Do you need an expensive setup to travel Australia?

There are a lot of seriously expensive setups on the road travelling around Australia, or being sold to travel Australia. I’m quietly confident that the bar keeps getting raised higher, and higher, and higher every day, with more and more people spending huge money on amazing setups to travel Australia. The thing is though, do you really have to spend huge money to travel Australia?

Parked at Thomson Dam
Do you have to spend huge money to enjoy travelling Australia?

I recently saw a caravan and 4WD come up for sale as a package, for….wait for it….half a million dollars. No, I’m not kidding you, $500,000. Now, to be fair this is one of the most decked out 4WD’s and caravans that I’ve ever seen in my life, but I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the price and remember; this is second hand!

Please know this post is not a dig at anyone. If you can afford to travel in a setup like this (or maybe you can’t, but that’s another story) then kudos to you. Seriously, that’s a huge chunk of money for anyone, and you’d better be having the time of your life travelling in it! This post is just a light hearted chat about whether the money translates into improved enjoyment, or not. In our opinion, there’s diminishing returns in money spent on a 4WD and camping setup.

Look at the backpackers

I often chuckle when I look at the way backpackers travel, and in many ways think they have it sorted. They travel on the smell of an oily rag, and often have a ball doing so. I know plenty of backpackers who’ve picked up vehicles for less than 10 grand and live in it full time for extended periods whilst they explore the country.

They don’t have the latest and greatest, and in many cases are limping along with equipment and gear that is beyond end of life, but they don’t care. Do they have any less fun than someone in a half a million dollar setup? Maybe. Is it proportionally less though?

Pajero being used off road
The backpackers often make good use of their money

How long are you going for, and what are your requirements?

I guess where things get complex is the length of your trip, and what you actually require. Some people have legitimate reasons to have a setup that is more expensive, and comfortable than others, and that’s perfectly fine.

I know people who wouldn’t ever sleep in a tent, on any sort of mattress, let alone a swag in the bush. My Dad was having a good old laugh the other day when a nice, new, flashy van drove past with a sticker on the side ‘The Wife’s Swag’! The reality though, is that people have different levels of expectations and requirements, and this sets the bar on what they are willing to travel in.

Motorhomes are very comfortable
Everyone’s needs and expectations are different

What does the money buy?

The more money you spend, the more updated gear you end up with, and the items that have the most technology. You can put an order in for a new 300 Series Land Cruiser (and you might see it in 4 years), for around 120k.

Some van’s start off at the 150k mark and come with more gadgets inside than you have at home, but at the same token will take you around the country in complete luxury, with zero requirement to ever stay at a caravan park. Do you need it? Probably not. Does it make your travel more enjoyable? It’d be hard to say it doesn’t, but to what level?

300 Series and Zone Caravan
A beautiful 300 Series Land Cruiser and Zone Caravan

Is there a relationship between money spent and enjoyment had?

I often wonder what the curve looks like between cost of your setup and enjoyment had, especially how it changes as you get older, and have a family, and your needs change.

We had an absolute ball as teenagers camping with the junkiest camping gear you’d ever imagine but looking back you’d have to work pretty hard to get me to roll back into that sort of setup for more than a few days at a time.

Swags setup for camping
We started off in the cheapest, most rubbish swags you could buy and still had a heap of fun

We loved our Oztent, and then our Soft Floor Camper, but again, I wouldn’t go back to either long term without a very good reason.

Soft floor vs hybrid
Our old soft floor camper which made so many amazing memories, but was hugely difficult to use

If you have a 10k setup, are you limited to the level of enjoyment you have? If you have a 50k setup, are you going to have more fun than someone with a 10k one? What about if you have a 200k setup; is this going to bring you more enjoyment and satisfaction?

At the end of the day, if what you have is getting you out there and you’re having fun exploring this great country, what more do you need?

What do we travel in?

If I went back in time 15 years, and saw what we’d be travelling in today, I would be over the moon. Even today, we’re super happy with our 2016 Isuzu Dmax, and our Lifestyle Reconn R2 Hybrid Camper. It’s certainly not on the budget end of the scale, but its no where near the cost of a massive number of setups that we see travelling around Australia.

The thing is though, that we’ve looked at ‘upgrading’ to something else, and we would have to spend an immense amount of money for something that is only a minor improvement, and whilst the Dmax and Reconn does what we need it to, we’ll keep making memories with them. I reckon we’re nearly at 500 nights in the Reconn so far, and its growing at a rapid rate.

We certainly enjoy travelling more now with the Reconn R2 and Dmax than we did with the 80 Series and Soft Floor Camper, but it wouldn’t be 4 times the enjoyment (like it was 4 times less money).

Likewise, our original Toyota Hilux and Oztent wouldn’t have been more than $12,000, and it was no where near 3 times less enjoyable than our 80 Series Land Cruiser and Soft Floor Camper; it was just different.

Camping with our Dmax and Camper
We absolutely love our setup, and have used it extensively

Parting words

If you take anything out of this post, know that you can travel Australia with a really budget setup and have a truly epic time, and you shouldn’t feel like you are missing out when someone with a fancy RV drives past, or sets up next to you! You do not need an expensive setup to enjoy yourself travelling Australia, and anyone who tells you otherwise is full of it.

I’m don’t feel there’s no linear relationship between cost of setup and enjoyment had. Do you agree, or am I way off the mark here?

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