You must know what you need with a new van. Comfort is the key factor when considering the ideal one for long trips but it is not necessary to go overboard with features and capabilities you may never need.

However, there are some facets which are almost essential if you are travelling to the north of the State.

For Grey Nomads going in search of temperate weather, there is every chance of the odd sizzler, so efficient air-conditioning, ventilation and a comfortable bed are prerequisites when buying a new van for such trips.

The good news is that there is plenty of choice on offer from local dealers but caution should be taken not to get carried away with what you really require.

Most vans, even the sub-5.5m varieties, are mostly self-contained with big water tanks, toilets, showers, solar systems, gas, 12-volt appliances and power-saving LED lighting.

This gives their owners the ability to use overnight roadside stops and camping grounds which may lack all the facilities that are offered in caravan parks.

Microwave ovens, electric kettles and air-conditioners are about the only appliances which won't function efficiently from built-in power sources such as batteries and solar systems. Carrying a generator (at least 2kVA) will solve this problem. However, for reasons of noise, exercise courtesy when using these if you are camped close to another camper. I have often come across fellow travellers who display little humour towards neighbours with generators operating alongside them.

Hardly a year goes by without some refinements to the vans on offer. In recent times there have been particularly giant steps made in off-road vans. I'm sure if they were to be fitted with jet propulsion they could take you to the Moon.

As attractive as these vans may be, don't get sucked into buying one if you are unsure whether you are going to be tackling serious off-road situations.

Because true off-roaders are manufactured to very high standards, they could be an overkill for what you really need and you may be paying more than is necessary.

For instance, if you are going to stick essentially to the main roads when trekking north, a genuine, fully compliant off-road unit is definitely not required. One of the main exceptions to this is the Gibb River Road, and some of the real outback tracks which can be a bit rugged.

There is an in-between option referred to by different manufacturers with such terms as "off-highway" and "rural terrain".

This class, which are cheaper, because they are not so complex with their building specifications and don't have the sophisticated suspension equipment, should handle most unsealed roads and reasonable tracks as long as there are no extra-steep declines or inclines or other hazards.

It can't be over-emphasised for first-time buyers to be certain of exactly what you require for the journeys you intend to undertake. I have seen examples of cashed-up retirees buying rigs that they have never used to anything like their capacity.

Coupled with the growing off-road selections, there has been a corresponding push by manufacturers to build economical on-road units with a towable weight, including a payload, of about 2500kg. Vehicles in the Prado and Hilux SR5 class can tow vans of this weight, eliminating the necessity for purchasing big and expensive 4WD tow vehicles, which normally have towing capacities of about 3500kg.

Then there are others such as the Ford Territory TX and BMW X5 which will tow up to 2700kg.

Whatever, your taste and travelling requirements may be, there is a van to suit and it's not necessary to go east in the hunt.

Peter Poat

Be certain of exactly

what you require for

the journeys you intend to undertake.

The West Australian

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