Us Aussies are a creative bunch, and I don’t mean that in an inventing-new-cuss-words kind of way either, although we’re bloody good at that. Despite only actually being a country for a little more than 100 years, our young nation at the end of the earth has always punched well above its weight when it comes to thinking things through. From tech. advancements like electronic pacemakers and Google Maps, right through to the very first tanks and the humble petrol-powered lawn mower, there’s always been an Aussie behind the scenes scribbling furiously on a notepad (which we also invented). The point is, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that whenever coming across innovative, or well thought out camper designs, they’ve normally got a little green and gold kangaroo stuck to their side somewhere.
Of course, innovation doesn’t always mean completely reinventing the wheel—after all, the bloke who put a tyre on the wooden wheel was a whole lot more successful than the one who tried to make a square one. It’s the polishing of an idea to perfection, rather than wiping the slate clean and starting afresh, that comes across time and again while testing a Cub camper, and something that was certainly evident when we put their new forward-fold Frontier through its paces.
We punted it through winding mountain trails and stunning coastal roads to see how it’d handle everything—from high-speed dirt to tight valleys and screaming children; a proper torture test like only Camper can do.
THE WEIGH IN
Alright, first thing's first, we need to address the elephant in the room, and there’s a couple of very good reasons why. The first? I just like the saying. The other, more important reason, is that the Frontier is one of the lightest campers on the market, even though the spec. sheet would make you think anything but. Where most forward-fold campers punch in at anything from 1400kg right through to the 1600kg mark the Frontier is a feather-weight, with a miniscule 1220kg starting weight.
Why am I making such a big deal about a few hundred kilos? Like it or not weight is everything when it comes to on and off-road campers, and a 30 per cent weight saving is absolutely huge in every way that counts. Obviously, it’ll make the tow-tug use less fuel giving you a longer touring range, but will also mean shorter braking distances and easier acceleration and overtaking power. It’s a massive boon off-road too, with a lighter camper not digging down into sand as much as a heavier counterpart, it’s easier to bounce up rock ledges, less likely to pull you off-line, and gives more direct throttle response too. If someone invented a trailer that towed like you had a helium balloon hitched to your drawbar, they could write their own cheque. But until then, the smaller the numbers on the compliance plate, the better.
THE GRAND REVEAL
Lightweight campers are great, and there’s plenty of them on the market, but to be the complete package they need to combine light weight with a quick setup time and huge footprint when folded right out. An impossible target, but one the Frontier comes damned close to hitting. Camper salesmen are generally passionate about their job, so despite my pleas that I’ll figure it out on my own, I’m normally forced to go through the complete setup process. The Frontier is the first that impressed me before I had even left the car park. Let’s run through the setup procedure.
Drop the stabiliser legs down.
Unlock the latches.
Wind the roof over with the silent winch.
That’s it. That’s literally it. They’ve designed the camper in such a way that all the internal poles are already set to the correct length, and the opposite end pops into place as the tent rolls open thanks to a pair of gas assisted struts giving it a helpful shove. The whole process from start to finish can be done in less than a couple of minutes, and the majority of that is taken up by cranking the stabiliser legs down into place. Buy yourself a 12V drill for that and you can set the camper up from scratch and be cooking up a feed faster than you could set-up a swag.
From there you can climb into the queen(ish) sized inner-spring mattress and call it a night. Like most forward-fold campers, there’s also a secondary double-bed than can be made by dropping the table down in the lounge area and rearranging the cushions. The difference is the Cub offering doesn’t require you to do Yoga with the table to set it up. Poke your foot under it, press the button and it springs up into place, then repeat the process to push it down. It’s solidly mounted to the floor, so provides a stable place for meals or late-night poker, and the table-top can be repositioned with one hand, thanks to a simple locking mechanism.
Awning-haters rejoice! for Cub has put their thinking caps on in regard to this vexatious issue, too. There’s plenty of room inside the main box for the awning to stay attached to the tent, which drastically improves setup times, but the poles themselves have had a significant re-work as well. Rather than poking through into the main frame, they simply Velcro to the sidewalls of the trailer. As well, there’s no goofy connections, with each pole simply clicking into place. From start to finish, after a stiff espresso, the complete setup can be done in about five minutes.
THE KITCHEN SINK
If you’re after a laser-guided porta-potty this is where you might get a little disappointed. There’s no spring-loaded TV lurking underneath a seat, and you’ll have to supply your own Wi-Fi connection if your idea of camping includes Netflix, but the Frontier is well equipped where it counts.
The heart of the system is Projecta’s three-stage DC/solar battery charger. With an Anderson connection on the tow bar, and a secondary one at the rear, the unit can maintain charge in the 100Ah AGM heavy-duty battery either through your tow-tug's alternator, when you’re on the road, or through solar input when you’re parked up by the side of a river for days on end. If you’re near a 240V power source a Projecta IC2500 25A unit takes over with an LCD screen giving up-to-date charge levels.
The whole power arrangement is tucked into a trick slide-out drawer system with plenty of room for a second battery if you’re planning on spending a week camped in the rain. The panel also houses a water level monitor, 240V and 12V fuses while the 240V input will also feed through into 240V outlets inside the camper, and by the fridge when connected to mains power.
Twin 4kg gas bottles are plumbed right through to the stainless steel slide-out kitchen in the rear with a pair of well protected connections to get it up and running. The work space houses a SMEV sink as well as their three-burner stove-top with plenty of bench space for meal prep. Adjustable legs underneath make it a sturdy platform, too, which is a great inclusion. There’s no hot-water or shower as standard, although a portable unit is available as an option.
JUNK IN THE TRUNK
On the storage front, the Frontier is no slouch either. With an ATM of 1750kg and Tare of 1220kg, you’ve got over half a tonne of storage to play with. Factor in a load of 140kg when the 100L water tank is filled and the twin 20L jerry’s up front are full, and you’re still left with a cool 390kg of crucial camping kit—like 12V microwaves and an espresso machine.
Bulky items can be stowed up front with a luggage rack over the fridge box, although they’ll need to be moved when opening the main body of the tent. The fridge slide itself can hold up to a monstrous 85L Evakool unit with a slide out pantry next to that for dry goods. Pole storage is above the pantry while the opposite side is left free but was the perfect home for our camp chairs. A second external storage box is on the passenger side and easily swallowed plenty of kit, including a pair of kids bikes I couldn’t be bothered tying down on top.
There’s more storage again inside, with under-seat boxes along both flanks and reasonably sized drawers in the kitchen itself. We found the floor inside the camper was perfect for storing bedding that didn’t need to be accessed on the road. The camper does need to be opened to access the internal storage, but with it taking around 30 seconds to crank open, it’s not really an issue.
THE WRAP UP
There’s no such thing as a perfect camper, and even if you threw $100k at a manufacturer, you’d still end up with a compromise of sorts. The Frontier is bigger and heavier than other Cub offerings, and also commands a (slight) premium over many of the imported offerings on the market, but it’s also one of the very few campers I’ve ever found that I’d buy myself if I had a job that paid in dollars and not 4x4 trips. It’s affordable, incredibly light-weight with a great warranty, replete with Aussie build quality and comes with a proven record for holding its resale value. It combines my two biggest requirements: a quick setup time and low-weight, and throws in, as a bonus, a huge living area and quality components throughout. If I had the keys to one myself I’d retro-fit a diesel hot water and heating system then watch as the kays racked up. I wonder if Cub takes I.O.Us?
HITS AND MISSES
- Aussie designed and built
- Trusted name
- Quick setup time
- Can’t access internal storage without opening
- No heating option
- No hot water standard
- Tare: 1220kg
- ATM: 1750kg
- Suspension: Independent with Rox Shocks shock absorbers
- Brakes: 12in electric
- Coupling: AL-KO Off-Road Ball Coupling
- Chassis: Galvanised RHS 100x50x3mm
- Drawbar: Galvanised RHS 100x50x3mm
- Body: Steel & Aluminium baked enamel
- Wheel/tyre: 16in steel 265/70R16 Goodyear Wrangler AT
- Style: Forward fold
PRICE AS SHOWN