THERE IS A WEALTH of soft floor campers in the $12,000-$16,000 price bracket. Many of them are competent and well made. But what singles out one like J Campers' Heavy Duty Off Road from the rest?
Well, for a start its solid trailer makes a great base for you to extend upon, but what I liked most of all is that the camper has been tested and proven.
Business owner and founder Jason Hili has a background in engineering and metal manufacturing which gave him a sound technical foundation when he launched the company in 2004. He felt sure he had the recipe for a good trailer, and proved it by taking one of his trailers and setting it up in his business yard at Riverstone, NSW, for three years.
This potentially expensive experiment was designed to find out how it would endure the equivalent of 30 years of camping. Despite all the vagaries of the weather - including winds of over 90km/h, rain, hail and sun - all he found was that the canvas colour had faded slightly.
"The only moisture that I could find inside was from condensation on frosty mornings," Jason told us, "and that trailer was sold as a used demonstrator and is still going strong."
J Campers makes three models - an on road, a light offroad and the model we got to test, the Heavy Duty Off Road. This is essentially your basic soft floor, but with a few considered options that help to lift it above the crowd.
The chassis is 50x50x3mm RHS steel, with a three-member 100x50x3mm RHS drawbar running back to the front spring hangers. This supports a 7x4ft body that's 500mm deep made from 2mm steel. At the rear is a tow point/bike rack sleeve. Our test trailer was equipped with a Trigg coupling but other offroad hitches are available on request.
Jason used to supply his trailers fully galvanised, but in an effort to contain costs he went to painting as standard, with a wide choice of colours. Galvanising and powder coating remain optional.
This introduced one of his innovations - a fully rubberised (6mm thick) stone shield, which extends down below the frame to form front stone flaps. This provides a reduced "spring" to soften the flight of stones but also does an excellent job of keeping the trailer clean from dust and mud.
"It's a little heavier," Jason admits, "but is much more durable than shade cloth."
The trailer rides on nine-leaf rebound springs and a 45mm axle with HD bearings. This trailer weighs 700kg but can carry another 900kg so it needs that strength.
It's equipped with six-stud Sunraysia rims and new all terrain tyres in 15, 16 or 17in size, depending on customer preferences. The spare is mounted on the tailgate. Brakes can be override or electric drums or discs.
At the front is a large 1200x600x550mm toolbox in a choice of steel, aluminium or plastic suitable for a 40L Engel fridge. Our test trailer's toolbox was made of steel and had an outboard mounting bracket and fittings for a boat loader.
Our trailer had three jerry cans and a 9kg gas bottle on either side to provide huge carrying capacity of gas and liquids for comfortable camping without electricity. Alternatively, you can have dual batteries installed in aluminium housing, usually where one of the 9kg bottles would be.
The tent is all Aussie canvas in 15 oz material on both the roof and walls. It folds out to a 12ftx7ft footprint on the near-side. It has a zip-out floor and three large internal pockets on the walls, plus two smaller pockets above the bed for personal items.
The bed is unique in being 1900mm square, so you can sleep either east-west or north-south, according to your choice and it saves on the weight and expense of an end walkway. Our mattress was foam but innerspring is optional. The only issue here would be in finding sheets for such a mattress.
The tent is higher than most for improved water run-off, and to permit bigger windows for improved airflow and to trap and expel heat via the side vent under the peak.
The tent comes with two side ropes opposite the awning for added bracing to prevent the hood bows being pulled out of alignment.
Another touch we liked was the inclusion of triangular sides under the window awning next to the bed, also available as an option under the far-side door awning, so that these can remain fully extended in heavy rain.
The 7ft awning remains attached when packed up and has optional walls all round.
The kitchen is a plywood construction on the inner side of the tailgate. It is small and you'll need to bring your own table it you wanted bench space. It features two large, deep drawers and a roomy cupboard under the three-burner Companion stove. A small plastic sink drops onto hooks on the end. The 85L tank is made from 9mm poly.
If you want an ultimate assurance of Jason's belief in his trailers, he provides a five-year warranty on the trailers and two years on the canvas. To our knowledge nobody else betters that.
The J Campers Heavy Duty Off Road camper is a well thought out, very competent soft floor without all the little bells and whistles, aside from the minimalist kitchen.
It makes a great base for add-ons later (or now, if you choose them up front) and with a generous warranty on trailer and canvas it has to come highly recommended.
Source: Camper Trailer Australia #36