Setting up a 4WD to camp

by Stef
(Motueka, New Zealand)

Hi Birgit, do you have any ideas on the best way to set up a 4WD for camping? I'm planning my second year of Working Holiday in Australia, aiming to discover SA, NT and WA.

I've spent huge amounts of time reading your websites (outback and Kimberley... great resources by the way!) which has me pretty set on buying a 4WD instead of a van to see the Gibb River Road, Purnululu NP, parts of Kakadu, etc.

Thing is though, I'd like to set up the 4WD so I can sleep in the back. I realize this might be more of a builder/mechanic/something question rather than a strictly travel one, but I thought I'd give it a shot ;-) So: any advice or good links on how to fix up the back of a 4WD so you can put a mattress there and sleep in? I'd think some wood and screws would do the trick, but I have no real idea of what I'm talking about - I've got the "can do", but it'd be nice to get some "know how".

I know tents would be an easier option but... we'll be living on the road for weeks at a time (which makes the set up camp, tear down camp routine a bit boring after a while...) + may sleep nearer to towns occasionally. We've been known to pull up and sleep in our van in quiet suburb streets, but I could hardly see that happen with a tent :).

That's about it. I've planned to go Adelaide, Flinders Ranges, Lake Eyre, Oodnadatta Track, Coober Pedy, Uluru/Olgas, Kings Canyon, West MacDonnells/East MacDonnells, possibly Finke Gorge, Alice Springs, Kakadu, Darwin.

And then Darwin, Litchfield, Katherine, Purnululu, Gibb River Road, Geikie Gorge and down to Broome + Cape Leveque. Then all the way down to Perth along the coast... or maybe with a detour to Mount Augustus, do you think it's worth it? I thought it might be a good alternative to Uluru (I don't like tourist crowds).

I reckon about 3 months for the trip. What do you think? Time is not really an issue with us. I guess the only thing would be seasons as we'll want to avoid the wet... so we'd do the trip between July and October (October would be southern WA, I'd like to be out of the northern half by the end of September).

A bit of a rambling message, sorry for that. Hope to hear from you and keep up the good work... websites like yours are rare treasures to the traveler!


Response to: Setting up a 4WD to camp

Wow, quite a submission indeed. And quite a plan! Thanks for the kind words. Glad you like the sites and the information. I guess it is written primarily with people like you in mind :).

Three months sounds about right to me. If time is not an issue just leave it open and take it as it comes.

I can't say anything about Mt Augustus because I've never been there, but don't be put off by the crowds at Uluru. You still have to do it and there are ways to enjoy it.

To me the crowds were a shock the first time I saw Uluru, after ten days in the desert to the west (coming from Perth via the Gunbarrel Highway and taking our time). It was so unexpected and it was too much of a contrast.

My second visit (2007) I thoroughly enjoyed. I knew there would be busloads of tourists everywhere and didn't have any unrealistic expectations.

We did the Valley of the Winds walk in the Olgas late in the afternoon and did not see another soul. Obviously we also went outside the main tourist season (May-Sep) and that certainly helped. Your experience will be somewhat different. But hey, it's gotta be done!

Well, and regarding your main question, I can't help you at all! Plus, obviously it totally depends on the vehicle you buy.

I just want to throw in some of my experience.

In September it's HOT up north. You don't want to sleep in the van, trust me. You don't even want a tent. Just a mozzie dome will do.

I have one that takes about five seconds to set up. Really. It works like an umbrella, only that you pull a string at the top instead of pushing the joint from underneath. I loved pulling it out of the car in campgrounds while everyone was slaving away setting up their tents and go... - zip - done. Hehe.

Also, depending on your vehicle and how you set it up, unpacking the car so there is room to sleep, and then putting everything back in is just as much work. (At least I found that when sleeping in the back of my car.)

If you can't get a vehicle that is already set up to sleep inside, I wouldn't worry about modifying the car. I'd get a mozzie dome and a fly to throw over it when it gets cold or when you need privacy. (And a warm sleeping bag for July in the centre. Brrr.)

Comments for Setting up a 4WD to camp

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Roof tent
by: Anonymous


Another suggestion is to purchase a roof tent. My partner has one of these on his 4wd - it folds out from the roof and only takes 5 minutes max to set up or pack up. They fit onto the roof racks of your 4wd which does mean you limit what can be carried up there but we have found it really great and easy and not too hot as you can open up both ends of the tent to let air travel through! Just a warning though, everytime you want to travel somewhere you have to pack it up.

Hope that helps.


Options for a place to "kip"
by: Max

Great question Stef! (By the way are they still feeding the eels in your home town?) I am in the planning stages of a similar trip but the more I read or look at the maps the longer I'll need to do as much as possible. So far looking at 12 months but may have to be longer, would like to spend a wet season up North too. I have a quandary about where or what to sleep in as well. Agree completely with all of "B's" comments. Started off thinking about a camper trailer but it comes down to the comfort versus risk deal with increased fuel cost, the likely event of trailer failure and the cost of recovery. Then I thought I'd be able to set up a bed in my 60 series cruiser (have done it before on a night out) but knocked that on the head after toting up all the stuff one has to carry on an extended trip and the "HOT" thought. Next looked at rooftop tents and the pros and cons - extra weight, wind drag, instability, fuel costs, always pack up before going anywhere, rain and lastly I'm looking at a simple swag which I think may be the best way to go. Like a mini tent which can include a mozzie net for hot nights. Only thing I don't like is the possible intrusion of those slithery things, big crocs taking a mighty nip or camels and Brahma bulls. Weigh it all up and whatever you decide will be right and as B suggests - it must be done or you'll always regret it. I'm going to be "doing" it on my own but the thing I'm looking forward to most is meeting people like you and "B" and the sheer grandeur of the outback. C YA. Max -

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