I love nothing more than having a chat to fellow travellers, and finding out what they’ve been up to, what they have enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, and how they are travelling.
There are a lot of people on the road full time, and a huge number of them do it in Caravans. The thing is though, do you really need a caravan to do a lap of Australia?
People travel very differently, and just because someone is doing something differently to you doesn’t mean they are doing it better, worse, or incorrectly. It all comes down to what you want, and how you can make that happen.
Every ‘lap’ is different
To start off with, lets pause and consider what a lap of Australia means to you. For some people, its jumping on the main highway and stopping as little as possible, and then being able to say they’ve driven around Australia.
For others, it means finding where every single gravel and off road track takes them, and avoiding caravan parks and other people as much as possible.
Many families enjoy a mix of both, and will stay at caravan parks, national parks and free camps, and do a good balance of the touristy attractions too.
Every single lap that gets done is different to another, and to say that you should travel in a particular way is naïve. Not everyone enjoys the same things, and to expect that people all travel the same way is foolish.
What’s the benefits of a caravan?
Caravans are amazing. If I could have a van that would follow us anywhere we wanted without being a hindrance, I’d have one any day of the week.
Indoor toilet and shower, comfortable bed, great lighting, a couch to relax on, lots of storage and running, hot water on demand is truly epic when you are miles away from the nearest sign of other human life.
There’s a reason that Caravans are so popular; they are comfortable, relatively easy to use and can provide a high level of comfort and ease.
What’s the downsides of a caravan?
On the flip side of the coin, a lot of people don’t travel in a caravan for their lap because of a huge array of reasons:
Even a cheap van will still set you back 5 – 10k. If you buy a mid range unit, you are looking at around 50 – 80k new, and then they go up from there. You can get yourself a very nice van for under 30k, but they are few and fair between, and not everyone has that sort of money to throw around.
Size and weight
Caravans are big, heavy and difficult to manoeuvre. Even if you have a 4WD, you have a huge number of towing capacity and other weight limitations, and a lot of normal 4WD’s are simply not able to legally tow a big, fully off road van.
Beyond this, their size and weight limits where you can take them hugely. You’ll never take a full size van across the Simpson desert, or in the narrow coastal track of WA, and that means that you are limited in where you can camp and spend a night.
There’s a reason Hybrid Campers are so popular, because you get a bit of the caravan world without all of the downsides that come with it.
Towing a van should require some skills, and many people who get behind the wheel of a heavy car and caravan don’t have them. Reversing, knowing how to hitch and unhitch safely, balance loads, check weights etc are all skills that don’t just come naturally; they have to be taught, and done well.
Get your tow ball weight incorrect and you can be in for a huge problem.
Caravans are pretty durable these days, but they still have construction weaknesses, and the difference in durability between a caravan and a swag on the roof racks is night and day.
Much like how size and weight can restrict where you go, the caravans physical off road ability and durability will be a limiting factor too.
Alternatives to a Caravan
I’ve seen people do laps of Australia in anything from a humble swag through to soft and hard floor camper trailers, tents and trailers, rooftop tents and anything in between.
A caravan is a great item to have, and it can make your travel much easier and more comfortable (if it matches where you want to go). However, they are absolutely not a necessity, and people travel this big land every day of the year in other setups.