As we ventured along Booloumba Creek road, the sun low in the sky, a reddish cloak of dust trailing the LandCruiser and clouding the Rhino Max Defender Hybrid on tow, it dawned on me: it was school holiday time and I hadn’t booked a campsite. Our chances of finding a nice place were suddenly cast into doubt. Through one creek crossing and then another we arrived at the site and had our fears confirmed. A full camp. “Not to worry,” said Steve Punton, Director of Rhino Max, “I know another spot on the other side of Kenilworth.”
Back through the creek crossings we went, down dirt tracks, past various horses, back onto the bitumen — via a quick detour to the Kenilworth Bakery (if you’re in the area check out the 1kg donut challenge!) — before finally arriving at the Bluff Creek Campground. While it was the start of school holidays and there were already quite a few campers set up, there was plenty of room to spread out and find a spot of our own. A creek flows through the property, so if you’re staying for longer, remember to bring your boardies.
GETTING SET UP
To say that setting up the Defender Hybrid is a quick and simple task would probably be the biggest understatement in this issue of Camper. I didn’t have a stop watch on me, but even if I did, it would have been barely worth the effort. Drop down the stabiliser legs, unclip the roof, press the button for the electric automatic roof (raised by two internal rams), then wind out the massive awning and you’re done. Grab your chairs, kick back and relax.
When the tummy starts to rumble and the worms start biting, it’s good to know that the gourmet kitchen is but the releasing of a few clips away. Appearing from a hatch in front of the wheel arch, the stainless steel kitchen first slides out, then an expandable bench top extends along the side of the camper, creating a fantastic cooking and food preparation area. A three burner gas cooktop and a stainless steel sink with a hot and cold mixer tap completes the package. Storage is also abundant, with a cutlery/utensil drawer and a utility space beneath the work area, and two pantry drawers above.
Pull out the fridge slide located on the left of the kitchen to reveal a clever storage unit for pots and pans. The fridge slide will handle up to an 85L EvaKool fridge/freezer. Unfortunately, a fridge is not part of the standard inclusions, and will have to be purchased separately, or added as an option.
STORAGE FOR DAYS. WEEKS EVEN!
There’s no denying that these days, we have a lot of ‘stuff’. And that when we head away for a weekend, a week or longer, we take a lot of this ‘stuff’ with us. Well, you’ll be happy to know the Defender has lots of places for you to put your ‘stuff!’ There are storage compartments and hatches all over the place.
Perched up front is a mass of black powder coated aluminium. There’s spots for a couple of 20L jerry cans and a lockable box for two 4kg gas bottles (that are plumbed into the kitchen and hot water system). Behind these is a full width storage box with drop-down access doors on both ends. This is a space that could quite easily handle an extra fridge and slide or a generator, if required. If not, then it’s only left to your own imagination. Did someone say golf clubs? This camper has been optioned up with the diesel cab heater, so on the off side of the front storage box, you’ll find the diesel tank neatly tucked in and protected behind an aluminium shroud. Sitting on top of the big black box is an open storage unit, just perfect for when you need to collect a bit of firewood for the night.
At the front of the camper, on the off side, there are three more storage compartments, all with bottom-hinged doors making it very easy to store stuff, and then take said stuff out again. The front box takes up the void behind the fridge compartment from the other side, and is designed to take a Baby Q or a small generator. Behind door number two is pretty much a cave. Camp chairs and tables, ground sheets and even a spare kitchen sink would all fit in there with room left over.
The smaller of the three hatches houses the electrical hub of the hybrid. In there you will find a 200Ah lithium battery (upgraded from the standard 2 x 120Ah AGM units), an Enerdrive 40amp battery management system in both DC and AC variations, along with all fuses and the 240V/12V changeover switch. Mounted on the roof are a pair of 160W solar panels to keep your off-grid exploits fully charged.
One thing I did notice while poking my head inside the electrical cabinet was the location of the water tank filling hoses. They run right through, over and past all the electrical gadgetry contained within this compartment. A damaged, cracked or loose filler hose may cause of some pretty expensive consequences.
The last hatch at the back of the camper is where the removable waste holding tank for the Thetford Cassette toilet lives. Its operation is, as much as such a thing can be, pleasingly efficient.
THE HIDDEN UNDERBELLY
There is no use having a fancy camper with a heap of bells and whistles if what’s underneath isn’t up to the challenge. Thanks to the design and engineering team at Rhino Max, they’ve got you covered. Or should that be, “Got your under covered?”
First up there is the one piece chassis and drawbar constructed from heavy duty 150 x 50 x 3mm galvanised steel. This runs all the way through to the rear of the camper where a pair of recovery points are located. This one piece chassis also provides the mounting point for the powder-coated steel rear bumper with recessed LED tail lights and single spare wheel carrier.
Soaking up the bumps and helping to keep everything on an even keel when the going gets tough is the Cruisemaster XT independent coil spring suspension with twin shocks. For those wanting even more under their trailer, option up to the airbags for full ride height and levelling control.
So the chassis and suspension get the tick of approval, but there’s something else that’s required in my books to prove a trailer’s true offroad credentials.
Are all those wires, hoses and gas lines that are run underneath the trailer mounted nice and high? Are filler points, water tanks, fittings and connections protected from flying rocks and the like? The RhinoMax Defender gets another tick here too. Wiring has been run high and out of the way and through chassis rails where possible. Gas lines the same, with convoluted split tubing giving a bit of extra protection and water lines following suit. The twin water tanks and grey water tank are made from heavy duty roto-moulded polyethylene with all vulnerable fittings mounted high or protected by stainless shrouds.
Up the pointy end, a DO35 hitch keeps you attached to the tow vehicle, while a swing-away ARK jockey wheel is there for when you disconnect. There’s a handbrake to stop the camper from rolling off down the hill and a breakaway brake safe system if things go pear-shaped while on the road, as well as safety chains.
IT'S BIGGER THAN YOU THINK
When it’s time to head inside for a snooze or a shower (that’s right ladies and gentlemen, this baby’s got a shower inside!) it might be a good idea to first grab a small portable step to help you get in. You see, with a camper that has this much clearance and offroad potential, there’s going to have to be a few compromises here or there. If that means less chance of getting hung up when entering or exiting a gnarly creek crossing, then hand me that plastic step.
Once inside, I think you’ll agree with me and be quite impressed by just how roomy it feels. It’s light and bright and doesn’t feel cramped at all. The two double glazed front windows (with fly screens and blockout blinds), along with the four windows located in the top expandable skirt (also with fly screens) allow for plenty of light and ventilation. The 30mm thick fibreglass composite body and roof panels help to provide insulation and strength while keeping the weight down.
A full size queen bed runs north-south at the front of the camper. Handy 12V charging sockets are located at the foot of the bed, allowing you to have your phone or the like charging while in bed, or if you are relaxing in the four seater lounge. If the weather’s a bit nasty outside, there’s reading lights either side of the bed, or you can kick back and watch the tele (available as an optional extra). If not, pop some tunes on the stereo, crank up the volume and boogie the night away.
Continuing on the theme from outside, there’s more storage inside than you can poke a stick at. Under the bed there are two deep drawers just perfect for your clothes, while running across the back of the camper is a storage unit with four more drawers and a pair of little cupboards. Above the drawers is where you’ll find the internal sink unit with hot and cold water, 240V sockets, USB outlets, as well as battery and water monitors.
Hiding beneath the lounge cushions on the off side is the upgraded 2000W inverter (1000W standard), the Truma hot water unit, the water tank change-over valves and 12V pump. Under the seat cushions on the near side is where I have a couple of issues with the interior. First up is the rear of the switch panel, which is located on your left as you enter the camper; it controls the internal and external lights, the water pump and the raising and lowering of the roof. Even though all terminals, wiring and connections are insulated, the wiring looks untidy and really needs to be fitted behind a shroud for protection. Under this seat is also where you will find the fire extinguisher. Not the most convenient of places when you need to access it in a hurry.
It appears that I may have left the best ’til last. For those that don’t mind ridding themselves of the day’s grit and grime, there’s a little something just for you. A full size internal ensuite takes pride of place in the rear off side corner, complete with a Thetford cassette toilet and shower. The best thing is, even for all you tall folk out there, you can mount the shower to the roof and get the top of your head wet.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I’m not going to deny that a 15ft hybrid camper at just a shade under $100k (with options) is a lot of money. But at the same time you’ve got to acknowledge the Australian-made build quality of this unit and how well it is fit for the purpose of serious offroad, off-grid touring.
At 2500kg max and with a pretty healthy payload of 760kg, this is one hybrid that will follow in the tracks of most 4WDs on the market today and could very well be your next dream making machine.
RhinoMax claim that their campers are “Built to go the Distance.” From what I’ve seen, I’d tend to agree.
Tare Weight 1740kg
Ball Weight 145kg
Suspension Cruisemaster XT All Terrain 2600kg independent coil spring suspension with twin shocks
Brakes 12” electric drum brakes
Coupling DO35 3500kg coupling
Chassis 150 x 50 x 3mm hot-dipped fully galvanised chassis with integrated draw bar
Body 30mm insulated fibreglass composite panel construction (frameless)
Wheels/tyres 265/70R17 All Terrains on 17in 6-stud Alloy Rims (can be matched to tow vehicle as an option) with single spare
Style Hybrid camper trailer
Length (Hybrid) 15 feet 1 inch (4.6m)
Length (Overall) 22 feet 8 inches (6.9m) including rear mounted spare wheel
Width 6 feet 6 inches (1.97m)
Travel Height 8 feet (2.44m)
Internal Height 6 feet 11 inches (2.1m)
Water 1 x 125L and 1 x 85L tanks (fresh); 1 x 85L tank (grey). Truma gas hot water service and internal vanity sink with hot/cold water
Kitchen External slide out with 3 burner gas stove, s/s sink with hot/cold mixer
Fridge EvaKool 85L
Gas 2 x 4kg
Battery 200Ah Lithium battery system, Solar 2 x 160W panels
Options fitted 200Ah lithium battery; diesel cabin heater 2000W inverter; multimedia entertainment system (HD digital TV with integrated DVD/USB player plus external Winegard antenna); EvaKool 85L Fridge; electric automatic roof opening system; Sirocco 12V internal fan; cargo/wood basket on front storage box; rear view camera
PRICE AS SHOWN
- Extremely quick set up with automatic actuators to raise and lower roof
- Plenty of storage, both inside and out
- Two year manufacturer’s warranty plus an extended five year chassis and suspension warranty
- Narrow width
- Offroad ability
- Water tank filler hoses running through electrical cupboard
- Fridge should be standard
- Location of fire extinguisher
Fit for intended purpose — 9
Innovation — 9
Self-sufficiency — 8.5
Quality of finish — 9
Build quality — 9
Offroad ability — 9
Comforts — 9
Ease of use — 9
Value for money — 8
X-Factor — 9
Address 9 Kerryl St, Kunda Park QLD 4556
Phone 07 5338 7240