Cub Campers are one of the few sticklers for the venerable rear-fold camper design. As a business, they built their reputation on it, and only moved into forward-folds about four years ago. That forward-fold — the Frontier — has risen rapidly to be Cub’s most popular design, but that hasn’t stopped the company from continuing to fine-tune their existing models.
In fact, it’s that ongoing finessing of all their campers which makes the Cub story so pleasing. What was a range of workmanlike, functional campers that “did the job” has now become a range of very nicely finished and well thought-out models that go above and beyond, all while keeping a weather eye on the overall cost.
A prime example of this is the tried and true Explorer, a budget rear-fold design that’s been on the books for many years.
FUNDAMENTALS OF TOWING
The Explorer is part of Cub’s 2.2 metre series, which means it’s a little shorter than the others, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on features, and in fact it can be seen as something of an advantage. At that size it comes in at a very modest 764kg Tare, which means that even softroaders and small all wheel drive vehicles could haul it about with comfort, and behind a proper 4WD it’s essentially unnoticeable on even the slipperiest of surfaces. And being short in the body makes it highly manoeuvrable in tight country, such as woodlands or on narrow tracks.
The Explorer also comes with a 536kg load capacity, which ought to cover all that you’re likely to want to carry, and which gives it an ATM of 1300kg, so even fully loaded it won’t break the back of your tow vehicle. The ball weight, when empty, is just 105kg.
As with all Cub campers it sits on a 100 x 50 x 3mm Duragal drawbar and main chassis, with a dark grey hammertone paint. At least with the Duragal finish beneath the paint you know that stone chips won’t start a patch of surface rust. All the welding looks good and the drawbar continues right through to the back of the camper, where you will find dual recovery points.
You’re not going to find a trailing arm independent suspension underneath this camper. It rides on a five-leaf eye to eye AL-KO spring set, with custom made shock absorbers, on a 45mm beam axle. This, in my books, should not be counted as a negative; it assists in making that light weight possible and in keeping costs down, and it does a perfectly competent job on any surface. The brakes are 10in drums.
The camper rolls on six-stud 15 inch black steel rims shod with chunky mud terrain rubber.
At the front is an AL-KO offroad ball coupling which allows you the opportunity to use the standard 50mm ball you use for your boat or weekend box trailer. The AL-KO jockey wheel is removable, which makes for a long jockey wheel life due to less dust and grit exposure while driving, but it does mean you have to find a place to store or carry it when on the road.
The stoneguard is an excellent production. It’s secured by tek-screws across the top and bottom of the front frame and on either side is anchored by laced shock cord which makes it easy to gain access to gas bottles, jerry cans or other items stored on the drawbar.
There are carriers for two 20L jerry cans and one 4kg gas bottle as standard, but a second gas bottle carrier and bottle is optional. There’s plenty of spare room behind the stoneguard which could easily be adapted for carrying firewood or other dirty items (like ramps, wheel chocks, axes or shovels).
Also behind that stoneguard is Cub’s winch which assists in the opening and closing functions of the body/tent and also serves to shield the gas regulator.
Another example of those little touches of real thought having gone into these campers was the front white reflectors. Our trailer design regs require these to be located at very specific heights off the ground and alignment with the body. This generally results in the plastic reflectors being smashed beyond usefulness after any extended time offroad, but Cub has come up with a neat little pair of brackets which locate the reflectors off the rear mounting posts for the stoneguard at a point where they both comply with the regulations but provide a well shielded spot out of the direct line for stones coming off the rear wheels.
A GRAND TOUR OF THE OUTSIDE
The body is finished in a smart satin grey (called Basalt), blue and black which ought to live very well with dust and dirt.
The front box is made from Cub’s characteristic checkerplate aluminium, with clear anodising over the front and top and the satin black doors at each end. The latter look good but would be inclined to add to heat problems for the contained fridge so would be well to be included with some insulation on the insides.
The kitchen side has a door which tilts up, with gas strut assistance, creating access to the fridge slide. The provided space will cater for up to a 47L Evakool. The fridge as seen in our photos is not included in the price. Access to the drawer is also via a single release tab which is handy if you have something in your hands to return to the fridge.
Also inside this box are an Anderson plug to power the fridge, the crank handles for the stabiliser legs and the provided jack. The latter is a great provision, as many campers come with nothing in this line and owners only discover that their vehicle jack doesn’t really work with the camper after they get a flat.
The driver’s side of the camper has a horizontally swinging access door to the 860 x 610 x 520mm storage space behind the fridge.
On the driver’s side of the camper behind the front box is an access to the electrical components. This again is neatly finished, right down to the 3cm wide strip of carpeting along the inner lip inside the door which in the past would have remained as a bare floor.
Further back are the tank filler and the 240 volt mains input, and the back of the camper is clean, with no doored access to the interior. Underneath the rear are the spare wheel and the pair of stabiliser legs. There’s an argument that these back legs are unnecessary because when the camper is set up, the four legs for the rear fold-over floor sit firmly — or should do — on the ground, preventing any motion of the camper and its suspension.
The kitchen slides out from beneath the front of the bed. It has supporting legs which fold down from underneath, but for short-term use, such as a roadside cuppa, it’s perfectly stable without. The kitchen is retained in the body by an overcentre clip and locked out by the simple application of a deadbolt. At 1115 x 450mm there’s not much spare bench space after you deduct the requirements of the two-burner Dometic stove and the stainless sink, but it does look smart in its Rimex stainless steel finish.
Rimex is a manufacturer of a cold rolled stainless steel that was developed for the food and catering industry. The dimpled surface means that there are no long scratches that can hold bacteria, but for we camper trailer enthusiasts it means all the wear — which stainless steel gradually accumulates — is confined to the apex of each little dimple, leaving the surface looking good long after it was installed. There are only a couple of camper manufacturers using this.
Both the stove and sink have fold-up glass covers, which provide some temporary extensions to bench space, but you’re almost certain to require the use of the 900 x 260mm stainless side shelf, which with the Explorer is an option. It’s well worth adding to the package.
Also new in the Explorer this year is the flick mixer tap replacing the manual pump of the past.
There is one large (550 x 380mm) carpeted drawer and one small (180 x 360mm) carpeted drawer for your crockery and cutlery, and an excellent slot-in wind guard to shield the stove, plus Cub’s neat little bottle opener (a must, if you ask us) on the end.
On the front side of the kitchen is a hinged access to a stowage space where the gas and water connections travel. These are then connected to the services in a utilities port underneath the fridge box. Also included is a fitting which permits you to bypass the tanks and plug into mains water, say, in a camping ground, to use their water.
On the rear side of the kitchen is a good sized 1110 x 200 x 160mm deep pantry drawer. It won’t handle tall items unless laid down — which might be a problem with some bottles — but it is handily placed and would suit most users.
THE ELECTRICAL WHIZZ KID OF 2020
Our review Explorer came with a single 105Ah AGM battery (a second is an optional extra). This was mounted under the flip-up bed base, but without any cover — something which has always made me uneasy with Cubs as there remains the potential for something to accidentally bridge across the terminals and start an electrical meltdown, though Cub say they’ve never, in their fifty years of manufacturing, had such an incident.
Power comes in via a drawbar Anderson plug excellently wired with 6B&S cable, so voltage drop would be minimal. The mains power input on our camper was modulated by a 25 amp Projecta IC2510 three-stage 240V charger, in addition to the standard Projecta IDC25 DC-DC charger, which had features to sustain maximum charging rates for your camper’s battery, will work with AGM, gel, calcium and wet cell storage, and acts as a regulator for your solar. Input for the solar is via an Anderson plug under the floor on the driver’s side. There is a six-circuit fuse box, 15A mains input and external output and dual internal outlets, with an RCD safety switch and the IC2510 remote head to act as a battery monitor.
This charger/monitor set-up is part of the Power Pack option installed on our review camper, which also added a water tank gauge, bedside reading lights and USB ports.
There are two 12V outlets at the foot of the bed, one Merit and one cigarette plug, two external Narva outlets at the kitchen and an LED strip light for the interior, with a dimmer switch, and two excellent bedside reading lights, again with USB charging points at their base.
For water there is a heavy-duty poly 80L water tank and a tank gauge. An optional extra is a second tank, which would be highly desirable if you’re planning longer trips. The 10L/min water pump was mounted to the floor underneath and well shielded by a sturdy checkerplate shield, much better than some we have seen where the pump was mounted to the shield and would be the first thing ripped off if that shield came under any stress.
WHAT GOES DOWN MUST COME UP
The tent is easy to set up. Simply undo the four overcentre latches around the body, back off some slack on the winch strap and give the body top a gentle upward nudge and let the gas struts do their job. From there it’s simply a matter of playing out the winch strap and watching the body fold over. Once the tent is out, simply extend the rear loop of the tent box, raise the entry-side hoop position and insert the two rear uprights in the tent after adjusting the extension of the four feet under the floor.
This reviewer has seen an individual open out a Cub camper in under two minutes from scratch, and a couple do it in one minute 40 seconds, so even in rain you could be in shelter before you were too wet. Of course, that was in a scramble situation, but even doing it one-handed in a casual and easy manner was simply a matter of five minutes or so.
Then all you have to do is tie off the occy strap loops around the body skirt. Our review camper came with an optional draught skirt, but we found it was a poor fit on the press studs along the body, though it still functioned. The day we were doing these set-ups it was windy and overcast and it still did the job.
UNDERNEATH THE ARCHES
The 2130 x 1350mm bed (roughly double width and super king length) is 100mm medium density foam, though again there is a pocket spring option if you need it. On the drop wall at the foot of the bed, when the camper is open, are two small down lights which provide a soft lighting to guide you in and out for those late night trips of necessity.
Under the bed is a roomy carpeted storage space, and there is room on top of the bed for a few larger flat items, such as chairs or fold-up table. Unless you choose the optional pole carrier you will have to carry some tent poles internally, either alongside the bed or underneath it. The spaces down each side of the bed are handy for carrying all manner of small items.
Around the bed are three large windows with midgy screens and internal covers, plus there is one opposite the entry door and a very large one at the end of the fold-over floor. The latter has an external cover which can be rolled up or extended out the back on two poles for some added shade on hot days. A tropical roof is optional, but if you plan on travelling on hot days you will need one.
All the canvas is CNC-cut 100 per cent Australian made Wax Converters Dynaproof, and you can’t get better than that. The weight is 10 ounce on the roof and 8 ounce in the walls; lighter than the old 12 and 10 ounce rules but perfectly functional if using quality canvas and a major saving in weight and ease of management.
Internally the rear floor is 2230 x 1700mm, with an easy clean vinyl covering, making it a practical place for a couple of kids to sleep or to set up an internal table for meals away from the weather or insects.
A SHELTERED UPBRINGING
The Explorer comes standard with an unusual awning (Cub’s Extended Easy Awning) as standard. In one format it leaves the main entry door uncovered, and extends forwards from there to as far as the front of the drawbar. This gives ample cover to the kitchen and fridge — the latter often left unsheltered in many campers — which ought to be the principal area of cover, and if the rolled up external canvas door for the large rear entry is extended out with a couple of poles and added in you do get cover all the way to the back of the camper. Alternatively it can be moved back to cover the camper from the back of the entry door forward to over the kitchen, and it can be fitted to either side of the camper along a Velcro strip running the length of the main tent.
That awning goes up with just four poles, and it has a large clear window in it that is directly above the kitchen/fridge area, so you get plenty of useful light over that vital area, though probably a little too much heat as well on hot days.
There are no walls supplied with the awning but it would be recommended that you get a few as options so it’s still useful in slanting rain. An upgrade to the deluxe awning is required to fit walls.
When we took our Explorer out for photography we discovered that the previous user had not put the awning back in the pack and so our set up was as it would be for an overnight camp stop.
EXTENDING THE OFFERING
There is quite a range of options available for the Explorer. Some we’ve mentioned, but others include the rear utility rack and spare wheel mounting as part of the Adventure Pack (which all up adds 143kg to the weight of the camper when the second tank is full, and will impact the ball weight), an external LED strip light and pole carrier.
You can get different awnings, mesh as well as canvas walls and doors for the awning, a thermal blanket, plastic windows, hot dip galvanizing, an under-bed light, a fridge box rack, mud flaps, a DO-35 or Trigg coupling, the fridge (as photographed), an extra gas bayonet for an exterior gas oven, brackets for carrying various extras (outboard motor, bikes, and so on), a drawbar hand pump or TV coaxial outlet, and more.
However, we think you’d be adding a fair bit to the weight and eating up your load capacity if you ticked too many options.
The Cub Explorer is, like all the Cub range these days, a well thought out and nicely finished camper that will take you pretty much anywhere. It’s a well-balanced package of what you need versus what you might like to have.
The price at $25,460 as tested is pretty good for an all-Australian deal that will take you to your all-Australian destinations, wherever they may be. There are no serious failings, just a few “druthers”, and many sounds of satisfaction as you crawl around this now classy camper.
Rear-fold camper? If it is a Cub, whether the Explorer or any other model, then take your time to look closely. We think you’ll be as impressed as we were.
Suspension Five-leaf AL-KO eye to eye
Brakes 10in drum
Coupling AL-KO offroad ball
Chassis 100 x 50 x 3mm Duragal
Drawbar 100 x 50 x 3mm Duragal
Body Zincanneal, front box aluminium
Wheels 6-stud 15in steel
Tyres Mud terrain
Body size 1700 x 2850mm
Awning size 4000 x 2000mm
Gas cylinders 1 x 4kg
Cooktop Two-burner Dometic
Kitchen Stainless steel with zincanneal drawers
Battery 1 x 105Ah AGM
Options fitted Bedside reading lights and associated USB ports, draught skirt, water tank gauge, battery monitor
PRICE AS TESTED
Address 23 Loyalty Road, North Rocks, NSW 2151
Phone 1300 226 746