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Things to Consider before Buying a Forward Fold Camper Trailer
We camped in a small clearing at the top of the mountain we had trudged up with our heavy packs. It was just on dusk, so after absorbing the panoramic view we set up camp in the dark, alone with the stars and the small creatures of the night.
The next morning the sunrise was glorious – we felt like lonely kings on top of the world. We ate breakfast, packed up the tent, and started our hike down the other side of the mountain. Within minutes our serenity was shattered. A four-wheel-drive stuffed with parents and noisy kids growled its way up the side of the mountain on a dirt track we didn’t know was there.
Reminiscing over this trip gets me thinking about how my camping style has changed over the years. From carrying everything I need in a pack on my back to camping out of a 4WD, my style has necessarily evolved over time. I still want to go to the same places but look for comfort when I get there. Comfort to me means less effort in setting up camp and a comfy bed to sleep in at night. So, for me, as my body degrades with age, that means a camper trailer.
Camper trailers aren’t as bulky as they seem.
I wanted an uncomplicated rig that could be set up easily, had as small a footprint as was feasible, was lightweight for comfortable towing, and capable of being expanded on in the future. Lightweight in camper trailers means a soft floor so that narrowed my choices a bit.
I planned on spending weeks at a time in my camper trailer so liveability’ was a priority. I’m not going to attempt to define livability but I am content to say my wife and I wish to stay married! It had to have ample space to keep us both comfortable and from living on top of each other.
Let me tell you a bit about it and highlight some things you should consider when buying your camper trailer.
I have a double size bed but it seems larger than is standard it’s 195cm long instead of 178cm and 143cm wide instead of your usual 138cm. A little extra room in bed is always a good thing.
Most campers come with an open-cell foam mattress. I have augmented ours with a waffle top’ for added comfort. You could do this or add a really comfy self-inflating style mat, like for the ultimate in camper trailer comfort.
My tent has a floor area of 2×2.6m which is not huge but is a decent size for two people with a small table and two chairs. The area under the awning is a good, usable size at 2.5×3.1m. With detachable walls and floor, it seems as large as a circus tent!
The author even carries a small step ladder to make getting in and out of bed easy.
Many camper trailers allow you to add on rooms. If your family is growing check to see whether the camper you have your eye on will accommodate this.
I didn’t want a full off-road trailer. I’m not into rock-hopping, chassis-twisting activities. I’m more of a rough track’ explorer so I settled for a trailer with sound construction that could be easily improved.
I have strengthened the springs and replaced the slipper system with a rear shackle. It’s been raised an inch and I replaced the ball coupling with a TREG hitch. The power cables have been led inside the frame from underneath and I have installed a stone guard. I did this all myself for a shade under $500. The trailer already had carriers for a spare water jerry can, gas bottle, and tool box.
Whether you buy an all-in-one camper trailer as I did, or buy the tent and trailer separately, keep in mind you can do a lot of these alternations yourself. This will save you a lot of money rather than buying a more expensive rig.
Some camper trailers come with inbuilt lighting, some don’t. Mine didn’t. My wife and I embrace the KIS Keep It Simple motto when it comes to camping anyway. I have both an old gas light and a pressure lantern. The lantern gives a warm, welcoming, comfortable light that is perfect for reading under or playing cards. The lantern is so bright you could see it from the moon. Add a headlamp each and we’re happy. Perhaps I’ll add LED lights and a battery coupled into the car’s charging system (three batteries to charge then) but that’s an option for down the track.
The great thing about a lighting set-up like this is that it isn’t tied to your camper. You can use the same lights in a blackout at home (yep, I live in SA so know all about those), camping in a tent, or for that backyard barbeque.
A lot of camper trailers feature kitchens as their major selling point and some have brilliant configurations. I opted for a trailer without the proverbial kitchen sink! If I want to, I can add one later.
I have a permanent kitchen set-up in the back of my LandCruiser which means I can take off at short notice with a tent on my own or hook up the camper trailer. The kitchen is always ready to go, just add water.
Speaking of water, I carry four 20L jerry cans on the car and trailer depending on the trip. I’m thinking of fitting a tank to the trailer but I’m not sure about the placement underneath I’m worried about weight distribution, stone damage, and accessibility.
Thank goodness for the stone guard! Image: Kirsty McNeill.
It’s amazing how many varieties of camper trailers there is on the market. At one end there’s the Taj Mahals that have slide-out kitchens with a sinks, stoves, fridges, and pantries with the obligatory recipe book. Instant hot water showers that drain the gas bottle and water tank, flick a switch or turn a handle and it sets itself up, automatic TV aerials Why leave home at all? At the other end, there’s the basic trailer with a tent that’s even simpler than ours. The determining factors when buying a new camper trailer will generally be money, weight, what sort of car you’re going to tow with, where you’re going to tow it, and how comfortable you want to be when you get there.
For us, the enjoyment of camping is not having to worry about all the technology at home – apart from, maybe, lighting and refrigeration. It’s about improvising and doing more with less. Remember my motto from before KIS. The simpler your set-up, the less there is to stress about.