Inside Word: Lifestyle Campers

Aaron Flanagan — 21 March 2019
Camper spends An afternoon with John Swinglehurst, Managing Director of Lifestyle Campers.

Passion is an often overlooked aspect of any successful business. Yes, there’s hard work required, a vision, late nights burning the midnight oil and hitting the right note in terms of success-orientated planning. But we here at Camper recognise that passion for spending time outdoors with family and friends is a common unifying aspect of everyone involved in the manufacturing of campers. 

Some manufacturers have been producing campers for fifty years, some are relatively new to the scene. But whether old-stager or newcomer, both share the same passion. Camper did a quick tally and, when all’s said and done, this collective pool of outdoor camping wisdom, old and new, equates to a combined wisdom of around 800 years. Eight hundred years spent camping in the Australian bush.

With this in mind, we’ve decided to broach a new section with the aim of extracting some of this 800 years-worth of camping wisdom to form a picture of the Australian camping trends of the future.

Lifestyle Campers’ Managing Director, John Swinglehurst, first started manufacturing his distinct brand of offroad campers in 2002. Camper, interested in understanding his take on the current state of camping in Australia, recently caught up with him.

“There is no better way to spend time with your family than camping,” John told Camper. “So when my wife and I started our own [family], it made sense to move from basic tenting to camping in more comfort. For us, the ultimate solution was a camper trailer.

“With a young family and busy work life, ease and efficiency of setup, combined with the additional comfort and convenience that a camper offers, meant we could be off enjoying our holiday faster and with less stress than if we were tent camping.

“In fact, our first experience in a camper was so enjoyable, I found myself thinking: ‘Why can’t it be this easy for everyone?’ — and that, simply, was the catalyst for Lifestyle Camper Trailers.”

This is a common refrain heard by Camper over the years. People who love camping with their families decide to switch course, professionally, and begin making camper trailers so that others, too, may enjoy a similar life-changing experience.

“Going into manufacturing meant I could provide other campers with the ease and convenience of camping that we had just experienced,” John says.

John’s story is one of giving in to his passions. In the early 2000s he left a high-flying corporate job, hitting the road in a camper trailer that he built himself. “I then built one for a friend and then another,” he says. And just like that, a new business, a new fulfilling identity, was born.

His day-to-day routine now is an extension of that cathartic experience he had back in 2002; his goal not so much a corporate one, more one of continuing to refine that experience into the best possible camper for the Aussie traveller of the future.

“The perfect camper in my mind is a compliant, heavy-duty offroad trailer suited to the varying road and weather conditions of the Australian landscape,” he says.

“A super fast, hassle-free setup is also a must and, of course, so is a comfy bed, an ensuite and a kitchen, so you can truly feel at home no matter where your adventures might take you.”

Back in the day, many campers, keen to set up a safer and more comfortable outdoor experience in which their families could enjoy and relax in, took to hitting the tools and building their own bespoke campers. 

Camper asked John what he saw as the key differences to camping using a tent and swag to the camping he does now.

“This can be a very subjective opinion so it will depend on who you to speak with,” he says. “But for me it’s the ease and speed of setup and pack down, the convenience of having all your necessities on hand and finally being able to bring the comfort and luxuries of home with you.”

Changes are always afoot, and John can see more changes ahead in the way Australians engage with the outdoors.

“Australians are increasingly becoming time-poor; we here at Lifestyle feel that there will continue to be a demand for quicker and easier setups and pack downs,” John says.

“And with this demand comes the challenge of being able to design and build a camper that meets both the owner’s desires as well as their tow vehicle’s weight capacities. This means finding the right lightweight, yet durable materials configured in a way that will still allow us to meet Australia’s demanding and always challenging driving conditions.”

John feels the type of campers Australians desire is changing too.

“We have noticed a definite shift in our owner profiles recently, in that increasingly families are tending to move into the hybrid camper market with more capacity in the ensuite and bunk configurations being requested. This has meant adapting our models to suit and to better meet the needs of a growing family.”

When we asked John for his view of what makes the perfect camper, unsurprisingly he had a lot to say.

“We believe it’s about function, everything working together to make a holiday as enjoyable and stress-free as possible,” he says.

“For us, this is a combination of: ease and speed of setup; the reliability of the trailer; quality of its accessories and components; the overall functionality of the internal and external components (most importantly the kitchen); more berthing options and internal layout options to suit growing families; a comfortable good quality bed; the option for an ensuite inclusion — we are finding more and more of our customers are requesting this.”

While John’s favourite place to go camping will always be somewhere under the Southern Cross, he sees strong potential in Australian camping culture crossing the seas and being adopted elsewhere.

“I believe the Australian camper trailer market is incredibly innovative and fast paced in its continued evolution, making it a market leader, in my opinion,” John says. “Camper trailers that can withstand the rigours of Australian weather, plus road and track conditions, put us in good stead at being able to export a well-designed, high quality product offshore.

“Innovation and quality are key. We must always be ahead of the game, striving to improve and evolve our products. We here at Lifestyle are excited to be at the forefront of this, with some innovative new product scheduled to launch in 2019.”

Camper looks forward to seeing what these new releases are.