Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The search for our "Home Away from Home"

With our choice of vehicle settled, we embarked upon what would prove to be a more complicated journey; choosing a Camper that would meet our needs, but not destroy the budget. The basics of what we wanted were simple enough, we wanted a Camper Trailer rather than a caravan or pop-top, it needed to be simple, durable, and provide enough living space and storage that we could comfortably live out of it for a year or more. While finding a trailer that fit all of these conditions was very easy, the real challenge was finding one that we felt was right for us.
We started off looking at trade shows and at showrooms where there is usually a number of makes and models on display and comparing with an open mind is easier. Overall it was clear that we had dozens of choices to make in terms of fit, finish and quality of the campers on offer. The first big choice was soft floor or hard floor. In an ideal world we would have both preferred a hard floor camper, they are easier to set up, keep the floor dryer when it rains, and tend to be in a rear-fold configuration, which we prefer for the times when we will need to squeeze into limited space in caravan parks and national parks where camping is defined by bollards and logs. A rear fold tent means that you can set up in the same footprint at the width of the access road in, and in our experience provides more flexibility with choice of location. However, when we started to look at the mid-range campers in our price range we found that many had comprised build quality elsewhere on the trailer to incorporate the hard floor option, and that in some cases the floor was of extremely questionable durability as a long term option.
Set up for the very first time at Blackdown Tableland, completely standard in the condition we purchased it.
 As a result we started more and more to focus on soft floor campers. The compromise in choosing a soft floor meant that we would have to accept longer setups, and more fiddling to get the tent just right at a camp, but it almost meant that the overall quality of the trailer and included accessories was in general higher. After looking at several models at a couple of local camping shows, we found ourselves frustrated, that in most cases the models we looked at that either had inclusions that we weren’t interested in (like fridges, showers or other accessories that we already had) or that they were foreign made budget versions and were of dubious construction or quality.
Set up in the bush at Goodedulla National Park
 At the same time I had been keeping an eye on the local trading post and classified sections hoping that something would come up, there had been one particular trailer that had been advertised for a few weeks, that was well inside our budget, but was 6 years old, as a result we had kept discounting it as we assumed that it would have seen plenty of work and would be worse for wear as a result. However with a few hours to kill on a Sunday morning we decided to take a drive and have a look. When we arrived, it became obvious that our prior assumptions about an old trailer and wear and tear were mistaken.
The trailer tracks extremely well behind Ruby, even when you have to bypass an obstacle!!
 The trailer was a 2007 Trackabout Overlander. We rang Trackabout to enquire about some details, and were informed that model had been part of a short production run of campers that had been discontinued due to lack of numbers being sold. The trailer was in perfect condition, with new wheels and tyres (which matched the 76’s stud pattern and size!), pristine canvas and not a mark on the trailer body or frame.

I was initially dubious that such an old trailer could be in such good condition, and crawled underneath looking for evidence of a re-spray or other cover up work. It was pretty obvious that unless the trailer had been completely stripped and professionally re-painted that this was the original paint! When I asked to owner what he had used it for, he explained that it had been used for summer caravan park camping, and the occasional hunting trip, and that its off road use had been limited to gravel driveways and lawns, Bonus! 

The kitchen was a stainless steel slide out version, and had an electric water pump and 3 burner gas stove and there was a large water proof storage box on the drawbar. The spare was in poor condition, and would need to be changed ASAP, and there were a few superficial marks on the floor that would need some attention. As an added extra, while the trailer was a soft floor the tent was also a rear fold, ticking one more box on our with list!
There were very few accessories with the trailer apart from a single poorly wired deep cycle battery, and an awning that looked to have been hardly ever used. This was a good thing for us, as it meant we had a lot of scope to add and modify the trailer to our needs.

Finally came the most important part; price! The asking price was well within our budget (only half of what we had been willing to pay for new fully kitted out version), and it was obvious that the seller had been stuffed around a few times before and was keen to get rid of the trailer, so after a short negotiation we came to a very good price and paid a deposit. We would have to wait a week to collect it, and we needed to sort out payment, and the seller needed to have a safety inspection and gas compliance check done. There were a couple of little hiccups in the inspection process, that were eventually sorted out (the seller didn’t get the right inspections done the first time), but its safe to say that we were very keen to get the trailer into the bush for the first time and try it out.
Fully set up with the awning up as well
 As with the process with Ruby, we decided that we would build the trailer up over time, and use it enough so that we were sure about our needs and wants before committing to big additions or modifications…a pretty good excuse to take it camping!!
I will detail the modifications we have completed on the trailer in our next post.
Posted by Mat

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