What's the slogan that Queensland Tourism has been belting out for the last couple of decades? Oh yeah, I remember: “Beautiful one day. Perfect the next!” Well, being a born and bred (and pretty proud) Queenslander, I can say that pretty much sums up our wonderful state. Most of the time anyway. Unfortunately, it didn't sum up our day at Noosa North Shore and Teewah Beach, which was our destination for the review of the ZONE RV Expedition Series Z12.0.
I had left Brisbane well before dawn to make my way north to Tewantin, where I had arranged to meet Matt Johns (one of the owners of ZONE RV) at the Noosa River Ferry to catch the barge. After week on week of near perfect weather that you couldn't even classify as winter, I was taken aback, when after leaving the Bruce Highway near Cooroy, I noticed drops of rain on my windshield.
A quick check of the weather forecast and radar painted a picture that I did not like the look of. We had decided on an early meet up so that I could get that golden, early morning light as the Z12.0 hit the sand and cruised up the beach to the perfect campsite. Instead, we were greeted with dark clouds, rain squalls and enough wind to blow the dog off the chain. To top it all off, it was bloody cold. In other words, it was pretty much like your average day in Melbourne!
TIME TO AIR DOWN
After waiting in line at the ferry (it seemed like we weren't the only ones that thought it would be an awesome day on the beach) we were ushered aboard. After paying the ferryman before we got to the other side, we disembarked and made the ten minute trip on the bitumen before airing down and hitting the sand at Third Cutting.
It was approaching low tide, but there was still a decent expanse of soft sand to get through first before we made it to the relative easy-going of the hard-packed sand close to the water's edge. Matt piloted the Amarok down the cutting and, with sand flying everywhere, the Z12.0 dutifully followed in the tracks of the tow vehicle.
Our 20km run north along the beach towards the Teewah Beach Camping Area was an easy affair, thanks to the low tide, but also in part to the low Tare weight of the Z12.0, at only 1400kg. Unfortunately, this low weight didn’t help us when it was time to find a spot to set the camper up.
Getting off the beach onto a grassy knoll perfect for a couple of days of relaxing and fishing proved a bit harder than first anticipated. As Matt approached the soft sand with just not quite enough momentum, the wheels started to spin and soon the inevitable happened. We were bogged!
Thankfully, up front on the massive storage locker tucked away in behind the stone deflector, were a couple of sets of MaxTrax. After a bit of quick digging and clearing the sand away from the tyres, the MaxTrax were in place and it was time to get ourselves out. A bit more right foot was used on the next attempt and it was smooth sailing this time around.
TWO SHAKES OF A LAMB'S TAIL
Yep, that's about how long it takes to get the Z12.0 set up. There's really not that much to it. Which, to be honest, was perfect for our day of testing. If we were struggling with big tents and lots of canvas and folding out this and that, then we would have ended up soaked to the bone. Quick set-ups are great, but when the weather conditions are against you, they are an absolute godsend.
Setting up consists of first unclipping the four over-centre catches that hold the pop-top roof down while in transit. These can be accessed via cleverly positioned steps either side of the wheels. Then it's time to open the large back door, fold down the custom ladder, step inside and raise the roof.
If a quick overnighter on the side of the track was all that was required, then you would be able to quite happily jump up inside, pull the doona cover back and crawl on in for some shut-eye. For longer stays, or if requiring more protection from the elements, unfurling the 270° awning and securing it into position will eat up the most amount of time.
Flipping up the large door on the near-side reveals the kitchen and pantry area. It also reveals the control panel with all manner of switches and charging outlets. There's even a Fusion audio system to keep the camp rockin’. It's also where you will find the fob for the wireless control of your airbag suspension (optional upgrade), making levelling up of the camper an absolute breeze.
First up, I've got to say that I am a fan of campers that have a big lift up side door with the kitchen running along the side. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be part of a crew that spent close to two weeks pulling a pair of the Z10.0 Expedition Series Campers across the Great Australian Bight. As well as being on photographic duties for that trip, I also looked after most of the crew meals, so gained a pretty good appreciation for this type of kitchen set up.
For quick lunches on the go, the lift-up door provides plenty of shade from the midday sun, and the inbuilt sink with hot/cold mixer lets you give the lunch plates a quick wash before getting back on the road. Pantry storage is taken care of by six overhead shelves, while two drawers either side of the sink provide a home for your cutlery.
Keeping your food fresh and the drinks cold is an 85L marine style, low power drawer fridge. Being a custom, built-in unit, it negates the need for a standalone fridge; however, for longer trips it could be supplemented with an extra fridge housed in the drawbar locker.
The prototype Z10.0 Campers featured a Dometic slide-out kitchen. These are not an uncommon site in the RV world. However, for the Z12.0 models, they are an optional upgrade. Taking its place at the front of the camper, and saving you 30kg, is a custom stainless steel unit built in-house by ZONE RV.
Featuring a Thetford two burner gas stove/grill and collapsible sink with plumbed hot/cold water, the pull-out kitchen utilises a push button locking mechanism for easy one handed operation.
LED lighting makes sure you don't get the chilli flakes confused with the oregano when whipping up a roadside spag bol.
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND
It's funny how we seem to concentrate a lot more on what we can see, than what we can't. I guess that does make sense, in a way. But a lot of the time, it's what we don't see that makes the biggest difference, especially when we are miles from nowhere exploring this great country of ours.
Coming from a 4WD background, and having spent over ten years working for ARB, I know just how important having the right suspension under your vehicle is. It is no different with your camper trailer, and that is why the team from ZONE RV only use Cruisemaster. Whether it be belting down corrugated desert tracks or tackling Blue Rag Range Track in the Victorian High Country, you need to know that your suspension is up to the task.
Standard fitment on the Z12.0 is the top-of-the-range ATX Heavy Duty Offroad suspension with airbags. Our test model had also been fitted with the optional wireless remote control and onboard compressor, giving us the ability to alter the ride height with ease, plus providing an outlet for rapid tyre inflation.
Borrowed from their range of offroad caravans, the Z12.0 rides on a Raptor coated 150mm x 50mm x 3mm DuraGal chassis with a 50mm offroad lift and complete with laser cut gussets on the drawbar. Sure, it's overkill, but you'll rest easy at night knowing that you're not going to break it!
The other big ticket item hidden from plain sight is the construction method of the camper body itself. ZONE RV grew up in the marine industry and have always been pioneers. When they moved into the RV industry in late 2014, they brought all of this knowledge with them, and set about revolutionising the caravan and now, the camper trailer.
One piece fibreglass composite panels make up the roof, walls and floor, which give the camper excellent thermal properties for optimum insulation.
But the cool part is how it is all held together. There's no frame. No screws. No bolts. Joins are bonded together (again borrowed from the marine industry), while laser cut alloy fairings and end caps provide an additional bonding surface. Raptor coating is then applied over all joins, forming an impenetrable barrier to dust and water.
WHO SAID WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS?
While on big trips or even weekends away, I can generally make do with minimal bathing. Maybe it's because I don't tow a Z12.0 around behind me? Matt from ZONE told me that he loves a shower of an evening, so it came as no surprise to find that the Z12.0 has two! Not only do you have the obligatory outdoor shower (with hot and cold water) hidden behind a hatch on the offside, but you've also got a full internal ensuite with shower, sink and toilet. No more sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night when nature calls for owners of this camper.
Speaking of bed, the Z12.0 comes standard with a very comfy full queen sized bed, but you can add another double up top in the mezzanine. The top bed is accessed via an internal ladder, and it is this ladder with which I have my only real gripe. Everything else in or on this camper is finished to the highest standard. But to me, I feel that the ladder is a bit of an afterthought and just doesn't look like it belongs.
There's a ton of storage inside, with canvas covered pockets of various sizes filling every void. Lifting the queen sized bed will enable you to store larger items, as well giving access to the compressor, battery and electrical system. Sirocco 12V fans will keep you cool at night, if there's no breeze blowing through the large windows.
THE FINAL WORD
At a tick under $70k (as tested), this offering from ZONE RV won't be on everyone's shopping list. However, what you get for your money is a premium product that is produced 100 per cent locally from one of the most innovative companies going around.
And it's a company that is growing, as they expect to move into a new, custom built premises in early 2020, with new and exciting products due to come online then. As for the Z12.0, it definitely was a ‘little ray of sunshine’ on a cloudy day.
Payload 1400kg (calculated)
Ball weight 150kg
Suspension Cruisemaster ATX heavy duty offroad suspension with wireless control airbag upgrade
Brakes AL-KO 12in electric drum brakes
Coupling DO35 Cruisemaster V3 coupling
Chassis 150mm x 50mm x 3mm DuraGal
Drawbar 150mm x 50mm x 3mm DuraGal (with unique crank and gusset)
Body True composite sandwich panel fibreglass (29mm insulated walls and 32mm insulated floor)
Wheel/tyre 285/75R16 Cooper STT Pro MT on 16in five-stud black alloy rims (2 x spares)
Style Hybrid camper trailer
Box size 3760mm (L) x 2000mm (W) x 1500mm (H)
Length 6220mm (hitch to tail lights)
Water 2 x 90L, Bushranger instantaneous H/W system
Kitchen ZONE custom external slide-out kitchen with Thetford two-burner gas stove and hot/cold mixer, fed by plumbed gas bottle on drawbar
Battery 100Ah Lithium
NON STANDARD UPGRADES
Wireless control airbags
Internal mezzanine double bed
Double lens rear vision camera
PRICE AS TESTED
$67,900 incl ORC and GST
- Super easy set-up
- Plenty of payload capacity
- Offroad ability
- Build quality
- The ladder up to the mezzanine
- Limited bench space
- Just the one gas bottle
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
Fit for intended purpose — 9
Innovation — 9
Self-sufficiency — 8.5
Quality of finish — 9
Build quality — 9
Offroadability — 9
Comforts — 8.5
Ease of use — 9
Value for money — 8.5
X-Factor — 9
Address 41 Link Crescent, Coolum Beach QLD 4573
Phone 07 5471 6410