With three private sleeping spaces able to accommodate six, a spacious high-roofed interior, a powerhouse cooktop, 240Ah of juice, an array of locally fitted Aussie components, a dome-top tent, and immense attention to detail in all its fine points, the Bluewater Lachlan is a forward-fold rear-slide camper with a lot to distinguish it. $35,500 later (for the standard package) and Lachlan’s the name, family touring the game.
TIM VAN DUYL
The Bluewater Lachlan is part of the trend for bigger, more spacious campers. Campers designed to feel equally at home in a holiday park, national park or outback. The design focuses on internal space, a kitchen area with the capacity to feed an army and the storage to take a growing family's gear. The result is fantastic.
Like all Bluewater campers, it uses locally sourced canvas and appliances, and is designed for a growing family.
A family camper needs more self-sufficiency than any other. Kids these days seem to always have something electronic in their hands, so power storage and creation is vital. The Lachlan comes with twin 120Ah AGM batteries which charge through a 25amp DC/DC charger fed by either the Anderson plug or the 200W solar panels.
The team knows that positioning your solar is key to getting the most out of it, so they’ve added a side plug to give you more options — nice.
Water capacity totals 160 litres with one 130 litre polyethylene tank and a separate 30 litre tank ideal for dedicating to drinking or as grey water in national parks. They feed the taps via a Seaflo pump which could be used as a lift pump from creeks and streams; just add in an in-line filter and you effectively have an endless supply. For holiday park campers, there is also a mains pressure feed with adjustable pressure valve for endless showers in the external tent.
The kitchen is well laid out with the fridge slide (capable of housing a 95L Travelmate) separate from the cooking area. The pantry is cavernous and with four burners on the stove, the Lachlan is well set up to feed a flock of young travellers. Powering the cooker and hot water service are twin 9kg gas bottles found securely stowed in the front locker.
Offroad the weight of the Lachlan can be felt. Ideally, if planning on hard offroad driving, you’d want to tow it with a modern 3,500kg capable ute or a big SUV, but if you only plan on blacktop driving, a more modest SUV like an older Prado will do the job just fine. It is wide and long so you need to plan turns, but don’t worry about height as even with some kayaks on the roof it will sit lower than your tow tug.
The independent suspension worked well in the bumpy stuff when driving, and when behind the Lachlan in convoy, I noticed how well matched the Lovells springs and RidePro shocks are; it didn’t bounce badly or lurch on uneven terrain. The McHitch is great with full 360-degree articulation and though I’ve never needed one myself, you could option on a second spare if you wanted the extra peace of mind.
The Bluewater Lachlan arrived following the success of the brand’s Macquarie sibling at last year’s event. Like the Macquarie, the Lachlan is intended as a family camper, in the double-fold format, with a whole string of interesting features that serve to prove that a locally kitted-out import camper can be a real winner when manufactured by a group of people who understand camping and work hard to ensure their products aren’t simply punched out like sausages on a long production line.
The Lachlan works for families with up to four children and is sold as being capable of going anywhere your 4WD will go. Our testing could not fault that claim. That said, you must remember you’ll be towing about a trailer that when loaded weighs up to 2,400kg. The innerspring queen sized front bed has all the comforts for mum and dad and the rear HD foam bed for the kids, which can be extended by lying down the rear seat cushions to cater for up to four of the little-uns, is enhanced by the fold-over servery shelf on the kitchen to allow for space to plate up to five meals at a time. A well thought-out camper.
At $35,500 (excluding Melbourne) the Lachlan is well priced considering all you get, and with a five-year warranty on the body, chassis, canvas (except the mesh) and springs, and three years on the hubs and shocks, plus manufacturers’ terms on component parts, the deal is well backed by the factory. If you’re coming into camper trailers without much in the way of supporting items you would leave this deal pretty well complete, needing only to add jerry cans, gas bottles and a fridge to be out on the road.
The X-factor really comes down to all the little features that make life comfortable and that camper tent. Dispensing with the need to fool around with adjustment points on all the tent bows and all those spreader bars and uprights is a great boon. As is the curved roof profile, which provides the assurance that in the heaviest rain the water is going to simply run off, saving you from having to run around checking things at the first sign of water drops on the canvas. If they can make it so the awning has no need for all those spreader bars and can be packed away while remaining attached, they’ll have absolutely nailed it.
There’s an old expression, ‘a leopard can't change its spots’. It’s used to describe a situation where something is too inflexible to change its innate nature. But the Bluewater Lachlan is proof that it doesn’t take a wholesale makeover to demonstrate flexibility and innovation.
The Bluewater Lachlan owes its name to the Lachlan River, itself identified with colonial Governor Macquarie. Just as Lachlan Macquarie matured from autocrat to emancipist, the Bluewater Lachlan frees itself from some of the traditional constraints of forward-fold campers. The most notable transformation is the dome-top tent. It’s tensioned using a removable winch with purpose-bent poles and the tropical fly has a 100mm overlap. The entire camper has 28 poles and spreader bars and this may seem like a lot. But it’s almost half the amount of some similar campers on the market.
Other ‘leopard spots’ of innovation include the upgraded marine-sealed hub bearings, the heavier lug nuts with flange, and the oversized axle. Continuing with the theme of durability is the strengthening bar on the chassis load point. A quick look underneath and you’ll find a pressure valve on the mains water inlet with a tank bypass and a ball valve to separate the twin tanks (I.C.E.), all as standard. A notable exclusion is an AC converter. The Bluewater Lachlan foresees the use of mains water so it’s surprising that it doesn’t also foresee access to 240V.
The Lachlan is the family-size version of the Bluewater Macquarie (named after a different river but the same bloke) and shares all the same features including the north-south 100mm thick queen size bed, but adds a slide-out east-west 70mm thick double. A key feature of the Lachlan bed spaces, that distinguishes them from those found in other fold-out style campers, is that they can be fully enclosed with their own midge screen. This makes for five separate living spaces (if you include the detachable ensuite) and that’s a great feature when you’re catering for a mixed group of travellers.
Without the awning, set-up can be achieved in under 10 minutes with two people, or 20 mins by yourself. Add the awning and you should be kicking back with a cold one in under 45 minutes. While the awning packs down into three bags, unfortunately the bags don’t all fit on the floor of the camper so you’ll need to find somewhere else for them to go.
In all, this forward-fold camper shares many characteristics of other rigs in its class, while offering some really clever adaptations to maximise the camper’s functionality.
The Bluewater Lachlan presents as a relatively conventional forward-fold, rear-slide camper. But looks are deceiving. This camper benefits considerably from being part of the Eagle stable of camper trailers and caravans, well-known for producing high quality rigs meant to last. The Bluewater Lachlan is no exception, offering some build features and finish elements that are as unexpected as they are welcome.
Bluewater aims to strike a balance between imported manufacture and the inclusion of Australian components to achieve a quality finish within a designated price point. Indeed, the team reckon that the Bluewater Lachlan is a 50/50 split imported/Australian build.
The camper is serviced by a stainless steel kitchen with a handy flip-over café bar, drying rack above the sink, and a Thetford stove. Plumbing and wiring are Australian certified and the Smarttek continuous hot water system comes standard. The annexe and tent are Dynaproof Coolabah canvas from Australian textile manufacturer Wax Converters.
A feature that distinguishes the Lachlan from similar forward-fold campers is the dome-top tent. With a permanently affixed fly and the whole thing winch tensioned, there’s no need for a whole heap of internal tensioning poles. This characteristic makes the camper particularly easy to deploy and creates a generous open feel to the internal living space. Throughout, the zippers are YKK and the annexe floor is 680gsm rip-stop PVC. For added durability, the team at Bluewater can manufacture the internal lounge chairs in lighter weight Dynaproof canvas as an option.
Underneath the camper, the story is positive. The Australian made Lovell coil springs operate with Australian RidePro shocks. There are 12 inch brakes with AL-KO hubs and Japanese wheel bearings. A bonus is that the team will match the PCD and rubbers to your tow tug. The camper chassis is galvanised steel with zinc panelling painted in automotive grade enamel. The only thing missing is a checkerplate or other protective skirt to help prevent damage to the camper’s side panels in tight conditions.
With a five year build and chassis warranty, and the Australian manufacturer’s warranty on several other critical components, the Bluewater Lachlan delivers a true workhorse that’s manufactured to stay the course and that’s supported by a team committed to keeping you in the outdoors longer.
While the Bluewater Lachlan is built overseas it has a strong Australian accent. At $35,500 before options, it’s a significant investment for this style of camper. But that’s the price of buddying up with local components. So, when it comes to choosing a forward-fold camper to explore the great outdoors, the question may boil down to: how much local product do you prefer to tow around?
Ball weight 125kg (dry)
Suspension Independent trailing arm suspension with Australian made Lovell coil springs, progressive bump stops and twin RidePro shock absorbers
Brakes 12” AL-KO brakes with marine grade hub seals, Japanese bearings, 14mm wheel studs, custom made hub-centric hubs
Coupling McHitch 3.5t Uniglide offroad coupling
Chassis 50x50x4mm hot dip galvanised steel
Drawbar 120x50x3mm hot dip galvanised steel
Wheels/tyres 16x8” alloy wheels and your choice of M/T or A/T 265/75R16s
Style Forward fold with rear slide-out
Travel size 5.49m (L) x 1.9m (W) x 1.6m (H)
Interior height (roof raised) 2.2m standing area, 1.1m (slide end bed), 0.9m (main bed end)
External body length 4.2m
Footprint when fully set up 7.1m x 4.3m
Awning/annexe footprint 2.4m x 6m
Gas 2 x 4kg plumbed
Water 160L across two poly tanks, Smarttek 6 gas continuous hot water system, Seaflo 42 series pump with John Guest fittings and water lines, plus mains pressure water inlet (with limiting valve)
Kitchen Stainless steel Thetford kitchenette with flip over and pull-out table, three-burner Thetford gas stove, plumbed gas and 12V power to kitchen
Battery 2 x 120Ah AGM with Projecta IDC25 DC charger and 200W folding solar panel with Anderson plug
PRICE AS SEEN
$37,200 ($35,500 + options)
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
|David Cook||Tim van Duyl||Kath Heiman||Scott Heiman|
|1. Fit for Intended Purpose||8||6||7.5||7|
|4. Quality of finish||7||6||8||7.5|
|5. Build quality||7||6.5||8||7|
|8. Ease of use||7||4.5||6.5||7.5|
|9. Value for money||8||7||6.5||7|
Address 2 Embrey Court, Pakenham, Victoria, 3810
Phone 1300 594 000 or 03 5945 5344