Where does size and weight matter?

Submitted: Monday, Mar 07, 2005 at 22:47
ThreadID: 121826 Views:4280 Replies:7 FollowUps:0
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Hi guys,

We are just working through the "which-van?" decision process, and leaning pretty heavily towards a BT. Most folk (ie. competitors) when told this say "Ooohhh but they're heavy."

Now we've read the posts on this forum and acknowledge Steve what you say about what is on the van when it gets Tared, etc, and accept that BTs may in fact not be heavier, or much heavier, then the others. But we're also trying to decide how big the van should be (ie. do we put the 4 of us (2 adults, 2 kids) comfortably into an 18' or jam us into a 16' van). Our tow vehicle will be a Toyota 100 series TD 2005 5sp auto. (A Ford is out of the question because it's also our town car and the Ford would crush the other Mums' cars in the school drop-off circle!)

So my question to you BOGers out there is this: You have, whichever way you look at it, a big, long, heavy van on the back. At what stage of the trip does this stop you? Is it the rocky ascent or descent up or down a scarp? Is it a sand dune or 500m of cut up sandy track on the way down to a beachside camping ground? Is it the one tight twisty patch of desert track twisting through the stand of mulga before the track resumes 20km of arrow-straight?

I realise that we won't get the van to places that our Kimberley Kamper used to go. I also realise that it's a personal choice how far to push it, how much you want to risk scraping or denting your rig, and how much effort you want to put into it recovering yourself after you get stuck, but I'm trying to get a feel from BT owners on where the weight or size has become an issue for them in practical off-road terms.

We live in Perth so do more desert and coastal travel then rainforest or mud.

Supplementary question: Has anyone with a BT crossed the Gunbarrel (ie. Warburton to Wiluna)? How did it go? We did it 10 years ago (pre-Kamper) and it was insanely corrugated.


Matt and Lana
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Reply By: Motherhen & Rooster - Tuesday, Mar 08, 2005 at 03:31

Tuesday, Mar 08, 2005 at 03:31
Hi Matt and Lana

We chose a BT, as having seen our first one a couple of years ago, my husband wouldn't settle for second best. I was keen to save $$s and try a cheaper lighter one (of the off-road type where the brochure says ok for occasional trips off the bitumen), but he said we couldn't risk having something fall apart when we were in some remote area. We spent about a year researching before making our purchase.

Yes BTs are heavy, but won't fall apart. Ours is a 1998 18' model, and still looks near new, despite several owners and much travelling. On our recent trip we met another 1998 18 footer - the owners had it built as their retirement home, and have been on the road ever since. They use Landcruisers (they had purchased the current one a year or two ago, so i don't know how many they have had).

We pull ours with a Nissan 3 ltr TD auto - would like something stronger but have to stay with the Nissan. The only time we had any problem was on a very hilly and winding dirt road in SA, when having stopped at a Y junction at the base to work out which way we needed to go, had no momentum. We still made it to the top, although going slowly. If we had known what was ahead, we would have selected low range. It chews through the diesel, but this is a common cry from many caravanners with a variety of tow vehicles. We avoided anything likely to be loose or deep sand, as that would be unkind to our little Nissan. Had to watch carefully for overhanging trees on one 4wd track, but no problem on some rather steep bits.

The 18 footer is more than adequate for just the two of us. Could be a bit crowded depending on the age of your children, and if you will be away for longer periods. I'm sure it would be fine with 4 for short trips. We move on each night, so haven't used the annex. Mind you, when we left school our parents took us on the big holiday. We travelled for 6 months through UK and Europe in a little campervan and all loved it.

I too will welcome feedback from where the others could and couldn't get their BTs. We took ours on some pretty rugged roads and tracks on our recent holiday. We are "bush campers" and enjoyed being able to just drive off into the bush to overnight.

Hope this helps.

Motherhen (also WA)

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Reply By: TripnTaps - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2005 at 02:54

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2005 at 02:54
Hello Matt & Lana,

Isn't it delicious having all these choices to make.... half the fun!!!

For a bit of feedback we have an 18' BT and were mindfull of the weight when outfitting our van due to our initial seclection of tow vehicle Toyota Landcruiser 100 Series V8 petrol with Independent Front Suspension. We did upgrade the suspension for the purpose of towing our BT but we found the IFSuspension to be a shocker to tow with. Steve Gibbs has posted an article on Tow Vehicles Post ID1359 on 7th Feb which would be in your interest to read.
I am not saying don't go with a Landcruiser.... but I am saying don't go for a 100 series with Independent Front Suspension!!

We did change over to the F250 ...we were able to establish many reasons - but the push was the dissatisfaction with the IFS on the Landcruiser.

As to your other questions we havn't had enough rough territory under our belt with our BT to comment YET!

AnswerID: 565974

Reply By: Meg and J - Wednesday, Mar 09, 2005 at 18:51

Wednesday, Mar 09, 2005 at 18:51
Hi all

We have an 18' BT and have been on the road for nearly 2 years now. Spent 10 months in WA - not enough but really enjoyed it. We pull the BT with a Nissan 4 lt (don't know any more technical bits as John not around). We went along the Gibb River Road from Kununurra to Derby but left the van at Drysdale Station and took our trusty tent up to the Mitchell Falls and Kulumburu. I do know others have taken their BT up to Kulumburu but we were pleased we didn't. It was very very rough and corrugated and we didn't need to take the van over all of that.

I think the BT would travel over anything but it is the things in it that probably wouldn't stand up to all the corrugations. Our microwave died after the corrugations probably along the Gibb and in the Keep River NP (which was terribly corrugated but we were there out of season).

We travelled over the Gunbarrel and back across the Anne Beadell but once again left our van and used our tent. We would never have got the van through the Anne Beadell as it was very sandy and very very narrow. The Gunbarrel was also extremely corrugated but the Heather Highway was worse and we would have hated having anything behind us. I bet someone has taken a BT across the Gunbarrel but we wouldn't.

Someone might look at this and wonder why we have a BT but we have taken it to places where other vans wouldn't or couldn't be taken so I think it is a personal thing. Some will push the limits, others don't. There were some people we met along the road and who travelled with us for a time (they didn't have a BT) but they would always take the long way round on the bitumen and we would push through on the dirt roads with not a worry and of course are able to camp out wherever we like.

Size wise with a family is a personal thing also. If you are used to camping then you won't need a whole lot of space and if you go bush then you are mainly outside the van anyway.

We would never have anything other than a BT and just love it. Recommend them to anyone.

Meg and J
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Reply By: Flipp'n Lorry - Thursday, Mar 10, 2005 at 00:43

Thursday, Mar 10, 2005 at 00:43
We have an18' BT for all of the above reasons.... Pull with a LC and have no problems at all. When it comes to size this is a personal thing, but when the kids come with us we have them bring the 2 man tents and they sleep in those.
In reference to heavyness ...yes it is heavy and you pack accordingly. My brother-in-law has just got back from 6 weeks of touring with a tent. Even he said he took to much and he only had a station wagon.
AnswerID: 565976

Reply By: Bushtracker - Thursday, Mar 10, 2005 at 02:31

Thursday, Mar 10, 2005 at 02:31
Bushtracker, travelling longer with three kids than anyone.... Sez:

Your concern about size between say an 18’ and a 20’ most probably is not warranted, when Lifestyle may be more of a priority with kids…. Let me explain why... In severe off road conditions you are in low range and the vehicle has twice the torque and twice the power. The vans are designed with skid plates aft of the suspension to drag off of ledges and such so the van will go just about anywhere the tow vehicle will go. The larger tyres and wheels 265/75 R16 is our standard, allows more floatation on soft or sandy soil, and you would be shocked at where my van has gone. There are of course limitations to everything, but off hand I know of 18' vans that have gone all over Fraser Island on the sand (not that I would do it with mine) and I can think of a 16' that has made repeated crossings of the 1500 dunes of the Simpson for the cross Simpson cycle races (not that I would do that with mine) and I know of at least one that went to the top of the Cape (but I would not). Countless have done the Gibb River road, and the Township of Kulumburu in the far north of Western Australia called us end of last year. Evidently that track is a notorious killer of all camper trailers and caravans. For the first time in 1998 they reported that two caravans made it through to Kulumburu in one twenty four hour period, one Bushtracker in the morning and one at night. They actually called us to congratulate us on out product and tell us how impressed they were. There is a Station on the Gibb River that minds caravans and campers so people can go in four wheel drive to Kulumburu, but this was according to them the first time for such a crossing and they were impressed. I have not actually been on that track, but my Customers report that in the wrong time of the year, the corrugations are only about a foot apart, but they have washed out three feet deep. One Customer described the track if you catch it wrong after weather and ungraded as being severe diff-lock engaged four wheel drive at four hours to get fifteen km. I do now that if you catch it after it is graded it is not too bad, depends on your luck. So I’m told by my Customers.

As to where I have been, my own van is 20'. I would not be bored or work my equipment that hard to cross 1,500 dunes of the Simpson. I either skirt it to the north or to the south around Lake Eyre. I like the desert track from William Creek on the Oodnadatta over to Coober Pedy in the back way. I have been up in the Gulf teaching my boy safe hunting practices tracking pigs in daylight, and have drug my van through some hairy spots in the false river channels cut by the Gregory River in flood, during the dry season chasing pigs. I have taken my van up the west side of the Cape from Karumba north to the Gold Fields of the Cape across the Gilbert and Mitchell Rivers on the west side hunting pigs and fossicking. I personally would not take my own van to the tip of the Cape, for two reasons: First it is a bit of a fad, when there is not much up there to interest me, and just to say you have done it is not much of a reason for me... And secondly why do it and risk damaging and abusing your equipment? But yes, some people take Bushtrackers to the Cape, and yes, they are improving the road, but I will not go…

More of where I have gone with my 20’? I have been through all of the outer opal fields fossicking in the Outback from NSW to SA and into the Territory. I have chased camels out west to the Western Australian border and West MacDonnell ranges in the Territory. I have had my van in places going over a bank that would scare most and you would probably say "Thanks but I will walk this one". I personally like my van too much to take it to the salt of Fraser, and have no interest in the barren top of the Cape above the Goldfields. But about the only place that a Bushtracker has not gone to my knowledge is all 50 wells of the Canning Stock Route, but again I would not want to even do that. They have gone overland gold fossicking from the Pilbara to the Kimberlies. There are not too many places they will not go. About the only exception is the coastal swamps in a few spots of Eastern Australian, around close trees in tight swamp land getting down to mozzie and sand fly infested beaches that don’t interest me anyway. Other than that you would be impressed with just where they do go.

Cheers from the "Lone Ranger" at Bushtracker

"The Last Stand In Open Country"

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Reply By: Jaunty Jordans - Friday, Mar 11, 2005 at 11:22

Friday, Mar 11, 2005 at 11:22
Hi Matt and Lana,

We travel with 18' BT and 100 series LC. Had suspension done on car but that's all. Have no trouble towing although sometimes you travel very slowly when climbing hills but then are you really wanting to rush anywhere?
We have no children left but originally travelled with 3, now travel with grandchildren. Had the dinette fitted with infill to make wide single bed and at Xmas a surprise visit by 20yr old son gave us a chance to really try it out. He was v comfy on it. Grandchild slept on matress on floor.
We are used to camping however so none of this fazes us at all. I would however go for the 18' in order to fit everything in that you think you need and still have room to move.
Our BT goes all places but when we had it built we did not have items such as microwave, washing machine or any bits that needed to have special care taken.
I agree there are places we wouldn't take ours, a bit like why do people take their 4x4's down the steep part of Gunshot Creek on the Cape York Telegraph road? It is just as much fun doing the less steep track and you don't risk ruining your car just so you can say you did it.
If you are like us it is a major investment to buy a BT but it is the best but we're not going to risk wrecking it just for a bit of fun. Can't afford to replace.
I will say that after having travelled on some rough outback roads one thing I have been most impressed with is that no dust gets inside and that cannot be said for a great many other caravans that are marketed as so called off roaders.
Hope this helps.
AnswerID: 565978

Reply By: Motherhen & Rooster - Sunday, Mar 13, 2005 at 03:44

Sunday, Mar 13, 2005 at 03:44
Matt and Lana - you may like to check post 985 in the archives - for first hand knowledge from someone who has a god one but still wants a BT.

Red desert dreaming

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