It’s near-on impossible to write anything without first mentioning the demon scourge. As we all know, a microscopic germ has brought mankind to a standstill. Everywhere; on news websites, TV news broadcasts, emails sent to inboxes from, well, everyone, the reviled microbe dominates everything. No-one can go anywhere with anyone. Even the footy has ceased to be.
When Camper and the team at MARS were preparing to review the Endurance Lifestyle, news had just started trickling-in on the pervasiveness of COVID-19. We assumed, like many, given the early information on what the viral plague meant to the world, that a camper would, naturally, be custom-made for those wanting to get away somewhere remote; a perfect vehicle in which to self-isolate. But, as we all now know; as we have all heard umpteen times from every leader under the sun, “it’s a fast moving situation”. Fast moving? They’re not wrong.
It’s a day-by-day, week-by-week proposition. Scrap that, it’s an hour-by-hour proposition. Psychologically, this is perhaps the most difficult mental adjustment to make. What’s true today could well be flipped on its head tomorrow. The only thing that’s certain is that the health and safety of Earth’s entire human population is the paramount concern. Tourism and anything associated with remote adventuring has been put on the back-burner as we navigate the weirdness of something completely unseen. Indeed, at the moment, it’s the only concern. Everything else: the global economy, school, work, is a secondary concern. I tap these words from my kitchen table nestled up alongside my fruit bowl. What a strange preface to include in any piece of writing, let alone in a review about a camper.
As we are all in a sort of quasi self-imposed hibernation until this thing passes, what we write during the phase we’re now all in is intended to convey what we should, or could, look forward to post-COVID-19. It’s important to realise that there will be a post COVID-19 time and that this, hopefully, will be sooner rather than later.
Which brings us to the sparky, no-stone-left-unturned MARS Endurance Lifestyle. It’s similar to the standard Endurance but a little pared-back from that which wowed the judges at the recent Camper Trailer of the Year. And because it’s pared back, it’s a little lighter on the wallet. In paring-back, MARS haven’t really diminished the overall impact of the Endurance, rather they have conducted an intelligent design edit, removing attributes that may not be required. The awning, for instance, isn’t as ample as the one that’s in the standard Endurance.
Everything including the kitchen sink
Getting every single Aussie to better appreciate the world outside by introducing them to the joys of offroad camping is a guiding principle of MARS. Offroad remote camping is a core capability requirement, not just for the Endurance Lifestyle, but for every camper in the MARS stable. Their campers, basically, are designed and built to enable access to pristine remote camping locations way off the beaten track, without — and here’s the kicker — setting you back a mountain of cash.
The MARS approach is to entice Australians to take up remote camping by appealing to their sense of value. And the value inherent in MARS’ campers, such as the Endurance Lifestyle, becomes apparent in more ways than simply at the cash register. The Endurance Lifestyle comes with every camper attribute you can think of: stainless steel slide-out kitchen, impressive offroad-ability, ample living space, ample storage space and everything else. A generous array of included features are a defining characteristic of a MARS camper. What this boils down to in the Endurance Lifestyle is a camper with the same bells and whistles as a similarly attributed model but for a far more attractive price-point. You could pay twice as much for a camper with similar features.
There are more affordable campers, for sure, but MARS offer campers that don’t hold back on included features. Lesser-priced campers do not come close to MARS in terms of what you get for your hard-earned cash.
As the testing process proceeded, the kitchen scrutinised, the awning fiddled with and the interior bunk and dinette configuration pondered, what impressed me from the outset, aside from the amount and range of features that MARS have managed to fit into the Endurance Lifestyle, but also the solid quality of the features. Nothing has been left out but also, everything works and looks good.
Blood and guts
So, yes, as many of you reading will no doubt already understand, MARS are a camper manufacturer renowned for their value. But in the case of the Endurance Lifestyle, what do you get for your 20-odd grand?
Once we’re rid of the damned coronavirus scourge, having a MARS Endurance Lifestyle in the driveway, ready to roll, will look increasingly delightful as you peer at it from behind the curtains. What a tantalising prospect for anyone with a severe dose of cabin fever. I mean, a skateboard would look good after six months if this weird self-isolation routine goes that long, but can you imagine a fully-bling MARS Endurance Lifestyle sitting there, waiting? You beauty!
With an attractive tare weight of 1650kg, and a fully-loaded ATM of 2200kg, the MARS Endurance Lifestyle has room for about a half tonne of load. Yeeha, grandma! Bring your spinning wheel. A quick look underneath reveals coil spring independent trailing arm suspension with independent shocks, 12” electric brakes and for safety peace-of-mind, a brakeaway system.
Up front, the Endurance Lifestyle hitches to the towball via a McHitch 3.5 tonne offroad hitch and tow pin.
The whole deal is built from the ground up with hot-dipped galvanised 4mm steel with the main body comprising super-light, super-robust zincanneal exterior panels. The unit is shod in two 16' alloy offroad boots with a third spare attached to the rear.
Once at camp, the Endurance Lifestyle arranges in less than eight minutes, with an ergonomic and straightforward heavy-duty waterproof double-stitched canvas tent that sets up without undue fuss. As is the case with all folding campers, a quick run-through of the set-up process will have you au-fait with efficient technique in no time. For durability, the tent is manufactured with reinforced stress points. The package includes a complete annex room and ensuite.
Perhaps the best piece of advice you’ll receive in regards to the tent and pole system on rear or forward folding campers is to complete a run-through of the set-up before embarking on your initial adventure. The more times you’ve run through the set-up and pack-down process, the easier and more straightforward it will become. Eventually you’ll be able to do it in your sleep. Indeed, after longer journeys, you probably will set things up in your sleep.
In short: don’t be put off by canvas. Basic practise makes perfect.
Once you’ve sampled the sheer bliss of a perfect remote campsite, settled-in under the cool shade of an awning with a fully-serviced kitchen, fridge-freezer and BMS control panel at your finger-tips, it’ll be hard to go back to the big smoke. The Endurance Lifestyles outdoor living area is, in simple terms, easy and delightful to use. Loads of bench and storage space, all of which is immediately accessible. All you need to do is rise from your camp chair, wander two or three steps and you’re ready to start boiling a billy of tea or retrieve an ice-cold stubby. Everywhere at arm’s reach are a myriad of pantry food storage lockers, ample food preparation bench space and handy access to a BMS control panel, 21” TV and sound system. Basically the process is: locate blissful campsite, park, spend a lazy 10 minutes erecting the tent and awning, slide out kitchen and fridge/freezer, retrieve camp chairs from storage locker, kick back and begin your camping holiday.
Speak with the people at MARS
For all the value and feature-laden attractions of a MARS camper, perhaps it’s their after-sales customer service of which they are most proud. MARS have an enviable reputation of responding to customer queries in a productive and results-orientated manner. This part of the MARS package is very important to them.
Developing clear customer to manufacturer understanding is crucial to MARS. They see it as one of their core responsibilities. They genuinely want to understand why each potential customer has decided to purchase one of their products. If you opt for an Endurance Lifestyle, for instance, they’ll sit down for a chat and offer advice on how to maximise your time in the Outback aboard your Endurance Lifestyle.
Should you buy one?
The MARS Endurance Lifestyle is among the most value-packed and affordable campers in the market. While there are some that perform better offroad and others that are a little funkier inside, the Endurance Lifestyle fits the bill across a wider variety of adventures than just about all others in its category.
It’s well-designed, everything works well and looks good — from the workflow of the outdoor living area, the free-space storage volume to the generously proportioned sleeping area
It’s a classic forward-fold built around a few core functionalities. It has super offroad suspension, has all the towing hardware and capability you need for any remote camping trip and excellent outdoor living courtesy of its generous included features.
All this for a tick over 20 grand. If you’re preparing for a more adventurous life post-corona, you could do a lot worse than ringing up the team at MARS and having one delivered to your driveway. Give them a ring, I’m sure they’d be happy to discuss ways to help deal with self-imposed cabin fever blues.