Camper Trailers Tech Tips

Buying a Camper Trailer






buying a camper trailer


so you want a camper trailer 

With the large number of camper trailer manufacturers on the market today it is little wonder buying a camper trailer for the first time must be a very daunting experience to say the least. This is where forums like the Australian Camper Trailers Group can help. Although the group does not push one brand over another, the combined help from members who own camper trailers can steer potential buyers in the right direction & help them make an educated decision.

At present there are a large majority of members joining the group who are looking at buying their first camper trailer. The most confusing aspect of the whole process is where to start, what type of camper trailer will suit their needs & the dollars needed. The easy way out would be just to grab the closest camper trailer available & hope for the best. This could lead to a very expensive mistake. However, taking your time by doing a little research can benefit in the long run. 

Starting with a set budget you will soon realise you do not get much for your hard earned dollars, particularly for a well built off road camper trailer which will be reliable for years of service over the hash corrugated outback roads & bush tracks. The skies the limit, but you do not need a flash camper trailer with all the bells & whistles to get out there & have fun in our great outdoors. However what you do want is something that is reliable.

where do I start

There is no use starting with a budget until you have had a look around to see what is on the market & what takes your fancy. Best place to see the majority of manufacturers under the one roof is at a camping show. Write down your preferences & what you want out of the camper trailer. A handy list of points to consider can be found set out on the buying a camper page. 

Donít be afraid to ask questions to the salesperson on the stand at the show. They should be able to reply to any question you ask. This will show they know the product they are selling & have confidence in it. Questions to your particular situation could include, what does the camper weigh, what is the dry ball weight, can I get an innerspring mattress as an option with my crook back, does the camper come with new or secondhand tyres or perhaps the sort of options on offer to close the deal.

Consideration must also be given to the tow capacity of your vehicle as well as its ball weight, especially if you have a lightweight 2wd vehicle or perhaps a soft off roader also known as a SUV. Check your vehicle manufacturers handbook for these specifications. Overloading can void your vehicle's warranty as well as your insurance. A ball weight of around 10% to15% of the trailers weight will give good forward travel & tracking qualities.

the different types of campers

As you are well aware there are several different configurations of camper trailers available. Some have a dedicated camper body like the flip-overs & windups etc with a hard floor, while others are based on a box trailer with a soft floor.

Soft floors are easy to set up for a one nighter, usually by removing the soft vinyl tonneaux cover, pulling the canvas out & extending the internal frame. Some models require the use of a couple of tent pegs & ropes. Soft floor campers provide more internal floor space than most other styles, allowing plenty of room for the bedding of a large family. The bed does not need to be made for a nights sleep. The kitchen is commonly mounted on the swinging tailgate or slides out from the rear of the trailer making it an easy process to prepare lunch on the roadside. Getting the canvas back on top of the trailer by one person can be a disadvantage depending on the make & model.

A flip-over camper mostly has a sealed hard top when travelling & opens to the rear to become the floor which is suspended off the ground on legs. This is an advantage especially when camped on sloping ground, on the beach in soft sand or when the ground may be a bit soggy underfoot. From tow mode the camper folds out in minutes ready for an overnight camp with bed ready made. The kitchen slides out from the side which can be accessed when travelling. Some makes have a winching system to aid the one man setting up & fold down. There are also soft floor rear folds. 

Another style is the forward folding camper. With the aid of winches the bed is swung forward over the drawbar opening within the same footprint of the trailer. Internal seating is provided for out of the weather dining. The kitchen pulls out from the side under the awning. Another version on the rear fold is the double fold which has a smaller section opening on the rear to provide additional bedding. 

A windup involves lifting the hard roof up mechanically to expose the canvas sides. The floor is well off the ground with steps into the caravan like interior. Depending on the model they can have no push out ends, a single push out end or two push out ends that provide bedding, often a double bed & a smaller bed. These campers usually have an internal kitchen with dinette allowing plenty of comfort. They also allow for more out of the weather style camping, however it could be a little cramped for a large family in this situation.

The hybrid style is a new breed of camper that is somewhere between an off road camper trailer & an off road caravan. They are very compact & weigh little more than a fully loaded off road camper trailer. They provide an internal bed & dinette with mostly a kitchen sliding out from the side.

Of course there are many variations to these types of campers above, your choice will depend on what suits you & your own personal style of camping or touring, the comfort levels you require & where you want to take it.

Take into account if you will be doing touring holidays setting up one night camps or on the other hand camping in the one place for several days at a time. How hard will the camper be to set up, does it require one or two people? Have you any physical restrictions? By making a list of preferences you may be able to narrow down your search to a short list.

Will you be visiting national parks & caravan parks were most facilities are available or perhaps camping in out of the way places with little or no amenities where you will need to be self sufficient taking in all your own drinking water, portable toilet & the like.

A slide-out kitchen which is easily accessible for roadside lunches or morning tea is an advantage on touring holidays. The other alternative is to boil the thermos at breakfast & have your lunch in a picnic basket or in the rear cargo draws of the vehicle.

options & accessories

The biggest cost over a basic camper trailer are the options & accessories the manufacturer has on offer. A considerable saving can be made if you are a DIYer & willing to buy a base model over a fully optioned ready to go camper. Half the fun is modifying the camper to suit your own unique style of camping.

Depending on the type of camper & where you want to camp will depend on the options you will need. An extra wide awning can be an advantage giving extra shade or protection from the rain. Full annex walls could be handy at times, but for the times you will use them are they worth carting around the extra weight. Would flyscreened annex walls be a better option camping near the beach. If so is the screening midgeeproof. Then there is a tropical roof to provide a cooler internal temperature during the day. How much time do you spend inside the camper during the day.

If you are venturing into the remoter areas with little water is it worth an extra underslung water tank or perhaps just extra jerrys. A boat rack is a handy item for your tinnie & don't forget an outboard mount. If setting up for long stays away from power you may need a 12volt power system including solar panels or a generator.

putting the information together

Most likely after a day at the show you will be more confused than before you went. Collect pamphlets of those campers that took your interest so you can put it all together when your mind is clear. What part of a particular camper took your eye, does one kitchen stand out over another? Donít be afraid to roll under the camper to check the blokey bits while your better half peruses the kitchen arrangement.

Most camper trailer manufacturers websites can be a good source of information for browsing details via the photos to define any points that could be niggling you. When you have narrowed down your search & need honest answers from camper trailer owners, check out forums like the Australian Camper Trailers Group. There is a wealth of information on forums like these, with members all willing to share their experiences.

If you have any doubts about a particular make or style of camper trailer, why not consider hiring one for the weekend. This will quickly sort out your preferences.

personal advice

You may also find it helpful chatting with camper trailer owners at the regular Australian Camper Trailers Group weekend meets where many makes & models are in attendance. You will get an unbiased opinion from their owners. You do not need a camper trailer to attend. All weekend get togethers are listed on the Upcoming Events page of the website. You are also very welcome to drop in for the day.

It is a good idea to join the group & register your attendance in the poll provided so your host knows when you will be arriving which will help them with organising any activities planned.

The camper trailer makes camping all that much easier when it comes to setting up camp & what we hate the most, packing it up again. By customizing the camper to suit your own personal style of camping it makes it all much more fun.

Packing of the camper can be done during the week which creates a lot less stress than packing the car after work on a Friday afternoon before you get away for the weekend. Same goes when you get home on a Sunday afternoon. Just drop the camper off to be unpacked at a later stage during the week. This way you can stay in camp later on the Sunday, not having to get home to unpack the car ready for work on the Monday morning.

more reading

A list of questions to ask yourself as well as the salesman

Half the fun is modifying the camper to suit your own unique style of camping. Plenty of ideas on the tech tips pages

What goes into making a good off road trailer

Members take a look at their camper trailers

Camping show dates

Off road couplings

Weight distribution

Aging tyres

Australian CamperTrailers Group


 information by Rob 



february 2009