We’ve had our Lifestyle Reconn R2 Hybrid Camper for well over 3 years now, and some time ago we decided that we were going to take it on a lap of Australia rather than buying a Caravan. This was done for 3 primary reasons:
We can’t tow anything heavier
We’re at the limits of our Isuzu Dmax for towing anything heavier. Whilst we still have some room for GCM, our axle weights and GVM are at their limits, and trying to tow anything heavier would just be stupid. There is zero chance we’d get a double, or triple bunk off road van that weighs less than 2.5 tonnes loaded, and that’s about our limits.
We actually headed to a weighbridge prior to leaving on our lap, and were overweight by a tiny amount, which shows how close to the limits we are.
That effectively means we’d need to sell our Dmax, and get something that can tow a heavier trailer easier, which isn’t a small feat. If you’ve built a 4WD for touring, you’ll know exactly how much time, effort and money goes into it!
We didn’t want the extra financial commitment
Going on from the above, having to sell our Reconn R2 and purchase a caravan would have cost us a pretty packet, especially with what has been going on with used caravan prices and wait times, and that’s without considering the need to upgrade our tow vehicle to something to suit the van.
We could afford to do this, but it would hurt our finances significantly, and we’ve both worked too hard to jeopardise that. I wonder how much extra enjoyment you get on a Lap of Australia for every 50k that you spend on your setup. Sure, it might be a bit, but is it really worth it? I reckon there is diminishing returns.
We paid 51k for our Reconn R2 more than 3 years ago now, and to get the same unit new today you’d be looking at closer to 80k, and more if you wanted an off road caravan.
Our decisions are often made with sensible financial well being in mind, and Sarah and I are both unconvinced that spending the extra money would add enough value to our travels to warrant it being done.
We love going to remote, 4WD accessible only places
The idea of getting to camp sites that are 4WD access only, remote and pristine is hugely important for us, and a caravan is often too big, or too heavy to do this. Whilst our Reconn R2 is heavier than I’d like, its about as light as you can get for something suitable to live out of full time, as a family of 4.
One of the reasons behind this is its one of the few Australian Made Hybrid Campers (and they’re always lighter)
It’s physical size means that I’m happy to tow it anywhere our 4WD will go, and overhanging branches, tight tracks and sharp changes in angle are rarely a problem. This makes me far more comfortable, but also allows us to take the camper where you physically cannot get (or aren’t allowed to) a caravan.
Now, I will fairly point out that you will get a caravan to a lot of places, and a lot of people are happy to leave their van and tent for periods of time, but we wanted something that we could live out of in remote, hard to access places and a van does not tick this box.
There are a lot of places that you don’t need a hybrid camper for, which means you compromise a lot for a small number of places where you actually need one, but you can’t make a full size caravan any smaller when you want it to!
What else do we love about the Hybrid?
It’s easy to tow
I often chuckle at the size of our Reconn R2 against big, full off road caravans. The size, and weight makes it really easy to tow. I don’t have to watch out for being too close to the centre of the road, I don’t have to watch out for tree branches, or anything else that we might take out, and it will go basically wherever the 4WD will take it.
It’s great on fuel
There’s no beating physics, and when you go to a big caravan, you pay more in fuel. When that’s more than $2 a litre, having something small and aerodynamic is awesome. We probably average about 14L/100km, which is a huge improvement on the 18 – 22 that you’d get towing a heavy, off road van.
There’s less cleaning and mucking around
We have very little interior space. There’s basically 4 beds, a tiny bit of flooring, and that’s it. We don’t have much to clean, which makes for a pretty easy life in that regard. Of course, not having those luxuries is its own downside, but we enjoy not having to spend much time wiping and cleaning our little home on wheels!
Do we regret not getting a Caravan?
We could have easily gone out and purchased a Caravan for our lap of Australia. It would have had to have been a semi off road to stay legal, or we’d have to swap our vehicle out for something more suitable for towing heavy loads. Do we regret not getting a Caravan?
Not overall, but there are certainly occasions where we’d love to have one:
We could have recorded some hilarious footage of us at the Bunda Cliffs, trying to have an outdoor shower whilst the wind wanted us to retreat to our camper in shame.
Sarah was holding the shower tent down for me to shower our two boys, and when it came time for us to shower, I decided using the tent was just too hard, and we both ran out starkers, had a freezing shower in the wind and rain drops, and came rushing back into the camper (where we thankfully had the diesel heater to warm up), still dripping and covered in the dust that was blowing around.
At Point Brown, when we woke to about a thousand mosquitos outside our camper trailer wanting to eat us alive and had to skip any hot drinks or breakfast in the morning to pack up in a hurry and move on, we’d have loved a van.
On the Eyre Peninsula, when the wind was so foul that you couldn’t even stand outside at times without getting a face full of dust and dirt that was being picked up a van would have been nice.
When you spend the entire day with wind blowing, its amazing to step into your own sanctuary and have some time out. We can do this in our Reconn R2, but if you put all 4 of us inside its not overly comfortable, and we generally avoid spending a lot of time in the van together unless we are sleeping!
One has to wonder how many places you’d actually miss out on by having a large van. Is the access reduction worth it for the increased comfort? I bet a lot of people would say it is, but we’re happy for the mean time to enjoy our R2.
As I stood next to our R2 the other day, while the rain started to fall and soak our already filthy Cgear mat, and everything in the kitchen (which is outdoors), I thought to myself ‘Gee, it’d be nice to have a van right now’, and then a few moments later I thought nah, its actually pretty good, and the ultimate compromise between comfort and accessibility. It could certainly be worse!
Even the thought of going back to a soft floor camper trailer makes me shudder; our R2 is so amazing and comfortable in comparison, and it really is relative to what you know, and what you don’t.
The wind and weather are the two main reasons when a van would be nice, but we live with it, knowing we can and do get to lots of places that you’d never get a van.
I have no doubt that we will end up with a caravan at some point in our lives (our kids will eventually outgrow their current bunk beds), but for now Sarah and I are happy in the R2, and it makes sense to keep on using it, so that’s what we’re doing!
So, do we regret not getting a Caravan for our Lap of Australia? Sometimes we do, but most of the time we don’t, and we feel we’ve made the right choice for us, and you can’t ask for much more than that!
Update after 15 months on the road
Yep, we’ve been on our Big Lap of Australia for 15 months now, living out of our tiny hybrid camper. Overall, our thoughts haven’t really changed. Life in a tiny space can be chaotic and harder at times, but we still love the unit, and don’t feel like we regret not getting a caravan for our lap of Australia.
Did you start off with something else, and then move to a caravan?