Planning for the Big Lap comes with it a number of questions. Which route should you take? How much do you need to budget? And perhaps, most importantly, which car and van should you choose?
In this article, Mel from All Around Oz explains why they picked their car and van and what they love about it.
When it came time to upgrade our tow vehicle, way back in 2013, we did a lot of research as to what was going to best suit our needs. We ended up purchasing a brand new Mazda BT50 and we couldn’t be happier with our decision.
Two of the main factors that we considered at the time, was its price – it was within our budget and also its potential towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes. We also liked the fact that it had lots of room in the back seats. Our kids were older teens at that time and both being very tall we liked that it had some extra leg room.
When we purchased the vehicle we had a canopy, tow bar and bull bar fitted as well. The rest of the upgrades we added over the last few years all to make life on the road a little easier.
One of the first things we added was a full set of Drifta drawers. They make such a huge difference to how we store and organise things when we are on the road full time. We also added an MSA drop slide for our Engel fridge. We love having the fridge in the back of our car, especially when we are out exploring but mainly it gets used as our drinks fridge.
We also have a full dual battery system installed in the rear of the car, along with a 110 watt solar panel on the roof. That along with our C-tek battery management system keeps our fridge running 24/7.
We also have a set of ROLA roof racks and a Kings awning and driving lights. Our most recent addition was to swap the factory bull bar for a bull bar with a winch. We don’t do a lot of off-roading but it’s nice to know that if we do, we can get ourselves out of any trouble.
Our biggest modification that we have done to date is to have a GCM upgrade with a full Lovells Springs suspension kit. This means that we never have to worry about being over our weight limit. If you are looking at having this done yourself, rules vary from state to state and the best time to have an upgrade like this done is before your vehicle is first registered.
We have also had a few modifications made to our car’s engine to assist the driveline longevity. We have had a transmission cooler fitted and had the transmission heat exchanger removed, an ECU remap and 3” exhaust, catch can and fuel pre-filter with water trap.
So far, we have travelled over 170,000 kilometres with around 15,000 of that towing a van. We have been very lucky that we have had no major issues in that time with only a blown brake line, a leaking timing belt cover and a leaking water pump.
When we started looking to purchase our van, we knew that it was going to be home for quite a few years, so we really wanted to make sure that we got it right. We visited every caravan and camping show that was on for a couple of years as well as checking out dealerships around Brisbane.
Finally in 2017, we came across NextGen Caravans, made by Network RV in Melbourne. We had not seen or heard of them before, but as we got looking at them and asking questions they started ticking a lot of boxes for us. Their biggest selling point for us was that they were completely customisable. Every time we said, ‘Can we do this?’ they said, ‘Yes.’
So we ended up with a 2018 NextGen Greyline, which is their full off-road version. It is 19’6 long and we chose a rear door entry with cafe dinette seating on the opposite side to the door.
So as we can free camp whenever we want it has 3 x 150 watt solar panels on the roof and 2 x 100AH lithium batteries along with a full BMPRO battery management system. Add to that 2 x 95 litre freshwater tanks and a 95-litre grey water tank plus 2 x 9kg gas bottles, and we can free camp for up to 6 days at a time.
Some other additions that we made were to add a slide out kitchen in the front tunnel boot and we also installed a gas heater for those chilly winter nights. But by far the best addition was choosing a compressor fridge.
Inside our van, we removed the oven and added a pot drawer instead. We use our Weber Baby Q to cook on so don’t miss having an oven at all. We also chose not to have a washing machine which has given us so much extra storage in the bathroom.
Colour wise we chose light grey cupboards with a darker grey benchtop and a pale bluey/green backsplash, which we absolutely love. Overall, the colours give our van a sleek, modern look.
In some of our cupboards we have had additional shelving added to make them a bit more user friendly and the large pantry next to the entry door is a god-send. We would never have a van without one!
Once again, we have really had no major problems with our van. We had some stripping come off the edge of some of our cupboards which was repaired quickly and one of the blinds decided one day that it wasn’t going to retract anymore.
Overall we have been extremely happy with both our car and van and we put this down to the fact that we did a lot of research prior to purchasing both. If we were ever to build another van, there isn’t a lot that we would change other than perhaps to add an extra foot in length to give us a little more room inside.