When it comes to choosing the best setup for your travels, reaching the final decision can be a long, hazy and wildly indecisive road, especially if your checklist is as unrealistic as ours – '4WD' and 'self-contained' might point most people to a beast of a van like a Delica or a Hiace, but when you also want it to double as a comfortable weekday commuter, you are forced to re-evaluate the reasonableness of your demands.
Would a Prado and a rooftop tent be better? Daily set up and pack down be damned? Would the convenience of being able to unhitch your home and take off on microadventures outweigh the upfront and ongoing cost of having a more elaborate setup?
There certainly are compromises with any camping kit or touring rig, and while some may be apparent from the outset – say registration of two vehicles versus one, caravan comfort versus caravan cumbersomeness – other factors might not make themselves known till you're on the road.
So who better draw inspiration from than the peeps who have already been through the process and are out there, learning the pros and cons firsthand as they navigate the rhythms and challenges of nomadic life? If you're a regular reader of Outdoria or GoSeeAustralia, some of these setups might look familiar, and if you're not – prepare yourself for a good whack of RV envy!
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Rochelle & Jake's #interiorgoals van
The appeal of having four solid walls around you at all times and nothing to tow goes without saying, particularly if you're a solo traveller or couple with a shoestring budget and no need for superfluous space. With a DIY approach, it's easily one of the most inexpensive ways to get out there, too.
Rochelle and Jake can vouch for it, having transformed the interior of their 2002 Econovan themselves. Aside from the freedom and simplicity that van life brings, it was the ability to customise the interior, optimise every inch of space (and make it look pretty darn spiffy, we might add) that they’re particularly stoked about. For details of the full fit out, click here.
Renee & Nathan's back-to-nature camper trailer
It’s smaller, lighter and cheaper than a caravan by a long shot, making it safer, easier and cheaper to tow. But for this young, adventurous family of three, the off-road capability of their Cub camper trailer is the biggest draw, allowing them to leave the beaten path behind, set up anywhere, and enjoy a lifestyle that's thoroughly connected to the outdoors.
"You won't find us wasting our time inside in front of the TV because we don't have one!" Renee says, adding that meeting other travellers and never missing the sunset are perks of doing most of their cooking and living outside.
By taking on the Birdsville Track in a mostly caravan-toting convoy, Renee and Nathan were curious to see how the different rigs would compare on an outback road. If you're curious too, you can get the lowdown here!
Laura & Jono's intrepid Troopcarrier
We're a bit obsessed with Laura and Jono's Troopcarrier. They did the caravan thing for a good while and only have nice things to say about storage space and cooking in an oven, but this time round, living out of a pop-top 4WD with just the bare essentials (including doggo Neddy), they know that what they lose in space, they gain in flexibility.
With their entire kit packed into the Troopy, they’re able to take off on long, remote and rugged roads, get closer than ever to nature, and cover ground at a quicker pace and lower cost.
Having experienced setups at both ends of the spectrum makes them acutely aware of the goldfish effect – if you've got space to fill, you will fill it. The confines of Troopy life, Laura writes, means always "keeping a handle on the malignant creep of accumulation." Preach! Get their caravan-versus-4WD comparison here.
Dane's retro caravan revival
All said, a caravan is about as close as you can get to home comfort without laying down roots of brick and mortar. And while it might not suit the most intrepid of long-term travellers who don't want to be restricted to level campsites and sealed roads, for Dane’s young family, a DIY-renovated '70s caravan was just what they needed to simplify camping holidays with bub in tow.
When it’s not parked beachside somewhere along the idyllic east coast, the revamped rig lives in Dane’s backyard, serving as a spare room for guests and even bringing in extra income when rented out to backpackers. Inspired? Read the transformation story here (spoiler: he's now onto restoration number three!)
Hannah & Sean's self-built slide-on camper
They wanted a go-anywhere slide-on camper equipped to sustain them off-grid for two weeks at a time, but after a futile search for a secondhand rig that met the brief without blowing the budget, Hannah and Sean threw up their hands and decided to do the work themselves.
By designing and building from scratch, they were able to meet their specific weight and clearance needs to go on almost any unsealed road, as well as customise the interior to their liking. What they ended up with might very well be the perfect blend of off-road flexibility and hard-sided comfort – with absolutely no nasty secondhand surprises! Keen to know more? Read chapter one and chapter two of their journey.
So there you have it. Five setups. Completely different. All awesome. Because the reality is, there is no ‘best setup’. But there is a best setup for you. It might be nothing like what our roaming writers have chosen – and that’s totally cool. Around here, we’re pretty fond of throwing a swag in the tray for a weekend of low-key fishing, or splitting a 2-person lightweight tent between packs and finding campsites that can only be reached on foot (at 2.4kg it’s a tent that’d make the ultralighters out there cringe, but it works for our quick overnight trips!) And when the weather warms up, we might even take our own advice and throw our kit on a SUP.
As families grow and itineraries change, it’s very likely your setup will change too. So if you’ve got a sweet camping or caravanning story to share, the next time you roll on into mobile service, be sure to let us know!
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