Buy­ing a car­a­van...

Or a camper­van? Mo­torhome? Cam­per­trailer? Don’t worry, we’ll help you de­cide.

Caravan, Camping and Holiday Parks with Kids - - Contents -

If you reckon that the only way to camp is a tent set-up in the bush, with no fa­cil­i­ties and no crea­ture com­forts, then you may find you are a lit­tle be­hind the times. Hugely pop­u­lar in the six­ties and seven­ties, the fam­ily road trip in a car­a­van is back. And it’s not just car­a­vans any­more, many fam­i­lies are now choos­ing to up­grade to a mo­torhome, or if head­ing off the beaten track, tow­ing an off-road camper trailer.

Now don’t think for a mo­ment that mak­ing the change over to a camper trailer or car­a­van means you’re no longer ‘real’ camp­ing. Any­thing that gets you out in the bush, sur­rounded by na­ture and gaz­ing up at a mil­lion stars still counts in our book – and just be­cause you’ve seen the light and would rather sleep on an in­ner­spring mat­tress then on the ground next to the fire, well that may just mean you will wake up re­freshed and en­joy the trip all that more.

If you’ve never done a mo­torhome road trip be­fore, or towed a car­a­van or camper trailer, there are a few you things you may want to think about be­fore you de­cide which path to go down. Top of the list is the type of fam­ily car you have (is it set up for tow­ing?) and then, where are you plan­ning to stop and camp overnight; i.e: bush camp­ing in na­tional parks or check­ing into a car­a­van park. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons sur­round­ing these choices.

Camper Trail­ers

Camper trail­ers have re­ally taken off in the last ten years and are now one of the most pop­u­lar meth­ods of camp­ing, es­pe­cially if head­ing off road with your 4WD. There are many dif­fer­ent makes and mod­els of camper trail­ers avail­able, some suited to on-road use only, while at the other end of the ex­treme, some fold out to re­veal all the lat­est mod- cons, such as so­lar power and hot wa­ter sys­tems, while un­der the ex­te­rior is a strength­ened chas­sis, heavy duty off-road sus­pen­sion and a spe­cial­ist tow hitch for ex­tra ar­tic­u­la­tion.

Of ut­most im­por­tance be­fore de­cid­ing on what type of camper trailer you need is work­ing out where you are likely to take it. If you are stay­ing on the main high­way or de­cent bi­tu­men roads, and then set­ting up in a hol­i­day park for a few days (or a few weeks), then a ba­sic on-road trailer that can be towed by most large sedans will do the job. If you take a pow­ered site at a hol­i­day park, then you won’t even need a 12V sys­tem to power your lights and other ac­ces­sories, and you can bring all your ba­sic ap­pli­ances from home, such as your ket­tle and toaster.

Bush camp­ing on the other hand will re­quire ei­ther a 12V bat­tery sys­tem in the camper trailer, or you can take your gas stove and lantern as you would with a tent. Once you have sorted out your cook­ing and light­ing re­quire­ments, any­thing else ( yes, even hot wa­ter) is a lux­ury.

Other con­sid­er­a­tions with camper trail­ers in­clude; a wa­ter tank un­der­neath the trailer; a large awning and an­nexe to cre­ate more cov­ered space and ex­tra sleep­ing room (in most mod­els there is only the one dou­ble or queen size bed, so stretch­ers or air mat­tresses will be needed for the kids) and pos­si­bly stor­age racks built onto the trailer to carry ex­tra equip­ment that won’t fit in­side such as ca­noes, kayaks or kids’ bikes.

Pros

• Ex­tra space when pack­ing for your trip in­side the trailer.

• Usu­ally have a full queen sized bed with an in­ner­spring mat­tress for mum and dad.

• 12V power to ac­ces­sories such as LED light­ing, and for charg­ing elec­tronic equip­ment such as mo­bile phones and cam­era bat­ter­ies.

• Off road mod­els be­hind a 4WD can ac­cess some of the most re­mote and beau­ti­ful coun­try Aus­tralia has to of­fer.

Cons

• Can take half an hour or longer to set up for some soft floor mod­els by the time you do the an­nexe.

• Un­likely to in­clude air­con­di­tion­ing, or many of the crea­ture com­forts of your av­er­age new model car­a­van or mo­torhome.

Car­a­vans

The age- old adage that car­a­van­ning is only for older or re­tired cou­ples could not be fur­ther from the truth. There are plenty of car­a­vans on the mar­ket that have been de­signed with the fam­ily in mind and in­clude bunk beds or din­ing ar­eas that fold out into kids’ beds. The ad­van­tages of car­a­van travel are ob­vi­ous, with most new car­a­vans fit­ted out with all the bells and whis­tles in­clud­ing air­con­di­tion­ing, full-size up­right re­frig­er­a­tors, gas stove and oven, with some even hav­ing a wash­ing ma­chine. Ex­cept for be­ing in a slightly smaller space you re­ally do have all the crea­ture com­forts of home at your fin­ger­tips.

While these are fan­tas­tic if you are stay­ing at a pow­ered site in a hol­i­day park, once you hit the out­back or the bush, you will need to rely on the car­a­van’s in­ter­nal 12V power sys­tem, and also the LPG. Al­ways re­mem­ber to switch your car­a­van fridge straight on to LPG if set­ting up for more than a day, as it will quickly drain all power from your 12V bat­tery. The other op­tion is to recharge your bat­tery ev­ery day through a so­lar panel if one is fit­ted to the car­a­van.

Pros

• You can leave the car­a­van at the camp­ing spot and ex­plore the area by car on day trips.

• Vir­tu­ally no set-up time af­ter po­si­tion­ing the van and wind­ing down the sta­biliser legs.

• Fam­ily mod­els will have com­fort­able beds for ev­ery­one.

• Many vans have the op­tion of a shower and toi­let.

Cons

• Very heavy and most will need a large 4WD to tow safely.

• Can be in­tim­i­dat­ing to tow, es­pe­cially in re­gards to cor­ner­ing and han­dling in high winds. If you are a first timer, then a tow­ing course is rec­om­mended.

Mo­torhomes

Mo­torhomes come in a va­ri­ety of sizes from small truck to semi-trailer. With all the fea­tures of a car­a­van, they are a great choice for long road trips around Aus­tralia where you are stick­ing to the main towns and high­ways. There are also a few de­signed and built to head off-road. Mo­torhomes are gen­er­ally con­sid­ered eas­ier to man­age over tow­ing a car­a­van, plus there is no need to worry about cou­plings, or hook­ing up ca­bles and An­der­son plugs to en­sure sig­nals are op­er­at­ing and bat­ter­ies are be­ing recharged when on the road. Most mo­torhomes can be driven on a reg­u­lar li­cence; how­ever larger ones will re­quire a heavy ve­hi­cle li­cence.

Pros

• No set up time – just park and en­joy.

• You will look and feel like the king of the road.

• Can be fit­ted with ev­ery con­ceiv­able mod con.

Cons

• Can be ex­pen­sive to buy, with top of the range mod­els about the same price as your av­er­age house.

• No op­tion for sight­see­ing around the area with­out tak­ing your mo­bile home with you, so best suited to trips where you won’t need the use of a car at all.

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03 01 Homes on the road are fun for all 02 A wind up camper can pro­vide bet­ter rear vi­sion while driv­ing over a car­a­van 03 The per­fect set up, im­age cour­tesy of Colin Broad 04 Lux­ury mo­torhome in­te­rior 05 A large 4WD is re­quired to tow most car­a­vans

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