Guide to camper trailer boating

By: Claire Wilson, Photography by: CTA Staff

Towing a camper trailer doesn’t mean you have to leave the boat or kayak at home.

Guide to camper trailer boating
There are plenty of ways to get your camper boat ready.

LET'S FACE IT, for those so inclined, it doesn't get much better than sitting in a boat with the sun setting in the distance, while a fish nibbles at the end of your line. But it goes without saying that towing a camper trailer can limit your boating options, and even taking along a canoe or kayak can be difficult without some sort of custom carrier.

We've heard of people simply towing a trailer boat and sleeping in it at night, but if you prefer the comfort your camper, there are better solutions available.

Most camper trailer manufacturers offer optional boat racks. You can tie a tinnie to the roof of your car or you can buy a custom boat-carrying camper trailer, and there are compact fold-up and inflatable boats also available. You'll also need a mount for your outboard motor; most camper manufacturers can help out here.

Here's a list of top boat transport options...

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H racks are the simplest and cheapest style of boat rack for your camper trailer. They consist of two metal frames attached to both ends of the camper, to which you tie down your boat. The problem with H racks is that you need to remove the boat from the camper before you can set up the tent, and once the camper is set up the only way you can transport the boat is by hand - so you'd better be close to the water. The other option is to buy a small fold-up boat trailer, which can be assembled upon arrival in camp and used to transport the boat whilst the trailer is unhitched.

H racks can also be useful for carrying things other than boats, such as surfboards, and so may make a useful addition to your trailer even when you are not planning to take the tinnie.

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More expensive than H racks, hinged racks hold the boat upside down above the trailer whilst on the road and swing over (generally with the assistance of gas struts) to the side when in camp, allowing the tent to be set up with the boat still attached. This makes them better for tourers who are on the move and who will be setting up and packing down often. Unfortunately they don't solve the problem of getting the boat to water once in camp - again, you'll have to either carry the boat to the water, or buy a fold-up boat trailer.

Hinged racks can also have solid mesh in between the two ends, allowing goods other than just the boat to be carried, such as bicycles or firewood.

Keep in mind that with the boat hinged to the side the camper trailer setup can become unbalanced, especially if you encounter wild weather. This might require you to invest in a better quality set of swing-down legs for your trailer.

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The other place you can carry your boat is on the roof of your car. All car roofs have a weight limit, so make sure you weigh your setup - both boat and rack - to make sure you don't exceed it. The other problem with carrying your boat on the roof is that it can be very difficult to lift the boat on and off. A WA company, Custom Boat Loaders, makes the Rolls Royce of boat loaders. It has a system of gears, ropes and pulleys to make loading and unloading a one man operation. It is heavy duty and also has a mesh floor that allows you to carry goods under the boat. Rhino Rack also makes a similar boat loader. With both, you can upgrade to an electric motor, making loading even easier.

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The Belco Land and Sea Camper is a unique offering amongst Australian camper trailers. Essentially it's a boat trailer that has a trailer tent mounted on top. They don't come with all the luxuries, such as a fold-out kitchen, but they do offer camper trailering types the opportunity to take larger boats with them, up to 4.5m in length.

Once the tent has been set up it stands on its own legs and the boat and trailer can be driven out from underneath and down to the water.

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Portable boats come in two types: foldable and inflatable. You'll need somewhere to store your outboard motor with both varieties, but then that's no different to carrying your boat inverted on a boat rack.

Inflatable boats, such as Zodiacs, generally have a solid floor and an inflatable tube around the sides and bow. They come in a wide range of lengths and weights, but the idea is that once the tube is deflated they're smaller and easier to transport.

Kimberley Kampers even sells its own inflatable boat, which integrates with a custom rack for its hard floor campers.

Foldable boats are made up of four panels, with the seats inside acting as braces. They fold up to a width of about 4in (but to the length of the boat). They weigh very little, and come in a few different sizes.

They can be strapped to just about anything but are generally carried on your vehicle's roof, or on the side of the trailer. Manufacturers claim they only take around 10 minutes to assemble, and because they are flexible they give a really smooth ride through choppy water.

A foldable boat could be a great purchase, as they spare the additional expense of buying a boat rack.

Source: Camper Trailer Australia #42