Off Road Caravan or not

Submitted: Monday, May 24, 2010 at 19:37
ThreadID: 78736 Views:3819 Replies:8 FollowUps:2
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Hi again do you have to have an off road caravan to do the Top end, Kimberleys, etc, adversely it would be better but they are alot dearer than a normal van. Would a Good van with better suspension eg, Simplicity Axles do the job Thanks Laz
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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, May 24, 2010 at 19:53

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 19:53
Hi Laz

Do you mean the Gibb River Road and surrounds? Road conditions there vary from easy dirt road (if just graded) to really rough and cut up after too many people have driven too fast on the roads. Luck of the draw really.

Many people leave their van at Kununurra, Broome or Derby and take a tent for a couple of weeks rather than risk damage to a regular van. Recovery costs may be over $10,000 if you do come to grief out there. Some people take regular labelled 'off road' caravans, but when we were there in 2008, the majority of caravans we saw were also Bushtrackers.



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Follow Up By: 1970monaro - Monday, May 24, 2010 at 20:16

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 20:16
Thanks Motherhen

What im trying to work out is, at what piont do you decide whether you need an off road van or not .Not having done a lot of Caravaning and never been up nth.(qld) or out west Just trying to get my head around all this Thanks again Laz
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Follow Up By: Motherhen - Monday, May 24, 2010 at 21:49

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 21:49
Hi Laz

You will get many different opinions, but i would choose a real off roader for any long dirt route, eg Gibb River, Tanami, Plenty, Great Central, Savannah Way. Most shorter rough roads to features can be done as short trips, be it a day trip, or camping out for a few days. However if you are like us and want to go across via hundreds or thousands of kilometres of corrugated road to get there, day trips are not an option and the security of one of the strongest rigs is what we choose.

A number of regular brands produce a model labelled off road, some with a disclaimer that taking it on rough, corrugated or stony roads invalidates warranty. They really mean you can crawl down a dirt track a few hundred metres to a camp ground otherwise it it meant for the black top. A regular van on a good suspension can still fall to bits inside on long roads of relentless corrugations.

Simply put; if you want to do through routes such as the above, Cape York or similar with your caravan, get top of the range strength and durability. If you can compromise by doing as the majority do, stay on the black top most of the time and do side trips with a tent, a regular road van will be OK.


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Reply By: Hairy (NT) - Monday, May 24, 2010 at 20:28

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 20:28
In my eyes....
The difference between an off road van and a normal van is, durability and clearance?
Does the van your thinking of have the clearance and is it strong enough?

AnswerID: 417989

Reply By: Maîneÿ . . .- Monday, May 24, 2010 at 20:32

Monday, May 24, 2010 at 20:32
take a "Good van with better suspension" like dual axles etc, you won't be able to navigate down most of the 'tracks' anyway due to no place to pass on many and no way of turning around either, so you have to leave the van at a secure park and travel with a tent etc.
The tar roads are good and the many 'good' dirt roads are even reasonable when driven with some care too.

We are taking the caravan as far as is reasonable when we go up to the tip of Cape York and then taking the 4WD and a tent for the rest of the way.
(there are about 8 graders ready to go up there now, they are just waiting on written approval from Qld roads)

Maîneÿ . . .
AnswerID: 417990

Reply By: carlsp - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 07:48

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 07:48
Hi Laz,

It is the "how long is a peice of string" story. When you go places and see road vans, it is easy to think, you can get by with them. I'm at Lawn Hill and there are more road vans than real off roads. Half the off road vans are road van maufacturers, labeled off road. You talk to the owners and they are not going to admit, that the cupboard or fridge doors fell off on the way in here.

The saying "you get what you pay for" is also true. Why is a company going to make a super strong van and not charge for it. The waiting list for a bushtracker / kedron /spinifex is over a year.

Off road means solar panels, lots of big batteries and lots of water mated with massive suspension and chassis. All very heavy. The semi off road van is beefed up suspension, larger water tanks and another battery. It normally does not mean dust proof lockers, heavy duty hinges, hot dopped gal chassis, checkerplate walls and stone protection. They still have PVC plumming etc. On gravel roads, thrown up stones will break anything that can be broken in time.

The best thing is look at one of the top 3 and then compare others. Talk to owners and do lots of research on the van and the places you are going.

It took us 3 vans till we got ot right so it is hard to get right first time. Good luck.

AnswerID: 418022

Reply By: Rangiephil - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 09:46

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 09:46
As the previous poster said , there is no clear answer.
I have an off road Camp'o'matic camper and take it everywhere.
I have met many caravanners in many places.

Some examples
Kedron owner at Millstream. Very proud of the van, but said he would not get again as he was disappointed in its height and weight not allowing hime to go on mountain trails because of clearance!!!

Golstream semi offroad at Karajini. Had gone from Fitzroy Crossing to Wynjana and the fridge had self destructed inside.

2 offroad owners at Lorella Springs. Both had their microwaves fall out of mounts onto the floor on the track in.

So even with an offroad van, its those extras that seem to fall apart on corrugations and the costs can be significant. ( but maybe if you can spend $70K or more you would not worry)

My thoughts after having done many of the tough tracks in the North over the last 2 years is that maybe it is a good idea to have an on road van, but with good entry and departure angles to enable it to get off the bitumin to get into sites , and camp on longer rough road trips. Some people I have seen have a ute/wagon with a roof top tent and an on road van.

On the other hand I remember seeing about a 40year old Millard( with louvres no less) plodding slowly along the Kulumburu Road behind a Disco.

Regard sPhilip A

AnswerID: 418030

Reply By: Member - Oldplodder (QLD) - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 16:05

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 16:05
Your limit is going to be the car.

If it is a 1970 monaro, road van is fine, with a little clearance.
The monaro is going to be the limit.

If you are towing with a 4wd, then you need something to match the capability 4wd.
Seriously challenging 4wd sections can be short and be done as day trips.
AnswerID: 418071

Reply By: 1970monaro - Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 16:54

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 16:54
Thanks everyone much appreciated,its starting to get clearer now
AnswerID: 418077

Reply By: Graham & Ann - Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 16:26

Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 16:26
In a nutshell a good van with good suspension will do the job for most people, in my opinion one should get the van that will suit the majority of your use, not the minority.

Many of the so called 'off road' vans are very heavy, (as well as very expensive) especially top of range models like Bushtracker. Remember the heavier your van is the more limited you will be in the choice of a tow vehicle. Many are towing Bushtrackers and the like with Ford F250's so the like so cost of van and tow tug is in the order of $150k plus. Whereas a well build van like our 2002 (was $35k back then) 17ft single axle Evernew with coil/shocker suspension can be towed by most everyday 4x4's for less than $50k. so all up your outlay is less than half.

Most of the places many of us go off the bitumen are dirt roads or tracks, so far we've taken it to Cape York via Lakefiled NP, Kalumburu via Gibb River Rd, along the Tanami, Birdsville, Plenty, Great Central Roads/Hwys, into Dalhousie Springs, Mt Dare, Finke, lamberts Centre of aust, to Maryvale near Chambers Pillar. These dirt roads and places I've mention are but a few of the off bitument places we've been and will continue to go.

So if you have a lot of cash you may like to go for full 'off road' but if your like us on a smaller budget, and want something that's more suited to the majority of you use then look around for a well made van with good suspension, there are many out there.

AnswerID: 418434

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