The challenge in finding a camper trailer that’s capable of handling everything you throw at it can sometimes be difficult. Taking a trip up the Birdsville Track with your camper in tow is nothing like tackling the Telegraph Track in the Cape or the Connie Sue Highway in Western Australia. The corrugations are bigger, washouts deeper and tracks narrower, all of which will quickly show you whether your offroad camper is suitable for remote touring.
If remote touring is what you love, buying the right camper isn’t an easy task, but if you apply the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle you might find exactly what you’re looking for. Why is the KISS principle so important? It helps keep the fluffy stuff (coffee machine, wine chiller) to the side and the focus on the important things (suspension, water, power). Another essential question you have to ask yourself is “can I fix it if it breaks?” because if something bad happens in the middle of the Great Sandy Desert, it could be disastrous if it can’t be rectified.
HITCHING IT UP
The coupling is the vital link between your 4WD and your camper. It is also important that the coupling has 360-degree articulation and horizontal and vertical movements above 70 degrees. There are several different types of couplings on the market, but for serious offroad performance, there is only a handful that suit, with the Cruisemaster DO35 and McHitch Uniglide couplings the most popular.
The Cruisemaster DO35 is rated at 3500kg and the tow pin receiver self-locates into the double locking mechanism as the coupling is lowered. A small Polyblock reduces vibration between the camper and vehicle and the coupling is plated in superalloy to minimise corrosion. A dust cover ensures the coupling locks securely and protects the mechanism from water and dust ingress. A fully greaseable body allows articulation of 360-degree rotation and a minimum of 70degree of horizontal and vertical movement.
The McHitch Uniglide trailer coupling utilizes a universal joint to handle all the horizontal and vertical movements to beyond 90 degrees. Urethane bushes within the rear body handle the twisting actions with 360-degree articulation. This coupling has a double locking mechanism that connects to a stub axle like pin on the receiver. The universal joint and rear body are greaseable on both units and the low profiles make it suitable for vehicles with a rear door or tailgate.
Camper trailer suspension development has been huge in recent times with limited-run trailing arm independent, adjustable airbags, cross-arm, all great for offroad touring, but how easy is it to fix if something breaks? Believe it or not, but traditional leaf-spring suspension fits perfectly with the KISS principle. What leaf-sprung beam axle camper trailers might lack in handling and ride, they benefit as it’s extremely tough and can be fixed fairly easily if damaged. The Australian Army trailers all run leaf spring suspension for this reason.
Humans need water to survive, and remote touring could see you going a long time without coming across a potable water supply. Water is heavy — base it on 1kg per litre — so this also needs to be taken into account. Most camper trailers have at least one water tank but for remote travel, you need to make sure the water tank and lines are well protected. Losing any of this precious resource to a damaged hose or cracked tank could be catastrophic. It’s also wise to carry your water in several different containers, so is there room for jerry cans?
Battery type and size is important, as well as how power is managed. Lithium batteries are a great option as they’re lighter, recharge quicker and provide power for longer than AGM or wet cell batteries. However, they are still outside many people’s budget. Just ensure that the battery can handle everything you need powered and you have a way of charging it besides the vehicle’s alternator in case the cable from your 4WD to your camper is damaged.
Solar panels are the best alternative to recharge your batteries, whether they’re fixed or portable. Fold-up panels and solar blankets are great options as they are light, pack up small and can be moved around to capture the best conditions. Fixed panels mean you don’t have to think about anything except where you park.
When it comes to battery management, an isolator is capable, but a DCDC charger is better. This is due to the intelligence of these units, being compatible with smart alternators, delivering a tailored multi-staged charge for different battery types and having inbuilt solar management as well.
WHEELS AND TYRES
Your camper rim size, stud pattern and size of the tyre should all match the tow vehicle so that they are interchangeable between each other. It’s also a good idea to carry a spare axle hub for the camper as they are a renowned weak point. Being able to carry at least three spares between the camper and vehicle is also an asset for remote touring.
Tyres with an LT rating and thick sidewall are better suited to remote travel as punctures from stakes, sticks, sharp rocks and stones are common. When offroad, it’s advisable to drop tyre pressures lower than tow vehicle so the camper tows better and doesn’t become an anchor. If you have a TPMS system for your 4WD, it would be wise to add them to your camper as well.
This lightweight Lumberjack Sheoak is a pod camper that requires little set up and is made to go offroad.
Teardrop or pod style campers have been around for a while but fell out of fashion for a bit. But, thanks to their fully sealed bodies, they are water-tight and have minimal dust ingress and could be heading for a bit of a comeback.
Perfect for tough adventuring, the Sheoak is a well-insulated camper with enough inclusions to get you where you want to go. A 100Ah Century battery can be recharged via an Anderson plug or solar power. With a roof-rack that could be used for a rooftop tent to house extra bodies or as a storage space for larger items, a portable solar panel would likely be a better option for solar power.
The included 65L water tank is a little light on, but the payload, storage space found throughout the camper and a standard jerry can holder mean that there should be enough for a couple getting away for the week. A revamped kitchen will keep everyone fed, while a 100mm mattress will keep campers well-rested.
To get you offroad, the Sheoak rests on Goodyear Wrangler A/Ts, has 300mm of ground clearance, plus a hot-dipped RHS chassis and independent offroad suspension.
Towing was a breeze and the ATM of just 1320kg will have couples getting away to those hard to reach places.
Size 4.75m (L) x 2.2m (W) x 2.5m (H)
Lumberjack Camper Trailers
P 1300 30 40 45
AOR ODYSSEY SERIES II
Rugged outback tracks are a part of life for offroad touring here in Australia. So, campers wanting to handle them must be ready for anything and this AOR Odyssey Series II fits the bill.
Unlike the more common hot-dipped galvanised process, the chassis, frame and drawbar is made from powder-coated Supagal high tensile steel. Supporting this is an independent suspension system that features King springs and twin shocks rated to 2500kg, far more than the Odyssey’s 2000kg ATM.
Once you’re offroad, you want to stay there for as long as possible. To make this happen, the Odyssey includes a 140L poly water tank, with an option to add a second. Two 4.5kg gas bottles are found up front, along with a pair of 20L jerry cans.
Powering the set up are two 120Ah AGM batteries, twin roof-mounted 150W solar panels and a Redarc Manager30 BMS system to handle it all.
A fully stainless-steel external kitchen will keep everyone fed, while a Thule Omnistor manual wind-out awning provides a spot to take everything in. Inside is nice and roomy, with a queen-size bed, lounge/dinette that seats four, plus an internal kitchen with plumbed stainless-steel sink and a three-burner gas cooktop.
The Odyssey is a camper ideal for couple’s wanting something of quality. And as it’s built right here in Australia, you can trust it’ll be able to handle our outback tracks.
Size 3.6m (L) x 1.95m (W) x 2.34m (H)
Australian Off Road
P (07) 5390 0300
The Bushwakka Bhoma is a camper that harks back to what campers were initially — trailers with room to sleep, stacks of storage and a few mod cons (though Bushwakka take this further than what used to be the norm).
A compact and fairly light body, the Bhoma is a double rooftop expander with twin side-fold that features a payload of 400kg. It provides 360-degrees of shade and two double beds, plus an interior lounge if only one side is deployed (they can be deployed individually or together).
With its South African origins, the Bushwakka teams know what needs to be included for outback touring. All-terrain tyres cover alloy rims, while heavy duty progressive rated 1.1m leaf springs and Gabriel Safari gas shocks handle whatever terrain is underwheel. The body is a combination of stainless steel and checkerplate, while the chassis is 3CR12 stainless steel.
Powering the operation is 160W of solar, and two 120Ah AGM batteries, which are easily upgradeable. A 1500W pure sine inverter keeps everything charged.
Water is by way of a 110L water tank, but there is dedicated space for three jerry cans. The water is also accessible from multiple external water taps.
Finally, for something a bit different — but entirely necessary for outback touring — a dedicated First Aid kit is mounted externally on the rear bumper near the kitchen. You should always carry one of these, and the fact it's already on the camper is a bonus!
Size 2.5m (L) x 1.85m (W) x 2.1m (H)
Bushwakka 4x4 Campers
P 0457 910 243
Rear-folds are Cub Camper’s bread and butter in a lot of ways. This Explorer builds on their long-held reputation for rear-fold campers.
The Explorer is a smaller camper with an ATM of just 1300kg. But, despite this light weight, which means it can be towed by a variety of vehicles and is highly manoeuvrable, it has everything needed when a tough offroad trip lies ahead.
It’s drawbar and main chassis are made of Duragel, and two recovery points are found at the back of the camper. Suspension consists of five-leaf AL-KO eye to eye plus custom shock absorbers. Wheels are 15in black steel rims on chunky mud terrain tyres.
Water is provided by an 80L heavy-duty water tank — a second is optional — plus there is space for two 20L jerry cans. Power, meanwhile, comes from a 105Ah AGM battery (again, a second is optional). A 25A Projecta IC2510 three-stage 240V charger and Projecta IDC25 DCDC charger regulate the charging rates from solar and the Anderson plug.
The kitchen slides out from underneath the bed and can be used for a cuppa or the like without the supporting legs. Plenty of storage is included, most of which is easily accessible from the outside, and you’ll probably have to fill all of it to come close to the 600kg of payload.
Thanks to all of this, Cub’s Explorer has everything you need, with space for more, to enjoy when out bush bashing.
Size 1.7m x 2.85m
P 1300 226 746