What are the disadvantages of a pop-top ( off road environment )

Submitted: Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 02:57
ThreadID: 123923 Views:3899 Replies:6 FollowUps:11
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I am a van "babe in the woods" and I am trying to sort out all the options available to me .

I travel rough corrugated dirt roads for sight seeing , fishing and gold fossicking . Previously I used a swag or a Trak Shak camper , but I'm getting on , and want a bit more comfort .

Do the pop-tops leak dust ?
Can you put solar panels on the actual pop-top ?

Any disadnatages ?

Any advantages apart from clearance and aerodynamics ?

Thanks a lot ,

Jigalong .
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Reply By: Grumblebum & Dragon - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 05:28

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 05:28
Hi Jigalong,

Well.... where do I start! Fistly I think Bushtracker will be somewhat reluctant to make you one for starters - though I stand to be corrected.

With a pop top you lose a lot of ridigity - this is very important if you want to travel the real outback.

With the top up - you have next to zero insullation

You lose a lot of the hard tops over-head cupboard space

It limits your van size because of the extra weight in a large van would make getting the roof up pretty hard

Solar panels - see above comment

I think the so called aerodymics would be hard to quantify. What you may gain in an extra saved litre /100K you lose in comfort and sturdyness.

You lose the ability to just stop, open the door, relax. If you want to stop and access stuff you have to put the top up - at least on most models that I have seen.

Now. As for the advantages..... Ummm Um .... maybe it will fit in the garage - I personally don't like living in the garage.

I am also a fossiker and enjoy the outback and I would not even consider a pop-top. However I am sure I will get shot down by people who love them. Each to their own

Good luck with you choice


AnswerID: 572526

Follow Up By: Willie - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 06:05

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 06:05
Thanks a lot for that info John .

I did not realise how many things were wrong with them . I will strike pop-tops off the list .

I have narrowed the brands I would buy, to three :
Bushtracker - I can afford a new one , but I need it by March and they say Aug. 2008 .
Trackmaster is not much better at July 08.
I am not sure what Phoenix is promising .

So I am in the second hand market . I am going to use the van for fishing and fossicking , mainly in the NT , Qld and WA . I usually spend two months away in the winter . I want a smaller 14-16 ft van , because I am usually by myself and I need very little room . Also I can get a smaller van into more out of the way spots .

Wish me luck ,

Jigalong .

FollowupID: 848368

Reply By: Agnes Lifestyle - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 07:46

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 07:46
Hi Jigalong,

We have a 16ft BT with shower and toilet inside.We chose a 16ft to be able to get into some of those way out places. Many places that we have been you would not get a bigger van into.Even have a better chance in carparks.Also don't need one of those big cars(also add to length) to tow it.
We also didn't put an aircon on top so we had a slightly better clearance on top.Haven't missed the aircon.(It probably would be missing by now).
We find we have ample room.The longest we have stayed in the van is 7 months so that is a fair test.We have also had 5,4 and 3 month stints in it.No problems
I would have to say that we(2 adults) would probably go for an 18ft maybe 19ft if we were going to live in it permanently.

Sorry van is not for sale. We are more than happy with the size.We have had it for 5 years.
My Mum and Dad also have a16ft BT and they are in their 80s.No theirs is not for sale either.

Happy Hunting

AnswerID: 572527

Follow Up By: Agnes Lifestyle - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 07:52

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 07:52
We did provide for aircon in case we needed it at a later date.Have had no need for it. You have to start up the generator. There goes peace and quiet.
FollowupID: 848369

Follow Up By: Willie - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 07:57

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 07:57

I agree , I don't like air-con either . I would rather have fans any day .

I thought it might have been a bit "squeezy" in a 16 ft with the shower / toilet option . Did you have to take a double bed to make that possible ?

I would actually like to have two singles as a bunk set-up and then where the other bed was , I would like a comfortable reading chair .

Cheers ,

Jigalong .
FollowupID: 848370

Reply By: Motherhen & Rooster - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 09:03

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 09:03
Hi Jigalong

We read the following linked article on the Bushtracker site and it convinced us full van over pop top. They did make a pop top once. We do have an air con which although rarely used, has been invaluable on a really hot day. This was something we couldn't have with our wind-up van. We only had one portable solar panel for the wind up van. We don't have to fit it into a garage - it resides out in the open alongside the house.

Site Link

We have also been able to turn our rig around when a bush track came to a dead end - a sort of multi 3 point turn, with the height of the cut away going over some bushes. Ours is 18' with short draw bar.



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AnswerID: 572528

Follow Up By: Willie - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 19:18

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 19:18
Howdy Mrs Hen ,

How do you like my new nom de plume ?

That thirty three point turn would have been good to watch - with ear plugs on maybe !

The lack of room for solar panels on the pop-top , is a cruncher . I would want three on my rig .

I hate air con - I do not use it in my car , ever . It dries up my sinus - I'm very delicate you know .

Cheers ,

FollowupID: 848371

Follow Up By: Motherhen & Rooster - Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 08:39

Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 08:39
Hi Jigalong

My old Rooster made the turn easily, and on that occasion, no bad language at all. I just stood outside and directed him so no bushes were damaged. He is an excellent trailer backer, which i am not - an excuse he gives for not letting me drive with the van much. We couldn't have done it with a low slung van - then again we wouldn't have got where we were either!

We have 4 solar panels, which we think are 80 watt panels. I recall the first Bushtracker we saw had 3 panels and a solar HWS - but i haven't seen anyone else with a solar HWS; but what a good idea. I loved our air con on the few days we really needed it and found the Honda genny so quiet that it didn't disturb the wild life, but i hate the heat. You can get automatic extractor fans fitted to caravans, and those who have them say it negates the need for air conditioners.


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FollowupID: 848372

Follow Up By: Willie - Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 19:33

Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 19:33
Mrs Hen ,

So many options , my head is spinning . I would like as many batteries as room on the roof lets me have panels . Too much stored power , is never enough .

My wife does not like giving me backing directions because she says I yell at her !
Totally untrue of course . I maintain an absolute Zen like calm , even when she has waved me right past the coupling . She says I should know when to stop and I do - when I feel the Treg hitting the bumper bar .

Cheers ,

FollowupID: 848373

Follow Up By: Motherhen & Rooster - Sunday, Jul 29, 2007 at 04:09

Sunday, Jul 29, 2007 at 04:09
Jigalong, these days they seem to use 4 x 120 w panels and 4 batteries. When we purchased the AGM batteries from Bushtracker, i asked about getting 4, but Steve said only to use 3 with our set up. We have never needed to charge with the genny, but know we could if caught out in bad weather. As we go to a CP about once a week, we choose to do this if possible in bad weather to use mains power as well.

My man will fully agree with you about women giving directions. If he got a chance, he would back on and hitch up all by himself while is was in the shower or something as he said it was easier than following my hand signals (which he takes no notice of). We met a member on the road a few years ago, and the lady said she uses a hand held two way, and just smiles sweetly while they swear at each other.

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FollowupID: 848374

Reply By: Deleted User - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 13:32

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 13:32
It is a good idea to consider the impact on resale value when deciding on van enhancements. I am not sure why anyone would HATE airconditioning. One of the advantages is being able to sleep on those hot/humid nights up here in the tropics when a fan is useless. There is nothing more HOT than a caravan on a hot day.
A wiredin 12vdc/240ac inverter while not entirely necessary is costly to retrofit as major 240v mains wiring is necessary. I am referring to the professional solution and not the jury rigged solutions than some use.
AnswerID: 572529

Follow Up By: Willie - Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 19:28

Friday, Jul 27, 2007 at 19:28
Hi Ern ,

I have camped up on the Daly River and Coburg Pen. in October and November and have had no trouble living without an air con . I like fans better - they certainly are not useless . With air con , I feel like I have cut myself off from the environment I came to be a part of .

Re-sale value is to be considered I guess . If I had a van built though, it would have bunks , a reading chair and no internal shower or toilet - that design would ruin the re-sale anyway .

I would definitely have a big inverter - I have one in my car now . I agree about the original wiring - nothing better than everything being in its place when the van is built .

Cheers ,

Jigalong .
FollowupID: 848375

Reply By: Tellem Bugrem - Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 17:43

Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 17:43
Hey Jigalong,

By the sound of what you are talking yourself into, you need a 16 to 18 ft Bushtracker, and you'd be much happier if you could have it built the way you want it. So, what's wrong with tenting, or hiring a camper, or staying in a cabin until your BT is built?

We all had to wait patiently for months, but the wait is absolutely worth it!!

One thing you must do before you choose, is visit the factory.

We must admit that we were impressed by the layout of Agnes Lifestyle's van (and their parent's van'). A standard BT is 2.5 wide.....Their's I recall was only 2.1.

Our initial plan was for a 16 footer, but BT didn't make them with shwr/toilet + N-S double bed in 2002. So, we finished up with an 18'footer. Don't know if you could fit 3 solar panels (therefore 3 batteries) on a 16 footer though.

We have no regrets on what we had built and therfore have no need to consider anything different. The most important thing (enduring the wait) was that we got what we wanted.

Happy hunting..........Rob and Liz

AnswerID: 572530

Follow Up By: Willie - Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 19:22

Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 19:22
Rob and Liz ,

You are right I am sure , but I am hot to trot right now .

I guess what might happen , is that I will buy a second hand van now , see what I like about it and what I don't , then order a new one if I am still keen .

A 2.1 m wide van would be great for me as I often travel down narrow tracks . Actually , I was wondering if one of those side awnings would survive or end up cut and diced .

Thanks for your help ,

FollowupID: 848376

Reply By: Agnes Lifestyle - Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 22:55

Saturday, Jul 28, 2007 at 22:55

The width was another reason we chose the 16ft. Don't know if that is still the case.

We have the aussie traveller awning. We are certain the roll out types would not be still attached to the van. I guess it depends on where you intend to go.Travel with someone who has a roll out type and sit under theirs. Yours will be still nice and new when you get home.When travelling we don't use ours much. No need.

We have 3 solar panels and 3 batteries.

Yes a visit to the factory is well worth it. You can get an idea of size. 2ft makes a big difference to your living space.
But still chose the 16ft with a short draw bar. At the time (2002) there was not much difference in cost.

As I mentioned before we still made provision for an airconditioner.So if you don't like aircon you could still do that for resale value.

AnswerID: 572531

Follow Up By: Agnes Lifestyle - Sunday, Jul 29, 2007 at 00:41

Sunday, Jul 29, 2007 at 00:41
I meant storage space(cupboards) although we do have ample storage.We also have more walking space than a lot of the bigger vans. It's all in the planning.

Regards Dianne
FollowupID: 848377

Follow Up By: Willie - Sunday, Jul 29, 2007 at 23:45

Sunday, Jul 29, 2007 at 23:45
Dianne ,
You wouldn't have a plan drawing you could email to me or a list of the "stuff" you put on your 16x7 ? If you do and are willing , I will give you my email address somehow .
What is the deal short vs long draw bar ?
Thanks a lot ,
Jigalong .
FollowupID: 848378

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