Caravan, Motorhome or Camper Trailer?

A COMPARISON OF RECREATIONAL VEHICLES & TRAILERS - Campervans & 4WD Campers

  1. Introduction, Motorhomes
  2. Caravans & Fifth Wheelers
  3. Campervans & 4WD Campers
  4. Slide-On Campers & Camper Trailers
Campervans
Pop-top Campervan

Campervan's are cheap and versatile. Essentially a long wheel base transit van, they combine the function of a mobile home with the ability to be used as a daily driver. They're also cramped with limited storage.

The word campervan is the real indicator of what these type of vehicles are all about. If we accept that camping by definition is 'to establish temporary lodgings or shelter' then we can understand that a campervan will have some lifestyle limitations.

The famous 'Kombi' started it all back in 1950 with the release of the Volkswagen Type 2 and the world of travelling homes has never looked back. In its simplest form a camper van consists of a storage area and a bed with possibly a sink thrown in for good measure. Extended luxuries may include a gas grill and compact refrigerator. If it's got a toilet and shower then it's really a motorhome.

Campervans begin life as commercial delivery vehicles which means they are built with a strong load-carrying chassis, a robust engine and driveline and generally run on light truck tyres. This equates to a solid little package that can handle some abuse, a lot of highway kilometres and can cover the odd gravel or dirt road. They're no 'off-road warrior' though and will get bogged within a sniff of soft sand or mud.

The secret to camper vans is organisation. Well chosen utensils and a minimalist mind-set help to create comfort in a space that offers little elbow room. If in doubt - throw it out.

Pop-top campers and vans with extended headroom offer to straighten the neck aching stoop required in conventional campers but at the end of the day all campervan's will see you performing many of your tasks in the great outdoors.

Camper vans were designed for fun and convenience. They can be setup anywhere without a major parking hassle and it's possible to climb into the back for a nap during a blizzard. They are great for short term getaways and travellers who expect to combine some elements of traditional camping with their touring ambitions. Long term travellers looking for the last word in luxury may want to look elsewhere.


Pros

  • Cheapest way of hitting the road in an RV.
  • Compact and convenient.
  • Combine living quarters with a vehicle capable of being a daily driver.
  • Lower running costs.
  • Can tow a boat or trailer if required.
  • Living quarters can be accessed while mobile.
  • Are all about fun and convenience.

Cons

  • Limited space and storage
  • By definition campervans require you to partially live in the wide open spaces.
  • Campervans don't normally have the same levels of insulation as motorhomes and caravans.
  • A van may not be the ideal 'single use' vehicle, i.e.: those wanting a daily driver that can double as a camper on weekends.

4WD Campervans
4WD camper

4x4 Camper vans offer all the benefits and all the drawbacks of conventional vans with one exception - they can go just about anywhere. If you're interested in getting off the beaten track and exploring outback Australia with all its undeveloped tracks, high country, rivers, swamps and deserts then these may be the perfect outfit. A true four wheel drive camper will go where no other RV will dare tread - even a 4WD towing the best off-road camper trailer. Note that we mention true four wheel drive because not all 4x4's are created equal. A true 4WD comprises high ground clearance, high and low range gear selection, a limited slip rear differential (or rear diff lock), a front differential and a transfer case that delivers equal power to front and rear wheels. 'Soft' four wheel drives and many All Wheel Drive vehicles don't offer full four wheel drive capability and are exposed when difficult terrain demands high levels of traction. We go into detail at The Different Types of 4WD Systems.

The one caveat about 4WD campers and their off-road capabilities is that by the time you have loaded every last piece of fishing, diving and hiking equipment and thrown in the kitchen sink and cast iron cookware, you will have choked some of your 4x4 prowess with sheer mass.


Pros

  • Combine living quarters with a daily driver and, potentially, a vehicle capable of tackling extreme 4WD conditions.
  • The pros above at 'Campervans' apply to 4WD Campers.

Cons

  • Limited space and storage
  • The cons above at 'Campervans' apply to 4WD Campers.


Next - Slide-On Campers & Camper Trailers ►

available now

◄ The Complete  

Guide To 4WD

and     

The 4WD ►

Campervan Guide

To Outback Touring

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