After many years of camping as a child with my family beside the Murray River at Barmah, I took off to University in Albury and found a love of bushwalking and fly-fishing throughout North East Victoria. From these pursuits I learnt to camp very light with a pack and only the basics.
I met Ness at University who also shared a love of the outdoors and we continued to do a fair bit of camping but as life got busier and we got lazier, we started car camping; slowly increasing the size of our tents, the paraphernalia and the size of our cars.
From my tiny Ford Telstar, which we were able to fit a surprising amount of things into and get to some places where it probably shouldn’t have gone. I upgraded to my first 4WD – an awesome 1988 GQ Short Wheel Base Nissan Patrol with a 4.2lt petrol engine, it only got 4km/l, but it went anywhere. After it started to play up while we were living and working at Cradle Mt in Tasmania, we found a mint one owner 1994 Dual Cab Toyota SR5 Hilux. It had been garaged all its life, aftermarket turbo and is still the best car I have ever owned – apart from not having air-con, which is ok in Tasmania, but not so much in Canberra. The Hilux stayed with us for a number of years and took us on many trips around Tassie and back on the mainland.
With Ness and I planning for a family it was time to start looking for a vehicle that was going to meet the requirements for a family, instead of a regular camping and fishing car. We cashed in the Hilux and purchased our first ever new car – a 2008 Dual Cab D40 Nissan Navara. This allowed us to still have a vehicle that was going to get my to my favourite fishing spots and do a bit of 4wheeling whilst providing a safe car for when the kids arrived. With Lily turning up, we camped and toured about quite happily and had plenty of room in the Dual Cab, but with the arrival of Campbell the Navara was getting a little squishy with a couple of car seats in the back. So we moved on from the D40 for a rather sedate life in a Subaru Outback.
We were still wanting to get out and about and give the kids a similar experience to what I had as a kid, We had been looking at camper trailers for a few years while we had the D40 but never bit the bullet. We very quickly found out that the Outback couldn’t hold the amount of stuff we now camped with, so we lashed out on a show special at the Canberra 4WD and Camping Show and picked up a Marlin Campers On-Road camper with a OzTrail tent. For the price it was a great little introduction to soft floor campers and it could be towed easily behind the Outback with no problems. But after a while the set up and pack up – especially the pack up – really started to drag, with having no inbuilt anything and having to pack the trailer like a life-size tetris game every time.
We decided it was time for something bigger and a little easier, so an on-road touring Jayco Swan was purchased. This towed really well behind the Outback and we had a good couple of school holidays away with this set up and we loved it.
However, for both of us we were missing our 4WD and being able to get to a few more remote places and a few of our favourite place in the Vic High Country. I especially missed being able to get some great fly fishing destinations that I haven’t been able to get to over the past few years.
After a pretty crappy few years with too many of family members getting pretty sick and losing my beautiful sister to breast cancer and both of my grandparents to other shit cancers; we got to the start of 2016 and decided to hit the fuck it button and start planning for us to live. We have been working away for enough years now to accumulate a bit of long service leave and enough savings to start to dream about what we wanted to do.
So….. what to do????????
On a trip back from my parents place to Canberra – a trip around Australia was decided. It was perfect timing to show the kids Australia before school and other commitments get in the way. We knew with work and a few other things it would take a little while to organise so we locked in 2018 as our year to go. The kids will be 8 and 5 so schooling should be manageable with only one of them required to be enrolled in school.
But how were we going to do it with the Subaru and the Jayco Swan. We COULD do it with that setup, but when we looked at the map there was so many places that we wanted to get to that we just wouldn’t be able to do with that combo.
So we sold up the Outback and the Swan and started thinking about what our next set up would be. Another Navara or something different? Well, we test drove the NP300 Navara, the new Hilux, the Fortuna, the Amarok and the Colarado. We loved driving the NP300 Navara, and didn’t like any of the others, but the NP300 wasn’t getting great reviews for towing and the local dealer wasn’t really that interested in selling one to us. So with Ness being anti- Ford for her whole driving life. I managed to get her to test drive a PXII Ranger.
Well, it pretty much blew everything out of the water for us. So after some negotiations with the dealer a new Blue Ranger XLT dual cab was on order. I managed to convince Ness that we needed all the shit added to it so I ordered an ARB Ascent Canopy, Summit Bull Bar, Side Steps and Brush Bars, a Summit Rear step and some BF Goodrich All Terrains to provide the traction. Pretty much the whole package, which we thought would be a pretty capable tourer for many years.
As far as what we would tow with the Ranger, we had been thinking about that for a while. On a trip out to Dubbo last year, we got serious caravan envy for a Jayco Starcraft Outback with some bunks for the kids and a shower/toilet built in. But we had a long think about things and in our late 30’s we weren’t quite ready to have a proper caravan. We also thought that with the amount we were planning to spend on the Starcraft we would get a fairly tricked up camper. And we love being under canvas. So, we went on the Camper Trailer search again.
Many years ago before kids when we were first on the search for a camper trailer, we fell in love with the Complete Campsite offerings but they were well out of our price range then. So we decided to head up to the Sydney Caravan and Camping show to take in the sights of all the new campers. It was a close run race between a few different ones, but we really did like the Complete Campsite Soft Floors and all the things we loved in them previously had only got better. Plenty of room for the two kids, everything you would need for a long trip and able to go anywhere that the Ranger could tow it.
So once more it was negotiation time and a nice bright and shiny Kakadu was ordered, with all the trimmings as it is really a bit hard to say no to stuff that will be really ‘handy’ on a trip around Australia. With a pick up date for late September 2016 for the start of the ACT school holidays, it was perfect timing for a quick shakedown straight away once getting it back to Canberra, packing it with the stuff we pulled out of the Swan.
While waiting for the camper to play with, I started to play with the Ranger instead. So with the addition of some ARB underbody protection, a Smittybilt 10,000lb winch, a set of bloody awesome Drifta Drawers, a dual battery system, an onboard compressor, and a rhino rack platform on the roof. I thought it might be best to weigh the beast to see how we were going with payload. Well, I knew there was a fair bit of weight but now it was going to be touch and go once we got the camper hooked on, so a Lovells GVM upgrade was organised (with a 2 inch lift) this wasn’t budgeted for but it was a necessity if we wanted to stay legal.
So we have now had numerous trips in the camper and have ironed out most of the issues with 6 months left to go. This is the start of our journey.