WHEN CONFRONTED WITH a review camper you haven't seen before, you consider what's different about that particular rig. What is it about this unit that will interest readers? With some, the trailer features some kind of stand-out unique design, but when it's a soft-floor unit that appears to follow the well-known and oft-used principles of the market, deciding where to start can be a daunting prospect.
Such hesitation, however, was only brief when we came to look at the Lawson offroad camper from Explorer Campers & Canvas.
What first appears a run-of-the-mill soft floor soon reveals itself as a very well-thought-out and constructed camper with numerous quality features, several clever ideas and a high level of attention to detail.
Based on the NSW central coast, Explorers Campers & Canvas, an Australian Manufactured Camper Trailer Guild member, grew out of Cobb & Co Campers, one of only a handful of companies producing camper trailers in the mid-90s. Explorer's part-owner Scott Crichton brought his considerable canvas skills and married them with the energetic mechanical nous of Andrew Lynch to form the new business in 2007.
The company is not widely known, having done little advertising and, until this year, staying away from major capital city shows. But word-of-mouth has seen the new manufacturer develop a loyal following, centred around its Gosford factory.
Other than specific pieces of technology - chargers, batteries, roller-bearing slides, springs, axles and wheels - the Explorer team manufactures every component of its trailers in-house, which means it retains control of quality and finish.
The manufacturer produces a trayback and a light offroad model, the Flinders, in addition to the heavy-duty offroad Lawson on test. The Lawson is also available with 9ft (2.75m) and 12ft (3.66m) tents.
The Lawson's design incorporates a long drawbar (3200mm axle to hitch) for ease of towing, with the main rails running back to the Al-Ko spring hangers. Everything is galvanised, but is finished in either an oven-baked powdercoat or, better still, a tough three-pack spray-on material called Speedline. This is designed for use in truck beds and the like and, according to Andrew, the company's campers have been all over the outback without a single stone chip.
The suspension is seven or eight-leaf Al-Ko rebound springs on a 45mm axle, with parallel bearings and hubs to match your tow vehicle.
The tent (12 and 15oz Wax Converters canvas) folds off the top in the usual style, with gas struts on the bows of the 12ft tent. The 9ft tent uses a unique system featuring a strap pulled on a tent pole for leverage, making it very easy to set up.
This is one of the many little features the Explorer guys have thought about and developed over the years in order to make their campers even more user-friendly.
The tent is taut and expertly sewn by Scott. In another example of great attention to detail, the vinyl floor is fully welded, and tabs for pegs are first sewn to another patch of vinyl which is welded onto the floor. This avoids sewing holes in the floor and makes them completely waterproof. In fact, you could fill the floor and use it as a shallow swimming pool if you wanted easy access to a cooling dip.
The tent comes with all attachments for awnings on both sides as well as a tropical roof. A second awning and roof fixture are also available as options, allowing customers to buy-in at whatever level they desire.
A gusset extension over the kitchen, which makes that end wall vertical and extends the awning length by 200mm, is another handy feature.
ACCESS ALL AREAS
The Lawson has three access doors down the offside: one for the electronics, one over the wheel arch for general storage and one for a large (carpeted) drawer that runs across the trailer interior for clothing storage. The onside of the trailer mounts a single 4kg gas bottle and two jerry cans.
The kitchen features stainless-steel bench tops and slides out of the rear, with a two-burner Lido Junior stove with grill and a plastic sink, the latter able to be set aside to increase work space. The manual tap feeds from a 70L water tank.
The space under the bench is home to a large pantry and crockery storage cupboards, as well as a deep drawer and a sliding shelf.
There is another large slide for the Waeco fridge, plus another large (615x990x440mm) carpeted drawer behind. This can become a full-length drawer if you prefer a car-mounted fridge.
Standard electronics include a single 100Ah AGM battery and a 10A three-stage Synergex charger, with dual plugs next to the bed, two at the rear and one in the front storage box. The 240V circuit is optional, but includes an input on the front box with two outlets in the box, two in the electronics locker and one next to the kitchen.
Internally, the tent has a high peak for good drainage, queen-size innerspring mattress, hard-wired ceiling LED light strip, LED reading lights and an excellently-designed step-ladder in a carpeted bag. All windows have loop and hook fasteners for easy fitting of the matching clears.
The Explorer Lawson has so many good little features that we can't begin to cover them all here. Most of them don't add any extra cost, they simply represent rather lateral ways of doing things.
At $16,950 in its base form, or $27,450 with the optional tropical roof, 240V system, larger kitchen, fridge and bike rack (as reviewed here), the Lawson comes highly recommended.
Suspension Eight-leaf Al-Ko springs
Brakes Al-Ko Offroad Electric drum
Price $27,450 (plus on-raod costs)
Supplied by: Explorer Campers & Canvas, 4/6 Bowen Crescent, West Gosford, NSW 2250, (02) 4322 8870
Source: Camper Trailer Australia #53