Before Opus, camping without poles was like pole vault or pole dancing without poles — inconceivable. Nothing but an entrepreneurial pipe dream. Then, in an industry first, Opus introduced inflatable air beams, figuratively snapping the 20 to 40 poles you find in some other camper trailers on their knee.
Malcolm from Opus first encountered inflatable tech during his time in the army. Back in civvies again, he was in the airport with his cousin Jonathan, when the idea suddenly came to him. They found a napkin, procured a pen, and started jotting down a blueprint while the overhead speakers called out for late passengers. I imagine that napkin would auction for a fair bit now, a bit like an early Mickey Mouse sketch by Walt Disney.
Opus made one big change and for a long time now they’ve stuck with it. There’s no reason to tweak a winning formula. But there are a few smaller changes they’re making this year. They’ve moved HQ, for one. They’re still in Braeside but have shifted to a factory space four times as large. They’ll also be introducing a number of changes to their OP4 model (which I detail in this review), plus they’ll be launching the OP Lite, a scaled back version of the OP2. For now, let’s revisit their classic OP4.
UP IN A PUFF OF AIR
To set up, either keep the camper hitched to your vehicle (which is possible with most tow vehicles) or disconnect and chuck down the jockey wheel and four stabilisers. Drop down the rear spare holder and lay the metal bars that will support the rear fold on it. Unclip the front and rear fold along the sides and then unfold both, forward and back. Both are light and on powerful gas struts, so you might be able to do it with one arm, and definitely with two.
You then secure the forward and rear folds to the support bars at the rear and the stoneguard framework at the front. This keeps them in place and takes the weight off the hinges. Pull the four corners of the canvas over the edges and tighten up the four straps so they’re held there.
Then, go around and screw closed the five big valves on the tent’s air beams (and an additional seven if you have the annexe attached). You’ll have opened these to let the beams deflate on pack-down. After lifting the deflated annexe out, you turn on the power and press the inflate button. The in-built BRAVO BP12 Pump then begins to buzz. The end result is spectacular, but the process is not. It’s like watching grandma blow up a balloon. While the beams are inflating, burn a few minutes exploring your campsite or getting other things ready.
It takes three to five minutes with just the tent, seven to eight with the annexe. Once the pressure reaches 7psi, all that’s left is to encourage the annexe into proper position, peg in its corners and secure the guy ropes. Unlock the door, head inside, take the dinette’s backing cushions off the floorspace and velcro them in place, set up the table, and you’re done.
What a cakewalk. Not only is set-up quicker, it’s less involved. You press and forget, the work isn’t continual. Another rare advantage is that you can keep the annexe attached on packdown. Putting it on to start with involves velcro, a big zip and the feeding of kink-stopping springs into the air pipe that links the main beams and annexe, but once it’s on, it can stay on for good. The tent is weirdly windproof; the beams self-tension the canvas which is held on at the four corners. Packing down is just as easy.
The human mind suspects that anything inflatable is vulnerable to popping. It’s the baggage left behind by too many exploded balloons during childhood. But there’s good news. The air bladders (which make up the OP4’s structure) are protected within two layers of canvas. They have three years of warranty coverage. In the unlikely event there’s an issue, you can isolate the beams and put your finger on the culprit, then have the easily-fitted spare part sent to you out of Opus’s comprehensive spare parts library. If the issue occurs out of warranty, the biggest beam costs $130. The pump won’t pop the beams if there’s a kink; it stops at 7psi, rather than blowing out a specific quantity of air each time. If the pump fails, there’s a manual one you can use that inflates the beams even faster. Finally, Opus say no customers have had issues with the beams sagging or over-inflating with the extreme temperature fluctuations you can encounter over the course of the hot days and cold nights of the outback.
SERIOUSLY THICK SKIN
At 1,370kg Tare and 1,990kg ATM, the OP4 is a good 400kg lighter than many other forward and double folding campers, making the ball weight 140kg. That’s good for your fuel economy in remote country where the bowsers are few and far between, and makes it possible to hack it in harder and hillier conditions. Plus you might be able to manage in an AWD SUV. The camper is lighter because it has an aluminium frame with aluminium composite sandwich panelling filling in the gaps. Meanwhile a lot of folding campers are full steel or steel and aluminium. They say steel can take a whack better, but who wants their camper whacked, anyway? Not I.
Opus say they offer a five year warranty on structure and suspension which allows for offroad use “anywhere that is trafficable by a 4WD vehicle”. Their rep explained to me that they have a full-time engineer on staff who, whenever tweaks are proposed, draws up a plan and runs a Finite Element Analysis which shows a 3D drawing of the camper coloured like a Tie-Dye from the 70s, with different colours indicating what is sound structurally and what will encounter more strain under duress. If the idea turns out to be workable, the team then tweak and tweak until there’s barely any red.
Suspension is your standard independent trailing arm with dual shocks and coil springs, with a few points to make it unique. The trailing arm is retained from hyperextending by a heavy-duty strap, rather than a chain, which makes for a quieter offroad experience. Also, the handbrake is routed through eyelets welded to the chassis, so it’s not low-lying and is well and truly out of the way of suspension components.
A replaceable stoneguard protects the front box, while mud flaps and checkerplate protect the water tanks. The hitch is a polyblock rated to 3,000kg and there’s a breakaway system even though not legally necessary. 12” electric drum brakes bring the 235/75R15 Goodride Mud Terrain tyres to a stop. These tyres are about 3 to 4cm narrower than what you commonly find. I suppose there’s marginally less friction and reduced weight, but a reduced contact patch and less traction. They’re still about standard height so the ground clearance is retained. The steps are in the door so they don’t hang down at all.
GOING THE DISTANCE
The OP4 comes standard with two 100Ah batteries. These are incredibly easy to access from inside the camper. The main source of charge is made to be from a powerpoint or a generator, but you can also use a regulated portable solar panel or the car’s alternator via the front Anderson plug. Serious punters may consider adding a Projecta DC/DC 21A charger for $550 to ensure best possible 12V charging and to protect the camper’s batteries. You could also ask about an inverter because without one the 240V power points won’t work unless you’re plugged in at a powered site. The catch is that an inverter will drain your battery bank more quickly.
The two 9kg gas bottle holders up the front mean gas will last for ages. You plug in a bottle where it sits and the gas runs back to the outlets near the kitchen and showerhead. Water-wise, there’s two 80L tanks front and back underneath, with separate lockable fillers. Each is drained by its own 12V pump — one to the kitchen, one to the showerhead.
There’s a huge 620kg payload but as is common in this format of camper, storage space is not copious. The shorter side of the tunnel boot is free for use. Inside, there’s a long but thin and shallow compartment running behind the main dinette seats, plus more spacious underseat and other low-set storage around the place. When packed up, the floor is largely consumed by the dinette’s back seats, the camper tent, and annexe, so you can’t go overboard loading this with goods.
To make up for this Opus have added the option of a $999 roof rack that bolts onto the steel chassis and offers a 200kg payload. For those who want to bring more, having this installed is a good choice and still leaves 535kg of available payload.
LIVING IN CLASS
The sense of space and airiness inside the OP4 will lure all and sundry. It’s achieved by the curved architecture and abundance of windows, which you’ll find down the sides, the ends, and even in the ceiling, under the tropical fly. These have mesh, plastic and canvas layers, meaning you can enjoy the view without 50kph gusts whipping your dog-eared copy of The Barefoot Investor off the dinette table.
The U-shaped dinette, on the right as you enter, can easily host the four this camper is made to accommodate, with space to spare. The cushions are pleasantly soft and plush. You dine on an adjustable-height table that can also be used outside under the annexe.
On the opposite side of the floorspace to the dinette, the floor is similarly edged with the style of floor-bound rectangular storage you’d usually expect to find under seats. In one of these, to the left of the door, is a compartment for a Porta Potti. You can lift the lid, plus the side drops down, so the kids can use it as a toilet there when nature calls in the dead of night.
As a grown man I’d consider taking it outside myself, though you’d have to bring along a pop-up ensuite tent. This could then be used as a shower tent too, if you pay $299 to add a Kickass Hot Water System to the dedicated arm that swings out to near the showerhead and gas outlet. If you’re into the whole ensuite thing, the OP2 has one as standard.
Over both the rear and forward folds are 80mm memory foam double beds of east-west orientation. These are easily gained via a foot up on the dinette or low storage cupboards, and have velcro strips on the underside which hold them in place during pack-up. A set of straps can retain your bedding if you wish to keep it in place. You can separate these areas off with privacy pods, which are basically encloseable cotton shapes that clip into the ceiling and hang down. I’d have preferred a more simplistic arrangement that just dropped down and zipped closed, but to be fair the pods have a bit going for them. Putting them on requires you to attach seven clips and place the mattress inside the pod, but after initial set-up it can stay on forever. Kids may love the ‘play fort’ feel, both parties will appreciate the privacy, and parents will appreciate the ability to put the kids to bed and stay up.
The rear bed can be converted to a north-south king sized bed by laying down the backing cushions of the dinette and using an infill panel worth $299 to bridge the gap. There’s a big light switch near the door and two dimmer switches, one for inside and one for outside lighting. The inside lighting consists of circular lights around the footwell but can be expanded upon by the addition of an LED strip light kit for $120, which threads into plastic channels made for purpose on the ceiling. There’s a multi-media player with speakers on both sides of the dinette footwell and cigarette, DC and USB 12V plugs throughout.
The interior colour scheme is one of the things that is changing with the OP4 in 2020. Opus will be moving away from their traditional wood-grain with beige and maroon, as seen on our review model, to a more monochrome style. The rejigged OP4 will flaunt white laminate, grey cushions, and black hardware.
AMONG THE ELEMENTS
The living space blossoms out into the annexe when attached. This annexe can be closed off from the outside world with a floor and walls. The fridge slide comes out on the left and has room for a 61L Travelmate. But a new front box design Opus will be changing to soon will accommodate up to a 95L unit, while also adding a pantry. There’s tie down points on the slide for if you plan on taking on nasty tracks.
On the other side of the axle and door, the kitchen slide rolls out. It’s quite a big unit with four-burners, gigantic wind guards and a heavy stove grate. Extra working space extends from the end, a cutlery drawer slides out at the front, while closest to the camper body is the sink and a pop-up two-tier rack. Close at hand are 12V plugs and Nitto quick release fittings to plug into water and gas. Drainage is out of a pipe under the sink.
You can roll up the main walls of the camper’s tent body to create one big room and free interchange between the interior and annexe spaces.
The OP4 looks and feels like it’s worth more than $29,990. Pair this with what it can do and it's a real value for money proposition. It offers an ease of use that is unparalleled within its style, while actually being lighter and more offroad-ready than a lot of its counterparts. If you’ve got one or two kids, or if you and your partner regularly camp with another couple, the OP4 warrants a look in person. You’ve got to see it to believe it.