GEORGE AND TERESA Minaides are serious 4WD enthusiasts, starting up Follow Me Campers after years of tackling the toughest offroad tracks. This experience is reflected in the design of the Blackwood, a solid and unique camper with an eye to providing comfort through exceptional ease of use.
The first thing that stands out about the Blackwood is that it is a rear fold soft floor: a style of camper trailer not usually seen. They have the advantage of being able to fit into tighter campsites, and access to the main bed is from the base rather than the side.
The most unusual thing about this camper, however, is not immediately obvious - once the tent has been opened the bed base slides about a foot backwards (towards the drawbar) allowing room for a built-in step and platform to access the bed. This makes getting into and out of bed a breeze. It also eliminates the need for climbing over your partner, and down a rickety ladder, when venturing on a midnight toilet run. Access to the items stored in the camper's exceptionally deep tub is also easier.
Setting up the tent is a simple business, as the bows are lifted with the assistance of gas struts, and do not need to be lengthened or tightened. Indeed, setting up this rear fold soft floor takes little longer than its hard floor compatriots. Once the tent is up you simply let down the rear step, slide the bed forward and hook and loop fasten the tent to the rear of the trailer's box. Pegging down the floor and setting up the annexe takes a further 15 minutes but George reckons this time can be reduced to 10 minutes with practice.
The tent itself is made in WA using 15oz Australian canvas, which is rather heavy but not a problem to lift due to the gas struts. Canvas this heavy should last a lifetime and provides better insulation against cold and heat. There is enough room inside for a couple of kids' bunks.
There are two boxes on the trailer's drawbar; one houses the kitchen and pantry, and the other is a toolbox.
The self-supporting kitchen is easily accessed for roadside stops and sports a two-burner stovetop, stainless steel sink and bench, and a 12V water pump. Two cupboards sit underneath and provide ample room for storing pots, pans and kitchen utensils.
While the camper is closed the full width pantry is accessed via a door on top of the kitchen box - useful for when packing items before heading out. The sliding bed base covers this lid when the camper is set up, so the pantry, which is also a drawer, slides out over the kitchen.
Bench space is limited but could be increased by cutting a board to cover the sink. There is also no provision for a fridge or esky, but it could be accommodated either in the trailer's tub or in the tow vehicle itself.
On the same side of the trailer as the kitchen is the 4.5kg gas bottle (which can be plumbed without removing it from the holder) and the 80Ah battery, fuse box and spare wheel hub - useful for when breakdowns occur far from civilisation. For only $70 extra I would definitely opt for the extra gas bottle holder, letting you stay away just that little bit longer.
The opposite side of the trailer houses three 10L jerry cans. Two additional 20L jerry can holders sit on the drawbar, and a 60L water tank sits under the chassis towards the rear, taking the weight off the drawbar. This gives a total of 130L liquid storage.
The drawbar sports an Ozhitch offroad coupling, the efficacy of which was sorely tested when the Ford F250 we were using as a tow vehicle became bogged on a sandy track. Despite being on a steep angle disengaging the hitch was easily done, allowing us to push the trailer back down the track and out of the way while we rescued the ponderous vehicle.
The nine-leaf 1.25T suspension dealt capably with the rocky track, and is much easier to repair in the bush than an independent system. New 16in alloy wheels and electric offroad brakes complete the running gear, although 15in wheels come as standard.
Overall the trailer is built with exceptional attention to detail. On the drawbar you will find a welded steel pocket for storing the brake and Anderson plugs off the ground, as well as a hook for holding the chain. The chassis is made from heavy duty 75x50x2.5mm galvanised RHS with solid welds throughout. There is even marine carpet lining all surfaces, ensuring you don't damage the 1.6mm Zincanneal.
The Blackwood is a definitely a unique and well designed camper trailer for a very reasonable price, starting from $21,990. An easy set up, comfortable interior, and spacious pantry make it an attractive option for couples or families. While it may not come with all the frills it has everything you need to get you comfortably off the asphalt. And, because George and Teresa make all their campers to order in their Wangara factory, you can customise their design as little or as much as you like.
Follow Me Campers Blackwood
Suspension: Nine-leaf heavy duty offroad
Brakes: Electric offroad
Price (as shown): $23,290
Contact: Follow Me Campers, 1/6 Ismail St, Wangara, WA 6065, 1800 462 267, www.followmecampers.com.au
Source: Camper Trailer Australia #44 Sep 2011