One of the first decisions to make when embarking on a ‘life on the road’ is what vehicle(s) to buy. Do you get a motorhome, caravan, poptop or camper trailer or even just buy a car and stay in B&B’s maybe?
We divided the options up into two to start. We discounted the car/B&B idea first off as we aren’t made of money, so that left the option of a either a motorhome or choose one from a poptop, caravan or camper trailer.
There’s no doubt that a motorhome can be a great choice. You have the freedom to go (mostly) anywhere there are reasonable roads, there are none of the issues you can have with towing a long, heavy caravan and setting up when you arrive at your destination for the night only involves connecting up water and power if you are staying at a caravan park.
On the negative side, unless you have a small motorhome like a van, parking in towns can be an issue and having to pack up the vehicle if you just need to pop into town to buy supplies can be a pain.
In comparison, caravans, poptops and camper trailers can be left set up where you are staying, the tow vehicle unhitched and you can use the campsite as a base to tour around the local area or further afield if you want. Usually, fuel consumption – especially for larger motorhomes – can be a negative while in comparison your tow vehicle is usually cheaper to run.
Towing any vehicle however, isn’t for the novice or faint-hearted, especially if you are talking about a 24 footer weighing 3 tonnes! Modern diesel 4WD dualcab or ‘Landcruiser-like’ vehicles though, can make towing much less of a hassle than say, the family sedan – and of course a caravan over 2 tonnes is over the legal limit for most standard cars.
We have owned and loved a Coromal 17 foot Pop Top van and taken it a fair distance using our humble old V6 Holden Commodore. Fuel consumption was pretty terrible of course, but the old girl managed to get us and the van where we wanted to go without complaint. There are many nomads on the road towing one of the excellent and ingeniously designed trailer campers which weigh much less than our Coromal and can be towed easily by say, a smallish SUV or reasonably sized car. I’d personally prefer the SUV (and 4WD) option so you can get to see places a bit off the main roads.
We personally aren’t the camping type – well at least not any longer. We like a bit of comfort, proper mattresses, running water, a fridge and a loo inside the van are the minimum, so the camper trailer idea was out for our trip.
This just left the poptop or caravan option for us to choose from. As I said, we had the Coromal which was still in great condition and had everything we needed for our long adventure around Oz – except for one thing – storage. All poptops are a little light in the storage area in comparison with a full height caravan of the same size and ‘she who must be obeyed’ decreed that while she could make some compromises, there just wasn’t the space available to know we would be completely self-sufficient on the road. It didn’t take much to convince me as putting the top up and down and double and triple checking everything was ready before we set off each day had started to play on my mind a little.
So, after some serious consideration we made the decision to sell the Coromal and look for a full height caravan around the same or slightly longer in length. We had looked into the various brands available and wanted a van no heavier than around 2000-2400kg fully laden with water tanks full and all our gear, so anything much over 19 feet was likely to be too heavy.
In the end, we found a great 2011 18′ 6″ Ranger Panorama with an aluminium frame and fully galvanised chassis at a price we couldn’t walk away from. I knew the company that manfufactured this brand had gone out of business around 2012 but from discussions with people in the industry we decided that as it had standard fittings and appliances it would be fine in the event we needed to repair or replace anything. We will keep you posted after our long trip if we made the right decision! The Ranger has a GVM (search this site for what that means) of 2400kg which was a mite heavier than I wanted but as it turned out, it made our decision on what tow vehicle to buy easier, but more on that topic in a later post.
So, we are ready to go – well almost – a heck of a lot of work still to do!