Forward-folds seem to be the go-to design for campers retailing for less than $30,000. Driving up to Bribie Island, Qld, from Sydney, we passed many campers, and probably 70 per cent of them were forward-folds. So how do you become a standout in this crowded end of the market?
The answer, for Austrack Campers and its Telegraph X, is to do your level best to ensure the camper is specced to the highest standard and lifted out of the pack with smart presentation and quality fittings.
Priced at $21,990, the Telegraph X is well positioned in the crowd within the under $25,000 category, cheaper than some but a bit more expensive than others and with enough features to justify the difference.
The Telegraph X is manufactured in China but undergoes final fitout and assembly in Austrack’s Brisbane factory.
It rides on a 100x50x3mm chassis with dual recovery points at the rear and a 120x50x4mm drawbar that runs back as far as the suspension; all hot-dip galvanised. This supports a trailing arm independent suspension with dual shocks and 12in electric brakes behind the six-stud hubs. It’s a sturdy setup.
The wheels are 16x8in alloys with the early LandCruiser six-stud pattern mounting 265/75 R16 all-terrain rubber, though mud-terrains are optional if you like the chunkier look. The spare travels on a rear rack, adjacent to a neat little storage box, with carpet lining and a gas-strut assisted top. The latter can be bypassed in favour of a second spare if desired.
At the front is a 3500kg-rated McHitch Uniglide Platinum coupling, dual rated safety chains and the excellent swing away Ark XO dual wheel jockey wheel.
The body is manufactured from zincanneal steel and is a little deeper than some. This permits slightly higher bench seating inside for comfort and ease of use and increases storage, which is one of the common limitations in forward fold camper designs.
The body is finished on the outside with baked enamel metallic paint with polished stainless steel trim for a smart appearance, and underneath there’s a good coating of underbody deadening for the floor, chassis and drawbar.
There are stainless steel tie-downs on the top of the front box for additional carrying capacity, but all contents here would have to be removed each time before set up.
There are mud flaps and a checkerplate aluminium stoneguard at the front, I’d be happier with a slightly greater angle on the stoneguard to lower the likelihood of a rock ricocheting on to a rear window – a process we’re assured is in the pipeline. There are two 20L jerry can holders and rings for dual 9kg gas cylinders, and adaptors to take dual 4kg cylinders. But unless you live in the camper, the dual 9s would probably last you more than a year and basically add unnecessary weight on the front end. None of this is easily accessible when the camper is open as it is all underneath the front-fold bed. To assist, there is a changeover valve and double gas hoses on the regulator to swap between the two bottles so there is no need to move bottles about if one is empty.
Gas lines are plumbed to a bayonet connection at the kitchen, at the front of the camper for the hot water service and at the rear of the camper for a barbecue. A neat touch.
The tent folds over reasonably easy and faster by hand if you’re a healthy, able-bodied adult with the help of gas struts but dual winches are there if you need a boost or are just tired at the end of the day.
The canvas is all 16oz two-tone grey fine-weave that’s seen in similar models. I’d like to see a lighter weight canvas used particularly in the walls, though, as the extra weight and effort required in setting and packing up seem to offer little reward.
There is a tropical roof that automatically erects on top and does not require end ropes or any additional work. Zipping on the 4.5x2.4m awning can be a bit fiddly because of the high roof line typical of a forward-fold but as it can remain attached during pack up this shouldn’t be a real problem. This high awning height does tend to make it a little more exposed to winds and rain. The Telegraph X comes with a full wall set, draught skirt, vinyl floor, ensuite and sand peg set.
Additional canvas features include a privacy wall with midge screen at the foot of the bed, internal window covers and gas struts on some tent bows to assist in set up. All windows have midge-proof screens and the tent side above the kitchen can be rolled up to bring the great outdoors in.
Like other similar models I’ve seen, there are quite a few poles and spreaders. The Telegraph X does at least come with a neat little colour-coded diagram on the inside of the pantry door, with the details all bearing numbers. The diagram shows five poles (all poles are snap-lock aluminium) in the awning, two in the ensuite and two to be added internally in the tent, along with six spreader bars in the awning and four in the tent, plus another 12 poles and spreaders to be added in the gusseted windows, a total of 31.
Electrically, the Telegraph X is reasonably well equipped, with two 100Ah AGM batteries, DC-DC charger, 12A seven-stage mains charger, 160W solar panel, digital voltmeter, amp meter and battery management system, adequate 12V and USB plugs and a 240V external input. Only the 6mm cabling to the Anderson plug lets it down, but again, this is in the process of being amended.
Water is carried in a 120L stainless steel tank plumbed to the kitchen and a 50L stainless steel tank plumbed to the camper front to service the shower ensuite, each with an aluminium bash guard, electric pumps and a water level gauge.
In the front box there is an EvaKool 75L dual zone fridge/freezer in a fan-vented locker next to two large and roomy pantry drawers, but for an extra fee you can have up to a 110L EvaKool or its equivalent. On the driver’s side there is a large carpeted box with two spaces behind, one suitable for poles and the other with a drawer to ease access to items at the back.
This is all an area where the attention to detail in the Telegraph X becomes obvious: stick-on vinyl coating on the bottom of the slide-out drawers, covers over restraining chains on the doors, sturdy fridge restraints rather than the impractical elastic occy straps so often supplied, a bottle opener on the inside of the fridge locker door, auto sensing lights that come on when doors are opened and on it goes.
The kitchen is a full stainless steel unit that slides out of the rear of the passenger’s side. It has a slide-out bench area that sits on a bracing leg, a three-burner Smev stove, a roomy stainless steel sink and two drawers, one suitable for cutlery, the other for cooking utensils.
There is a gooseneck LED light but turning it on and off requires plugging in the lead or pulling it out, a seemingly clunky solution. The gas and water connections are easily accessed, and there is a fold-down stainless steel dish drainer/rack in front of the sink.
The camper-queen-size bed is a 100mm high density foam mattress, with a light strip above for reading but only two small pockets midway along the bed for glasses, books, phone and keys. All zips throughout the camper have linen tags for easy use and there is a second LED light strip with a 5m lead that can be used in the main tent area or anywhere under the awning.
In the main lounge area, the portable table is simply collapsed down between the side cushions and you have the makings of a double bed across the back.
Entertainment can come via a DVD/stereo with USB and HDMI inputs and a 19in TV. The latter mounts to a vertical pole midway along the inner side of the tent on the kitchen side, so that the TV can swivel for viewing from outside or within the living space. The mounting, however, didn’t look too stable to me and required the removal of the seat cushion, which sat about awkwardly.
In addition, the Telegraph X came with other inclusions, like the good gas strut-assisted boat rack (with removable cargo basket) rated to 150kg that folds over for easy loading at ground height, a 15L Porta Potti, wheel chocks, and a Country Comfort instant gas hot water service which sits on a pole adjacent to the supplied ensuite and shower.
With a Tare of 1390kg, a ball of weight of 160kg when empty and a load capacity of 610kg the Telegraph X will never be light to tow. It does come with all the basics, though, which means once you’ve packed your food, clothing and a few knick-knacks, you’re ready to go camping. And you could do it in relative comfort, given the level of fitout.
THE WRAP UP
Although far from ground-breaking, the attention to detail on the Telegraph X speaks to a pride in workmanship and commitment to customer care. Austrack Campers has gone to a lot of trouble to lift the Telegraph X out of the crowd, and has done so with style.
You could do a lot worse than put this camper on your shopping list if a forward-fold design is your desire.
HITS AND MISSES
- Detailed finish
- Included extras
- Gas plumbing
- Good electrical setup
- Boat rack and basket
- No internal access when packed up
- Heavy ball weight
- Shortage of internal storage
Check out the full feature in issue #110 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.