MY TRAILER SET-UP
… …(This bit below I wrote about three years ago, (now march 2012).. some of it needs updating, but I’ve always had a huge positive response to the info I’ve put up, so I’ll keep it all there, and add some new bits as they come up… I’ve been telling people lately, there are sort of four parts to a camper, the trailer, the tent, the kitchen and storage.. the trailer, once you get to your camp, it’s done it’s job, the tent, once it’s up, is done also, but the kitchen and storage are things you’ll be constantly using throughout your time camping. Remember , the kitchen is the focal point of your whole camp, so it’s important to have this organised and practical..
… …Many, not all, but many trailer companies are only really worried about the trailer and the tent, not the kitchen and storage, not much thought is given to this.. then also often you have trailers with kitchens, that just aren’t practical, like where you have a steel tailgate kitchen costing over $2K, with absolutely no bench space, or drawers.. so this is where we come in, with our range of kitchens, and storage boxes… I think storage often gets overlooked, ie you have a large space inside the trailer, but how to access it quickly and easily is the issue.. so keep this in mind, once your trailer is setup, it’s the storage and kitchen that will be the most important parts to your camp setup… we have a big range of products, with lots of options, so have a good look thru the site, check out the FAQ page, and if you’re not sure of how to get the best setup, just give me a call/ e-mail anytime… ta luke… )
Written 2008… …
I thought i’d include some info of the camping trailer setup i currently use. Most of my customers are buying or have a camping trailer, so this might be of interest. Many people buying trailers are ‘new’ to the camping game (and or camping trailer game), and there are just so many options available, many of them not practical, or just not worth the $$. It can get very confusing. This might give you a few ideas to help out.
Three years ago, i was like most people, and needed to buy my first camper. Even though i’d been dealing with camper trailer companies for a few years, and had seen them thousands of times at all the shows i do, once i came to buy, i really didn’t know too much about them (apart from the kitchens :) it took me three to get it right.
My first trailer was a trackabout 4×4 tourer. It was a budget one, i didn’t have much to spend. It worked great, beautiful tent, nice and light, but i soon realised it needed updating for me . (i’m a bit of a perfection nut, especially when camping. I always want the perfect setup.) I sold that , and then went for the top of the line model, with everything basically, including boatrack. Then i realised it was just way too heavy for me. I wanted a trailer that i can lift onto the ball hitch myself, and with two of us, can move it around a bit on flat ground. This was something i hadn’t thought of. So i sold that also, and bought a middle of the range model, with some improvements that i wanted. I’m really happy with it now. (it’s perfect :) here’s is what i’ve got shown below.
PS When you are reading/looking at this, remember it’s what is right for me. We mostly at this stage in our lives, with me, Kiyomi and my little boy Kaito, camp for 1 week and weekend trips within a few hours of Gloucester. I only really camp where i can have a fire, don’t ever have power, and must have a tidy , organised camp. I’ve learnt running the business, talking to thousands of people about what they want, that camping is a very personal thing, and is a reflection of the persons character. Some people are organised, some are fussy, some like to rough it, some seem to be just in a mess :) Some people camp only in c/van pks with power, some only go bush. So this is what’s right for us, there is a thousand variations, but you might pick up some tips that will suit what you do.
The trailer is a 7×4 offroad (not heavy duty offroad). It’s around 850 kgs loaded, with a ball weight that i can lift. The tent is a 10 footer, 8 foot awning. For the awning i have canvas to close in both ends, and one return to the long pole. These i can put up for privacy/ weather protection.
Starting from the back RHS, i have a water pump, coming from a 80 ltr tank underneath. They have custom made ones now, just for trailers. 1/4′ roto moulded plastic, very good. One thing i’m yet to do though, if i want to half fill a bucket of water, i have to pump it out with the hand pump. Not ideal. I need a small tap hooked up to the bottom of the tank, so i can just let it run out. This also lets you drain the tank when you need to. It will be on a strong hose, coming up to behind the mudflap somewhere.
The tyres i matched my truck. I wouldn’t worry about this again. It adds a lot of cost, and if i sell the truck or trailer, it’s all for nothing. I have a pump/ repair kit if i need it to repair tyres.
Two 4 kg gas bottles, one on each rear corner.
Extra 20 ltr jerry on the front. (know why they call them jerry cans?? Cause the germans had the best designed fuel cans in the desert conflicts in WW1, the ‘jerry’ fuel cans were highly prized by the British. Imagine filling a Sherman tank with 20 ltr jerry cans. If you had the shit ones, it would be a real pain in the arse. )
Up front, just PVC pole carriers. Handy cause light, i can access both sides, i can split poles from spreader bars etc. Might add a third one though. Large toolbox. This one is about 5 hungee, but worth it. Strong enough to stand on, which i often do when packing up the tent. Lightweight. Struts to hold the lid up. Also i have a light in the lid. This is really bloody handy. If you’re setting up in the dark, or hooking up etc. Definitely need one. A small fire extinguisher. The (pioneer) CD player in my last troopy caught fire one day. Set the dash on fire. Kids were in the car. Lucky dad had one in his ute. You couldn’t have put the fire out without a fire extinguisher. I always carry one now, in both vehicles, trailer and boat. If you don’t need it , one day someone else will. The 90 AH battery is on one side. See the external power sockets. The top one, i can connect a lead, say at a show, or at home charging it before i go away. This connects to a regular double power point inside. In to this i have a 8 amp battery charger pluged in, and wired to the battery. See below left. Hence charging the battery. The bottom one, i have cut out the guts of the socket, to form an opening. This is so if i want power inside the camper, i can plug a lead into the spare power point, and run it outside, thru this opening. (i got my sparky to wire these up for me. ) otherwise you have to run the lead over the top edge of the toolbox, which could cut into it.
UPDATE :) the text below I talk about using a ball hitch.. this was cause I really didn’t like the treg, or the AT-35 hitch, they were just too much mucking around to hook up.. but a new one came on the market recently, it’s called the ozhitch.. and they are perfect.. as the photos show, it just drops in place, then the pin goes thru.. this is an awesome design, and very simple to hookup… if you are getting an offroad trailer, this is what you want on the front.. or at least have a look at it.. they got a pretty good website, so yeah have a look.
I have a 500 w inverta, great for charging all sorts of things. Here i’m charging my spare hand held UHF. The inverta draws power out of the battery, via the front Anderson plug. (the same one that would connect to the back of the vehicle, to charge the battery whilst driving) My 80w solar panel will connect also with an Anderson plug, again via the front lead (shown in the next picture) to charge the battery also. This i’ve found is a great , simple flexible setup. See the stone guard below/ above. This is a must i think, even if you’re getting an on roader. Plus it must be structural so that you can use it to push the trailer around. Cause you will use it, and if not ridged, it will bend . next time you go to the Birdsville races, (you should go, it’s brilliant) have a look how many 4wd’s with trailers have broken back windscreens. Nother thing to fill in this little bit of space, i carry a canvas bag in the toolbox with some dry firewood from home. Sometimes you just can’t get any, or it will be soaked if it’s wet.
See the Anderson plug. (just a heavy duty universal 12 v plug) this was running the inverta. So, there is 3 ways to charge the battery. 240 v lead, solar panel and whilst driving thru andsn’plug. To access power, thru 12 volt plugs inside / outside trailer, and thru 12v –> 240 v inverta. I had an offroad hitch on my last trailer, but went back to the ball coupling. Saves $300. I found the offroad hitch a pain to hook up. The ball just drops straight on. Also the handle on the top of the hitch, is what you use to move it around. Without that, it’s very hard to get hold of the trailer. We go full on offroading, the ball hitch works fine. Try and get a good swingup jockeywheel. This one is great, see the 45 deg angle on the bottom of the pole, this can make the wheel and handle lock upright when driving. Othewise they will hang down and you will eventually catch it on something.
The drawbar needs to be about 1800 long. See how the handbrake (definitely worth getting) is set low on the drawbar. My last trailer, it was set on top. I was always tripping over it as you step over the drawbar when it’s connected to your vehicle. This is much better. (sometimes you have to put the trailer into a campsite drawbar first, where you can’t just drive in cause of other camps, trees etc. Then you have to push it in. If it’s on a bit of a slope, like it was for us one day, it’s very hard to stop it without a handbrake. Plus it’s pease of mind at night that it’s not going to run away on you) a handbrake, hence plus brakes will add around 1000, but it’s worth it if you can afford it.
See the bike rack, and stone guard, are attached with U bolts. This is great, as you often want to juggle things around on the draw bar. (keep in mind the stone guard MUST be back far enough so you can almost jack-knife the trailer, without it hitting the back of the car) i’ve had to move both the bike rack and stone guard on my last trailer, and they were welded on! Very tricky to fix. Another thing, make sure you can open the back door of your vehicle without hitting the hitch. My troopy door used to clip the top of the last ‘offroad hitch’ I had. It was a massive pain in the arse. Cause then you can’t get to anything in your draw systems in the back.
I have a door on the drawbar side also. With a lot of things in the toolbox, and often the vehicle parked at the front, i found it a pain always having to walk around to get things. This door still doubles as a window, so it’s no different, but i think very handy. Also then you have the option of having a drawbar awning. I think this is a good idea, if you are camping for extended times. It would make the tent a lot cooler, and it’s space that is on your campsite and you are paying for, but without the shade it wouldn’t get used so much. Also, it’s great to run a lead inside through the bottom corner of the door, for whatever reason.
I want the spare on the tailgate for a few reasons. One, it helps balance the trailer, taking weight off the front. Two , it frees up a lot of room on the front for other things. Some trailer companies just have way too much stuff on the front drawbar. On the tailgate it’s out of the way. The trailer though must have a strong tailgate, not many are built strong enough. See the PVC cover on top. I have added 100 mm extra height. It’s the best place to store tables, our stretcher, ladder, awning canvas etc. Plus don’t forget your doonas/pillows will take up room and add bulk. You don’t want the cover to be super tight to put on. If it’s flapping a bit, you can put a rope over the middle.
Only a small thing, but it can make a big difference. I make sure all my poles have a threaded spigot. That’s the bit that pokes out thru the canvas. Most poles have a smooth spigot. A bit of wind and the rope will pull off these fairly easily, whereas they won’t on the threaded one. Also , if you need to , you can put a wing nut on top, which i always do, as again, if the wind lifts the awning up, it will stop the pole falling out. Another thing, many trailers come with a ladder that only leans up against the bedbase, ie it won’t just stand up like a small ladder. This is fine, but the first thing i realised when i used my camper the first time, is i couldn’t reach the zip on the awning, couldn’t reach the pole to put the ropes on etc. The awning can be 10 ‘ high. A small ladder is the handiest thing. So i bought a small ladder from bunnings for $30. Works much better. This is a good example of the sort of things you just don’t realise until you actually use a trailer. If you’re really keen to get a good trailer, try to borrow or hire one for a weekend first. You’ll learn stuff in a few hours putting it up and setting up, that you’ll never pick up from a hundred camping shows.
I also use spreader bars , 4 coming out from the tent, and three between the poles, only if i’m camped for more than one night. They take a few extra minutes to put up, but keep everything looking straight. This will also help prevent water pooling in the canvas. If you get a shower of rain say overnight, the weight can very quickly collapse and bend your poles. Also, have another look at the top photo on this side. See how the ropes can come straight down. This is because the spreader bars are holding the awning out, you just need to hold it down. This is the big advantage with spreader bars. People are always tripping over ropes, so it makes it a lot neater and safer. Also you can easily get closer to the edge of a camp site, if it’s a bit crowded, without having to allow a few meters for guy ropes to go out.
A tip on brakes. If your trailer is over a certain weight, it must have brakes. If it’s around 700 + kgs, you should consider it if you can afford it… one extra advantage with brakes is you have the handbrake, which is very handy when your trailer is unhooked (got a sloped driveway?? ). There are two types basically. Overrider and electric. Overrider brakes work by the momentum of the trailer pushing forward onto your vehicle, which activates the trailer brakes. Electric brakes you have to get a brake controller on your vehicle.. (although I have seen some trailers now in qld with the controller on the trailer itself, which can be a good idea, say if you want to swap between vehicles) as soon as you touch your brake pedal, the brakes are activated (this can be adjusted – the amount they come on)
Now, a bloke bought a kitchen the other day was telling me…. he was in a state forest with his family in the car. It was wet.. he was towing a camper … going down a hill, round a corner on a wet, slippery road.. many of you will be in this situation.. he had overrider brakes.. as he put the brakes on, the trailer has to push forward on the vehicle to be activated, but if it’s slippery, basically the car will be pushed forward the car tyres will slip and the brakes won’t activate.. which is what happened in this case.. his car was pushed off the road and ended up upside down in a ditch.. no one was hurt, but this is not the situation you want to be in with your family… if he had electric brakes it wouldn’t have happened, because as soon as he touched the brakes, the trailer would have started pulling up, even before the car itself.. so the trailer is basically braking independant of the vehicle, instead of relying on the vehicle…
So, I reckon elec is better for this reason (also, with overrider, every time you back up, you have to get out and flip over a small catch, otherwise, as you back, you’ll activate the brakes.. then often next time you take off (I always did) you’ll forget to flip it back over, hence the brakes won’t be working at all) if the trailer you get comes with overrider, you just need to be aware of how it works.. get the blokes selling it to you to explain this.. then you can take it a bit easy in the wet… if you’re not sure about this, ask the question on a camper/4wd forum, you’ll get hundreds of ‘experts’ to tell you whats best.. :)
Here are some more photos from the last trip – a place called sandon, near broomes head, nth nsw.
If you’re just planning on camping at a c’van park on the coast, an on road or light offroad is perfect. But keep in mind, if you want to travel outback at all, the roads are extremely punishing on trailers. Anything that is not made or designed correctly will break off or break down. Guaranteed. For example, you know the rear stabilisers, cheaper trailers have a bit of box tube that slides to the ground and some have a bolt that needs to be done up to hold it. On gravel roads, they will work loose, and fall to the ground, which then rips the back corner out of the trailer.
Two things i have also found out. I sell kitchens to a lot of people who make their own trailer. One thing they all say is that there is a lot more involved than they thought, and many definitely wouldn’t do it again. The reason is there is just so much frigging around, it ends up costing much more than you think, and you end up with something that if you made it again, it would be much better, but you are stuck with what you have made. And the resale value is a lot less if you want to sell it. I really believe, you are much better off , for all the weekends you lose trying to build it, you’d be better spending your time camping, and your money buying a factory built camper.
Even small things, for example on my first trailer, trying to save money, i thought i’d hook up the battery myself. Sounds easy. It ended up taking me most of my weekend, and i didn’t have the right bits to do it properly, so i had to dodgy it up a bit. It ended up being a bit of a mess. I had to have a few goes later on fixing it up, and i’m lucky that i have a shed where you can build anything. It didn’t work right, as i couldn’t charge the battery when i was driving, so it went flat one time when i had half a day’s driving to charge it a bit. A wire pulled out of a joiner, i had to keep twitching it up. Never got around to soldering it properly. When i went to sell it, it looked bad.
On my next trailer, i paid the $300 extra to have it done. It was a perfect job, very strong, all the right bits, had an Anderson plug. I would have saved $100 doing it myself, but i can tell you the hassle and my weekend are worth a bloody lot more than a hundred bucks. So it you’re thinking of doing it yourself, sure , go for it, but have a good think if you are really going to save anything, and that you’ll actually end up with something that you’re (and your wife ) happy with.
Anyway, that’ll do me. Whadayareckon. Hope you got some good pedantic tips from it. Luke
…..Well guess what, now I’ve done it again and sold/bought another one… here is the new improvements…
See here the elec pump. I have hooked up a short hose with a spray nozzle on the end, which you can then use for anything, hose down something, wash your hands/feet, have a quick shower/rinse, fill a bucket , anything.. when I get home I can turn it on and quickly empty the tank.
Now, one thing also I found really handy… say we spent 4 days camping in the bush on the river. Then moved to the coast near port Macquarie for a few days. My water tank was empty, so I wanted to fill it. I found a tap in a small park at cresent head. I could fill up my jerry can, but have you ever tried to tip it into those water tank fillers?? You can’t really do it. You can siphon it, but that takes ages, while you hold it there above the filler. I’ve tried a funnel, but someone has to hold it for you, and Kiyomi will be sitting in the truck reading a magazine. So, normally the elec pump itself will suck out of the water tank. So, I cut a t – piece into this line, and put a short hose with a garden spray fitting on it, and a in line shutoff valve. (you can see it in the photo above ) So , I can basically, turn off the line to the water tank, and suck thru this short hose. Hence, if I connect a longer hose to it, I can suck out from the jerry can, and pump that water wherever I want, in this case into the water tank filler. So I’m filling the tank with the pump itself. This worked great, you just need some garden fittings and a few short hoses. This sort of flexibility , same with the electrical setup I have, is really handy out bush.
I’ve updated from the troopy now to a 76 series, so the evakool won’t fit, this is our setup now on the left..
A lot of people over the years have been asking about putting a fridge in the back of the trailer..it’s not something I thought would really work, but just half way thru last year (2011), we came up with a new concept.. it’s basically a storage box to suit a fridge, on the end of a kitchen…
This is what we have come up with, I’m really excited about this, it’s a culmination of years of our design experience.. you can see the fridge on the end of the kitchen, then a storage box with drawers can go next to it, the drawers at the front provide a pantry for food etc… the only fridge that fits well is the evakool 60 ltr.. anyway, yeah click on the link to see more details about all this.. so if you’d like to have a fridge in the trailer, then this is the way to go..
Here is my hot water shower system. I’ve tried all the different types, twine vehicle mounted, primus instant gas, now I have this caravan one. I have it sitting on a gal fence picket. I haven’t found a hot water system that you can properly/ easily adjust the water temperature on. It will generally either scald you or be cold, and you waste most of the limited water you have trying to get it right. This type of system, you need gas, 12 v power and a water source/ pump. What I have found with the different systems, it’s much better to turn it up to full heat, and simply pump the water back into the drum you are using. Once you have the right temp, generally just feels like too hot to touch, (it will lose a lot of heat from the shower head to you, so you need it a bit hotter than you think) turn off the gas. You then have a hot jerry full of water, to use on and off as you need. (I always use a clear 20 ltr. That way you can see how much you are using. Kiyomi is allowed to use 15 ltrs, me and Kaito get the dregs. This is plenty of water , if you turn it off as you go,ie, get wet, turn off, soap up, turn on wash off etc. ) if it’s heating hot water as you go, every time you turn off, it’s too much trouble to get going again, hence you waste a lot of water. You simply can’t have a continuous shower in the bush, otherwise you would use just way too much. And you can’t carry enough water in the bush for a shower, even if you limit to 20 ltrs. Basically , my rule is, if you’re camping at a spot with water, say a river, tank, bore etc, I’ll carry one jerry for Kiyomi a day. If there is no water around, then bad luck.
For short trips, it’s way too much trouble setting this system up, again , with gas, 12 v , pump etc, it’s a pain. So for short trips, I simply use now a canvas bucket with a shower nozzle screwed in the end. You can buy them anywhere. It holds about 10 ltrs, and with two billies of hot water tipped in, this does the job fine. It’s a good example of how keeping things simple, will often end up at the end of day, much better. The shower bucket is $20 opposed to 3-4 hundred. Takes only a minute to set up. Takes up no space when packed away.
Keep in mind the reason you’re going camping is to relax and enjoy yourselves. If you’re not well organised, you’ll do neither. I think that’s the key, being as organised as you can, that suits what you want to do. But getting organised is not something that you can get right straight away. One thing I do, is every camping trip, just try to get one or two things better for next time. It might be something small, but your next trip will be better by that small amount. I have a list I always use, that I save on word. It started from when I did all the camping shows around the country. I had to have a list, cause to forget something was a disaster, there was so much I had to take. Camping is a bit the same. You can never remember everything, but to forget small things is a real pain in the arse. Especially if you have your wife along, cause you are responsible for everything, and anything that goes wrong you are in trouble. Ie, you can have a perfect camp, in a perfect spot, but if I forget the mozzie coil, and Kiyomi gets bitten, then I’m in deep S. So, I have one list for tent camping, 4WD camping, boat camping, 4wd day trips, mates 4wd trip , as each I need to take different things. Ie, on a 4wd trip with graham from offroad systems, I only need a swag and a carback kitchen, but also a chainsaw , axe etc. When packing up to go away, I have the list in a folder, and I can literally tick off each thing I need as I get it out or pack it. At the bottom of the list I have written “diesel, gas, batteries, water” as a reminder that when travelling out bush, you need to think of these things every day. Then I have a heap of blank space with the heading “next time”.. when I’m camping, I always take my list, it always sits on the dash of my truck. Every time I think of something I need , or missed , or need to fix up, I write it here… see when you get home, it’s fresh in your mind what you need to fix up. But you never do, cause you’re back into work, busy from being away etc, so don’t get time to do it. Then , next time you go, you’ve forgotten what you needed to do.. hence the list. A few days before I go, I always get my list out, see what I need to do, add anything to it on word, print it out and there you go. Sort out what I need to do, and it’s done.. I’d be stuffed without the list.. I’ll see if I can put a link up so you can print it out, and modify it to suit yourself, or simply write one up yourself..
PS, another good tip. When packing up, your missus will be tired, maybe fed up, cranky etc. I always keep an emergency can of UDL , hidden down the bottom of the fridge. I give it Kiyomi once we start packing up, and it works like magic, she chills out, sits in the car again and reads a magazine. Just where I want her while I sort things out.. saves an argument all the way home that can last all week :)
This is tony. He is a champion