Let’s be honest, it doesn't matter what vehicle you’re driving or what type of shelter you’re camping in, it’s just great to be off road camping in the Outback!
But, have you ever been off road camping and regretted the gear or camper/vehicle rig you bought? Maybe you couldn’t access certain tracks, it took too long to find gear or to set up, or it just broke? These kinds of situations often occur for the same reason:
Convenience leads to compromise, which leads to consequence
When looking for a particular feature in a camper for example, it’s important to consider the Pro’s and Con’s.
Generally to have this feature or “convenience” there is a cost, not just in money but almost always you’ll have to compensate in other areas (weight, space, time etc). Simply put, everything will bring a compromise; it is up to you, the purchaser to decide what amount of compromise you are willing to live with. There is a reason why there are thousands of RV manufacturers in Australia alone, not one product suits 99% of the camping population.
Let’s use the following off road camping trailer example to explain.
The Camper Trailer Convenience: A hard floor off road camping trailer can provide a very comfortable living space. Thats a convenience desired by many campers!
The Camper Trailer Compromise: To tow an off road camping trailer, you may need a vehicle upgrade or replacement. That's a compromise you make for your desired convenience.
The Camper Trailer Consequence: After making compromises for your convenience, the off road camping trailer may actually prevent you from accessing your favourite camping spots. Or worse, maybe you try to access those spots, and you break some running gear like springs or axles! They’re the consequences, and a particularly nasty ones at that!
Of course there can be beneficial consequences as well, for example you have some extra space to sit around inside the camper…...but was that worth the cost?
So that’s the Concept Explained:
With that out of the way, the main message we are trying to convey in this post is….
You Need to Do the Analysis First!
When seeking a certain feature, function or style in an off road camping set-up, you have to consider the compromises and consequences first (i.e. the costs and benefits). If there are more costs than benefits to get what you’re after, then maybe there is better options.
Simply put – everything will bring a compromise, and it is up to the purchaser to decide which or what compromises they are willing to live with. There is a reason why there are thousands of camping and RV manufacturers in Australia alone – no single item or set up suits everyone.
This Concept Applies Across the Board
It’s an important concept to grasp before buying anything, whether off road camping related or not! Convenience usually comes at a cost.
However, in this post we focus on off road camping. We include some examples to explain:
how you can identify convenience, compromise and consequence; and
use the concept to find an off road camping option that provides the minimum amount of costs and the maximum amount of benefits for your situation.
The examples we use include:
Terry’s Cape York fishing trip
Bob and Mary’s ‘once in a lifetime’ off road adventure
John’s analysis first scenario.
Off-Road Camping Example 1: Terry’s Cape Fishing Trip
Terry loved his deep sea fishing down south, but wanted to try his hand in the tropics. He planned a once in a lifetime off road camping trip up to Cape York to chase some Coral Trout, Golden Snapper and Red Emperor. He owned a five metre ocean going boat.
He wanted to spend six weeks off road camping and fishing in the dry season, and his wife was just as keen to visit one of Queensland’s most beautiful regions. At 65 years old, him and his wife needed a comfortable off road camping set-up. Tents weren’t an option. He liked the idea of a slide on camper, but he didn't think it would suit his vehicle - a reliable old 200 series landcruiser wagon.
He didn't want to sell his wagon. For an off road camper, he’d need to sell the wagon and buy a ute.
Terry’s Primary Off Road Camping Convenience
Keeping the wagon is the convenience he wanted to stick to at all costs.
Terry didn’t analyse the compromises and consequences for this convenience, he just new he wanted to keep the old girl (the vehicle….). He didn’t know how this would affect his fishing and off road camping options.
What Were the Off Road Camping Compromises?
Here’s what he did to keep the 200 Series:
Bought an expensive off road caravan, and therefore had to leave his ocean going boat behind.
Bought a roof topper tinny to replace the boat.
Added a special roof rack system required for the tinny.
Added a special bracket onto the caravan’s drawbar to hold the boat motor, which didn’t fit in the wagon.
Added a rock guard on the draw bar in front of the outboard motor.
Required extra overnight off road expedition gear to use when the caravan would be left behind (i.e when they wanted to sleep at ‘rough to get to’ places inaccessible to caravans).
Wagon required full suspension upgrades because the fully loaded set up put it over its legal gross vehicle mass (GVM).
Keeps the 200 series and has a comfortable drive up north
Has a very comfortable camping setup (although not really an ideal ‘off road’ camping set up)
Terry’s 200 Series Costs:
No more deep sea fishing
The boat motor still gets some stone damage while sitting on the caravans draw bar
Caravan has to be detached every time the boat is launched or placed back on the roof racks
He has to drive the 200 Series into salty environments and sometimes even shallow water to launch the boat, because him and his wife can’t carry it very far by hand
He has to assemble the boat’s outboard motor before every launch, then wash down and pack it up before leaving
Any salty residue left behind drips down onto his vehicle
The roof topper tinny causes higher wind resistance and thus higher fuel consumption
He can't park the 200 Series anywhere undercover
To stay overnight in ‘rough to get to places’, him and his wife need to unhitch the caravan, leave it somewhere safe or pay for storage, and sleep in a small tent.
Even without the caravan, with the roof topper his vehicle is less sturdy, so he doesn't feel as comfortable exploring those really rough interesting tracks which lead to the most beautiful places.
The End Result:
Terry copped 10 significant costs to compensate for keeping the wagon, for which he got two benefits. A very cost heavy result! He has to strike out deep sea fishing, which was one of his primary reasons for getting the off road rig in the first place. Real off road camping is now very difficult.
What if Terry Had Gone Down the Slide on Camper Path?
If Terry sold the 200 series and bought an extra-cab ute instead, he could have bought a slide on camper and towed his ocean going boat behind. In this case, towing his ocean going boat would be his primary convenience.
And here’s his hypothetical compromise:
He buys a Trayon Camper - the lightest on the market.
He modifies the boat trailer to carry extra fishing and off road expedition gear.
He upgrades the trailers suspension to make it off road ready.
He upgrades the ute’s suspension to carry the slide on while towing a trailer off road.
And here is how his new consequence list would look:
The Trayon Off Road Camping Benefits:
Deep sea fishing is back on the agenda
Super easy to park the vehicle and Trayon camper anywhere
The outboard motor sits out of harm’s way behind the boat (i.e no stone damage)
The Trayon set up results in a much more off road ready rig, with a lower center of gravity and a lower profile than a roof topper tinny and a caravan
Better fuel economy as the rig has a lower profile
The vehicle weight distribution is spot on, because the Trayon Camper puts more than 60% of its overall weight in front of the vehicle’s rear axle
He can easily launch the boat off ramps because it’s sitting on the trailer all ready to go
Proper off road camping is back on the agenda. When he wants to go down some really rough tracks, although he still needs to leave the boat trailer somewhere safe, he can bring the Trayon camper and keep camping in comfort no matter where they end up!
All of these benefits would result if he decided to go with the Trayon Camper option.
The Trayon Off Road Camping Costs:
Terry loses the old girl (the 200 Series).
The Trayon costs and benefits list is the opposite result of Terry’s 200 Series list. The Trayon benefits far outweigh the costs, 10 to 1!
In fact the only real negative, losing the 200 Series, would occur regardless of which slide on camper Terry might have bought.
Off-Road Camping Example 2: Bob and Mary’s Off Road Adventure
Bob and Mary were planning an off road camping trip of a lifetime. All they had was an older but reliable Hilux, and a wealth of off road camping experience.
They both agreed that towing something would be a pain, because they wanted to access the most ‘difficult to get to’ places, which are usually the most beautiful and least visited.
That pointed them in the slide on camper direction.
What Was Their Off Road Camping Convenience?
Mary pulled the boss card and wouldn’t settle for any camper with a canvas fold out roof. This was her desired convenience.
These desired conveniences ruled out a Trayon slide on camper.
Their Off Road Camping Compromises:
Instead of a smaller and lighter slide in camper like a Trayon, they bought a large and heavy imported slide in camper.
They had to sell the Hilux and buy a Ford F-250 pick up with the highest level of suspension upgrades to carry the beast of a camper legally.
If your wondering about the difference between a slide on camper and a slide in camper check out our article ‘slide on vs slide in’.
The Off Road Camping Consequences
Bob and Mary’s consequences look a bit like Terry’s (i.e. very cost heavy and benefit light):
Imported Slide in Camper Benefits:
Big indoor kitchen and seating space.
Imported Slide in Camper Costs:
Can no longer explore those really rough track which lead to the most beautiful places, because the slide on camper makes the vehicle too unstable, and easily bogged.
High wind resistance and even higher fuel bills, caused by the campers huge “over cab” front-on profile.
Vehicle feels like a boat when turning a corner and is harder to control, due to the high centre of gravity of the camper.
Hard to park undercover due to the campers large height.
Can not be carried by many standard Australian utes due to the campers immense weight when fully loaded.
Can’t store the vehicle/camper combo in the garage because it’ll take the roller door out.
Extra wear on the vehicles axles, bearings, tires and diffs due to the weight and poor weight distribution of the slide in camper.
Dirts roads are very bumpy and hard on the back due to the F250’s heavy duty springs.
Repairs take a huge amount of time, effort and stress because the campers warranty is handled by an overseas company, and spare parts have to be imported.
The Off Road Camping Result:
Bob and Mary have accepted eight significant costs to compensate for their desired conveniences, for which they got three benefits. This includes jeopardising the ability to reach the roughest but most beautiful areas, which was their original off road camping goal!
What if They Had Gone Down the Slide on Camper Path?
If Bob and Mary had decided to buy a more compact slide on camper, as opposed to the massive slide in camper, they would be able to ‘access all areas’ like they wanted to at the very start of trip planning. So let’s look at their off road camping situation as if they prioritised that convenience instead of a hard roof.
Here’s their hypothetical of road camping compromises:
They add the Trayon Tropical Fly to protect against torrential rain and reduce the direct heating effect of the sun
The Hilux requires suspension upgrades to carry the camper with a little ‘room to play’, in order to be ready for unexpected circumstances in the Outback.
And here is how their off road camping consequence list would look.
The Trayon Off Road Camping Benefits:
They can access all areas that the Hilux can handle
They can keep the reliable old Hilux
Low front on profile of the Trayon adds little wind resistance and therefore has negligible impact on the fuel bill.
High stability caused by the Trayon’s compact form and low height produce a low center of gravity
Can be safely and legally carried by most Australian four wheel drive utes
Sits low behind the cab/roof rack.
Can park the low rig undercover
Can store camper in garage
Less wear on the vehicles axles, bearings, tires and diffs due to its lighter weight
The camper’s warranty is covered from within Australia, it is Australian made and most parts can be sourced domestically.
All of these pro’s resulted because they decided to go with the Trayon Camper option.
The Trayon Off Road Camping Costs:
They have to sleep under the canvas but Mary is happy because they saved some significant coin to be able to stay on the road longer for an extended adventure
The Off Road Camping Result:
Once again, the Trayon results in far more benefits than costs; 10 to 1 in Bob and Mary’s case! However, the tropical fly basically defeats the canvas roof issue anyway, so it’s more like 10 to 0!
Off Road Camping Example 3: John’s Analysis First Scenario
So, we’ve seen what can happen if you rush out and make decisions without first assessing the compromises required for your desired off road camping conveniences. You run the risk of a high number of costs for very little benefit.
What if You Perform the Off Road camping Analysis First?
This example is actually based on an analysis we performed with someone at a Trayon show. For the purpose of this article we’ll call him John.
John came up and slapped his hand on our Trayon showpiece. “Yeah these are great!!” He said. “I know all about them because a couple of mates own em’ and love em’!”
He’d done his off road camping research and knew that Trayon campers were lighter, stronger, lower and better built than any of its competitors. “But I think they have one big drawback”, he said. “I don’t like the bed….”
Who knows what off road camping compromises John was willing to make for the bed. Down the track, he may have chosen a larger slide in camper like Bob and Mary, or an off road caravan like Terry! But instead, we worked through the scenario together.
We explained to John, that for his one cost - not being happy with the Trayon bed - he would get all of the following off road camping benefits.
The Trayon Benefits for John:
Seeing as we found more than 30 benefits associated with the Trayon option, we’ve split them up a bit into broad topics:
Off Road Performance:
Ability to access all off road camping areas (at least anywhere the vehicle can go)
High stability due to the Low center of gravity.
Extremely lightweight compared to all other option, reducing stress on the vehicles running gear and chassis.
Very effective weight distribution (i.e forward facing weight profile, placing the majority of the campers dry-weight and loaded-weight within the first one-third of the front of the camper, so as to not put weight behind the vehicle's rear axle and overload suspension).
Structure designed to flex and absorb stresses of off road travel.
No aluminium welds to crack.
Low profile to ensure the vehicle can squeeze through tight or overgrown tracks.
Off Road Camping Comfort:
Complete, fully self-contained off road expedition gear and facilities, ready for short term or long term trips.
Easy and quick to open and close (takes one person approx. three minutes).
Fast and effortless to detach from vehicle (six minutes)
Able to camp in a Trayon when it is free standing off the vehicle.
Ample storage space for off road expedition gear.
Option to cook inside or outside depending on conditions.
Design, functionality and camper layout remained the same since 1994 so no testing new products or making customers ‘guinea pigs’.
Limited and adjustable points of contact to the ground when off road camping (four when on the ute and eight when freestanding) which allows adjustments to be made on uneven ground.
Cheaper than towing an off road camping trailer or off road caravan (i.e. No camper registration required, less wind resistance and thus better fuel economy)
Cheaper than carrying a larger slide on or slide in camper (less wind resistance reason and thus less fuel consumption).
Less electronic gadgets to go wrong, repair or replace
Trayon Campers hold their value far better for resale
Simplistic design and assembly allows for ease of repair
Build Quality, Warranty and Repair Benefits:
Family owned and run, Australian made, tested and proven (Trayon has been making slide on campers for since 1994 - check out our article ‘Trayon's 1000th Camper’).
Camper construction primarily using aluminium which means no rust
10 years Structural Warranty for off-road camping and travel
Spare parts and warranty support Australia wide
Aluminum construction and not a single aluminum weld in the whole off road camper structure
Reputable company with long running service record and proven product
Powder coated exterior for hard wearing surface protection from “bush pin-stripe”
Allows for towing a boat, horse-float, trailer etc.
The only slide-on company to export campers out of Australia to overseas markets with offices/agents in Europe, NZ and Canada.
Trayon Costs for John:
Doesn’t like standard bed (although there is the option to customise to his preference like our optional extra mattress upgrade called the “sleep system upgrade”).
John is now fully aware of the Trayon off road camping costs and benefits before he makes any decision about off road campers.
This highlights just how important the analysis stage is. He needs to do this for all the options he is considering before crunch time.
The Moral of These Off Road Camping Examples
The moral is, the analysis first approach will point you in the direction of your most suitable option.
The reason there is so many off road camping options is because everyone has different goals and desired conveniences. The off road expedition gear market has to try and cater for this variety. But as a result, nothing perfectly suits everyone's unique situation! Most options are very targeted to achieve particular conveniences.
So before you rush out and buy off road camping gear based solely on convenience, you need to thoroughly analyse your situation first.
You will have to compromise somewhere, somehow, and it is up to you to decide what compromises are worthwhile or which compromises you are willing to live with.
Our Recommended Approach
To ensure you are comfortable with your decision, we recommend following these steps:
Confirm your purpose. Ask yourself what is the purpose of buying an off road camper in the first place (is it too reach some great fishing spots like Terry, or maybe to go off road camping in the most remote and beautiful destinations like Bob and Mary?).
Identify your off road camping options. Once you know exactly why your doing it, then you need to settle on a couple of the best options that will meet that purpose.
List the off road camping compromises. Think about what compromises you will have to make for each option. Don’t rush it. Talk to experts, and people who have done what your planning on doing before.
Think about the off road camping consequences. Once you know what compromises will be required for each option, make your consequence comparison.
Compare off road camping costs and benefits. List out all the costs and benefits of each option and its associated compromises.
Only then will you truly know which is the best off road camping option for your situation!
The bonus is, because you know it’s your best option, you will feel very comfortable to make the required compromises. No second guessing or regrets, because you have gone for the option that will help you reach your goals.
Don’t make the same mistakes as others and buy an off road camping set up before you know what is your best option based on the costs and benefits. Analyse the situation. Identify the conveniences, compromises and consequences, and use them to make smart decisions.
Trayon has been using this concept since 1994 to make extremely ‘benefit heavy’ off road camping set-ups.