Few camper manufacturers have stood the test of time like SA's Cavalier Camper-Trailers. Renowned for its well-built value offerings, Cavalier was selling up to 450 campers per year during the peak of its 30-year history. Keen to leverage the brand's pedigree, Gareth Handshin of Challenge purchased Cavalier in 2011, cementing its continued success in the changing market. Gareth is passionate about continuing the Cavalier legacy of manufacturing trailers in Australia for local conditions.
This year heralds a new day for the brand and entry-level buyers are benefitting from a host of key revisions in the first line-up developed under the Challenge umbrella. Starting at $9950, the Cavalier Off-road Deluxe camper comes with many appointments for a comfortable stay out bush, including an awning, water and power capacity and a basic kitchen, underpinned by a capable trailer and tent package. We were lucky enough to score one of the first new Off-road Deluxe models fresh off the production line for a weekend offroad adventure.
The foundations of the trailer are built around a 2.1x1.2m tub with 45cm sides and a squat drawbar offering an agile 3.6m end-to-end length. The bodywork features 1.6mm rigidised steel that was standard in Cavalier's top-selling models well before others cottoned on to its benefits, including an impressive 34 per cent increase in strength compared with flat sheet steel. The steel is treated with a zinc powder primer and a striking metallic silver powder-coat finish - it's quite a standout.
A substantial 100x50x4mm galvanised drawbar supports a Treg polyblock coupling, a swing-away jockey wheel, basic stone protector, spare wheel with cover and an alloy checkerplate storage box. A hook for the safety chain and a receptacle for the wiring socket are small but thoughtful inclusions.
The lockable storage box has room for the awning, pegs and tools alongside a basic power pack comprising a 90Ah battery and battery box and a Projecta 1600mA 240V charger, suitable for topping up the battery at powered camping sites or via other 240V sources. The standard-charge device is fitting at this price point; an Anderson plug is not included as standard but is available as an option. One cigarette-style socket and a small LED strip with self-adhesive strip that adheres to an interior tent bow complete the standard electrics offering.
The 2013 flagship model retains the running gear seen in previous Cavalier trailer models with a 45mm axle, seven leaf springs and 15in Sunraysia rims wearing all-terrain tyres. A 70L PVC water tank with 10mm walls is fitted behind the rear axle. With a dry weight of 520kg and a non-braked ATM of 750kg, payload is modest but doable at 230kg. You can option some brakes and lift the ATM to a generous 1250kg, camp light or simply relegate heavier camping items to your tow tug instead.
Australian-made Wax Converters canvas in 15/12oz weights is used for the roof and walls respectively. The top-quality canvas looks good and promises years of service, as it is dipped for superior protection against water ingress, rot, mildew and UV. Two doors and four windows are covered in Tentex bug mesh. The bed end window also features PVC clear sheet, which unzips and rolls externally to allow natural light in inclement conditions. The one thing I didn't really like about the tent is the hook and loop fastening at the foot of the door. I find that hook and loop attracts grass seeds, impacting the seal; I prefer the U-shaped zip opening seen on the Challenge tents.
Although the smaller of the two options, the 9ft tent provides enough floor space to support a couple of kids' stretchers and the dust-free zip-on and elasticised PVC cover completes
To set up the Off-road Deluxe, pull the canvas off the trailer and peg down the corners before flipping the bows, and add the angled uprights and ridge poles to give the tent some shape. A wide alloy bed ladder provides access to the bed, but I found that the ladder rungs dug into my feet. A 90mm high-density mattress is comfortable enough and a hatch in the bedbase lifts to provide unassisted access to the tub. You can option up gas struts for ease of use.
The basic tailgate kitchen includes a galvanised steel benchtop fitted with a plastic portable sink and manual hand pump, connected by a snap-lock fitting. The water tank drain outlet is fitted under the trailer tub, although our test trailer had no protective cover to keep the dust out. The portable, two-burner gas stove can be set up next to the sink or on a separate table to allow for some bench space.
The trailer tub and storage box are lined with marine carpet. You can option up any number of storage systems to help organise the full capacity of the tub or just use boxes.
On the road, the Cavalier trailer performed well throughout our test loop, up and down the Adelaide Hills, with our Nissin Patrol unfettered by the lack of brakes. Terrain included bitumen, unsealed surfaces and typical offroad terrain laden with rocky outcrops and creek crossings.
A range of options is available, from reflective roof blankets to keep out the heat to an extra water tank, innerspring mattress, brakes, upgraded electrics and much more, to tailor the trailer to suit your needs.
Don't be confused between cheap and extraordinary-value campers. From any angle the Cavalier is a good-looking rig, based on a trailer and canvas package engineered for local conditions. The icing on the cake is the three- and five-year warranties on the trailer and canvas. Grab a ticket and head to the back of the queue, as this trailer is bound for great success.
> Exceptional value for money
> Top build quality
> Long warranty
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
> U-shaped doors in the tent
Originally published in Camper Trailer Australia magazine #62, February/March 2013