how you would set it up for a 12 month journey if we wanted to get off the beaten track including beach work, as a start Fraser Island. also what would you recommend as a tow vehicle we are looking at 2006 Lancruiser standard with a lot of after market addition

Thanks t & S
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Follow Up By: Member - Captain (WA) - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 12:33

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 12:33
Hi T & S

For a tow vehicle around Oz, I would recommend a diesel, not only for range but availability of fuel in some places. While some like petrol/gas combos, its not for me. I towed my Windsor with both an 80 series 1HZ (4.2 diesel - no turbo) and a GU 3.0TD Patrol. The Patrol 3.0TD wins hands down for ease of towing (HEAPS more power and better economy) as the Landcruiser was an absolute slug when towing. A non-turbo diesel cruiser would really struggle towing a van on Fraser Island whereas a 3.0TD Patrol should be fine - with suitable tyre pressure and sensible route etc.... Many on this site have no time for the Grenade (GU 3.0TD) but I still reckon any series III or later is a fine vehicle. The 4.2TD GU, while more expensive than a 3.0TD, is cheaper than a cruiser 4.2TD and is a good cost compromise.

After having a 1HZ diesel (4.2 motor in both 80 & 100 series cruisers) I would not go around Oz in any non-turbo diesel. I know others have and have done so successfully and reliably, but after now having a towed with something more competent, I would not go back – it’s a personal decision.

While a turbo diesel landcruiser would be a good choice, there is a price premium for the factory 4.2TD. While others have gone down the aftermarket turbo route on the cruiser 4.2, I personally would not for 2 main reasons;
1) the 1HZ is an indirect injection (pre-combustion chamber) diesel whereas the factory turbo is a direct injection.
2) The manual gearbox in the 100 series is the R151 (Prado) gearbox whereas the factory TD has the H151 – a stronger gearbox.

What this means is that reliability is compromised beyond what I would accept for a 12 month touring towing a van in potentially remote spots. While many would say the GU 3.0TD is a greater risk, its what I would prefer over an n/a 1HZ. The GU 4.2TD would be arguably the best compromise for price/performance/economy/reliability in most peoples eyes.

On the van front, I would still choose a Windsor Rapid for a family over most others in the market place. Most vans are designed for couples so straight away you are limited to a few makes. I had such a good run with my Rapid that I would stick with it, even though others may be just as good. What I would do is look for for a shower/toilet model in the single axle size. They are available, a mate has one in the 14”6’ size.

For a 12 month trip with kids I am sure you would never regret doing this. Even if you used camp ground facilities most of the time, having an inside ensuite will be most welcome at nights and for showering the kids at those inconvenient times. Over 12 moths, your kids (and you) will come down with several colds and having to bath/toilet them in unknown conditions is not something I would want for my kids at those times.

An off-road pak is essential. While there is no way you could take a van where a trailer would go, the real advantage is the bigger chassis rails to withstand the miles of corrugations you will encounter. The van physical size will limit where you can take it long before other factors. A treg hitch is good, but a #$%@ to hook up on soft ground. I would prefer a hyland hitch (or similar) but it would not “make or break” me.

I had a compressor fridge and would thoroughly recommend it. There are many reasons why I would not use a 3 way (been there, done that) and I like the setup of a 40L engels in the vehicle (freezer) and 80L+10L freezer compressor fridge in the van. This also requires a decent battery in the van (I had 110ampHr) and a charging system (I simply used the vehicle- worked for me and much cheaper than solar/genny).

I could go on for ages about various things (and already this is a long reply) but in the end common sense and a practical approach is all that’s really needed. 12 months is a LONG time in a small area so don’t scrimp on comfort. Lack of comfort is fine on shorter trip, but will be problematic on a long haul.

Good luck, its something I wish I was in a position to do!



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Reply By: Maîneÿ (wa) - Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 23:57

Tuesday, Jan 13, 2009 at 23:57
I would N0T recommend a Camper Trailer to a small family!

Reason being they take some time to assemble and pull down too.

They don't have any excess room to carry what you surely will need with children to be away for 12 months.

Maybe a smallish caravan or maybe a van with a pop-top, to avoid resistance, making it easier to tow.
You can carry what you will be needing in a Van as you just put it in there and drive away.

When you stop the kitchen is there for use immediately, as are the items you will require for making a meal and the beds are made and ready to put the kids into, they have their own space.

When it rains it's absolute hell in a camper trailer, believe me, I travelled with one for 11 years.

Yes, I loved it when it was good weather, but as soon as it rained and you wanted to put it up, you got very wet, then you have to let the canvas dry before you pack it up again.

Mainey . . .
AnswerID: 344220

Reply By: didiaust - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 07:08

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 07:08
I have camped with kids for 40 odd years. I love the smell of canvas and can rough it with the best of them but a caravan wins hands down for me . It does rain when setting up and packing up and you are not heading home to a hot shower - you are heading to another campsite to do it all again.

I would be interested to hear what you consider the cons of a caravan as opposed to the pros of the CT.

AnswerID: 344229

Reply By: Best Off Road - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 07:36

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 07:36
So far we have had 3 campers, one wind up Jayco and a van.

Currently using a camper because it suits our "now and then" camping. Wouldn't use it on an extended trip for quids and it is brilliantly setup, slide out kitchen, drawers, toolbox etc.

For your intended purpose I strongly recommend a van for all the reasons posted above.



AnswerID: 344232

Follow Up By: trouble&strife - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 09:16

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 09:16
Thank you all so much for your advice! You have certainly turned our attention fully to an off road van. Sounds like we will need to consider a CT for shorter trips when the kids are older...

If anyone has any suggestions as to other brands we should consider for off road vans we'd love to hear.

FollowupID: 612135

Follow Up By: Best Off Road - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 12:22

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 12:22
You could also consider the Jayco Expanda, new model has hard ends to keep the bed ends dry.

They come in better floorplans IMHO than the Rapid. eg they have a couple of bunk bed models.

Jayco's "Outback" version is not designed for severe off road stuff however.


FollowupID: 612182

Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 08:49

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 08:49
Hi S & S,

We have both (a CT and a van) but we don't have little kids any more. Just wanted to add some other food for thought. There is no doubt that 12 months is a good length of time but you'll be surprised how quickly this can disappear and my point is that whilst the CT will allow access to a lot more places you may not need that extra flexibility or have the time to see every nook and cranny. We are keeping the CT to do those trips not suitable for a van.

For ease of set up and comfort the van is way more suitable. We have done a couple of longish trips and whilst we enjoyed them a fair few of the places we could have done with the van and would have spent the time saved doing fun stuff.

I am not familiar with the W Rapid but seeing that your plan includes Fraser Island there could be an issue with its width. We have been to Fraser a number of times towing our CT and have seen some large boat trailer there as well but the thing that makes that work is that they follow the tracks of the tow vehicle - just some food for thought.

Kind regards
AnswerID: 344241

Follow Up By: Member - barbara M (NSW) - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 09:03

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 09:03
Hi Beatit,
I thought we were the only people who owned both a camper trailer and a caravan. Our friends are always giving us curry about owning both and I always feel guilty when I mention it. Pleased to see someone else who has the same thoughts as us re this
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Follow Up By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 11:47

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 11:47
Hi Barb,

There are times where having both is a problem - like parking at home. And I do feel it is excessive but we still have a couple of trips we want to do before we get rid of the CT. I do feel a little guilty at times and think about selling the CT to clear the conscience.

Kind regards


BTW I know another as well!
FollowupID: 612170

Reply By: Matt(WA) - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 10:22

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 10:22
We are heading off around Australia in May this year for at least a year or two. We are working as we go, no kids but have a dog. For these reasons we believe that a Van will suit our needs a lot better. If we are staying in one place for a while it will be more comfortable. We have a decent tent and all our camping gear so when we want to head offroad we can just unhitch the van and leave it somewhere and head off. Then come and get the van later.


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AnswerID: 344250

Reply By: Alan H - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 10:30

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 10:30
The cook and I have done both and I reckon go with the Rapid (we had one and they're great with kids) and take a tent.
We did this and left the van in Broome at very reasonable rates (about $15 for 12 days!!!) and went to the Bungle Bungles, GRR, Karunjie Track etc. and used the tent and found it so much easier than trying to drag a van around and would have suffered damage on the roads anyway.
We've now sold the Rapid and have a Pioneer camper but are considering a small van (not necessarily an off road) for trips where we're intending to stop for a while and feel like a bit more comfort.
Good luck and enjoy your travels.
AnswerID: 344252

Reply By: deserter - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 15:07

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 15:07
My two bobs worth. When we struggled with the same question the clincher was that the missus wanted the extra security of the caravan. Particularly when I was out fishing late at night. Every time now that we end up in a decent storm or similar bad conditions I know I made the right decision to go with the van.
AnswerID: 344280

Reply By: westozal - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 19:25

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 19:25
Having had a off road camper trailer, a wind up jayco swan (wait till that wont wind up at your camping spot) and a few caravans all with a small growing family over the years I would say you will be tearing your hair out with a camper trailer if you intend to move on frequently. Same with the windup Jayco.
Go a poptop or a full will only take a few days of bad weather or hot weather to make your mind up regards the most comfortable way to travell with small kids.
Consider your other half when making your choices as you dont want to hear " I told you so" for a lap of OZ.
Remember that all the advice given is meant well but is only the experiences other's such as myself have had...if you have your heart set on a off road C/T then go for it as you will still be having more fun than us sat at home or working.
Regards Alan
AnswerID: 344316

Reply By: Crackles - Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 20:09

Wednesday, Jan 14, 2009 at 20:09
Rather than just making your decision on how comfortable you will be, you may like to concider where you intend to go & what you'd like to see. All but the best (& often expensive) vans can greatly restrict where you will go. Places like the Bungles for example don't allow caravans, so to go there you need to worry about the vans security, then set up the back of the car with tents etc. Locations like the Cape & the Simpson Desert become near impossible, in fact I'd estimate as much as 50% of Australia's attractions are not directly accessable with a van.
When crossing the Nullabour last I spoke to many people towing vans & almost none had taken the time to get off the main road to see any of the attractions along the way as it was too much trouble to find soewhere to leave the van for short stops like the Eyre Bird obsevatory, Cocklebiddy caves & the old telegraph station. For me, to drive thousands of kilometers accross Australia only to pass some absolutely great attraction that may be as little as 1km off a main road is stupidity & for many it's solely because they chose a camping setup that restricts where they can go.
Personally I'd choose a good quality offroad flip over style camper. A basic setup takes little longer than a van & as your kids are still very young they'll have sufficient room. My advice is when the rain wont let up, or the heat gets unbearable then head into town & spoil yourself for a few nights in a motel with the money you saved not buying the more expensive van.
Definately avoid many of the soft top campers which can take 30 minutes just for a basic setup, something you don't want to have to do 200 times over your trip :-)
Cheers Craig..............
AnswerID: 344328

Follow Up By: trouble&strife - Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 15:07

Sunday, Jan 25, 2009 at 15:07
Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to respond to our question a couple of week ago. Your advice & experience has been exactly what we needed! We are a few weeks on now in our research and although we have been married 15 years and travelled all over the world together, this seems to be one of the biggest issues our relationship has faced. Given all of your advice above, my husband now understands a few more of the realities of 'being out there' with little ones and that his desire for 'off roadness' is one of many factors to consider. We both want to enjoy this trip and preferable be happily married when we return. Why is this decision so hard???

I know his heart is on CT's even though he has never been in one and 12 months is a long time to get it wrong!! Anyway, our search has lead us to the BushTracker (very expensive and heavy but look great?), Windsor rapids & Coromal (can they really survive off road?)...

Just when we thought we definitely needed a break from all of this for a few days, this morning we came across the new Jurgen Stargazer which 'looks' like a cross between a CT & a caravan. So we are wondering (in an attempt for us to finally reconcile our differences and get on with all the other planning for a trip?!!) could this be the solution?

We know we must compromise somewhere in the decision making process but which factors are more important than others???

Thanks again for your generousity!



PS. Thanks Captain for your car advice - that one is all sorted now!
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