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What is a Slide on Camper? Ute Campers Explained

Slide on camper in Africa Safari - Single Cab Landrover Defender 110. Trayon Camper

A slide on camper is simply a ute camper which slides onto the back of a pickup/utility vehicle 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.

Road Unsuitable for Trailers and Caravans Beyond This Point: Slide on camper advantages. Go further than camper trailers and caravans off road

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 Camper in Australia

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.

Slide on Camper Variations

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.

what is a slide on tray and tub comparison

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.

what is a slide on camper slide in camper

And the tray style camper is usually called a slide on, referring to the action of sliding the camper onto the flat-deck platform.

What is a slide on camper - Trayon Slide on camper  Windmill. 4X4 Ford ranger Super Cab with Aluminium Tray. Camping in the Australian Outback.

So the term “slide on camper” is quite specific. However, it can also be called by these variations which also encompass slide in campers:

  • Tray-back camper (flat tray camper)
  • Slide camper (slide ute camper)
  • Tray camper (tray top camper)
  • Ute camper (ute back camper)
  • Truck camper
  • Carry camper
  • Pick up camper
  • Flat bed camper (flat deck camper)

There are three identifiable classes of slide on campers in Australia, and they are outlined below:

Class 1: Canopy Slide on Camper

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

Class 2: Purpose Built Slide on Camper

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

Class 2 Trayon Slide on camper on the back of a Super Cab Ford Ranger at the beach, off road, surf.

Class 3: Cab over Slide on Camper

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

Outback Touring with a Slide on Camper

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.

tray vs tub what is a slide on

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.

History of the Slide on Camper Industry

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.

old class 3 slide on - caravan style

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 centre 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.

Broken Down in the Middle of Nowhere-ville

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 travelled 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.

overloaded ute

State-of-the-Art Slide on Camper

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).

aluminium stress fracture

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.

Trayon Revolution power Redarc

Trayon Campers – Slide on Campers Built Tough

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.

what is a slide on camper Trayon number 1000

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. 

What is a slide on camper - Flat bed campers explained. Truck Camper, Trayon Campers Ford Ranger Super Cab Ute, Desert Australia.
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