The bigger, and more expensive your 4WD and camping setup is, the more fun you have, right? Well, maybe (but maybe not!) but is it really worth it? Over the years we’ve used a huge number of different setups, and looked at far more, and you know what? I reckon there’s diminishing returns when it comes to spending more money on your setup for 4WDing and camping.
What’s the point of this post?
Before we get too far, this post is not to knock anyone for their decisions, so please don’t take it that way. It’s to encourage people to get out there and explore this amazing country by 4WD, in what ever way they choose to do so. If that’s a $1000 four wheel drive with an esky in the back and a Kings Big Daddy Swag, a 30 year old pop top camper, or a $750,000 Mann Truck, it really doesn’t matter, as we go into below.
Why do you go 4WDing and Camping?
I suppose a good place to start is the motivation behind heading out 4WDing and Camping. You obviously don’t do it just because it’s the done thing. You do it because its amazing, relaxing, incredibly fun and we’re able to see such a stunning country. So, how does what you do it in affect the amount of enjoyment you have? Is it a linear improvement, or just a marginal one?
Is a 100k setup 10 times more fun than a 10k one? What do you reckon?
Isn’t the experience the same?
I love looking at other setups on our Lap of Australia. I often think about how it would work for us, and if it would be better, worse, or it’d be indifferent. The thing is though, everyone out there in that particular camp site is virtually having the same experience. The bloke sleeping in a $50 tent from BCF, next to a $200k caravan gets exactly the same views as his neighbour, and in terms of the actual camping experience, its identical.
The backpackers who’re travelling around the country in a beaten up Pajero get to see the same amazing places (and in some cases many more) as those in a decked out 300 series. Yes, there are differences in comfort, reliability and sometimes ease of use, but essentially the 4WD and camping experience is the same no matter what you’re in.
Now, of course you can argue that those in the nice van might get to have a warm shower at night, have a meal on their couches inside and then retire to a nice bed, and that is very much true. Outside of their van though, exactly the same experience is had.
What’s the rate of change?
If you look back at your previous 4WD and camping setups, how much does your current one beat the older ones by? Can you honestly say that you have 10 times the fun in a 50k 4WD, as you did in a 5k one?
My first 4WD was a 1997 Toyota Hilux, which I paid just over 10k for, and it was certainly not 6 times less fun than our Isuzu Dmax, which we spent about 60k on. They were very different, and the Hilux no longer suited our needs, but there’s no denying it was a whole heap of fun, and a vehicle I’ll always smile about.
Our soft floor camper was also about 10k. Do you believe that a 100k caravan is 10 times more enjoyable and fun to use? I certainly don’t, and that’s where the thought of diminishing returns comes from when it comes to camping and 4WD setups.
A more recent comparison for us
Most of you will know we’re travelling around Australia in a 2016 Isuzu Dmax, and a 2018 Lifestyle Reconn R2 Hybrid Camper. As we travel, the thought of upgrading to something else has crossed our minds many times, and I’ve looked at alternatives on the market.
Every single time, the thought returns; the cost of changing is simply not worth the rate of return. Sure, we could sell both, and get a 200 or 300 Series (or a 79 dual cab), and a big, off-road van with all the bells and whistles. We could probably sell our setup for around 110k, and then we’d be looking at around 250k for a new 4WD with accessories and a nice, new off road van with bunks.
Call it 150k extra, or roughly 2.3 times the current value of our setup. Would we see 2.3 times more enjoyment, and fun? Maybe, but I very much doubt it.
Alternatively, we’ve looked at the new Lifestyle Reconn R4 LRX, which is a beautiful bit of kit. Asides from the fact that we couldn’t tow it legally with our Isuzu Dmax, they’re near on 150k, which is 3 times the amount we paid for our Reconn R2. Would the upgrade give us 3 times the enjoyment? I doubt it, once again, and that means it’s a hard no for us, as a family travelling Australia.
We’re incredibly careful with our money, and refuse to spend it on anything that we don’t agree is worthwhile. Not everyone is like that, and that’s OK too.
Put your money into trips, not gear
To sum it all up then, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with upgrading, and getting a setup that is going to suit your requirements as best as possible, but weigh the money up too, and see if it’s really the best course of action.
There seems to be a big focus on gear these days, over actually heading away and having fun, and that’s not something we should be encouraging.
One could argue that having a nice setup which never gets used is counter intuitive, unless you’ve got money to blow. My suggestion then, is to make sure you’re putting a good chunk of your money into actually heading out 4WDing and Camping, because in the end, you’re enjoyment is based around that, and less around the cost of your setup.
You can quite literally have 70% of the fun and enjoyment from a setup that is much, much cheaper than lots of the big touring setups on the road today.
What’s your thoughts? Do you like the trend towards bigger, and more expensive is better? What have you found? Do you regret upgrading? Has the change provided a proportional amount of extra fun, or just a bit?