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Collyn Rivers


The Camper Trailer Book - by Collyn Rivers

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The Camper Trailer Book


The Camper Trailer book was first published in March 2006 and updated yearly. Camper trailers and their usage however changed so fast that, by 2012, this second edition of The Camper Trailer Book became necessary. A small part of the original was thoroughly revised, but most of it has been totally rewritten. It also contains a great deal of additional material – and has 20 more pages. Camper trailers, in essence offer the freedom and pleasures of camping but without the latter’s discomforts. Further, a well-made off-road camper trailer can be towed almost anywhere a towing vehicle is capable of taking it. That these benefits are widely appreciated is shown by camper trailers continuing to be the largest growing sector of the RV market. Camper trailers vary from box trailers with a basic tent and mattress – to complex products costing more than caravans. Most over $12,500 or so are well designed and well made. Some superbly so. Yet despite the huge number already in use, little unbiased and technically reliable advice is available, particularly regarding suspension systems and tyres, fridges, and electrical systems. These and many other related matters are obscured by inaccurate and misleading advice from campfire and Internet mythology, specially that relating to batteries and solar. The Camper Trailer Bookclarifies issues such as the pros and cons of independent suspension, and why shock absorbers are essential. It covers electrics in depth because no other book deals with the specialised electrical needs of camper trailers and 4WD owners. This book shows how to make fridges, battery charging and solar work as they should. And, as many people do their own work, it also covers the building and modification of camper trailers and their systems. It provides approaches that willwork, not simply ones that maywork. Camper trailers enter the market, leave the market, and change in specification and price so often that detailed listing in printed form is out of date shortly after it is printed.

For that I now recommend the website. It has updated details of every camper trailer on the Australian market.


Camper trailer overview

A précis of all types of camper trailer and their suitability for purpose, including off-road: it also indicates what you can expect at what price. It includes an overview of all aspects of camper trailer design and usage. All is then explained in detail in subsequent sections. What can be towed where A practical guide to where you can reasonably go with what. This is essential reading as vendor claims for off-road capability may have no relationship to reality.

The towing vehicle

What tow vehicle is really needed to tow your camper trailer: petrol versus diesel, two wheel drive or four? This part covers all aspects.

Chassis & suspension

The hows and whys of trailer suspension: the differences and respective merits of beam axle and independent suspension, and the need for shock absorbers for suspension to be effective.

Trailer hitches

Not a complex issue – but you need to know which to use, especially off-road.

Brakes & braking

Trailers less than 750 kg (including load) need not be braked, but it makes sense to have them if travelling off-road – an unbraked trailer can push its towing vehicle sideways on a slippery descent. But as this section shows – there are brakes and brakes …

Wheels & tyres

Did you know the cheaper new trailers are sold with second-hand tyres? And why it not good to use them?


There’s nothing magical or mysterious about them – but they do not necessarily work as many think. This part of The Camper Trailer Book may tell you more than you had in mind knowing – but that’s better than knowing too little. Or worse, believing stuff that’s simply not true.

Battery charging

Comments re battery charging are much as for batteries. Here again this may be more than you need to know – but it advisable to read thoroughly as it is essential to get this bit right.>


Not my favourite way of providing power – but for some uses (such as for freezing large catches of fish) there’s really no other choice. Here’s to how do it more efficiently.>

Fuel cells

A still newish technology that it provides silent and pollution free electric energy. One to at least consider even now as a substitute for a generator. Eventually, they will be common.>

Energy monitoring

The only truly effective way of keeping track of battery charge works the same way we keep track of money. Counts what comes in, count what goes out (including losses). Subtract one from the other and the resultant amount is what you have left.>


A comprehensive guide to all aspects of fridges choice and usage.>

Water pumping

Every aspect is covered.>

Hot water and internal heating

Many people like more than a basic camping experience. This section even includes safe and economic ways to keep a camper trailer and annexes warm in even sub-zero temperatures.>


Not a complex issue, but some forms of lighting use very much less power than others.>

Supplementing with solar

A trulythorough guide to what you can truly expect, where, and when. (Tip: choosing the right fridge is vital!)>


Five example systems.


This comprehensive section of The Camper Trailer Book is a thorough guide to installing electrical and every other component and system in camper trailers of all types. It shows how to establish the numbers required, how to estimate the approximate costs, how to rough out a system. It includes details of a major wiring trap that catches out only too many – including some professional installers.

Building & modifying

Some buy The Camper Trailer Book for this section alone!

Preparing for the trip

A thorough guide to preparing vehicles and trailers, particularly for big trips. It includes details of three outback essentials. (Tip – there are three outback essentials, WD40 (for things that are meant to move but don’t, 8 gauge fencing wire for things that are not meant to move, but do, for the third you’ll need to refer to the book).

Why things work loose

This chapter of The Camper Trailer Book is particularly relevant to hard sprung camper trailers. You are unlikely to find this information anywhere else. It is not even included in engineering courses.


How to keep in touch electronically.


This vital section of The Camper Trailer Book covers all aspect of travelling safely: how to avoid being hassled, the dangers of trees, taking fire seriously, what to do about small things that bite, what to do about medium-sized things that bite, what do to about seriously large things (like estuarine crocs) that bite, how not to get lost, the risk of flash floods, all you need to about cyclones All aspect of travelling safely: how to avoid being hassled, the dangers of trees, taking fire seriously, what to do about small things that bite, what to do about medium-sized things that bite, what do to about seriously large things (like estuarine crocs) that bite, how not to get lost, the risk of flash floods, all you need to about cyclones, how not to get bogged in sand and mud – and how to get out if you do.

Vehicle recovery

How not to get bogged in sand and mud – and how to get out if you do.

Legal issues

This chapter of The Camper Trailer Book is boring. I know that because I wrote it! But it’s stuff you seriously need to know to stay legal. It explains the law regarding drinking alcohol whilst camping, the definition of ‘camping’, and vital stuff about fishing licences (get this wrong and you may have both towing vehicle and trailer confiscated). It also explains how to vote if permanently on the road, ditto re licences and registration etc.

Stuff you may need to take & what it weighs

This part of The Camper Trailer Book has developed, refined, and proven over the years. Few will need everything listed (if you feel you do then you are almost certainly carrying too much). If it is not listed you are almost certain not to need it. As camping experience increases you’ll find you need less and less.

Tools & spares

What to carry, (a) if travelling on mostly bitumen roads in more or less populated areas and, (b) what to carry if you travel extensively in the outback.

Terms explained

This part of The Camper Trailer Book will not make you an expert – but it tells you virtually all that you need for most practical purposes.


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