In this previous post: Our Ideal Set-Up, I waxed lyrical about our ideal set-up being a 4WD towing a camper trailer, along with all the additional bits and pieces that we believed would make life more comfortable for us.
Well, here we are one month into our trip and some may wonder if this is still the ideal set-up for us?
In this post I’ll go into the pros and cons of our set-up, covering all those things that we had no idea about prior to starting this trip.
We have 2005 Hyundai Terracan CRDi 4×4, purchased for $8k with 214,000 kms on the clock. It comes with a bull bar, roof racks and snorkel. It’s running well, seems to have been well looked after, has absolutely no problem towing our trailer and is a very comfortable drive.The third row of seats had already been removed (we would have done that anyway) and there’s plenty of space for all our stuff.
Overall, we’re stoked with this purchase, so the vehicle is just a big ‘pro’ for us.
The trailer itself is a single-axle trailer, 3.5 metres from tow hitch to tail gate and 1.7 metres wide. The tent folds out to the side adding another 3.6 metres of living space to the width. The living space is more than we need, but it is nice to have all that space in the evening where we can relax in insect free comfort.
However, the kitchen swings out from the tailgate adding another 2.1 metres to the end of the trailer and what we end up with is a rather awkward and annoying square.
This makes positioning the trailer a bit of a nuisance if we’re in a tight spot.
Compounding this is the fact that we kinda need to position our tent with the sun in mind. Our battery is in the toolbox on the drawbar so if we point the drawbar to north, this means that we can put out the solar panels in full sunshine and the cables will reach the battery. And also, the kitchen on the tailgate will be facing south so the tent provides some shade while cooking. (See the Awning subheading for why we don’t put the awning out)
Fully laden is less than 750kg (well, it should be; it can’t legally be over this weight) which means that no trailer brakes are required.
That’s a pretty light trailer which our car has no problem at all towing. It’s barely noticeable having the trailer on the back, you only really notice it when slowing down to stop. Also, in the interests of keeping our packing time down to a minimum we’re trying to limit the amount of ‘stuff’ we accumulate anyway.
We’ve only put the awning roof out twice, the full awning only once.
There’s a reason for that; it’s a pain in the arse.
It’s heavy, has a gazillion poles and it’s hard to attach if we’ve already got the main tent out and up. But it does double our tents footprint giving us oodles of space, which is fine when there’s plenty of room, but if you’re already squished up, then putting out the awning just adds insult to injury.
Another reason we don’t put it out is that we never know if we’re going to stay more than one night in a spot. At every new campsite we only pay for one night, and then extend if that one night was nice. There have been two times now where we didn’t like where we were and quickly packed up the next morning. Not having the awning out makes that a whole lot easier.
As the weather gets hotter and hotter we’ll have to think seriously about putting up the awning roof anyway. At the moment, the winter sun is low enough that our tent casts enough shade even in the middle of the day. But as we get closer to summer the sun will be directly above us and we’ll definitely need a roof over us then.
(But if it were lighter and easier to put up, the awning would be a definite pro.)
At the outset, I was pretty adamant that I wanted a trailer that already had a water tank and a tap; and we did get one. Here’s the thing, the water tastes not very nice from it, even if I’m boiling the water to make coffee, it still tastes a little bit weird. So our drinking water is either tap water from a 10L plastic container or water bought from the supermarket. We don’t use our tank as much as I thought we would. It’s still handy though.
Neither PRO nor CON
Swing out kitchen
Once again, this one was a non-negotiable for me at the beginning; to be able to swing out the tailgate, unfold the bench and have a workspace all ready to go. While it IS convenient and good, it’s just not AS good as I thought it would be.
It’s great having a sink there with a drain, but more often than not we have to collect the grey water from the sink and dispose of it down a drain or somewhere away from our site. If there’s a camp kitchen it’s sometimes just easier (and less gross) to use that to do our dishes.
Our kitchen sink has an electric tap, I thought it would be nice to have. It is a little bit of a pain having to plug the thing in because we don’t have enough 12v outlets we have to plug in the adapter first and then the tap. But the real bummer is how noisy it is.
This thing is LOUD, and embarrassing.
I’m inclined not to use it simply because I feel like the whole campground will be looking over in wonder at what the racket is. :-/
I would much rather just have a hand pump.
Our camper trailer came with a 100AmpHr deep cycle lead acid battery mounted in the tool box on the drawbar, with a meter showing the available volts and the load. There is 10Amp battery charger and wiring to two 12v cigarette lighter outlets at the tailgate. While we’ve had multiple problems keeping our batteries charged, having the battery system already installed on the trailer has been awesome.
The tent itself is made out of heavy canvas and stood up to an overnight downpour while we were in Port Macquarie. There are windows (and doors) galore, all with insect mesh screens, so we can open the whole thing up and get some good breeze through there.
Putting up and down just the tent isn’t too hard and probably takes about 10 minutes from whoa to go (it’s all the paraphernalia that needs to go in and around the tent that takes ages).
The security of our belongings came to light especially when we were free camping. Being a tent, we can’t just put everything inside, lock the door and go out for the day. We can (and should) do things like put on a wheel clamp or coupling lock and chain the fridge and solar panels to the trailer. We take our laptops, tablets and other electronics in the car with us, but everything else is just sitting out for any opportunistic thief. We try to deter them by not leaving out anything enticing, but we also try not to make it look like we’re gone for the whole day by leaving out some washing or, more likely, our dirty dishes.
We’re not sure on the answer to this one but it is something we need to consider whenever we leave our site.
So is the Camper Trailer the Ideal Set-Up for Us?
Ben and I have been vacillating backwards and forwards on whether we love our trailer or whether to cut our losses and ditch it. It’s been a really good exercise to go through the pros and cons, because we realise that all in all… it’s great. ESPECIALLY given our limited budget.
Setting our campsite up and packing it down takes us a fair bit longer than those people who have a caravan or motorhome; but they also paid A LOT more for their rig than we did. We could also have gone the campervan route but then there is such limited space… especially when the mosquitoes or sand flies are out and forcing me to retreat indoors.
So yes, the camper trailer is the ideal set-up for us based on our budget. If we had about $10k more we would have gone with a hard floor camper trailer, $30k more and we would have looked for a caravan. But if we had about $150k more, I would LOVE to do this trip in the Explorer Motorhome (<– my current crush)
If you’re looking at purchasing a camper trailer and have any questions about the pros and cons, feel free to make contact and we’ll answer your questions as best we can.