Caravanning and RVing in Australia

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 I have a 16' 1989 Coachman full height caravan being towed by a 3.3 V6 Mazda Tribute. The towing is to be applauded as a B-double passing would not make you even blink. I have no issue with the set up other than the fuel burn. I tow at 87 km per hour as it seems to be the sweet spot & I get about 9 km per litre.
If I'm unlucky to hit a head wind or hills this drops to 4 km per litre. My question is would a larger 4x4 or diesel actually improve the fuel burn or am I just fighting wind resistance &  does this fuel burn sound normal for this situation?

AIt seems to me that you are getting excellent results from your Mazda - in fact I'm envious of your fuel consumption.

I tow a 17' van - admittedly very heavy - behind a Falcon wagon and average about 4km/litre using lpg and around 5km/litre on petrol and would love to get your 9km/ltr.  Some of the larger diesels would probably tow slightly more economically but I don't think the difference would be that great. I've never owned one so can't speak from experience.

 Q Recent converts to off road caravanning, (we were gob smacked when at the Flinders Ranges), and new subscribers to Caravan World, (we enjoy your comments), we are still confused about whether what we are planning is feasible or “pie in the sky” (we have sources that say not suitable for caravans and others that say okay with care). Given that we don’t really want to change our current vehicles, due to very restricted garage capacity on our small block, we would really like to be able to tackle both the Ooodnadatta and Birdsville Tracks, then come back to WA from Birdsville through Boulia (Qld), Tobermorey (Qld/NT border), through to Alice Springs (NT). We would obviously do this at the appropriate time of the year and our problem could be with our current vehicles which are:

Towing vehicle: 2005 Mazda Tribute 6 cylinder AWD petrol; and
Towed vehicle: 2001 12ft 7 inch Jayco Freedom pop top  manufacturers ATM 870 kg with 14inch light  truck tyres(with following modifications to van by a credited Jayco caravan repairer).
a. Strengthened chassis (by cutting off existing suspension and welding 100mm       
    section under original and joining to A frame, raising 100mm)
b. Fit HD Springs (raises 20mm) both a and b to give more clearance.
c. ALKO off road brake magnets
d. Shock absorbers
e  Chequer plate stone guard plate to front and sides.

We haven’t as yet weighed van with modifications but would do prior to trip to make sure everything (including tow bar and weight distribution) was correct.

Could you give us your  honest assessment as to whether we could do it or not.

A  I'm afraid you've asked the wrong man as I haven't travelled those roads - Vi's allergic to gravel so we stay on the hard stuff.

However with the outfit you now have with all the modifications in place I can see no reason why you can't do it OK. Providing you drive with care and the roads although unsealed are in reasonable nick I can't see why you should have any trouble.

Q I am interested to hear from anyone travelling on their own and using a Treg  Hitch. I have been advised against having one because of the accuracy needed in lining up vehicle and van. Are there any tricks/hints in achieving a hassle free connection? Thanks, Helen

A I've never used a Treg hitch so don't really know how hard/easy it is to line it up. I'm guessing that it can't be too hard as there are so many people with 4x4s that use them. I use a couple of magnetic rods to line the van and car. One sits on the tow-ball and the other goes on to the A-frame. I don't know if a modification of this idea could help in  your case.

Is your van easy to move sideways on its jockey wheel? If it is, then as long as you were somewhere near lined up you could move the van into place with the jockey wheel.

Q My name is xxxx (25) and with my good friend xxxx (26) from England, we are planning to drive around your amazing country. So far we have spent the last year travelling over land the length of India to Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, China, myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia and will be arriving in Melbourne in early December.
I just came across your site today and it has already answered a multitude of questions we had - very useful site indeed! We are planning to buy an Lpg petrol combo van - maybe a toyota hiace and build beds/living quateers in the back of the van. If you have any tips for us regarding which van would be best - where to buy around the Melbourne area, suggested routes that would be fantastic. So far we have only a rough route from the south to Darwin across the top (possibly dropping down on the rock) then down the west coast. We have a website which friends, family and fellow travellers regularly log onto and would be happy to recommend your site if you wanted us to.
Thanks in advance
the lads from England

A What a great adventure you guys are having! I'm jealous.

Do you intend doing the east coast as well? There's an awful lot of very little down the west coast plus some interesting places as well.

Yes - a Hi-Ace would be OK or a Nissan Ur-Van. I don't know about Melbourne, although I live here, but in Sydney at Kings Cross there is a place where people - often back-packers - buy and sell campervans. The sellers have usually done the round Oz trip and are now heading back home overseas and the new arrivals pick up outfits at a reasonable price - often all set up ready for travelling.

There are plenty of s/h car yards in Melbourne so you shouldn't have any trouble finding a suitable van.

Another avenue is: for a campervan already converted or: for a van.

I did the round Oz trip a few years back with my next door neighbor in a VW Campervan. It was a brilliant vehicle - turbo Diesel and cruised at 100+k/ph with economy. The trip is on the website.

If you intend going up the Centre to Darwin you would be best to visit Ayers Rock on the way to Alice Springs. Take in the Olgas as well while there.
Q I’m a fast approaching 60 yr old Geriatric Gypsy (LOL – kids knick-name for me) who is currently having a conversion professionally done on my Iveco 2ton LWB Daily van.
Total novice that I am, I intend taking off next year, sooner if I am able. I will undoubtedly have a million and one things to ask at a later date.  Will buy your books, which I am sure will answer a lot of the basics.
HOWEVER,…. Has anyone, or do any of the ‘grey nomads’ have a system for collecting rainwater for using, while travelling on a more permanent long term basis?  Water to me is a most precious commodity and if there is a SIMPLE way of harvesting some for daily drinking, etc. use I would be most interested to hear of it.  Thought of approaching Stratco to see if they would sponsor me to put one on the rear door …. Somehow don’t think I would get too far.
Thank you for your interesting Q&A pages, have enjoyed the learning process.

A I don't know of an easy way of harvesting water in these days of drought and little rain falling on the vehicle. When it DOES rain you can catch water from your roll out awning. I'm assuming you have one of these so useful items on your van. By having one end lower than the other there will be a steady stream of water from that end that you can catch in a bucket or into jerricans by using a large funnel. You can transfer this into your water tank or use it straight from the container. You may need to filter it if the awning's been dusty or birds have been on it.

Q Lionel, I am in the process of purchasing a new tow vehicle for my 16 foot Pop Top Viscount explorer 77. I am considering a Mitsubishi Xtrail 2.5ltr. which has a maximum tow ball down weight of 150kg and the towing capacity of 2000kg.

To date I have not been able to find out the weight of the caravan nor the tow ball down weight of the van.  I assume that the tare weight of the van would be around 1000kg but how do you find out the tow ball down weight? Can you help?   

A The best way to find out the weights for your van is to take it to a weighbridge.

Then you weigh the van while hooked to the vehicle with just the van wheels on the bridge and then you weigh it unhooked with the van wheels and jockey wheel on the bridge.

Take the first reading from the second and you have the ball load. Do this exercise with the van loaded ready for the road.



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