Our current caravan is our seventh! We have had an interest in caravans for some 35 years, in the 1970's I spent 5 1/2 years working for one of the countries largest caravan manufacturers at the time. We feel that caravans are a little like cars in that they need to be upgraded from time to time, our policy has been to trade up whilst the 'van still has value, it is this point that separates cars from caravans, a 'van in good appearance will fetch a good price, there is no odometer to worry about.
Our current caravan is a Jayco Starcraft Outback. It was built in November 2012. It is a tad under 17' in length, it is equipped with a shower and toilet, a solar panel and twin water tanks, it is designed for 'free camping' (Camping away from caravan parks).
Since new we have now towed the van over 47000 km and are pleased to say that we are pretty much happy with everything about it.
Our decision to purchase a caravan with an ability to 'free camp' is due to a sudden increase in the cost of caravan park sites in Australia, particularly along the coastline.
In much the same way our decision to purchase an 'Outback' van is because of the added ability that this type of caravan has in negotiating 'not so good' roads when accessing some free and low cost campsites. Our van is best described as a 'dirt road' van rather than a 'off road van', it has increased ground clearance and a stronger chassis than that of a standard 'black top' van but is not built to true off roading level. Vans built to that standard are very expensive. Advances in chassis design allows our caravan to operate with a single axle despite its weight (2000+kg), A roof mounted air-conditioner keeps us cool and warm. A roof mounted 120 w solar panel feeds into a single 100 a/hr deep cycle battery. With this set-up we find that, providing we have access to water, we can spent about 4 days before we need to seek somewhere to catch up with the washing. The 'van is equipped with LED lighting throughout, the separate Waeco freezer is a low power requirement compressor type and of course the internal fridge (150 litre) runs on gas.
We replaced the single 100 a/hr battery with a pair of 120 a/hr AGM's.
In October 2014 we purchased a 120 watt portable solar panel. The panels consist of two sections which can be folded together to allow packing, they come with a 5 metre cable and this allows them to be moved to locations to take advantage of the suns position.
Update, June 2016...after a trip and several days of cloud the downside of reliance on the sun became painfully obvious...we replaced the two AGM batteries with a single Lithium 100a/hr battery along with a DV to DC charger. The lithium battery is half the size of its AGM equivalent.
And in now, in 2021 we find the lithium battery suits us perfectly, with the DC to DC charger we no longer have to rely on the sun, we can start the tow vehicle engine and recharge it.
We have now travelled over 50'000km and our 'love' for our caravan continues, sadly, various health issues and unseasonal weather has again meant we have pretty much stayed at home.
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Our Tow vehicle
The two photos above; on the left as we first saw our new car, The 'presentation' at the Mitsubishi dealership, March 2021....on the right, the gear that came with it.
The Covid virus was unleashed on the world in early 2020.....the effects were devestating, almost overnight business' were closed down and the commercial world slowly ground to a halt.
The motoring world was not immune, one effect, found later into the year was the availability of new cars....by 2020 of course the number of Australian made cars had dropped to zero...the biggest majority of the nations cars now coming from Thailand and sadly China.
Considerable waits were being endured as the number of new cars being imported dropped, a side effect of this has been an increase in the trade -in value of late model used vehicles, particulary dual cab utilities, Australian most popular choice of vehicle.
With our previous tow vehicle, a Nissan Navara crew cab 4x4 ute, now approaching 100'000 km and with a timing change replacement due soon we tested the waters for upgrading...we were pleasently surprised, the trade in value had indeed increased dramatically.
We went looking and were soon almost overwhelmed by what was available in the field we were interested in, that is a diesel engine four wheel drive, another crew cab ute or a similar sized SUV...we looked at all the popular makes but soon discovered that another utility was the way to go, given the room available for the camping gear.
Our 'short list' comprised of the following;
Nissan Navara...an obvious choice given the good run we had had with the current car.
Ford Ranger...the most popular choice, in fact the most popular vehicle sold in 2020.
Toyota HiLux...equal most popular vehicle albeit expensive when compared to others. Best resale value.
Isuzu D-Max and MU-X...good and strong contenders
Holden Colorado...also good but with Holden thumbing their corporate noise at Australia shunned.
Mitsubishi Triton....the third best seller and winner of a number of comparisons....exception value it seems.
One particular 10 vehicle comparison that convinced me was found on You Tube, if interested you can watch in by clicking the link below.
Update January 2022.
We have now owned the Triton for nine months and 9000km and I am totally happy with it, it tows the caravan very well, mainly due to it's 6 speed auto transmission and perfectly spec'd ratios. Despite the diesel engine having only marginally more power and torque over the Nissan the gearing makes is as different as chalk and cheese.
The photo below was taken once the modifications had been completed, a bulbar, a drawer system in the back, improved rear suspension to assist with caravan towing and a UHF two way radio.
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Our Caravan and Tow Vehicle page
The photos above were taken on the day we accepted delivery of the Triton in March of 2021, at the dealership, the one on the right is of the 'goodies' we got.
Looking at the photo above, when we picked it up, compare to the one on the left, what I considered to be downright ugly front improved immensely with the addition of the bulbar...my opinion anyway.
We had a few extras added to the Triton, the rear suspension was upgraded to suit caravan towing, we had a drawer system installed in the back under the new canopy. A UHF transceiver was fitted too.
Note that our previous vehicle had a snorkel, we do intend to fit one to the Triton at a later stage.