On a typical Spring Queensland day I met Brian, the owner of North Coast RVs, at the township of Glass House Mountains on Queensland's beautiful Sunshine Coast. Today we were targetting a couple of tracks around the base of Mt Tibrogargan, so we could get an idea on just how well the Sniper X.9 performed in the rough stuff. We were also set to take on a few high speed dirt runs. First glances led me to believe that we weren't going to have a problem.
After quick introductions and a brief rundown of the day's plans, we locked and loaded and headed off on our first mission.
One thing to note right from the start of this review, is that the Sniper X.9 you see before you in these pages is the prototype model, hot off the factory floor. In fact, we were a little delayed getting the review started due to the canvas awning being completed that very morning. So, there are a couple of items that you will see here that won't be on the production model, along with a few finer details that will be cleaned up. Anyway, let's get stuck into it.
REPORTING FOR DUTY
Sitting behind the mighty 200 Series, the X.9 has an aggressive stance with plenty of ground clearance and a sawn-off back end to maximise departure angle and minimise any scrapes and bruises when really pushing it on gnarly tracks. Its short overall length (just a bit over 4m) and a width of only 1.85m will have this camper obeying orders and falling dutifully into line. Even on 35” tyres, the overall height (1.85m) of this hard body camper would still sit lower than most out there.
Apart from the X.9 being relatively narrow, one thing that I really liked was that there was no additional componentry hanging off the sides of the camper. There's no awnings, shower tents or other fixtures that can become vulnerable to attack from low hanging branches when traversing tight tracks behind enemy lines. But more on this later.
Riding on 35” mud tyres and 17” alloy rims (which, by the way, can be matched to your tow vehicle), what other classified information is the X.9 hiding underneath?
No doubt, the first thing that you will notice is the lack of independent trailing arm suspension. Helping to reduce weight, the crew from North Coast RVs has opted for a 50x50 solid axle and three link suspension with coil springs and a single shock absorber; it all makes for a smooth march when offroad. If the camper did happen to come under attack from the enemy and sustain damage to the suspension, trackside fixes also become just that little bit easier with this basic set-up.
Assisting in keeping the weight down, the X.9 comes in at only 850kg, has a hot dipped galvanised chassis (combination of 75x50 and 50x50) and drawbar (75x50), and provides a solid mounting surface for the one-piece aluminium floor. Poly water tanks (1 x 60L and 1 x 80L) provide enough water for several days away from civilisation, and all plumbing and wiring is run nice and high. A heavy-duty rubber stone protector hangs beneath the chassis rails at the front of the camper to help minimise damage from friendly fire on those outback tracks.
Up front, the drawbar has space for a pair of 4.5kg gas bottles tucked behind the spare and mesh stoneguards. With a ball weight of around 75kg, this camper is a breeze to manoeuvre around at the barracks, with the help of the ARK X0750 jockey wheel, while hitching back up and waiting to be deployed again is taken care of by the McHitch 3500 auto coupling. An Anderson plug looks after the 100Ah lithium battery during transit. While not fitted to the prototype, the production model will feature a REDARC Battery Management System to keep all electrical components in check. A roof mounted 200W solar panel will supply power to the battery as well.
With the forest tracks, ruts and short climbs conquered, and after arriving at our pre-determined set-up point, it was time to make camp. In what can only be described as military precision, the rear latches at the back of the camper were flicked to the open position and the clam shell roof sprang into place, assisted by gas struts. A rear, self-supporting awning slides out and locks into place, giving immediate shade or protection from rain. In less than a minute you are done. If a quick overnight set up is all that is needed before breaking camp early the next day, then I can report that there is nothing more to do.
For longer stays, or when you have more troops to look after, it might pay to set up the 5.5m x 2.1m passenger side awning. I alluded to it earlier when I mentioned that the X.9 doesn't have an awning hanging off the side. So where does this massive awning magically appear from? It is contained, or built, into the main pop-top tent structure, and simply rolls out from beneath the clam shell roof. Then it's simply a matter of attaching a length of velcro to the rear awning and setting up a few poles, providing complete coverage over the kitchen and outdoor area.
THE MESS HALL
With personnel battle-weary after a big day in the field, you know you're in good hands when the cooking duties are taken care of by the Thetford two-burner gas stove. Complete with a grill, it's just perfect to knock up a couple of cheese toasties for lunch, or a more hearty meal at day's end.
The stove, stainless steel sink (with hot and cold plumbed water) and preparation bench pull out from a nearside hatch at the front of the camper.
Due to the possibility of the windbreak blocking some of the light from the external LED strip light, a portable LED light plugs into the end of the prep bench, providing additional light so you don't burn the steaks.
With a Tare of 850kg and an ATM of 1600kg, you've got a serious amount of payload. However, due to the compact size of the X.9 (the main box is only nine feet long — hence the '9' in X.9), storage space is, inevitably, at a premium. Because of this, I don't think you'd ever manage to fill it to capacity.
Clever packing and a minimalist approach will be the order of the day. Kitchen and pantry storage is limited to a fold-down hatch above the nearside wheel arch and a pair of shelves in a small cupboard located in the rear quarter.Bulky items like camp chairs will need to be accommodated in the storage boot, which is located at the front on the driver's side.
While the amount of storage isn't huge, it has been cleverly thought out, and every bit of available real estate has been utilised.
Just like the hidden awning, the external hot and cold shower on the North Coast Sniper X.9 is concealed behind a hatch on the driver’s side rear.
But what makes this external shower even better, is the fold-out shower room that appears from behind another hatch above the shower.It's a no-hassle set-up, with the support arms swinging out and locking into place. The canvas curtain then simply just feeds on over the arms, providing you with all the privacy you need.
Access to the inside of the camper is by way of a set of fold-down steps at the rear, then through a half height door. Serving two purposes, the steps also help to stabilise the camper, negating the need for any extra legs.
Located immediately inside the door on your right, is the Dometic 85L upright fridge, giving you easy access from both inside and out. Light switches, 12V power and the remote monitoring panel for the battery management system are also located just inside the doorway. Unfortunately, the water tank level monitor is hidden further inside under the bed, meaning that unlike the battery monitor, you'll need to climb inside to read the gauge.
The 35mm thick, single-piece fibreglass composite panel roof sits high above the queen sized bed (twin singles can be fitted by request) and provides plenty of head room at the rear of the camper. Thanks to its inherent insulating properties, matched with 25mm fibreglass composite panel walls, the interior remained nice and cool, even on a warm Spring day.
Helping to keep things well ventilated are large, triangular shaped windows in the upper canvas section (with screens and curtains) as well as a large Dometic window on each side at bed height. These are also fitted with screens and block-out blinds, if the drill sergeant doesn't get you up for an early 5k run before dawn.
Being all about keeping it as light as possible both outside and in, the bed base is also made from fibreglass composite panel, as are the under bed seating/storage boxes. The bed pivots up out of the way and rests on a support leg, revealing an internal dinette for if conditions outside take a turn for the worse. The dinette seating can then be removed to provide access to the battery and water pump.
Internal personal item storage options are limited to an area above the fridge accessed by a lift-up panel, with the same on the passenger side. Brian informs me that this will most likely change to a pair of drawers in the full production model. Elsewhere, side pockets will look after your books and magazines, with larger items finding a home under the bed.
Flush mounted LED roof lights provide more than enough interior lighting, with individual reading lights mounted in each corner. Your electronic devices won't go flat either, with numerous 12V and USB outlets located around the interior.
Due to this being a prototype model, there were a couple of aspects of the interior that weren't finished quite up to the standard that you would expect to see in what is generally a well-finished and quality product. Brian assured me that they would be remedied in the models available to the public.
Even though there was a couple of parts that were a bit 'rough around the edges', it's easy to see that they won't take a lot of polish to have this camper up to full production standards. Brian and his team have been producing campers on the Sunshine Coast since 2000, and in that time have seen a change in the market and have either adapted to, or forced the changes. With a drive-away price of $45,000, the Sniper X.9 is positioned well in a competitive market segment, especially given it’s a 100 per cent Aussie built trailer. For the touring couple who are always on the move, this camper ticks a lot of the boxes. Just get your orders in quick, because North Coast RVs have a six month waiting list!
Payload 740kg (calculated)
Ball Weight 75kg
Suspension Three link coil spring suspension with single shock absorber
Brakes 10in Dexter drum brakes
Coupling McHitch 3500 automatic coupling
Chassis 75 x 50 x 3mm hot-dipped galvanised steel
Drawbar 75 x 50 x 3mm hot dipped galvanised steel
Body 25mm composite panel sides and 35mm single piece composite panel roof
Wheel/tyre 35 x 12.5 x 17 Windforce Catchfors MT on 17in Allied Alloy Rims (1 x spare)
Style Compact hard body camper
Box size 2745 x 1850 x 1200mm
Length (hitch to tail lights) 4015mm
Water 1 x 60L and 1 x 80L
Kitchen Thetford two-burner gas stove w/ grill and s/s sink with hot/cold mixer
Battery 1 x 100Ah Lithium
Solar 1 x 200W fixed panel
Gas 2 x 4kg
Fridge 85L Dometic upright
HWS Smart Tec Instant
Drivers side awning
PRICE AS TESTED
- Super quick set-up time
- Offroad capability
- No overhanging/external componentry
- Limited storage/prep space
- Finer details need attention for the full production model
- 240V inverter would be handy to have
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
Fit for intended purpose — 9
Innovation — 9
Self-sufficiency — 8.5
Quality of finish — 8
Build quality — 8
Offroadability — 9
Comforts — 8.5
Ease of use — 9
Value for money — 8.5
X-Factor — 9
North Coast RVs
Address 34 Enterprise St, Caloundra QLD 4551
Phone (07) 5491 2970