When deciding on how best to travel in a 4WD, looking at types and costs of accommodation, the decision to tow or drag your home behind you is one that all Overlanders have to make. A good quality tent on the roof top or pitched on the ground alongside the vehicle is an option. It is much cheaper than the cost of a good robust well equipped Camper Trailer or Expedition Camper.
For the purposes of this article:
Camper Trailer: Means a trailer fitted with an integrated 'trailer top tent' (with or without a hard shell), galley, water, power and associated items and storage for most or all of your clothing and equipment. For example Patriot Campers X3.
Expedition Camper: A purpose built caravan style trailer with hard walls possibly with a soft walled 'pop up', galley, water, power and associated camping items and storage for most clothing and equipment. For example see Bruder EXP-6.
The advantages of towing include:
More space and comfort both in the vehicle when travelling and more space for living and sleeping. Travelling easier in some luxury, means less personal stress and enables you to travel longer.
More Kit. A double edged sword. More space also means more equipment can be carried to facilitate comfortable 'lazy' rest days on the road but be careful not to 'throw in the kitchen sink' as this will just cause clutter and you may never use it.
Hang out space. When hunkered down for a few days, perhaps resting or waiting for breaks in weather, trailers can provide a better space for 'chilling out'.
Greater endurance. More fuel, water, food can be carried to extend duration between refuelling and restocking. This improves safety and again enables you to have a better quality of life on the road; showers, laundry and less likely to have to ration water.
Lighter vehicle - less weight on the vehicle suspension.
Cooking. You don't have to unload the vehicle to cook.
Readiness. You can be ready to go at all times. The trailer can remain packed and for short trips you're less likely to forget stuff.
Assembly time. Modern trailers and associated camper tent are very quick and easy to assemble. The galley can be easily accessed to service a lunch stop without having to unpack or put up the tent.
Kayaks / bikes can be carried.
Better bug control. Once pitched and the bug nets are in place, the entire living area can be protected against mosquitos and other creepy crawlies.
Greater mobility and flexibility. You can setup the Camper and establish a base then tour the local area in the vehicle. At home the camper can be stored and the vehicle is available for daily domestic use if required.
There is a slightly increased risk of getting stuck especially in deep soft sand.This can be mitigated by remembering to reduce trailer tyre pressures. This helps the trailer 'float' on the sand and works with the suspension to reduce shock (and breakages) to the contents of the trailer.
Slightly reduced range. The impact of towing is not very significant on fuel consumption but expect an increase of roughly 3-5L per 100kms.
Greater wear on the vehicle chassis.
Safety issues include an increased stopping distance.
More maintenance. The Camper and associated fittings will need servicing and maintaining.
Need a garage or area at home to store the trailer, ideally covered with power to keep onboard batteries charged.
Adds cost. Good off-road trailers are expensive items.
Leaving the Expedition Vehicle option aside for now, if we opt for travelling in a 4WD vehicle, we will most probably opt to tow. Travelling every day over poor quality roads in extremes of climate make life on the road pretty hard work. We want to enjoy the experience as much as possible. Living as easy as possible on the road is important to us.