The Gibson Desert isn’t a new model, in fact, quite far from it. However, this time-proven capsule has had some refreshment in appearance, as well as a whole new undercarriage. This was the first unit produced to trial a Vehicle Components Cruisemaster independent coil spring suspension system and it also has some attractive new colour inserts that brighten the street appeal.
The Gibson Desert is a good size for a couple to enjoy the lifestyle of long-term travel across this fair country. It’s also well-suited to a quick weekender where you simply hook up in the knowledge that you’ve got everything you need on board other than clean undies and fresh food. It weighs around 1630kg dry, plus the contents of two fully-shrouded 82L independently plumbed poly water tanks, and a pair of jerry cans on the rear bumper.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
The Gibson Desert is built on a very strong, fully-welded and galvanised chassis that is entirely suited to the rigours of our outback. In fact, I would go as far as saying that it is one of the strongest chassis I have personally seen in such a camper. It has a gutsy 150x50x3mm A-frame drawbar with a DO35 V2 offroad coupling, handbrake, Anderson plug, twin 9kg gas cylinders, a strong stoneguard, and a short mesh cradle for extra external load.
There are twin gas shockers each side with coil springs and 16in BF Goodrich all-terrain tyres on black powder-coated ROH steel wheels and 12in electric brakes. Everything is neatly plumbed and recessed away from harm underneath the trailer and it comes complete with four wind-down stabiliser legs. I completed the 2800km return trip without a hitch, with full confidence in the unit’s capabilities both on and offroad. In fact, it tracked exceptionally well on the asphalt, smoothed the corrugations with ease and stepped nimbly over some rougher terrain in the rugged Flinders Ranges.
The Gibson Desert Platinum has a pleasing external presentation. The coloured side panels and custom graphics of the Platinum series look terrific, I think, especially with the silver, black and red combination, as displayed. The composite walls provide an insulation sandwich, with aluminium outer and meranti frame, foam interior and a gloss acrylic internal finish that makes for easy cleaning and nicely accentuates the internal living space. It’s got an easy pop-top with excellent head height inside. There is minimal wind drag with a front cutaway and 2.45m overall height plus aerial and vent.
There is a locking hatch encasing a pair of 120A deep-cycle batteries on a neat sliding cradle that makes maintenance a breeze. There is also an external service door, 12/240V outlets and outside lighting to the right of the door as well as a solar inlet point and slide-out twin burner barbecue/oven to the front for those long summer nights.
Trakmaster makes premium quality, hand-built campers and this hybrid hero is full of goodies when you step inside. Your first impression is the feeling of space; in fact, we found it a congregation point for up to seven of our road crew after a long day’s cruising.
The white acrylic walls emphasise the ‘roominess’ as does the pop-top with its zippered screens, and the excellent light and ventilation from the rest of the vents and tinted windows all-round. There is a combination of both overhead and LED lighting, individually switched for every mood. The dinette at the front could easily be made convertible for an extra single bed if desired and Trakmaster prides itself on customising all its products to individual requirements. However, the internal layout of the Gibson suits me just fine. There is a comfortable double bed (2.0x1.4m) with innerspring mattress running east-west at the rear that feels surprisingly spacious. The slatted bed base lifts easily on gas struts to reveal plenty of storage, including a cupboard designed to house a Porta Potti should you choose to carry one.
As well as the three-burner cooktop, there is a stainless steel sink with hot/cold mixer on the offside bench. I have stayed in much larger rigs without the room, facilities and space supplied by this handy hybrid.
The internal storage is great. There are overhead cupboards, under-seat cavities, pantry and kitchen cupboards, and a further large storage cabinet on the nearside that also contains the Engel 85L compressor fridge, which didn’t miss a beat in the high temperature variance of the Flinders.
THE WRAP UP
Overall, I loved the Trakmaster Gibson Desert Platinum and I wasn’t joking when I said I would certainly like to own one. It is a fully self-sufficient unit that is readied in minutes. Simply pull up, flip the pop-top latches, fold down the step and pop the roof. For a longer stay, flick down the stabilisers, wind out the Aussie Traveller Sunburst awning and you are set up in less than 10 minutes. Pack up is just as easy.
Trakmaster provides a long list of options and accessories, or you can design your own layout with personalised accessories. Personally, I would be taking advice from this very experienced company that has lived the dream and built its range accordingly.
The Gibson Desert Platinum is truly suited to a remote area traveller who likes a few creature comforts at the end of a long hard road without the pain of long assembly. You will be ultimately comfortable under the fully-insulated roof in all extremes of Australia’s dramatic weather conditions. This is a rugged mate that will always be by your side when the going gets tough.
HITS & MISSES
- Rugged construction and choice of components
- Great offroad-ability
- Internal finishes and user-friendly layout
I would have liked…
- A little more payload
- For it to be mine!
Check out the full feature in issue #90 July 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.