Camping doesn’t have to be the testosterone-scented domain of technically intimidating, super-sized lifestyle machinery and “plant it” 4WD yahooism. South Australian company, Little Guy, have been taking the “macho” out of camping for over a decade and paving the way for new demographics, such as single women, couples without children, or downsizers.
In 2006, Graham Hooper started to import American-made Little Guy trailers to Australia. Four years later, wanting to manage quality control more actively, Graham quit importing and started making them himself, steering production in a direction of his own.
A natural innovator, Graham has over 60 years of experience in manufacturing, research and development, agriculture, and export. His early career saw him purchase the Murray Bridge abattoir where he managed the expansion and development of the site, growing the business to over 600 employees. After selling the abattoir, Graham acquired Steriline Racing, where he re-engineered its starting gate and running rail products for sale to racetracks around the world.
Little Guy Australia is another successful manufacturing venture for Graham. Head of a South Australian family business, Graham is still hands-on every day, assisted by his daughters Tiffany and Elissa, along with a dedicated team of staff to keep up with demand.
I caught up with Little Guy on a farm in the Adelaide Hills around Mount Barker. They rolled towing the Rough Rider with a Toyota Hilux, which is a bit like Arnie taking a chihuahua for a walk. The Rough Rider weighs 585kg Tare (with this model being plated at 620kg), with a payload of 130kg and an ATM of 750kg. A mere 64kg is placed on the towball. It’s compact too, measuring 2100mm from wheel arch to wheel arch, 1755mm to its roof vent (not including the racks), and 3955mm from coupling to bumper.
All of this taken together affirms the company motto “I go where I’m towed to.” Just about any vehicle can tow a Rough Rider, right down to a Ford Focus or Holden Astra (or even smaller vehicles if trailer brakes are installed). Yet the Rough Rider is the heaviest of the Little Guy flock, which starts at 356kg with the Deluxe. Buyers will save money from not having to buy a new tow vehicle.
I towed the Rough Rider around the lumpy paddock and did not feel its presence at all, nor see it except when I turned. Even if you’ve never towed, you’ll be comfortable towing this. Its impact on fuel consumption will be minimal thanks to its aerodynamic shape and weight. Reversing can be challenging whatever you tow, but the trailer is so light you might be able to push it into campsites or garages.
<SUBHEAD>Basics of the Build
The Rough Rider is the most offroad Little Guy and while you wouldn’t drag it through the Simpson, it comes with a few offroad prerequisites. These include a Cruisemaster DO35 hitch and single AL-KO shock absorbers to support its four Manutec leaf springs each side. The relatively sedate Nankang Toursport NS 235/75R15 tyres are suitable for the context. The whole unit sits quite high, with the bottom of the side walls having 46cm clearance. No wiring or plumbing are visible underneath (the taillight wiring is trailed through the side of the 50 x 75mm chassis). The floor is Formrite, with an aluminium skin applied.
A spare tyre rides upright and sidewall-forward, on the cross-bar in the A-frame. Behind it resides an alloy tray catering to a permanent fixture like a toolbox or temporary tied-down items of your choice. Behind it against the body of the van there’s a strip of checkerplate protecting the bodywork low-down.
The walls are made of 18mm marine ply laminated with fibreglass by Little Guy themselves. 40mm of R2-rated insulation is included between the skin, not letting the outside weather call the shots on the inside temperature. The 3mm MDF ceiling board (laminated with fibreglass) starts flat and is slowly and carefully bent over roof timbers running side to side. Finally, it is secured with silicone – and “no shortage of it either”, says Graham.
One of the final processes is to undertake a seal check using compressed air targeted towards all connection points lined with fine sawdust. All told, Little Guy tell Camper the process of construction takes 60 man-hours.
There was no water tank as seen, but a 60L tank and a shielded outlet behind the passenger-side wheel arch is an optional extra.
Kitchen and External Storage
Both veteran campers and newcomers will appreciate the lack of set-up, which instantly disbands that nightmare vision of being watched by a growing audience as you fumble with poles and canvas. With the tyres positioned far back on this light trailer, no stabiliser legs are necessary; there’s a heavy-duty Manutec jockey wheel up front if you decide to unhitch. From the get-go, you’re set to camp. That means more time chilling out and greater freedom of movement during the day, knowing how simple things will be back at camp.
As a consequence of this, though, there’s no outdoor shelter as standard. Fortunately, aftermarket accessories can change that. I’m told a lot of owners place a pop-up gazebo over the camper or install an awning on the roof racks.
The model under review featured two Rhino Rack crossbars, meaning you could bring swags for the kids, kayaks or even a storage pod. Though they’re practical, I felt the crossbars sat quite high (presumably so anything bridging them clears the roof vent). This is at odds with the aerodynamic shape and, in my view, compromises aesthetics. That said, I don’t think people buy this camper on the basis of aesthetic appeal.
At the rear of the camper, three T-handle ¼-turn vice locks release the kitchen door, which rises on gas struts and holds at a set height with a light pointing down on proceedings. Immediately you can see that the kitchen is well sheltered, being recessed and with the lid overhead. Taller folk may find it hard to get too close or lean over their cooking.
Optional cabinetry runs along the back wall. The Rough Rider can also feature an optional Sharp microwave and a portable Breville induction cooktop, stacked on the right side of the cabinetry. With these added, cooking is very homelike, and free from the hassles of gas bottles and the possibility of wind extinguishing flames. Both appliances rely on mains power, so you’ll have to go to powered sites to cook.
In the arrangement as seen, to the left of the cooking gear are two cupboards, one with two parting doors, the other with a single door. They’re ideal for items that will not smash or leak if rocked about, as are any camper trailer cabinets accessed from the side, not the top. You can choose to add a small 18L fridge, but you’ll lose the left cabinet. This’d be enough for essentials, like milk, butter and some basic ingredients.
On top of the cabinetry reviewed, there was a shelf with a low parapet. On the side walls, marine carpeting completes the finish. On the righthand wall, there’s a single 12V power outlet, a 240V double power outlet, and an easy-access fuse-box.
A strip of horizontal prep space runs along the front of this optional cabinetry. Two horizontal cabinet doors comprise a major part of this prep space. They are both opened by a flush ring pull that swivels them up on hidden hinges contained on the underside. Once they’re sitting upright, you have access to a full-width bunker underneath. The only permanent fixture here is the battery and its 12V/5A Bluesmart Charger.
Inside the Teardrop
There’s a door on both sides, a great convenience for couples. The door opening measures 58cm by 74cm and it is roughly 65cm from the ground to the bottom of this opening, which is quite a good height for going in either knee- or bum-first. These doors feature double seals, both an inner and outer. They’re lockable, internally and externally.
Their glass screens can be lowered to allow airflow through upper mesh, with air quality assisted by a reversible FIAMMA ceiling fan. They don’t feature curtains or blinds, so it might be bright (and not very private) in the mornings or at illuminated campsites unless you rig something up.
The optional 100mm tri-fold foam mattress is one of those options most people will tick, though you can source your own, provided it’ll fit through the door. Interior dimensions are comparable to a queen bed, with a length of 2100mm and width of 1515mm. Head height is 1075mm, enough for most to sit up.
On the model reviewed, at the foot of the bed, are two cabinets with doors that lift upwards. Underneath these cabinets, recessed further towards your feet, runs a shelf that would be convenient for storage of small items at camp. 12V outlets and a 240V powerpoint (for powered sites) will keep your devices topped up.
The side walls are covered in marine carpet. By either door, there’s a light that can be rotated, with its own localised switch. There’s another light overhead, near the cabinets, though with these doors open, it would shut off the light a little.
The back wall behind your head curves after a certain point, so I feel it would be more comfortable to lie down and watch something. With a little bit of inventiveness at home beforehand, you could rig a fixture to mount a TV or an iPad for nightly streaming.
When you’re not in it, this sleeping space is great for storage, though only of items that are clean. There is no toilet, nor an obvious storage spot, again pointing to the Rough Rider being better suited to well-equipped campsites.
If you’re interested in a Little Guy, you can inspect one in Adelaide or at their Melbourne dealer, Croydon Caravan and Trailer Repairs.
You might also wish to check out the Facebook group ‘Little Guy Australia Owners’, especially if you’re from interstate. This has over 200 members, representing a large percentage of the 300 trailers Graham says he has sold over the years. Given it’s a tight-knit community, owners might be willing to answer your questions and even demonstrate their campers. Plus, Little Guy can freight a new unit to you if you decide to buy.
The base Rough Rider model costs $19,565 and this approaches 22k with all options added. All in all, the Rough Rider’s price point, ease of towing and ease of use make it highly approachable. If you’re looking for hassle-free camping holidays to metro, rural and regional spots, the Little Guy Rough Rider might be for you.