Caravanning and RVing in Australia


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Q We have just placed an order for a custom built off-road 17' full caravan with heavy duty independent Simplicity axles, 6" draw bar, 16' wheels to match our 3L TDesiel Prado. 

The  van order, and features, is to be finalized in late January.

We have 2 questions; we are new to caravanning, though have family members who do lots off road trips with a campervan and a Supreme Getaway pop-top, and we will be frequently in convoy with them.

1. Can you advise us about 'pressure hatches'.  We have been told that pressure hatches are a waste of money; we have also been told that they are essential.

Our question to you is: Do they work ie; keep out SOME of the bull dust?  Does a full van need one, our van will have 1 large and 1 small All Weather Hatches and an Aircon?

2. Re location for deep cycle battery and recharger:  Do we need easy access to this unit?  Our van will have a 'through boot' but is the battery unit better in it's own compartment and lockable external hatch door?

A We have a pressure hatch and it works well on dusty roads - when we remember to open it! Our van is a 'proper' van - not a pop-top but I would think it would be just as effective for a popper.

The battery is best in it's own sealed compartment in my opinion. If it's not a sealed or gel battery you need to get to it to check and top up the electrolyte from time to time. You don't need access to the charger very often if you have a remote switch to turn it on and off.

Q I am planning a trip around Australia with friends in march 07 and want to purchase your book BIG ONE - the Caravanners Guide to the Round Australia Trip'
 
But I am unable to get it anywhere. Would you please advise where I can purchase it. Your new book is for motor homes and vans and I am not sure if it would be suitable.

 

A Unfortunately 'The BIG ONE' has been out of print for some time now. Australia Calling has replaced it and contains similar material plus much more extensive Route Notes. The Route Notes are written in an anti-clockwise round Australia sequence plus alternative routes where these exist. They also cover most other Australia highways including Tasmania. The Route notes are like the notes that go with a strip map but I didn't include maps as I wanted to keep the price reasonable and besides which most people already have their own favorite maps.

It's in full colour unlike my previous two books.

I guess the title could confuse - often people don't realise that an RV is a caravan, camper-trailer, motorhome, campervan or fifth-wheeler and the book talks mainly about travelling with an RV of any sort. The basics of budgeting, planning, checklists, communication, emergencies, on the road, recording the trip, etc applies to all RVs.

There is one chapter called, 'A word or two for Caravanners'. 

Q Currently planning 6 week trip through Qld NT and Centre and have arrived at
cost estimations??? Towing a 15' pop top with a BA Falcon what sort of
realistic fuel economy should I expect ? (mostly bitumen) and what will I
currently pay for fuel along the way ?  


A It's a bit hard estimating someone's expected consumption when there are so many variables. How heavy is the van? What speed do you cruise at? How heavy a right foot do you have? Will you encounter headwinds? Etc,

Have you done any smaller towing trips to base estimates on? Really that's the only real guide to consumption - what it has done on a smaller but similar trip. I only get about 25litres/100km on lpg and 20litres/100 on petrol with our AU Falcon wagon but the van we tow is much heavier than your's. I would expect you to do better than that - probably 15-18litres/100km.

Fuel prices vary considerably once you leave the Capital Cities - always upwards of course. I guess if you allow $1.50 a litre you should come out OK on average.

Q My Wife and I  are "Newbie's" to Caravanning and have purchased a caravan with a checker plate front and boot lid. We have found that the boot is constantly damp with moisture or condensation and we are unable to store our annex or camping chairs as they started to show signs of mould.

I contacted the dealer with our concerns and have been told that it is a problem due to heating up inside because of  the aluminium checker plate.
I have spoken to several vanners we have met with the same arrangement and they do not have any problems with moisture or condensation inside their boot.Have you heard of this problem with checker plated fronts on caravans or are we just "unlucky".

We enjoy reading the articles on your website and have learnt a lot from it.

A I haven't heard of the boot condensation problem before but no doubt there are others with the same problem.

It would seem to be that it could be a ventilation problem - are there any vents in the boot? I would have though there should be some in it's floor and maybe also in the outside walls higher up. Another idea is for insulation on the inside of the boot door to keep heat from the checker plate out. 

Following this answer I received a contribution from a knowledgeable fellow in Tassie who had a similar problem. Here's his contribution:


In response to the question about condensation in the caravan boot I will throw in my thoughts for what they are worth.

I have an Avan Erin and have noticed condensation in the boot. The condensation appears mainly on the lower back surface.
The temperature in this section of the boot remains the lowest as the day warms up and as the cold moist air in the boot is warmed up it will form droplets of water on the cold metal surface or on any tools etc.

Condensation forms as the day warms up and is a bigger problem in winter than summer. If your van boot faces the morning sun the condensation will be more noticeable as the warmth of the sun is acting more directly on the air in the boot and the condensation will be more extreme.

I have a hobby workshop and have to be careful with the surface of machinery and condensation. All bare metal surfaces are oiled and I cover each machine. The workshop is ventilated and I have been able to overcome the condensation problem.

If you could make the surface that the condensation forms on, heat up more quickly than the air around it, there would not be any condensation formed. Easier said than done.

You do not have the same opportunities to deal with condensation in the caravan boot but the theory behind the problem is the same.

My van is outside and the boot faces the morning sun so condensation is a problem. I have to keep items away from the surface of the boot and I have lined the floor with closed cell foam matting. You can get it from caravan accessory outlets. It comes in about 60cm square pieces and is interlocking. This keeps items up off the bottom and any water can drain out the drain holes in the bottom of the boot. I open up the boot and give it a chance to dry out as often as I can. However, I would not keep canvas in the boot.

I have just purchased a cover for my van and as this will keep the morning sun off the surface of the boot lid it will  go some way to slowing down the temperature change as the day warms up.

Ventilation will help in some circumstances but I doubt you would get enough exchange of air in the confines of the boot to overcome the problem. The only real answer is to garage your van.

Q First thanks for a lovely job you are doing.
 
I am planning a trip  Melbourne to Darwin with a 3.L Diesel and  a 16Ft jayco Expanda
 
Only two of us wife and me - kids do not wish to join us
 
About 4/5 weeks holidays
 
Any advice will be highly appreciated - I mean where to stay ?????

A It sounds like a lovely trip in store for you. There a lots of interesting places on the route you will be taking and it's hard to pick out the places you will want to see,

The Route Notes in my Australia Calling would be helpful I'm sure and the route planning maps on my 'Maps' page would also be useful. For information about Caravan Parks you can't do better than the RACV Tourist Park Guide. It's available at RACV Shops and can be bought by members or non-members alike. I'd certainly advise membership if you are not one already.

I don't know when you are going - the weather from now on should be good 'up-north' by the time you get there.

From Pt Augusta north it's pretty desolate country for a good few km but a short side trip in to Woomera and the Heritage Centre is interesting - particularly if you know about surveyor Ian Beadell and his work on outback highways.

The Desert Park at Alice Springs is a 'must see' as are the McDonnell Ranges.

Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks come to mind further north and of course a trip up the Katherine Gorge.

Q We are thinking of trading our Commodore for a Prado and intend to continue towing our 17ft Jayco.
The auto transmission on the Commodore needed replacement last year and we were told it should have had a additional transmission cooler. The same automatic transmission repairer cautioned us that the auto Prado and similar 4 wheel drives are suspect when towing. Have you heard of trouble with the auto Prado towing and is an additional transmission cooler required?

A I don't know what year your Commodore was built but GMH discontinued fitting auxiliary coolers some years ago and say they are not needed nowadays. However that didn't save you the expense of a new transmission. Ooch! I have an aux. cooler on my AU Falcon although Ford say it's not needed!

I haven't heard anything about the Prado's cooling system or auto box but I'd think it was good insurance to fit an auxiliary transmission cooler if one is available. I would think the cost would be far less than a new transmission.



Q
We are new to caravanning and have just bought a Jayco Freedom Pop top 16ft.10 (Ball weight) empty 103kg

We have a Hyundai Tucson 2.7 awd with an Astral tow hitch. (ball weight) 150kg What type of anti sway bars should I buy? The Hyundai hitch is an Astrel that I got when I bought the Tucson 15 mths ago it is a square hitch but a fraction smaller than the Reece so the Reece won't fit. I am just confused as to whether I can  use the anti-sway bars that are the two bars either side of the hitch or if I ground down the Reece to fit would I compromise my insurance?

A I just rang Hayman Reese Customer Service about this and they tell me it's not uncommon for people to grind the radius of their hitches to fit into the slightly smaller square holes of other makers hitch receivers. Toyota are one make that has the problem when people want to fit the Reese hitch. In his opinion it wouldn't affect warranty or insurance. He was not familiar with the Astrel hitch so couldn't comment on how it would perform with the addition of a Reese hitch and sway bars.

As I said earlier, I'm not technically qualified to give advice.

Q Thank you very much for your web site
I'm planning a trip to Darwin from Ocean Grove Victoria in June or early July. My car is a factory made gas only Ford Falcon, towing a caravan my range is approx 400 Km per tank, will I have any problems getting gas up through the centre and at Ayres Rock? Is there a guide available to service stations that sell gas ?                                                                                                                                        

A I've just put a book into an envelope for you without realising you had sent me a question! I just thanked you for the order in another email and said you could ask me questions but you beat me to it.

You shouldn't have any problems getting lpg on the way to Darwin - most roadhouses are no more than 200km apart these days.

The best place to look to see where the servos are is: http://www.nowwhereroute.com/alpga/LocatorPlanner/searchpage.aspx

This is a great site where you can find individual service stations or get a complete route map for your trip with all lpg outlets marked and you can print it out to take with you.

Q Love your website - heaven sent for the caravanning illiterate such as I.
We are two retired, adventurous, spirited women who have reached the "let's do the round Australia trip" stage of life.

We have had (very!) limited experience in caravanning and are now looking at purchasing the 'home on wheels' and something to tow it.
For the vehicle, I favour a late model Ford sedan or s/wagon and my friend has a leaning to a 4WD - this is to be the first purchase, closely followed by purchasing a 16-18ft. caravan.

I feel the selection of the caravan will be reasonably easy but would appreciate some advice on a vehicle as we seem to be in a deadlock.
My question is - a family type sedan or s/wagon or a 4WD??  We will not be leaving the sealed roads and I do not feel we need a 4WD - I feel they are more of a what everyone has to have type vehicle.  Am I missing something on the value of a 4WD ??  Also I feel that fuel consumption wise (petrol not diesel) the 4WD will be less economical.

A Oh Judith - you do put me in a position. I'm damned which ever way I go!!!

However let me say we use an AU 1 Ford station wagon to tow our heavy 17' single axle caravan and couldn't ask for a better tow vehicle. It does all we ask with no problems and is probably the best we have owned. I feel the BA series would be even better. We use a wagon because they have leaf springs at the rear and this always seems better for the loads we carrry.

 People do favour 4x4s for towing but we have never felt it necessary. We don't get off the sealed roads very much and when we do just take it easy and the Ford copes OK.


Q I have found a Millard Series 80 Full Van 18x8, 5 berth for an asking price of $11,000.00 in excellent condition, that I am interested in purchasing.

Problem is that each insurance company I have phoned regarding the value price, to buy it and to insure it for, no-one can tell me as "it's too old".. Could you tell me if you have an idea of what one of these vans is worth please?

A I guess the answer is that the van is worth what you are prepared to pay for it. If it's a good van and the condition is as you describe then it's probably a reasonable price. There doesn't seem to be a standard price for such a van and age isn't as much a factor as condition.

Q I have 2 questions for you
1. Do you think there is any advantage in getting an awning made from shadecloth to slide along the side of the van to cover the area where the fridge is to stop the sun from shining on it.Would it help to keep it cooler and be more efficient?
 
2. We are planning a trip from Brisbane down to Port Augusta and up through the middle of Australia.Do you have information in your book RV Travel Handbook that would help us with info about sightseeing and petrol stations
 
Thank you for your help   I just stumbled upon your site

A Yes - it is a good idea to have shade on the fridge vents and it does help it keep cooler.

Australia Calling has route notes on the roads you will be using and I sure it would help you get the most out of your trip.  It doesn't list any service stations though but these are rarely more than 200km apart on your route so there shouldn't be a problem'

 
Q We are looking at a Sunliner Eurovilla on a Fiat Ducato.  We have heard conflicting stories.  That the villa is too big for the Fiat and that Sunliner is not making them anymore on the Fiat.  That the GVM does not allow the van to carry significant added weight before it exceeds the tare or weight limit.  That the chassis on the current Ducato Eurovilla is somehow different if that is the case why aren't they making them anymore.  We like the layout of the Eurovilla and would like your opinion on what vehicle we should choose.

A I must say right at the start that I'm not an expert when it comes to motorhomes.

However I've done a bit of research on the net and it does appear that the Eurovilla isn't made on the Fiat and is only available on larger base vehicles. This does seem to suggest that they may have been asking a bit much of the Fiat and looking at the weights it would look like you could only carry around 350kg. That's not much as it includes all three water tanks, clothes, lpg, food etc. Those figures are only a guesstimate - you'd need to ask a Sunliner dealer for accurate information.

The Euro Trans model is made on the Ducato and looks a nice unit. The specs for the Euro models are on: www.sunliner.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=49&Itemid=88


Q Can you tell me if the sealing of the road from Lakeland to Cooktown has been completed yet ?

A Here's the ABC news report:

Wednesday, 1 February 2006. 08:45 (AEST)
Road opens up Cooktown access

A multi-million dollar project to seal the road between Lakeland Downs and Cooktown in far north Queensland has been completed.

The Cooktown Developmental Road is now fully sealed, one month later than planned.

Cook Shire Mayor Bob Sullivan says the road will open up all sorts of tourism opportunities and help keep the roads open during the wet season.

"People can access Cooktown the way they can access all the other centres up the east coast," he said.

"People can now drive their normal cars here, their family sedans, and it's now accessible during the wet season whereas it wasn't before. Now for most parts of the year, Cooktown will be open and accessible."


Q We are from Kelowna British Columbia in Canada.  We are planning a trip to Australia we think of about 3 months (September-November 2006).  We also want to do New Zealand.  We are thinking of flying to Perth and doing some of the west coast, then fly to Ayers Rock and on to Cairns and down to Sidney and around the south and up to Melbourn, then fly to New Zealand.  We are also thinking of renting a campervan. Could you tell me what time line I should take on these different locations. Are campsites readily available?   Thanks for your interest.

A I guess it's pretty cold in BC right now as opposed to here where we have been having some quite warm weather as we move into Autumn.

The time you plan to come here will be Spring and you can expect nice weather in the places you plan to visit. There are always exceptions of course so don't hold it against me if it turns bleak and nasty somewhere during your travels.

Perth and the West would be a good start with a campervan. The South-west is certainly worth a few days and north to about Kalbarri. Further north it gets to have long stretches between places and not a real lot to see - fine if you have unlimited time but not so good if you have a lot of other places to see. I'd say a week or ten days.

When you fly to Ayers Rock you should consider visiting Alice Springs as well. Or maybe fly into The Alice and visit the Rock from there either as a long coach day trip or another few days with a campervan. The Desert Park at Alice is worth a visit as it gives a great idea of what Central Australia is about. A week in the Centre would be good.

You need to fly to Cairns and pick up another campervan for the trip down the coast. It's much more populated than the West Coast and there are interesting things to see and do during the journey. A trip out to the Barrier Reef is a must from Townsville or somewhere nearby. A day trip is fine on one of the fast catamarans. I'd allow 3 - 4 weeks at least for that trip staying on the coast. Sydney is worth a week on its own. And of course our part of the world - Melbourne - needs some time.

Caravan parks - I expect you call them campgrounds - are plentiful all along the coast and there's no need for bookings at that time of the year.

Average cost could be around $25 - 30 a night.

The times I've mentioned are only a rough guide - you might want to stay longer in some parts. 

Check out my Hiring page to see some rental companies: http://www.caravanning-oz.com/For_hire.html


Q I'm a single, working, mid fifties lady, who has always had the passion to travel. As I don't own a motorhome myself, I am looking for people that might be able to help me with my journey in finding just good friends and fun company for weekends and holidays away. I hope this is not to much of an unusual request and look forward to your response.

A I guess one group who could help would be the CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia). They have a 'Singles' group especially for people like you although most - if not all - of them own campervans or motorhomes. There could easily by someone who might welcome a companion for trips. http://www.cmca.net.au/main.htm

Q For some time I have been agonising over the seemingly exorbitant prices of solar panels.  I find it hard to find value in something that adds so much weight to your rig and only work a few hours on sunny days and costs a small fortune.

This led me to contemplate wind power.  On any given day and night some type of breeze exists.  On most days a van is either travelling, producing wind or sitting with little or no draw on it’s power, but there may be a breeze .  Most power is consumed at given periods during the day and for a few hours at night.

Therefore why not a small wind generator, Not the big wind farm type but something with a small cup driving an alternator type arrangement, which would, with higher winds produce battery charging current and with light winds may, I repeat may, be capable of putting a trickle charge through the system for as many hours as the wind blows.

Obviously if this could work it would not be capable of maintaining batteries over long periods and heavy use, but may give a day or so more.

I am sure this concept would have been discussed at length over time and I am interested in any information or advice you may have even if it is the ‘it can’t be done because of’s

I guess if it can’t be done then that raises the question ‘What if?’   maybe someone with more expertise will find a solution

Many thanks for your informative articles and Web site

A There are numerous wind generators about and if you go to: http://www.solarcharge.com.au/products/wind/  you will find a selection.

I guess the reason they are not used by RVers is that you try to find places where the sun shines and the wind doesn't blow!

We use solar power when bush camping and although the initial cost is quite high once you have the panels the power is free. Averaged out over a number of years the initial cost becomes reasonable. One of my panels is probably 14 years old and still working well. The other is only a youngster of about eleven!

Q Can you tell me where I could by an Airstream in Australia?


A I'm afraid I can't find any dealers who import Airstreams into Australia although someone must do it as there are a few around.

The nearest that the Airstream company lists is Airstream Japan!

Q  I have just discovered your site and love it, I was wondering if you know of a way to prevent the black mark on the pull down awnings caused by the pull down strap?
 
A We've just renewed the roller mechanism and vinyl of our A&E awning after 11 years but never noticed any marks. The old strap was white and I notice the new one is black so I may encounter your problem further down the track.

My only suggestion would be to give the strap a good soaking in washing detergent to remove any non-fixed dye. Or wash it in the washing machine without any clothes in to get stained!

 Q Just found your amazing web site.  We are considering buying a Campervan , small Motor home and have been unable to get a reply from dealers in these vehicles as to wether you can still purchase an annexe with a doorway that clips around the doorway of the vehicle and can be left standing when you drive away. We last saw one at a caravan show about 25 years ago, and believe this would solve a lot of the problems of having to pack absolutley everything just to slip down the shops or do a short trip from base.

Having never towed anything bigger than a box trailer we rather like the idea of a vehicle that can be parked easier and double as a second vehicle, apart from the fact that if we forget the bread (OUR FAULT) is there any other serious pros, cons that you may be able tho help with.

                                                                                       
A
We passed the Tongala turnoff on Friday on our way along the Murray before turning off at Echuca. Reminded me of the old days when I used to go thast way to buy cheese from Girgarre and wine from Chateau Tahbilk!

Enough of that! Those almost free standing annexes were good. Our sister-in-law was to have one but ended up with a completely free-standing one that I would have called a tent! They did have it close to the campervan so could get in without getting too wet if it was raining.

You could give Tebbs Canvas a ring in Dandenong to see if they make the one you want. They are pretty versatile and may have an answer. They are at: 03 9793 2044.

The disadvantages with a campervan that I can see are the cramped living quarters and fact that you have to make up the bed before using the table. Also as you mention if you want to go shopping or sightseeing you have to pack up first. They are great if you want to travel every day and don't want to tow - A mate and I went round Oz in 32 days with a VW Campervan and it was economical and relaxing to drive.

Not my ideal though for extended travel with days between moves. Horses for courses.

Q Are any of your other books still in print? I would like to order: 'The ABC
of Caravanning', and 'The BIG ONE -The Caravanners Guide to the Round
Australia Trip' if available together with 'Australia Calling. The RV Travel
Handbook'.

I am doing research on global caravanning and have a very high regard for
the Australian industry.

A Unfortunately both my earlier books are out of print and I have no plans for a reprint.

'Australia Calling' has a lot of similar material to the other two and, unlike the others, is in full colour. You can order it from the webiste.

There's an article I wrote for the UK's 'Practical Caravan' called 'Caravanning Down Under' on my website: http://www.caravanning-oz.com/Caravanning_Down_Under.html

You might also be interested in: http://www.caravanning-oz.com/Touring_Down_Under.html

Don't be afraid to ask if I can help with your project in any other way.

Q I am about to update my heavy old Millard van. I have discovered that there are lots of choices and for a dummy like me the only difference I understand is the price tag. I don't seem to be able to guage the quality.
Is there some book or site that compares the available caravans? The only thing I know for sure is we want a double bed and as little work as possible.
I'm almost embarrassed to send you a question - you must be so busy answering these.


A Don't be embarrassed mate - you should see some of the questions I get!

As far as I know there isn't a book with those comparisons in it. Caravan World runs a not of articles on new vans but doesn't compare them one against the other.

My book Australia Calling has a section of choosing the right outfit and that may be a help.

I'd say that you would need a reasonable sized van to allow for the double bed and leave some living space. A full van is a lot less work than a pop-top in my biased opinion. I don't know if you intend going for a new van or s/h but if it's to be new make sure you don't get those old-fashioned wind-down corner steadies. There are much better ones around now that drop down and olny need a couple of turns to finish off.

Also a Trail-a-Mate jockey/wheel/jack is a great saver for crook backs and saves a lot of work - especially when hooking up to the car.. We use hydraulic corner steadies as well - they cost about $1,000 extra on a new van but I wouldn't be without mine.

There are a lot of decisions to make before buying a van and it's as well to have a lot of them made before you start looking too hard at vans. It's easy to get something that sounds ok at the time but away from the salesman's glowing description it might not be what you really want.

Two important considerations - how much you have to spend and what will your tow vehicle cope with comfortably.


 Q I would like your opinion please on a project that my husband and I are seriously considering.  We have a property one km off the Hume Freeway between Wangaratta and Wodonga and have discussed offering daily caravan storage to people for a small fee, this will allow them to  travel to the towns of Beechworth, Yackandandah, Rutherglen ect without the hassle of towing the  vans on back country roads.
We are also planning in putting up undercover storage  for caravan's for long term rental.   This would be suitable for Melbourne people who travel this way "North East Vic" for holidays on a regular basis.
 So Lionel do you think this will work and is there a need for it, last Easter I counted 60 caravans in 35 km which is what gave me the idea for this service. If you believe there is a need for this service where you recommend advertising to get the word out and to attract the right sort of clients

A Thanks for the email and for sharing your interesting idea.

However,  I'll have to say that at first look I can't see it being something many people would use. People visiting the towns and areas you mention would most likely be staying a few days in a caravan park in the area and would leave their van parked there while they do their exploring. I can't really see them towing to your property, unhooking the caravan, going off for the day and then coming back to re-hitch before driving on to where they will spend the night.

We have personally taken our van to many of the delightful places in the north east but have never found any of the roads a problem.

Undercover long term storage is a different matter and there could be people who regularly spend time in the NE and who perhaps have no room at home for the van or don't want to tow it so far each time. Storing a van in Melbourne or Sydney can be a problem and people living in the inner city in particular find storage a problem.

Advertising the service could be done by letters to the editors of 'Caravan World', 'On the Road' and 'Caravan and Motorhome'. There are probably lots of other ways too - maybe contacting local caravan parks and letting them know about the service although some may also offer storage themselves.


Q Hi Lionel my husband myself & our 2 young girls are thinking of doing the big trip at the moment it is only talk and finding out about stuff .would you have any suggestions on how much money we would need to travel for a year .We will be renting out the house, we own it so that will be part income and could you list some sites that would be handy(eg planing,some ones trip, hints, free camp spots as we don't want to stay in parks,anything that will help also distant ed for the girls,when is the best time to leave, we are from the south coast NSW ) as you might tell we have no idea,what size caravan Would you suggest? we don't want to go to a 4wd we have a Nissan Urvan duel fuel cab would that be ok..? Also do you know of any good sites on the net of things to sell or make for the markets while going around   thanks for your time all the best Danielle

A Most of your questions can't be answered without a lot more information. For instance - how much money do you need for a year?  Do you intend to eat out, go on trips, visit places with an entrance fee, travel far or do short hops, buy clothes and gifts, do you own maintenance or pay for services,  All things you will need to consider before setting a budget.

My book 'Australia Calling' has a section on planning and budgeting and lots of hints plus things like communication and emergencies. It has checklists for checking before you leave.

The book  Camps. Australia Wide 3 is great for finding free camping areas. There's a link to their site on my 'Links' page.

When you leave depends where you intend to go first. You wouldn't want to be up north during the monsoons from December on till about April.

The size of van will be limited by what the Navarra is rated to tow. Obviously the bigger the better for extended living with four of you sharing the accommodation. Again I'm in the dark. What ages are the girls? They will need their own space as much as possible. Maybe a camper is what you need - this is the unit that has beds in the ends and winds down for travelling. A bit of a nuisance in that you have to set it up and take it down every time you move but they do have a lot of living room.

The Navarra should be fine for the trip if it's in good condition.

I have no information about distance education - you would need to talk to the education departments about that.


Q Sorry to hassle you again.  I realised I made a confusing comment.  I guess what I wanted to know was whether it is best to leave the pop top up and exposed to the elements when the van is not covered with the cover. (The cover is very cumbersome and usually we only put it on when leaving the van for a few months.)
So we are not sure whether the vinyl deteriorates more by leaving it up and exposed or when closed up and creased up.
Thank you once again.  Appreciated your quick reply.

A I'm not really an expert on pop-tops as I personally prefer a full van. However I'd think it better to leave it down if it's exposed to salt air etc.

Q We have just hitched up to the Prado a  Caravan  a Phoenix and cannot release the hand brake on the tow bar.  Any ideas how to would be very very much appreciated.
 
Concerned wife

A The only suggestion I have it to try to pull it harder ON while trying to release the ratchet. It should then go off providing the cables are not caught somewhere or the shoes stuck to the drums.


Q Thank You very much for such an informative website!
 
I am a 32yr old women and I am looking to hit the road solo from May to October. I currently live in Sydney and all I know is that I want to head North and experience the unseen beauty! I spent 7 months travelling Europe alone in 2005 and now want to experience the same in my own backyard!
 
I would greatly appreciate you thoughts on the best way for me to travel. ie: Should I buy or hire a campervan? Which way would you recommend would be better financially?
 
Also, I am not one for planning.. I very much like the wind to blow me from place to place. Can you envision any problems that I may occur without too much pre planning?
 
I thank you again for your time and expertise.


A We have met quite a lot of single ladies exploring our great country on their own. I think most have been with campervans as they are a bit easier to handle than a car and caravan. Hiring is expensive - I think you would be better off buying a good s/h unit. I recently discovered a website for Kinds Cross Cazr Market where people buy and sell campervans. It's on Lionel's Latest page of the website.

You might be better buying from a dealer as that way you get a warrenty.

I don't see any problems - good luck and enjoy.


Q We have hust prurchased a second hand van and looking at putting a rollout awning on it with a full annex. We do not have much knowledge on the subject. I have heard of many brands and also the way the Aussie Traveller attaches their walls using an "Anti Flap Kit". Is it worth buying the whole annex from Aussie Traveller or getting another type of awning and putting Aussie Traveller walls on it. Any advice on the subject would be helpful.

AI don't know where you live - if it's Victoria I'd advise Tebbs and an A&E awning and Tebbs walls. They use the Aussie Traveller anti flap kit to attach their walls. I'm not a real fan of Aussie Traveller awnings as I prefer the roll out type. However that's just a personal foible. Our A&E was showing its age after 11 years so we upgraded with a new roller and vinyl a few weeks ago.


 Q Just wondering if you know of anyone who hires A class motorhomes and or do you know if there is any organisation that has private motorhomes for hire.I dare say there is plenty of motorhomes sitting idle that their owners would probably like to get a little return on.


AThere are a couple of links on my 'Hiring' page.

You might also consider contacting the CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia). They have in excess of 30,000 members and there is a link on my 'Clubs' page.


Q In June we take delivery of our new Scenic Caravan which has a tare/ball weight of 1800/180kg. Do you know if our 2003 Ford Fairlane is up to pulling what will probably be 2300kg? We intend to get a Hayman Reece tow bar fitted.

We would consider trading up to a more appropriate vehicle in which case what would you recommend ie petrol, diesel,AWD, 4WD, V8 etc?

A Congratulations on ordering a Scenic. Ours is 11 years old and still giving us lots of pleasure.

Ours weighs around 1900 kg loaded and our Au Falcon tows it with no trouble at all. I'd imagine your Fairlane would perform just as well at 2300kg although that's the upper limit set by Ford. It is getting to the point where maybe a heavier tow vehicle could/should be an option and my preference would be for a turbo diesel 4x4.


Q I have just purchased an 18ft viscount and was wondering what brand of air cooler do you reckon is the best air command or coleman 

A We haven't used air conditioning in a van for years so can't really give an opinion. The one we had in a Windsor pop-top many moons ago was an Air Command and it was so noisy it drove us nuts. I'm sure they are different nowadays.

I haven't heard any bad reports about either one so I guess they must be OK.


Q We are in the market for a large caravan. 20 - 25ft. Is there much difference in towing a 20ft van compared to a 25ft Van.

A The only real difference is the effect of side winds and passing trucks. The extra side area does have some impact.

It's weight not length that really plays a major role in how it tows. Once you are rolling there is little noticeable difference.


Q We have a Tare 1190kg caravan and are looking to buy suitable vehicle to tow.  We have been using our falcon but now wish to go off the tar but not real bush tracks so hence the desire to change vehicles.  We are concerned about the cost of fuel [isn't everyone] and have looked at the new turbo deisel 2.5lt Pathfinder they claim it will do the job easily but it seems a smallish engine to pull such a load.  Interested in your thoughts.  

A It's surprising how much power a turbo diesel produces. Yours is a fairly light van so I believe the Pathfinder would handle it ok - especially as I suspect you won't be taking part in any traffic light derbys!


Q I have been trying to obtain info regarding 12 volt systems on caravans. When I've contacted the so called experts from the shopping fraternity all I seem to get is all very technical data and sales talk,however for the layman it doesn't mean allot.
Do you have any info or literature that I may be able obtain or maybe sites that I can may go to to get some details.

A Go to :www.caravanandmotorhomebooks.com

Collyn Rivers has lots of info about 12volt electrics.

 
Q My partner Gilbert and I have arrived at the time of life (in our early 60’s) when we would like to purchase a caravan and travel, firstly in WA.  We have been to all the caravan retailers in Perth and have come away confused with the many different ranges of caravans and pop-tops available.  Basically most of the vans have the same layouts, with some having better finishes inside.  We had originally thought to purchase a pop-top (our shed is 7.4 by 2.8), but having read your Q and A see that you prefer a full van and I think we are leaning towards this as well.  It would appear to get anything descent, you need to pay between $30 – 35,000.
 
Can you please recommend a brand of caravan that would be suitable for both on-road and off-road and do you think a shower/toilet is the way to go. Also some of the differences I have noted are, the finish to inside cupboards, inclusion of ovens/or not, differences in size of air conditioners, size of mattress (innerspring), etc.  As you will see I have mentioned mostly inside concerns and unfortunately Gilbert has gone back to work, (he works fly-in fly-out north of Kalgoorlie) but I am sure he would have asked you about the suspension and concerns with towing etc.
 
At present we have a Toyota Landcruiser to pull the van.
 
Any help you can give us will be treasured.
 

A First of all about Australia Calling. It is the only one in print nowadays and has taken the place of the others. It is in full colour and contains quite a lot of information that was in earlier books plus a lot more extensive route notes on major Australian Highways. You can't get it from bookstores except by special order as we sell direct by mail order. As you will see on the website you can order using your credit card or print out the order form and send it with a cheque or Money Order.

Buying a van is confusing I agree. It's a good idea to write down all the things you think you will be happy with - double or single beds, foam or inner spring mattress/s, microwave or not, oven or not. Etc. We don't have a microwave and prefer our gas oven. We use it a lot - why shouldn't you have roasts etc when travelling? We have single beds because I'm a restless sleeper and Vi gets better rest when I'm not twisting about! We value our shower and toilet and wouldn't be without them. As I mentioned we do a bit of camping in National Parks etc and need our own facilities. We also have two solar panels and two deep cycle batteries plus an inverter so we can use 240volt small appliances in the bush. Including TV!

I can't really tell you what van to buy. You get what you pay for and I don't think there are any bad vans left on the market now that Mr Gazal and his Viscounts are out of business. I often refer to Jaycos as 'Holdens' and the other end of the scale with vans like Boroma and Golf as BMWs  with all sorts of vans in between. Many manufacturers will build a van to suit your requirements even if it's not a 'standard' design.


Q Hi, I've travelled around the country quite a bit but up till now my wife is a "5-star camper" and this doesn't mean under the stars! I am very close to convincing her that there are other places to camp for the night other that caravan parks. I have heard in the past about publications which specialise in listing spots like public parks and by the road (or just a little bit off the road) where caravanners pull up for the night. Could you please advise the names and where I can get this/these book/s .

A The book you want is 'Camps 3'. It has all the information you need.www.campsaustraliawide.com

Q Att Lional can you recomend a caravan touring club to us please as we are about to go away touring 

A I have no idea where you live so suggest you look at my 'Clubs' page and make enquiries yourself from some of them.


Q Hi my husband and I have just purchased a semi offroad caravan ready for outback travel and would be interested in joining with other caravanners to explore some places other than caravan parks. We are interested in gem fossicking, fishing,sightseeing & gold detecting and generaly having a good time, if you know of some clubs who may operate to do any type of trips we would appreciate hearing of them.

A I'm afraid I don't know of any clubs but suggest you join some of the internet forums like 'Touring Oz' and ask the members the same question. There's a link on the menu of my website for Touring Oz and you can have a look without joining. There's no cost.

I don't know where you live but they are having a get together at Yarraman in Qld very soon - a good time to meet a few keen caravanners.

Q My husband and I are intending to buy a caravan and do some travelling in about 6 months after John finished chemotherapy for bowel cancer. We think we will need a pop top as we can't fit a full van under our carport.

I have two questions for you.
1. We wanted to buy one with a toilet and shower, but I have been told that they tend to smell even after cleaning when stored.  What is your experience with this and do you think we really need them.

2. At present we have a ford courier ute and a toyaota camry sportivo which we have realised will not pull a van.
We were looking at the Ford Territory AWD but on reading bits and pieces, I am wondering if it is big enough for the job.  What do you think and can you recommend alternatives we could look at if it is not suitable. We had a Holden rodeo 4 wd and hardly ever used the 4wd and also it was very thirsty on fuel.

A We have had shower and toilet vans for about 15 years and have not had a smell problem providing the toilet is emptied regularly. These days we use a mix of 1 cup borax, one cup cloudy ammonia and one cup eucalyptus oil plus water to make up to 3 or 4 litres. We use about half a litre to each emptying.The euky oil floats on top and sends a pleasant smell into the cubicle .

We like these facilities when bush camping.

Before you can decide what vehicle to tow with you need to know what weight you will be towing. Our AU Falcon tows our 1,800kg van with ease. A turbo diesel 4x4 would probably do it better and cheaper once the initial price had been forgotten!


QMy Husband and I would like to travel Australia in a Caravan for about 12 months. We are only at the very early stages of planning our trip. We have previously camped with our children for short periods (school holidays) in a camper trailer. This trip will be our first experience with a caravan. We will be travelling without the children and would like some advice on what sort of caravan and tow vehicle we should buy. We would like to travel in reasonable comfort ie: have a resonable size van with an ensuite. Do you have any suggestions?

A As you will be calling the caravan 'home' for a long time you are quite right in looking for something with space and convenience.

A good starting point would be to visit one of the major caravan shows armed with a list of the things you MUST have in your van and looking to see what is available in your price range.

Decide if you want single beds or a double, full van or pop-top, tandem or single axle, front kitchen or rear or side, roll out awning or full annexe, etc, etc. The list of options is endless and as it's a major investment you need to be certain that what you decide is what you will be happy with.

Having settled on the van and found out its expected loaded weight you can then look to see what will comfortably tow it. It's likely that you will wind up with a turbo diesel 4x4 if you can afford one although we have always been happy towing with a Falcon station wagon.


Q G`day Lionel. Firstly thanks for such a great site. My question deals with a caravan that  "fishtails whilst going down hill "I`ve heard several  reasons for this as well as ways of controlling it, including gently tapping the brake to enable the `van brake to activate whilst ,at the same time, accellerating the towing vehicle to straighten the rig out.

I`ve also heard of fitting a Hayman Reece Friction Control. Now that`s my question Lionel, just what is a H/R friction Control? I haven`t been able to find an internet site for H/R products and none of my travelling friends knows what it is. Can you help with any info?  

A The Reece friction control is a good product but in my opinion is only a way of treating the effect of a problem and not finding the cause. I've got their dual cam sway control but it's overkill on our present van. I had it for a much larger van to overcome the effect of strong side winds and have kept it for this van.

If you look at the menu on the right hand side of my site and click on 'Towing' you will find yourself on the HR site.

Without seeing your outfit it is hard to pinpoint why it is fishtailing. Has it enough ball weight? Ideally this should be around 10% of the van's loaded weight or a little more. Is the car and van level when hitched up. Do you use a weight distributing hitch? Etc.

Using the over-ride lever on electric brakes should stop a fishtail (providing BOTH sides brake evenly - I nearly came to grief once when only one side worked properly!)

Gentle acceleration also helps but that's a brave move if you are going downhill!

Q I need help to find a "caravan school" in Sydney.
We purchased a caravan, my husband is terrific at handling it and I am useless.

I want to learn how to manoeuvre the caravan, how to reverse it into a spot......... all that goes with feeling comfortable and confident pulling "it" behind.

Can you recommend somebody, do you know of anybody here in Sydney who offers short course in handling the caravan?
 
A I'm afraid I don't know such a school in Sydney although I'm sure there must be one.

In Melbourne we have Metec - they may know a Sydney counterpart. I haven't time to check it out as we are leaving for Adelaide this morning but if you email them or ring them they may be able to help.

Metropolitan Traffic Education Centre Inc.
112 Colchester Road, Bayswater North  Vic 3153.     (Melways Ref. 51 D7)
Telephone +61 3 9725 4758    Fax +61 3 9723 7987
E-mail  training@metec.com.au

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