Advice on outback camping please.

Submitted: Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 09:31
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Hello all. I am not new to 4wd driving or camping, but have not done any for quite a while. I have been cocooned behind a desk for too long and will soon be breaking free if all goes well. Therefore, I am here to seek your advice.

My plans are to travel and camp on and along all of the well known iconic treks/tracks/destinations and then some of the lesser travelled ones. This should take a couple of years if I take my time. I want to enjoy each day, not rush through it. With that in mind, I will purchase a suitable 4wd and have it set up to be as capable as ever. I have a reasonable knowledge in this area and will be going for either a GU Patrol with a dual cab conversion or a Land Rover Defender 130 dual cab. I know the Defenders have problems that many do not like, but in their favour, they have a payload that is useable and good. It does not take much to have a Patrol or Cruiser over GVM. In addition, the Defender is frugal on fuel so with long-range tanks, the fuel range should not leave me wanting.

Where I need advice is what do I do for a comfortable and convenient camper? I have looked at Slide-on Campers and there is one or two that I could live with. In addition, I have looked at the crossover type vans, like the Conqueror UEV 490 and the VistaRV. My wife is past tents and canvas so camper trailers or other ideas that involve a lot of canvas is out of the picture. So I guess the big question is do I carry my camper and all other gear or do I tow it?

I am aware that in some places, a trailer or small van may have manoeuvrability or traction issues but with a sensible and experienced nut behind the wheel of a well-equipped vehicle, these are not so much of a problem. However, I have noted that some places either ban vans or strongly discourage them. The Simpson being one of them. I accept that some people may tow vans that are not really suited to rough outback conditions and thus have problems but for a well suited and setup rig, I do not see much concern. Having the van wheel track the same as the tow vehicle is a good idea as well as not being too heavy.

Is there a list somewhere that shows where towing a van is not allowed, etc?

Therefore, what are your thoughts on towing a comfortable small properly made rough track van as opposed to carrying a suitable Slide-on, which makes the vehicle heavier, and thus have different tractive dynamics. There is a big difference between carrying a load of say 600kg and towing a load of 1200kg. The towing scenario only adds around 120kg to the vehicle.

Sorry about the long post, but I needed to explain so that I can get more in depth answers.

Thanks. Tyler.

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Reply By: Robin Miller - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 10:15

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 10:15
We considered all those options and decided that sleeping in the Patrol is the best way Tyler.

You can go a lot of places with a good van but there is a whole set of activites you can't do as well.

Most of those we travel with also use just the cars with no tents.
These include Tray troppies with built on back section and also with campers on trays.
Some of these have been home built - and most use only a single cab to create the space.

With our 4800 patrol we just removed all but the front seats , made the floor flat and put in a double bed, access is via the 2 passengers doors.

This approach means you have to make lots of things fit in special places but has the huge advantage of actually lowering the cars weight and making the car go further, and has proved unbeatable in setup time.

This approach is no good if your not into lightweight camping and making a good setup, and it has less space than a camper but means we don't have to climb up/down ladders etc and in nett it is more comfortable because you have the security of the car and its noise reductioin and wind protection.

The freedom and flexibility we get means we can make last minute decisions and pull in anywhere.
We mix camping anywhere with some CV park stays to give a good overall balance.

It is also much cheaper to make a vehicle based set up, which is good because we prefer the advantages of petrol despite short term cost.
Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 13:53

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 13:53
hi Robin,

I know you're a pretty seasoned camper and am interested to know a bit more of your set up. ie: where does your fridge go if you have a bed filling the back of the car??? and what about carrying water and for that matter, tools and cooking gear, food etc etc must be a pretty tight ship you run there, mate. I can certainly see the advantages, though.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 15:28

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 15:28
Hellow Steve

Yes if fair to say its pretty tight but highly effective.
Everything is brought or made to fit into the available space and the purpose built shelves etc.

While it may be low cost it does take time to make things fit and I wouldn't reccomend this approach to those who don't have time to play around.
But in the end it has proved very practical.

A cute verification of this occurred recently on the Colson track - we were ready to camp at 4pm after a hard cross country slog but a vehicle we were travelling with needed a space to erect a tent.
We set of and incredibly we drove in excess of 100km till well into the night before a single place big enough to erect a tent was found, whereas our car could have stopped anywhere.

There are a few key points to do to ensure this setup really works -
E.G. You can get into bed via the side doors without climbing over things.
And can cook in the back of the car whilst someone else is still reading a book etc.
We carry a bag each with clothes and this sits on the bed normally and gets put on the front seats for sleeping.
To change clothes while inside is the hardest part but you can sit fully upright without your head touching the roof etc.

I am not willing to have any compromizes like losing the ability to have 5 seats when not camping and it takes about 1/2 hour to put the original seats back in.

For emergency use only, you can sort of have seats at any time as our platform that forms the front 1/2 of the bed has a fold up plywood piece that allows it to fold up and form a quasi rear bench seat.

I attach picture which shows the flat floor but without mattress - in it you can see our CF-25 fridge between the front seats and water is carried under the platform on either side of the fridge. (You don't even have to get out of bed to raid the fridge at night).
Purpose built shelves to the left hold chairs and to the right hold food and at the very top of the picture can can just see a little rolled up table and 2 man tent.

An internal shelf just below the roof holds a things like a cover for the rear barn doors which makes a rain proof area big enough to cook by.

This picture shows the basic flat platform without the mattress and also shows a microwave oven where pillows might be but we normally don't take this.

2nd picture shows the fold up flap in place with a wife wanting her morning coffee from the kitchen.

To set up kitchen , I fold up the flap which folds up the bottom 1/3rd of the double bed mattress and then get stove etc from off the front seat where it spent the night etc. We mostly drive with kitchen stuff setup as per this picture.

Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 16:22

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 16:22
blimey mate, and not even a roof rack???? I like the idea of having a sly swig from the fridge whilst the missus is asleep;))

Obviously, you've worked on the setup over a period of time and improved on it. Is 25 liter fridge your only cold food storage? I take it the microwave was an experiment and used with engine running? Any solar or gennie? Glind shower? Very innovative. We've been thinking about this stuff because we can't take our van up the Cape so that has inspired us.

Cheers, Steve.

sorry to derail the thread a bit but some good tips for most of us there.
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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 19:02

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 19:02
Yes Steve with your 130 and Rons Troppy, Tyler can see that there are alternatives for those wanting the ultimate flexibility.

We leave the externals of our car looking as standard as possible and I think this is a big plus although it means extra work to embed winches etc into the stock bar - or to run good globes and wiring instead of spotlights.

I can't reccomend this because it is illegal but you can move from the front seat
and lie down in back without stopping and we have had to transport someone injured in this manner.

Because we are sometimes away from even 4wd tracks for days we have tried to make everything work for us and have backups but these spring from sensible planning up front.

Our fridge is small but we deliberately carry nothing that requires to be kept frozen and we carry only known good water usually in say supermarket casks these things minimize bad food issues.

( The microwave is only for family picnic type events ).

We carry no generator and use just the car alternator, this uses under 2lt/hour to charge things if required.
Being petrol its so quiet you can run the car in a camp ground and no one even knows and all this means no added weight.

This is the second GU Patrol we have setup this way and it isn't quite as good as our other one just yet - it has a thin (5mm) flexible solar panel glued to the roof and you can't see the panel and allows us to go into supermarket car parks
with 2m height clearances - meeting our no compromises critera again.

Its all lots of fun !

Robin Miller

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Follow Up By: KevinE - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 06:20

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 06:20
What a sensational setup Robin! :)

I have to ask though, what is the pressure sprayer for? Is it an improvised fire extinguisher?


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Follow Up By: Robin Miller - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 08:25

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 08:25
Hi Kevin

I didn't look closely at those photos so I didn't think the sprayer was visible - but yes it has a dual purpose of supplying water and also as a fire extingusher.

I drilled the end of its nozzle out to about 1mm or whatever gave it a good (but not to much) spray.
This is because fires from grass build up under the car require a good steady spray beyond what the usual 1kg commercial extinguisher can maintain.

It can't be seen in the photo but its a push fit into a nook at the rear of the car in what would be an otherwise used space and doesn't interfere with the mattress at all.
Robin Miller

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Reply By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 16:41

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 16:41
hi Tyler,

I can offer a few pointers regarding the 130 Defender dual cab as I had one for five years. An easy vehicle to do modifications yourself as anchor points etc are easily accessible for bolting things to, and a fantastic 4x4. The boxy shape means you can see the end of the vehicle in tight spots and don't have to guess how far down the bonnet slopes to. It also keeps the sun off you and the oder models didn't have a brilliant air con but I was cooler in the 130 than I was in our Commodore because you are well shaded, whereas the shape of modern cars tend to have windows sloping at such an angle that the sun is nearly alway on you. A great all round touring bus - we changed ours because the van we towed was 2 ton, loaded, in addition to two 6ft + teen boys and dog in the back with accompanying gear meant it was a bit of a slog at times in hilly country. Plus aforementioned teens complaining of lack of leg room in the back. They are a bit primitive but you oufgt to take one for a run and see what you think. We had some great fun in ours and depending on your load (just two of you or a tribe?) and a smaller UEV etc should be much lighter to pull. Also could've sold it 5 times over. Take your time looking into it and bearing in mind Robin's setup would be easy in a 130. They do a single cab (bigger tray area) and a dual cab. I think it's less about where towing is allowed and more where towing is feasible or difficult.
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Reply By: lostinwauchope - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 17:14

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 17:14
Hi Tyler ,
Robin's set up is similar to ours except we use a troopy to sleep in ,
full length draws under the bed , 50 ltr fridge bolted to the barn door ,
4.2 x 3 mtr roll out awning provides us with shelter . from driving to fully set up under 3 minutes . just returned from alice with a mate who towed a jayco swan took the about 40 minutes to set up and pack up every day after 5 weeks i think he was over it . no canvas no hassle works for us. cheers Ron
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Follow Up By: Member - VickiW - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 21:57

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 21:57
Hi Tyler,

we had a set up similar to Ron's (twice) first with a Patrol then a 70 series landcruiser. Both were home made. With the Patrol the fridge was under the full length shelf from the passenger driver side door. Access to the fridge wasn;t great but there was plenty of storage and headroom.
In the 76 I found it was a bit shorter than ideal and less headroom, but the access to the fridge from the rear was great. I think if this was with a troopie would be perfect.

With both, there was lots of storage space and set up was very quick. We left the bed set up with a foam matress, sleeping bags and pillows set up throughout the trips. With the landcruiser we had an awning which gave some space for cooking if weather wasn't great and we used a swag more often which also makes it v quick to set up. Now I make do fine with a swag and awning as I want to have the extra seating between trips without dismantling shelving. Oh - and we had an underbody water tank which was great.

I think my next choice would be a dual cab ute with tray top camper. But whatever I prefer a set up that is quick with a small footprint/ flexible.
Good luck in the planning - that's half the fun.
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Reply By: bluedog66 - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 18:02

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 18:02
Robyn, Steve & Ron thanks for your replies. There is a wealth of information on this site and forum. I have a lot of reading to do. I time I will get through as many relevant to me threads to me as I can. I hope I get more replies and input. It is from other peoples way of doing things that is a good learning tool.
Take it easy. Tyler.
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Reply By: Steve M1 (NSW) - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 19:58

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 19:58
I suppose it's all about the travel, the destinations, the people you meet - but sometimes, when all that falls a bit short of expectations, in rolls the oddest or most unusual or clever set up you've ever seen. For me, that's as interesting as anything else; the ingenuity of people. On here, alone, we have the big juggernaut utes towing the heavyweight vans and at the other extreme, a minimalist set up like Robin's or maybe even leaner and meaner?....and a million options in between. Great stuff.
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Reply By: StevoReevo - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 20:01

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 20:01
Hi Tyler,

For years my wife and I lived out of our Troopie. With the right setup it was great for remote travel - setup was quick and easy and we didn't need to worry about towing anything.
We then moved up to a camper trailer and then an off-road caravan. The Caravan was fantastic on long trips but too large for true offroading. The Camper trailer was also good but I found setup took too long (tent style camper). I actually haven't found an ideal setup yet and each person is different... I must admit I do miss sleeping in the back of the Troopie now I think about it... A nicely setup Defender 130 is certainly an appealing option also if only I could handle the seating position!
We also looked at the Vista and UEV490 trailer but we have actually just bought a new Commander instead (a cheaper version of the UEV490 they now sell). It won't arrive for 4months so I can't tell you what it is like but at 39K I took a punt! I might have found an ideal setup now??? Time will tell - VERY EXCITED!
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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 21:49

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 21:49
Hi Tyler

While the idea of not towing anything has merits, for long term travel there was not room for all we needed. We chose a caravan in the end for longer trips. We can always leave it for a few days and sleep in the trayback or in a tent to get into places where it is not suitable for towing. If you can manage for two years from a trayback or wagon, go for it. There is also the option of a roof top tent to maximise storage space in the vehicle.



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Reply By: Member - SNOLLYGHOSSTER - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 22:23

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 22:23
Hi Bluedog66

Here is another alternative for you to consider. Check out the Kea Campers website ( and look up their "Conqueror" 4wd Troopy campervans. I bought a 2008 model from Kea in July last year and couldn't be happier with it. I also bought an off road caravan and when travelling to those places where I can't take the caravan, then I take the campervan. Just park up, pop the roof, slide out the double bed that sits above the cabin roof, put teh kettle on (or get a beer) and you are set up. Kea sell their vehicles around each April when they are about 3 years old. Mine was just over 3 years old when it bought it, had travellled 118,000 kms and cost around $57,000 with the full fit out. They do a service and fully check the vehicle before putting it up for sale and I could not fault Norman's service. I like the option of using the caravan or the campervan as it provides what I consider to be the best flexibility to see this great country. From what you described in your post, this type of vehicle may suit you.


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Follow Up By: Danna - Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 23:36

Monday, Sep 17, 2012 at 23:36
Hi Bluedog66 and Snolly
No more KEA it's out of business in Australia!

Cheers Dana
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Follow Up By: Member - SNOLLYGHOSSTER - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 07:52

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 07:52
Hi Danna

I had not heard that Kea is out of business in Australia so I checked out the internet and what you sayin your follow up is (sort of) correct as Kea has filed for liquidation but will remain in the marketplace via THL. Below is a copy of a news item from Business Day (copyright Fairfax NZ News) that I found this morning.

"Tourism Holdings Limited (THL) has bought the rights to use the Australian brands of Kiwi company KEA Campers Group, after its licensed agent across the Tasman went into liquidation.

THL said there would be no disruption to existing and future KEA Australia customers in the handover and the KEA brand would remain in the market.

The NZX-listed company would ''endeavour to ensure the customers are seamlessly transitioned'' to its existing branches in Perth, Cairns, Brisbane and Sydney, it said in a statement.

In January KEA announced it would scale down its presence in Australia from eight depots to four.

KEA Campers director Grant Brady told BusinessDay that the Australian market was experiencing heavy discounting and KEA's premium end of the market was suffering from lower yields, while being squeezed between the two bigger market players THL and Apollo.

Brady said KEA's Australian company was also filing for liquidation and he did not believe any creditors would be left out of pocket.

He said KEA's New Zealand business was unaffected.

Licensing agreements for KEA's brands usually lasted for a term of ten years, and included collaboration on branding and marketing efforts, said Brady.

THL chief executive Grant Webster said he was pleased to have the ''financial strength, infrastructure and people in place to be able to assist''.

''The KEA Australia leadership team have been very supportive in ensuring their customers are well catered for into the future given their difficult situation.

''KEA Australia customers can be assured their needs will be attended to. We have the full intention of honouring the terms, conditions and pricing offered by KEA Australia in the market place today and will deal with any issues with customers on the road with care and respect.''

Webster said the acquisition was not expected to have a material effect on THL's financial results for the year ending June 30."


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Reply By: bluedog66 - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 13:56

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 13:56
Thanks to everybody for your input. I am and will digest it all and sort out a suitable solution for me. The concept of a Defender 130 with a roof top tent for travel to non van places seems to have some merit. Backed up by a suitable off road van for all other travel. Comfort and convenience where applicable.

Keep the suggestions coming.
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Reply By: Nomadic Navara - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 14:13

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 14:13
As well as the the Conqueror UEV 490 and the VistaRV, have a look at - - and

One of the problems with slide-on campers is their bulk. If they are not the fold down or pop-top type they will be particularly top heavy in mountainous country and bulky on narrow tree lined tracks. The last link above has a pop-top style slide-on. Others with a little more canvas that you may be able to get the navigator interested in are - and

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Follow Up By: bluedog66 - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 15:07

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 15:07
Those North Coast Campers look real nice. Anyone on here have one?
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Reply By: Michael ( Moss Vale NSW) - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 17:29

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 17:29
I know a roof tent is canvas but they are Soooo good!! Michael
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Reply By: Member - Mary W NW VIC - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 19:16

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 19:16
Check out
The green 110 defender wagon is mine and I have covered most of the iconic tracks in comfort AB/CSR/Simpson etc.
Daniel the supplier of these conversions has the yellow 130 conversion which comfortably sleeps himself,wife and 2 kids.
Had mine for 4 yrs now and still very happy with it.
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Follow Up By: bluedog66 - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 20:45

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 20:45
I have actually been to Mulgo's factory and had a good look at his yellow beast. I was very impressed. My wife is not overly keen on it as a full time camping solution. However, towing a smallish van for her comfort is important for her. We have acknowledged that there may be some times she won't want to accompany me, so a vanless camper has a lot of appeal.

Is there any one here with a 130 defender that has the Mulgo conversion?
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Reply By: Crackles - Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 21:34

Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012 at 21:34
G'day Tyler. I think the key factors in deciding your camping setup will be wanting to tackle some of the remote iconic tracks & travelling for two years.
Travelling remote tracks are best done without towing a trailer as they can at times limit where you go & will require you to leave the van/camper behind then carry additional camping equipment in the car for side trips.
Going for 2 years however will for most require an increased level of comfort as living in a tent or out of the back of a car under all weather conditions can wear a bit thin.
A middle of the road option that would suit the 130 Landy is to get a slideon camper. A compact lightweight version will not restrict your destinations & come with a decent bed & any number of additional comforts for an extended trip. Basically come in 2 concepts having an internal kitchen like the Trayon so you cook inside away from the bugs or an outside kitchen which keeps cooking smells out of the bed & makes for quick lunch stops (better access to all gear). The best I've found in this style while comparing is theTailgate Camper being light & very fast to setup.
I suppose it all depends on what level of comfort you expect.
Cheers Craig..............
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Follow Up By: bluedog66 - Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 at 11:21

Wednesday, Sep 19, 2012 at 11:21
Thanks for your input Craig. I have looked at Tailgate Campers but they have been a bit too long for a dual cab Defender. However I revisited their site today, following your link and noticed they have a dual cab version coming early 2013. So I have sent them an e-mail seeking more info on that.

I have seriously considered the Trayon as I know it will fit a dual cab Defender, however my wife will not be able to cope with the continual entry/exit on the steps backwards as she has a back problem. The entry/exit to the Tailgater will be easier.

I may have not been too clear in my original post. I did not mean a continued 2 year journey. I meant that it could take 2 years to do the separate treks. So each trip will be separated by some home time.

Whilst I personally would prefer a slide-on, my wife has needs that steer strongly to a van. However there will be some treks she has indicated she is not keen on so I will be alone unless I can find a traveling buddy for those times. So for me, I guess the ideal setup is a lightweight slide-on and a suitable off road van. This way my alone trips are catered for with the slide-on and with my wife the van accommodates us both. As a backup for places on a side trip the slide-on fills the gap.

However, I am seeking the best combination of slide-on and smallish off road van that the Defender 130 will have no problem with carrying and towing and at the same time will be able to fit in everything I need to take with me over and above what is a fixture or fitting of either camper. The biggest problem seems to be having enough room for two spare tyres. Because of medical limitations, I am unable to lift the weight of a spare tyre up onto a roof rack. Besides, I don't like that weight up top anyway. Also a spare on the Defender bonnet makes the bonnet really heavy to lift. I know someone who ended up with a crushed hand when the spare loaded bonnet slammed down on his hand. Not good.

So thanks again for input and I am sure that amongst the wealth of experience out there in ExplorOz land, there is the right answer for me.
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