Off-Road Camper Trailer Checklist: Top Features to Look For

4WD driving through muddy water

If you love heading off-road in your 4WD, then an off-road camper trailer is a must-have.

Off-road campers can handle the same tough terrain as your 4WD, and they're equipped with accommodation, power, water, and even a kitchen!

In other words, an off-road camper turns your 4WD day trip into a multi-day camping trip.

Are you convinced that off-road campers are the bee's knees? The next thing to do is start looking at off-road campers for sale and finding the best camper trailer for you.

To help you out, we've compiled a checklist of the top features to look for in an off-road camper trailer.

Top 9 Features You Need in an Off-Road Camper Trailer

Car towing a camper trailer off-road grassy terrain

1. Off-Road Ready Suspension

If you're a regular off-roader, you already know the importance of good suspension. Your 4WD suspension is fully equipped for off-roading, and your camper trailer should be too.

If you don't want your vehicle to bounce around like popcorn in a microwave, you will invest in a trailer with high-quality suspension.

Here are a few ways suspension helps your camper in off-road conditions:

  • Improves steering and vehicle manoeuvrability
  • Provides clearance to prevent the underside of your camper from hitting the ground on undulating surfaces
  • Ensures your tyres are always making solid contact with the road or track for increased control
  • Stabilises your camper and car to prevent loss of control and rolling your vehicle
  • Improves overall performance and condition of tyres and brakes, as well as fuel efficiency

So, what type of suspension do we recommend? For off-road environments, we generally turn to independent suspension systems, such as the market-leading Cruisemaster independent trailer suspension system with airbag or coil spring technology. The Cruisemaster system comes standard in both Patriot Campers and Lifestyle Campers.

2. Plenty of Protection for the Underbody

To make your camper trailer truly off-road ready, the bottom of the trailer should be a top priority.

Even with great suspension and adequate ground clearance, the underside of your camper is going to cop plenty of stones, twigs, mud, and dirt. To protect your trailer, it's essential to ensure the underbody is well-sealed and finished with protective coatings.

3. The Type of Hitch

The tougher and rougher the terrain you are driving on, the more robust your hitch will need to be. You will definitely need more than a standard ball and hitch set-up, and in many cases, you will need a fully articulating hitch.

A hitch with full vertical and horizontal articulation allows your car to face in one direction while your trailer faces the other direction without running the risk of rolling your entire ride.

This is important because your camper trailer is always trailing behind you, meaning it could still be tackling a tricky piece of terrain after your car has already come off it.

A hitch like the Cruisemaster DO35 off-road hitch allows your trailer to zig while your vehicle zags, which is essential in off-road settings. 

4. Electric Brakes and Brake Controllers

If you're taking your camper off-road, make sure it has electric brakes and get an electric brake controller for your tow vehicle.

Most camper trailers will come with brakes of some kind, but these won't always be electric brakes. In some rare cases, your camper trailer won't have any brakes at all.

On the other hand, it's rare to buy a tow vehicle that comes with an electric brake controller included, so you will need to make the investment.

Electric brake controllers are important for several reasons, such as:

  • In Australia, you must have an electric brake controller fitted if you're towing more than 750kg

  • Modern electric brake controllers come with proportional braking. This ensures your trailer brakes in the same way as your tow vehicle. So, if you slam on the brakes or brake gradually, your trailer will do the same.

  • Electric brakes also allow you to adjust the trailer brakes manually to suit different off-road terrains. This allows your brakes to act independently of your tow vehicle. For example, you might choose to lock the brakes on a steep descent to keep the trailer straight behind your vehicle. Or you might choose softer braking to prevent bogging in sandy or muddy environments.

5. Water and Dust Protection

One of the big benefits of an off-road camper trailer is being able to stop for the night, cook a meal, and sleep in your camper. So, the last thing you want is to open up your camper only to find dust or water have found their way in.

To prevent water and dust ingress, look for camper trailers that are fully sealed, with adjustable latches to further strengthen that seal if necessary.

You can also look for trailers with positive pressure systems. These systems prevent dust and water ingress by pushing air out of any gaps that appear in your camper. By pushing out clean air, you prevent dust and anything else from coming in!

6. Overall Build Quality

If your camper trailer is really built for off-road driving, then every inch of it will be built with strength and durability in mind.

We're talking about quality materials like marine-grade aluminium and hot-dipped galvanized steel.

We're also talking about intelligent design and fabrication, with things like a lightweight body and generous ground clearance and departure angles.

These are some of the main hallmarks of a camper trailer that you can rely on in off-road settings.

7. The Dimensions of Your Camper

When it comes to off-roading, you don't want a trailer with too much height, width, or weight. Here's why:

  • Height: A tall camper trailer will have trouble parking under covered spaces, and it will also struggle to clear low-hanging branches and other overhead obstacles on off-road tracks.

  • Width: A trailer that's far wider than your vehicle is a hindrance when you head off-road. It will struggle to clear tight trails or navigate around obstacles that your tow vehicle can clear easily. On the other hand, a trailer that's too narrow usually makes up for this with excess height, and we've already talked about the problems this can cause. A tall, skinny trailer will also be far more prone to tipping, especially on off-road tracks.

  • Weight: A heavy trailer might be tough, but it can also be like an anchor that weighs down on your tow vehicle. The last thing you want when you're climbing a steep track is excess weight. On the other hand, an ultralight trailer might not be cut out for off-roading.

  • When looking at weight, remember that there is tare weight and ATM (Aggregate Trailer Mass). Tare weight is what your trailer weighs in manufacturer condition before you add all your gear. When you add all your gear (the Payload), you get the ATM, which is the true weight you'll be dealing with when you're driving off-road.

8. Plenty of Camper Trailer Storage

One of the benefits of an off-road camper is being able to take everything with you for a multi-day 4WD adventure. That's why you need a camper trailer with plenty of space to pack your clothes, food, bikes, camping gear, and everything else you want to bring with you.

Look for an off-road camper with plenty of drawers, shelves, and compartments that can store your equipment safely and securely as you bounce around the rough terrain. You might need space for water tanks, gas bottles, BBQs, camping cutlery, clean and dirty clothes, and much more.

So, be sure to check out all the storage spaces and extra clever nooks available to you when shopping for a camper trailer.

9. Camp Kitchen and Room for Appliances

The camp kitchen is pretty much a mainstay of any camper trailer worth its salt. If you're going off-road for multiple days at a time, you want a kitchen that makes food prep, cooking, and cleaning easy.

Look for a swing-out camp kitchen with gas burners, running water, a generous pantry, stainless steel sinks, and plenty of bench space. Many camp kitchens will have space for everything from a fridge to a BBQ to a blender, but these appliances generally don't come built-in as standard.

You want a camper with a kitchen that includes as much as possible, so all you need to do is add a gas bottle, fresh water, food, and maybe a few extra appliances.

It's also worth making sure that any appliances that come with your camper - either as standard or an upgrade - are rugged enough to survive the ups and downs of off-road driving.

Other Off-Road Camper Trailer Considerations to Think About

Close up of a 4WD tyre kicking up dust


Everyone has a budget, and it's important to stick to yours. A quality off-road camper trailer will set you back tens of thousands of dollars, with high-end models and fully equipped hybrid campers costing you more than base models.

When planning your budget, it's important not to sacrifice the essentials, like quality off-road suspension. Most off-road campers come with standard inclusions, so it's also important to understand what your camper comes with and what extras and upgrades you will need to pay for.

The best off-road camper trailers in Australia are made locally, and we highly recommend looking at Aussie options over cheap imports if you want a trailer that will last.

Your Tow Vehicle

The capabilities of your tow vehicle are just as important as the capabilities of your camper trailer. You need to ensure your tow vehicle is suitable for off-road driving and that you are not exceeding your maximum tow ball weight or towing capacity when you're driving with a camper trailer.

You also need to ensure you do not exceed your vehicle's maximum Gross Combined Mass (GCM).

The GCM weight is a combination of the following:

  • The unburdened weight of your vehicle + the weight of accessories (e.g., a bull bar)
  • The added weight of passengers, luggage, etc. 
  • Your tow ball weight
  • The weight of your fully loaded trailer (ATM)

You can typically find information about towing capacity, tow ball weight, and GCM in your owner's manual. Once you have this information, you can work with a camper trailer specialist to ensure you choose a camper that does not exceed maximum legal limits.

Soft Floor vs Hard Floor 

Off-road campers come in both hard floor and soft floor models.

Soft floor camper trailers are generally cheaper and lighter but lack some of the built-in appliances and creature comforts that come with hard floor models.

On the other hand, hard floor camper trailers are typically associated with more luxurious accommodation and amenities - especially if you're getting a hybrid camper. However, these models will usually be heftier in terms of both weight and price tag.

In the end, the best option for you will come down to your camping preferences and budget. Both hard floor and soft floor camper trailers can be suitable for off-roading. 

Remember, Driving with an Off-Road Camper will Have its Limitations!

Generally speaking, off-road campers will let you go anywhere that you can go in your 4WD. From sandy surfaces to steep inclines to muddy trails, an off-road camper can handle it all.

However, going off-road with a trailer will definitely put your abilities to the test. Your vehicle will all of a sudden be heavier, longer, and possibly a bit wider - and you will need to adjust to these changes.

If you're going off-road with a camper trailer for the first time, consider tackling an easier track than you normally would until you're completely confident with your new load.

A quality off-road camper will be able to keep up with your tow vehicle, but you will need to adjust your driving style according to the new limitations of your vehicle and trailer.

And as always, don't forget to bring appropriate recovery gear when you're heading off-road.

Looking for Off-Road Trailers?

Camping Adventures is your home of camping gear and off-road camper trailers in Melbourne and Hobart

Our team is the authorised dealer of Patriot and Lifestyle camper trailers in Tasmania and Victoria – these are two of the leading names for off-road Campers in Australia!

Whether you're looking for camper trailer accessories in Melbourne or a brand-new camper for your off-road adventure in Tassie, we have you covered. 

For more information on our range, visit our showroom or contact us today!

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