Caravan, Pop-Up Camper or Camper Trail

Submitted: Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 14:05
ThreadID: 97496 Views:3596 Replies:6 FollowUps:1
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Hi All, We are a family of 4 about to begin the search for our first ever caravan. We've been tenting it for years, but now it's time to upgrade. Wondering what your thoughts on a caravan, pop-up camper or camper trailer are. What do you think is the best and why? What are the pros and cons of each? We're not going off road at all (when I say off road - I mean we're not 4wding - we have an X Trail). All we really want is to be able to sleep 4 people. The kids are only young (6 & 4). I'm interested to hear others opinions.

Cheers,
Gezza :)
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Reply By: David S19 - Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 15:56

Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 15:56
Have just purchased a Jayco Swan Outback. Have just completed the Gibb River Track both Patrol and Swan held up very good no issues with both
AnswerID: 493124

Reply By: Ian K3 - Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 16:48

Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 16:48
We have had an old "1978" model millard wind up camper for 12 years, great for families plenty of room, setting up & packing up is some what tedious at times,easy to tow have towed with family sedans to patrols and now a pathfinder.
AnswerID: 493125

Reply By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 16:55

Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 16:55
yep - the wind up campers with pull-out beds at the ends are great for families if you are staying put and not continually on the move. Heaps of room inside. just not too good for touring as they do take a bit of setting up compared to a caravan.
AnswerID: 493126

Reply By: Erad - Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 17:37

Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 17:37
We had a wind-up (beds slide out at each end) camper for years. Fantastic to tow - less wind resistance, easy to store, generally lighter than full sized or pop-top vans, more room inside. I still like them.

HOWEVER they are more of a pain to set up. After years of doing it, it still took about 10 to 15 minutes to set up, and about the same time to break it down for towing again. This is fine if you are just cruising, but when it is raining, you get WET. Our camper had a slight sag in the roof, where water would pool. As you would it down, it would invariably slosh over me - no matter how I tried to arrange the jockey wheel heights - it would still get me.

When it is wet, your beds can also egt wet unless you take extra precautions. We had plastic matress covers which we used to spread over each bed before we slid them in. That protected them.

You need flysheets over the canvas at each end. Without them, when it is cold or frosty,, you get massive condensation inside and it drips onto your face when you are in bed.

When it was windy, the whole roof used to shake violently, especially if it was a side wind. Whilst the roof or the stays never failed, we used to worry about it and I finished up screwing celats on the R side of the van so that I could attach guy ropes and stabilise the roof when needed. The awning we had on the L side used to stabilise the setup fairly well but the drag on the awning used to cause the roof to lean to the left.

You need to take special care when storing your camper. We used to dry out the whole rig after we had been away. This meant waiting for a few fine days and we would wash the canvas and let it thououghly dry before we finally folded it up. Failure to do this means that you will get mould and it is not nice.

Dust sealing when travelling on unsealed roads can be a problem with campers, espoecially around the door. We made up a cover with vinyl lined with foam carpet underlay. This was clipped to the side of the van and worked reasonably well to keep out the dust.

Our camper was nominally an 8 berth - we bought it new at a very good price, even though we didn't need anything like 8 beds. In practice, you would have to be very friendly with someone to share the beds with them. We used to use each bed as a single and had heaps of room.

Finally, we got too old to be fussed with setup etc, and bought a pop-top caravan. My wife won't tow it - it is too wide for her (even though it is only about 100 mm wider than the camper). The sheer size of the thing scares her.

Fuel consumption has increased - probably by 20%. Performance is down because of the extra drag. There isn't as much room inside, even though the body of the pop-top is about 1.5 m longer. Our Pop-top is a 2 berth (that is all we need now).

In severe winds, we can still sleep in the van - we don't put the roof up, but for 95% of the time, the roof is quite stable and doesn't worry us if it blows a bit.

The Pop-top is warmer than the camper when it is cold, but not really that much different to a camper. Our pop-top (Jayco) is "fully insulated" according to the lable on the outside. Crap. It may have some insulation in places (I doubt it), but certainly where there are cables eg the TV aeriel, there's nothing there. Anyway, even if the van was 100% insulated, you still have a 0.5 m wide strip of vinyl around the top which has NO insulation in it.

In the 13 years we had the camper, we did 87000 km. In the 12 years we have had trhe pop-top, we have done 121000 km, but I have been retired so I have more time to travel. Interestingly, the value of the camper and the pop=top after these times is still roughly what we paid for them when they were new. Of course to replace our poptop now we would have to spend another $20000 on top of our trade-in, but as an investment, any van is way ahead of a car or 4WD.

Would we go back to a camper? You bet! If it was my choice, I would still rather have the camper, but only because we travel long distances and the savings in fuel do become significant. If you are only going to go to the beach for the school holidays, I would recommend a caravan - even a full height van. If you are planning to do a trip or two around the block (our last trip was 18000 km), then you have to weigh up the poros and cons I have outined above.

Whatever you do, do it now. The longer you wait the more time you have wasted. You'll never look back
AnswerID: 493128

Follow Up By: GezzaMate - Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 19:54

Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 19:54
WOW Erad - thank you so much for that "essay". That's fantastic information. Thank you for taking the time to write that - it's much apprecciated.

Being cold doesnt bother me - we've been in the tent for years and there's no insulation in a thin piece of nylon! I do think I am leaning more towards a pop-up camper. Most of the time we really do just drive to the campsite and stay for the week. Next time we're off on an adventure to the Dinosaur Trail out NW QLD so around 2500-3000 km round trip (possibly more). I worked out that we would be stopping around 4 or 5 times on that trip to set up camp. Def not an option with a tent. It takes us around 1.5 - 2 hours to set up camp properly - tent, beds, tarp, table etc. 15-20 minutes of set up time would be a breeze compared to the tent! The kids are only little (6 & 4) so would just have to suck it up and share a bed - they'll get to use to it - probably even think it's fun!

My next question would be where to start looking when you don't even know what you want? I might know I want a pop-up camper - but are they all different or pretty standard across the board? Not after a brand new one - just a very old (but good condition) camper that does the job. What sort of things do you look for? What sort of questions do you ask? Is there a website that any of you know of that has a FAQ for buying a caravan? I guess I could just google it.

Thank you all for taking the time to reply. Very much apprecciated.

Cheers,Gezz :)
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FollowupID: 768713

Reply By: GezzaMate - Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 19:54

Saturday, Aug 18, 2012 at 19:54
WOW Erad - thank you so much for that "essay". That's fantastic information. Thank you for taking the time to write that - it's much apprecciated.

Being cold doesnt bother me - we've been in the tent for years and there's no insulation in a thin piece of nylon! I do think I am leaning more towards a pop-up camper. Most of the time we really do just drive to the campsite and stay for the week. Next time we're off on an adventure to the Dinosaur Trail out NW QLD so around 2500-3000 km round trip (possibly more). I worked out that we would be stopping around 4 or 5 times on that trip to set up camp. Def not an option with a tent. It takes us around 1.5 - 2 hours to set up camp properly - tent, beds, tarp, table etc. 15-20 minutes of set up time would be a breeze compared to the tent! The kids are only little (6 & 4) so would just have to suck it up and share a bed - they'll get to use to it - probably even think it's fun!

My next question would be where to start looking when you don't even know what you want? I might know I want a pop-up camper - but are they all different or pretty standard across the board? Not after a brand new one - just a very old (but good condition) camper that does the job. What sort of things do you look for? What sort of questions do you ask? Is there a website that any of you know of that has a FAQ for buying a caravan? I guess I could just google it.

Thank you all for taking the time to reply. Very much apprecciated.

Cheers,Gezz :)
AnswerID: 493136

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Sunday, Aug 19, 2012 at 09:59

Sunday, Aug 19, 2012 at 09:59
Gezza,

Once you have an idea of what you want, go to as many caravan and camping shows as you need.
Here you will experience every conceivable shape, size and brand of caravans, pop top vans and camper trailers that you can view, enter and see demos of how they are erected and collapsed. Then you can judge to pros and cons of the features of each style and elliminate the unnecessary ones.

This is the best way in helping you arrive at a compromise (and that is what it will always be) to suit the type of camping and travel that you are planning.

Don't just think of "now" either.
If you are investing a considerable amount, think of what you will do and how you will travel, once the kids have reached maturity and perhaps lost interest in going with you.
Or, as they become "grown up" they may want their own privacy, so a separate sleeping compartment, or even a swag of their own, may be the go to add to their camping adventure.

Bill


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