When it comes to 4wd campers for hire, there are few tried and tested vehicles that seem to have been adopted across the board by the Australian 4wd camper hire companies. Here is a breakdown of the type of vehicle you can expect to get if you are hiring a 4wd camper from Darwin.
The Toyota Hilux is the smallest of the 4wd campers for hire in terms of engine power. It has the lowest ground clearance and the the least amount of grunt, only running 2.5 ltr or 3 ltr diesel engines. The lower ground clearance will mean that you won’t be able to go on some of the really badly maintained 4wd tracks due to the size of ruts in some of those roads. On the flip side, they are generally the most comfortable of the 4wd campers for hire out of Darwin. The Hilux basically has a flat-bed back and a spacious, pop-top living cabin is mounted on this. This allows the builders to design more like a caravan and they seem to be able to get a few more homely items in there and a more spacious living area. This design, however, separates the living quarters from the driving cabin and hence there is no access to the rear cabin from the front seat of the vehicle. You have to get out and walk around to the back. The main drawback of this is if it is raining. In the tropical northern region of Darwin and the Northern Territory rain tends to come in heavy, short bursts or heavy sustained sheets. Either way it is heavy. The driver, in particular, can get mighty wet on the way around to the rear door. Also, it reduces the amount of items you can have nearby when you are driving as you can’t just reach in to the back cabin and pull out a strategically placed extra bag of goodies.
On the up side, of all the types of 4wd campers for hire, this is the one that drives most like a normal car. It is generally quieter and has the best fuel efficiency. The living quarters are larger and it has air conditioning in the rear cabin if you are connected to mains power. This can be a major bonus in the Northern Territory and Darwin as it is hot all year round.
The Hilux also has the option to come as a 2 person or a 4 person vehicle.
This vehicle is for you if you want to be a little more comfortable and hitting the REALLY remote tracks is not what you’re after. If looking forward to getting to some “off the tar” water holes and camp sites, but only via well maintained dirt roads, then this is the 4wd camper that you are looking to hire. Even well maintained dirt roads in the outback require a 4WD. Also a good campervan if there are more than 2 of you.
The Toyota Landcruiser is the stalwart of the Australian outback. They are everywhere. Their reliability is famous and they are the toughest and most reliable 4wd in the country. There are various models available in the market, but the companies that run 4wd campers for hire have all chosen to go with the most spacious of the them – the Troop Carrier. Gone are the bench seats that come standard in the back, replaced by a kitchen, storage and bedding for up to 3. All jammed in to a pretty small space, but in general, all pretty comfy.
The older troop carriers come with a straight 6 cylinder 4.2 ltr diesel engine whilst the newer ones come with a V8 4.5 ltr turbo diesel. Whilst the extra grunt of V8 is appreciated, the straight 6 will get everywhere you want to go.
The ground clearance of these guys is much better than the Hilux and if you want to really get “off road” these vehicles will get you there and back. To lock in to 4wd, you have to stop and choose low-4 or high-4 with the gear stick, then get out of the camper and lock the wheel-hubs on the front wheels. Whilst this might seem a little old fashioned, it certainly gives you a sense of really “getting into 4wd”.
The interior is basic for the drivers cabin but a least there is air conditioning. They are a little noisy to drive but, again, at least you are KNOW you are in a 4wd, including the the huge bonnet (hood) sticking out in front of you and the additional height from the huge ground clearance.
The Landcruiser is often advertised as a 3 person vehicle. Technically this is true. It will sleep 2 up top and one down below. The discomfort will come whilst driving. The 3rd person will have to sit in the middle seat in the front. There are no seat belts in the rear. This can become uncomfortable for all involved over long hours, particularly for the person in the middle. It is not impossible or illegal, just not desirable.
The Landcruiser comes in 2 different configurations. A hi top and a pop top. The hi top looks like a Landcruiser with an upside-down bathtub on top. The best advantage of this is that as soon as you get in the back, you can stand upright. The shape also allows for packing sleeping gear or backpacks in the cavity that is formed above the drivers cabin. There are tie straps expressly for this purpose. The down-side of this type of 4wd camper, is that the vehicle is heavier, it has more wind resistance (hence consuming more fue)l and the center of gravity is higher, increasing the risk of rolling it (not by much though). Also, low hanging branches and under cover car parks can be a worry. If you are not used to the extra height and you forget that it is there, you might damage the roof and then you’ll be paying for it.
The pop top option is generally more expensive to hire. It will save you money on fuel though as it is lighter and has a lower profile than the hi top. The drivers cabin and the method to go in to 4wd is the same as the hi-top, so the only real difference is the roof in the back. You will have to pop-the-top when you get in the back to stand upright. This is easily done though. Once it is up, you have the choice to unzip numerous air holes to let in a breeze and extra light. These are covered with mosquito mesh. In heavy wind, the canvas that lines the wall will blow around quite a bit and can make for a noisy night’s sleep. It doesn’t happen often though. There is slightly less storage as you don’t have the cavity that is formed above the driver, like in the hi-top, but if there are only 2 of you, this is unlikely to cause any issues. If doing long distances, this vehicle is for you due to the fuel savings of the lower roof.
A final option in the Landcruiser range is the side tent. This is when you are provided a normal Landcruiser and you sleep outside the vehicle. This 4wd camper is designed to take up to 5 people so they have left in both rows of seating and built the kitchenette and the essential items in to the back. Luggage, tent and extra equipment goes on the roof rack. Overall, this vehicle is basically just like camping however, it is camping with a very well stocked portable kitchen. It is a low profile camper so fuel costs will be about the same as the pop top, however fuel economy might suffer a little from wind resistance of whatever is in the roof rack. If you have extra people in your group, this might be the best option to look at.
When it comes to 4wd campers for hire, the Landcruiser is a lot more fun to have as you can be pretty sure that you will be able to get wherever you want to go, and back again, without much trouble. There are plenty options in style to suit different budgets and party size, but the engine grunt and high ground clearance, along with the absolute reliability of Landcruiser is what sells it. Recommended over the Hilux. If you are wondering why you need to hire a 4wd camper then follow the link to understand.