An interesting aspect of living in another country – in another hemisphere even – is that you come around to entertaining ideas you never ever would have thought possible in another life. As if it weren't enough to waltz around in a 4x4, with box on top, we were now considering buying a trailer, and looking like real Aussie Outbackers.
My friend conducted thorough research on the subject; I would have expected nothing less. And one Saturday morning we headed off into areas of south Brisbane I've only heard of in traffic reports. I do quite like the name Browns Plains.
I wanted our first trailer stop – just off the Pacific Motorway beyond the Gateway merge – to be in Shailer Park, which would have been kind of neat. But it wasn't; it was in Underwood. Here we probably learned the most, from a chap whose advice I felt we could trust. We could have an off-road version, with chunkier wheels and a more robust ('seven leaf shackle') suspension, possibly with shockies (shock absorbers). There was a lengthy discussion about wheel size: they couldn't be as big as the car's because that would make the trailer too high. The two have to be horizontally aligned.
Brakes were another big topic. A trailer has to have its own braking system if it weighs more than 750 kg. Ours wouldn't, but it seemed like a good idea in case we have to stop suddenly, to avoid a kangaroo for instance. Then, disc or drum? The first and second dealers – Mr Honest-as-the-Day-is-Long and Mr Also-Trustworthy-But-Just-a-Tad-Smarmy – didn't seem to agree on that. Discs would not suffer as much from dust, an important factor on dirt roads and sandy tracks. And mechanical or electrical?
Finish was important, but a bit of a no-brainer. Driving off road, where stones fly, necessitates galvanised steel (immersed in molten zinc). Expensive, but not optional, in my friend's opinion.
We only wanted a small box trailer, similar to the one at the bottom of the page but with a lift-up lid (with gas struts), hinged offside; a flat lid – not a box lid – that would double up as a table top; and without a tie bar round the edge. Waterproofing was an issue, and security. The last man on our list, whose trailers weren't custom made but assembled from standard-size panels, and who obviously preferred not to have to fit a lid, tried to convince us neither was possible and a trailer tarp would do the trick. A bit faffy, we concluded: and we wanted a lid.
In terms of size, we started small (6 feet by 4 feet); went a tad smaller (5 x 4); then much bigger (7 x 5), which would be more useful for moving stuff; but then came back to where we started. Mr Trailer Tarp tried to persuade us to have deeper side panels than we wanted; and a non-off-road model; in fact, several specs that would have no doubt made his life easier but were not what we were fairly sure we wanted, even at this stage.
There were lots of other details to consider, but you must be glazing over by now, even if you've got this far. Briefly, did we want a drop-down tailgate; jerry can holders on the outsides in front of the guards; what length of draw bar (the longer the draw bar, the easier to reverse the trailer); which kind of tow bar; which kind of coupling; would we like a vertically mounted spare wheel for the trailer (carrying the spare spare wheel for the car) mounted on the draw bar; a swing-up Jockey wheel…? I could go on.
Unfortunately, we were unable to absorb the shock of the price (top) of a custom-made single axle off-road trailer. On the way home we discussed all we'd learned and our many options, and marvelled – as we often do – at the price of life in our adopted country. By the cold light of next day we had each come to the same conclusion: that it would be madness to pay so much for something that would sit in the garage most weeks of the year. Yes, it would be useful to have extra storage on our trip, but pulling a trailer would use more diesel, make reversing and parking more challenging, and limit our freedom to climb extremely steep slopes and negotiate narrow gulleys. For the same amount, I could probably arrange next year's holiday.
I'm thinking New Zealand's South Island, touring, but probably not with one of these.