Moving from an Oztent to a Camper Trailer

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. However, things change, and in this post we look at why we moved from an Oztent to a camper trailer, and for many people it will be of use to compare a camper trailer vs tent.

EDIT – we’ve now moved to a Reconn R2 Hybrid Caravan!

Camping setup times
Our Oztent setup with the 4WD

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.

4WD daily driver
All loaded up on the Gibb River Road

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.

There’s a lot to think about when getting a camper trailer. Here’s a great read: The Ultimate guide to buying a camper trailer.

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.

Ultimate camper trailer guide
Our soft floor 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.

The bed

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.

Camper kitchen
Cooking in the new kitchen

Electric upgrades

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! If you want more information on the setup, check this out – Camper trailer solar and electrical upgrade.

Power AGM batteries
Twin 135aH batteries

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!

Tow vehicle matching wheels
Towing our Camper trailer out to Steep Point

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. If you are looking at whether its better to have a camper trailer or a tent, hopefully this has been of use to you.

What do you use?

Do you use a camper trailer? What do you like about it? What would you do differently?

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  1. Fotos of the trailer video please

  2. Hey Robert,

    Good to hear you are happy with the setup. At the end of the day that’s all that matters!

    All the best

  3. Robert Morrell says:

    Often been camping with 4 kids. I have smaller oztrail dome tents that are good in the rain and wind, compact packed up, cheap and will work without pegs so is ok on hard ground or rocks. Gazebo with solid and mesh walls is about the best thing i have, great for when the weather turns or the bugs get intense. Usually got kayaks so i tow a box trailer or can fit enough stuff for 2 kids in a dualcab with roof rack. A good thing with this setup is we dont need a big flat area to set up, and can put the tents in the bush if it is a small site. Worked in our favor when the only sites available were tent only. About 30 min set up, pack up if i have the trailer to chuck everything in

  4. Hey Frank,

    Give it a whirl mate; you might fall in love with it again. They are the OG soft floors, and are great units.

    See you out there

  5. I have a 2000 Cavalier Off Road camper. Currently haven’t used it since Jan 2019, although with not being able to travel out of WA/AUS, might get more use. The other option is to sell it, but that probably wouldn’t achieve a lot. I have thought about a JPod, or a caravan, but the costs involved, plus the lack of availability in Australia currently…
    Or even making my own trailer/caravan…
    Got to get out there and use it.
    Might see you out there or at the 4wd show

  6. Hey Peter,

    Sounds like you’ve found something that works well for you. Unfortunately, there is no perfect camping setup. Like you’ve mentioned, there will always be some setbacks. Our camper is great, but it is hard work and a pain sometimes, but it does the job for now.

    As long as what you have does as much as possible in what you need, you can’t go too wrong.

    Safe travels mate

  7. We also had Oztents which we thoroughly enjoyed using; we actually wore the first one out after ten years of hard work and bought a second one. Setting up camp took us about 20 minutes but breaking camp in the morning took a lot more time; the biggest hassle was packing the sleeping mattresses and bedding away and of course the tent was often sopping wet, so we would have to unload it and put it up at lunchtime to dry. We also seemed to have to cope with a lot of wind and rain on our travels which is not conducive to comfortable camping on the ground. As we got older and my wife got medical problems I was having to do all the packing up myself in the morning and eventually we came to the conclusion that we need something simpler. Our first option was a camper trailer but I came to the conclusion that a soft floor would not be much better than a tent. A hard floor appealed but it was still in essence a tent on wheels with the attendant flapping and potential leaking in inclement weather. To cook in the open was also a nuisance a lot of the time and this would still be a problem with a camper trailer. We eventually ended up with a wind up camper with a queen sized bed and internal kitchen with plenty of bench space and a good size table, wind and waterproof. It was a Goldstream with a “Breakfast Bar” which means that one of the plastic walls can be wound up to give us the open-air feeling that we really loved with the tent; this has proved to be a big hit.
    I must confess the downside is that I don’t like towing. It limits our ability to explore minor tracks without having to off load the camper and we often have to park a long way from shops when our food supplies need topping up. It is also often impossible to find space to stop beside the road for photography. However, setting up in the afternoon and packing up the next morning is a breeze – one morning we woke up to see a huge storm approaching and we got dressed, hooked up and away in 10 minutes; it poured as we exited the caravan park. It is also a blessing to be high and dry in rough weather and it is much cooler on hot days due to the insulated roof.