Camper trailer & cars

Submitted: Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 21:11
ThreadID: 75209 Views:4301 Replies:10 FollowUps:4
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I am a single mum to three boys (4,6 & 8) and a year ago I caved to their constant bugging me to take them camping. I bought a big tent (12 man, 3 rooms - approx 6m x 2m) and packed ye olde VP commodore wagon with all the bits and bobs and set off for a caravan park. We had a ball and have been a few times...there are always more things on the wish list....the dream pot...the fridge etc. Thing is that when we go now the car is FULL - am working on packing better and packing less.

Anyway while I save for the dreampot and the fridge I also dream about a camper trailer. BUT some questions...

do I buy the camper trailer first or do I need to upgrade the car first? I would eventually like a 4wd and to give us more options of where we can go. I want to be a grey nomad when I 'grow up' but meanwhile its weekends and school holidays....would love to drive from home (melbourne) to perth one day (but suspect the boys may kill each other on the way).

Would you go a camper trailer with growing boys? I figure a caravan is a lot more expensive (getting back to the single mum bit) and easier to 'outgrow' I mean my parents have just upgraded from a campervan to a caravan and it is beautiful - but built for two not 4-5.

I guess I'm looking at long term. currently I don't have anywhere to store it under cover - would that be an issue?

So far we have stuck to caravan parks but am looking at attempting some national parks etc in the future. Will aim to see a whole LOT of victoria in a series of short trips.

and *embarrassed to admit* is there somewhere that does lessons on reversing with a bloody trailer...not a skill I ever learned but one I would really like to master!

would love some feedback, advice etc
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Reply By: Member - Fred B (NT) - Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 21:27

Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 21:27
Hi Jude,
there a lot of questions in there, and lot that aren't...
You need to ask your self what the priorities are???
Also there are camper trailers and there are camper trailers. You can buy on-road ones reasonably cheaply if you shop around. They can be towed behind a car and you can stow some gear in them as well.

Off roaders are much heavier and usually need a larger vehicle to tow them.

So, what are your priorities?? work that out first and go from there. In the meantime, enjoy the camping with the boys while you still have them... they do grow up (eventually... lol...) you know.
Fred B
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AnswerID: 399438

Reply By: Mandrake's Solar Power- Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 21:29

Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 21:29
Jude ,

Take a look here POD trailer .

Nadia and I bought the basic POD trailer to stow our tent and camping gear in first then after a couple of camps we decided to get the Camper drop in unit .

Now its great ..

See my blog here to see the tiny trailer that we cart around ..

Its very light and does not require brakes .. easy to push etc ..

If you're close to Wyndham Vale / Werribee you're more than welcome to pop in and have a look


AnswerID: 399439

Reply By: PradOz - Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 21:29

Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 21:29
Hi - a quick response (i hope) as i am out of time -

I would get the camper trailer and as light as possible, if it suited all yuur needs. You can get a 4WD to suit it later if their are issues with it and vehicle selection, but you can enjoy yourself now.

Check out some caravans on the second hand market. They dont have to be nearly new to be good or good value. Just be aware that some of the older ones could be heavy due to construction materials etc back then.

And yes you can get lessons. Check out your RACV or similar magazines. I cant think of the company i know that does them, but the name TOW ED seems to be in the back of my mind for some reason (No affiliation at all - may not even be right, just in my memory for some reason) Some 4WD training providers offer courses for towing and reversing in particular

Happy Camping!!!!
AnswerID: 399440

Reply By: George_M - Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:10

Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:10
Why not hire one and see how it goes? If you live anywhere near a capital city (or a largish regional centre) there will be many places that hire camper trailers.

Come any closer and I'll rip your throat out!

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AnswerID: 399450

Reply By: Hairs & Fysh (NSW) - Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:13

Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:13
Hi Guys,
Seems you've been bitten. :)
These will be the best times of your lives and good luck to you for having a go :)
All those above have given great advise and if I can I'll add my little bit.
Do what your doing here, Ask questions. Look at what other are doing that have similar needs as yourself.
Five years ago(2A+3K) we started out with a station wagon Dunny Door & tent, from there we moved into Land Cruiser 4WD and trailer & tent with a tarp over the top, to a camper trailer tent with a big tarp, and now a 87 Jayco Swan. And over the next few years I will modify this to suit our needs as they change.
Five Years of Fun

Look at some of the older campers, like our swan, it sleeps the 5 of us comfortably, yes they can be a little heavy, but they are a hell of a lot cheaper than a newer model. Keep you eyes peeled in the trading post and the likes, you can be lucky sometimes and find something that's good value.
Good luck with it all, You'll give your boys memories that will last for ever.
Our three can't wait for our next trip and when we are out and about, they can't wait to get home to tell the mates what they've done and seen.
They each have a digital camera & a diary to write it all down in.
We get home and post it on our site, so they can show their mates.
Happy travels.

AnswerID: 399451

Reply By: Jude&theboys - Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:15

Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:15
I guess the problem is wanting it all now on a zero budget lol!

For now the tent does us ok for the trips we have made so far - in/around victoria - we've been to Ballarat (test run - close to home), and Dromana and have booked in at Swan Hill for Easter.

Currently all our trips have been go somewhere and stay there. I woke up the other day though with a dream of heading over to Perth. For that trip I reckon the much faster set up and pack up of a camper trailer would be nice, not to mention the extra luggage space.

So if I understand you now we can go a light camper trailer for now and it can be adjusted for a 4wd when I upgrade the car later? Would have to talk to my mechanic mate about the wiseness of making that sort of trek in a vp commodore with over 300K on the clock (but she runs really well).

Reversing with the trailer I will have to work out - practise practise practise!

Will be spending some time checking out the options including a trip to the caravan and camping show come March.

thanks for all your answers...oh and Steve yeah you could say I'm close to Wyndham in Werribee lol!
AnswerID: 399452

Follow Up By: Member - Timbo - Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 13:10

Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 13:10
Jude, you mentioned having a 12 person tent - perhaps you don't need something quite this large for only 4 of your (esp. with the children still being quite young) - have you considered a smaller tent which would be quicker/easier to set-up and pack up? This may also help with space in your vehicle. You can get second hand tents too - just look for the "used once but Mrs didn't like camping..." tents.

You may also consider how you pack your car... there are quite a few mobs around manufacturing drawers for the back of your car which can help you to organise your load a bit better. But you don't even have to install drawers - there are plenty of forumites who have a simple shelf which means you don't need to unpack the whole car just to get the tent out from the bottom of the load!

As for travelling to Perth with over 300,000km on the clock - if the car is well maintained and carefully checked over before you go, I wouldn't hesitate - my V6 Jackaroo had over 300,000km before I set out on any of my big trips (some into some fairly remote areas - I only had one problem but that was caused by a design flaw combined with rough roads and nothing do to with the mileage of the car).
FollowupID: 668514

Follow Up By: Jude&theboys - Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 13:24

Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 13:24
I dunno that I want to go to a smaller tent though. When I bought that one I admit I had a man in my life and we were considering more kids (he wanted one of his own) so we bought a tent to 'grow into'. It didn't work out but I paid for the tent so I kept it. Thing is that the boys are in Joey's/cubs and down here they all seem to sleep on stretchers. If I had thought that through I may have bought a different tent because you really can only fit 2 of those stretchers in a room and even then its a bit of a squeeze to get around them. the youngest just has a self inflating mat and so do I. Usually youngest (trouble maker at bedtime) has his own room with nothing in it but his sleeping gear! But am considering moving my mat in with him next time and using the central room for storage etc.

Packing better is something I am def working on. We bought self inflating pillows and that helped heaps. I'm still using my doona for me but am going to lash out on a sleeping bag soon which should also help. The tent always goes in such a place that we can easily get it and any tools needed to set up first. Will keep saving and keep eyes open for a trailer too - those pod one's look cool but really not cheap!

should buy that lotto ticket!

Am amazed at how many people question me taking my old car on long trips. We drive from melbourne to Adelaide 1-2 times a year to visit family. Only ONCE in the nearly 4 years I've had the car (bought it when I separated from ex so have done the trip on my own with the kids since) has it ever let me down - even then I got to Adelaide in one piece - a little stressed as I'm not mechanical...turned out to be the crank shaft sensor which I had repaired before we drove home. Apart from that the car has NEVER let me down. Is old but good.
FollowupID: 668519

Follow Up By: Member - Timbo - Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 14:45

Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 14:45
Fair enough - it just seemed odd that you had a 12person tent for yourself and 3 small boys! But then again, I consistently squeeze 2 people into a 2 person hike tent - obviously our standards of comfort a different!

I'd have thought the Commodore should be able to tow the Pod trailer, and it may surprise you but the Commodore wagon would have more space inside than most 4WD wagons. You could look for a second hand trailer - as long as it's not rusted through there isn't much to go wrong with a trailer.

And don't buy that lotto ticket - stick the same money in a jar and you'll have the money for your camper quicker than waiting to win the lotto... it's been said "Lottery is a tax on people who are bad at maths"
FollowupID: 668537

Follow Up By: Jude&theboys - Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 14:55

Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 14:55
lol @ the lotto ticket! I remember my old maths teacher used to talk to us about probability and a lotto tickets ...and then I saw him buying one (small town)...he just shrugged and said someone has to win! you are right though - saving money is a better option.

Oh and yes I have an idea of how much room a commodore wagon has in it and for sheer size it is probably the biggest around anyway. My parents have just bought a jeep (about 5years old) it's NICE, slightly less room but still nice. I imagine it would tow quite well - have not done a lot of towing (on account of my reversing issues) but on occasion have borrowed a trailer from bunnings to bring something home and its never been an issue.

i think my issue with space is that by the time i've driven several hours with 3 boys who are loud (my Dad tells people that Jude and the NOISE are coming to visit) then I want a bit of space to get away from them - not to mention in our 3-4 trips we've managed to cop bad rain twice for several days. As I said though a different configuration would have been better given the stupid stretchers.

I think that tent wise the next upgrade will probably be to a camper trailer - seen them set up a couple of times and thought wow! Meanwhile the kids are getting quite good with the tent and we can have the whole thing set up with minimal growling (by me) these days - lets just hope the next time it isn't raining!
FollowupID: 668540

Reply By: Member - Old Girl (QLD) - Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:23

Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:23
Hi Jude,
I'm a single mum too only we live in our van travelling around. I thought that when we find a spot to pull up for good I would sell the van and buy another camper trailer.
In your case I would buy an on road one with the bed that tilts up. There is heaps of room under there for your gear and get a double bunk. That way you can tow it with your current car.Just because its an on road one doesn't mean you cant take it on dirt roads. When you master backing which is easy once done many times you'll be right. Till then a camper trailer is easier to push around in place.When the older two get too big buy them a dome tent.

We had a wind up Jayco Hawk after the camper trailer it was too heavy to manover around by my self on the dirt.
As now days we are in caravan parks all the time I bought my self a large electric fry pan with a glass lid. Can cook every thing from roasts to cakes. . I have a tent, swag and bunks for our little camping adventures. I have a desire to go over to the Kimberley but that may have to wait a while.

Its good to see other single mums out and about, its good for the kids and you.

AnswerID: 399453

Reply By: Jokar - Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:37

Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 at 22:37
HI Jude,

We were in a similar position a couple of years ago. Family of five, plus the dog, and a commodore wagon. We had progressed through ever larger tents and accumulated more and more gear. Finally it was time for a new mega tent and trailer to carry it in or look at other options. We settled on a locally built (melb)camper trailer. For us it was the sheer size of the area under canvas that a camper provided plus the storage space in the trailer and the water tank and kitchen built in too. Also there was the lesser purchase price than a caravan. Then factoring in the cost savings and convenience of not having to tow around a large van. We have covered thousands of kms in these 2 years towing behind a commodore and you wouldn't even know its there most of the time with the lower profile being relatively streamlined compared to a larger caravan. Electric brakes fitted and fully loaded at about 1000kgs. Bit of a pain still to set up if you are on the move each day, but thats not so much the camper as all the other stuff (beds, tables, etc) with 5 people involved but certainly alot less that we had with tents. With the huge area under canvas its perfect if you set up and stay in one place for a few days. We'll look to upgrade to a 4x4 next car too, but not rushing into it, its amazing just how much you can see and where you can go in a normal car if you are sensible and careful. Besides the wagon has so much space it makes it very comfortable touring with five and the dog in the car. We stow our camper outide and are in Vic too and no issues so far, but I will get a cover for it soon anyway.
AnswerID: 399456

Reply By: Member - Oldbaz. NSW. - Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 08:41

Friday, Jan 15, 2010 at 08:41
Hi Jude, back when our kids were of a similar age to yours we camped in a big tent too.Our answer to the problem of "Not enough room" was to tow an ordinary 6 by 4 box trailer with the old family car. I see this as the simplest solution to your needs, & possibly the cheapest as well. Next are the fold out
camper trailers...plenty of good used ones around for $3 to $5k, from there you can go to wind up types such as Jayco Finch,Swan etc & on up to full caravans.
Do try the National Parks as the environment is just so much better than the
average caravan park, & dont fret over reversing a trailer...its not hard.
AnswerID: 399505

Reply By: Top End Explorer - Sunday, Jan 17, 2010 at 06:59

Sunday, Jan 17, 2010 at 06:59
Why not try a Rav4 with a 6X4 box trailer and a tarp, to carry your gear in ??, these can be found cheep enough and are very capable.

Reversing a trailer is easy if you have a longer draw bar, Just remember to look in the side mirrors, if you want the trailer to turn right, it is right hand down and left is left hand down, see it's easy.

Best of all take the boys out and have fun, they will LOVE YOU for it, they will also be better people for it.

Cheers Steve
AnswerID: 399812

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