A little more than two years ago, Ross and Marika Senden decided to buy a camper trailer. They visited dealers, manufacturers and shows, read all the magazines, studied buyers' guides, and came very close to a purchase. But somehow, they weren't convinced.
As an experienced fitter and turner with the ability to design solutions for difficult engineering problems, Ross was struck by a question - "Why not build my own?"- that led to the development of the innovative Camp in Comfort Journeyman trailer.
Roll forward a couple of years, and Ross and Marika's dreams have taken shape in a purpose built, all-inclusive camper package that is unapologetically designed for two people. That is not to say, however, the Camp in Comfort Journeyman is only suited to couples; it will suit a large cross-section of the market.
The Journeyman is a beautifully designed, engineered and manufactured trailer, with nothing left to chance. Ross has ensured the trailer utilises premium method, materials and components.
He has even reinvented the wheel; well, the troublesome old jockey wheel, anyway. It seems most common mounting brackets are made of something closer to butter than steel, and are often something of an afterthought, prone to real damage on the first outing. Ross re-engineered the wheel and manufactured his own tough mounting bracket designed for longevity.
Similarly, Ross manufactures his own independent trailing arm suspension with adjustable Firestone airbags, heavy-duty shockers, 10in electric drum brakes and replaceable axles with quality 2000kg bearings for premium on and offroad towing. This combines with a purpose-built handbrake designed for easy activation, a DO35 offroad towing hitch and three new wheels and tyres with stud pattern and rims to customer's selection.
The chassis is muscularly constructed with a fully-galvanised 100x50mm frame, 75x75mm RHS gusseted cross members and a 50x75mm drawbar with four adjustable lengths. You can adjust the coupling height by rotating the drawbar according to your tow rig's needs.
I have personally had major problems with imported steel and poor welding quality, so I was pleased to hear the Journeyman is made from Australian steel assembled by qualified tradesmen.
The trailer's 'accommodation module' is fibreglass with strong aluminium corners and supports. It's flex-mounted to the chassis on vibration-suppressing blocks adapted from Toyota LandCruiser shock absorbers, which helps to reduce the fatigue factor, particularly on long corrugated roads.
The queen bed is winner. There is plenty of space, and as you sleep longitudinally, it's particularly easy to get in and out of bed without disturbing your fellow sleeper, which may go a long way in making for an enjoyable holiday.
All heavy components, such as the twin battery boxes and jerry can holder, are bolted directly to the chassis, independently of the accommodation module. There are rugged checkerplate tool, battery and storage compartments, all with marine-style locks.
Like all of us, Ross and Marika like to stop when and where they like for a break from long road kilometres. With this in mind, there is direct access to the drawbar-mounted Evakool 12V fridge/freezer from inside or outside the trailer. But it's no good being able to access the cooler if you haven't got some cups and utensils, so there is a separate alloy locker large enough to hold a single-burner stove, the billy and the rest of the basic eating/drinking necessities. The fridge is mounted in a fibreglass compartment with a fully-sealed lid to keep the dust out.
When the trailer is set up, the fridge slides out from under the queen-size reflex foam bed. On first impressions it appears the utensils locker is obscured by the gas strut when the camper is opened, but Ross yet again showed practicality and ingenuity with a unique sliding hinge setup that allows for permanent access.
There's an external water pump to fill the billy, an electric cold-water system inside and plenty of flat spaces to put your mug or meal down.
The drawbar is also home to a huge toolbox deep enough to carry upright jerry cans. There is a further exterior jerry can holder, detachable stone screen and a mounting bracket for twin 4.5kg gas bottles. This bracket also doubles as the support for the fold-over bed.
The rear of the trailer has more checkerplate compartments for the twin 120Ah AGM batteries. Twelve-volt power is distributed via fused, conduit-protected cabling and there is a Ctec smart charging system and 350W inverter for charging small components, as well as a 240V lead and power box. The road lights are quality Hella LEDs where possible.
There is an onboard compressor and the spare wheel is mounted on the strong rear bumper assembly in a pivoting lockable steel frame.
Working together as a well-oiled machine, Ross and Marika can have the entire unit fully assembled in around 10 minutes. A clever access ladder doubles as a door plug when travelling, however, it may be a little steep for some when everything is setup, and is best approached by facing the interior of the trailer where there are secure hand grips.
I really liked the trailer's moulded fibreglass interior, but I realise a gelcoat finish may be a little bland for some. However, I find this to be a sensible medium for both internal and exterior surfaces because it's bright, functional and easily cleaned.
Ross, ever the fitter and turner, has been hard at work inside the trailer with unique ideas in the table and kitchen hinge mechanisms, and they work a treat. In fact, the whole kitchen design is a ripper. It features a two-burner Lido Junior stove with a handy aluminium cooking utensils drawer underneath. There is also a stainless steel sink with draining bench space, and a large (lockable) eating utensil drawer that also retains a chopping board.
The kitchen rises to a comfortable bench height, revealing a further fibreglass cabinet with a large pot drawer, a handy recess for flat frypans etc., and a long cabinet that pivots from the base with a few plate racks inside. The leading edge of the moulding houses the switch and fuse box.
The dinette is simple and easy, although those of us used to the cooler climes of the southern states may carry a pair of cushions for the fibreglass seats in order to minimise a chilly derrière. There is also a pull-out porta-potti hidden under the fibreglass seat, which will be another godsend on those freezing nights on the bush.
The 85L water tank is built using 1.6mm 316-grade stainless steel, eliminating stone strike. It has a 50mm bung, external filler and access from inside the trailer floor - handy if you ever need to wash out a dose of grungy water. This bloke has thought of everything!
The tent is easily assembled with a pivoting internal frame. The Australian-made canvas is 15oz on top and 12oz on the sides, with a vented tropical roof. There are large internally-zipped windows with flyscreens on each wall, as well as Ross' unique individual awning supports - he is not a fan of tent poles, and minimised their use with a three-quarter detachable side awning.
Seemingly everywhere you look, the trailer is loaded with accessory power outlets, reading and work lights, and other knick knacks. The real beauty of the Journeyman, however, is that it comes complete with so much gear, including vinyl mattress protector, fire safety kit, ABS moulded mudguards, tool kit, spare wheel, Evakool 60L fridge, poles, pegs, kitchen utensils, cutlery, melamine crockery, a jerry can and much more. All it needs is you, your partner, some bedding and food, and you're away.
The quality of workmanship shown throughout the Journeyman is excellent. It is a pleasure to see superb welding quality on the galvanised chassis and every aluminium component. A lot of effort has been made to minimise (most) sharp edges on all of the exterior and interior fittings, and all of the hinges and fittings are stainless steel for improved longevity. If nothing else, the Journeyman has a lot of function built in.
Admittedly, you can pay a lot less for a camper trailer, particularly one designed for two people. But quality costs money - a fact often forgotten in today's 'mass production, mass consumption' world. The inherent strength and premium componentry combined with Ross' fitting and turning innovations mean you are unlikely to ever have a problem with this unit, even after many years of offroad use.
I hope your kids like camping, because they will no doubt inherit this beautifully-made camper trailer long after you're finished with.
- Full chassis
- Fibreglass mouldings
- Strong construction
- Easy assembly
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
- Not to have seen a couple of rough edges
- Larger internal living area
- More storage for clothes/supplies
Originally published in Camper Trailer Australia #57, September 2012