Time to buy a camper? What you need to know before you buy.
We love camping! Our first family camping trip was to the snowy mountains in our small (pre-kids) tent. It was certainly cozy during those cold evenings! We soon upgraded to a tent with a couple of ‘rooms’ and a middle 'family' space. But all the gear we needed to cart to be self-sufficient and bush camp was proving space prohibitive in our AWD and roof pod.
So, we bought a camper trailer. Just a second hand one, but it will help us create more camping adventures with our kids.
While we were trawling through the many ads for second hand campers there were a few things we always looked out for.
Ease of set up – can you set it up by yourself?
This was pretty important for us – especially with small kids. Often The Husband is setting up the camper while I entertain the kids and keep them out of his hair.
How deep are the trailer walls? Obviously the deeper the trailer the easier it is to pack it with kids toys that can be bulky like scooters and bikes. Also, is there a box on the outside of the trailer? These are perfect to store the tent pegs, a hammer, all the poles and annexes, perhaps a shovel, broom or other items you need quick and easy access to.
Does the camper come with a fully kitted out kitchen – some will have all the utensils and cooking gear, others wont. An on-board water tank was crucial for us so we didn’t have to carry water in a jerry. Is there a jerry included for carrying extra fuel? And what about a space to store a gas bottle on the side of the trailer. What about an annex? An annex can serve as an undercover family space for eating and cooking and relaxing after the kids got o bed. Or, if the walls of the annex are included you have extra room for sleeping – maybe the cousins or non-camping family and friends can join you on your next camping trip. Or perhaps the walls are an insect mesh, which is another added protection from mosquitoes and sand flies. Is the ladder to reach the bed included? What about how the trailer is set up? Is it wired to house a battery for example? Is a spare wheel included? Ultimately, the more extras, the less you have to do to the trailer.
Depending on the size of the camper trailer, you may not get a very big bed space. A large sleeping area was a must for us so our whole family could sleep in the one bed area – two adults (we're shorties so we can sleep across the bed, rather than lengthways - there has to be some perks to being short!), and two kids. You may also like to take measurements for the mattress and take what linen you will need. A waterproof mattress protector was essential for us! Almost always, a camper trailer mattress will never be a conventional double, queen or king size, so do measure before you buy linen.
Where and how often it was used?
A really critical question. You want to know if it was used on the beach and if it was properly washed down each time. If it wasn’t the seawater corrodes the metal and reduces the lifespan of the trailer. If it was used frequently, then potentially the wear and tear on the seams and structural damage on the poles may have occurred or will soon occur.
How old is it?
Obviously the older the trailer the more damage and use it may have – so make sure you inspect thoroughly.
Canvas – how think is it?
Canvasses come in different thicknesses and is measured in gauges. So the higher the gauge the more waterproof it is. You want a waterproof camper trailer!
Where and how it was stored?
Another obvious question, but you would want one that has been stored under cover out of the elements. Sun, wind, water all aid the wear and tear on the trailer and the covers.
We are really happy with the our camper trailer - and after our road trip from Brisbane to Darwin, she really was put through her paces. We made some minor modifications and updates such as fitting 4WD wheels/light truck wheels to give it a bit more clearance/height, and we also got the surface rust professionally removed and a special rust proof and chop resistant paint applied to help prolong the life of the trailer.
Now to making heaps of family camping memories in our camper trailer! Next stop is Kakadu!