We have been traveling around in Ripley for a little while now. And Kelly & I both feel pretty comfortable understanding what she can and cannot do.
Overall, I would say we are exceedingly happy with her performance.
One question we get a lot, is why choose a camper van over a caravan?
Now I think technically Ripley is classified as a motorhome. Just edging over 7 metres in length there is no doubt she is large. But I still kinda think of her as just a big camper van.
Whenever I think motorhome I think of big bus sized affair with slide-outs.
Now that I have cleared up my own nomenclature, let me list a few campervan versus motorhome pros and cons. This is absolutely a personal reflection and your own results may vary.
- Length. Despite being long she is probably shorter than most caravans when they are being towed by a vehicle. This has two main advantages: It makes it easier to navigate through dense traffic areas & winding roads…and it saves relationships when it comes to reversing it into position at holiday park sites. Seriously.
- Footprint. Again, Ripley’s smaller parking footprint makes it easier to spontaneously pull off the road at an attraction, or find a geographically useful parking spot in larger cities or towns to go shopping or snoop around.
- Set up. When we pull into a campsite for the night we just turn off the engine and step back into our living space. Cue music….time for sundowners!
To be fair, we do have to turn on the gas and hookup the power/greywater umbilicals but this takes literally seconds. Caravans, on the other hand, seem to take an inordinately long time to position and unhook from the towing vehicle and then level and stabilise etc etc.
- Convenience. Lets say its pouring rain. We can pull Ripley over and then walk through to the living area and make some lunch or get some wet-weather gear… all without going outside. The value of this small thing should not be underestimated.
- Stealth. This is a big thing for us. At dusk, we can often find somewhere quiet and out of everyones way to park up for the night. In stealth mode (ie with all the shutters up and keeping noise to a minimum) we are just a big grey blob in the darkness.
We are always careful not to disrupt peoples sense of environmental ambiance or occupy community valued spaces, and to leave no trace. And we always depart in the dawn light like a phantom ninja.
- Personality. Because you are driving in her and living in her, camper vans tend to adopt their own personalities. Ripley is great fun to drive, and so far she has really looked after us. I am supposing that not too many people name their caravans right?
- Innertia. This is by far the biggest negative aspect of having a camper van in our opinion. Once you drop anchor and set up your site for a day or longer, you are pretty much grounded for the duration. To be fair we see plenty of camper vans that do go out on day trips and then return to their sites in the evenings. But once Ripley has her awning out and we have our driving seats rotated around, and internal stuff all set out….I really can’t be bothered packing her up again. Perhaps the heading here should really be laziness.
Meanwhile, all those families in caravans simply hop in their cars and head off for the day exploring.
- Single unit. With a camper van its all one unit. So if we ever want to upgrade or make repairs we must consider the whole thing. In a caravan you have the living module and you have the pulling vehicle. You can upgrade or repair these things individually which gives you many more options.
- Around town utility. When not traveling Ripley is pretty unless as an around-town or day to day transport option. So we don’t get that multi-functionality of say a 4WD that tows a motorhome but can also be used to go and pick up some shopping.
- Terrain access. Speaking of 4WD, being a very heavy front-wheel drive, Ripley is limited when it comes to going off road or traversing wet muddy/grassy slopes.
This makes us a little shy to drive down any roads less travelled. Mind you there are plenty of 4WD camper van options available to solve this problem.
- Cooking prep. Now this is probably more of brand issue. Our particular model of camper van has a small ‘L’ shaped galley. Its really not too bad, but whenever we check out someones caravan we are inevitably envious of their food preparation areas. Cooking on the road is everything, and having a nice kitchen space enhances enjoyment exponentially.
- Noise. Ripley is a noisy girl on the road. Inevitably, despite your best efforts, there are things inside that constantly rattle or jingle around when driving. Every camper van I have seen is like this. Its probably the same in a caravan, you just aren’t there to hear it.
So there is a short off the top of my head list of the pros and cons we have encountered with Ripley so far. At this point I wouldn’t swap her out for a caravan for all the coffee in Brazil.
The only three modifications I would make in a future upgrade would be to look for a setup with a bigger bed (ours is OK but not brilliant for 2 adults and a splayed out dog), to have 4WD capability, and to consider an even smaller rig for even better stealthiness.