Travelling NZ with a 3 Dog Pup Camper Trailer

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Supplied


In this monthly column, NZMCD interviews the owners of newly purchased RVs to learn how they made their decisions

Gill Hindshaw and Gordon MacRae live in New Zealand from four to six months every summer, staying with Gill’s daughter on her free-range poultry farm near Rangiora.

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All trussed up and ready to roll

Last year, the couple decided to explore the North Island but needed their own accommodation if they were going to be able to afford it. I caught up with Gill to learn more about their choice of a 3 Dog Pup Camper Trailer.

What was your previous experience with mobile homes?

Gordon didn’t have any experience but in the ‘70s, I’d lived and worked in New Zealand for eight years. My children were born here. At that time, I owned a Campomatic for exploring in but in 1980, I returned to the UK.  

How did you go about researching?

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Gordon attending to the electrics

Most of it was done online. We had a fairly clear idea of what we wanted and my experience with the Campomatic helped, although, things have moved on considerably since the ‘70s!  We’re an active retired couple and we wanted something light and easy to handle that was of good quality and sturdy with good security and comfort.

Our other wish was to have transport when parked up. Some of the roads we explore are not suitable even for a trailer. The research led us to the 3 Dog Camping company based near Taupo, which supplies trailer/tents and has outlets in New Zealand, Europe, and Australia.

What features were most important to you?

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The sturdy and ingenious Pup

We decided on the camper trailer model known as The Pup, a smaller version of 3 Dog’s trailer/tent. The set-up really appealed. The tent is fixed to a customised trailer and the size was about right for the two of us with space in the awning for extras. It folded out and in easily and was made of robust but not heavy canvas with sealed zips and openings.

The trailer has a permanent queen-sized bed, which we find blissfully comfortable, and includes the Drifta storage system. The cost was more than we would have paid in motels for those first few weeks but has been more than offset since. It also tows easily on some fairly hairy lanes!

Other features include insect screening on the windows, electric power hook-up, a cooker, sink, drawer and cupboard space, plus another very large drawer that can store the awning canvas and poles, and the camping toilet.

 Other ‘usefuls’ such as buckets, lights, and chairs can also fit in with space to spare. The lockable toolbox on the front above the tow bar is useful for the gas cylinder, tools, dirty jackets, water storage, etc.

What was the biggest challenge?

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Lunch time. The kitchen can be used in the open or under the awning.

We bought the trailer when we were in the UK and not being able to try it out first was nerve-racking, but Wayne and Jeannie Duffy—who own 3 Dog Camping N2— kept in close contact and everything they had told us was true. Watching their detailed YouTube videos helped ease our concerns.

3 Dog Camping provided a comprehensive list of accessories to choose from. That list helped us to be aware of some things we might not have thought of, and to finalise the list of what we wanted.

How was the process of buying and handing over?

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Gill and Gordon like getting off the beaten track

Wayne and Jeannie were helpful, efficient, and professional throughout the process of buying the Pup. They helped us with our decisions for the many options available. As we were back in the UK for much of this process, it was all done by email.

3 Dog Camping also talked us through necessities such as insurance, licences, and number plates. In October last year, we travelled north to meet Wayne and Jeannie in Rotorua.

It was exciting to see our very smart Pup for the first time on the back of their ute! We drove together to the campsite and they demonstrated how to erect the Pup. It’s easy but their experience and advice was useful.

Was the trailer what you imagined owning?

The trailer is way beyond what we first thought of—comfortable, useful, very easy to tow, reverse, and park, and with a lovely ‘camping without the discomfort’ feeling.

Some of the inclusions we didn’t expect have been great. There are several small pockets for storage within the main tent. The underneath of the floor of the tent is kept clean by a good groundsheet stored in the front toolbox. The picnic rug covers the bed completely so that the bed’s kept clean when things are stored on it.

Would you do anything differently?

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Wayne and Jeannie Duffy at Rotorua when they first delivered the Pup

If we’d been living in New Zealand, it would have been ideal to see a Pup before we bought one but we have no regrets. Is there anything you would change or improve?

My first reaction is to say that nothing needs improving but there are two small things: the electric cable enters the living space through a brilliant small zipped opening to stop any draught. It’s a bit fiddly to get the plug through or our hands are too big! A slightly longer zip would make it easier.

Lighting was a concern until we bought an inspection light, which gave a bright reading light. A clamp/clip to attach to the sliding tent poles with a hook for attaching a light would be useful. We could have included a small refrigerator in the Drifta storage unit but we would have lost cupboard space. We can put the fridge in later if we decide to.

What advice would you give others?

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Gordon relaxing at Waitakaruru. This is the life.

Everywhere we camp, people are intrigued by the Pup. We’ve only used the awning up a few times, as everything is usable in the basic unit.

Cooking outside on the kitchen unit is lovely and can be put away easily. The Drifta storage also has a separate box, which we keep inside the tent, so breakfast needs are available in case it’s raining in the morning.

Any travel plans?

We will go to the Abel Tasman area for a few weeks. Otherwise, it will be used to travel to croquet competitions outside Christchurch; it’s great not to have a long drive before and after a day’s croquet and at the same time we can explore other parts of the country.

Last Christmas, our four grandchildren slept across the bed in the Pup and loved it. As the houses are full again this year, Gordon and I are tempted to say we want to stay in it but will probably let the young ones have the fun.

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