Our review complete, we hitch the Overlander GTS up to the Hard Korr branded LandCruiser and commence our journey back up Bribie Island’s Ocean Beach. Kirk, one of the directors of the company, sits in the driver’s seat. Over the last few hours the tide has crept in insidiously; the hard-packed sand we ought to be driving on is two feet underwater.
We stick as close to the shore as we can — the odd wave splashes the tyres — but however closely we hug the water, the sand remains perilously soft. If one thing goes wrong, the Toyota could wind up in Davy Jones’ locker — unless co-director Tony, in his Holden Colorado, can pull us out before the tide rises higher.
The LandCruiser is in low gear; the tachometer holds a steady 4,000 revs, the speedo quivers at 40kph. In the soft sand the vehicle rocks from side to side, but the trailer rides level up back, the independent suspension with dual shocks absorbing the worst of the blows. It’s on the heavy side for a side-fold soft-floor, weighing in at 1,600kg Tare, 2,350kg ATM, but right now I barely notice its presence.
Through the shifting frame of the windscreen, the exit comes into view. It’s the same inclined path by which we got down onto the beach. The memory of a few hours previous flashes vividly through my mind — we’d approached a bit slowly and bogged before making it to the trusty stuff.
There’s little reason to worry about approach and departure angles given the high-riding body of the Overlander GTS, so Kirk’s foot is planted to the floor as we begin the angled run in.
THE OVERLANDER’S ROUTE TO BRIBIE
Hard Korr’s focus has historically been LED lighting for the 4x4 and camping sector. Their lights are distributed in Australia and internationally, as far as South Africa and Dubai. But, in 2015, they joined forces with Tony — originally of Austyle Campers — to develop a range of camper trailers.
Hard Korr’s designs are their own, all-Aussie. Their first camper was constructed entirely in Australia too; they spent in excess of $250,000 on R&D for that first unit, getting the fine points right. Then they took what they’d learned and moved some of the process to China to ensure viability for themselves and affordability for their customers.
“That first camper we ever made was a fantastic R&D opportunity,” Kirk had told me earlier, in a more peaceful moment, under the shade of casuarina trees. “It’s the foundation on which our current models are based.”
The chassis, drawbar and box are one-piece, rather than being welded or bolted together, Kirk explains. Manufacturers who weld and bolt these together might fit eight campers in an imported container, whereas Hard Korr make the sacrifice of only fitting three.
The hot dipped galvanised chassis is 150 x 50 x 3mm; the frame, 40 x 40 x 4mm. 2mm zinc coated steel plate is applied to this to form the body. Important final touches are made in
“I believe the quality is as good as you can get purely out of Australia — 100 per cent,” Kirk says. “We back this conviction with a five year structural warranty.
“The suspension is put on over here. The electrical is done overseas, but it’s pulled, checked and metered here. All 240V is done in Australia. Everything relating to compliance is done in Australia, including gas.”
REAL TALK OF CAPE YORK
Hard Korr aim to provide campers that cater to Australian conditions, specifically the Cape. So there’s a few expected but important inclusions: a stoneguard with replaceable mesh, waterproofing and dustproofing, a flexible coupling (a swivel 50mm ball), checkerplate protection over water tanks, tyres with traction (KPATOS M/T FM 523s), and independent dual shock suspension.
There’s some clever innovations, too. Scrub bars protect the camper’s sides in front of the tyres on both sides, fending off damage and helping navigation of tight corners. Underneath, on the suspension, there’s parallel bearings and crash plates over the trailing arm, preventing roots or other protrusions from catching components. The camper is painted in a three coat system of 2pac enamel, ensuring protection and affordability of repairs.
The Overlander GTS is kitted up for off-grid as well. There’s two 100L water tanks, with separate meters and fillers, so you have a back up if one becomes contaminated. You can add 40 more litres in the two jerry can holders over the drawbar, or increase your fuel mileage using these. Opposite this you find a 9kg plumbed gas bottle holder.
Two 100Ah AGM batteries, which you can keep your eye on with the battery monitor, are topped up via Anderson plug while driving; or also by mains power, solar or your own generator (a dedicated shelf can fit a Honda EU22i). No solar is included — there’s nowhere to permanently mount it, really — but the camper is “solar-ready”; you could bring a portable panel and hook up at camp.“
The camper features VSR (voltage sensitive relay), which theoretically alleviates the need for a costly DC/DC charger. That said, some may opt for the fancier and more modern tech; just as some will opt to add 240V power, which is not standard. Such omissions from the standard package can, in most cases, be added by Hard Korr. They’re open about what’s left out and ultimately you might save money you don’t need to spend.
The main demand on the 200Ah is the fridge; the batteries are pleasingly close to the slide, minimising voltage drop.
Thanks to hybrids, some now see canvas as old school, but the truth is canvas allows you to more thoroughly immerse yourself in nature, to get among the elements — arguably the whole purpose of camping. It also enables larger groups to travel together. The Overlander GTS has one official bed, but its softfloor is basically a four man tent, making this a genuine six-berth. Couples with a lot of kids, or kids who want to bring friends or cousins, will love this.
Hard Korr have done their all to reduce the shortcomings of canvas. In lieu of insulated walls, the camper has a tropical roof to regulate temperature. The way the dry interior canvas wall folds up stops any wetness of the outer walls from making the main bedding damp. The rip-stop canvas has now been upgraded to heavier, all-season canvas, and the set-up has been deliberately engineered to be smooth and achievable by one person.
We were lucky enough to set up on a beautiful spot by an estuary fringed with tea-tree. You wind down the ARK XTREME Offroad 750 jockey wheel and unhitch, then drop the four stabiliser legs. Then you fold the awning fixture up on gas struts, and undo the straps, velcro and zips that secure the tent cover (these form an awesome dust seal in transit).
On pack down, you’ll have opened the tent’s main entry and hooked the bottom corners over the roof corners, so the whole lot closes easily. Now you take these off, then grab a big strap and pull the tent into place; its arms spread out and the soft-floor is left hanging in position. There’s no need to attach the tropical roof; it stays attached.
After pegging in, you head inside and connect two poles to the framework in the corners near the main opening. Then you open a door on the right of the camper body, lift out and place the three-step ladder stored there, climb up, and extend and secure the framework until the canvas is taut; then the same on the other side.
Finally head outside and secure the rope ends of the tropical roof. That’s your essential set-up done in about ten or twelve minutes. Additional steps — like rolling doors and windows back, swinging the rear wheel carrier out, adding the ensuite and extending the Darche 270 degree wrap-around awning — can blow set-up to around 20 to 25 minutes.
Set down is basically set-up in reverse. The tent folds up and down on gas struts, so the motion is controlled and steady, allowing air to escape without the bag blowing out. An octopus strap pulling in the sides of the tent also helps to this end. The bag that goes over the top is deliberately loose, so you can leave in any extra bedding you’ve used.
SNAGGING SOME SHUT-EYE
Getting up to the north-south innerspring pillowtop queen sized bed, with its area of 2,200mm x 1,800mm, is a cinch. You climb up the three step ladder and into the little landing at the foot of the bed. You can have it fully open to the soft-floor, closed off with midge-screen or fully closed off. With it fully open, the sleeper on the driver’s side might dislike the exposed drop-off There’s plenty of breathability on all sides.
There’s two small hanging pockets on the driver’s side for small items, plus more extensive storage and charging (with a voltage meter) around the landing. The soft-floor itself is pleasantly spacious, measuring 3,000 x 1,800 x 2,100mm. In very windy conditions, like those presiding on our testing day, the tropical roof can flap a tad noisily.
The main storage on the soft-floor side — of which there’s heaps — is accessed by rolling down the sidewall which is held up by velcro and zips. When this is closed, bugs have zero chance of getting in; but, if you accidentally left them down, they plausibly could because there’s a small gap.
The shower ensuite attaches to the driver’s side of the tent, near the drawbar. You can set this up as your entrance and clean your feet as you come in. The door to get up to the bed swings out to block this entry, but it’s removable and stowable. Water is pre-plumbed to the front but a Country Comfort HWS is optional.
COOKING UP A TROPICAL STORM
On the passenger side is the all-aluminium kitchen. The wide side is parallel to the camper body, such that the cook faces the body. On the left there’s a round bowl sink, with a tap fed by an electric water pump; this drains out of a pipe On the right there’s a Dometic two-burner. A lid folds sideways off the slide-out to act as a working surface to the right, with a few hooks for hanging utensils.
The brilliant thing about the kitchen is the surrounding storage. A drawer pulls out above the sink. To the left, there’s a massive drawer with two lidded compartments, ideal for cutlery or ingredients; from the end of this, you can extend more working space, and over it, you can open another drawer. Off the front of the cooktop slide there’s a little cutlery pull-out.
The fridge slide is close at hand; after swinging away the rear tyre carrier on gas struts, you access it from the rear. It would have to be one of the biggest damn fridge slides I’ve seen. It can fit an 110L WAECO, with plenty of breathing room and a vent, too. Mind you, you will have to add the fridge, unless you score a deal from Hard Korr at a show.
In front of the cook there’s a handy panel with the two water gauges, solar charge controller, power meter, various switches, and USB and cig inlets. There’s a Genuine Marine bluetooth stereo, Hard Korr strip LED lighting, and a provided table with its own storage spot.
The kitchen storage reflects the level of storage elsewhere — 4000L, Hard Korr say. There’s a tunnel boot with slides, a massive storage cavern under the first step in the landing, drawers around the top step, and other nooks and crannies for storage down both sides of the body. The batteries and cassette toilet have dedicated spots on the soft-floor side and there’s a shelf here too for any inverters or chargers you add. You can chuck a kayak on top of the soft tent (if you’re comfortable using the tie down points available) or a bike rack on the bike point up back. There’s a 750kg payload to back this all up.
The piddling ball weight of 95kg allows you to store a fair bit in your car, too, before you exceed safe weights.
A HAIR-RAISING HIGH TIDE
The exit fast-approaching, the vehicle works overtime as it turns right, away from the shore but into the even softer sand — it’s like running in a foam pit here; this sand swallows tyres for breakfast. The engine noise is deafening, the divots in the surface jolt through the frame and toss us about like rag dolls in the cab. My white-knuckled fist clenches tight on the ceiling handle.
As we hit the incline, we tilt back in the seats and the revs drain, the speed plummets. We’ve just about lost all momentum when the front tyres suddenly grip firm, flat ground and haul the ensemble out of trouble. Instantly we break out into laughter. We’ve just made it, like rolling into a petrol station on an empty tank. There’s a good reason why the Overlander GTS is Hard Korr’s most popular camper trailer. It’s an absolute adventure machine, most popular for folks over 40, I’m told. That said, plucky youngsters would feel completely unlimited with this, particularly if towing with a capable 4WD.
The ‘Korr’ is a transcription of that awed exclamation people make when they see something impressive. I certainly said ‘Korr’ a few times. If you check it out, I reckon you will too.