Our van selection and decision process took a lengthy 3+ years, somewhat dictated by an initial lack of funds, however we firmly believe that by taking our time, exploring the options and most importantly defining our requirements that we made the right choice and we love our little Goldy pop-top. Before I exaggerate about the merits of our van let’s review our caravaning needs and talk about the vans that didn’t make the cut.
- Be easy and efficient to tow
- Be able to be towed by our Toyota Prado 120 Series which, surprisingly to us when we checked, has a relatively low 2.5 tonne towing capacity.
- A smaller, rather than larger van, so we can get into more places with less hassle (using less fuel)
- Have the creature comforts and features we wanted and the ability to customise some things to our specific needs
- Able to be stored in our shed
- For two adults only. Our kids are now late teens and whilst they still love camping with us, school and uni commitments means they are less likely to be travelling with us and when they do they’ve still got the tents we were previously using
Before we kick off, we did consider the camper trailers which range from a basic 6×4 trailer with a tent plopped on top, right up to the fully automated models like the Kimberley Kampers etc. however for a variety of reasons we decided a traditional camper trailer wasn’t for us.
Option 1 – Track Tralier TVAN
During the height of our family outback camping trips to places like Mitchell Plateau, Kalumburu etc. (using tents), we convinced ourselves we needed the roughest and toughest van option possible, one that would make it anywhere we wanted to go. The TVAN is an obvious and good choice for this, however there were two significant downfalls being:
- Value for money, for a lot of cash you don’t get a lot of creature comfort. All your money seems to be spent on the engineering and robustness of the van.
- After some introspection, we agreed that we seriously had tickets on ourselves and that the actual likelihood that we’d ever need the full off road capability of this van was very low. Most places we wanted to get to are reasonably accessible and the few spots that are off the beaten track are still generally manageable in a reasonable rig IF you drive to the conditions.
Option 2 – Jayco Journey
After holding onto the TVAN dream for nearly 2 years, we finally convinced ourselves that the TVAN wasn’t the best option and we flipped almost 180 degrees and started thinking about a mid-priced, but very comfortable, Jayco caravan from the Journey range. The one we liked had the nice finishes, easy access and all the creature comforts, however, on closer inspection we realised;
- It wouldn’t fit in our shed for storage, it was way too high (even with the pop up lid down)
- Fully loaded it would be close to our Prado’s towing capacity
- It wasn’t as robust or off-road capable as we wanted.
Option 3 – Jayco pop-top (camper trailer)
OK, so now we’re starting to get pretty serious about getting a van (having just spent another couple of weeks camping in tents) and the smaller, lighter, but still featured “pop-top camper trailer” hit number 1 on our caravan list. Our first thoughts were the Jayco camper trailers and we really liked the layout of the Jayco Swan but we only wanted one push out bed. So I called the factory and was told pretty firmly that this level of customisation is not possible, bummer.. We did look at the smaller Jayco Penguin which only has an internal double bed however weren’t that keen on the layout at all. Also on closer inspection at the Jayco showroom I discovered that the Jayco camper trailers seem to be “built to a price”. Before I go on, let me say I have nothing against Jayco vans and in fact for certain situations I’d even recommend them. However, after crawling under the demo unit at the showroom I firmly decided against the Jayco vans as the demo unit I looked at was just not well finished. Underneath, cables were strung between floor struts and just screaming out to get ripped out by a stick or stone; internally there were some rough finishes and the demo unit we looked at had a broken lid (under the cushion) on the main seat. Jayco use 3mm plywood for the seat lid and I’m assuming a heavier than average person has sat down and busted the lid despite being it under a 100mm thick cushion… If you’re only going to use your Jayco pop-top once or twice a year, at caravan parks reachable by nice bitumen roads (i.e. nothing too rough) then it’d probably be great and represent relatively good value for money, but it wasn’t going to meet our needs.
Option 4 and the winner, a Goldstream Crown 4B camper-trailer with the Offroad pack and a bunch of factory customisations
Bring on the Goldstream RV range.. Firstly almost everything on a Goldstream van is customisable at the factory (at a price obviously), check out part 2 of this post for a list of the mods we made to our van (both in the factory and following pickup). However the primary reason we bought the Goldy is everything looks, feels, and is hopefully stronger (so far so good). As a quick comparison, Goldstream use 10mm MDF instead of 3mm ply for seat lids, all the underfloor wiring and pipework is firmly fixed and in most cases under protective covers etc. Luckily for us the Crown also has a layout we love, being the Crown 4B. If you’re interested you can check out all the specs, finishes and layout etc. at this link. Note we did look pretty seriously at the Crown ST (shower and toilet model) however decided against it in the end which we’re now really happy about as we really don’t need these onboard.
Hopefully this post has provided some insight into our particular van selection process. It’s important to note that there’s probably no such thing as a “perfect van” (or car, or house etc.), and there’s always going to be something you wished it did a little differently however we think it’s important that you think carefully about what you need and then get the van that best suits your requirements.
See part2 of this post where I’ll talk about why we love the Goldy, it’s layout and features and the modifications we’ve applied to it.