If you have wondered what it is like to travel fulltime in a Jayco Camper Trailer we have shared our experience. We packed up our family and spent an amazing 3+ months travelling Western Australia and the Northern Territory. We have a 2016 Jayco Eagle Outback and we were a little nervous to see if it would survive off road tracks such as The Gibb River Road.
Let’s see how the Jayco held up!
In preparation for the trip, we swapped out the Dometic 3-way fridge for a Bushman 12V fridge, an Enerdrive DCDC charger, a new set of tyres and not much else. We stayed in low-cost campgrounds, caravan parks and remote free camps, camping from 1 night up to 6 nights often setting up day after day, especially on the Gibb River Road.
The longer we were on the road, the quicker the setup and pack down became as the whole family learns what they can do to help. We were lucky with the weather spending most of our time in the North of WA and the NT receiving only a few days of rain over the whole trip. I’m sure setting up/packing up in wet weather would wear you down. If we were to do this trip in certain wet weather, we’d prefer a full size van with less setup.
Another advantage to a full size van is the ability to camp with the van hitched up to the car for those quick 1 nighters. If we left ours hitched up we wouldn’t have access to the rear of our car, an extended draw bar could solve this issue. This contributed to our decision to free camp less than we would’ve liked, if we didn’t feel safe or comfortable, it is not a quick job to pack up and move on.
Solar was an integral part of staying off grid, shade is not your friend. Unpowered sites at caravan parks can be hit and miss as usually the site is chosen for you by the park. When free camping, we would look for the more open areas where we could move the solar blankets around throughout the day to catch as much sun as possible.
After removing the 3-way fridge we knew gas consumption would decrease, so we took only one 8.5kg bottle. This bottle served us for 6 weeks running the stove, weber Q and hot water system. Even after 6 weeks there was still plenty in the bottle, but after hearing how much it costs to refill on the Gibb, we figured we’d swap it out in Broome. The 2nd bottle carried us for 8 weeks with more still in reserve.
The camper had the original tyres on when we purchased it and after hearing of tyre failures, we figured for a small price we could prevent a potential headache by putting on a new set of tyres. We took the wheels to the local tyre guy and he sold us Hifly Vigorous AT tyres. This brand was unknown to us, and we were afraid we may regret fitting them. We did not have one tyre issue. On the Gibb River Rd we lowered the tyres to 30psi and similar during other offroad treks.
We were big believers in using bed flies but had read how others found they didn’t use them much. On this trip we also found we didn’t use them or the awning much. Admittedly the weather was awesome most of the time and most days we were out exploring, therefore not requiring the need for extra shelter.
Dust ingress was no where near as bad as the experiences of others we had read about. We did nothing extra to prevent dust, however the addition of home made “stone stomper style” mud flaps to our Landcruiser may have affected the way the air flows around the car and camper by chance.
There is plenty of space inside the camper however storage was an issue. Dixie and I put our clothes in the wardrobe while the kids had a small suitcase each. During the day the suitcases, towels, school work and other personal belongings were kept on the bed. In the evening our belongings were moved to the couches so we could access the beds. Inside often felt a little cluttered.
Things that went wrong. We lost one plastic “Big Foot” off a stabliser leg. We melted off one knob on the stove due to not using the pull out guard while grilling some bread. The front bed fly got hooked on to a pole while we were winding up the roof. Due to the winder being at the back on our model, we didn’t notice that the bed fly stitching was being torn. Some velcro stitching tore underneath the bed ends due to getting hooked while moving the beds in and out.
There were other minor issues such as an Anderson plug wire breaking away from a terminal, after crimping on a new terminal, problem solved. We lost a safety chain D-shackle bolt on the Gibb, we used pliers to tighten them from then on. We helped other travellers by giving them our spare 7-pin trailer plug, so it pays to carry spares like Anderson plugs, trailer plugs and D-shackles.
We had one day/night at North Lefroy, Ningaloo Station where the weather turned bad, heavy rain and wind for hours. The Eagle survived extremely well, surprisingly, no leaks and no physical damage.
We had 2 adult bikes mounted on the drawbar on a Fiama bike rack and the kids bikes mounted on the rear of the camper via a Reese hitch. This worked well apart from the fact we had to remove them every time we needed to set up or access the front boot compartment. The bikes weren’t precious to us, luckily, as the dust affects all the mechanical components of the bike.
We were using some jarrah decking offcuts for levelling the camper but left them behind at Bullara Station by accident. We ended up either digging a hole for the tyre to drop into or letting tyre pressure down to level the Eagle.
All in all, the camper survived relatively well considering it was towed up some of the most corrugated roads in Australia, like Kalumburu Road. We chose a Jayco camper trailer as opposed to a full size van due to the lack of power of our Landcruiser. If we had a more powerful car or were travelling for longer we would’ve considered a full size van. We could also get into tighter sites such as Kooljaman (Cape Leveque) which does not allow Caravans.
Like everything it has it’s pros and cons but the main thing was we got to spend quality time together as a family and see our amazing country! We could have easily kept travelling if we didn’t need to get back for work.