So, today I thought I might talk a bit about the more technical aspects of our trip, namely our vehicle and camper, as I know a few of you are planning someday roadtrips of your own.
This was quite the adventure. It was a decision probably 12 months or more in the making? Lots of research, lots of magazines and books and internet searches. We decided quite early on that we wanted a soft floor camper trailer – we love tent camping, but with 3.5 children, even with out large car, tent camping was getting tricky to get gear + tent + food + children all in. So a camper trailer seemed the best option for us, both in style, and budget. We did briefly consider something like a Jayco camper van, but it was a slightly different style of camping, and as nice as they were, we wouldn’t have as much space. The other big draw back for us, was even when advertised as a six-berth van, it would mean one bed for the grown ups, and one for allllll the children. And Master 6 and Miss 2 do NOT do co-sleeping well (as evidenced by our little play date at 3am this morning. Go back to sleep child, and get your finger out of my nose).
So. Soft floor camper it was – and we’d prefer an off-road model to give us more options in the future. We looked around for a second hand trailer for a bit, but nothing was overly grabbing us. Then last July, whilst in holidays in Yamba, we made a day trip to Lismore for the camping expo, and got a chance to walk in and have a real-life look at a heap of campers. Chances are, if you are reading this, you are well aware of an issue we had when renovating, called the “Mama Bug surcharge”, otherwise known as champagne tastes on a beer budget. If it was something I liked/picked/wanted, there was a greater than 80% chance it was twice the price of anything else. And I didn’t disappoint when camper shopping. Ooooohhh, look! This one’s nice! The cooktop! The annexe! The extra room! (I think it may have even had a tv. Sadly, it didn’t come with wifi. You win some, you lose some). Poor long suffering husband pulled me out of the tent, and pointed to the rather large sign on the outside. You know what else is nice? The price. Gulp. Yeah, a $40,000 tent-on-a-trailer was just a wee bit more than what we’d planned on spending.
But coming away from the expo, we’d pretty much decided we wanted a Lifestyle camper – either the Explorer or Explorer Plus model. Again, we hit the ebay/trading post/gumtree circuit, but nothing much was coming up (which I guess is a good sign?). Then there was the post-Christmas-it’s-Australia-Day-let’s-go-camping sale, and with a few little tweaks to the budget, we ended up selecting the Explorer model, for a good price, and also some great bonuses.
The juicy details – we have a Lifestyle Explorer camper, with the 12 foot tent (plus an annexe that runs the full length). Big families need big tents! This sized tent works well for us, a queen bed up top with a lovely foam mattress so mummy and daddy are comfy, and room on the floor for two camping stretcher double bunks for the munchkins (plus room for a port-a-cot once Baby4 arrives, in case he/she isn’t a co-sleeper like two others we could mention). The trailer came with a basic tail-gate kitchen, including a sink and manual hand pump (no stove – but we have a portable gas cooker any way, so that wasn’t a big deal for us). We haven’t thus far made a lot of modifications – we’ve added two pole/fishing rod holders to the drawbar, between the main trailer box and the toolbox (came included). We also had a stone guard made and installed just recently.
We have plans down the track for adding power supplies and LED lighting, but for now, powered sites and/or battery operated lanterns are working for us.
Towing our home away from home, we have a 2013 Toyota Prado. We chose the GXL variant, in 6 speed manual, with a diesel engine. I have to say, I’m smitten with my new toy. It is so much fun to drive. This replaces our Mazda CX9, and I much prefer the Prado. The only things I miss from the Mazda, are that it had more interior space, and a 6 stack CD player vs the Prado’s single CD. But everything else, the Prado is a much better option for us. The only option we added was a tow-bar (obviously), and we also then added after-market electronic brakes for the camper. The fuel efficiency on this thing is phenomenal (though it’s not so fun when the tanks are empty and you need to spring for 150L of diesel in one go – OUCH! Note to self, don’t leave it until the light comes on to refill…), and it towed the trailer up the range no worries.
So that’s the rig. If my fellow wanderers have any questions, please let me know in the comments.