‘Our first long journey convinced us that we needed to upgrade our rig!’

Published: November 6, 2023

Before hitting the road, Brett and Kathy Kempster – like most soon-to-be grey nomads – thought long and hard before buying the rig they thought would best suit them.

And then – like many newly experienced grey nomads – they had a change of heart after ‘living the dream’ for a few months! Actually, that’s not quite true.

The couple bought a 17’ 6 tandem Island Star poptop back in 2006 and it served them well for many a short trip. In fact, it served them so well that they had no qualms about heading off on the ‘big one’ with it in 2010 … and that’s when they started to miss their creature comforts.

Without solar or a 12v system, toilet or shower, or an oven, the couple found they had to spend most nights in van parks.

“Another downside for prolonged RV travel was limited living space,” said Brett. “Yes, the awning gave us brilliant outdoor space but it wasn’t the storage space we needed … the nightly chore was to transfer stuff on the bed to the L-shaped lounge and vice versa in the morning.”

That first eight-month adventure took the couple across Queensland and NSW and they found the country … and the weather … full of surprises.

Up north, there was the heat.

Brett and Kathy have been having the time of their lives … and they’re only just getting started!

“The cross ventilation the vinyl roof gusset of the poptop provided was a welcome relief in places such as Normanton and Karumba in the gulf country,” said Brett.

And further south on the NSW Great Dividing Range, there was the cold.

“We encountered –6 at Glenn Innes!” said Brett. “And it was at this point it began to dawn on us the comfort of a full caravan might be the way of the future.”

After getting back home, the rig research began all over again, but this time with the benefit of big trip experience … and, in 2013, the couple took delivery of a brand new 21’6 Globetrotter caravan.

“Solar panels were becoming the ‘in’ thing by then, so I had 2×100 amp hour batteries installed at factory level while I fitted the two solar panels on the roof,” said Brett. “Other must-have items on our list were a full oven, full size fridge/freezer, ensuite with separate toilet & shower, and 12V TV & DVD package.”

And this time they got it right … and that same van is still serving the couple well today as they continue to criss-cross the country.

Brett and Kathy say they do miss the lower fuel bills the poptop gave them, but there is no way they could do without ‘the extra storage they now have, or the ‘facilities’.

“The full ensuite is so inviting when you need to visit the little boys’ room at 2am,” said Brett. “Trudging across the caravan park in 2C temperatures at that hour is not my idea of fun!”

  • Have you had a rig re-think after being in the road for a while? Comment below.

Are you a Grey Nomad member yet? Click here to find out about the discounts, competitions and other benefits on offer.


Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

We travelled in a 15ft Coromal Cygnet pop top from May 2006 for 6 months. It was just a basic caravan. Over the years we travelled most of Australia including Tasmania. We still have that van and the 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe v6. Great times and memories. Happy travelling.

We bought a pop top Regent caravan in 2003. No toilet or shower and no battery system. It was 20 foot with dual axles. Went around Australia with it for 14 months. We did have a deep cell battery and a portable potty under the bed. We did mostly stop in caravan parks but also camped out several times but only overnight. We got along fine and still have it and still using it .

First it was a 20ft Viscount Supreme – dual axle, hand pump, minute 3 way fridge (still have it).
We then got a very rugged off road camp trailer, very basic but over the years added power and water pump, manufactured slide out kitchen, etc.
Then went for a Jayco, pop top – great little van that proved itself over desert tracks. But, it again was basic.
We then opted for a new luxurious brand (sold as being manufactured by a reputable company – it wasn’t). It leaked like a sieve, electrics were always failing, ESC malfunctioned, floor delaminated, suspension installed at an angle to chassis scrubbed tyres. Long story short, NCAT Tribunal, ordered full refund and costs awarded (over $40K Barrister), for selling unroadworthy caravan and deceptive conduct. Massive Company with $10 paid up capital, Company listed as “worst of the worst” by Lemon Caravans.
We then went for 22ft Evernew, All the bells and whistles, absolute luxury, dream to tow (over 3 Tonne), combined with series 5, Y62 Patrol.
A true happy combination.

Bought an Avan 17ft poptop caravan with a 110ah house battery charged by 200w solar blanket new back in 2010.
Done 140,000kms in 13 years all over Australia. The one & only van we’ll ever own. Porta Potti takes care of toilet duties, liquids & solids. Underslung axle enables us to get into rough bush camps.
We wash it twice a year.

At the start of last year, we left Melbourne with our 2003 Jayco Heritage. Went to the bottom of S.A., up the middle to Darwin. Back down to 3 Ways, then across to Cairns, and down the east coast home, in total just over 18500km. The heritage had a combined shower, sink, and toilet. No solar at all apart from portable panels. After our our return, we decided to upgrade to an off road, off grid van. We are breaking it in for now, our next trip will be over to the west.

Yes we did similar.. our 16ft poptop was okay for small trips but living fulltime was not ideal within 6 months we upgraded to a 21ft bells n whistles van .. 6 years later still love it and our life on the road

Hi guys I’m 10 years into retirement, ( a interstate truck driver ) so I know how annoying the grey gonads can be.
I’m am about to give it a bash.With the equipment that I can afford.
A 2021 ford Everest 2lt bi turbo and a 2010 jay o base station ( for my mobility scooter)
Base station has a off road suspension upgrade but stripped of all unnecessary weight, Down to 2.2 t.
First stop summer Nat’s in Canberra then tamworth music festival,next up bell’s beach surfing comp Vic and Margaret river wa, a quick trip up to Byron ( my home )
Then to the finke desert race in Alice via broken hill and cooberpedy..
Hopefully the jay co will be up to a trip from Alice to the birdsville races. I’m the eternal optimist.then back to Byron until the Phillip island GP and the Bathurst 1000.
I will be solo
And it’s a tick the bucket before I kick the bucket trip


Yep, do it while you can mate. Good luck & safe travels.

We’ve been travelling the past six years with our forward fold off road camper trailer, no worries whatsoever, but have recently taken delivery of a new pop top van, optioned with lithium power, plenty of solar, ensuite etc, we enjoy going to out of the places and free camping, just back from our first trip and couldn’t be happier with the upgrade.

We bought our Snowy River 14ft new a year ago and have been on several trips of 4-6 weeks duration. It’s compact but punches above its weight with everything we could ever need. We go 50/50 caravan park/off grid and never run out of anything. We had a Jayco Dove with the kids so knew we were never going to have canvas again. The only thing I’d change would be twin beds but that would mean another metre and the storage issues with that.


Subscribe To Our Newsletter

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop