Any successful camper manufacturer — as with anyone in business — listens to their customer base. And, for any manufacturer, the experience that irks the most is watching a potential customer walk away because you have nothing to offer in the type of camper they’re seeking. And so it was — and is — with Cub.
The constant refrain from Cub’s salespeople after camper shows was that they had to watch customers for doublefold campers walk off because the company had nothing to meet that need. Cub had made the plunge into forwardfold designs with the very successful Frontier, “So how come we don’t have a doublefold?”
Nobody had an answer, so work began. There was over 12 months of design and planning before the first components for the new camper sprang to life — though the disruptions that arose from COVID-19 created plenty of time to work on new projects.
The name for the new camper was settled on while two senior executives were enjoying a coffee near a restored model of one of the company’s foundation models, the Drifter. This was the camper on which Cub built a serious reputation in the 1970s and ‘80s, and it seemed to echo the aspirations for the new model, so the Drifter II it became.
One of the great advantages of not being the first in any new field is that you can benefit from the shortcomings of others, and Cub went into its doublefold planning with some very definite targets — enhanced storage, manageable ball weight, lower tare and functional ease in setting up, all areas they saw as problems in designs offered by the opposition.
The tare of 1390kg is way ahead of all the other doublefolds in the Drifter’s size range, some of which can exceed 2000kg tare. There are a number of ‘mini doublefolds’ — which are probably too small for family use — that are slightly lighter, but the Drifter is a big camper. The load capacity is 590kg for an ATM of 1900kg (optionally increasable to 1950kg).
At 1710mm high it’s tall, and this adds weight, but that extra height means the secondary bed can fold in neatly and still retain room for storage on the beds or internal seating. The internal seats provide real storage space beneath the cushions, not shallow slots that hardly carry anything. And their backs are comfortable, with decent support.
At 1950mm wide the Drifter is generally bigger many imported campers, which are often limited to around 1400mm by the constraints of a shipping container. And campers that are wider are usually 300kg, or more, heavier.
Ball weight, which can reach up to 160–180kg or more when the trailer is empty can, when fully loaded, be pushing maximum load capacity. Cub’s designs resulted in a ball weight of around 145kg.
And the functionality? Well, they hit that bullseye with unerring accuracy, but we’ll get to that later.
The Drifter is built on an all-new chassis design, which has flowed on to other Cub models. The 100 x 50mm frame follows a 150 x 50mm drawbar all in pre-galvanised Australian steel. The suspension is Cub’s own twin shock trailing arm design, with 12in electric drums mounting 17in black alloy rims (with a steel spare — an alloy spare is optional) and 265/65R17 mud terrain tyres. It’s a sturdy, well executed basis for any offroad camper.
There are two sturdy tow points at the rear.
An option is a 400mm longer drawbar for those wishing to tow with a tray back vehicle or others requiring the extra reach.
The standard hitch is an AL-KO offroad coupling, but the popular DO35 and other hitches are options. Cub’s excellent stone guard sits above two stone flaps and around two supplied 4kg gas cylinders, a manual water pump, the gas regulator and dual jerry can holders. There’s room to spare for other bulky
or dirty items.
Behind is the large front box, surmounted by an alloy cargo tray. The tray has tie-downs on both sides but could do with some form of base to prevent the painted alloy sheet of the box below becoming badly scratched.
The top of the main body has also been finished in clear finish checkerplate aluminium, and with tie-down points along each side, it
can be also used as a carrying point for all manner of items.
The box structure looks sturdy, with all hatch doorframes bonded into place for a clean and smart finish. And the whole box — as well as the body — is finished in the Emerald Green paint that is standard on the Drifter, rather than being left unfinished as in the past. The latter looks good when new, but after a couple of years oxidation gives it a dull, weathered aluminium look. If you don’t like the green then there is a choice of eight other possible colours to give your camper a personal touch.
A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING
On the driver’s side of the box is a small, 460mm deep box behind the pantry drawer and a long cross-camper tunnel for poles and other long items, in front of a larger 840mm deeper storage box that would carry all your canvas and plenty more besides.
The passenger’s side of the front box has, below the cross-camper tunnel, a 1350 x 275mm wide x 290mm high pantry drawer. Behind this is a vast fridge storage box with slide that will handle up to a 95L Dometic or 110L Evakool. Additionally, here live the handles for the four stabiliser legs and the supplied jack.
The kitchen is at the back of the camper. Cubs now have a large easily operated lock/unlock handle that secures the kitchen both in and out. It comes with a single leg beneath the main body of the kitchen and a pair of legs beneath the fold-over extension, a minor nuisance but easily accommodated.
This is the new ‘standard’ Cub kitchen with a stainless Rimex hospitality grade stainless steel top, which greatly diminished surface scratching and looks good for longer. It has two drawers to accommodate cutlery and cooking utensils, a plug-in light, glass topped sink with plumbed hot and cold water and three-burner cooker. The supplied slot-in wind-guard for the stove is neatly done and there are two adjacent 12V plugs for ancillary utensils. All services (gas, water and electricity) need to be manually plugged in at set-up and the single stalk light is a bit underdone for a whole meal preparation.
There is a mains pressure water adaptor supplied as standard for the kitchen to save your tank water where possible. Along the camper side, between the kitchen and the entry door, are mounting brackets for the optional stainless steel side shelf that is a very handy addition.
Neatly, the vinyl flooring for the camper interior continues through the kitchen box, which makes for a tidy finish.
Opposite the kitchen is Cub’s standard electronics setup, with the two 105Ah AGM batteries sitting behind the Projecta 25A mains charger and 25A DC-DC charger, all in a neat slide-out package. Also here are the CRD circuit breaker, fuse panel, battery voltage read-out, dual water-tank level and Truma heater control. A nice touch is the use of 6B&S cable to the drawbar Anderson plug for optimum current flow from the alternator.
Options here include inverters or a Redarc 30A battery management system.
There are two water tanks as standard, a single 100L at the rear and smaller 80L in front of the axle. Both are heavy duty poly, so don’t need any guard, though our review camper had optional ones in place.
The tanks are hooked up to a Truma Ultra Rapid gas heater, which feeds both the kitchen and a shower outlet on the driver’s side. If you don’t want this feature you have to actually option it out. This can also be optioned up to serve as a space heater.
Access to the interior is via a slide-out side step in front of the passenger’s side wheel. Cub discovered in testing that this can suffer from stone damage on rough tracks, so the fitting now comes with its own mud flap in front, which has resolved the problem.
The set-up of the tent is one area which can become a major headache with some campers, but Cub’s focus on resolving this has proven to be a worthwhile investment (see breakout 'Getting your priorities right').
The interior, when set-up, is roomy, bright and pleasant. With the zip-out side wall and windows there’s a feeling of expansiveness and light. There are nine windows and other than the one above the main bedhead, which has a clear outer, each is fitted with midgy screens.
Three windows have external awnings which again show Cub reinventing the wheel. The standard solution involves spring-steel awning supports that need to be bent in considerable tension to do the job but are under such pressure that they represent a danger when inserting or removing. Lose your grip on one and you’re likely to receive a damaging smack in the face, as this writer can attest. Cub’s solution is a flat steel pair of bars for each awning which requires little in the way of bending to sustain tension, making for a much safer solution.
Each awning comes with a separately attachable pair of gussets which can be inserted if needed, or left out to enhance air flow. There is even a pair of small windows at the peak of the tent to permit heat to escape or capture cooling breezes from any angle.
The three bench seats are comfy, with good height backs (thanks to the high sides) and good width. They are finished in microfibre leather and can be in any of up to eight colours. They are high enough off the floor so that you aren’t essentially squatting and provide plenty of storage underneath. Our only complaint was that the backs tended to flop around a bit as they weren’t secured to the sides, but that’s apparently already resolved, with Velcro strips to secure them in position on future models.
In the centre is a good-sized pop-up pedestal table that rises to the required height by pressing a button on the floor adjacent to the centre post. The table can rotate and be moved laterally in all directions to enhance its position according to needs.
The front bed is a pocket spring ‘queen’ (at 1960 x 1500mm it’s not quite your standard queen in size) that provides plenty of room each side so making the bed isn’t a knuckle-bashing exercise. There is plenty of room for those small ancillaries such as glasses, reading matter, tissues, torches or the other small items of life that need to be accommodated. There’s a reading light and a double USB charging point for each side of the bed head. A modesty screen is provided at the foot of the bed.
The windows at the side of the main bed have curtains.
The rear bed is a high-density foam double, with its own modesty screen, reading lights, USB ports and a 12V and Merit port, the latter to feed the LED strip light above the rear bench seat. There’s a matching strip light above the entry to the front bed. Additional lighting comes from a large light at the entry point and two smaller floor lights built into the fronts of the side seats, beneath the table.
For clothing or other personal items there are six bays built into the front wall, with the contents being retained on rough roads by a netting wall secured by occy loops at the corners.
The external awning creates a roomy 2400 x 5000mm sheltered footing and comes complete with a rear wall (with window) and adjacent filler for beneath the rear bed to shelter the kitchen. Other walls and a draught skirt are optional.
The external awning can remain attached but is awkward to get over the top of the tent peak when packing up. We didn’t have the opportunity to experiment, but I would think it possible with a length of cord and a small weight to throw it over the top of the erected tent, to be able to pull the awning over, before packing up.
If you choose to reattach it each time you want it then you’ll need to carry a small step ladder.
For lighting there’s a 3700mm LED strip light for the awning which provides plenty of illumination along the whole area.
The other point is that the awning has six lateral spreader bars and three longitudinal spreaders, as well as four poles. This creates a reasonable block of work in erecting it. This is a price for having a large awning, and maybe there’s a case to be made for a smaller option if you only want or need to have the kitchen sheltered from the elements.
Cub’s move into the double-fold market has come at just the right time. Right now the market is booming as a generation of younger families, who have grown up believing holidays not spent overseas were wasted, are now deciding to go see Australia.
The Drifter is a great family camper. It has all the functional high points of the old side-fold soft-floors with slickness of set-up and a great blend of features to keep those used to four-star overseas resorts feeling happy about their choice of a tow-along, go anywhere home on wheels. It is well constructed, well thought out and above all, all-Australian. As Cub points out, it’s the only Australian built double-fold on the market, and at a time when we are being battered by overseas competitors making the choice to support a company that uses all-Aussie materials has a nice touch of national pride about it.
We picked a handful of minor issues in the Drifter, but each time we raised a question there was an answer that this had already been recognised at the factory and a solution was in planning or execution. I’ve never been a great fan of the forward-fold or double-fold concept, but the Drifter changed my mind that it can be a well thought out concept that works. It’s got my vote.