Slide On: General Features
As we discussed previously, the first decision is what type of camper. Rugged, compact style, comfort... or stuff the weight, I've got a truck and can go all out for comfort! Regardless of the type, the quality of the build and their reputation that supports the quality is I think the first consideration.
For a metal aluminum box, how well are they made. Some I reckon you could roll the car and the box would roll back fully intact asking for more, they are that well made. The German made composite panels used by Active Campers are truly impressive. They are lightweight but amazingly strong such that the structural integrity of the camper is primarily dependent on the panel, with the addition of an angled metal extrusion that fits the perimeters. That is, unlike the traditional caravan structure, there is no internal frame. Same build style as an aluminum box. Except the fiberglass composite panels are not as light proof... so be aware of what you do inside! Some of the destinations the many Active Campers customers have taken the rigs on, are testimony to their durability.
Pop Top Canvas
There's no doubt solid walls are more durable and secure than canvas pop ups. They offer a greater sense of security when free camping given canvas is always susceptible to easy slashing with a knife. Plus there's no need to worry about damp bedding when the canvas pop top is folded down. The benefit of canvas however is it cools quickly when the sun goes down. Compared to a hard wall camper, internal heat can be slow to drop until the walls and insulation cools down.
A main benefit of canvas is ventilation can be maximised to a full wall size, whereas hard wall campers are generally restricted to smaller factory- fitted windows. To me, the huge benefit are the massive, by comparison, panoramic windows. There's nothing quite like waking up to a near 270 degree panoramic ocean vista, or sitting right amongst the trees and birds. That one huge benefit out ways the low security risks and the need to place the likes of a shower curtain over the bed if the canvas was damp when lowering the top.
Factors to consider with canvas is the quality of the canvas windows insect screens. Make sure the screens keep midgies out. If you haven’t experienced them, they are way smaller than mosquitoes and their bite often fester for days (Tip.... Midgies are often found in swamp areas. When bitten rub the area with the leaves from the trees in the swamp - with half an hour, unscientific magic relief of itching and rash!). Consider also plastic covers. If it's wet wintry day, at least with plastic covers you still look out.
A chilly come freezing cold night can certainly take the edge off the best of a camping experience. Our slide on camper trip across Canada on the edge of winter proved the value of a gas heater. A gas heater in the The Australian desert can turn an evening freeze into absolute heaven! Diesel heaters are another very common type of heater.
Diesel vs Gas
Speaking of diesel energy.... its big benefit is it is readily available everywhere. However for a slide on, the issue manufacturers have is where to store the diesel. Inevitable refilling spills are not only messing but smelly. Their other disadvantage before gas is totally dismissed from your camper, is diesel takes a lot longer to boil your kettle than gas. End of the day, gas tends to win.
Unhitching. It's not a caravan, but close to it....
The great feature of a caravan is you can easily unhitch to free up your car. Definitely can't do that with a motorhome. Your home is stuck to your vehicle if you like it or not!
A slide on fits in the middle. That is, you can slide your camper on and off. Not quite as simple as unhitching a caravan, but a close second. Some people keep the camper on during their whole travels. Others, like us will slide off the camper if we are, for example, in one location for a couple weeks - such as visiting family.
There are a couple considerations. One is the extra weight of carrying the four legs. The other is convenience. If you set up camp and take off for the day, if you have the camper with you all the time, you will always have access to your fridge and meal preparations and bed if a nap calls. With this set up, you could set up a screen tent at base to at least keep some of your camping items at a "base".
When it comes to the jacks, most people will advise go electric rather than manual. I guess it’s one of those situations where you have to experience the manual option to decide whether the extra two thousand dollar cost and the extra weight of all electric is worth the convenience. The manual method just takes a bit longer as you dart around from leg to leg with your cordless drill winding up or down each leg one at a time. (If you videoed it and played it back in fast motion it would probably look a bit like an old Benny Hill skit!)
Top lid versus traditional side opening fridges generally depend on the style of camper. The Wedgetail makes smart use of a top lid fridge such as an Engel, so it can be accessed from both inside and out. There's a number of campers where the living is done outside that use a side opening fridge. Better access to the fridge contents is usually the big plus than digging into a top lid fridge.
Choosing a good reliable and energy efficient fridge is worthy of the effort. You can do without most comforts, but having a reliable fridge is almost core to survival... for any length of time at least.
Gas Cooker & Sink
There are the ridiculously excellent value Gasmate burners. Personally, they are great for outdoors cooking. But indoors, what seems to be a standard 3 burner stove, is worth its weight inside. It generally comes as a combo with sink. Nothing wrong with a bucket bowl to wash up, but once again that added convenience is worth it.
Shower & Toilet
On the higher level of comfort, a toilet and shower are a worthy consideration. In most campers there’s usually provision for a porta pottie. Some people make do with a bucket for basic night time relief. However more park campgrounds are making it mandatory to have a portable chemical toilet. For heavier use, there's thin paper liners you can buy that you place on the bowl before use. Saves a lot of post clean up. Generally with the right chemicals, any unpleasantness can be very well contained.
With any camper setup, you can always have a shower on the outside. The simplest hot water solution is a solar bag… or fill it with heated water from your kettle. The ultimate is a hot water heater system. Like all such convenient accessories, you need to consider, apart from the cost, but importantly, the additional weight contribution.
External shower tents are an option where your campsite doesn't offer you the privacy you would prefer. But keep in mind they do add an extra level of hassle having to put them up, peg them and take then down for each stopover. Keep in mind the cheap ones don’t weather windy conditions very well. A better solution are ones that extend out from the camper or vehicle roof rack, using typically a firmer canvas.
The ultimate solution is an internal shower – no issues with wind and any chill affect getting in and out of an external shower with a stiff breeze blowing. There are some smart internal shower solutions. As space is a premium, there are some innovative solutions. Why have a shower space permanently take up space. Instead they may be a pull down shower enclosure onto the floor or may form part of a multiuse cupboard bench area. Keep an eye out for the more innovative use of shower space.
Another consideration is shower duration. You could expect a quick soap up and rinse shower to take about 5 litres of water. That’s for one person. It doesn’t take too many showers to consume precious reserves of water. Of course the problem increases if you like a decent length shower. There’s also a solution for that. A recycling shower. Finish your soap and rinse and then switch over to recycle and enjoy as long as shower as you like subject to available heating energy, or the heat of the day.
Power -This is core to camping that warrants a whole new section so... please click here
Most of the features we discussed here are once again come down to a compromise between the level of comfort you prefer compared to simplicity and ruggedness. Along with that is cost. But there's no denying, giving attention to some of these features can make a huge difference to making your camping experience a more positive one.
Po Box 732, South Perth. Western Australia. 6951
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