Kylie’s thoughts about Camper Trailers

Nigel just before we sold him. Once that red dust gets onto the canvas, its there for ever…!

When you’ve spent all your camping time in tents, even the most basic of camper trailers seem to be pure luxury. There’s no air mattress to blow up, no sleeping bags to unpack, most have a built in kitchen making cooking and cleaning up very easy.  They really are a nice way to travel.  

Our first trailer was an Ultimate 4×4 Bush-Hopper that hubby had rebuilt several times and fine-tuned over the years. Essentially it wasn’t bad. It had a kitchen his dad made out of scrap wood, with built in gas cooktop and a hand operated water tap.  It had been all over Australia including Cape York and this old girl served us well and went everywhere we dragged it, much to my amazement.  We did my first ‘track’ in this camper trailer. The Oodnadatta Track to be precise. What an amazing time that was – well that was until we got to Coward Springs. It was there that we discovered that some species of mosquitos require pilots and that when there are holes in the canvas window screens, the mosquitos will become blood hounds and home in on the only person allergic to their bites….ME. I spent the next three weeks covering myself in tea tree oil ointment and sending myself to sleep with handfuls of antihistamine tablets.  If Marty wanted me to go away with him again, things had to improve. Poor hubby, I think I cried and moaned for the rest of the trip with his swollen itchy companion complaining all the way.

Marty rebuilt the Bush Hopper again and sold it a little while later.  After much deliberation ‘Nigel’ was ordered.  Nigel was a Lifestyle soft floor camper trailer and Nigel was a legend. It was the toughest trailer I’ve ever seen.  We dragged Nigel over the Oodnadatta, Gibb River, Tanami and Kalumbaru roads to name a few of the places we went.  I’m sure we could have killed the car before we did any damage to Nigel (and Kalumbaru is without a doubt one of the worst tracks we have been on).

The old Bush Hopper. Its wasn’t much but we called it home for a short while. I believe the person who bought it after us is still using it. Goes to show they built them tough in those days.

Nigel wasn’t really cheap by camper trailer standards, however this was a conscious decision that we both made. When doing our homework we decided against a cheaper imported model and went with an Australian built trailer with quality Australian canvas. To us it made a big difference in the quality of the end product and it meant we would get a camper trailer that would go where we wanted to go without any issues or breakdowns. This is really a personal choice and of course a budget decision. A good trailer is an investment that will last you years and take you many places in relative comfort. They can also expand to allow for growing families. Nigel had the ability to have extra ‘rooms’ attached (with two of us we never bothered but it was an option). You also don’t need to upgrade your tug to a bigger tow capacity vehicle (you will require electric brakes but that is another story).

Things I’ve learn;

  • Buy a porta potti and store it in the front box – you will not regret this trust me
  • Do not shower and get changed into clean clothes before you pack the canvas away, you end up filthy before you’ve even left the campsite
  • Do not let hubby pack the canvas away without checking if its dried – it takes HOURS to get rid of the mould
  • Buy an electric blanket and an electric fan heater – stupid little things that make a MASSIVE difference to your comfort especially when you return to the southern states after spending weeks up in the warmer north
  • Set up a drawer or box system to store your pantry items in.
  • Leave your clothes in a bag in the car, it’s just easier this way
  • They are much lighter than a caravan (this is mostly true given Nigel was around 700kgs empty) so your fuel economy is better
  • They are cheaper than a Van.
OMG how young was I here….? This was somewhere in the Red Centre. Despite what it looks like, I was actually enjoying myself.

There is only one thing wrong with camper trailers and you only find this out after travelling with others who tow caravans.  No matter how well designed and easy to set up a camper trailer is, it will take you 3-4 times as long to set up or pack up as it does for your caravanning mates.  Much to your annoyance as they sit in their chairs with a beverage in hand and, in great amusement, watching you slave away with the odd comment and opinion thrown in for good measure.  Then if it rains, they are completely unfazed while you sit there wondering what you’re going to do with the wet canvass on the bed.
By the end of our Kimberley and Northern Territory trip, I’d had enough of canvass and living out of plastic boxes.  I wanted something more comfortable and requiring less energy to set up and pack away.  So we decided (well I decided and Marty just went along with me) that it was time to upgrade.  We bid Nigel a fond farewell and saw him off to his new owners in Ballarat.  Marty still tears up when we mention him but we know he’s being put to good use by a nice young family.

Camper trailers are terrific fun and a huge set up from tents but once you get to a certain age, you appreciate the finer things in life and a much slower lifestyle.