Prepping Your Vehicle for the Cape

Michael Borg — 13 July 2015

When it comes to touring this grand country of ours, the Top End is one of my all-time favourite places to visit.

This time around, I’ve opted to bring along the quad bike to make things a little bit more interesting but, in order to do that, the old camper trailer had to undergo a few major modifications. In fact, it’s a completely different setup than it was only a few months ago. So let’s check it out!


Originally, this camper trailer was a custom built softfloor camper. However, bringing the quad bike along for the ride meant I would need the entire trailer tub kept free. With plenty of snapping handbags up north, I’m not real keen on swagging or tenting, so the old softfloor tent got the flick, along with the slide-out kitchen and internal water tank, and the roof topper got a new home.

The good thing about a roof-top tent camper is its light weight, it gets you up nice and high and it doesn’t really matter if the ground is rocky or muddy. So I built a frame out of box tube for the tent to sit above the bike. The only problem was I’m not a contortionist, and to load the quad bike up and under the tent proved a bit of a problem.

The fix was actually quite simple: build a tilting frame. Using 50x50x1.5mm square tube, I made a second frame on top of the other that articulates on a few heavy duty bullet-style hinges. It’s latched down with four over-centre latches, and uses two 800mm struts to help open up the frame. Now I simply tilt up the frame and load on the bike.

Spare hub and bearings

One of the bare basic spares to carry for any trailer is spare wheel bearings, and a complete spare hub is even better. I opted to get rid of the old spare wheel mount and replace it with a 45mm stub axle. This has allowed me to install a complete spare hub with brand new bearings all greased up and ready to go. Plus, the wheel bolts straight to it, so you’ve also got spare wheel nuts and studs. How’s that for thinking outside the box?


Naturally, changing the trailer’s setup impacts the overall weight, which means the suspension handles the load differently. This trailer has been set-up with 60-series LandCruiser leaf springs, which are tough as guts but can be pretty damn rough if you don’t get the spring rates right.

So once everything was built, I loaded it all up and took the camper down to the public weighbridge before deciding what to do with the springs. The springs have had a leaf removed to soften them up a bit, and I’ve gone with a decent set of shocks for a more cushioned ride, as well. I can tell you right now, you’d think it was coil sprung by the way they soak up the bumps. Apart from that, I’ve also built a custom set of super heavy-duty leaf spring mounting plates (6mm plate). It’s a bit of overkill, but who’s complaining?

External Protection

It’s often the little things that make a bit difference when you’re travelling harsh and remote terrain. One thing I’ve learnt first-hand is to put a bit of rubber between your jerry can and the jerry can holder to stop the metal rubbing a hole through the plastic. If you’ve got the open style holder that leaves the front of the jerry can exposed to rocks, it’s also a good idea to place a strip of rubber or Corflute in front to help keep it protected.


Now I know what you’re thinking — everybody needs a tyre repair kit, and that’s 100% true! However, there are a few little extras that aren’t always in your kit but are worth their weight in gold.

Spare valves are essential, especially if your tyre deflator is the type that removes the valve to drop your tyre pressure. The second thing is a valve removing tool. Keep a few of them around your truck as you never know when a valve will need to be nipped up. Also, keep a few valve rubbers handy, as they are prone to fatigue. Last but not least is a spare tube.

First point of contact

One of the first things to get damaged on a camper trailer is the jockey wheel and auxiliary plug. In fact, my jockey wheel copped a beating the first trip it went on. So, instead of sticking with the swing-away option, I’ve opted for a removable one.

I’ve also remounted the auxiliary plug up nice and high on the rear bar so it’s not the first point of contact.

Budget Tank Water

With no water tank in the Troopy or my camper, I was trying to figure out a super easy way to carry water and keep it accessible. I ended up mounting an everyday plastic jerry can up on top of the Troopy’s drawer system. I then attached a plastic hose to the tap fitting, and ran it out to the back. There’s a tap fitting at the end, and it clips up nice and high. Not bad for a $30 water tank, eh?

Check out the full feature in issue #90 Junly 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. 


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