I don’t know about you, but after a couple of glasses of wine of an evening we often muse: “What would it be like to travel around Australia in a caravan? Could we join the band of Grey Nomads doing the same thing.”
Actually at some point in there my hubby inserts the word TENT which I scratch out immediately.
But you know in Australia, it’s a really popular thing to do. When the kids fly the nest and you have some time on your hands, possibly when you retire just before grand children arrive – it’s a great time to have an old age gap year!
I’ve chatted to people who have sold the family home and taken off for a couple of years, some people do it during ‘long service leave’ and go for a few months or a year, others rent out the house buy a caravan or campervan and travel at will for six months or so.
My friend Jill Harrison loves getting out on the open road, and she and her hubby take off into the bush regularly.
“What I like about camping with an off-road camper or off-road caravan, is the ability to get a little off the beaten track and find those special camp sites tucked away in out of the way places where there are none or not many other people to share your camping area. We are so lucky in Western Australia (and all over Australia) to have so many fantastic National Parks and Reserves where you can camp out in the bush and get totally away from the stresses of modern city life. Jill Harrison writes for Go Camping & 4WD Adventures Australia and On the Road magazine and also writes about her life in Western Australia at Life Images By Jill.
There’s something pretty spectacular about having the freedom to explore your country in the comfort of your own ‘home’ on wheels. For many, purchasing a caravan is the perfect opportunity to be as adventurous as you want – when you want.
But the choice of mobile homes and caravans is huge … and often expensive. So how do you choose the right caravan?
How to choose the right caravan for your nomadic lifestyle
Which caravan will suit your needs and lifestyle best?
No doubt your mind is whizzing with questions.
Guest Poster Jayde Ferguson has put together a comprehensive list to help you find the right caravan.
1. What Caravan Size is Right for Me?
The first consideration you’ll need to make is determining what size caravan is going to best suit you. Generally, the smaller the size the easier it is to tow and store when not in use. The most popular sized caravans can range between 3.3 metres (11 foot) to 7.3 metres (24 foot) and should be shaped around how often you intend to use it, the space you have to store it and how comfortable you want to make it.
Anything smaller than 3.3 metres tends to be too uncomfortable for most buyers. Whilst the primary benefit of owning your caravan is definitely the freedom that comes with it, some buyers are drawn to owning a luxury home on wheels. In that case, you’ll want something big enough to come complete with its own en-suite, hot water and full sized kitchen.
On the flip side, some adventurers just want a caravan that’s reliable enough to enjoy long distance touring. Travelling light can definitely have its rewards too so determining your needs first will help decide the ideal size for you.
2. What will I Need in the Internal Fit Out?
When choosing a caravan and what you’ll need internally, it’s important you don’t just think about your first trip. Plan forward, because in a couple of years you may find you want to take a longer or more adventurous journey with it.
If you’ve decided to adopt the caravan as a second home, then the internal fit out is as equally essential as the size. The longer your trip, the more you’ll need a better designed floor plan and fittings that bring in the day-to day necessities. In today’s market, the most popular configuration is a 4.6 – 4.9 metre pop-top caravan with an island double bed, a small lounge seat and front kitchen. That doesn’t mean to say this floor plan is right for you though. Custom building is another option too if you can’t find the exact floor plan you like.
3. What Features Should I Consider?
Buying a caravan means being faced with an alluring range of luxury (or essential!) features – this is the fun part! The size and style of your van will definitely influence what you can and can’t do, but there will still be oodles of options to keep you deciding.
The choice of features will vary significantly depending on your lifestyle and needs. Again, it goes back to what you really want to use your new van for. Most features in a generic design have been previously suggested by experienced travellers, so they’re going to worthwhile and offer a good level of comfort. Anything extra depends on just how luxurious you want to be on the road.
You’ll also want to consider the van’s finish internally. If you’re going to be using for long trips quite regularly, durable genuine timber is ideal. Some features can also be added down the track so be sure to ask about this too. This article provides some great information about essential and additional parts for your van.
4. How am I Going to Tow the Caravan?
The size of your caravan will play a huge part in how you’re going to safely tow it. Check the tow capacity of your current vehicle to help set the ‘maximum weight’ of your desired caravan. This will narrow down some options for you too. The shape and height will also influence the towing performance of your van.
If that dream van you’ve got your heart set on cannot be towed by your current vehicle, you’ll need to weigh up the costs and options of using another vehicle to use your caravan. If you’re unsure about how your choices will affect the towing performance, it’s best to speak directly with the caravan dealer.
5. Will a Pop-Top or Caravan Trailer be Useful for Me?
Modernised pop-tops are perfect if you’re going to be storing your new van under a carport or low-roofed garage. They’re designed for the roof to be folded down when stored or whilst being towed, but are only available in small and medium sized caravans. For towing performance, pop-top caravans are definitely preferred. When the top of your caravan is closed it offers less wind resistance for a much safer and secure towing. This is ideal for longer trips.
Camper trailers tend to be a popular choice for older couples that are looking for simple characteristics. The downfall with these though, is you lose the advantage to pull up anywhere and relax in your van – unless you’re prepared to set the caravan up each time.
6. What’s the Best Type of Suspension?
There are a few different types of suspension which will determine how smooth your ride will be. Obviously if you’re going for true comfort, you’re going to want a van with top suspension. Again, it’s ideal to think about what journeys you’re going to what to take in the future and how these roads will weigh up with the suspension of your van.
A few examples are an independent suspension, or a basic solid axle and leaf spring. Independent suspension is kinder to your van and will offer fewer problems down the track, but basic suspension can still be suitable depending on what you’ll be using it for.
7. Should I Purchase an Off-Road Caravan?
Whilst most genuine caravans are designed to cope with the rough roads and adventures, the most common models are considered ‘outback caravans’. If your travels require something a little more rugged, then you may want to consider an off-road caravan instead.
Basically, they are similar in design but have added protection to keep you and your van safe. Think properties like special dust-proofing, extended bumper bars and a more ‘beefed-up version’ of the standard models. If you’re unsure, it’s best to speak with the dealer about your lifestyle and adventure plans.
This post was written by Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Caravan Camper Megastore – Australia’s extensive range of caravans and campers to suit virtually any budget or requirement. You can catch her on Google+.
So would you, could you take off around Australia or anywhere else in a mobile home? Caravan, tent, or campervan – do tell!