The process of buying a camper trailer can be overwhelming. It’s like buying anything from golf clubs to a bicycle – the more choices you have, the more daunting the purchase process can seem.
The sky’s the limit, but you do not need a flash camper trailer with all the bells and whistles to get out there and have fun in our great outdoors. However, what you do want is something that is reliable…
These top tips are an ideal starting point if you’re in the market for a camper trailer.
There is no use starting with a budget until you have had a look around to see what is on the market and what takes your fancy. The best place to find most manufacturers under the one roof is at a caravan and camping show.
Before visiting, write down your preferences and what you want out of the camper trailer. A handy list of points to consider can be found here.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. A camper trailer salesperson should be able to reply to any question, demonstrating that they know the product they are selling and have confidence in it.
Questions for your situation could include: what does the camper weigh? What is the dry ball weight? Can I get an innerspring mattress as an option with my sore back? Does the camper come with new or second-hand tyres? What options are on offer?
Consideration must also be given to the tow capacity of your vehicle as well as its ball weight, especially if you have a lightweight 2WD vehicle or perhaps an SUV.
Check your vehicle manufacturer’s handbook for these specifications. Overloading can void your vehicle's warranty as well as your insurance. A ball weight of around 10-15 percent of the trailer’s weight will give good forward travel and tracking qualities.
Several different configurations of camper trailers are available. Some have a dedicated camper body like the flip-overs and windups with a hard floor, while others are based on a box trailer with a soft floor.
Soft floors are easy to set up for a one-night stay, usually by removing the soft vinyl tonneaux cover, pulling the canvas out, and extending the internal frame.
Some models require the use of a couple of tent pegs and ropes. Soft-floor campers provide more internal floor space than most other styles, allowing plenty of room for the bedding of a large family. The bed does not need to be made for a night’s sleep.
The kitchen is commonly mounted on the swinging tailgate, or it slides out from the rear of the trailer making it easier to make lunch on the roadside. Putting the canvas back on top of the trailer alone can be a disadvantage, depending on the make and model.
A flip-over camper mostly has a sealed hard top when travelling and opens to the rear to become the floor, which is suspended off the ground on legs. This is an advantage, especially when camped on sloping ground or when the ground may be a bit soggy underfoot.
From tow mode, the camper folds out in just minutes, ready for an overnight camp with the bed ready-made. The kitchen slides out from the side, which can be accessed when travelling. Some makes have a winching system that is ideal if just one person is setting up and folding down.
Another style is the forward-folding camper. With the aid of winches, the bed is swung forward over the drawbar opening within the same footprint of the trailer. Internal seating is provided. The kitchen pulls out from the side under the awning.
A windup involves lifting the hard roof up mechanically to expose the canvas sides. The floor is well off the ground with steps into the caravan-like interior. Some have a double bed each end that is pushed out when setting up camp. These campers usually have an internal kitchen with dinette, allowing plenty of comfort. However, it could be a little cramped for a large family in this situation.
The hybrid style is a newer breed of camper that is somewhere between an off-road camper trailer and an off-road caravan. They are very compact and weigh little more than a fully loaded off-road camper trailer. These options provide an internal bed and dinette, usually with a kitchen sliding out from the side.
Of course, there are many variations to these types of campers: your choice will depend on what suits you and your own style of camping or touring, required comfort levels, and where you want to take it.
The type of holidays you’ll likely take is also worth consideration. Will you likely be setting up one-night camps or be in the one place for several days at a time? How hard will the camper be to set up? Does it require one or two people? Have you any physical restrictions?
By making a list of preferences, you may be able to narrow down your search.
The biggest cost over a basic camper trailer are the options and accessories the manufacturer has on offer. A considerable saving can be made if you are a DIYer and willing to buy a base model over a fully optioned ready-to-go camper. Half the fun is modifying the camper to suit your own style of camping.
The type of camper you prefer and where you want to camp will influence your options. An extra wide awning can be an advantage, giving extra shade or protection from the rain. Full annex walls could be handy, but for the times you will use them are they worth carting around the extra weight? Would fly-screened annex walls be a better option if camping at a beachside location? If so, is the screening midge-proof?
Then there is a tropical roof to provide a cooler internal temperature during the day. How much time would you likely spend inside the camper in the daytime?
Most likely after a day at a caravan and camping show, you will be more confused than before you went.
Collect pamphlets of those campers that took your interest so you can put it all together when your mind is clear. What part of a camper took your eye? Does one kitchen stand out over another?
Many camper trailer manufacturer websites are a useful source of information for browsing details and to clear up niggling concerns.
When you have narrowed down your search and need honest answers from camper trailer owners, check out forums such as the Australian Camper Trailers Group. There is a wealth of information on forums like these, with members willing to share their experiences.
If you have any doubts about a make or style of camper trailer, why not consider hiring one for the weekend? This will quickly sort out your preferences.
Isn’t it time you hit the road for a BIG4 break? Book your next escape now.
This article was republished with the permission of www.campertrailers.org – a source for unbiased information on all things camper trailers.