Like most of us, we all have that dream to just leave our current job behind, leave the daily 9-5 grind and go travelling. For Carmine Caputo, it was an itch that needed to be scratched.
So in 2010, Carmine sold his house, left his full-time job in 2012, and has been working his butt off to make that dream become a reality.
But with all trips big and small, the most important aspect is selecting the correct towing vehicle and caravan/trailer and everyone’s needs will be different. Out on the road, no two set-ups are the same and that’s perfectly ok in our books.
If you have read our getting to know our experts’ blogs, the know-it-all’s of the touring world and outback lifestyle, they will tell you to just go out there and do it. Start out small and work your way up.
What makes a rig, the best touring set-up you can find? We spoke to Carmine to find out.
For Carmine, he did consider buying a motorhome, but with this came certain limitations. A friend of his had recommended a separate 4WD and caravan set-up; a home on wheels he could tow and leave at the campsite and a 4WD to give him the freedom to go anywhere he wanted.
“After being able to go places like Fraser Island in QLD, I’d have to agree”, he said. So in 2015, Carmine bought an Isuzu D-MAX LS-U and a Jayco Starcraft Outback 22.68-1.
“I’d been planning to do a 14-month trip around the coast of Australia as a solo traveller from March 2016 through to May 2017”, he said.
“Buying a new Ute and Caravan gave me the peace of mind that there was no unknown history, new warranties, and free roadside assist.”
His requirements were pretty simple, and as a solo traveller, he could do pretty much what he wanted. “I wanted space in the caravan to carry books (to sell my self-help memoir as I travelled), cameras, computers and equipment to facilitate life-transformation retreats.”
The caravan needed to be comfortable to live in, work from and one that would provide more security than a canvas-walled camper-trailer. It had to protect him and his expensive cameras and computer equipment from the weather. Carmine also wanted a little bit of luxury as well. Someplace where he could have a good night’s sleep with an air conditioner for those hot summer days and an inner spring mattress.
A new Jayco Caravan provided Carmine with endless add-ons and for the price he was paying and the weight of the caravan, it could not be matched by any other manufacturer.
“My Starcraft Outback 22.68-1 caravan (with all the options I included) weighs in at 2580kg without water in the tanks or personal belongings inside”, he stated.
Ever the thorough man, Carmine even went on a Jayco factory tour as part of his research.
“I liked the fact that Jayco had their own designed and tested independent suspension. The manufacturing process of having aluminium welded wall frames with insulation, which were bonded to the external and internal walls in a temperature controlled room was outstanding.”
Ultimately, it was the peace of mind of having everything new and a reputable brand that won out.
“I also liked the idea of Jayco having more than 100 dealers around Australia, so if something were to potentially go wrong with the caravan, I could easily drop into a dealer on my travels for advice, parts or servicing”, he added.
Australia has a big number of caravan manufacturers so it’s worth checking a number of them out to ensure people find a caravan that suits their needs.
The ute would allow him to explore National Parks and go off-road. The decision to buy an Isuzu D-Max was pretty simple. Not only was it highly recommended by his tradie friend and mates who owned a caravan, it was also recommended by many caravan suppliers as 1 of 3 possible options in the dual-cab range, that could tow 3.5 tonne.
It came with 6 airbags, a 5 year 130,000km warranty, free roadside assist and capped price servicing. The LS-U model stood out to him as it had a lockable tailgate. You can find out more about why he chose this dual cab ute.
“With buying new vehicles, I could manage the ‘systems integration’ of adding accessories to make everything work seamlessly and easily for travelling on my own.”
The minimum modifications Carmine required to make the D-Max Ute driveable to tow caravans was REDARC's Tow-Pro Elite electric trailer brake controller, a Tow Bar and Towing mirrors.
However, he also added fixed and portable accessories for his Ute and caravan, which included seat covers, ARB accessories, portable solar panels, a DC to DC dual battery charger and grey water tank.
What makes an unbeatable rig without adding a few personal touches? Mods don’t have to break the bank as we have demonstrated previously, but some are essential for improving safety and the overall experience. For example, the Tow-Pro Elite, which Carmine says has given him the confidence to tow his caravan behind.
“When I started doing research on Electric brake controllers, I decided that I wanted a Tow Pro Elite - as the control dial was small, it’s easy to use, and has a proportional setting.”
“The REDARC sales rep (at the ARB Kilsyth open day) demonstrated and explained how it worked. It’s made in Australia and I wanted to have the peace of mind of buying from a company which makes top-quality products”, he said.
Apart from the Tow-Pro Elite, the ARB protection kit and accessories have been awesome to have on his ute he says.
Changing the stereo over for a Pioneer AVICF70DAB has allowed him to have two cameras displayed on his head unit; one for the rear number plate, so he can see the tow ball when hitching up the caravan and a second one for the back of his caravan. It also has Apple Carplay, DVD player and Sat Nav.
What does the future hold?
You can sure bet that once you have travelled for many months, and in Carmine’s case 12+ months, the upgrades don’t end there. It can sometimes feel like a money pit, but these careful investments will ensure you’ll truly have the most unbeatable rig around for years to come.
For Carmine, his next plans will be to add a single drawer and fridge slide and a more durable battery tray/box in the tub of the Ute. When the tyres need replacing, he’d also like to fit more ‘off-road’ style of tyres which are more suited to sand and mud terrains. For now, he’s still using the stock tyres and suspension.
Advice for fellow travellers
Now that Carmine has travelled for over 12 months, he says he would worry less about trying to work and make money. He says that it would have been good to have been able to set up a passive income by selling his books and online retreats. He’d also try to have more fun and make more friends. With so many experiences to take in, it was easy to go a bit overboard with the food and drink, so he says he would like to do more to stay fit on the road.
Famous last words
Buying the D-MAX Ute, the Jayco Caravan and fitting all the accessories just felt like the right thing to do. It was exciting, an opportunity to do research and have fun with the systems integration.
My D-Max has taken me to many amazing places like Fraser Island, Far North Queensland (so I could go diving in the Barrier Reef), across to Darwin, Lake Argyle, Broome, Monkey Mia, Margaret River, Albany, Esperance, SA and back to VIC. I’ve just needed to get it serviced and put diesel in the tank and she goes ... and goes … and goes. It’s been a comfortable ride and a lot of fun to travel with. In over 12 months, I’ve travelled approximately 30,000 kms around the coast of Australia and had so many priceless experiences.
When I travel, I love the freedom of being in a town for a night, a week or a month. I love the adventure of being able to go wherever I want - whenever I want. I love experiencing new and outstanding places and meeting beautiful people … it makes me feel free and alive.
I love the fact that in my desire to inspire and help others feel better about life, I’ve been able to do the same for myself. I love that I can ‘work’ on the road, in any town and see the sunset on a different horizon each night. I love that I’ve done this now … I’m 39 years old and I’d like to say, “you’re never too young, to have your dreams come true.”
It was my dream to do a 14-month trip around the coast of Australia and after 12+ months of travelling from Melbourne to Cairns, Darwin, Broome, Perth, SA and back to Victoria … my dream came true and I’d like to keep on travelling, while hopefully inspiring others to follow their own dreams and do what makes them feel alive.
Big thanks to the sponsors like REDARC who either donated products or helped to make their products affordable … without your help, this trip would not have had been possible in the way that I did it.
To the other adventurers and wanderlusts … keep on travelling and looking up at the stars at night, with full and grateful hearts. Happy days and happy travels.
Feel free to have a look at my website www.carminecaputo.com.au , subscribe to my blogs/newsletters, ask any questions or leave a comment.