In 1859 Charles Darwin proposed what has become known as the theory of evolution, in which organisms continually vary, with beneficial changes being retained to enhance the survival chances and success of the species. Like any good organism, camper trailers, if they are to thrive and succeed, will accumulate improvements as they are put through the diverse and often difficult paths on the road to satisfying their owners’ whims. The BRS Sherpa, winner of its category at the 2019 Camper Trailer of the Year, might have been good enough to beat out its opponents back then, but through a series of incremental changes it’s now even better as it braces itself to take on 2021’s camper contest.
Now tagged as the Gen II, the camper has accumulated lots of days in the bush and plenty of kilometres across the corrugations, gibbers and sand of the outback. This soon reveals any shortcomings — though we’d have to say they are pretty short shortcomings — in a camper’s design. Commercially the Sherpa has been a success in Australia, so the diversity of experience has brought plenty of insights not apparent in pre-release testing.
FROM THE OUTSIDE
Superficially the Sherpa appears to be the same as it was on its 2018 release, an impression underlined by its bright orange and charcoal black exterior. But, the Gen II Sherpa has two new colour options available this year with Sandy Torp giving an eye pleasing wow factor by way of a sleek grey over black layout. Its ‘out there’ design is pretty unique in the often conservative and restrained world of camper design and the team at BRS has been brave in its choices. It appears to have paid off.
The Sherpa owes many of its design principles to the traditional world of teardrop camper design, but this one has been beefed up with a very 21st century makeover. The camper, as a whole, is bigger than the usual compact teardrop and comes equipped with the best of the latest technology and comforts.
In fact, BRS’ head honcho Ben Souter prefers to refer to his creation as a ‘mini hybrid’. When he started to design his initial camper — the Pursuit — his intention was to produce something along the lines of today’s Sherpa, but it got a little out of hand and finished as a much roomier and larger camper. Having established a reputation with the Pursuit, he and his team went back to the drawing board and began work on the Sherpa.
To quote from our report on the initial version of the Sherpa it was intended to be an offroad teardrop, under 2.4 metres tall so it would fit into a domestic garage; would suit mum, dad, and two kids; would be light (under a tonne tare); would be all-Australian in build and design, with a hard shell body and minimal canvas; and would be super offroadable.
Well, they can just about tick all those boxes.
The accumulated changes are spread all over the Sherpa Gen II. Construction of the body is, for a start, different. Initially, the various layers were cut and bonded together, with the joined edges caulked, but it has been found that the caulking can shrink with age resulting in tiny gaps. These can’t be seen, but they permit water to get in between the components and find their way inside. Now, items such as the Sherpa model name are simply carved into the aluminium, not cut right through, to retain a layer of metal that won’t permit water access.
At the front a classy new stone guard has been added to prevent rebound stone damage to rear windows of tow vehicles. According to Souter, none has been reported, but some users have told him of hearing the bang of stones against their car’s bodywork. This stone guard is beautifully designed and fitted, can be removed and replaced in seconds, and is as good as any we’ve ever seen. This sort of designing, for optimum enhancement and not simply to be seen to have done something, is what marks out superior campers from the also-rans.
This has enabled the front storage box behind to be enlarged and above it a small, angled net ensures there is no rebound from that area.
Other concessions to high speed stone projectiles are the angling of the two front jerry can holders (one each side of the nose cone), which also assists in easing the physical burden of adding and removing full cans, and the replacement of the front face of the mudguards with thick plastic to reduce damage.
The jockey wheel is an Ark 750, in a powder coated black finished to match the body colour and provide a sturdier foothold in that area.
The drawbar has been extended by 300mm, which enables easier reversing and towing and has had little impact on the high stepping clearance in ramp-over situations. The drawbar can be extended even further and has been pushed out as far as an additional 500mm on top of the 300mm extension to provide for the carrying of bikes. It’s terminated by the trusty DO35 hitch and a sturdy-looking tow point at the rear.
The hinges for the side doors — necessarily large in this oversize teardrop — have been redesigned and strengthened, to pivot on 12mm bolts with sintered bushes for optimal wear.
It was found that while the door seals were so perfectly waterproof that water could sit on top, when the door was opened it would fall inside, so the tops of the doors have been shrouded to prevent this accumulation.
One of the unique features of the prototype Sherpas was the use of a water bladder for water storage, but it was found that even in spite of their 900gsm military grading these resulted in pinching and fitting damage so these have been replaced by a 140L stainless steel tank which can be fully serviced via access ports either side of the rear body.
The use of a metho stove has been stopped due to supply problems and replaced by a large single burner gas cooker, which has resulted in the mounting of two 4kg gas cylinders behind the mudguards.
The water/space heater system has also been swapped from an Eberspacher to a Webasto to match with other component supply.
TO THE ACCOMMODATION
The Sherpa, as always, can be set up to accommodate up to four people (five if you want a small child between the parents downstairs). The second couple would be, as with our review camper, in a rooftop tent, but the original Alu-Cab tent has now been replaced by BRS’s own shelter. These have a dual fibreglass external shell with 16mm honeycomb insulation between, with a canvas wall set. The bed is a 1400 x 2300 60mm HD foam mattress, there are 12V and USB ports internally and an internal light, with switches both internally and externally (in case you’ve descended and forgotten to turn it off while you were up there).
The access to the tent can be via either the provided extendable ladder, or a built-in side set of steps above the side mudguards. The opening and closing of the rooftopper is also a test for the vertically challenged, and requires the use of a supplied extendable boat hook.
BRS is now also making these roof-top tents for use directly on 4WD vehicles and other trailers.
As with the original Sherpa model, there is a 200W solar panel on top to keep the 125Ah lithium battery in optimal condition.
The Sherpa, in true teardrop form, has a rear kitchen under a lift-up lid, which has also been optimised. There is still the top mounted tilt-forward 650 x 400 x 220mm high pantry storage, with the fold down 1400 x 400mm work bench, and two fridge drawers either side of a deep central storage drawer. But the drawer fridges are now Isotherm 30L units that can be set as low as minus 18 degrees, though Souter says he has measured only about minus 12. Nonetheless they can be used to keep food frozen, so one can be a freezer and one as a normal fridge.
The central drawer no longer has roller bearings and works perfectly well on dry friction slides to reduce weight and eliminate potential problems with dust or other foreign matter gumming up the works.
The cooker travels strapped underneath the fold-over work bench, and the silicon sink now sits on a pull-out slide at the left hand end of the same bench. This enables the use of a plug-in tap there or at a side table under the shelter of the awning. There are LED lights under the lift-up kitchen lid and on the side adjacent to the tap/sink point.
Does the kitchen work? The single burner cooker might be a limiter if you need to cook several items at once, but otherwise everything needed is within easy reach. The fridge drawers have limited height possibilities, though, so your wine might require creative storage.
Internally the Gen II has a large 150mm HD foam mattress that’s shaped to the floor area of the camper, but in general is queen in length but is 1550mm in width (20mm wider than a queen), and there are still twin Sirocco fans, two reading lights, 12V and USB ports, a central 24in smart TV at the foot of the bed, with stereo above and storage cupboards either side. The doors of these have been replaced by canvas to reduce weight.
The bed head end (front) has the heater duct in the centre (Souter says it requires only a few minutes to bring the space to the desired temperature) with the heavily padded boards either side being removable to reveal additional storage behind. There is a ‘moon-gazer’ window above and a large window in each door, each with a canvas blind, as well as several mesh pockets around the sides and opening porthole windows behind the doors for crossflow ventilation.
The interior is surprisingly roomy, with a 1300mm ceiling height removing the cramped feeling that can come with some smaller campers. The interior décor highlights are all orange and black to match the exterior, with grey curtains.
The Sherpa now also comes with a bed-top cargo net to restrain items which might be carried on top, and two attached storage bags for smaller items.
The Sherpa initially came with a fold-out side shower alongside the driver’s-side door, but this didn’t really work with the wide doors as it required exiting the camper on the passenger side and walking around to the external entry to the tent. So Ben and his team designed their own fold-out 1400 x 800mm Weathermax shower that is long enough to enable the door to open into it and entry and exit directly from the interior. This tent requires no more than a minute to erect.
While we’re on the subject of set-up time, the Sherpa Gen II retains the excellent Alu-Cab Shadow awning. This has a 270-degree arc and is opened and cinched into place in less than a minute. It’s sturdy, and though having a single stabilising leg, this is only required to be used in high winds. External walls are optionally available, but would be highly recommended, especially around the kitchen.
The body is still manufactured in a two-piece process as perfected with the larger Pursuit model. It provides monocoque rigidity while staying light, enabling this camper to meet weight targets light years ahead of its opposition with this level of fit out. From the floor up to the centre is built in 5083 marine grade aluminium in two layers with a 3mm air gap between for insulation. The top half, weighing just 50kg, is a one-piece 20mm thick honeycomb that is both light and strong, with a fibreglass skin on either side. The two large side doors are made from the same cellular material, with Plexiglas windows. The exterior is finished in a charcoal black Raptor liner stone chip resistant paint with bright orange highlights.
The Sherpa sits on its highly unique chassis, which consists of a main central 150 x 100 x 4mm beam, with lateral ribs supporting the body. All is hot-dip galvanised. The package rolls on the latest Cruisemaster XT Freestyle dual shock independent suspension, which comes complete with hubs and all fittings. This ensures a huge network of parts and repairers around the nation for ease of any problems no matter how far you are from home.
The finishing touch is provided by 17 x 8 CSA alloy rims with all terrain 265/65R17 rubber.
The tare on the Sherpa has risen — an inevitability when you start moving through the evolutionary stage when things start to be upgraded in strength and durability — to 1140kg, a gain of about 100kg on a similarly kitted out Gen I version. The 1600kg gross weight has remained the same, meaning load capacity has diminished but is still reasonable at 460kg. Ball weight sits at 150kg empty.
The BRS Sherpa Gen II remains a classy piece of kit and shows the vast difference between a camper that simply has side entry for access to the bed and a rear kitchen and one that has been thought through in all its permutations and applications. The choice of equipment is top of the line, the engineering excellent, and the functionality is great. All that’s left to consider for the purchaser is whether a teardrop format is for you and the price tag, which is $70,000 as seen.
Other campers in this price category will come with longer set-up times, (often) greater weight and greater size. The Sherpa loses a bit in terms of the need to climb around to access the rooftop tent, unless you’re prepared to trust that your kids can keep it tidy and clean without your intrusion (good luck with that!), and the lack of anywhere other than the bed to shelter away from the elements on those days when it's relentlessly blowing or raining or when the flies just won’t quit.
In other words, this is a camper for the adventurers, those who love the outdoors more than comforts, and see such experiences as all part of the great journey that is camping. If you fall into that category then you really have to take a look at a Sherpa Gen II.
GOING BIG IN THE USA
The Sherpa was originally designed to suit the US market, and it is as adaptable to the right-hand-drive US roads and our left-hand-drive highways, but its introduction to the US in what was planned to be a major move for BRS has been delayed by COVID.
Americans have an abiding love for teardrop campers that dates back to the 1930s, when almost every popular mechanics-type magazine would run plans for their construction in the newly available and seemingly magical material of plywood. BRS founder Ben Souter thought he would be on a winner with a high tech teardrop.
In Australia the Sherpa has had a somewhat surprising level of acceptance and sales of it are about five for every two of the larger Pursuit models.
However, the Pursuits have proven to be highly sought after in the US and have been promising enough for Ben and his team to have purchased a factory site in the US where campers will be assembled for that market while Australian customers will continue to be satisfied from the current factory.
Suspension Cruisemaster XT Freestyle trailing arm dual shock independent
Brakes 10in electric drum
Chassis/drawbar 150 x 100 x 4mm hot dip galvanised central beam
Body 5083 marine aluminium monocoque/20mm honeycomb fibreglass
Wheels 17 x 8 CSA alloys LC6 pattern
Tyres 265/65R17 all terrain
Body size 1700 x 3000mm
Awning size 3745 x 3204mm
Gas cylinders 2 x 4kg
Water 140L stainless steel
Cooktop Single-burner gas
Kitchen Rear fold-down
Battery 1 x 125Ah lithium
Options fitted Rooftop tent; lithium battery
Rooftop tent; lithium battery
PRICE AS TESTED
Address 2/40-42 Kalaroo Rd, Redhead NSW 2290
Phone 0428 276 197