A few years ago now, we posted a photo showing some campers relaxing and enjoying the benefits of camping with a Trayon. The tagline read ‘Stress is caused by not camping enough’. Little did we know just how fast that photo would spread. It turned viral! Here it is:
It was great to see how many people could relate to it. It demonstrated how many of us share the idea that camping reduces stress. But, we want to fully understand why.
This article delves into the psychology behind the benefits of camping. It also explains:
In our everyday lives, everything seems to slowly wind up the stress levels:
There’s no two ways about it – modern urban life is stressful!
Many of us live, sleep, work and play indoors, amongst a concrete man made universe which never rests. We commute from one man made environment to another, over and over, for our entire lives!
No wonder we come home from work feeling the pinch. Ever feel tired, even after a good sleep? An overdose of modern urban life probably has something to do with it. Never before in human history have we been so disconnected from nature and the environment.
To de-stress, we often try and zone out at home, using things like books, the television or social media. The problem is, these attempts to mentally escape are still occuring in a man made environment. This means we’re not really escaping at all!! It’s like fighting fire with fire!
Why? Because the benefits of camping are cheaper than therapy!
In the 90’s, there was an interesting theory developed by Dr Steve Kaplan, a professor in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, called Attention Restoration Theory.
It suggests that the reason we get so stressed in our modern urban lives, is because the modern urban environment demands so much constant concentration and attention. It’s unnatural and it’s hard to understand. Our attention capacity becomes fatigued, and it decreases. Everything begins to feel stressful, all of the time.
Kaplan’s research, in addition to various other studies, suggests that an effective way to de-stress and reset your attention span is to spend time immersed in natural environments.
Natural environments are particularly rich in the characteristics necessary for restorative experience (Kaplan 1995)
A 1991 study by Ulrich et al., looking into the stress recovery effects of natural versus urban environments, found natural environments to have a higher “stress reducing or restorative influence”. It attributed this influence to the more “positively-atoned emotional state” invoked by natural environments.
Simply put, it means being in the Outback, as we like to call it in Australia, makes you happy. And happiness leads to less stress.
Kaplan’s Attention Restorative Theory explains that the most important ‘stress relieving’ effect of the natural environment is “soft fascination”. Soft fascination happens when surroundings capture your attention effortlessly. Think mesmerising mountain ranges, waterfalls, beaches or tropical billabongs. You can sit and observe for hours. The natural sounds, smells and sights fill your mind with calming experiences you have evolved to understand and enjoy.
Kaplan’s research further suggested that the restorative effects of soft fascination in natural environments could be increased by:
For many of us, camping means spending extended periods living a simple life in our favourite places, amongst mesmerising environments. So for stressed individuals, the stress reducing benefits of camping should be just what the doctor ordered!
Long periods camping in the Outback = very happy campers! Why? Because it means longer exposure to the benefits of camping.
Although ‘soft fascination’ with our environment provides the strongest stress relieving qualities, the benefits of camping are wide ranging, and all help to increase it’s stress relieving effect. These benefits of camping include:
The resulting health benefits of camping include:
All of this, added to ‘soft fascination’, ultimately means MUCH LESS STRESS!
According to Kaplan’s research, the environments which induce the most ‘soft fascination’ provide the most stress relieving, or ‘attention restoring’ effects.
So it makes sense the most fascinating, mesmerizing and awe inspiring environments will provide the most benefits of camping. They also correspond to healthier pristine environments and less modern distractions!
The catch is, these kind of environments aren’t always accessible via everyday transport like city cars, buses, trains or planes. They’re usually found by driving rugged four wheel drive vehicles deep into the Outback. So the real benefits of camping are waiting at the end of those long rough tracks, like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow!
Any beautiful environments which are easily accessible to everyday transport will be teaming with other people seeking the same stress relieving benefits of camping. The problem is, the more people trying to squeeze into a natural environment, the more busy and stressful the situation becomes!
For a complete body and mind reset, you should be seeking natural environments away from the hoards and unlike anything you’re use to. This means it’s time to get ‘off the beaten track’! In Australia, this means ‘off road’ places like:
The benefits of camping at these destinations are endless.
To get in and out, you need the right camping rig. By camping rig we mean the vehicle plus camping facilities. Off road camping rigs capable of accessing the most awe inspiring places generally include a rugged four wheel drive vehicle, plus one of the following options:
In addition to accessing the best camping environments, the second part to unlocking the benefits of camping and de-stressing, is reducing the stress involved with the camping experience itself. When it comes to stress relief; the journey is just as important as the destination.
Your off road camping rig affects every single step of the camping experience, and therefore drives how much stress is involved!
The whole camping experience Includes:
If using the wrong rig, camping can actually cause more stress, and potentially cancel out the stress relieving benefits of camping and probably discourage you from going. On the flip side, if you have the right camping rig, you will get out there more often to unlock the benefits of camping; even if it is just for a short weekend getaway taken on a moments notice.
For the most stress free camping experience, your camping rig should have the following qualities:
By seeking a rig with these qualities, the benefits of camping will undoubtedly increase.
If your goal is to have an overall stress relieving experience to reset body and mind, we recommend staying away from rigs which involve towing. For example, camper trailers and caravans.
Towing rigs come with the following stress inducing disadvantages:
This all adds potential stress to your trip and can ultimately reduce the benefits of camping. So we are eliminating camper trailers and caravans from the list of stress free camping candidates, due to the added stress of towing.
Check out our article on ‘slide on campers vs off road trailers’ to get a better idea of why trailers create so much extra stress in the Outback.
We also recommend staying away from simple tent setups, due to the reduced ability to deal with a wide variety of conditions. Heavy wind, rain, hail or sun can seriously impact your camping experience in a tent.
You can pack a heap of extra bad weather gear, but then of course it becomes a very stressful process to pack up, set up, and find important things while you’re camping!
Further, being directly on the ground adds a whole new world of conditions to contend with; creepy crawlies, crocs, low wind draft, radiating heat from the soil around, water runoff from heavy rain. All this can make camping in a tent on the ground all the more stressful, and turn the benefits of camping into tears.
They often seem like a good idea. But when you need to drive the vehicle away from camp (for example to access a good fishing or hiking spot or even to go grab some supplies in the local town down the road), you have to pack up the tent every time, then set up again when you’re back! Imagine doing that over and over the whole time.
The stress relieving benefits of camping will slip through your fingers!
Some other negatives include:
The biggest benefit of camping will be the relief once you get home!
We recommend slide on campers as the most stress free option to unlock all the benefits of camping. But not just any slide on camper, as not all slide on campers are the same. Slide on campers differ in the way they attach to your vehicle. This affects profile, weight, and the ability to cope with rough terrain. All factors which can affect stress levels! The difference is:
In general, slide on campers have the following advantages over slide ins’, which make them the most stress free option:
For more information on these differences between the two check out our recent article ‘slide on campers vs slide in campers’.
Trayon campers provide one of the most stress free setups in the slide on camper market, and here’s why:
Trayon has been in the slide on camper game long enough to know exactly what customers need to access the best places, reduce stress levels, and unlock the benefits of camping. Every camper is built to do the job and last a lifetime.
Trayon have not changed the design, layout or the build methodology of their Trayon camper range since 1994! It is still the lightest, strongest and most practical use of space while making for a great weight distribution and combating the normal nasties of touring the outback (like dust inundation and vibrations).
Why do you think you get a 10 year structural warranty that also covers you for off road terrains?
They are basically purpose built to unlock the benefits of camping. It all equates to less stress, and that’s why so many people seek the stress free qualities of a Trayon.
In fact we recently notched up our 1000th camper (you can check out the milestone in our article ‘Trayon’s 1000th Ute Camper’).
With a dry weight of 390 kg (or 370kg for the Dual-cab model), you’ll be very hard pressed finding another slide on camper to match the weight of a Trayon spec for spec.
A Trayon’s lightweight build minimises the stress placed on your vehicle, meaning fewer upgrades are needed. In our recent article, ‘4WD Suspension Upgrade’ we discuss what the best suspension option is when carrying a light slide on camper to make sure your rig is off road ready.
The benefits of camping are increased when you don’t have to worry about your vehicle!
When packed up, the camper is barely larger than the profile of the vehicle, meaning wind resistance and fuel consumption is reduced. It also means you have more chance to get through very tight overgrown tracks.
The low profile also makes it simple and stress free to store at home or in the backyard, waiting patiently for your next trip.
It takes one person approximately three minutes to set up, with a beer well underway by the five minute mark! While your kicking back and de-stressing, other campers will still be hammering in their pegs!
One person can extend the legs and drive the vehicle out from underneath the free standing camper in approximately 6 minutes. This means the vehicle is free to use whenever you need and you can leave base camp all set up and fully functional!
Every camper is made in Australia and comes with a 10 year structural warranty. This is a huge advantage over imported campers, where a foreign warranty and poor access to warranty and repair support can cause a significant amount of stress in the Outback.
Bear in mind that some components of a Trayon, such as the fridge and hot water system (in Deluxe and Diesel Deluxe models) are built elsewhere and installed by Trayon.
We source and use the best items we can find to do the job properly and reliably. But we can’t prevent this gear from malfunctioning on the very rare occasion. In these cases we will do everything we can to help amend any issues within the bounds of warranty, using our Australian wide contact base.
The last thing we want is for something like this to impact your benefits of camping.
A Trayon is built to ensure packing and correctly distributing weight (i.e. in front of the vehicle’s rear axle) is an easy task, and all facilities are easily accessible. Poor storage and access is a huge source of stress and does not help to absorb the real benefits of camping.
With a Trayon you won’t need to be digging around in the back for hours or unpacking a tower of gear to get to the bottom item in a Trayon.
A Trayon keeps you dry and comfortable in any conditions. We also provide options for more bad weather protection such as the camper fly extension.
You can function just as well inside a Trayon as you can outside. So when the elements set in (wind, rain, midges, flies, mossies and so on) you can retreat to the inside of the camper, behind your aluminium framed security lockable door and carry on relaxing and sucking in those benefits of camping! Lay on the bed, or sit at the lounge and perfect your poker game while enjoying a cuppa from the cooktop, or a cold beer from the fridge.
You can also cook inside or outside a Trayon camper, depending on the elements. The Trayon camper allows you to choose. That’s exactly what a proper ‘all weather shelter system’ should should do!
The point is, a Trayon will provide the most stress free camping setup available.
They’re purpose built for you to achieve the main goal of camping – relaxing through the stress relieving qualities of beautiful, pristine and remote natural environments.
Other options could actually increase your stress levels, not decrease them. They aren’t built to unlock the real benefits of camping.
So if your looking to escape the concrete Jungle and come home fully refreshed, do it in a Trayon!Email Us
You’ve seen plenty of off road trailers, but this is something revolutionary!
Imagine a trailer built for Australia’s toughest terrain, which has three split personalities:
This multi purpose off road trailer is the first of its kind in Australia!
And for those who already own a Trayon slide on camper, but no longer have a ute to carry it, the Trailer Mount Option (TMO) off road trailer will breathe new life into your beloved camping set up!
Welcome to Trayon’s new TMO trailer, built for work AND play!
TMO stands for ‘trailer mounted option’, which refers to the ability to slide a Trayon camper onto the tray. But check out what else it can do, we’ll paint you a few pictures:
You get the picture…
Just wait, it gets better!
The evolution of the TMO off road trailer is a very interesting story! It also explains how we managed to pack the trailer with so many possibilities.
After 25 years crafting high quality slide on campers, Trayon accumulated a huge number of customers. We recently celebrated our Trayon #1000!
Customers fell in love with their Trayon camper, sliding it on their ute and exploring the outback year after year. Although the Trayon could last forever, their utes couldn’t. Eventually, even the toughest rigs need a rebuild or a trade in. Many went for a wagon style four wheel drive, often for family reasons. The problem was they couldn’t part with their Trayon!
Rather than buy a whole new camping set up through a different company, they asked us if we could build a trailer so they could slide on their beloved Trayon camper and keep touring the outback with confidence and comfort.
From there, the TMO off road trailer style slowly evolved generation after generation into a trailer which fits every purpose! All the while making sure that the primary purpose was to ensure our customers could continue to use their reliable Trayon camper.
It’s evolution hasn’t stopped either, and the opportunities are as exciting as they were 15 years ago!
We developed three different generations of TMO off road trailer as we learned and understood more and more about our customer’s needs. All TMO off road trailer generations were off road ready, but each generation differs in one key way – the number of modules.
The first generation TMO off road trailer was basically a platform to carry a slide on camper; effectively a one module trailer. This satisfied the original need of Trayon customers, but we questions about extra storage space.
The second generation TMO off road trailer solved the storage needs. We added storage space on the front of the trailer in the form of a strap on box or aerodynamic nose cone, which ever the customer desired. This turned it into a two module trailer.
Then one day we got an interesting request from a customer in serious need.
We were asked to help a customer out who couldn’t get his wife to go camping. She needed a “proper toilet”, she said.
However, we didn’t want to squeeze a toilet inside his slide on camping unit. Who wants a toilet thrashing about inside the living space in bumpy off road conditions?
There’s an old wives tale that one of the most ancient and experienced groups of road trippers in the world – the gypsies – wouldn’t touch caravans with internal toilets for this reason (okay, modern gypsies). If that’s not rock solid evidence, then we don’t know what is!
So we developed a fully enclosed luxury ensuite, and sat it right in between the nose cone and the slide on camper! This created a three module trailer; and the third generation of TMO off road trailer was born!
You can check out this latest style of off road trailer on our website.
But wait, the stories not over yet!
The TMO off road trailer featured on our website is just the latest version.
The best thing about this trailer is the fact it’s not a strict design which is forced through a production line. You aren’t even locked in to the third gen, three module style. One or two modules may be enough for your needs.
Not only is the entire trailer multi purpose, each one of the three available modules is multi purpose. That’s basically, triple multi purpose…. ?
When ordering a TMO off road trailer you’ll be given the option to customise everything.
As a result no two TMO off road trailers are ever the same! The one you get is completely unique.
Here’s an idea of the variety.
The first module, the nose box or cone is basically open storage real estate. We can fit it out with things like a fridge, kitchenette, brackets to hold special items, or just leave it free as a flexible storage space.
Although we advertise the TMO off road trailer with the ensuite in the middle module, it too can be fitted out for other purposes, for example:
This is one of the choices which makes this off road trailer really special. The ensuite sits in front of the tray, and is perfect for a variety of situations (not just to get the boss lady to go camping), for example:
If your using a deluxe or diesel deluxe slide on camper on the back, that actually means two showers and two toilets, which is perfect for big family camping adventures.
First of all, you drop down the front steps of the middle module.
The door opens to the shower, and the toilet is at the back of the module. In between is a nice little space with a towel rack which can be used as a changeroom.
Even the toilets are customizable. We like to fit TMO off road trailers with a ceramic-bowl cassette toilet, which we then upgrade with a chemical free conversion kit.
What does that mean you ask?
It means you can dispose of the waste and water in the cassette without the risk of any chemical environmental impacts. It also means you can throw it down long drop compost dunny’s, and it won’t mess with the natural decomposition process.
Many full size twin axle off road caravans don’t even have an internal shower (many have external showers instead).
There are two main options for hot water in the TMO off road trailer ensuite:
Option two means you can have hot water showers even when the camper isn’t on the tray!
You can also add more water tanks underneath the tray if you have higher water requirements.
You even have the option to add grey water capture and storage. If you frequently camp in pristine environments or near natural water systems, this grey water option is a great way to minimise your chemical footprint.
Standard tray size comes ready to chuck a slide on camper on the back.
However, tray size can be modified to carry specific things. We even have a special model called the Toy Hauler which comes as a dual axle job. The extra length allows you to carry larger toys.
A variety of accessories can be attached underneath any TMO off road trailer tray such as extra water tanks, storage boxes, large rear trundle drawers, deep cycle batteries, or spare tyres (pretty handy if you have a toy hauler with two extra axles, or you’re going remote and need as many spares as you can carry)!
We fitted one rig in the past with four 90L water tanks, which demonstrates how much room there is down there!
It doesn’t end there either. More tray options include styleside tray sides, rope rails, and tie downs.
This means the tray can be used for a huge variety of purposes, such as:
With a one tonne payload capacity, the TMO off road trailer isn’t just a leisure trailer, it’s ready for hard work in any conditions.
Most single purpose box trailers can only carry between 500 to 750 kgs and are limited to on road work.
Even with a Trayon camper on the back, which weighs around 400 kg empty, you’ll still have up to 700 kg of available payload on the TMO off road trailer (depending on what other attachments you have fitted the trailer with). When fully loaded, the standard TMO off road trailer has an Aggregate Trailer Mass (ATM) of 2 tonne. That’s its legal “full load” capacity (i.e. trailer + payload).
The off road trailers flatbed aluminium tray is normally 2.3 metres (length) by 1.98 metres (width), providing enough space for most jobs.
If that’s not enough, the twin axle Toy Hauler version has 1500 kg of available payload even with a Trayon Camper already on it (and depending on which other accessories you decide to add). This takes its ATM, or legal “full load” capacity (trailer + payload), up to 3.5 tonne!
Think long extended trips to remote work sites with a load of tools and/or machinery, a slide on camper, 300 – 400 L water capacity (when extra water tanks are added under the tray), and your own ensuite!
We build these off road trailers with hard off road work in mind. With 25 years experience in the off road camper industry, we know what’s required to get a vehicle in and out of Australia’s toughest terrain, and have applied that to our trailer design.
The foundation of the TMO’s toughness – the chassis – was designed with sheer strength in mind. It was the brainchild of Scholtz and Vernon, Trayon’s owner and manager respectively, and both qualified in motor vehicle manufacturing, truck, bus and trailer.
“The chassis is what allows the TMO off road trailer to be so versatile!”
The chassis is made of 3 mm gauge steel beams (2 inch x 6 inch) that run the full length of the trailer from the tow hitch to the very back end, and is further strengthened by a ladder frame design.
After welding, the frame is hot dip galvanised, making it rust resistant.
Independent off-road coil suspension is attached directly to the chassis beam running straight through the trailer (we generally like to fit our TMO off road trailers with suspension rated over the maximum legal weight of the loaded trailer, just to cover off all possible situations).
This is far superior to the ‘sub frame’ design of many caravans and trailers, where the draw bar is welded underneath the front of the trailer’s chassis, which can create a weak point (i.e. the weld) between the point where the suspension attaches to the chassis, and the tow ball. The TMO’s suspension basically runs straight off the tow ball.
Optional upgrades include billow style airbag suspension (to change travel height or level the camper on uneven campsites), larger rollover bags or bigger coils.
We generally like to install twin shock absorbers on all TMO off road trailer as they share the load and it allows for backup shocks in place already in case of failure.
TMO’s generally come with six stud steel Sunrasia Landcruiser rims (zero offset) which, along with wheel track, will match many vehicles. Our standard tyres are 265/75/R16 All Terrains.
We use 12 inch electric drum brakes plus heavy duty tapered wheel bearings.
Two spare tyres are mounted on Trayon’s TMO signature swing-away carriers, attached the rear of the trailer. In our gen three TMO the spare tyre brackets swing away in an arc, which means it’s easier to put a spare back on the rack, as opposed to a standard set up where it’s basically a deadlift!
The TMO comes with a 4×4 articulating 2T or 3.5T Hyland style off road trailer hitch (including handbrake) to fit a 50 mm ball. This means it fits the majority of vehicles. It also means it can be towed by other people in emergencies out bush.
The articulating hitch is ideal to maintain control while it’s moving and swinging around at different angles to the vehicle.
You’ll also get two military grade jocky wheels to level trailer when detached, and also providing for easier movement by hand in soft ground.
All of our single axle TMO trailers are ready to follow your vehicle where ever you want to go.
Our only ‘semi off road’ trailer is the Toy Hauler. Due to a more complex dual axle design providing more weight carrying capacity, it should be treated similar to a large twin axle off road caravan due its length, extra axles and fully loaded weight carrying capacities.
The beauty of the slide on system is, if you want to explore an area which prohibits trailers (i.e, for conservation reasons), you can slide the Trayon camper off the trailer and onto your ute, leave the trailer at a mates or van park, and complete any track you want. When you return, simply slide the camper back on the trailer and continue on your way.
When towing a trailer through rough conditions, the thumps and bumps can result in up to three times the weight of the tow ball crashing down on your vehicle’s tow bar, sending huge force back through the vehicle’s chassis and suspension.
Even though its super strong, the TMO trailer is still light, only weighing 900 kg when empty and placing 81 kg on the a tow ball (thats without a slide on camper on the back). This minimises its impact on your vehicle when driving in rough terrain.
When loaded up to its maximum payload capacity of 1 tonne, the trailer weighs a total of 2 tonnes, placing around 170 kg on the tow ball.
Many off road caravans with equivalent camping facilities will place way over 200 kg and up to 350 kg down on your tow ball – the TMO is well within the carrying and towing capacity of most off road vehicles.
For information about your vehicle’s carrying and towing capacity check out our article ‘Buying an off road camper? Here’s everything you ought to know’.
And if you’re wondering whether or not to get a 4wd suspension upgrade, we answer the question in the article ‘Do I need a 4WD Suspension Upgrade?’.
Another advantage of the TMO off road trailer is its stability while being towed.
This is in part due to its unique weight distribution profile. While most off road trailers have a 60/40 profile (i.e. 60% of the weight is in front of the axle, and 40% behind), the TMOs profile is approximately 70/30. The axle is set back slightly further than other off road campers and caravans.
The result is, when travelling at any speed it will track square, stable and correct instantly (for example when dodging Emu’s in the NT, Cane toads in Cairns, or hipsters in Melbourne haha!).
Reversing is also made easier by the 70/30 profile, because the wheels are slightly further back than other off road campers and caravans, meaning it doesn’t flick around so quickly.
Even that mate who takes 15 attempts to back down a boat trailer down the ramp will work this one out, and if that mate is you, well even better!
When we’re asked about the cost of a TMO off road trailer, we reply with a smile, “how long is a piece of string?” Followed by:
There’s so many variables that it’s very difficult to give you a straight answer, but we’ll try:
These prices don’t include a Trayon camper, which comes in a few different versions and prices (but is generally an extra $30,000 – $41,000).
To investigate slide on camper options check out our article ‘How to Choose a Slide on Camper’.
If you already own a Trayon camper and you’re considering trading in your ute (or already have), you have the option to retrofit any Trayon with all our modern gear, and continue to explore the outback in your Trayon camper with a TMO off road trailer.
First and foremost, we are a slide on camper manufacturer, but we are always excited and passionate about helping Trayon customers hang on to their reliable Trayon camper, long after they trade in their utes.
We didn’t just run with this idea. We ran over the hill and into the sunset, creating a trailer that really is whatever you want it too be.
So whether you’re already a proud Trayon owner, a speculative buyer without a ute, or just interested in this revolutionary trailer design for work and play, the TMO has you covered.
So maybe you’ve noticed that Trayon offer one of the lightest, if not the lightest, slide on camper in its class?
After looking around at the slide on camper range, you may ask “do I still need to upgrade my vehicle’s 4WD suspension?”
Many other slide on manufacturers start with a dry weight well above 600, 700 even 800 kg+. This leaves little to no room for gear within the maximum load carrying capacity (people, gear, fuel, water etc.) of most Australian utes (which is commonly around one tonne). Going over your vehicle’s load carrying limits can have serious consequences for insurance, warranty and the law. Not to mention the huge safety risk. This makes a 4WD suspension upgrade an absolute must!
Trayon campers are built specifically to be well within your vehicle’s unmodified load carrying limits. Trayon’s class 2 slide on camper dry weight starts at 390 kg. When fully loaded with everything you need for a full swing off road adventure, it can push up to 700 kg quickly (depending on the load you choose to add of course).
That’s well within the one tonne carrying capacity of many Australian utes.
So since it is within safe load carrying limits, why would you still need a 4WD suspension upgrade?
Well, here’s the answer.
If the question is solely about the ability of the vehicle to handle the weight of a Trayon, then “no, generally you don’t need to upgrade 4WD suspension to carry the weight, so long as the slide on camper is loaded properly.” This means the majority of the weight is above or in front of the rear axle (food, water, gear).
But wait, there’s more to it than that! You’re asking the right question, but for the wrong reasons.
The team at Trayon regularly get this question from their customers. With over 24 years experience learning the ins’ and outs’ of camping in the Australian outback with slide on campers, we have an answer for you that has been tested and proven time and time again!
First, let’s start by asking a few questions that identify the foundation of your off roading adventure.
Naturally, we get a variety of responses this question. But the key thing we notice across responses, is that everyone seems to have a slightly different view of what ‘off road’ means.
When we refer to ‘off road’, ‘off the beaten track’ or ‘in the Outback’, we mean anything that is off the bitumen.
You don’t have to be hanging three wheels over the edge of a cliff or shooting down Gun Shot Creek up at Cape York Peninsula!
It could be plain gravel, sand, mud, rocks….that’s all off road! Basically, anytime you leave the bitumen you are going ‘off road’, and increase the stress and risk placed on your vehicle. So it’s more about your intention to leave the bitumen and the terrains you wish to cover, than it is about the slide on campers weight.
That’s what really drives the need to consider a 4WD suspension upgrade.
When explaining our 4WD suspension advice to customers, we like to do it from the perspective of a new vehicle. You can apply this advice to your older vehicle, but a second hand vehicle comes with a whole bag of other considerations to do with age, wear and tear, which we won’t discuss in this post.
For example, perhaps the second hand vehicle has been carting one tonne of firewood or trade tools on the same springs for the last 10 years.
The 4WD suspension on that vehicle is almost definitely spent, and will probably need a whole new set up underneath. That’s leaves, coils, shock absorbers; everything probably needs to be replaced.
So let’s start at the top from the perspective of preparing a brand new vehicle for the purpose of going ‘off road’.
If you plan on going off road, that is leaving the bitumen with or without a slide on camper, you will require 4WD suspension work.
We realise there’s an overwhelming amount of potential 4WD suspension upgrades available. For example 4WD shock absorbers, coil springs, sway bars, torsion bars, leaf springs, 4WD suspension lift kits, and airbags to name a few.
We also realise that each private off roading enthusiast you talk to will have a different idea on the best 4WD suspension setup. And the salesman you’re asking are probably giving you a whole different story altogether!
First and foremost, to tackle the Outback with a slide on camper you should be aiming for constant load suspension.
Some Trayon customers do intend on keeping almost entirely to the bitumen. In these cases, some good quality 4WD shock absorbers should do the job to keep you steady for your nomadic road wondering needs.
But in off road situations whilst carrying a load or towing a trailer, constant load suspension is the benchmark.
Constant load 4WD suspension is made to carry a constant load of extra weight at a certain height. Constant load springs vary in the amount of constant weight they can carry, and usually come in the following weight ratings:
For example, a constant load spring rated at 600 kg will keep the vehicle two inches above its standard height when loaded up.
Standard springs in the same situation will sag, as they aren’t designed to handle that constant load. Eventually, something has to give. And you really don’t want to be 500 kilometres from the nearest mechanic when that happens!
The vast majority of mid-range four wheel drives rolling off the showroom floor (e.g. Nissan Navaras, Mitsubishi Tritons, Toyota Hilux’s, Ford Rangers etc.) don’t come with constant load 4WD suspension.
Most car dealers will tell you that these vehicles are one tonne utes (or close too). What they don’t explain is that when a vehicle doesn’t come with constant load 4WD suspension, the springs will sag and the weight will actually be carried on the suspension bump-stops! This can happen regardless of whether your carrying 100 kg of cement for home renovations or a 650 kg fully loaded slide on camper for your weekend camping trip.
When under constant load, your stock standard suspension will most likely sag to various extents.
Here’s a clue; it’s not because they make nice presents at christmas time ;).
Sure, some folks like to bling-up their pride and joy with aftermarket accessories to out do their neighbours ride.
But the real reason is because they make aftermarket off road gear which is needed to make today’s four wheel drives off road ready. The fact that these companies exist and thrive gives you an indication of how serious the off road business is.
Here’s the easiest way to explain it. Today’s mid-range four wheel drives that come off the production have, what we comically refer to as, “soccer mum suspension”. This has nothing to do with gender, or even the development of future socceroo stars, but everything to do with a vehicle’s ability to work hard in the Outback.
Unlike the early 90’s, the reality is a large majority of today’s four wheel drive customers are city folk looking to do city driving. This customer group either want the option to go off road one day in the future, or just need more space for the kids and their soccer boots.
For starters, you use to get constant load suspension!
In the early 90’s “Farmer Joe” takes a Toyota Hilux off the showroom floor, drives it straight to the farm and drops a half tonne of feed or firewood on the back repeatedly for the next 10 years, without 4WD suspension sag!”
Yes, the stiff ride of the Hilux’s constant load 4WD suspension probably knocked his fillings out and now he needs a kidney replacement, but he got that vehicle for a specific purpose. That’s the purpose it was built for – hard work. That includes things like carrying the constant weight of slide on camper off road.
For that very same reason, those older vehicles didn’t suit the average person driving through the city.
To capitalize on the wave of customers buying all wheel drive vehicles like Toyota RAV 4’s with soccer mum suspension, car manufacturers have since softened up 4WD suspension across most four wheel drives, thus appealing to a larger market.
The dual cab market in particular has seen a massive rise in the range of customers they attract, due to their now softer ride.
The issue is, when “Farmer Joe” gets back in today’s ‘one tonne’ four wheel drive ute and loads it up, the suspension sags and drops all the weight on the bump stops. That brings us back to the point about the existence of aftermarket suspension. It exists because it’s a necessity for those wanting to put their 4WD to hard work.
There’s only a few vehicles left standing on the market which come off the showroom floor ready for really hard constant work. Examples of the heavy duty off road workhorse range include the 79 Series Landcruiser single cab chassis, and the Mercedes G Class Professional single cab chassis.
We’ll put it like this; we would much rather spend 9 hours on the highway carting a slide on camper in a mid-range four wheel drive, than in a heavy duty off road workhorse vehicle. That way we’ll keep our fillings, haha!
But on the flipside, we would much rather spend 9 hours on the Canning Stock Route carting a slide on camper in the heavy duty off road workhorse vehicle, than in a mid range four wheel drive. That way we’ll make it home!
This reflects the type of job each vehicle is built for, and what kind of 4WD suspension is required for that job.
That’s the end of our 4WD suspension history lesson.
The moral of the story is, if you own or buy a new mid range four wheel drive and you want to carry or tow weight off road, you’ll need to upgrade the soccer mum suspension.
“Farmer Joe” needs to approach an aftermarket supplier with his 2017 vehicle and get constant load suspension.
We recommend 600 kg constant load suspension, as this will prepare your vehicle for anything the Outback has to throw at you whilst carrying your slide on camper (because you may have to carry or tow things you didn’t plan to!). However, 0-300 kg, or constant 300 kg is also better than your standard springs, just not as versatile as 600 kg.
The other advantage of constant load 4WD suspension is the additional clearance (usually two inches), which is very handy in the Outback to raise your vehicle up and out of harm’s way or stop you from bottoming out!
There’s no question that these upgrades will stiffen up the ride quite a bit, but it’s well worth the trade off.
Because hard working, tough heavy duty suspension is MEANT to kick like a mule!! – Farmer Joe
Don’t worry, it’s not that bad! But for those who may find this an issue, here’s a few good solutions which can be used separately or combined:
You can even fork out a few more rupees for some premium adjustable 4WD shock absorbers like the new ARB BP-51 range. They allow you to adjust the shock absorber from soft, medium or hard settings, giving you more control of ride quality than standard 4WD shock absorbers. They mitigate overheating issues via a removed oil reservoir – you get what you pay for!
A ballast is a weight placed at the rear of the vehicle to smooth out the kick of stiff 4WD suspension.
For example, you can get trays installed which come with an 80 litre water tank underneath the back of the tray. When the vehicle is carrying something heavy, like a slide on camper, you don’t need to fill it up with water. The weight of the load is enough to smooth out the ride.
When the load lightens (i.e. when you slide off the camper) your 4WD suspension stiffens up, and that’s where a ballast filled with water can really help to smooth out the ride and soften the blow of lumps and bumps.
Airbags are sometimes recommended as a good 4WD suspension upgrade to:
Airbag manufacturers recommend deflating the air bag when driving off road to prevent 4WD suspension damage. The damage is caused by the combination of high airbag PSI and violent shocks experienced off road.
With air bag pressure reduced, the weight ends up resting back on the underlying springs anyway, so you may as well have constant load 4WD suspension (which gives you a two inch lift as well!).
If the airbag is left over-inflated, it puts too much pressure on the wrong points of the chassis, potentially causing serious damage to your 4WD suspension or the chassis itself.
This completely defeats their usefulness off road.
GVM refers to gross vehicle mass.
Each vehicle make and model has a unique GVM, which is the total of its own weight plus everything else it can carry. GVM is set by the vehicle’s manufacturer.
If you exceed your vehicle’s specified limits, not only is it ILLEGAL, but it could:
For more information on GVM and how to calculate whether you will exceed it, check out our article ‘how to choose a slide on camper’.
As we have already mentioned, regardless of whether you think your loaded vehicle is under GVM, you may still push your vehicle above its GVM limits during unexpected circumstances in the Outback.
For example, if you’re travelling with another vehicle (which is the safest way to travel in the Outback) and your mate gets bogged or runs into trouble, you may need to carry or tow a heap of extra weight. Sure, you may be exceeding GVM for a good cause, but try telling that to the insurance company!
Basically you need some spare payload for unexpected situations. For this reason, a GVM upgrade to your vehicle’s absolute maximum is a very good idea, even if you think you will not exceed it.
If you’re going to upgrade to constant load 4WD suspension, that’s effectively the workshop side of a GVM upgrade anyway. The second part of the GVM upgrade is the certification.
You may have upgraded to better 4WD suspension, but without certification by a qualified person, you are still legally restricted to your current GVM on paper.
The advantage of getting your GVM upgrade certified is that you’re then covered for whatever you need to do down the track. Your vehicle is ready to take (now or sometime in the near future) upgraded bull bars, tow bars, long range fuel tanks, water tanks, suspension ballasts, plus a full slide on camper setup, without worrying about whether your vehicle is exceeding GVM and therefore illegal.
Every vehicle has limitations when it comes to GVM upgrades, as does every state and territory. So you should enquire with your vehicle’s manufacturer, your government transport departments (both state and federal), and your mechanic before committing to a GVM upgrade.
This way, after registration, you’ve not only saved money by rolling it all up in one 4WD suspension upgrade, you now have a vehicle that is immediately ready for anything, such as:
Yes, it matters. But we won’t be entering into the brand debate.
There’s so many brands of everything out there, all with their own pros’ and cons’, and subject to varying opinions, reviews and experiences, that it’s not worth complicating this post with brands.
All we can say is we have a long standing relationship with ARB and we’re confident in sending Trayon customers their way for suspension upgrades. The advantage is they have workshops all over Australia.
Let’s bring it all back to the start, and summarise our advice.
At a minimum, for 100% bitumen driving (or very close to), better quality 4WD shock absorbers will do the job.
If you plan on leaving the bitumen, even with a lightweight slide on camper, you should aim for 600 kg constant load 4WD suspension and better quality shock absorbers to dissipate the extra kick. Once this is being done, you may as well get the GVM certificate with it for only a few extra dollary’ doos.
If ride stiffness is a real concern, you can try constant load 4WD suspension with lower weight ratings, softer (or adjustable) 4WD shock absorbers and/or install a ballast.
Although important, these 4WD suspension upgrades are just recommendations. They will not make any vehicle invincible.
Even with good gear, while driving long distances in the rough conditions of the Outback, break something you will! People often grossly underestimate the impact of Australia’s offroad conditions on their vehicles.
That’s why its so exciting, and also why the most beautiful untouched destinations are found at the end of a long dirt track. Who knows what will happen! But with adequate preparation, responsible driving to the conditions, and the right off road gear, you can have more control over your own fate. Victory favours the prepared!
No amount of suspension work will compensate for irresponsible driving.
It’s no secret the most beautiful places in the world are often the most difficult to access. Unfortunately, many of these places are off limits to most camper trailers and caravans due to the risk they could break or conservation issues!
If only there was a way to keep the self contained camping unit of a camper trailer, but remove the liability a trailer creates in rough landscapes…..
Or is it slide on camper? Well, it could be either. They are both a type of ute camper. These types of camping set ups can get in places wherever your vehicle can, because they sit directly on it!
This article explains the key differences between the slide on and slide in camper, and compares how they stack up when touring in the outback. There’s nothing like a good old head to head!
Finding the right option is critical in maximising your adventure experience.
A ute camper is a beautifully simple set-up for off road adventures.
Both the slide on and slide in campers consist of a self contained camping unit placed directly onto the back of a ute.
Both types of campers are made for the generalist. They combine the advantages of a camper trailer while removing off-road liability issues, meaning they will suit long or short trips in remote or non-remote areas.
They make a life of touring the backcountry a lot easier:
After half an hour setting up our camper trailer, a ute camper darts in right next to us, flips a few things and the owners were relaxing having a beer five minutes later! I was still hammering in the last pegs! – Camper Trailer Owner
Check out our recent article detailing the differences between slide ons and off road camper trailers.
Once you have made the decision to go down the ute camper path, a path of mobility and durability, it becomes a question of which type of ute camper suits your needs.
Quite simply, it all key differences stem from the foundation of the camper, and that is the mounting method. There are two primary styles of ute platform.
The first is commonly called tub or style-side or tub. The second is called tray-back or flat-deck. Which leads to the following definitions:
The answer depends on which country you’re in.
In the United States slide in campers are more popular because vehicles are bigger (i.e. Ford and General Motors pickup trucks).
There is more room to slide a camping unit into the back of the tub. In these cases, a slide in camper is often chosen due to visual appeal, because there is plenty of space.
In Australia the majority of utes are European or Japanese brands, which are smaller than American vehicles, providing less space in a tub.
As a result, many Australians prefer tray back utes, providing more versatility and functionality in the camper layout, while also improving durability in off road situations. Decisions are more often made on functionality, not aesthetics.
Purpose built slide ons optimise the space to weight ratio and are therefore the preferred option in Australia due to more rugged terrain and more severe stresses incurred while touring or overlanding over long distances.
This is not about which camper is better. It is about which camper is best fit for your purpose. The purpose being to survive all the variety of off-road adventures, and make life in remote destinations easier.
When touring in remote areas, key considerations include:
The camper’s mounting method relates to all of these things, so let’s compare the two methods below.
All vehicles have a maximum amount of weight they can safely support (i.e. the weight of the vehicle plus the weight of its payload). Manufacturers call this the gross vehicle mass (GVM).
Exceeding your vehicle’s GVM can lead to vehicle damage, safety issues and can void your insurance policy. These issues become all the more serious 1000 kilometres from civilisation.
Exceeding your vehicle’s GVM is just the same as exceeding its towing capacity.
As is often the case, once you add the fuel, off-road gear, resources, humans and cargo, there isn’t much available weight load left for typical European and Japanese utes!
Slide on campers: Purpose built slide ons should be made lightweight but strong, in part due to the simple way they attach to the vehicle. There is a good chance a slide on camper will safely fit within your vehicle’s weight allowances.
Our recent article on slide on aluminium ute canopies provides an example of what you can expect from an ultra lightweight camper.
Slide in campers: Slide in campers are usually the heavier option. They are fine if the GVM isn’t an issue. However, if it is a concern they will most likely be unsuitable as they have a much higher center of gravity to accommodate the high walls of the tub.
And thus, more building materials are needed, adding weight. Most slide in campers in Australia exceed the GVM of your average 1-tonne ute.
Check out our guide on how to choose a slide on for an in-depth process to identify your weight allowances.
There is no greater asset in the Outback than being prepared, this includes having the right gear. Essential gear for remote travel includes:
More storage capacity equates to more space to bring essential gear, and even the nice-to-haves.
Slide on campers: The absence of wheel arches in trayback utes means slide ons can utilise more tray space which means more storage capacity and more spacious functional layouts.
Side by side, a slide on verse slide in camper of the same size will demonstrate the slide on has the more internal space and a better weight distribution as heavier items can be located further forward in the design.
Accessing gear via side compartments is also easier with no wheels arches in the way (and there is nothing more annoying than having to unload half the vehicle to get to an item).
Slide in campers: The layout is restricted by the wheel arches of a styleside tub. This restricts storage capacity, camper features and access to gear within as well as something as simple as internal space for two or more occupants.
The type of camper you choose also affects the stability of your vehicle in off road situations. This is related to the campers weight distribution, and how you pack your gear inside.
Slide on Campers: With more space available on a tray-back ute, slide ons don’t need to be built as tall as slide in campers. By allowing you to pack more gear at the tray level, it lowers the vehicle’s centre of gravity, making it more stable in difficult terrain.
Slide on Campers: A slide on camper with the same internal volume as a slide on camper must be built taller, due to less available space in a ute tub. This means less weight at tray level, more weight up high, and thus more instability.
Breaking down in the bush is no one’s cup of tea. The way your camper is mounted can expose weak points in your vehicle, influencing the chance of a remote breakdown.
Some Australian roads are notorious vehicle eaters, such as the Gibb River Road in the Kimberley or the route through Cape York in Tropical Northern Queensland.
These tracks contains hundreds of kilometres of violent corrugations, bulldust holes (a hole in the track which fills with fine dust that hides the hole) and gibber (landscapes filled with pebbles the size of a fist).
Slide on campers: In trayback utes, the tray is usually fixed to the vehicle’s chassis by nuts and bolts. This enables a slide on to utilise the vehicle’s suspension to securely carry a load over rough terrain and the vehicle’s tray is more securely mounted to the vehicle.
Slide in campers: A styleside tub is generally attached using a thread welded to a thin piece of plate steel. When loaded with 400+ kilograms of slide in camper and tackling rough terrain, the tub fastenings can strip from the vehicle’s chassis causing significant damage.
Travelling in the bush or living in remote areas can throw up all sorts of surprises. Who knows what you might need to carry on the back of your vehicle.
Slide on campers: Storage space on a tray-back ute is less restricted than a styleside tub, and thus more flexible. Many slide ons can easily slide off the tray, freeing up the flexible tray space for other uses.
This means those with slide on campers are well equipped to deal with most situations the Outback can conjure. Most trays are made from hardy materials, extruded aluminium is the prefered option for its lightweight and its resistance to scratches, dents and rust.
Slide in campers: A style-side tub can also be used for a range of situations. The range is just less than a tray-back due to it’s awkward layout of usable space plus the presence of 2pak paint means you are less inclined to utilize the load area if it means unsightly scratches or dents which can lead to rust.
Now you know the key differences between a slide on and slide in camper, you may be closer to finding your ideal option.
No, a slide on is still a viable option.
The tub can be replaced with an aluminium tray to mount a slide on so you can feel confident your rig will meet the test of the Outback. This also opens up the other advantages of a tray over a tub.
There is most likely a tray fitter in your local area right now (in Australia) that can easily remove your ute’s tub and set you up with a sturdy tray.
Check out our comprehensive guide to choosing a slide on camper that will suite your needs. There is no reason why you can’t find something that ticks every box!
These days more and more people are exploring the far reaches of the planet on four wheels. More cars on dusty tracks means more frequent and sizeable corrugations, wheel ruts, and unstable river crossings.
Add this to the already rough nature of the country, and a strong safe mobile camping set up is all the more important.
As we have demonstrated, a slide on camper has many advantages over a slide in when the going gets rough, and will give you the confidence you need in your rig when driving off road and into the never never.
Imagine opening your garage to see a sparkling off road camper primed for adventure!
The sight can send even the most focused minds into a daze of endless beaches, tackling crocodile inhabited river crossings or climbing rocky mountains one wheel at a time.
Off road campers come in all styles, shapes, and sizes, which can make choosing one feel like rocket science!
Many buying guides over complicate the decision, when in reality its a straightforward one when a simple methodological order is followed.
Before trying to decipher the nitty gritty, you should decide on a broad style of off road camper. This will resolve many issues up front, side stepping the need to get tied up in technical details.
That’s how we can help!
This article provides everything you ought to know about different styles of off road camper.
We use a simple approach to highlight which style suits you, linking the off road camper to your personal situation and requirements.
First of all, let’s get familiar with the basic off road camper styles out there today.
What this articles covers:
Slide on campers are camping units which sit directly on the tub or tray of your vehicle. There are a few different classes, which are explained in our article ‘how to choose a slide on camper’.
Here we use this term to cover the well known hard and soft floor fold out camper trailers.
We use this term to cover small caravan style off road trailers which can also incorporate some camper trailer features such as pop top, but also they can encompass compact hard roof camper trailers.
The reason we are focusing on these styles is because they provide the most well rounded camping options for off road adventures, and are increasing in popularity.
We don’t cover roof top tents, or full size off road caravans.
Ultimately, your ideal off road camper is something that will make it to your ideal destination and make the experience the best it can be. For many of us, the ideal off road camper is only found after buying the wrong one.
You can avoid the mistake of others by answering these key questions:
Now lets explore these questions in more detail and find the off road camper for you.
Have you got one of those camping spots you regularly go to sooth the soul? Or are you determined to tick off some legendary tracks and destinations like Fraser Island, the Kimberley , Kakadu or Cape York Peninsular?
Sometimes a trailer just isn’t an option.
Trailers cause more damage to roads and terrain than a single vehicle (while also increasing risk of break down). For this reason, many top destinations and small side tracks don’t allow trailer access to prevent additional environmental damage and to reduce track deterioration caused by the extra weight and wheels.
Sometimes your internal explorer will compel you to turn down that little interesting side track branching off to who knows where, but what if there’s no turn-around room for your trailer?
Maybe there’s a fallen tree across the track, an unpassable washout, or a vehicle coming the other way down a steep slope, and you have to reverse all the way out with the trailer behind you?
It will be much easier to reverse out or turn around with a slide on camper instead, allowing you to continue on with your exploration quest! You can tackle those intriguing side tracks knowing you will safely handle most obstacles.
If trailers are not permitted or will not pass the likely obstacles, then you can:
Basically, you need to match your off road camper to the harshest terrain you plan on tackling. Because you are essentially dragging extra axle, wheels, brakes, suspension components through tough terrain in the case of a trailer. The key risks are:
Let’s discuss some of the more common terrain and off road camper performance.
Camper trailers and caravan/camper hybrids built to a good quality will handle corrugations without a problem. However, poor quality builds will be exposed. It’s not a matter of “if”, it’s a matter of “when”.
Hundreds of kilometers of corrugations make quick work of poor quality workmanship and components.
Camper trailers normally have heavy duty eye to eye leaf springs, while caravan/camper hybrids normally have coil springs. Should either type fail, the box/cabin can drop onto the axle, potentially causing a disaster.
A trailer can also cause big problems for the towing vehicle. They tend to bump around on the tow ball, putting tremendous strain on the towing vehicle’s running gear (e.g. gearboxes, differentials and axle bearings).
The towbar and ball is the pivot point between trailer and vehicle, and as it moves up and down, it can drastically increase the weight exerted by your trailer on that point tremendously.
The up and down motion of corrugations, potholes, washouts and ruts, combined with the vehicle’s suspension compression can momentarily lift the pivot point, then bring it crashing back down with nearly three times the weight!
For example, if your trailer has a tow ball weight of 250kg, this can result in 750kg slamming down on the very rear of the vehicle’s chassis.
Something’s got to give eventually. There is a good article on 4×4 Australia about this.
The problem is made worse by poor weight distribution in the trailer, putting too much or too little weight on the tow ball and making every bump feel much bigger.
Slide on campers are only as good as the vehicle underneath, and the way they are attached to it. Slide in campers, which are campers that slide into a tub of a styleside ute rather than on a tray, can result in the tub fastenings sheering off in bad corrugation.
Slide on campers attached to a tray and secured with nuts and bolts are much more secure, because they leverage the vehicle’s suspension in a more cohesive configuration.
Check out our recent article which compares slide on campers verses slide in campers.
Camper trailers can act as an anchor in sand. Imagine driving up a dune with an anchor hanging out the back. Or a 1-tonne weight. It’s doable, however, the last thing you want is to stop half way up. The trick is all about momentum.
Unfortunately momentum is not conducive to environmental conservation. Hence why many tracks are closing to trailers.
They’re still a viable off road camper option so long as you have the right gear to pull yourself out of a bog (e.g. max tracks, snatch strap and a powerful winch). Always ensure you are travelling with another vehicle. Otherwise be prepared to shout a few beers to fellow travellers who tug you out too!
A caravan/camper hybrid is the heaviest off road sand anchor available, and not recommended if you’re planning lots of sandy tracks.
The best option for sandy environments is a slide on camper. The absence of a trailer is a huge advantage and will result in less bogs. And generally, a lot let work on long trips both physically and cognitively.
Trailer buying tip for sandy conditions
Make sure the axle width of a trailer matches the vehicle. This will reduce the number of times you sink, as a trailer axle wider than the vehicles will increase the anchor effect.
Get something as lightweight as possible, this will help reduce friction with the sand and general impact on your vehicle’s drive gear.
The main concern when tackling rocky terrain with a camper trailer or caravan/camper hybrid is the extra running gear to break (e.g. extra axles, suspension, and tyres).
Towing an off road camper also increases the level of difficulty because there is a delay between what you see in front of you and when it hits your trailer wheels at the rear.
Trailer buying tips for rocky areas:
You have fewer components to go wrong, and you can focus on the terrain in front of you. There is less cognitive load when navigating through difficult terrain.
When considering this option, we recommend a slide on camper over a slide in camper due to a lower centre of gravity and thus more stability when driving at odd angles.
Slide in campers have less room in the tub of a ute and forced to carry more weight up higher, lifting the center of gravity and reducing stability.
Also note that some slide in campers generally non-removable legs that hang out from the wheelbase, and tend to hang low. These can be torn off or bent on off road tracks. Where as a slide on camper generally has removable legs.
Any steep climb or descent can be slippery with morning dew or after rain. In these situations trailers can be quite dangerous.
If you lose momentum on the way up, you can slide backwards a lot faster. If you go too fast on the way down and tap the brakes, you may slide forwards. In both situations, an off road camper trailer can jackknife, and that’s a situation no one ever wants to be in.
Slide on campers do not have the same level of risk in steep muddy situations. You may lose traction and slide, but nothing is going to jackknife and jeopardise the entire rig other than driver error.
When considering a slide on camper, be sure to consider its weight and its weight distribution. It is absolutely essential that you don’t exceed your GVM.
And ensure it carries it’s weight is as close to the center of the wheelbase as possible, rather hanging out past the rear axle. See this illustration about weight distribution considerations:
So now you know where you want to go, how long are you planning on hitting the road with your off road camper?
Frequent weekenders? A two or three week break from reality? A once in a lifetime trip around Australia / or the world? Or indefinitely?
The three key considerations are:
You want a quick pack up and set up time. Storage is not a big issue as you should be able to take all necessary gear in a single vehicle.
You only need to access most your gear once, when you arrive at the camp spot.
Once your trip approaches a few weeks, storage space is more of an issue. Extra water, fuel and gear become essential, especially if you’re going remote.
You are still limited by time and therefore quick set ups and pack ups are essential (unless you’re camping in one spot the whole time).
If you’re planning a trip three months or longer, then we’re all jealous! But also awesome!
You need as much storage space as possible. Long setup and pack up time is a reasonable trade off, as you will be able to relax in places for longer.
Easy access to gear is also a great thing to have. It will most definitely reduce the number of camping domestics!
Camper trailers generally take half an hour to fully set up. Soft floors will take longer than hard floors. Manufacturers often quote shorter times, but this relates to simply popping open the camper. It does not include adding an awning and setting up all the other creature comforts.
Caravan/camper hybrids are much quicker with simple pop or wind out out compartments.
A slide on camper minimises set up and pack up time, with some taking as little as 5 minutes to set up comfortably!
Camper trailers and caravan/camper hybrids provide the most storage space.
However, slide on campers still provide sufficient space for most trips, and would suit the minimalist when on extended trips.
Certain slide on campers make more efficient use of space due to the way they attach to the vehicle (i.e. whether it slides in a styleside tub or on to a tray-back). If it’s a styleside tub ute, the camper has to battle for space with wheel arches and the tub itself. So it is impossible to have storage compartments down low.
Many ‘canopy style’ slide on campers have incredibly easy access through the side panels. Check out our article on finding the best slide on aluminium ute canopies.
Most camper trailers also provide very simple access through the top and tailgate, while caravan/camper hybrids can be more complex.
Are you an adventurous single, a pioneering couple or a touring family? This step is all about beds and living space.
Lets not beat around the bush – a slide on camper is the way to go (Unless you’re seeking extreme comfort). They all sleep two people comfortably and some can sleep up to four.
A caravan/camper hybrid will provide more spacious and luxurious living quarters if that’s what you want, but as with a camper trailer, it is often a trade off in excess weight for the luxury.
Once kids come into the picture, it makes a camper trailer look a whole lot better! Caravan/camper hybrids can also provide the most comfortable indoor environment for rug rats.
There is always the option to teach them a valuable life lesson – how to pitch a tent…. Haha.
There are also sleep out options similar to a camper trailer to add additional canvas rooms to some slide on campers, but not all.
Is your trip all about fishing? Kayaking? Hiking, or simply exploring? Its likely a bit of everything, and you may need to use your vehicle to get to places nearby camp.
If you will, then you really want an off road camper which can detach from your vehicle. You don’t want to be setting up and packing up every time you need to go for a little drive.
Both camper trailers and caravan/camper hybrids, once unhitched, are your temporary base and free up the vehicle.
The un-hitching and re-hitching process can be quite difficult, especially on soft ground and sometimes it can test the bonds of any relationship. The weight placed on a tow ball can be hundreds of kilograms and thus pretty hard to move by hand if needed. Ensure there is one or two high quality jockey wheels to assist.
Some slide on campers can be supported by legs or poles, and the vehicle driven out from underneath in as little as 6 minutes, making them very good options. Avoid any that are fixed to the vehicle, such as canopy campers with roof top tents which are not slide on / off.
Maybe you’re on a quest to catch your record Barramundi up North? Or a feed of King George Whiting in the South? Either way a boat gets you one step closer.
With a camper trailer, the boat should be stored on top of your vehicle (i.e. a car topper), otherwise you have to take it off everytime you open the camper.
But this also means you have to take the boat off the vehicle roof every time you want to use it.
A slide on camper provides an additional option. The tow ball is up for grabs! This allows quick and easy boat launching without affecting your camping set up, which is waiting for you back at base (with the right type of slide on camper that is).
Slide on campers are thus the recommended option for dedicated fishing trips.
Do you have your heart set on a vehicle, but it’s not suitable for the off road camper you want? It can start to feel like the old chicken and egg scenario. Maybe you already have your wheels?
The vehicle/off road camper relationship seems like a complex one, but can be easily unpacked.
Your vehicle should come first. It is your ticket to the world’s most beautiful places. Purchase your ticket (new, second hand, doesn’t matter), then worry about your off road camper options.
As this is not a vehicle buying guide, we will assume from here on that you own or are looking at buying a certain vehicle.
Your vehicle will not only affect what type of off road camper you can buy, but will also limit its weight.
In this case, you must immediately rule out slide on campers and focus on a camper trailer or caravan/camper hybrid. There is always standard tent camping or roof top tent options, but they aren’t covered by this article.
You’re in luck! All off road camper styles are on the table. Importantly, it opens up the option of a slide on camper.
Choosing a slide on camper to match your ute is important. There are options to suit almost any need, including for single cab, extra cab or dual cab vehicles, as well as tray-back or styleside tubs.
Check out our recent article ‘how to choose a slide on camper’ for more information.
Regardless of the off road camper style you choose, you will need to calculate what your vehicle can legally and safely freight, and whether the off road camper your looking will make the cut.
We are warning you now, this section will start to get quite complex. The key take home point we are trying to communicate is:
To ensure ensure everyone’s safety, protect your insurance and warranty and abide by the law, you need thoroughly discuss your weight allowances with all of the following experts:
Okay, let’s dive in!
Each vehicle make and model has a limit to the total weight it can support (its own weight + everything else it can carry and tow).
Manufacturers have two metrics to measure this, the first is the gross vehicle mass (GVM) and the second is Gross Combined Mass (GCM).
So the real question is, what can your vehicle carry without exceeding its GVM and/or GCM?
If you exceed your vehicle’s specified limits, not only is it ILLEGAL, but it could:
It is entirely your responsibility to not exceed GVM or GCM limits as far as the law is concerned.
It is actually really easy to exceed these, because many recreational vehicle manufactures (caravans, slide on campers, camper trailers) don’t necessarily build the products to be within the limits of all Australian utes. So, know your numbers!
To ensure you do not exceed your vehicle’s GVM, your ideal off road camper weight can be calculated using the following method.
This should be provided in your vehicle manual. If not you can always call the manufacturer, sometimes called Kerb Weight.
This includes things like bullbars and undercarriage armour that are not part of the vehicles stock release.
After running through the previous steps in this article (establishing your destination, trip duration, number of people travelling and the activities you want to undertake) you can estimate the potential weight of your gear and supplies.
Make a list of everything you will need, including maximum water and fuel supplies, then estimate the maximum weight of all your supplies, as a rule of thumb for the off road sector – you need to allow at least 350kg for things like food, water clothes, recovery gear etc. Add yourself and all other passengers to the list.
It’s better to overestimate than underestimate.
Calculate the sum of the items from steps 1 to 3.
This is usually found on the compliance plate in the engine bay.
To do this, simply take away the number calculated in step 4 from the vehicle’s GVM. The remaining number tells you how much more weight the vehicle can take before it reaches its GVM.
For safety, it is best not to tread the line, and stay well within the weight limit. So, your off road campers ideal weight is actually less than the maximum you have calculated.
If you are too close to the limit and want a bit more wriggle room with weight, you can easily get a GVM upgrade for your vehicle to allow for a bit more payload.
Disclaimer box: This is an example only, using all hypothetical figures, and you must do your own research and factor in your own figures.
1. Vehicle stock standard weight: 2100 kg
2. Off road accessories (bull bars, winches and undercarriage armour): 150 kg
3. Estimated weight of gear and supplies for off-road trip (including passengers, water, batteries, fuel, luggage): 400 kg
4. Sum of the above: 2100 kg + 150 kg + 400 kg = 2650 kg
5. GVM: 3200 kg
6. Maximum off road camper weight allowance: 3200 kg (GVM) – 2650 kg = 550 kg
Don’t rush in just yet! This is worth putting some extra thought into.
For slide on campers, as demonstrated above it is pretty straightforward. You just need to focus on the empty weight of the camping unit when looking at specific models, and whether this will fit safely within the weight allowance. While also considering weight distributions.
Also keep in mind that manufacturers don’t always include all camper accessories in their quoted weight. For example the weight of the campers legs (to free-stand the slide-on camper), fridges, batteries may be left out.
Dry-weight is normally the weight of the functional camper with no-load, which includes things like the legs, the water tank without water, the fridge without beer and cupboards without food.
Some types which slide on and hang over the cab will be far too heavy for your weight allowance. Make sure you read how to choose a slide on camper.
The best slide on options when weight allowance is tight are the ultra lightweight aluminium camping slide ons which we discuss in our article ‘aluminium slide on ute canopies’.
When looking at off road camper trailer options and their ideal weight, you also need to consider all of the following to prevent issues with insurance, warranty, safety and the law:
GTM is the maximum weight limit of the trailer + contents when the trailer is hitched. ATM is the same thing, except when it is unhitched.
This is a measurement of how much weight the trailer will exert on the vehicle’s tow ball when hitched. It is used to factor into your vehicle’s GVM (instead of the direct weight of a slide on camper).
TBW is generally 10% – 15% of the trailer’s total weight.
For example, let’s say you fill a hypothetical off road camper trailer up to its GTM limit of 1 tonne. It’s tow ball weight will be around 100 to 150 kilograms. Factor in the overhang of your vehicle’s towing point, and it will likely add 130 – 190 kilograms to your vehicle’s mass.
This is the maximum weight that can be safely towed by your vehicle, determined by your vehicle’s manufacturer. It is expressed by a weight limit for your trailer.
It also relates to your vehicle’s GVM, but a number of other factors are taken into account by the manufacturer.
The maximum weight your tow bar can safely support. This can be different to your vehicle’s tow capacity.
The maximum combined weight of your vehicle plus anything being towed. This becomes more important when towing with a heavy off road vehicle, as it can leave less weight allowance to play with a big trailer.
Note, there is a ceiling for the GCM and GVM in most states and territories within Australia. That is the maximum GVM and or GCM you can drive on a standard license.
You will require vehicle modifications. The required modifications will depend on the vehicle and how much more weight it needs to legally support. This is not covered by this article.
This is quite a complex topic and warrants another full post. For example, every vehicle has caveats when it comes to GVM upgrades, as does every state and territory.
Some allow a second stage manufacturing upgrade, something you can order when you purchase a new vehicle before it is registered for the first time, this is regulated at the Federal level.
And some allow an aftermarket GVM upgrade, which is regulated at the state level.
See how confusing this all starts to get? It is often overlooked by travellers due to its complexity, and that’s a scary thought!
As we said earlier, the key point here is that you need to thoroughly investigate your limits if you plan on buying an off road camper.
Talk to your vehicle’s manufacturer, your mechanic, and any potential off road camper manufacturers to ensure you will not jeopardise your safety, or anyone else’s safety.
And remember, the outback is predictably unpredictable!
Off-road driving can apply unpredictable and extremely high stress and force to your vehicle. Even though you may be within GVM or other manufacturer limits, heavier rigs will usually suffer more wear and tear.
In general the lighter your off road camper the better off you’ll be. Your vehicle will love you more, especially when tackling the hard off road yakka!
Off road camper price variation is huge!
The below ranges can be used as a general guide for each off road camper style:
More bells and whistles will drive up the price, regardless of the off road camper style. For example, the starting prices above for slide on campers and camper trailers will not include many accessories. They will be solid off road camper platforms and living spaces ready for you to fill.
To get an idea about price range within a single off road camper style, check out our ‘how to choose a slide on camper’.
You must factor in the hidden costs associated with each style.
|Hidden Cost||Camper Trailers||Caravan / Camper Hybrids||Slide on Campers|
|Additional registration fees (potentially hundreds of dollars per year)||Yes||Yes||No|
|Running gear maintenance (frequent maintenance will be required due to dust, rust, brake ware, tyre wear, bearings etc.)||Yes||Yes||No – no extra running gear|
|Repairs (when travelling through rough terrain, there will be repairs required at some stage)||Yes||Yes||Yes (although less chance with less running gear)|
|Upgrades like electric brakes or a more powerful winch||Yes||Yes||No|
|Additional fuel costs||Yes||Yes||Minor|
|Additional costs of remote rescue (some recovery operations will charge thousands of dollars per axle in remote location like the Gibb River Road in the wet season).||Yes||Yes||No|
By stepping through this process, you have hopefully formed an idea of your ideal off road camper style, and you can now focus on a model.
We have summarised the results below:
A camper trailer will provide a great option for long family trips on semi rugged roads.
To get to the best destinations you will likely have to leave the trailer behind somewhere.
You will need to thoroughly consider your vehicle’s weight allowances and towing capacity to ensure you are within GVM and GCM limits.
A boat will need to be stored on the vehicle and moved off and on regularly if fishing.
Much the same conclusions as camper trailers. The differences include more luxurious living spaces, quicker setup and pack up, less ability to access rugged areas (for heavier models).
These are the most suitable option for the greatest range of trips.
Camper weight can be easily calculated and factored into your vehicle’s GVM/Payload limits.
You will be able to access more areas or tow a boat if desired.
It provides the cheapest off road options if budget is your defining factor.
The variation within this style of camper will provide a solution to almost any situation.
For an idea of available options check out our article how to choose a slide on camper.
Au revoir! Drive safely and best of luck reaching your dream destinations.
Hold it there Ranger! Don’t get on that horse until you are prepared! This is a great go-to camping essentials checklist with all the must-have items for camping in the hot wild west. Whether that is in the Australian outback, Africa, South America or Nevada! Being prepared is essential!
Short of having a well-stocked vehicle and slide on camper with you, this list is for hikers and campers who are primarily on foot. Print it, store it on your phone or kindle. Whatever you do, don’t leave home without checking each item off! These items will help keep you safe and problem free if you know how to use them. Right-click and press save image as to get your copy of the Camping Essentials Checklist today!
Please include attribution to trayon.com with this graphic.
Mid 2017, Traymate Campers were born into existence with one aim: to build the most versatile slide on aluminium ute canopies in existence.
This post explains the origins of the Traymate Camper in detail. Grab a coffee and hang on to your seat!
Traymate is the brainchild of Trayon Campers. Trayon Campers have been producing their very popular, lightweight slide on camper since 1994.
In 1994, the Trayon camper was a very basic, simple robust camper designed to handle the rigours of the Australian Outback. It had a bed, lounge, internal kitchen, cupboards, plenty of storage and not much else.
It was a strong barebones camper built for hardcore touring on tracks like the Canning Stock Route and Gunbarrel Highway.
One of the main benefits of this barebones camper was that people could use it as a blank canvas and add what they wanted. The technology back then was limited so there weren’t as many compact camping options available.
24 Years Later, the Trayon has evolved considerably. It is now the lightest, strongest and most compact class 2 slide on camper available, with huge leaps forward in technology and design, it is well fitted out with all the creature comforts one would want in this day in age, with plenty of optional extras.
Have you ever stopped to consider why technology evolves like this?
It is often driven by what’s called the “level of escalation”.
A contrived example of the Level of Escalation that is comedically oversimplified is the evolution of the automotive industry.
Back in the early ‘20s or ‘30s, when you hypothetically walked into a motor vehicle dealership, and you placed an order on a car, say it would have would costed you $1,000, and they’ll give you a bale of hay to sit on and as driving lights, you got given a lantern, along with steering wheel and two pedals, that was it. You didn’t even get a windscreen.
Now I’m customer Joe Blow and I want a nice comfortable seat to sit on. I don’t want the bale of hay. I don’t want a lantern, I want actual globe lights, seat belts, furthermore, now I want air bags, as well as LED daytime running lights.
What started off as a product being $1,000 back in the day, level of escalation set in; and you now get a brand new car which has adaptive cruise control, GPS navigation, seat warmers, leather seats, three kinds of headlights- high beam, low beam, plus driving lights or daytime driving lights and a windscreen plus loads more.
Aesthetically, it’s looking great and then all of a sudden, it costs you $60,000 for that car and some people will walk in and look at that car and respond with “$60k – you’ve got to be kidding me! “
Yes, there are many other factors which re-enforce the current level of escalation, such as safety regulations etc. Nonetheless, the level of escalation set in, and you can’t buy a simple car for $1,000 anymore because there are so many added creature comforts.
There is no way to reverse the escalation because no one makes cars with no windscreens and a bale of hay anymore. Perhaps that story was a little exaggerated, but you get the point.
Trayon Campers have also been subject to the level of escalation, where something innately simple became more complex as creature comforts were added, keeping up with demand.
Trayon started out as being a $10,000 camper, but then someone walked in and said: “I want a water pump, I don’t want to pump water by hand”. I want a hot water system, I want a 100litre fridge/freezer. I want a queen bed, I want LED lights, and now with Lithium batteries readily available, I will have a Lithium battery as well as a battery management system.
The level of escalation took the Trayon Camper from being a $10-$15,000 camper in the 90’s to a $30-$40,000 camper, sometimes even $45,000 today.
The trouble with the level of escalation is it leaves a small segment of the market not catered for.
People looking for a simple budget slide on camper that can be fitted out with what they want, when they want or simply use their own camping gear they already have.
Not everyone can afford a Trayon Camper. They can’t exactly roll back time on the Trayon Camper because it’s the best seller and it’s in demand.
However, Trayon did notice a demand for a budget slide on platform which can be DIY configured by the customer. Something that has all the perks of the Trayon:
There were many enquires that was along the lines:
I’d love a Trayon but I don’t need the fridge, I can do all that later, can I just buy the empty shell because I can’t afford $30,000 but I need a slide on or I want a slide on.
Needless to say after lots of research Trayon identified there was no lightweight slide on campers that existed in the budget segment.
The closest alternatives were aluminium ute canopies purpose-built for tradesmen with optional legs to make it removable for free-standing.
The downside to standard aluminium ute canopies is that they are purpose built for tradies, and you have to try and adapt and modify the canopy for the camping system to function in a practical way.
The most limiting factor of using trade canopies as campers is that they are often built with a 20-45 degree slant in the design. This is done for aesthetics, but it does allow heavier loads to be carried on the roof, preventing sideways movement. Imagine an electrician with several ladders and 50 kg of copper wire sitting on the roof racks.
The reason why this is limiting is that once you decide to add your fridge, you’ll have to inset the fridge inside the canopy so the door doesn’t close on it. Losing valuable internal space that could be used for carrying gear.
There are plenty of roof top tents which are built for these types of trade canopies. However, since the roof is small, you may be restricted to one that folds its bed in half for pack-up, or is so narrow that when it unfolds it creates only a small awning for shelter underneath.
Perhaps one of the biggest issues with the conventional slide on aluminium ute canopies is that you need you need to store the jack off legs inside the loading area or strap them to the roof.
This takes up significant space inside the canopy, as they are heavy and long. Or consumes quite a lot of time stapping them down.
Many people are adapting a trade platform into a camping platform, due to the lack of options out there. This leads them to customise and build a DIY solution.
Traymate Campers are the most economical slide on aluminium ute campers available.
The goal in building the Traymate Camper was to ensure it retained the same extreme strength and durability as the Trayon Camper, while being low cost and versatile. Enabling anyone on a budget to get access to one.
The Traymate aluminium ute canopies carry their jack off legs on the side / not in your loading area. they are also far more practical, easy to use and less combersome…
The base model of the Traymate Camper is called the Traymate shell. It is a blank canvas for you to fit out just the way you want, as you would with standard aluminium ute canopies. There is no slant in the frame, yet the frame is extremely strong. This provides much more internal useable space.
This is ideal for tradies who what a removable tool box, which they can also use to mount their ARB fridge and roof top tent and go camping on the weekend. It is your DIY option, that easily can be kitted out as a trade and / or camping system.
The Traymate shell is 175 kg including its free standing legs. It has the same powder coated aluminium construction as the Trayon Camper and the same floor structure with beams. This allows the addition of drawers for extra storage, an external bench and/or an additional 35 Litre water tank as optional extras.
The back wall is perfect to attach the Trayon Outhouse, giving you an additional privacy cubicle for showering or changing. The internal structure allows you to attach anything you want to the walls and floor.
This is great if you already have a rooftop tent, chest style fridge/freezer, the drop slide, internal kitchenette cabinets, water tanks, tie down points etc. You can buy it all and install them yourself or you can get Traymate Campers to deck it out for you.
The Traymate Shell price is: $6,000
Trayon realised that there is simply no budget slide on camper that allows you to sleep an entire family of 4 – 6.
The only alternative is a camper trailer with added sleeping compartments or a tent. But what if this family is concerned about the safety of towing, they don’t want to pay the extra rego, the tracks they are exploring are closed for trailers, or they want to tow the boat instead?
Young families are unlikely to spend $30,000 on a Trayon or a camper trailer for this purpose. Ideally, the parents want to sleep seperate to the children.
So in order to make the Traymate family friendly, Traymate Aluminium Ute Canopies have custom built a roof top tent tailored for families, or anyone who wants loads of sheltered space. It has a full sized Queen bed that doesn’t get folded in half, the bed stays made up for every journey.
Once open, the roof top tent makes a massive awning approximately 2,300 mm wide and 2,300 mm long. It takes a matter of seconds to set up the roof top tent, with internal access to the canopy.
You just flip over the one beam and the counter-levered Australian made canvas structure fully erects the tent. Then you simply push up three peaks and you’re done. It’s that quick.
An additional weather proof annex with a vinyl floor can quickly be zipped onto the roof top tent awning. This gives additional privacy and shelter. It is a large concealed space for cooking and staying dry or even just staying away from those pesky flies. It can be added for just $1,785 and comes in a bag that fits easily inside the Traymate.
The roof top tent is 2,300 mm long and 1,800 mm wide. So if you’re not a giant, you can actually sleep cross ways and your wife and two kids can fit next to you as well. It has full 360 degree cross ventilation, and can handle heavy rain.
However, for some luxury or additional separation from the kids, you can attach the Traymate Camper’s kids room (or sleepout) to the annex. For $1,890, this room can easily sleep three kids, or two adults. That way if the weather turns bad, you have a place that is covered and concealed from the rain, allowing cooking and sleeping to be unimpeded. There is also plenty of ventilation and fly screens all around.
The Traymate Rooftop tent on its own is $3,800. That includes a mattress and an LED strip light inside and it can be bought separately if you want it on your vehicle or your own canopy.
Next, the potential configurations for the Traymate Camper and their price will be discussed. These are just to give you an idea of the configurations available.
The Traymate shell, a simple slide on aluminium ute canopy is $6,000. The Roof top tent is $3,800 (with $200 fitment). So for $10,000, you get a bed and a massive awning, with lots of secure storage that you can equip with whatever you like.
This is Traymate’s recommended minimum viable slide on aluminium canopy camper, at $10,000 called the Traymate Base 1.
Later on you can add the annex walls, kids rooms, Trayon Outhouse, underbody storage drawers and Trayon kitchen bench as life progresses or you just want some more luxuries to accompany your touring lifestyle.
Ultimately, you can pick and choose what you want. That’s the benefit of the Traymate camping system.
If you have some more room in your budget, you can also add a 100 Litre upright fridge / freezer (or a chest freezer on a drop slide), 110 Litre water tank and a 120 amp deep cycle battery, along with the Trayon kitchen bench all for about $16,990. This would be a very functional camper and its called the Traymate Base 2. This one would be the best platform to start with for anyone looking for a great camper with plenty of features and options to retro-fit more upgrades at a later stage.
The water system is gravity fed. The same hose is used to fill it up and to drain it. This is ideal for the outback as there is less things to go wrong with.
Should you choose Traymate to build the internal fit out, you can rest assured that it is done in such a way to maximise free internal space, while ensuring the majority of the weight is as far toward in the camper as to assure the weight of the camper when fitted to your dual-cab ute is at the center of the wheel base as possible. Just like the Trayon Camper.
This weight distribution helps prevent wear and tear on your vehicle and is generally safer for the vehicle’s occupants, you can read more about how to choose a slide on camper.
The full spec ute camping canopies really just brings the best of the Trayon Campers creature comforts with a few unique ones, all for less than the base cost of the Trayon Campers!
You can use Traymate’s on-demand Coleman H2Oasis Elite hot water system, or you can fit your own.
The hot water system is $550, the stove is $330, the extra gas bottles are $4.
The battery system on the Traymate Camper is completely new, in fact the Australian manufacturer is unveiling it in the Traymate range. It is a all in one tough battery box with a 1000 watt inverter, USB charging points, LED lights and 12V outlets. It can be charged from the car while driving or through solar power or 240v. It is also Lithium upgradable if one day you feel like splurging on 80% more usable power storage at a third of the weight of the original AGM battery.
You’ll get additional LED lights, drawers, and your choice of Annex, kids room sleep outs or additional awnings. Basically you spec it up from the shell, adding all the accessories you want. Resulting in a camper around $25,000.
It’s easy to setup and pack up, massive amount of sheltered space, its strong and sturdy.
Will people have different ideas to what Traymate can install? Of course! That’s the beauty of the Traymate Camper, it is the canvas for your picasso painting. Get the base camper shell, and build it the way you like.
You could also build it in stages. Start with the shell and roof top tent. Over time, as the family grows, add the awning, drawers and sleep outs. Traymate can retrofit any of the accessories at any point in time In fact, Trayon has customers from the 90’s coming back to buy accessories 20 years later! Nothing is off the cards.
This is ideal for people who want to go touring on a budget. Anyone who would usually look at fitting out standard aluminium ute canopies for camping. Especially young families that don’t want to tow a trailer, or they want to tow a boat. They need the space of a camper trailer, but also want to take the bikes, or horse float or jetski. You no longer need to choose.
The Traymate Aluminium Ute Canopies give you everything you need to be comfortable, and if you don’t have something, you can easily add it.
When you buy a Traymate, you buy a camping system for life.
Currently, the Traymate Aluminium Ute Canopies are currently only available in dual cab models. It is 1,800 mm long and 1,830 mm wide. Traymate is working on releasing a single/extra-cab model in the near future. It will be 2,200 mm long.
The rooftop tent of the dual cab model goes up over the headboard and the cab like the photos of the Amarok.
Using the level of escalation principle, the Traymate can be barebones or at the maximum level of escalation. It’s the only single product on the market that offers every level in-between. And because of this, it will never be affected by the level of escalation. It is Australia’s first, possibly the world’s first class 1 budget multipurpose slide on camper.
There has been untapped demand for a high-quality budget slide on Aluminium Ute Canopies. The purpose built Trayon Camper can’t be downgraded to meet this demand, because it’s still the award-winning and the best selling class-two slide-on camper in Australia.
The Trayon Camper has the longest running record of all slide-on’s, it’s still the lightest, it’s still the one that has the most weight toward the center of the wheelbase. It’s still the only one with a 10 year structural warranty (on road and off road) and still the only one that can prove all that.
Instead, Trayon created Traymate Campers, more than the standard tradie aluminium ute canopies, they are a camping oriented system. Built using the same principles and the same materials as the Trayon. It is an Australian thoroughbred, built to last. It can be as simple or as complex as you want. You can DIY fit out, or get Traymate to do it for you.
It is Legos for the big kids.
The Australian dream! Well, we are taught that homeownership will lead to a better life. A life that is balanced between work and recreation. Camping and exploring Australia is a big part in that balanced life for many of us.
Exploration is music to the soul to many Aussies, the question is which platform will we do that exploring in? A Slide-on Camper or an Off Road Camper Trailer?
In this post you’ll find everything you need to help you choose the right platform for you.
What this post doesn’t include:
However, there are still some valid points for all types of trailer-based home away from homes.
Okay, let’s get into it. First of all, let’s cover the basics to give some context.
A off road camper trailer is towed behind a 4WD vehicle to provide a place to sleep which is more comfortable and protected than a tent for use off the beaten track.
Off road camper trailers are a great way to bring large amounts of shelter and comfort into the great outdoors for a weekend away with the kids or a longer journey.
Typically there are three main types of off road camper trailers:
They come in all shapes and sizes. The larger the off-road camper trailer is, the larger tow vehicle needs to be.
Box camper trailers are aptly named, as the original ones were simply the common box trailers converted into campers.
Now days, they are often a dual purpose trade trailer, with a roof top tent, annex, storage and camping equipment attached to it. Both DIY and custom built.
There are also purpose-built box trailer campers which have heavy duty independent suspension and all the camping equipment integrated into the body.
They don’t have a large amount of storage, and generally few sheltered spaces. Usually, the kitchenette is outside in the elements under the annex. But they are commonly the lightest camper trailer type and also the easiest to setup.
These off road camper trailers do away with the rooftop tent and provide a large canvas covered area with all kinds of add ons to create more modular rooms.
This is one of the most common types you see at caravan parks. Great for longer term setups, plenty of room for the kids and space to relax when the weather turns ugly.
They are generally not dual purpose (camping only) as opposed to the box off road camper trailer, and in the cheaper models, the suspension is standard leaf configuration. They have the most shelter but can take up to 20-30 mins to fully setup with the additional rooms.
These off road camper trailers are typically the largest and heaviest, they resemble a small off road caravan, typically have a hard roof or pop top with canvas sides. They are feature rich and have plenty of storage. Very minimal setup time is required.
A slide on camper is simply a camper which slides onto the back of a pickup/ute that has a flat tray or platform it can be mounted on.
Usually, once at the campsite you can opt to remove it from the vehicle, so you can set up and still go exploring without having to pack up your campsite to use your vehicle. Like you can with a camper trailer.
There are three types or classes of slide on campers. They are:
This class is typically a galvanized steel or aluminum canopy on the back of a ute which houses basic utilities such as fridges, kitchen and sometimes a bed.
Like the box trailer, the canopy slide on can be dual purpose for the tradesperson. These are typically the lowest cost and they are a great platform for a roof top tent.
This class really represents a more complete camper which are purpose built for being on a tray. They contain the creature comforts that class 1 doesn’t, such as seating, dedicated sleeping, and indoor or outdoor cooking area and you can “walk-in” them as opposed to the class 1.
They typically have a large sheltered area and double/queen bed to seek refuge during bad weather. These are more commonly used for long range 4WD touring in Australia. But can just as easily be used for weekend trips. They take only 2-5mins to setup and pack up, very convenient.
This class encapsulates slide on campers that are built like a caravan (discussed further below). Essentially, these are slide ons which use caravan manufacturing techniques to build in the creature comforts.
This means they can typically be heavy, tall, hard roof, fixed or pop top and have a cab over design.
Typically, in Australia, these are imported and you would need a ute/truck which has a larger payload than 1 tonne fully loaded. Like an Iveco daily, or Mercedes G Professional.
More information about slide on campers can be found in our post: What is a slide on camper?
There may be many reasons why someone would choose a off road camper trailer. One primary reason would be because they do not have 4WD ute, which is required for a Slide on camper. Perhaps an SUV or Wagon 4WD vehicle. Other reasons might be:
Slide on campers are either for those who don’t want to tow, or wish to tow something other than the camper, such as boat or jet ski. Slide on campers allow you to go anywhere where your vehicle is capable of going, as some places are just too precarious or restricted for access to off road camper trailers. Other reasons might include:
Above all the intended application comes first, creature comforts come second. It is easy to get wrapped up in the aesthetics and creature comforts of the different makes and models of campers out there. But ultimately, if it is not fit for the purpose, no amount of features or paint will prevent it causing pain or grief in a precarious situation in the outback, 1000’s of Km’s from any help.
As the vehicle driver, you are solely responsible for your vehicle and camper setup off road. If it gets stuck, damaged or worse, you will be liable for any damages.
Minimising those risks are essential and starts with choosing a platform which is intentionally designed for the terrain and conditions you will be travelling.
First of all, there are many tracks which are closing or have limited access to trailers for safety and environmental conservation concerns. So make sure you look at all the off road tracks you intend to take to ensure accessibility. Otherwise, you could be in for a big detour.
Secondly, ensure your vehicle is fit for the purpose. Most of the common makes of 1-tonne utes in Australia are not ready for off road travel from the factory floor, let alone towing a off road camper trailer up sand dunes.
You’ll need to consider at the very least a suspension upgrade for your vehicle for while carrying either a off road camper trailer and slide on camper. This will help significantly in reducing the impact on the chassis and axles of carrying or towing the extra weight.
There are still a few famous remote outback tracks open to off road camper trailers, however, more and more are closing due to safety concerns and environmental conservation.
The Canning Stock Route is one of those iconic tracks, while the main track is still open for off road camper trailers, most of the side tracks are closed for trailer access. Many people who have done it with a trailer say they wouldn’t take one again for the following reasons:
Many remote outback tracks are the same in Australia. Having a light, a manoeuvrable vehicle is essential. And although the off road camper trailer may make it, it will be a tough journey that will definitely take its toll in more ways than one.
So before you choose a platform, ensure you do your research of where you want to travel, including any potential side trips you may want to take. Figure out what is the minimum amount of gear you will need for this application.
You need to know that there are trade-offs for both towing and not towing. Towing means you can carry more, carrying more increases the chances for something failing. Things fail in the outback regularly.
Not towing allows you to go to more places, however, the total capacity is reduced.
Towing means you can theoretically carry more, however, dragging extra gear, chassis, an extra set of heavy axles, and wheels through the desert increase the chances of vehicle or trailer failure significantly.
Some of the other trade offs when towing a off road camper trailer include:
The case for not towing has been around for years. It provides much more manoeuvrability, allows you to travel further and lighter and reduces points of equipment failure.
However, not towing a trailer also has some trade offs compared to a towing a trailer, which include:
Note: These features vary from manufacture to manufacture. They are just a rough guide.
|Lifestyle Feature||Slide-on Camper||Off Road Camper Trailer|
|Outdoor Kitchenette||Yes (optional)||Yes|
|Indoor Kitchenette (away from elements)||Yes||No|
|Gas (hotwater/ burner)||Yes||Yes|
|Heater||Yes (optional)||Yes (optional)|
|No additional registration costs||Yes||No|
|No Additional maintenance costs||Yes||No|
|Tow an additional trailer for toys (boats, motorbikes etc)||Yes||No|
|Travel all over Australia||Yes||Limited|
|Fuel Consumption (Economical)||Yes||No|
|Setup Base Camp||Yes||Yes|
|Setup time||2-5mins||10 – 30mins|
|Large Storage capacity||limited||Yes|
|Power inlet (for powered sites)||Yes||Yes|
|Battery and inverter||Yes||Yes|
|Indoor dining area||Yes||Yes (optional)|
Both off road camper trailers and slide on campers both have their place. Think about your intended application before aesthetics or features.
Identify what amount of risk you are willing to take on if you are planning to tackle some of the more complex terrain Australia has to offer.
If you are interested in slide on campers, check out our post on how to choose a slide on camper for important information regarding vehicle safety.
Safe travels and happy camping!
More and more tracks are closing access to trailers in the Australian outback, or they are strongly discouraged by the authorities due to safety concerns, such as rollovers, axle/chassis damage, and being stranded as well as environmental damage caused by trailer towing in rough loose terrains. A slide on camper can be used to go further and do more.
A slide on camper is the camper of choice for outback touring in Australia. If you don’t know what a slide on camper is, check out our recent article: What is a Slide on Camper?
This article highlights the key steps to consider when choosing a slide on camper for your existing 4X4 ute. In summary here are the steps on how to choose a slide on camper for a ute.
The most crucial part of choosing a slide on camper is answering this question:
“What is the weight of the slide on camper?”
Or another way of putting it is:
“Can my ute carry it without exceeding its GVM?”
This is more important than aesthetics and features.
If you exceed your manufacturer’s Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM), not only is it ILLEGAL, but it will:
Simply put, don’t do it. It is not worth the risk.
It is the same concept as following and adhering to your vehicle’s towing capacity.
It isn’t always intuitive to know the limits of your ute, let alone understand what those limits mean practically. But it is entirely your responsibility to not exceed the limits as far as the law is concerned.
In this step, we will outline how to identify the capacity of your ute, and equip you with the knowledge to avoid exceeding your GVM. These pictures illustrate what has happened in the past:
The first consideration is to know your utes payload specifications.
Payload specification for your ute is not always listed in the manual or on the vehicle.
But you can work it out. To do this, you will need to identify two key numbers from your vehicle’s manual, often located in the glove box. (Sometimes this is listed on a plaque inside the door jam of one of the front doors). The two numbers are:
To calculate the payload capacity, you then subtract the Kerb Weight from the Gross Vehicle Mass. For the purpose of this, we will denote Payload as PL. In other words:
PL = GVM – KW
Here is an example for a 2017 Mazda BT-50 XT Dual Cab. On their website it states the GVM = 3200 kg and a KW = 1932 kg. So the PL equation would become:
PL = 3200 – 1932 = 1268
Giving a Payload of 1268 kg. So what does this mean? It simply means that the weight of all additions to the vehicle, including accessories, people, luggage, campers, tray back etc must be less than or equal to 1.268 tonne.
Giving a Payload of 1268 kg. So what does this mean? It simply means that the weight of all additions to the vehicle, including accessories, people, luggage, campers, tray back etc must be less than or equal to 1.268 tonne.
Let us consider a real life example. Say you want to take your mates camping and fishing in your new BT-50. Before you go, you equip the vehicle with the following accessories and gear:
|Front bar with rock sliders and side steps||110|
|Snorkel, LED lights, solar panel and other electronics (amplifiers etc)||15|
|Full Long range tank||70|
|100L of water + tank||105|
|Auxiliary 100A AGM battery||30|
|Under tray storage with recovery gear||15|
|Towing a tinny in a trailer with a ball weight||50|
|Your friend Sam, Michael and yourself||240|
|Beers and food||10|
|Stove and gas bottle||11|
|Crockery and cutlery||3|
|Swags and tarps||40|
Adding all of these up, you get 889 kg. That is only 379 kg shy of the total GVM of 1268 kg for the vehicle.
So, you can see that adding a slide on camper heavier than 379 kg on the back of the tray in addition to all of this gear, will easily overload the vehicle. This would void the warranty and put Sam, Michael and yourself at risk of injury or worse.
It is the same story with most 4WD utes in Australia, in fact most utes are within the 1 tonne ute category (utes that have an approximate 1 tonne payload).
When travelling in outback Australia it is NOT about maximising how much you can carry, but actually, it is about minimising how much you carry to put less strain on the vehicle’s chassis, suspension, axles, drive gear and components.
When travelling in outback Australia it is NOT about maximising how much you can carry, but actually, it is about minimising how much you carry to put less strain on the vehicle’s chassis, suspension, axles, drive gear and components.
You can get GVM upgrades done to most vehicles to increase payload, and if you have the budget for it, it is worth considering. We won’t go into detail here, as it deserves another dedicated post.
With such little weight for a slide on camper, it is essential that you find the right balance between creature comforts and not exceeding your GVM both for your 4WD and the slide on camper.
By expanding on the example above with a Mazda BT-50. Let us revise your load to be:
|Front bar with rock sliders and side steps||110|
|Snorkel, LED lights, solar panel and other electronics (amplifiers etc)||10|
|Full long range tank||0|
|100L of water + tank||105|
|Auxiliary 100A AGM battery||30|
|Under tray storage with recovery gear||15|
|Towing a tinny in a trailer with a ball weight||50|
|Your friend Sam, Michael and yourself||240|
|Beers and food||10|
|Stove and gas bottle||0|
|Crockery and cutlery||3|
|Swags and tarps||0|
|Additional luggage, swags and fishing gear||10|
We have made some hard calls here. You decide that if you get a slide on camper, you will already have the following inside:
You also decide, to maximise weight for the slide on the following accessories are not necessary:
This has reduced your load to 723 kg, giving you a maximum of 545kg for a slide on camper and any additional gear you want to take.
Do you intend to go off road? If so, make sure your vehicle is fit for that purpose.
Very few of the 4X4 utes available on the market are capable of going off road from the showroom floor.
There is a reason outback Australia is commonly called Landcruiser country. That’s because the Landcruiser 70 series is the trusted platform for farmers.
However, even a stock Landcruiser 79 series isn’t without problems when going bush.
One of the biggest issues with stock utes are their factory shock absorbers. Generally built for lightweight road driving, not the Australian Outback.
Other things to consider, include:
This is quite a complex topic and warrants another full post. Every ute has its caveats when it comes to GVM upgrades.
Some allow a second stage manufacturing upgrade, something you can order when you purchase a new vehicle before it is registered, this is regulated at the Federal level.
And some allow an aftermarket GVM upgrade, which is regulated at the state level.
Yes, steel is stronger than aluminium. However, it’s strength gain is at a huge cost…. you guessed it, weight. Modern aluminium flat bed tray manufacturing techniques have significantly increased the strength of trays.
So there is no need to have a steel tray which eats up precious payload capacity.
Steel trays typically range between 200-300kgs. That’s a 4-5 man lift!
While aluminium trays range from 100-200kgs. So you could save around 100kg in the tray alone.
There are various things to consider that are personal to you when deciding on a slide on camper. The main questions you want to ask yourself is:
New slide on campers/canopies ranges from $6000 (bare bones) to $50000+ depending on class and features and materials.
Are you a weekend camper, or a long-term tourer? Knowing this gives you an idea of the features you require. E.g. short setup time, internal/external kitchen bench, water tanks, hot water service, Lithium or AGM battery etc.
Slide on campers are typically fitted out as a complete camper, with a fridge, gas bottle, battery, water tank, kitchen bench, bed, dining area etc.
If you already have your own gear like a fridge, water tank, cooking gear etc, you may want something bare bones that you can fit out yourself.
Or as a tradie, something multi-purpose that can be used to house your tools during the week, and camping gear on the weekend.
Are you planning to travel to caravan parks or the Canning Stock route? You must match your vehicle and slide on camper to the rashest terrain you intend to traverse.
For example, some slide on campers have non-removable legs, that hang out from the wheelbase, and tend to hang low. These can be torn off or bent on off road tracks.
In our post, “what is a slide on camper” we discussed the three classes of slide on campers and their price ranges. They are:
Class 1: Slide on Canopy Camper – simple canopy with roof top tent
This is usually the lightest class of slide on camper. Depending on fit out, can range from 170 kg – 400 kg
It could be a canopy that is used during the week for work, and is easily converted into a camper for the weekend. Ideal for tradies or budget glampers who don’t want to sleep in a tent.
Typically class 1 slide on canopy campers range from AUD $6500 – $25,000 depending on materials, features and accessories required.
Class 2: Purpose Built Slide on Campers – full featured camper.
This class has all the creature comforts built in from day one. Fridge, gas bottle, cook top, kitchen bench, dining area, sink, 2-3 person accommodation, water tank, annex etc.
Typically a box design with a oyster shell that folds over the side or the rear.
Note that, partial rear folding oyster designs are more susceptible to dust penetrating the seal from the trailing wind funnel of the vehicle when travelling in the Outback.
To be used for weekend campers, but also sustain long-distance touring.
The dry weight for this class of camper across the industry ranges dramatically from around 370 kg to 1000 kg depending on manufacturer and accessories.
When you only have 545kg to play with (from the example above), extreme care must be taken when choosing this class of slide on.
It is too easy to be attracted to the bells and whistles and aesthetics. Eliminate any slide on from your list if it means you will exceed the GVM of your vehicle.
Class 2 slide on campers range in price from around AUD $30,000 – $45,000 depending on materials, features and accessories required.
Class 3: Cab over Slide on Camper – Full featured campers built using Caravan methodologies and generally have a hard roof structure of some sort.
When you think of a caravan, the first thing that comes to mind is definitely not lightweight. These are heavier because they are built out over the cab and commonly used methodologies and materials that are designed to be on a separate set of wheels, axles and suspension, i.e. a caravan.
So, yes this class of slide on camper is typically the heaviest. The dry weight for this class range from 420 kg – 1000 kg +. And commonly have all the creature comforts.
There are very few class 3 campers that you can carry on a 1 tonne ute without exceeding your GVM.
These are ideal for vehicles that have a payload of around 1500 kg or more, to safely allow for additional gear, people and the slide on camper. Such as Ford F250/350, Iveco Daily, Mercedes G Professional etc.
Class 3 slide on campers range from AUD $50,000 to $100,000+ depending on make and features.
There are hybrid class 2-3 campers which are still cab over, however, they usually save weight by having a pop open top and utilises a lightweight purpose built frame.
Next to the weight of a slide on, something that is less spoken about, and perhaps more important is:
“Where is the overall weight of the slide on camper situated”?
For example, if all the weight e.g. fridge, AGM batteries, pantry, gas bottle and water tank is behind the rear axle (at the rear of the slide on), you are at extreme risk of buckling or snapping the chassis, especially if your Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is exceeded.
One of two scenarios can occur if you overload your vehicle with too much weight hanging behind the rear axle.
Here is an a graphic demonstrating the concept:
It is simple mechanics really, something we can’t escape no matter how much money we throw at it.
This is particularly important for slide on campers on dual cab utes, where the tray sits typically right above or just in front of the rear axle. It is impossible to move the load further toward the center of the wheelbase like you can with a single cab ute.
Similarly, if all the weight is on one side of the slide on camper, it will put an unnecessary load on the shock absorber, wheel and axle.
Ideally, you want the load to be as close to the center of the wheel base, both front to back and left to right.
We expect every product to have a warranty these days, however, some products require it more than others. Slide on campers are definitely in that category, especially in Australia.
Well, when you are in the Outback, travelling 1000s of kilometres of harsh off-road conditions, you, your vehicle and camper are put to the test. There is no doubt about it. Slide on campers travel further and deeper than caravans and trailers, they take a beating.
When something breaks, that could mean an end to your trip, huge delay in a nearby town, complete isolation or injury and a very costly experience.
Warranty for your slide on camper from an Australian camper manufacturer means you can easily get parts sent out to you in to a caravan park in Broome or other remote towns. You can get repairs from their closest factory or dealer.
When touring, something will break, it is just a matter of when. You need a support team, hence a good warranty clause is a part of that team.
Look for 5-10 Year Australian structural warranty that covers you while you are off road!
Other factors to consider about choosing a manufacturer for your slide on camper include:
Let’s face it, some materials are heavier than others. Some build methodologies are stronger than others.
This could be challenging to find out. But here are some basics to work out:
If the answer to 2 is mostly fibreglass, keep in mind that it is incredibly brittle and notoriously difficult to repair. It is also hard to get fibreglass consistent over large surfaces, so it can be quite heavy.
If the answer to 1 is aluminium, how are the joins bonded? Welding aluminium can weaken its strength by approximately a third.
Well, when you are touring or overlanding in the bush, small issues tend to become magnified by ten fold.
Corrugations, potholes, ditches, trenches, river crossings, dunes and cut outs all take their toll to your camper and vehicle.
Okay, so we have covered quite a lot in this article. But as you can see, by following the above 6 steps, you can create a profile of a slide on camper which is safe for your 4WD Ute, and can take you where you want to go but also meets your financial requirements.
Step 1: Estimate the payload and identify your safe slide on camper weight
We learnt how much weight you can safely carry a slide on camper without exceeding the GVM of your vehicle
Step 2: Upgrade your vehicle to suit purpose
Your vehicle is doing all the hard work, make sure it is fit for your intended purpose. Stock standard utes are not designed for off road touring. At the very least consider upgrading your shock absorbers if you plan to go off the Tarmac.
Step 3: Choose class of slide on camper
We outlined 3 classes of slide on campers, their weights and rough price ranges for each. Ultimately, if you only have 550kg left of your payload after you subtract all the gear and people, this will limit you to a class 1 and 2 slide on camper. Unless you go with a hybrid class 2-3.
If your budget is less than 25k, this means you can go for a Class 1 slide on camper. Even fit it out yourself to save some money.
Step 4: Consider weight distribution of slide on camper
Here we explored what could happen if all the weight of the camper internals (batteries, water tank, gas bottle, fridge, pantry) sits behind the rear axle. Weight must be as close to the center of the wheelbase as possible.
Step 5: Consider warranty implications
Don’t get caught out in the middle of nowhere with a broken camper and no warranty. Look for 5-10 year warranty that covers you off road, and will post items to you wherever you are.
Step 6: Identify materials and structure
Make sure you go with a manufacturer who prioritises minimising weight and maximising durability.
And finally, go check it out. Most Australian slide on manufactures attend caravan and camping shows around Australia regularly. Here is a list of shows coming up.
At Trayon Campers we do build lightweight slide on campers, however, this article was written with the mindset to help people navigate some of the intricate safety issues with the GVM of their vehicles. All information was well researched, we hope it is genuinely useful.
See you at a campsite soon! Travel safe!
From the Trayon Factory on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia to Switzerland, Europe. Australian Slide on Camper Manufacturer Trayon Campers are officially an international brand.
(Check out the Gallery at the end of post)
Trayon has been exporting campers overseas (mainly France) since 2005!
However, with the global financial crisis and dealing with subsidiary companies, the relationship slowly ended.
In 2014 a new export endeavour was started in partnership with a Swiss company. This is the story of how Trayon Europe came into existence.
It all started when Ruedi Hort from Switzerland was travelling around Australia in 2013. A friend of his mentioned, if you are really interested in campers you need to check out Trayon Campers.
At that point in time, he was travelling around in a rented Toyota Landcruiser troopy setup as a camper.
Ruedi visited the slide on camper manufacturer’s factory on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, and the first thing Vernon from Trayon noticed about him, was that he was a man that worked with his hands and understood quality.
“He had a very notable way of looking at the camper,” Vernon said,
while I was talking to him, he didn’t break eye contact, yet he was running his hand across the countertop edge, feeling the aluminium frame with the rivets in it.
“while I was talking to him, he didn’t break eye contact, yet he was running his hand across the countertop edge, feeling the aluminium frame with the rivets in it.” Vernon explains.
“That’s how I knew he was looking for quality.” He did ask “do you export to Europe?” and Vernon promptly replied, “Yes, we would only do it under the Trayon banner, not as a reseller.”
Anyway, sometime after the visit, Ruedi had returned home, he sent an email asking if Trayon was still interested in distributing to Europe.
And the answer was yes, but only to the right person. Hundreds if not thousands of emails later, Trayon Europe was born with Ruedi and Heidi Hort as the founders.
The hurdles were high and constant while expanding our reach to Europe, they included:
The largest of which was the fact that for the average European outdoors enthusiast – a flat tray (or a flatbed) on a ute was very expensive, and rarely used for recreational purposes.
Trayon partnered with Tripple-M trays in Brisbane, where Trayon would buy a tray pre-made from Tripple-M and send it overseas attached under the Trayon Camper – ready for vehicle fitment in Europe.
The first shipment from the slide on camper manufacturer was a 40-foot container loaded incredibly tightly and securely.
The Trayon team took extra special care packaging this shipment, they even included a demonstrator vehicle, a Ford Ranger Supercab XLT tray back. This shipment also included:
In addition to that, they also included various 4×4 accessories and aluminium trays to be fitted onto the first vehicles in Europe.
It was in interesting process packing the container in a way that it could be easily unpacked while keeping everything secure
“It was in interesting process packing the container in a way that it could be easily unpacked while keeping everything secure,” Vernon says.
On the destination end, Ruedi purpose built a warehouse in his hometown Wittnau, Switzerland, which is now the headquarters of Trayon Europe.
Vernon flew over to Switzerland and on the day of arrival, went straight to Wittnau to unload the container.
It was a huge, momentous day, no time for jet lag, we pushed hard and got everything unloaded
“It was a huge, momentous day, no time for jet lag, we pushed hard and got everything unloaded,” Vernon says.
Over the next few days they began converting the vehicles.
Ruedi had lined up a small fleet of Ford Rangers, including:
The Wildtrack and Dual cab needed to be converted from style side tub to flatbed, along with the addition of 4WD accessories such as front bull bars and so on.
Aluminium flatbed trays are very expensive in Europe, so in order to make this feasible, Trayon also sends over trays with our campers, since trays are so common here in Australia.
Europeans do off road and camping shows well, they take it to the next level. Vernon and the Trayon Europe team took their fleet to the “Abenteuer & Allrad” show in Germany in a town called Bad Kissingen.
There was a lot of excitement in the air with Australian made symbol front and center. With over 65,000 people through the gates in just 3 days, the show was a great success and introduction for Trayon Europe.
The concept of a commercial vehicle with a flat tray is still relatively new for the European audience, but Trayon is confident that there will be a devoted following once people realise the practicality.
This has also opened a side endeavour for Trayon Europe in providing economical trayback solutions for clients in Europe.
Since the Abenteuer & Allrad show in Germany then there has been further shows in Germany, France, Austria, UK, Spain, Italy and some in Switzerland as well as an official warehouse opening ceremony in Wittnau.
Sales are going well for Trayon Europe, and Trayon is looking forward to further establish its brand as the primary trusted slide on camper throughout Europe.
Since then Trayon has established an agent network in not only Europe but also one in New Zealand and Canada.
Trayon is now the only slide on camper manufacturer in Australia that builds and exports campers out of Australia!
There is growing demand for Trayon to enter the United States.
With many people doing what is called “overland travel” or “Overlanding” which is what we call “off-road touring” here in Australia, the Trayon Camper is well established as one of the best campers in the world for this purpose. Trayon USA would only be done with the right partnership just as Trayon Europe is.
No matter the country, Trayon Campers feel privileged to support those who want to explore this beautiful planet.
In June 2017, we reached an epic milestone here at Trayon Campers and that was the manufacture and delivery of our 1000th ute camper.
Since 1994 we have been hand crafting lightweight, free standing, tray back ute campers for devoted adventurers who love traveling to some of the most remote areas around Australia and the world.
Many of our customers travel these infamous tracks that Outback Australia has to offer including:
These areas are so remote that you have to be prepared with ample food supplies, water, and fuel. Most of these tracks have no mobile reception, so it is recommended you take an GPS locator in case of emergencies.
Enter the Royal Flying Doctors Service
If a medical emergency happens in these remote areas there is only really one organisation who will respond. And that is the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS). Our customers rely on RFDS the moment they embark on their journey and leave built up areas.
So in celebration of this momentous milestone, we decided to give back to Trayon customers and the broader community who have supported us on this 23-year journey by donating 100% of the proceeds from 1000th camper to the RFDS.
In total, this amount was AUD $40,500 which Robert Needham, the Executive Manager of Fundraising for RFDS Queensland, says will be used to purchase vital life-saving medical equipment.
“It’s through selfless donations like this from Trayon Campers that allow the RFDS to continue its lifesaving work,” Robert explains.
“Every donation, no matter how big or small, is crucial to the continuity of service of the Flying Doctor. This donation will help us to deliver care to more than 90,000 people throughout Queensland each year.”
Every donation, no matter how big or small, is crucial to the continuity of service of the Flying Doctor. This donation will help us to deliver care to more than 90,000 people throughout Queensland each year.
Milestone – One Thousand Ute Campers
Trayon Ute Camper #1000 ended up being purchased for a single cab Isuzu D-max Extra Cab ute, it was our 1980 Diesel Deluxe model which offers internal cabin heating through a small, quiet diesel unit.
The build process was similar to all of our campers, except amongst the Trayon staff there was definitely a feeling of honour and gratitude.
As we geared up to build number #1000 we created a unique plaque with the details engraved, see details below:
After it was complete, we actually held onto it for a while for sentimental reasons 🙂 But in the end, we decided that it was built to be out there, amongst the adventure.
The Next One Thousand Ute Campers
We are excited to embark on the journey of the next 1000 campers. There are lots of planned innovations and events coming along the way, such as the introduction of a totally new and unique canopy camper called the “TrayMate” and a complete re-design of the TrayTek!
At Trayon we are humbled that such a large community of people support our vision.
We are a family run, Australian Manufacturer of ute campers with a passion for camping, and it is clear that the core of our product is ingrained with the safety of our customers in mind while in the remotest of places, and hope no one needs to call upon the RFDS!
If you are reading this, I’d like to thank you personally taking the time to read our news.
Are you gearing up to travel to some remote area? If so, we can help equip you for your adventures, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on (07) 5476 5355.
Vernon Van Der Walt
A slide on camper is simply a camper which slides onto the back of a pickup/ute that has a flat tray or platform it can be mounted on.
Since most of Australia is remote and uninhabitable, when you travel through these areas you could be away from civilisation for 1000kms in any direction.
Having as little to go wrong as possible is crucial. Towing a heavy camper trailer can often be a point of failure in Australia’s most remote areas.
A trailer can have extra axles, wheels, tires, brakes, and suspension that can substantially increase your risk of equipment failure.
This is where a slide on camper can be a safer alternative as long as your vehicle’s payload is not exceeded once the slide on is mounted and your vehicle is fully loaded.
Slide on campers have been around in one form or another for a long time (since the early 1950s) although they were slow to gain popularity in those early years of the camper industry here in Australia.
Slide on campers now accounts for a small but significant market share of the caravan and camping industry Australia-wide.
There are two primary styles of ute platforms. The first is commonly called tub or style-side. The second is called tray or flat-deck.
The tub style camper is usually called a slide in camper which referred to the action of sliding the camper into the tub via the tailgate.
And the tray style camper is usually called a slide on, referring to the action of sliding the camper onto the flat-deck platform.
So the term “slide on camper” is quite specific. However, it can also be called by these variations which also encompass slide in campers:
There are three identifiable classes of slide on campers in Australia, and they are outlined below:
This class is typically a galvanized steel or aluminum canopy on the back of a ute which houses basic utilities such as fridges, kitchen and sometimes a bed. Alternatively, it can be used as a platform for a roof top tent.
These range from about AUD $5,000 – $25,000 depending on materials, features, and accessories required. They are typically very basic, with limited shelter, possibly an external kitchen which slides out. Very little in terms of creature comforts and generally these campers don’t have “walk-in” capability.
This class of slide on camper can have the option to slide on and off, or permanently fixed. Trayon Campers are in the process of developing a Class 1 slide on canopy camper called Traymate, using proven manufacturing techniques. The basic model starts from AUD $6,000 as a shell, and the complete fit out will sit around AUD $25,000. If this interests you, send us an e-mail at email@example.com
This class really represents the slide ons which are purpose built for being on a tray. They contain the creature comforts that class 1 doesn’t, such as seating, dedicated sleeping, and indoor or outdoor cooking area and you can “walk-in” them as opposed to the class 1.
They often leverage the use of canvas to create additional areas of shelter and typically range from AUD $30,000 – $45,000 depending on make and features.
These are more commonly used for long range 4WD touring in Australia. Trayon Campers make Class 2 slide on campers for most single, extra and dual cab ute variants. If you are interested in this Class of Trayon, please forward all inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
This class encapsulates slide on campers that are built like a caravan (discussed further below). Essentially, these are slide ons which use caravan manufacturing techniques to build in the creature comforts.
This means they can typically be heavy, tall, hard roof, fixed or pop top and have a cab over design.
Typically, in Australia, these are imported and you would need a ute/truck which has a larger payload than 1 tonne fully loaded. Like an American pickup, Iveco Daily, Mitsubishi Canter 4×4 or Mercedes G Professional.
Alternatively, Trayon Campers built a lightweight Hybrid Class 3 slide on camper, called the Traytek, which safely fits most common single cab, extra cab and dual 4×4 utes in Australia.
Traytek campers range from AUD $50,000 – 70,000 depending on features. Please forward all inquiries to email@example.com
The tray platform soon became preferred for outback touring for most Australian users as a flat tray surface was found to be more practical and usable.
A tray also provides easy access from the sides of the vehicle without having to negotiate the wheel arches within a tub. This enabled ute-back campers to utilise a more generous layout, allowing more features and storage capacity within the camper.
A tray is fixed to the vehicle’s chassis often by nuts and bolts, thus enabling the camper to utilise the vehicle’s suspension to securely carry a load over rough terrain.
A tub is generally attached using a thread welded to a thin piece of plate steel, and can easily shear when faced with tough terrain under load.
In Australia, a large proportion of outback roads are unsealed and often corrugated. A standard tub may not necessarily be designed for these rugged conditions or for carrying a 400+ kg camper at speed over rough terrain.
The tub fastenings will likely strip from the vehicle’s chassis and cause significant damage, whereas a properly fastened tray should stand the test of time and use.
Slide on campers started to become popular from the early 2000s with very few manufacturers online. The benefits of slide on campers were always evident but no one could build them lightweight and strong enough prior to the 1990s.
It was really only the caravan builders who made them and their concept was to just build a caravan that sits on your ute.
A bed, water, kitchenette, lounge, awning, fridge, water tank, windows – basically everything that constituted a caravan and caravan-like features but without a chassis or suspension.
These early slide on campers were large, heavy, high profile with a high center of gravity and made with the same build methodology as a caravan during that period.
This meant wooden frames and weight distribution for a camper which would usually have its own suspension – not something that is mounted on top of a ute which already has a predetermined weight distribution and suspension set by the vehicle manufacturer.
Needless to say, these kinds of builds did not really lend themselves to the rigours of outback travel/touring as they often broke the vehicle they sat on or broke themselves under their own weight (or frame failure).
Sure there will be some who will say things like, “During the 1980s I traveled all over Australia with my old Kingswood ute and a slide on caravan and didn’t have a single problem.”
The reality is we now have strict rules for vehicle payloads which are enforced by traffic departments and insurance claims are scrutinised to determine if the vehicle was “overloaded“. (Remember, insurers are in the business of not paying out if they can avoid it.)
So while these types of builds were a solution for those who did not want to tow back in the day, these days, load capacity is heavily regulated. The safest advice anyone can give you is:
To mitigate the likelihood of an insurer not paying your claim, ensure you do not exceed your vehicle’s limits as defined by the vehicle’s manufacturer!
Utes in Australia typically have a 500kg – 1000kg payload capacity depending on manufacturer specifications.
Once you load up your camper with batteries, fridge, food, auxiliary water storage, and equipment as well as loading your vehicle with fuel, luggage and people, that capacity can quickly be used up.
With little room for movement inside these numbers, it is critical that you choose a slide on camper which doesn’t put you and your family in harm’s way or void your insurance.
Technology has advanced and new materials made it possible for the slide on camper sector to take a leap forward.
The Australian slide on manufacturer Trayon Campers was a primary innovator in designing and building a flexible, non-welded, alloy frame. To date, Trayon is still the only manufacturer with this construction method producing strong and lightweight campers.
This method avoids any risk of the aluminium weakening from the extreme heat of welding (commonly leading to stress fractures or cracks).
Trayon uses aluminium welding only on parts of the build where flexibility is key and no threat of breakages can be expected when under severe stress from harsh terrains.
Trayon Campers are still the lightest Class 2 slide on camper by nearly 300kg compared to its closest rival (spec for spec) and that is a record held since 1994 when the first Trayon Camper was born.
When considering a slide on camper, you quickly realise the more electronically controlled mechanisms there are, the more risk of something going wrong in the middle of nowhere.
If there is a drop-down, pop-up or flip-over mechanism that is electronically controlled, the electronics may be vulnerable to cracking or corroding in harsh environments. The elegant solution is a simple, manual mechanism which avoids these risks altogether. Or at least a manual override that allows you to use the camper even if the electrics were to fail.
For instance: The Trayon Camper can have an electric actuator fitted as an optional-extra to remotely open and close the camper lid/roof for customers with limited or impaired movement but in the event of electronic failure the entire system can revert to a simply quick and easy flip over action aided with gas struts which is how Trayons function (and have been functioning) since 1994.
Trayon Campers research and development division works closely with state-of-the-art technologies to bring lighter, stronger methods and materials to the construction of campers.
They also test new electronics to ensure they can handle the rigors of touring in outback Australia. One such technology is the LiFEPo4 lithium battery, which drastically reduces the weight of the Trayons power system compared to the industry standard AGM batteries.
Trayon has teamed up with Redarc and Revolution Power Australia to pioneer a charging and power distribution system which you can rely on when you are off the grid.
There are more “pop-up” companies trying their hand at making the ultimate slide on camper touring solution.
They quickly run into the same problem as the earlier generation slide on campers – too heavy. Trayon Campers have been an established Australian manufacturer for over 25 years and have now produced over 1000 campers.
Camper #1 from 1994 is still alive and kicking. Camper #1000 utilises the same design, layout, function, size and concept, the only difference is that the technology has evolved which has increased its durability and versatility.
With some great inclusions such as modern marine grade fridges, LED, solar, lithium batteries, USB ports, heaters and a range of other accessories.
The slide on camper industry is still advancing and growing. The future is bright and as more outback tracks are being closed off to trailers, an increasing number of people are opting for slide on campers for their touring needs.
Trayon Campers is your industry leading specialist, with a slide on camper solution for your budget and requirements.