Caravans & RVs - Types and Features Explained

May 07, 2015
Caravans & RVs - Types and Features Explained

The term RV (Recreational Vehicle) typically refers to a motorised vehicle or portable form of accommodation containing everything you need to live on the road and in the outdoors. Beginning as crude wagons used by nomadic people to carry their belongings from place to place, RV’s have since evolved with the advent of new technology into a variety of vehicles and trailers. The use of modern materials such as aluminium and fibre glass have made RV’s light weight and manoeuvrable and retailers offer numerous custom options with each individual model. Whereas they were once cumbersome, slow and awkward to operate, RV’s are now the perfect home away from home. A caravan holiday is now an option for everyone.

What different types of RVs are there?

RV’s come in many shapes and sizes relative to the job you want it to perform. They range in size and portability with various amenities, attachments and transformable features. The bigger you go and the more you spend, the more features you get with each base model. Almost all RVs provide accommodation for two or more people. They can be driven or towed behind another vehicle. Some RVs are built to go off-road and can even tow a vehicle themselves – perhaps for getting to the beach early when the waves are good?

The Camper Trailer

Hugely popular in Australia and the world over, camper trailers might be smaller than their larger RV cousins, but what they lack in size, they make up for in manoeuvrability and affordability. Towed like a Caravan, Camper Trailers often have a ‘pop top’ roof and extendable tent berths at either end. You don’t need a hefty 4WD to take your home to the country any more: think of it as a lightweight modern hybrid of tent and trailer. Don't worry, they are still sturdy enough to put your bikes on the roof!

camper trailer in the outdoors

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The Camper Trailer’s older cousin is ideal for those who want all the space a classic caravan can offer, while collapsing neatly into a smaller, streamlined package on the move. Expanda does exactly what its name suggests, transforming to create more space once you've parked up at a site. Being lighter than a caravan means you save money on fuel, which you can then spend on steaks for your outdoor slide-out BBQ. Winning.

Pop Top

The Pop Top is fairly similar to an Expanda, the main difference being that it doesn’t have tent extensions. The roof ‘pops’ up to increase headroom creating a more comfortable living space. Just park up, pop the top and you’re ready to relax. An awning can be erected so as to provide protection from the harsh summer sun or a heavy downpour. Pop Tops are great for those who want the comforts of a Caravan while maintaining the sleek profile of an Expanda or camper Trailer.

Pop Top Camper Outdoors

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The modern caravan is no longer horse driven and covered in canvas, but rather a spacious and luxurious home on the road. Typically towed behind a vehicle with plenty of horsepower, caravans are suited to long term stays in your chosen exotic location. Best parked up at a campsite or in a permitted area, a caravan will be your base of operations while you use your 4WD to get to the beach, the forest, or into town for a spot of breakfast and a good coffee. That’s not to say you need to go into town! With a full sized kitchen, toilet, shower and even a double bed, you can escape for a long as you like. If that’s too much for you, there are plenty of smaller, expandable RV’s to take you to the world.

Toy Haulers

Leave the Knuckle Bones at home and get the Jet Ski out of the garage, RV’s have gotten so big since you were six that they can now fit the kitchen sink in the front, and your bikes in the back. Designed for luxurious living up front - but with a portable garage in the rear - the modern Toy Hauler is perfect for the more adventurous traveller or competitive sportsperson. Toy Haulers come with a variety of customisable options: from solar-panel power to external hoses for cleaning the day’s dirt off your wheels. You don’t even have to sacrifice your living room; there’s plenty of room for the kitchen, the shower, and even a flat screen TV.


If you don’t have a car or 4WD (or maybe you have a lot of troops with you on your journey), a Motorhome allows plenty of seating for passengers, and plenty of beds for the night. While they were once hefty beasts - notorious for causing queues on mountain passes - modern Motorhomes are a convenient, efficient means of exploring and living in the great outdoors. Motorhomes place emphasis on comfort with all the amenities one needs: a kitchen, fold out or transformable dining/seating, and multiple sleeping areas called ‘berths.’

Motorhome Interior

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Where can your RV take you?

Before choosing which RV is right for you, it is necessary to think about where you want it to take you. Are you planning on spending most of your time on the road, or are you going off the beaten path? Whether you are headed to the beach or heading for the snow, there is a model to take you there.

Where can you stay on your vehicle camping holiday?

Where ever you are from, there are great RV holiday destinations a short drive away. Modern Caravan parks and Camp grounds offer ample space to park, for a reasonable nightly fee. You can choose either a “powered” campsite that allows your RV to hook up to the ground’s water and electricity supply, or a "self-sustained" site if you have your own generator or solar panel power!

National Parks offer a great alternative to campsites. Many parks will allow camping for free in certain areas. Some sites may request a small donation be placed in an honesty box at the information point in the parks parking area. Donations go towards the upkeep of the park and to conservation efforts relevant to local flora and wildlife.

What can your RV do in the great outdoors?

Are you:

  • Planning on taking an extra vehicle such as a boat?
  • Are you a “full timer” on the road for the long haul?
  • Taking the kayaks to the river?
  • Just planning on lounging by the beach?
  • Headed to the coast to go fishing or surfing?
  • Going to the country to take the bikes for a spin?

Naturally, certain types of RV are more suited to particular outdoor activities. Every RV has a huge range of custom options available before you buy, (and that you can add later) suited to your favourite activities. It’s easy to install racks on the back or on the roof for a couple of bikes or even a small watercraft. If you prefer to just chill out in front of the tv, retailers can install a satellite dish so you don’t miss you favourite show.

The smaller the RV, the cheaper it will be to maintain and to run. The cost of renting space at a campsite may also be cheaper for those with a Camper Trailer vs. those with a Toy Hauler. But you don’t even need to hook up at a campsite if you have optional solar panels installed– you’ll have power to spare.

How safe is my RV?

Modern RVs often come with sophisticated ‘Electronic Stability Control’ that helps correct fishtailing if it occurs while you are driving to your holiday destination. Similar to the way ABS works in a car, ‘ESC’ will apply your trailers brakes in order to correct a swerve or ‘Jack-knife’ situation.

Modern RVs also come with sophisticated locking systems and security screens, seat belts for the whole team and even a fire extinguisher: just in case Dad burns the bacon.

Caravan Inside

Many popular retailers offer Road Side Assistance to their customers meaning you don’t have to worry if you lock the keys inside. As a financial option, purchasing an RV can be one of the safest investments around. With a much higher average resale value than that of a car, if you decide you need to sell, there is a good chance you can make a big chunk of your money back. But we think you’re more than likely to want to upgrade once you have seen what’s available.

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