What is the best ute for slide on camper setups? The answer can be different for everyone, but there are 5 main factors to consider before making your mind up. They are:
1. Camper dry-weight – do the math
2. Budget – listen to your wallet
3. Horses for courses – buy what you need, not what you want
4. Stats, figures and facts – play the numbers game
5. Upgradability – adding “fries” to the order
You’ll want to consider each of these areas carefully to find the ute with the right blend for your camping/lifestyle needs. This article is part 1 of 5, and will cover Camper dry-weight. It runs under the assumption that you currently do not have a tray back ute. If you do currently have a tray back ute, check out our guide on how to choose a slide on camper.
Trayon Camper customers have been telling us all about their preferences since 1994, and we’ve been listening! We have blended together with our customer feedback with decades of experience to be able to recommend the best utes for your class of camper.
Through our love of the craft, we have become unique experts, able to give customers exceptional guidance when it comes to what to look for in a ute. It is more than just another opinion, as we are qualified motor-vehicle manufacturers with industry training and qualifications.
This is the first instalment of a 5-part series to help you decide what ute will be best for touring with your slide on camper. Stay tuned for our next article that will take a deep dive into budget considerations.
Now, let’s explore everything you need to know about camper dry-weight.
What Is Camper Dry-Weight?
Camper dry weight is essentially the weight of the camper before adding any cargo, water etc. Dry weights can vary greatly between campers depending on the internal features, size of the loading space, and manufacturing methods.
Most campers start somewhere around 500kg but can range all the way up to 1.2 tonnes. It is perhaps the most crucial factor to consider when deciding what ute to buy for slide-on campers. Because this weight is a static load that sits on the back of your ute it consumes a large portion of your vehicle’s payload. You’ll see some examples later in the article illustrating how important understanding what is included in the dry weight is important before buying a ute.
What Are Your Ute Options?
There are a plethora of options when it comes to finding the right ute in Australia, it can be overwhelming. Do you want a style-side tub, or a flat tray? Do you want something more luxurious, or barebones? What factory 4WD options do you want? Many ute models come in single cab, dual cab or extended cab and will have varying specs for on and off-road performance and fuel economy.
If you are travelling solo or with one passenger, a single or extra cab with air conditioning and some recovery equipment might be all you need. But if you will be travelling with kids you may find a dual cab with enough cabin space to sit a couple of people comfortably is a necessity. But everything has a trade-off, whether it be payload, number of seats, or physical cargo room.
So it is about identifying what will suit the majority of your use cases in the foreseeable future.
- Large range
- Ford F250, Ram, Tundra, Silverado, etc
- Small 4×4 truck range
- Mitsubishi Canter, Sprinter, Iveco Daily, Isuzu NPS, Unimog etc
Tray or Tub?
The most common choice in Australia is to purchase a ute with a tray back. Tubs generally offer more restrictive deep sidewalls than trays.
However, the main appeal to a tub is the visual aesthetic. In reality, a tub isn’t the most efficient use of the space to carry a wide range of loads. The rear wheel arches often impede on the load floor area which can negatively impact your load width and cargo volume.
Flat trays on the other hand, are a much more practical option. The low side walls allow for easy access to cargo loads. The load floor sits above the rear wheels which means they offer maximum load floor area. Not to mention aftermarket campers and canopies can easily be fitted as they are typically standard sizes.
Taking Brand into Consideration
In Australia we have strong brand loyalists, this article is not about a brand nor is it about what Trayon thinks is best. The purpose is to equip the reader with a stack of questions to consider when it comes to choosing a ute for the purpose of carrying a camper.
Our ultimate goal is to help you find an option that will pair best with your slide on camper when everything is mounted and you hit the road.
All our customers have their own preferences when it comes to the ute they choose to mount their slide on to.
Since 1994, over 1400+ customers have given us an exceptionally good indication of what they prefer. All these years of feedback with our added expertise have given us a unique data-driven point of view to give our future customers on what to look for in a ute.
Proceed with caution if you want to purchase a vehicle due to the brand alone, because you might feel it was the wrong choice when you load up your slide on camper and find you have exceeded your payload capacity (hint: very easy to do).
Do the Maths
It is absolutely necessary to do the maths before purchasing a ute or a slide on camper.
Recently an influencer bought a slide-on camper and explained the reason for buying this specific camper brand and model was because on paper it was the lightest option available at a dry weight of 320kg.
Then after that, he said he will add his own fridge, batteries, cooker, awning, water pump, lights, mattress, sink etc.
So yes, this is a light camper, because it has nothing in it! Our Trayon Dual Standard model is 50kg more, at a dry weight of 370kg, but it already has a fridge, battery, cooker, awning, water pump, mattress plus heaps more. So, keep in mind that what the Dry Weight of a camper includes varies greatly and some manufacturers will try and confuse the matter.
Our base model Trayon Dual Standard has the following inclusions:
(note that even the legs to free-stand the Trayon is included in the dry-weight – often with other brands, the legs are not part of the stated dry-weight)
Our theory is that our dry weight numbers need to reflect a perfectly functioning/comfortable camper the moment you leave our factory. Sure we have optional upgrades like every other manufacturer, but our base camper is functional and comfortable.
Most mid-range utes can only carry about 1000kg. Some websites will list the dry weight of their ute without including the ute tray, while some will include that in their weight.
You will need to add in your weight, the weight of passengers and fuel in the vehicle tank. You should also take care to account for any accessories you will want.
For instance, a bulbar, side steps, roof rack, spare tyres, long-range fuel tank, tow bar, spotlights, UHF, maps, tools, recovery gear, off-road GPS, jerry cans and any other creature comforts you want.
As you can see if you just consider the camper dry weight as the determining factor, and not factor what is included in the dry weight. An extra fridge, awning, sink, mattress, batteries etc could easily leave you with very little wriggle room or exceed your payload.
At the end of the day, the only one responsible for adhering to your vehicle’s payload limitations is you – the person who loaded it. Best way to avoid this is to do the maths. Whip out your calculator and add everything up.
Sadly the influencer showed that their vehicle was indeed overweight and didn’t follow up with how they rectified the situation.
Don’t get yourself in this situation. You can find slide on campers that are both lightweight and functional.
Trayon Dual Standard Example
Let’s run through an example using the Trayon Dual Standard.
It starts with a 370kg dry weight. You can load it up with food, clothes, and water weighing around 250-350kg.
Now you have a loaded camper weighing approximately 700kg (varies as to what and how much you load).
A mid-range ute with a payload capacity of 1000kg will give you a remaining 300kg of available payload for any remaining additions and accessories. Not to mention the weight of the driver. That is not a whole lot to work with.
Some class 3 slide on campers (typically cab over, solid roof) weigh more than 750kg dry weight. When you add a load average of 250-350kg that surpasses the 1000kg mid-range ute payload limit.
What About a GVM Upgrade?
Lots of customers will pause here to ask if they can add some more wiggle room by giving their ute a gvm upgrade to increase payload.
We will cover this question in depth in the fourth instalment of this series, but for now, we will keep it simple and say that some vehicles simply can’t be upgraded enough to carry the weight you may want.
You can’t rely on GVM upgrades to be an all-out solution.
Are Bigger Utes Better?
So what about purchasing an extra-large ute?
This is another thought that might cross your mind when trying to find a ute that will carry all of your necessities and extras. Again, this is an area that deserves some caution.
Just because a ute might be bigger does not mean that it can carry more weight.
For example, the big ol’ 2020 Dodge Ram 2500 has a gross vehicle mass of 4490kg and a kerb weight of 3577kg*. This means there is a payload rating of only 913kg. And there are currently no gross vehicle mass upgrade options available on a standard car licence.
This means there is no way to increase the payload. Although the Ram may have a big towing capacity, it has unimpressive payload limits that are not worth it compared to many other vehicles.
Similarly, the Nissan Titan has a 787kg* payload capacity and the Toyota Tundra has only a 707kg* payload capacity. Deciding to go for one of these giant trucks can cost you more payload capacity than if you went with a more light option. Sure they are bigger, they have plenty of room for carrying more stuff. But that doesn’t mean it can carry more weight.
If you are determined to buy an extra-large ute, then the 2020 Ford F250 is the first place option. Its GVM is 4490kg with a kerb weight of approximately 2980kg*.
Aluminium body panels help it to come in at more than 500kg lighter in kerb weight than the 2500 Ram. It has a payload of around 1500kg*. Be aware that this ute also comes with a first-place price tag, costing over $200k+ in Australia.
Sure you can buy these big utes new and ask for the GVM to be more than 4500kg (some models only) but then you can no longer drive it with a standard car licence and will have to go for training to get a truck licence, in some states this also means the vehicle will require commercial registration, insurance and require the vehicle to go over the pits for official inspection prior to registration.
The same goes for the next category up – the small 4×4 Truck range has the same issue in that they are already heavy vehicles as they are bigger and that 4500kg ceiling on a car licence leaves very little payload left unless you up it to a truck licence GVM over 4500 kg.
Trayon Campers, One of a Kind
Since we began this journey in 1994, Trayon Campers have been unbeaten when it comes to low dry weight. That is because we have already included all the things you might need for camping basics.
Spec-for-spec, there is no other class 2 slide on camper available in Australia with the same dry weight when compared directly.
Trayon Campers are also the only slide on camper company that is completely transparent about the weight of our campers. Our pricing information lists the price and weights for the campers, upgrades and optional extras.
We even state the weight of each of these extra items individually so that there are no surprises for customers when it comes to their total weight after adjustments.
Trayon Campers is an open book because we know that providing you with all of the weights you will be dealing with gives you the clearest picture of ute options available to you. Most slide-ons you can purchase with a weight similar to ours are simply empty shells.
But we build a quality slide on campers that include all the basics. That way you have the space to travel with your favourite creature comforts without stressing about payload. You don’t have to worry about sacrificing cooking equipment, board games, or whatever it is you like to travel with to fit a water pump and batteries.
Camper Dry Weight Is the First Step to Finding the Right Ute for your Camper
There is a large range of 4×4 utes available in Australia and knowing which one will be best for you can be daunting. But don’t be overwhelmed, as you have already learned about the most important factor to consider; dry weight.
This is just one piece of the puzzle, but we want to stress its importance. We try to make it as easy as possible for you to understand the dry weight and feel confident about not exceeding your payload limits.
So step one is to first list out the dry weights of each slide on camper model you are interested in and then list out what core features are included in them in a spreadsheet so you can begin to understand what things you want to add to your camping setup.
Also start a list of utes with their payload, first identify if the manufacturer includes the tray in that figure, as you will have to factor that weight in as well.
Also, don’t forget to list out all of the accessories and add-ons you plan to camp with and do the maths. This is a great place to start narrowing down the options.
Make sure you read our next article (next month) to further narrow down the options based on your budget. If you haven’t already scroll to the bottom of the page and subscribe to our newsletter so you don’t miss out on more info from future posts.
*models and options are dependent. Final figures may vary and self-research is advised.