Diminishing returns for more costly 4WDing and Camping setups

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.

Expensive 4WD truck
The more expensive your 4WD and camping setup is, the more fun you have, right?

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.

Camping in a tent
How much bang for your buck do you actually get?

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? If you have an old 4WD, is it better than a new 4WD?

Is a 100k setup 10 times more fun than a 10k one? What do you reckon?

Exploring Cape Palmerston
Why do you go 4WDing and camping in the first place?

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.

Pajero being used off road
A well used backpacker 4WD that would hold lots of incredible memories

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.

Amazing water front views
Whatever you’re camping in, the views are the same

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.

31 inch tyres on a 22R Hilux
My first Hilux was a ridiculous amount of fun

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.

Camper trailer at Cleaverville
We made so many amazing memories with our old soft floor camper trailer

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.

The new Lifestyle Reconn R4 LRX
We had a good look at the Reconn R4 LRX, which is a beautiful bit of kit, but it just doesn’t make financial sense for us

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?

Dmax at seal rocks
Make the emphasis on travelling over gear!

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  1. Hey Mark,

    Yep, sometimes it doesn’t make sense. The latest and greatest is nice, but when you can get most of the enjoyment at a fraction of the price its a no brainer.

    They’re a good trailer; all the best with yours

  2. Mark Grooby says:

    Could agree more. Had an order in for a new R2 and went 2nd hand 2016. Saved a bucket and seriously the bed is the same!

  3. Hi Phill,

    Congratulations on the new 4WD. Unfortunately there are lots of issues with lots of vans, but there’s also lots that are decent.

    I guess you should start off with your budget, then your needs, and then find what suits the best.

    There are certainly instances where you get what you pay for, but not necessarily in terms of hugely increased enjoyment. A 30k hybrid is still going to yield a huge portion of fun that a 50 or 60k one will, and probably not 4 times less enjoyment than a 120k one.

    You could get a 10k Cub Camper that is 25 years old, spend a bit of money cleaning and doing it up, and it’d do most of what the newer ones would, at significant cost saving.

    The point of this post was not to say that you should buy the cheapest option, just that you can still have a huge amount of fun without buying the newest, and flashiest option.

    All the best in your hunt!

  4. Phill Edwards says:

    We’ve bought our 4WD (Ford Ranger) and now need to decide what sort of hybrid camper to tow behind it. Your post is really interesting because I’m finding the range of choices is overwhelming which makes it really difficult to know what to get.
    I’ve read lots of stories of faulty vans which break and leak. So I’d been thinking that we need to spend big to avoid all those frustrations. But maybe you’re right – no need to overspend because no matter what happens we’ll have fun.
    I do want some nice home comforts, though!
    BTW I did read one of your posts months ago where I thought you were saying you get what you pay for, especially when it comes to Aussie-made vs cheaper imports. So I’m not sure how to reconcile that with what you’re saying here.