Over time the way in which you camp slowly evolves. For me, some bunky old tents and a cheap swag were the start of my camping experience, and I had some truly amazing trips with them. Eventually we lashed out and bought an Oztent RV5, which we have been absolutely wrapped with. We'd just put it on the roof racks, and take the rest of the gear with us in our 80 Series Land Cruiser.
Getting to camp was simple; set the tent up, table, chairs, burner and everything else was within arms reach.
What we didn't like about camping with a tent
Our Oztent has a heap of room in it for two people, and its really quick to set up. However, like every setup, there has to be a compromise:
Time to set up
Despite having one of the fastest tents to set up on the market, our time to set up and pack away was still around 30 - 45 minutes either way. The tent takes only a couple of minutes to get down from the roof and set up, but its everything else that takes time. You have to get inflatable mattresses out of the vehicle, pull them out of their covers, let them air up in the tent, move clothes bags around, get pillows, and then set up tables, chairs, burners and what ever else.
In the scheme of things its not a bad time frame, but it can be done much faster with different setups.
Weight of our 4WD
Slowly and surely, people are finding a little more about the importance of 4WD weights, like payloads, tow ball weights and towing capacities. I'm going to say there aren't many 4WD's in Australia on the road now, travelling for more than a week at a time that are under weight. If you have a trailer, it can be a different story, but by the time you modify your 4WD, put food, water and extra fuel in along with all the other gear, you are going to be close, or over the maximum GVM.
This is dangerous for a number of reasons; it increases the chance of something breaking on your 4WD, and if you have an accident your insurance company can decline the claim as your vehicle wasn't roadworthy.
Some modern 4WD's go over their payload with just a Bull Bar, winch, full drawer system and 5 adults + gear.
We've done some epic 4WD trips, including 3 weeks down south from East of Esperance following the coast to Dunsborough, and 5 weeks in the Kimberley. We were careful with what we packed, but there is no way you can be under the GVM without a trailer.
Playing tetris to pack
I have huge admiration for those that take a family away camping without a trailer. 4WD's only have so much space, and its very easy to run out if you aren't careful. We had a pretty good way of packing, but it did involve playing tetris a little and we had very little room left (and that was without anyone in the middle seats!)
Buying a camper trailer
Once we knew we were having a baby, a camper trailer became a no brainer. Camping with kids involves taking a heap of extra gear, and we'd never fit it all in. Think a pram, cot, rocker, toiletries and clothes, along with the fact that you lose a seat in the vehicle to a baby seat.
A camper trailer would allow us to have a much greater capacity in both weight and space, and with a lot of research we settled on a soft floor Expedition Deluxe from Outback campers in WA. You can read more about the trailer here - Outback Expedition Deluxe Camper Trailer.
What we love about the camper trailer
Extra payload and space
Being a soft floor camper trailer, we have probably doubled the payload and space that we had access to. Taking anything now is a breeze, and we can do it completely legally and comfortably.
Tent size and shade
The Oztent RV5 is not a small tent. Our camper trailer tent now though, is probably 3 times as big. Its the perfect place to sit around in bad weather, has heaps of shade with the awnings and extra rooms, and lots of space for Oliver to move around out of harms way.
Maybe I'm just getting soft, but to be able to climb onto a queen size innerspring mattress with sheets and a quilt when camping is nothing short of amazing. Our Blackwolf Mega Deluxe Mattresses are amazing, but this is a step up again and to do away with sleeping bags has me very happy!
Kitchen and water tanks
Handling water can be a bit of a pain if you are using jerry cans. We now have 135L of drinkable water with us at all time, a hand pump to pump it straight through and a kitchen complete with stainless bench top and burners.
After a few Electrical Upgrades to our Camper trailer, we can comfortably run a freezer in the camper trailer, along with any lighting and other electrical appliances we want. A freezer makes for very easy and relaxing camping!
Pre packing is amazing
The beauty of a camper trailer is you can have it ready to go all the time, so you can head away at a moments notice. We keep pretty much everything on board, so if we decide to go camping all we need to do is pack fresh food, a few clothes and away we go.
What we don't love about it
More difficult to travel
Towing any trailer behind a 4WD is going to take its toll. At the very least, it makes your 4WD work harder, but there's parking, reversing trailers and trying to fit it in camp sites. Backing a trailer isn't an issue, but when you get stuck with a trailer behind you it takes things to a whole new level.
Simple things that you take for granted like exploring random tracks become much harder with a trailer, as you can't turn around half as easily!
Setup time and difficulty
I would say it takes about the same amount of time to set our camper trailer up as it did with the Oztent and all the gear. You can get camper trailers that are much faster to set up, but they come at the cost of less space, heavier weights and higher prices. It's still longer than we'd like, but what do you do?
The other thing that is a little frustrating is that you almost need 2 people to set this tent up. I can do it by myself with a bit of a struggle, but its much harder to set up than our Oztent, purely because of the size and weight of the tent.
More to go wrong
The more you take, the more that can go wrong. Trailers are relatively simple things, but you still have extra wheel bearings turning, tyres that can puncture, suspension that can fail and metal that can crack or break, not to mention the rest of the camper trailer.
The burners suck
We have two SMEG burners in the kitchen, and they are rubbish. Not rubbish in the fact that they don't work, but just that they are dismally undersized. It's almost impossible to make bacon sizzle if there's even a scent of wind, and that's no good.
Would we do it again?
Absolutely. There's no going back now. I think in a few years time we may end up with something that takes a bit less time to set up, but for now it suits our purposes as best as possible.
What do you use?
Do you use a camper trailer? What do you like about it? What would you do differently?