There has been a large shift in the paradigm of Australian camper trailers in the last decade or so. Where we once headed off into the great unknown with little more than a box trailer with a canvas tent, things are a little more luxurious these days. The counterpart of this is that the budget end of the market has attracted many imports and, while the quality of imported products is certainly rising, innovation is not always their aim. Enter the reinvigoration of Australian manufacturing. While competing on price is now less attainable, the local industry is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the world’s best in terms of design and build quality.
It’s this ethos of quality that has seen Complete Campsite not only survive in an increasingly competitive market, but thrive. With the new aluminium-bodied Fraser XTE recently released on the market, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on one for a thorough review. We headed up to Lake Macquarie on the New South Wales central coast to meet owner Grant Joyce and to run through some of the finer details of the trailer and find out just how it came to be. Initially, the XTE’s $61,950 price tag had us a little wary but, as the day wore on and we got a deeper insight into not only the trailer itself but the thought process that has gone into all the little details, it started adding up to serious value for money. Is it an affordable entry into the camper trailer market? No. But for those a little more established who want to be able to set up camp in 10 minutes and have everything work, this unique rear-fold hardfloor is one worth paying attention to.
With so many similar camper trailers on the market these days, it takes a lot of work to really stand out. After all, the form factor is near on identical; a large rectangular box on top of a long A-frame chassis with flat sides and a separate box on the front. It was immediately obvious that the Fraser XTE has had a significant re-think from the tried-and-tested setup and seeks to truly differentiate itself as a premium product, something worthy of the higher price tag associated with Australian built gear. At first glance, the paintwork is flawless, heavy-duty powder-coating protects vulnerable areas from damage while the baked enamel gloss white gives the trailer a modern and elegant look that could be right at home behind just about any 4WD.
Looking more in detail at the trailer, it became clear just how much thought had gone into what is essentially a re-imagination of a popular style. The drawbar and stone catcher were neatly presented, organised, and offered plenty of storage room for firewood or other small items. The rails on the hard floor section can more evenly spread the load out in softer terrain but still had adjustable feet for hard packed ground. Even the layout of the drawers indicated this trailer was something unusual.
STORAGE AND PRACTICALITY
Where hardfloor trailers were once a revolution in the way we camp, the lightweight and electronically-operated Fraser XTE seeks to push the boundaries even further. After unfastening the six latches, the trailer began opening with the push of a button. We were able to stop and start at will, making for a smooth process if things needed to be adjusted. With the floor open, the tent itself has been designed in a way that only two additional poles need to be erected, and two others adjusted to have the tent completely setup. You can have the trailer ready for a night’s sleep in less than 10 minutes after arriving at camp, less if you leave the included awning packed up.
Due to the design, the hardfloor area is larger than usual, allowing for easy fitment of two stretchers side by side with plenty of empty floor space around them. The built-in roof insulator prevents the tent from heating up under scorching sun although, with large mesh window openings on every side, cross-ventilation will also help considerably. There’s an innerspring camper-queen mattress for a comfortable night’s sleep with built-in LED reading lights and strip lighting throughout. Another feature that impressed us was the handy storage compartment at the head of the bed, also accessible from outside. Under the mattress is a sliding drawer for clothes storage accessible both internally and externally. Another feature we liked was the canvas zip-up cover that can quickly go over the mattress and bedding to keep debris out when the trailer is packed.
You’ll also find the standard inclusions we’ve all come to expect like 240V power outlets as well as USB outlets. There’s a diesel heating system that can keep the trailer warm even in the heart of winter. The heater also powers hot water for not only the kitchen but shower as well with an extra tap fitting for drawing in river water to avoid wasting the 140L of drinking water on board.
Moving outside and under the 2.4m wide awning we found a well laid-out kitchen arrangement. Up front, the dual zone 95L fridge/freezer easily slides out with additional bench space included in the drawer, and storage within easy reach. The marine-grade stainless kitchen with three-burner stove slides out of the rear, helping reduce ball weight but also making for a larger cooking area. Once again, we found additional bench space that flips out from the kitchen as well as an in-built sink with water supplied by the 12V pump. The gas connection is your standard external type plumbed up to twin 4.5kg bottles up front.
As upsetting as it is, large floor camper trailers often take a few hits when it comes to serious offroad work, whether that’s from tight weaving tracks through dense forest or simply shaking to pieces at the first sign of corrugations. But the Fraser XTE is a breath of fresh air on that front, with a few clever tweaks hiding its size. While the chassis is made of heavy-duty 5mm thick 50x50mm box section, the camper shell is comprised of a fibreglass lid/floor and an aluminium body. The decreased weight makes the XTE more nimble through difficult terrain, less punishing on suspension components, and easier on fuel consumption. There’s plenty of ground clearance available too thanks to an impressive departure angle, fully independent trailer arm suspension, and mud tyres just shy of 32in in diameter. While some may be concerned about the spare tyre being mounted underneath, it’s protected by a heavy-duty bash plate and makes accessing and opening the trailer far easier without a cumbersome rear carrier.
To put it through its paces, we took the Fraser XTE up through the winding trails in the Watagans National Park, half an hour west of Lake Macquarie. The suspension was soft enough to soak up most bumps and corrugations without shaking the tow-rig to pieces, and the Hitchmaster DO35 let it easily and predictably follow the tow rig, even in trickier terrain. Likewise, actually living out of the Fraser XTE is a breeze with handy storage throughout including a spot for the included camp table making pack ups and setups a hassle-free affair.
With such a well thought out construction method and design, the Fraser XTE was always going to include a comprehensive electrical system as well. The heart of the system is a Redarc Manager30. It keeps the twin 105Ah AGM deep-cycle batteries topped up through a combination of solar inputs from the folding 120W panel and the 50A Anderson plug on the trailer’s drawbar. The system provides power to the LED lighting throughout the interior and exterior of the trailer as well as 240V and 12V outlets with the former being protected by 2 pole 15A circuit breakers and fed through a 1000W pure sine wave invertor.
Now for the elephant in the room – the electric opening and closing. While it may, at first, seem like a gimmick, it’s actually incredibly useful taking the grunt work out of the operation. It’s controlled with a wireless key fob like most alarm systems and effortlessly opens and closes the trailer through a single speed gearbox. The additional weight is negligible adding less than 2 per cent to the overall trailer weight and can be easily overridden should failure unlikely occur.
There’s no sugar coating the fact the Fraser XTE comes in at a premium price. But it’s unarguably the next step in camper trailer touring, proving to be an easy to use, lightweight, and comfortable system. While the price may see some buyers baulk, there’s no denying it represents serious value for money when you factor in just how much better it is to use than a budget offering.
Small details like the ease of use and handy storage make it ideal for quick weekends away without all the fuss, while the insulated roof and ducted heating system make this a true four-seasons camping setup.
It’s tough enough to take to any popular destination and, with a two-year warranty and Complete Campsite’s heritage, it’s bound to not only hold its value, but hold its usefulness for years to come.