Who says you have to be retired to tour Australia with a van? This young family of five are about to embark on their third lap and they wouldn’t change a thing
Words and Images by Harry Temple
Back in 2015, Justin and Bec were at odds with the daily grind. Justin barely saw the light of day working as a heavy diesel fitter in the Hunter Valley and knew that something had to change. Despite growing up states apart, they both nurtured a passion for adventure that has only expanded with time. Justin enjoyed a yearly ferry ride across to the magnificent Moreton Island, while Bec looked forward to the family pilgrimage to Warrnambool’s best caravan park over the summer holidays. As new parents, they found the work-life balance simply wasn’t there and with Jack and Billy yet to start school, they decided to uproot and start a year-long trip of a lifetime.
Initially, the plan was to spend 12 months lapping around Australia, finding work sporadically and a new place to live along the way. That was over two years ago and their current situation has exceeded their wildest dreams. About to head off on their third lap as a family of five with the addition of little Charli (three), the proud big brothers Jack (six-and-a-half) and Billy (five) are enjoying distance education while Mum and Dad work for some of the biggest brands and tourism operators in the country showing off our premiere touring destinations, proving to the younger generations that caravanning isn’t reserved for grey nomads!
They bundled all their worldly possessions into the 2012 BT-50 and set out on their first lap with a Jurgens Solaris in tow. That particular set-up lasted a long time, but thanks to the brand deals they have established through their religious efforts across social media, they are about to chase some lines in their decked 2017 BT-50 hauling the latest Willow RV Boab X.
The BT is easily one the most modified examples I’ve seen to date pass by my windows, considering most are bog-stock minus a bull bar and an “adventure before dementia” sticker, so it’s a welcome change of pace to see one kitted to the teeth! Justin remarks that the biggest difference between the two models is the DPF (diesel particulate filter), which he believes has slightly decreased fuel economy, but is a small price to pay for staying 100 percent road legal while living full-time on the road.
As the vehicle isn’t designed to be a tough tourer/rock crawler, the modifications find a happy medium between functionality and the additional weight, meaning if it’s not 100 percent necessary you won’t find it on the vehicle. Up front, the ARB winch bar stands alone as they chose to forgo the usual brush bar and side-step combo, instead choosing to invest in a Warn winch. Travelling with kids, they always arrive at camp before dusk, meaning the bull bar was sufficient for animal strikes and the money was better spent on the ability to self-recover, especially with some of the places they manage to manoeuvre the van into.
For when the tracks get rutted, the ARB underbody armour provides some protection for their ‘vital organs’. The stock side steps have stood up to the punishment of Cape York, so they have remained in place until they meet their match. In the pursuit of reliability, the only under-bonnet modification is the Provent catch can. Even the factory snorkel has been left alone. As the old phrase goes … ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
Carrying all the weight up front, the Old Man Emu two-inch lift kit went in and despite flogging out some bushes over the some of the roughest roads, it’s been smooth sailing. To err on the side of roadworthiness since picking up the new van, they needed a GCM upgrade to accompany the upgraded GVM (3500kg). A pit stop was needed in Ballarat to fit the Lovells springs in the rear, which pushed the GCM out to a whopping seven-tonne.
Rolling on Cooper AT3s in a 285/70 R17 size wrapped around some sleek CSA alloys, the entire set-up actually achieves quite a respectable fuel figure of just over 20L/100km. That’s impressive considering the roof plays host to a Rhino-Rack tradie platform, upon which the TRED Pros, shovel and swags are mounted. Also from Rhino-Rack, the rear platform above the canopy is adorned with the latest Batwing awning, providing 270° of shade while setting up camp.
Justin rates the new alloy canopy set-up from Norweld as the best thing he has done to any of his vehicles and it’s easy to see why. It’s transformed their camping experience and made it so much easier to leave the van behind. Travelling with kids, stopping repeatedly is inevitable but digging through an overloaded tub with no storage structure is optional. Tired of constantly restacking, the decision to invest in the lightweight, ergonomic solution was easy.
A multitude of racking, drawers and nooks and crannies house all the cooking and camping gear, as well the entire Enerdrive system and 200Ah of lithium power. On the roof, the fixed solar panel constantly charges the 12V system, masking sure there is always enough power to boil the kettle or heat up the induction cooktop on the slide-out table – that’s right, no gas for this mob!
At the back of the BT-50, the factory tow bar has made way for the new Hayman Reese X-Bar. Comparatively, the improved departure angle and ground clearance (eight inches) while towing is night and day. The BT-50’s days of getting hung up are over, as is the need to carry a drawer full of spare Anderson and twelve-pin plugs thanks to the handy bash guard that surrounds them both.
By the time you read this, Justin, Bec and the kids will be enjoying the spoils of the wet season up in north-western WA. It’s been a bucket-list item for the family to spend some time marvelling at the monstrous power of the tropical storms that roll across every year. And if it gets too much, just hop in the van!