Outback Queensland is one of those places where, if you stick to the sealed roads, you can travel through completely worry free while still getting a vague sense of where you are. But if you really want to get into the guts of what makes this land so special, you'll need to get off the pavement and onto some of the country's worst roads. Long days of constant corrugations will, eventually, find every weak point in man and machine.
I had a plan to take a camper trailer away for a big trip across the country - during which we would eventually rack up close to 17,000km in about six weeks. Most of the route lay on the corrugated and washed out capillaries that criss-cross Australia like bloodshot eyes. When I shared this plan with Johnny Trackabout he said something like, "Have I got the trailer for you!"
Now, over the years I've managed to take some pretty tough trailers to some even tougher places. Life's been good to me, but rarely to the trailers. The Savannah Way alone can teach you a lesson or two about corrugations, dust and deep water crossings. And when you decide to drag a trailer from the top of Big Red to the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria the hard way, then subject it to over a month of touring in the Kimberley, you need something you can depend upon, something as reliable as the LandCruisers carrying you on this epic journey.
The 4x4 Deluxe Tourer is Trackabout's entry level trailer. It is a unit that'll get you touring with a build quality you'll be able to depend upon, and that will grow with you for years.
Johnny builds to an old school philosophy, which dictates getting the simple things right first - like a galvanised chassis, dust sealing, easy to use tent and quality components - and then worrying about the icing.
The Al-ko heavy duty seven-leaf springs are a good choice for outback touring. They provide a good ride under varying loads and, when you're deep in the bush, are ultimately repairable with the most basic of supplies.
We tested a couple of different stone guard configurations. There's the basic setup with mesh over a frame up front, which works great. But Johnny has developed a deluxe version with netting running back from the front guard to the trailer and up the sides. Not only did the latter help with stones bouncing up, but it made a great place to keep kindling on the way into a campsite.
The still relatively new to the market Ozhitch performed elegantly. It was easy to couple up the trailer in everything from sandy beaches to muddy recoveries thanks to the hitch's self-centering design. Simple and fully greasable with great articulation, this hitch is a formidable new competitor to the other offroad couplings on offer.
I like the spare tyre mounted on the tailgate. It keeps the weight off the towbar, and the pressure locking mechanism on the tailgate latch means the door won't be moving around with the extra weight.
The 7x4ft powder-coated tub gives you heaps of storage. You can get to everything by just lifting the whole bed base up on gas struts, through the back door or from inside the tent by lifting the queen size high density foam mattress (although I would have liked a gas strut here, too). I liked the new side toolboxes above the mudguards for tools and recovery gear, and that the trailer is fully lockable for when you take day trips.
A massive alloy toolbox up front provides heaps more storage; for me this meant somewhere to put tools, a generator, magazines to hand out, extra canvas and heaps more stuff.
Specially designed for Trackabout, the Drifta DSO kitchen on the tailgate is brilliant. There's a gas strut on the tailgate door to keep it nice and stable. I've always been a fan of Drifta's gear - it is durable, clever and easy to use. For a tailgate kitchen you get heaps of bench space, a Trojan hand pump with 12V water supply and sink, pantry storage, stainless steel drawer faces and cooktop area with black paint. It looks pretty smart.
With an onboard 85L water tank plumbed to the kitchen and another external tap for roadside water access, you don't need to carry heaps of jerries, but there's room for two in side holders and you can easily strap another two or four up front on top of the pole locker (well, I did and it worked great). I did manage to break off an angle fitting on the water tank, but with spares on board it was a five second fix. A bit more protection there wouldn't go astray.
Twin gas bottle holders mean you can stay out there for longer (this is good because LPG can be hard to source when you're really out bush); and a standard 12V system including 105Ah battery, Anderson plug, battery box and several 12V outlets - which is a good start. With an auxiliary battery in your vehicle and a good DC-DC converter, you can keep your fridges running pretty easily.
Anyone who has been on a trip with me knows I like to travel light and fast, and I don't usually worry about awnings and mozzie screens. So it was good that putting the Trackabout up for a night stop was a breeze. The new tonneau cover with zipper and hook and loop fasteners worked well to keep bulldust off the canvas, which was of course Australian Wax Converters. The tent bows are a new design for Trackabout and require little more than placing two poles and adjusting a couple of roof bows. The tent sat nice and tight on varying degrees of flat ground, and while it seems like a trivial thing, I liked the Supapeg tent pegs provided, which loop over your D-rings and won't spin around.
The 8ft awning and kitchen wall are included, and there are six full length windows to the main tent, which means plenty of light and ventilation.
Trackabout belongs in the rarefied company of a few Australian manufacturers who are dedicated to starting with the best designs and the best materials and building the camping experience around reliability instead of flashy gimmicks.
I'm not sure if it's a virtue or a vice, but I have a knack for finding the weak points in the gear I take away on big trips. The Trackabout performed as I expected, overall. By the end of the trip, there was probably a teaspoon of bulldust in the tub storage, but we could have put that there loading food bins in and out. The creek crossings weren't an issue for the toolbox up front or the tailgate seals.
At the end of the day, this trailer followed a very demanding bloke for nearly two months of all-day, all-night touring, hidden Gibb River Road washouts, chest-deep Savannah Way water crossings and more corrugations than every shearing shed roof in the entire outback with few complaints.
The real kicker, though, is that you can get that kind of reliability for around $16,000, and you can tell exactly where that money is going.