I’ve been doing a fair amount of towing lately. As you can probably imagine I’m lucky enough to tow all sorts of campers, hybrids and even caravans in my job and I wanted to share a few thoughts on the subject with you.
Number one; there is a whole new set of rules when lugging a trailer behind you off-road. The extra length, (in some cases) width, and lack of turning circle take a lot more concentration to properly navigate tight tracks and campsites.
Number two; you have to be aware of potential damage to not only your 4X4, but your trailer too (duh). You’d be amazed how many times I’ve driven a high-clearance 4WD over an innocent looking erosion mound, only to scrape the drawbar or underside of the trailer I was towing. More than one test trailer has been sheepishly returned to the manufacturer with a busted off mud flap, munted jockey wheel or dented water tank (sorry guys).
Number three; towing your digs behind you in this country makes a lot of sense, but it’s actually incredibly easy to get it all wrong. Advantages include having a quick and easy set-up, a bunch of space, your bed, clothes, food and water all contained in one unit and not taking up real estate in the vehicle and the ability to unhitch and go off to do some exploring. I’ve always been a swag guy, but lately a trailer is making more sense to me.
But let’s talk about the pitfalls. I won’t go into the specifics of ATM, ball weight, GTM and GCMs, but let me just say it’s like a bad day in downtown Aleppo – an absolute minefield. Half the trailers these days can’t take much more than 30-odd kgs once the water tanks are full and the fridge is packed. And let’s not get started on weight distribution and the little slice of hell that can create when done incorrectly.
And then there’s the elephant in the room: Do you go a Chinese manufactured trailer or not? Ok, what I’m about to say is my personal opinion only, so take it with a grain of salt.
On the one hand, I’m yet to see a bad Aussie (or American or South African for that matter) made product. Plus I’m a huge advocate of keeping money in the country when possible. On the other, the reality is these days that Chinese trailers can be pretty bloody good. And there’s the kicker “can be”.
The reality is; they’re built to specification. A camper vendor can order them as well-built or crap as they like. That’s not to say just because a trailer is cheap it’s automatically rubbish, nor to say expensive always equals awesome either. But this is the challenge that’s facing camper buyers – it’s up to you to suss out what’s built to a price with decent quality and what’s created out of recycled beer cans and Styrofoam.
Much like choosing the right 4X4 for your needs, there is no “this one is the best!” because everyone’s selection criteria are going to be different. I guess what I’m trying to say is do your research before pulling the trigger. Get to 4×4 and camping shows and really look them over. Ask owners for their opinions. Work out where you’ll be taking it and whether it’s built to handle the conditions. And most of all, make sure it’s going to suit your needs. Quality may well cost a lot less than you think.