To dual-cab, or not to dual-cab…..that is the Question!
We are often asked by Trayon speculators and future customers, intent on exploring the far reaches of the Outback, “what sort of ute should I get to carry a Trayon?”
There is a big variety of brands and models available these days, so it’s important to find the one with a touring 4x4 setup which best suits you.
Specifically, in this article we mean the the type of cab, tray and chassis combination.
We cover the three main ute 4x4 touring setups which are used to carry Trayon campers. They include:
And we focus on mid range four wheel drive vehicles (i.e. Toyota Hilux, Nissan Navara, Mazda BT50, Ford Ranger, Isuzu D-Max, Mitsubishi Triton etc.). Large four wheel drives (i.e. toyota Landcruisers, Nissan patrols and Mercedes G professional) are a different 4x4 touring kettle of fish. We aren’t recommending any specific brands in this post; we’ll let the brand debate rage on elsewhere!
A Trayon will deliver you proven toughness, flexibility, comfort and reliability in the Australian Outback, regardless of the vehicle brand or 4x4 touring setup you get.
But which “Cab” 4x4 touring setup is right for you, and right for touring this great land?
Ultimately, this article will help you decide what you want to pair with a Trayon to get the most out of your 4x4 touring setup…..a single cab ute, extra cab ute or dual cab ute. Interestingly, most people seem to have a preset opinion that a dual cab is the way to go.
Sure, if you have a big family with older kids, and want to use the ute as your main around town vehicle for work and shopping, then you can’t beat a dual cab. But as you will see in this article, it’s not always best option for every scenario, particularly in 4x4 touring situations!
To begin, let’s just clarify what kind of vehicles are covered by single cabs, extra cabs and dual cabs. The key differences are in cab space and tray length. We’re assuming you’re looking at tray backs, not styleside tubs, because you need a tray to mount a slide on camper on for maximum touring convenience. Check out our article on why you’d choose a slide on camper over a camper trailer.
So here’s the key differences between these 4x4 touring setups:
Single cabs involve a cab which fits two people. All the different vehicle manufacturers call this configuration the ‘single cab’. The cab only has two doors, and the tray is usually 2400 or 2500 mm in length.
Dual cabs are exactly what they sound like, a double sized cab to fit double the number of people (in some cases +1 more). The cab will have four standard doors (the back doors are usually smaller than the front). All vehicle manufacturers refer to this configuration as the ‘dual cab’. The larger cab results in a shorter tray, usually 1800 mm in length.
Extra cabs are somewhere in between, and often the cause of confusion. Most vehicle manufacturers have their own special name for the extra cab (i.e. Toyota’s extra cab, Nissan’s king cab, Mazda’s freestyle cab, Ford’s supercab, and Holden’s space cab). For the sake of maintaining sanity, we’ll stick with extra cab throughout the article.
An extra cab is basically one and a half single cabs, with enough room to squeeze two extra passengers in behind the front seats (....just). Most newer models have four doors like a dual cab, but the back doors are far smaller and sometimes pivot open from the rear, not the front (i.e. sometimes called suicide doors).
Some older models don’t have back doors at all, and rear passengers have to enter buy squeezing through the gap behind the front seat, like a little two door coupe / hatch.
Extra cab trays vary in size between 1950 mm and 2200 mm in length, depending on the dealer's stock options. Generally longer than a dual cab, and shorter than a single cab.
These days, not really. All your different makes, models and configurations come with the modern features and comforts like auto, diff lock, cruise control etc..
Once upon a time, your single cabs and extra cabs were much more basic, or should we say, work specific, and dual cabs were the only models with urban style creature comforts. But these days, four wheel drive utes of all kinds are much more common in the urban world, and thus have a good mix of off road features as well as creature comforts.
The most common difficulty we hear about, regarding which 4x4 touring setup to go for, is between the extra cab and dual cab. Both vehicle configurations have been increasing in popularity for years, because they appear to offer the ‘best of both worlds’ option.
They can be taken off road (how far depends on what running gear they have), and they have the extra cab space to be used as a ‘round town’ family runner.
This may come as a surprise!
Here at the Trayon factory, around half of all of our slide on camper orders are manufactured for extra cab utes. Considering that there are three main ute configurations available, that’s pretty significant.
The extra cab is the most popular configuration for a Trayon in Australia, as well as our overseas branches like Trayons slide on camper Europe.
Let’s breakdown the pros and cons of each ute configuration, and how they pair with a Trayon, to demonstrate why this is.
Each different 4x4 touring setup has consequences for the following:
While this comprehensive guide to 4x4 touring setups will demonstrate why the extra cab is the most popular Trayon partner, it doesn’t mean the extra cab just automatically ‘wins’. You need to consider the benefits in light of your needs.
Sure, one configuration may be better for day-to-day use, but what if you plan on going off road camping road alot? On the flip side, maybe another configuration will prove the best Outback expedition vehicle, but provide less day-to-day convenience.
For example, if you only have the grandkids in the back seats 5% of the time, then is a huge amount of cab space really worth it?
Let’s find out.
This is step one, because there is no point looking at other aspects if you can’t fit your regular passengers in a comfortable way.
Here’s some considerations;
Warning: To stuff any adults in the back of an extra cab for longer than two hours drive may warrant an uber! Leg room is very small.
Also, bear in mind that with an extra cab or dual cab, you can put the front seats back so the passenger can have a nap; not an option in single cabs. The cab rear wall is right against back of the seat.
Before putting any option on the chopping block, what you need to ask yourself is, “how important is extra passenger space?” For example:
Taking all this into account, here’s our recommendations:
The tray length of your vehicle is the biggest influencer of what Trayon model you can get.
Remember, the standard tray lengths for each ute configuration are:
Tray lengths can be altered, but to keep it simple, we’ll explain this section using these standard dimensions, and discuss tray alterations later in the article. Most people don’t want to modify a brand new vehicle anyway. You’re just better off choosing the right one from the outset!
The important point is, your 4x4 touring setup will determine which Trayon models available to you, which then drives what Trayon camper layout you have. This also has a range of other flow on impacts we explain further into the article.
Here is a quick run down of our cornerstone Trayon class 2 camper models on offer:
Importantly, the 1830, 1980 and 2100 model names do not reflect tray length requirements, they reflect width.
The 1830 model: At 1830 mm wide, and 2200 mm long, it is made to suit mid range four wheel drive single cabs and extra cabs (with an 1800 mm wheelbase), ideally with a tray length at least 2100 mm.
We’ve been fitting Trayon campers on trays of 2100 mm since the early 2000’s, and it works a charm. They can slightly overhang the rear of such a tray, but it’s no issue, we just make use of different attachment points. The only thing to note is that it can overhang the tow hitch, but there is still 300 to 400 mm gap, so there is actually very little impact!
The 1980 model: At 1980 mm wide, and 2200 mm long, it is made to suit wider single cab and extra cab 4x4 touring setups (e.g. Nissan Patrols and VW Amarok etc.), ideally with a tray length at least 2100 mm. The Trayon 1980 can also go on mid range utes like the 1830 can, it just overhangs the sides ever so slightly and this is also something we have done for a very long time. Some people prefer a bigger camper inside and hardly even notice the slight side overhang.
The Dual model: The dual model is the same width as the 1830 model (1830 mm), but is only 1800 mm in length, to suit mid range four wheel drive dual cabs with a standard 1800mm long dual cab tray.
The Dual-wide model: The dual-wide model is the same width as the 1980 model (1980 mm), but is only 1800 mm in length, to suit wider dual cabs, with a standard 1800mm long dual cab tray.
The Traymate: This is a different, more simplistic class of camper. It can be feature customized to drastically reduce the price tag, while retaining Trayon’s extremely high quality. It is basically our budget camper range based around a strong aluminium canopy and a high quality roof top tent.
The Traymate is 1830 wide, and 1800 mm long, meaning it’s perfect size for a standard dual cab tray. We are developing a version to suit the longer trays of single cabs and extra cabs in the near future. However, there is nothing stopping you from sliding our current Traymate model on the longer tray of a single cab or extra cab!
Trayon class 2 models for standard utes range between 370 Kg and 410 Kg, which is lighter than any other camper you will find offering the same facilities and comforts. The 2100 model is 430 kg, and probably still lighter than all other slide on campers on the market!.
The Traymate (a class 1 camper), in its simplest form, is a staggering 175 kg!
For each class 2 Trayon model (e.g. 1830, 1980, dual, dual-wide and 2100), there are three different versions you can pick from to suit your desired level of facilities and camping comfort:
You can check out the differences by ordering a Trayon brochure.
Traymate campers are highly customizable and the facilities depend on what you want.
This table summarizes which Trayon models each standard style of ute can take. It highlights why dual cabs are your most limited ute configuration:
|4x4 Touring Setup|
|Single Cab||Extra Cab||Dual Cab|
|1830 model |
(full length Trayon)
(full length Trayon)
|Dual model |
(reduced length Trayon)
(reduced length Trayon)
|2100 model||For small and large trucks, not standard utes|
Footnote: Yes = can take the model, No = cannot take the model
Let’s have a look at the consequences of this.
The overhang helps to house the bed and fold out canvas structure, ensuring the areas above your waist remain as spacious as single cab/extra cab models (when folded out). The overhang is built at a height of 900 mm, so the vehicle must have a cab and tray headboard lower than 890 mm measured from the tray load surface up. This allows ten milimetres of clearance between the camper and the vehicle's roof.
No such overhang occurs in standard single cab or extra cab models.
On bigger vehicles with cabs taller than 890 mm, we have to increase the height of certain Trayon structures, to raise the camper up and over the taller cab (which incurs an extra $1500 on build price).
Next we explain the consequences of each ute 4x4 touring setup and their Trayon model limits on the following:
Very briefly, here is how a Trayon works:
And here is the difference between the internal layout each type of Trayon camper:
The two main things you should notice about the dual cab 4x4 touring range are:
These differences are basically all from the waist down. From waste up, you are in the upper camper section (the folded out canvas bedroom area) which is the same size for all models. Hence why the dual cab range, which aren’t as long as the other models, overhang the cab.
This doesn't take away from dual cab 4x4 touring range, it has all the same specifications than the single/extra-cab models. The dual cab range can actually sleep more people than the single cab/extra cab model (approx 5 people vs 3 people), because the altered internal configuration allows us to insert a single bed above the kitchenette. It’s comfortable and has all the functions and features….it’s just a bit more cozy.
In truth, very little. However t, ere are a few situations where more internal space of a single cab/extra cab Trayon can be very handy, such as:
The dual cab range will still satisfy these scenarios of course, but you’ll just have to keep your wings tucked in a bit ;).
If you don’t need the full size extra seats of a dual cab for the purpose of extra passengers, then the single cab/extra cab 4x4 touring setup options will maximise your camping comfort levels!
If you are concerned that you need that dual cab space, not for people, but for storage, the next section explains how to tackle that.
Differences in gear storage fall off the back of the size of the tray (for want of a better phrase), the model of Trayon, and where the Trayon is positioned on the tray.
The main storage spaces available around your ute style rig will include:
Let’s see which ute 4x4 touring setups have the most appropriate storage space for you.
Dual cabs and extra cabs provide a significant amount of cab space for gear storage, particularly if there’s no one sitting in the back. Cab space is very useful for delicate, sensitive gear because it’s very secure, dust free and easy to access.
This makes it a good place for a secondary fridge (i.e beer fridge!), so you can take beverages when you go off roading with the Trayon freestanding back on your campsite. You can run the fridge off an auxiliary battery.
You can even get structures built into the cab space to keep stored gear more secure and organised for you 4x4 touring setup adventures.
The additional cab length of extra cabs and dual cabs provides for more space for roof racks or cages than single cabs. However, because the dual cab Trayon range overhangs the cab, there is actually less roof space left on a dual cab carrying a Trayon, than an extra cab!
It’s a perfect place to store gear which is okay to be more exposed to the elements like jerry cans and a second spare tyre.
Don’t like the idea of pulling down a 25 to 45 kg spare tyre from your roof?
Well here’s a few points to put out your spare tyre fire:
Only then, will you have to reach for a second spare. And in that situation, you’ll just be super happy you had a second spare on your roof anyway!
Plus, it’s far better for weight distribution and off road performance than attaching a spare to the back of the camper (a back mounted spare puts a lot of extra strain on your vehicles running gear, which we will explain in more detail in the off road performance section further on).
The extra roof rack space also provides more room to attach a good sized extra awning which can be used with or without the Trayon (e.g on the opposite to the Trayon’s fold out area).
We build storage space into the Trayon, underneath the actual camping compartment. So it’s in between the tray, and the camping unit above. It’s where we insert the back-up auxiliary water tanks, but we can also insert extra underbody storage drawers (for tools, recovery gear, fishing gear etc.), grey water tanks and more.
The extra length of single cab and extra cab Trayon models means there is more available space in this bottom area of the Trayon than dual cab 4x4 touring rigs.
When a Trayon is closed up, it provides a heap of extra space to store your gear.
The fact that this space remains available when a Trayon is closed up, means it has far more storage space than most other campers in this class range. This space disappears in many other campers when they are packed up.
You can store all manner of things like comfy camping chairs, weber BBQs, and all sorts of camping comforts!
With a dual cab ute carrying a dual model Trayon, you’re going to have a bit less storage space than the full length Trayon models on a single cab or extra cab.
Undercarriage storage includes the areas where gear can be stored underneath the tray of the vehicle.
Spare tyres and other gear like water tanks, batteries and compressors can all be stored here, but you can also add small storage boxes underneath the back corners, just beware of the extra weight and strain this can place on your running gear.
The extra length of single cab trays and many extra cab trays provide the most room for undercarriage storage.
This is a storage space only available with single cab 4x4 touring setups.
A single cab with a tray length of 2400 mm to 2500 mm can provide a 300 - 350 mm storage gap between the cab headboard and a Trayon camper. You can even order a tray with a removable headboard, adding an extra 100 mm for a total of 400 mm of storage space behind the cab!
Ideally, you can attach a storage box in this space, or a gullwing style box (with doors which swing up) for easier access. This makes a good spot for things like recovery gear (highlift jacks aka kangaroo jacks, hand winches etc.), jerry cans and spare tyres.
It results in a similar set up to an extra cab, except the extra cab space is retained inside the cab, while on the single cab, it is exterior on the tray and behind the cab.
To bring all of that storage comparison together, here is a summary:
Because single cab utes and extra cab utes can both carry a full size Trayon, it is the balanced spread of storage space which gets the extra cab’s nose in front so far in our playoff.
The effect of the vehicles 4x4 touring setup and the Trayon model for off road performance revolves around weight distribution and the centre of gravity.
All Trayon’s are built to do two key things:
This keeps the vehicle extremely stable on all sorts of terrain, and reduces the stress placed on your running gear (i.e. suspension, axles, chassis etc.).
Trayon is already one of lightest (if not the lightest) slide on campers in it’s range! But our unique weight distribution profile takes Trayon performance to the next level.
Trayon campers have more than 65% of their weight in first ⅓ of the front of the camper, so it's pushing as much weight as far forward as possible.
In this first front third, you have:
Because all of this gear is kept down low, your vehicle’s centre of gravity will stay nice and low. Utilizing the Trayon underbody storage area can lower it even further.
In a single cab or extra cab, this ‘gear loaded’ front third of a Trayon sits in front of the rear axle.
In a dual cab 4x4 touring setup, it sits directly over the top of the rear axle, because the cab is larger and pushes the camper further back than the other ute styes.
Both achieve the goal of bringing it all forward towards the centre of the vehicle, but the single cab and extra cab options will have slightly less strain on your running gear, because it is slightly further forward than the dual cab models.
For the same reason, the advantage of the additional ‘behind cab’ storage space in single cabs, and the large amount of roof storage space in extra cabs, can further centre the weight and reduce running gear strain.
In fact, a single cab 4x4 touring setup, with a Trayon brought all the way butted up to the cab, and a shorter tray, probably provides the most stable off road rig out of all Trayon options (and any other camper brand options too!).
The take home point is that single cabs and extra cabs set-up with a Trayon provide the best weight distribution profile out of your vehicle 4x4 touring setup options.
Many other camper brands don’t even have a forward facing weight distribution method. In fact some don’t have a method at all! This means they aren't much different to an un-thought-out home job, which can place massive weight towards the back of your vehicle, putting huge stress on your vehicle’s suspension and chassis!
So, even though the front third of a Trayon sits slightly further back on a dual cab, it will still outcompete most off-road camper 4x4 touring setups around the world through; (1) its very light weight, and (2) its extremely effective weight distribution method.
Having a centred weight distribution and a low centre of gravity has the following benefits for off road travel:
These are massive benefits when taking your 4x4 touring setup through rugged country, so the more weight over the middle of your vehicle, and the lower centre of gravity you can achieve, the better!
If you’re wondering about the best 4x4 touring suspension setups, check out our recent article about 4x4 Suspension. It also explains some important points about your vehicles legal load bearing limits and how to increase them.
Let’s bring it all together.
A standard single cab ute paired with a Trayon offers the following:
It has the following downsides:
A standard dual cab ute paired with a Trayon offers the following:
It has the following downsides:
A standard extra cab ute paired with a Trayon offers the following:
It has the following downsides:
Using this breakdown, it confirms that an extra cab 4x4 touring setup provides the most rounded, well balanced option for Trayon based off road travel!
This is reflected in our sale trends. Around half of all our orders are to suit extra cab utes.
Of course, single cabs and dual cabs also serve a purpose too, and it’s hard to go wrong with any ute if a Trayon’s on the back. But unless you need those ute styles for special purposes, we recommend the extra cab as the best Trayon partner to make a complete 4x4 touring package!