With 51 years’ experience and over 20,000 trailers sold, Cub is a camper institution. No family has had more influence on the market than Cub’s founding family, the Fagans. Today the company employs 65 people at its North Rocks, NSW factory, as it seeks to break into the elusive 1,000 campers per year threshold. Camper contributor David Cook reports the factory is modern, well-thought-out and a buzz of activity. Fagan blood still oversees the manufacture, with founder Roger’s son, Shane, being the managing director.
When you combine more than 51 years of family passion, you get a refined and defined product. Cub represents the same thing today as when Roger Fagan founded the company; they’re as committed to having a go and making the best as they ever were. But of course, there have been changes. No longer are the campers exclusively what the Fagans and close friends personally sought; they are now designed to meet a more far-reaching contingent of the camping community, from big families wanting space, solo tourers needing tough but agile campers, and almost everyone in between. This hasn’t compromised quality, though; everything at Cub takes time and every idea is validated through in-house testing.
We recently had one of the most popular rear-fold Cubs, the Escape, with us on a planned back-country trip from Townsville to Cairns. Not everything went our way. In the weeks leading up to our departure, heavy rain forced the closure of a bulk of the tracks we’d planned on using, so we headed to one of the world’s most scenic spots, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Cape Tribulation, instead. What better place to test one of Australia’s best camper brand’s most popular rear-folds?
Where reasonably possible, Cub use locally sourced and locally made products. I cringe every time I see a 100 per cent Aussie-made sticker on a camper; it is just not realistic.It’s impossible to make a camper using only Australian products, because sub-components invariably have some tie to an offshore manufacturer, but Cub give it a fair crack and are rightfully proud of it and honest about what they can do.
Underpinning this ethos is the use of BlueScope Steel. BlueScope, once part of BHP, are responsible for locally made ColorBond and Zincalume, plus they manufacture steel plate and strip. All of Cub’s chassis, framing and suspension box-section steel comes from BlueScope. Quality is never an issue.
Cub exclusively use Wax Converters Dynaproof Canvas, which is cut and sewn on-site for the perfect fit. It is milled in the Hunter Valley and is a sought-after product with the Defence Force, plus it’s used in major sunshades around the country. You can go and count the threads or ask salespeople about the tolerances in the canvas compared to what other manufacturers use, but knowing you are buying a locally made product with global accreditation, supplied for use by our service people, is enough, I would suggest.
A RARE FOLD
Forward-fold campers may have grabbed the headlines over the last decade or so and I will admit, their chassis-sized footprint at camp is appreciated. That said, the inherent balance and more compact nature of a rear-fold shouldn’t be dismissed, especially offroad.
An issue early forward-folds had, and some still have, is balancing weight. Most forward-folds run long A-frames to allow owners to open the rear doors on their SUVs when unfolded and designers use this space for more storage and gear. Consequently the designs have become heavy on the tow ball (and overall) and sometimes unbalanced to tow. Cub’s only forward-fold, the Frontier, identified this; if you check the ATM and ball weight, you’ll notice they’ve kept the weight as low as possible to help offset the impact it has on towing, but these are not issues for rear-folds.
Campers like the Escape more evenly distribute weight over the axle, resulting in a better ball-to-ATM weight balance, in turn resulting in safer and more comfortable towing. Plus, they tend to run shorter A-frames, making them more manoeuvrable in tight spaces. Another company that has always focussed on this, but takes it to even more extreme levels with tent-top campers, is the other great Aussie brand, Patriot. Maybe there is something to be said for designing, testing and building your campers in the market in which you sell them.
THIS KITCHEN RULES
If bench space is a priority for you, make sure you option on the Escape Kitchen Upgrade which, along with masses of additional bench space and upgraded burners, adds on a clever shelf that stows away inside the massive slide-out and more lighting.
The upgrade, which we had on our test model, features three well-spaced burners of different sizes, so you should be fine boiling a small billy or getting your favourite skillet stinking hot. The sink is deep and beside it lives a neat storage bin that held a 1kg fire extinguisher with room for more odd and ends. A few details that impressed in the kitchen were the use of twin LED map lights at either end of the pull-out, the neatly folded and thought-out cutlery and essentials drawers, and the textured finish to the whole lot — it added a touch of class and will hide inevitable scratches. Backing onto the cooktop and sink, under the massive benchtop, is yet more storage and beside that, in the front passenger-side locker, is a fridge draw capable of swallowing a 95L fridge.
Our Escape featured the standard Deluxe awning, which folded away fairly easily and set up in a flash, helping to expand the living space with a minimum of effort. Although the Ezy Awning is an option, we didn’t have it with us on the trip.
Opposite the slide-out is a small locker housing a Projecta Intelli-Charge screen that displays the state of your battery, plus a Projecta charger that displays whether the battery is charging or discharging and allows the user to select the type of battery in use. In the same locker is a simple RV water level meter, which is convenient; water fillers are within arm’s reach so you can control how much water you are adding with ease. Beside these are a well-protected and labelled fuse box and circuit breakers. Having all of this easily accessible even with the roof down is fantastic for storing your Escape over winter, or for quickly checking water levels on the road. There is even enough space for some essential tools beside it in the carpeted and snag-free locker.
Our 2.6 had the ‘Adventure Pack’ option, a bundle of options that adds water and battery capacity as well as some external storage solutions. Water capacity grows to 180L with the addition of an 80L tank on top of the standard 100L tank, and power doubles to 200Ah, more than enough for a few days to a week off-grid. The storage solutions are the addition of a spare wheel bracket and a fridge box rack for things like firewood or wet gear.
It is a good upgrade with the 200Ah capacity a particular highlight, but I feel like these could be inclusions from the factory, with a striped back version available for those who only travel from holiday park to holiday park. I say this because Cub freely admit most buyers tick the box, so perhaps it should be standard.
Every Cub review, whether written by the Camper team or another publication, remarks on the simplicity of setting up the Cub in question. I have had the pleasure of setting up a couple of different models a number of times and they always impress.
The use of cam-lock poles in the canvas and the silent winch are two areas where Cub choose the best, another example of them thinking of you. No fiddly butterfly screws or annoying clamps to deal with. And your camp-neighbours will appreciate the silent winch which removes the annoying clicking as the ratchet winds on pack-down.
Being a hard-floored rear-fold means the floor of the extension is the lid of the camper when packed away. On top, when packed down, the lid has a relatively low load rating of 75kg, really only suitable for firewood, push bikes or a couple of kayaks, but an option exists for a boatloader which would also double-up for more load capacity should you want it. Just keep an eye on your ATM.
There are extendable legs to support the floor once opened that help mitigate slightly uneven ground. It is all welded and riveted alloy so there’s no chance of rust, which is a bonus some imports skip.
There is very little to report on the inside of the Escape. It is tall, easily fitting my 2m frame, and the ventilation and light are good, but there are a couple of features that stood out and both revolve around the full-size queen bed.
Underneath the bed it is cavernous. I do not just mean it has lots of under-bed storage; it has the most I’ve seen. This is achieved through a higher than expected bed height, but do not fear that it is hard to get in and out of. After all the other feature that stood out to me was the step in front of the bed.
A step is hardly a highlight, but I can tell you what is a big turn-off: a bed that is hard to get into and out of. The Escape is designed with the hinge about 550mm from the base of the mattress. This means there is a space between the fold-out and the bed base for your feet to sit when on the bed-edge, plus it doubles as a step onto the bed. In the space, there is also a neat locker that would take shoes or an extra doona for cold nights. Power plugs are where you want them and the floor is covered in hard-wearing linoleum that allows for easy cleaning.
An option not seen on our Escape, but one I would recommend for anyone living in our hottest zones, is a tropical roof. It adds a second layer, separated by spacers, to the roof canvas. This creates a layer of shade so it’s a good idea for hot-month excursions.
We had to think quick to find a way to test out Cub’s take on independent trailing-arm suspension. The hundreds of kilometres we had covered to get to Cape Trib were nothing problematic for the convoy, so deep inside the Daintree we found a dry river bed complete with some decent boulders. A quick check to see we weren’t interfering with local wildlife and the Cub was sent in to see how well it articulated and handled dropping off big rocks.
We had a light load, both of the tanks about half full, but only the bare essentials in the kitchen and nothing in the lockers. This meant the single shocks had little to worry about when the springs compressed and rebounded.
Clearance was never an issue, with the short overall length preventing the drawbar from digging in over steep ramp-overs. Following the Cub down the riverbed on foot, I saw that the rear never came close to impacting with terra firma, though if it did, the steel rear bar would have been the first to connect.
The elephant in the room is price. Starting at $33k, before options, you could buy a couple of imported rear-folds from Mars or MDC or you could go right to the bottom of the barrel and buy some off-brand import from eBay. I’m not suggesting any of these choices are bad — though I would highly recommend avoiding an eBay special — but there is a difference between price and value for money.
Price is what you pay, value is what you get out of it, and if the value outweighs the price, you’re onto a winner. Some people value how far you can go without a breakdown, some value specs like canvas thickness and water capacity. Some just look at the price and treat that as an indicator of how good the camper is (these people shouldn't buy campers). Cub embraces its pricing. They claim the value to buyers comes from their workmanship, the suppliers they use and their reputation for reliability and durability, and I couldn’t agree more.
Ball weight 159kg
Suspension Independent coil suspension with single shock absorber
Brakes 12” Electric
Coupling AL-KO Offroad ball coupling
Chassis Galvanised BlueScope steel
Drawbar BlueScope Steel 100 x 50 x 4mm
Wheels/tyres Goodyear Duratrac Wrangler on 17” 265/65R17 six stud alloy
Style Hard-floor rear-fold
Travel size 4.88m (L) x 1.95m (W) x 1.74m (H)
Body length 2.6m
Length when set up 7.5m
Hardfloor size 2.5 x 1.94m
Bed size 1.95m x 1.5m
Gas 2 x 4kg bottle and holder
Water 100L as standard (additional 80L with Adventure Pack)
Cooktop/kitchen Smev stainless steel sink and two-burner (extra space and one more burner if option on Kitchen Upgrade)
Battery 1 x 100Ah as standard (2 x in Adventure Pack), Projecta 12V and 240V battery charger and monitor, solar input
Mesh doorway; fridge box driver’s side utilities fittings (gas and water); additional gas bayonet; fridge box rack; premium paint colour; locking water filler cap (for additional water tank); Escape kitchen upgrade; Adventure Pack (Additional 100Ah battery, additional 80L water tank, utility rack upgrade, utility spare wheel bracket)
PRICE AS TESTED
- Just about as Aussie as you can get
- Safe and comfortable towing
- Convenient power and water hub
- Off-grid capacity of Adventure Pack
- Ease of set-up
- Sizeable underbed storage
- High ground clearance
- Larger footprint at camp, as a rear-fold
- Many will inevitably add on options
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
Fit for intended purpose — 7
Innovation — 7
Self-sufficiency — 7
Quality of finish — 8
Build quality — 8
Offroadability — 8
Comforts — 7
Ease of use — 7
Value for money — 6
X-Factor — 7
Address 23 Loyalty Rd, North Rocks NSW 2151
Phone (02) 8838 8600 or 1300 226 746