Caravan, Motorhome or Camper Trailer?

A COMPARISON OF RECREATIONAL VEHICLES & TRAILERS - Slide-On Campers & Camper Trailers

  1. Introduction, Motorhomes
  2. Caravans & Fifth Wheelers
  3. Campervans & 4WD Campers
  4. Slide-On Campers & Camper Trailers
Slide-On Campers
slide-on camper

On paper a slide on camper offers many of the benefits of other RV's. Much like a caravan, a slide on unit can be stowed away until it's time to hit the road and the ute (utility, pick-up) used as a regular vehicle. Providing it has stabilising legs, it can left at base camp and the unburdened ute used as a runabout.

If your vehicle is a capable 4WD then so much the better and with a tow hitch you can drag a boat along as well.

Slide-on campers are gaining popularity and with good reason. They are a versatile beast which can fulfil a number of roles and along with a surge in their favour comes a surge in designs and styles. Off the shelf units are available for both single and dual cab utes while a custom made job can be designed to suit your individual needs.

Varieties include hardtop and soft top, much like camper trailers, and pop-up varieties and roof-top tent styles are becoming more common place.

A slide-on camper provides the same level of features as a regular camper van and with a design that reaches over the driving cab, even more room can be wrought from the limited available space.

Slide-on's sometimes suffer in the fuel stakes as the fusion of two different manufacturers (one for the ute and one for the camper) means a single engineer cannot wring the ultimate aerodynamics from a single unit.


Pros

  • Offers the choice of leaving your living quarters behind or taking them with you.
  • Comparatively small unlicensed package when not in use.
  • Can turn a regular 4WD ute into a killer off-road camper van.
  • Cheap 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.

Cons

  • Limited space and storage
  • By definition slide-on campers require you to partially live in the great outdoors.
  • Slide-on campers may not have the same levels of insulation as motorhomes and caravans.
  • Must be fitted to a ute.

Camper Trailers
camper trailer

A concept that started by simply adding a tent to a box trailer has grown into a huge sector of the Australian RV market. Manufacturers have popped up in every state and along the way added their own features and engineering philosophies. Design and construction materials vary from maker to maker but the basic principle of a single axle trailer, loaded with storage space, a basic kitchen and some sort of pop-up tent remains unchanged. In some cases it's hard to recognise the original trailer section, with sleek aluminium pods that spring into quick pitch tents and overhead boat racks.

Camper trailers are either on-road or off-road affairs with the off-road models hopefully incorporating a reinforced chassis, sprung suspension and a more flexible hitch arrangement - capable of negotiating uneven terrain.

Quality and components vary dramatically between manufacturers and a $5000 camper trailer is a completely different beast to a $50,000 unit. Aluminium trailers weigh considerably less than steel but require different construction techniques to equip them for long, arduous kilometres and it pays to have a basic understanding of metal fabrication when you're shopping.

What camper trailers are really about is cost, mobility and fun. It's one of the cheapest ways to get a mobile bed that serves as a storage unit and basic kitchen. Tents can be a solitary sleeping space or complex arrangements that include screened living rooms and additional sleeping areas. An off-road camper trailer towed behind a competent four wheel drive is a recipe for exploration and adventure and can get you to remote and isolated destinations that a caravan could never find. Along with a small car topper (aluminium dinghy) and a heap of supplies, camper trailing is many peoples idea of the perfect 4WD getaway.

What camper trailers don't provide is loads of comfort and luxury. Toilets and showers are going to be 'bush style', porta-potti or caravan park ablutions and let's face it - tents are tents. When it's stinking hot outside, you cook inside and when it's freezing, it's bitter behind the canvas.

And speaking of tents, if you don't fancy the thought of setting up camp and getting a bit 'hands on' with your housing arrangements, then camper trailers may not be for you. No matter how innovative the design or how much trouble the manufacturer has gone to include niceties like hard floors and quick-pitch tents, camper trailers are just that - camper trailers.

Some people wouldn't have it any other way.


Pros

  • Cost.
  • Small, compact and highly mobile.
  • Off-road models can be extremely competent 4x4'ers
  • Once camp is set up you can take off and explore.
  • Reasonable licensing costs.
  • Big second hand market with reasonable resale value.
  • Tent section can often be separated so the unit can double as a basic trailer.
  • Easy to store when not in use.

Cons

  • Limited storage space.
  • Offers basic tent style living.
  • Poorly insulated.
  • Setting up and breaking camp involves some extra work.

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