When heading away camping for a weekend, a week or longer, it would be great to be able to guarantee sun-filled skies, warm days and crisp evenings sitting around the campfire. But alas, we cannot.
It's the same when we head out to review the latest and greatest campers that are hitting the market. Lately, due to the lack of rain that we have been experiencing in South East Queensland, the sun-filled skies part of the equation has been easy to take care of.
The warm days have been like sitting in a sauna with high temps and equally high humidity. Crisp evenings around a campfire? Well, you can forget about that due to the near blanket fire bans across not only Queensland, but the entire country.
When it came time to organise a day to take the Odyssey Series II from Australian Off Road out for a trial, the last thing I was thinking about was the possibility of having to postpone due to the chance of localised flooding on the Sunshine Coast!
Thankfully, the flooding didn't eventuate, but we were ducking and diving from persistent showers that continued throughout our test. The good thing is, though, I did get a pretty good understanding of just how quick and easy the Odyssey is to set up when the elements are conspiring against you.
Those who have been around the traps for a while will no doubt know the name, Australian Off Road. AOR was founded back in 2000 when owner Steve Budden started to build the first series of Odyssey hard-floor campers in his carport.
From there, the business has continued to grow, with larger premises continually being required to house the expanding range of trailers and staff.
These days, AOR employs over 80 people and is housed in a purpose-built factory at Caloundra which is home to a range of nine different models.
The latest incarnation of the Odyssey marque still resonates with its original core principles; call it a modern day equivalent equipped with modern day technologies. It's a compact, relatively lightweight camper, with fantastic offroad credentials that can be towed by a mid-sized four-wheel drive.
HITTING THE ROAD
After a tour of the factory, where pretty much everything except the powder coating of the chassis is done, it was time to reverse my ute and hitch up the Odyssey. Now, to be perfectly honest, my ute isn't set up for towing. My rear spring rate is quite soft, which allows for maximum articulation offroad.
Thankfully, the Odyssey only has an (unladen) ball weight of 108kg, and with the DO35 hitch set pretty close to the AOR preferred height of 500mm, it was plain sailing. If you were purchasing an Odyssey and you did have a tray back ute, I would highly recommend paying the extra and getting an extended drawbar. It just makes those tight corners and manoeuvres that little bit easier.
With the camper hitched up, we rolled out of AOR HQ bound for the Bruce Highway and the 110 zone. While we didn't quite manage to hit the buck ten due to the very wet conditions, I can confidently say that highway cruising speeds would not be a problem for this well-balanced trailer.
My biggest issue while towing was making sure that it was still there, the narrow overall width of only 1950mm being narrower than the canopy on my ute. This is nothing that a pair of larger mirrors wouldn't fix, while the narrower width means you can drag it down tighter tracks when the going gets tough.
When the day is done and it's time to set up camp, hybrid and hard body campers come into a world of their own. Set-up times are generally in the single figures, and even quicker if you're not worrying about detaching from the tow vehicle.
The Odyssey is no exception to this rule. And on a day like we had for our test, when the heavens could — and did — open up at any minute, you'll be super thankful that you won't be running around setting up canvas tents and pegging down guy ropes in the rain.
A cosy and dry place to cook and sleep is ready to go with the unlatching of four external clips (one on each corner) before stepping inside and raising the pop-top fibreglass roof. This is done by way of a gas strut assisted, cantilevered scissor spring mechanism. Popping the roof gives you plenty of headroom, while four large screened windows provide both natural light and cross-ventilation.
Considering the internal dimensions of the Odyssey are only 3.6m x 1.9m x 2.34m, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in a much bigger space due to what AOR have managed to shoehorn inside. Now, when you think of the term 'shoehorn', you are probably thinking that there's no space left for anything else and that it's tight and pokey.
Au contraire, the interior of the Odyssey feels incredibly roomy. Spacious even, considering that there is a queen-sized bed up front, a lounge/dinette area that seats four, a stainless steel sink plumbed with hot and cold water, as well as a three-burner gas cooktop, there is plenty of room to move about.
Depending on your requirements, there is both a 'day mode' and a 'night mode' for the interior. In 'day mode', the front-hinged bed can be raised and held in place by gas struts. With the bed up, hidden storage compartments are revealed underneath, with access via a hinged lid, which is held open by a simple bungee cord. An ideal space for your clothing to be kept.
Day mode also allows full access to the four-seater lounge. The table is stored beneath the offside seat, along with the Truma HWS, water pump and water filtration system, and the REDARC 1,000W inverter.
Under the passenger side seat, you will find the electrical heart of the Odyssey. Two 120Ah AGM batteries will keep everything powered for days, especially when they are backed up by twin 150W solar panels on the roof. A REDARC Manager30 BMS looks after all the charging and maintenance of your 12V system (all 2020 onwards models will feature the Finscan PowerCORE 30 BMS). An optional lithium battery upgrade is available upon request.
'Night mode' has the bed folded down in the sleep or travel position, but still allows for seating for two in the lounge/dinette. Large, double glazed windows, with midgee proof screens and black-out blinds on either side, provide the occupants with views from bed, while letting the breeze pass through and keeping the mosquitos out.
A single 12V Sirocco fan helps when the breeze dies down, and you can always option the Odyssey with a second fan or air conditioning if you so choose. If I'm being really picky, I will deduct half a point from my overall score due to the wiring up of the fan. Surely in such a well thought out design like this camper certainly is, that there is a better way to power the fan than via a plug into a 12V cigarette socket?
When in either day or night mode, the rear kitchenette is fully accessible, giving you the option at all times to cook inside. There is a heap of storage space with cupboards and soft-close drawers located below the cooktop and sink. A 130L Vitrifrigo fridge/freezer (optional upgrade) is also located beneath the bench next to the entry door. Cleverly, the fridge is hinged on the left allowing for easy access to the contents, even from outside.
We all know that when we head away camping, we want to spend as much time as possible outside, enjoying the fresh air without the constraints of four walls. Well, you'll be happy to know that the Odyssey delivers on this front as well. Not that you’d really want to be out there on a day like this!
First up you've got the Thule Omnistor manual wind-out awning which is just so quick and easy to set up. There's enough room out of the sun and the rain for a couple of camp chairs underneath, even with the kitchen fully set up.
Speaking of the external kitchen, it is a cracker. It's a fully stainless steel unit, and you can quite clearly see that a lot of thought has gone into its construction. Sliding out of the side of the camper forward of the wheel arch, the kitchen does its own impersonation of a transformer.
A full-length benchtop slides forward of the main unit revealing the three-burner gas cooktop and plumbed sink, while another benchtop clips onto the side of the camper creating a complete 'L-shaped' kitchen with an abundance of prep and cooking areas.
An oversized drawer with divider pulls out from beneath the cooking area, providing you with more than enough room for all of your cutlery and cooking utensils. Two larger compartments reside to the right of the gas cooktop and could be used as either a pantry or for storage of your pots and pans.
For those of you that don't mind a quick wash when you're on the road, you're in luck. Hidden behind a lift-up hatch on the rear of the camper is an ensuite shower/toilet tent. Simple and easy to use, it sets up in seconds. Conveniently located hot and cold taps provide the wet stuff via a removable shower rose.
The shower pod has its own LED light for after-dark use and it is here again that I'll deduct another half a point from my score. This light suffers from the same affliction as the internal fan, with an unsightly black cigarette socket and 12V outlet. It looks like an afterthought, as though it just doesn't belong.
External storage is taken care of by a full-width tunnel boot. A portable toilet is housed on the drivers' side, leaving plenty of room for your camp chairs or other bulky items.
Up the pointy end, large aluminium stone deflectors protect the twin 4.5kg gas bottles and a pair of 20L jerry cans, while the single spare wheel tucks neatly between. An ARK HD jockey wheel, water tap and Anderson plug are also located on the drawbar.
Without a doubt, crawling around underneath these trailers is the worst part of the review. Especially when everything is wet and muddy. Luckily, I bring my own tarp to lie on so I can truly go over every component of a build with a fine-tooth comb.
AOR gets high marks for their attention to detail; not only in easily viewed and accessed areas but also where it's not so easy. You see, they have to, as each trailer is smoke tested before it leaves the factory. Even the smallest hole will let the smoke out, and if it lets the smoke out, it will let dust in. AOR claim that their builds are 100 per cent dustproof, and while we didn't have any dust on our test day, this level of testing should hold them in good stead.
A proven, 2,500kg rated independent suspension system with King springs and twin shocks handles the punishment dealt out by endless corrugations and rutted tracks of the Australian outback. Gas, plumbing and electrical lines are either run through chassis rails where possible or through protective convolute as far out of harm's way as possible.
The 140L food grade poly water tank is protected by a zincalume bash guard, as are the John Guest fittings and filler hoses. If you were looking to venture further afield, a secondary 140L water tank would be an ideal upgrade. With a standard payload of between 560 and 600kg, you'll still struggle to overload this trailer even after losing 140kg to extra water storage.
Interestingly, the chassis, drawbar and frame of the Odyssey (and all AOR trailers) isn't hot-dipped galvanised. AOR use Supagal high tensile steel which is powder-coated, saving up to 30kg on some of their larger trailers. The heavy lifting is done by a 150 x 50mm chassis and full-length drawbar, while weight is saved elsewhere in the frame, by utilising 50 x 25mm and 25 x 25mm box section in non-structural or load-bearing areas.
THE FINAL WORD
The Odyssey is an ideal camper for couples that are looking for a quality, Australian-made product that is built to perform on our rugged outback tracks. It's able to soak up hundreds of kilometres of corrugations, or traverse a high country trail, and still provide you with a quick and easy set-up with just the right amount of creature comforts.
Match that with a company that prides itself on its warranty and after sales service, as well as a very active online community and a product that holds its value on the second and even third hand market, and you are onto a winner.