I’d like to say I’ve been on a trip to Mars and back, but that would be telling a porky pie of intergalactic proportions. However, as a judge at the 2016 Camper Trailer of the Year competition, hosted at Dargo in Victoria’s beautiful High Country, my expectations were elevated to new levels by the Mars Extremo XHF16 Hard Floor. To be frank, Camper Trailer Australia has been criticised for allowing campers of imported origins into the magazine, let alone into the Camper Trailer of the Year awards, yet many of the foreign-built offerings dominating the Up to 20K division surpassed our expectations. The Budget division is exceptionally popular with the wider camper market and the numbers sold speak volumes for their broad acceptance.
Mars Campers is a market leader in this segment, but mark my words: don’t underestimate the quality or capabilities of its camper trailers. The value for money is undeniable, the build quality high and a sensible array of standard features, accessories and options make camper trailering easy, enjoyable and accessible.
While softfloor campers enclose a tremendous undercover area for large families and extended stays, hardfloor campers such as the Mars Extremo are just so much simpler for your travels – intergalactic or not. The last thing you want after a hard day on the road, when you’re short on hands and patience, is to spend an hour erecting all manner of canvas with the ensuing frustrations, exertion and arguments as you arrive at (or en-route to) your personal tranquillity. The Mars Extremo can be assembled for an overnighter in less than five minutes.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
Mars mission control is based on a firm foundation. It has a strong 100x50x3mm drawbar evolving into a solid welded and galvanised chassis finished in Hammertone paint. Mars manufactures its own fully independent trailing arm suspension with dual KYB shockers each side, coil springs, 10in electric brakes and 15in alloy wheels, all firmly attached to the towing module by a 2t poly-block tow hitch for traversing the roughest lunar landscape.
Underneath, the landing gear includes wind-down stabiliser legs, a 70L stainless steel water tank complete with checkerplate alloy stoneguard for added security, and plumbing and wiring that is neat and tidy with minimal obstruction. The height is set for a low centre of gravity but proved to be no hindrance when we navigated the rough Dargo offroad moonscape. At worst, it makes the kitchen benches and cooktop just a little lower than most.
The internal fit-out features a queen-size foam mattress on a solid marine ply base that easily pivots up to reveal a deep storage space. It has a very strong galvanised steel base and frame. To aid easy loading and packing, the huge internal storage is also accessible from the rear space port. Lighting is provided by one LED strip light positioned on the main tent’s centre pole, and it is operated by remote control. There are 12V outlets outside of the Extremo lunar module for charging the laser guns, communications equipment and so on. Power is supplied as standard by a single 70Ah AGM battery which is charged via the Anderson plug, however a full range of power and storage options are available as desired.
You will feel warm and cosy in winter and cool in summer in the 14oz rip-stop canvas tent. The canvas has been treated with waterproof hydrophobic polymer to minimise water ingress and there are plenty of windows with both internal and external awnings to repel the solar extremes. All windows and awnings have midge-proof mesh to keep the unwanted arrivals at bay. As with nearly all campers, assembling the annexe can be the hardest part. The Mars Extremo’s annexe measures 4550x2300mm and it runs from the front of the box to the rear of the fold-over with a gabled front. Even the poles feel quite solid and it’s probably a 10 minute exercise to get the assembly right for two people. Add more time if you want to attach the complete set of side awnings and PVC floor for an extended exploratory mission.
Mars positioned a large slide-out kitchen in the front of the tub on the kerb side. The slides seem quite strong and so does the galvanised stainless steel combination unit finished in Hammertone paint. A further hinged stainless bench top folds out and the whole unit is stabilised with adjustable legs. It features a Gasmate four-burner gas cooktop with a wok burner but you will have to connect the gas bottle to use it, as it isn’t permanently plumbed. There’s a stainless steel sink and cold pressurised water but minimal pots, pans and utensils storage close at hand. The optional fridge slides out from the box on the drawbar and, while this doesn’t bother me, I did hear the comment that you have to leave the shade of the annexe to use it. I see it this way – given that we’re talking about a hardfloor camper, shown here for $15,739, that comes with a spare wheel, gas cylinder and jerry can mounts, battery and switch gear, a full kitchen with pressurised water and
solar panels, I think I can live with walking to the fridge!
The Mars Extremo is not only extremely affordable, it is light to tow and will be fine behind many family vehicles, including some 2WDs. Many families will find the unit extremely attractive for limited sojourns to recognised camping grounds providing a terrific array of cover, comfort and features.
However, don’t be surprised to see one pass you by on your next offroad trek into the outer limits of your personal utopia. The Extremo will get a lot of people out camping.
HITS & MISSES
- Combination of inclusions and accessories
- Ease of assembly
- Loading capacity and towing weight
- Independent suspension
- Galvanised and Hammertone chassis and box.
- Honest value for money
- Kitchen benches a little low
- Annexe doesn’t cover fridge
- Limited but sensible electronics and power
Check out the full feature in issue #97 February 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.