When you think about it, a camper trailer is a bit like the ultimate escape plan. It lets us hitch up and knick off at a moment’s notice and, if you’ve got something like the XT12 from MDC, you can do it with a fair bit of comfort, too. You see, most of us work our butts off for the majority of the year, so when you finally get a bit of well-earned freedom, I reckon a camper trailer that makes camping easy is worth its weight in gold. The problem is, if it’s a bugger to use it can actually make things even more difficult.
We’ve all seen that bloke at the campsite struggling to open his awning up and having a full blown domestic with the wife because they forgot to pack the blankets. So, for this camper trailer test, I really wanted to get the whole experience, you know – from go to whoa! I wanted to see how easy it was to use, and how much work was required from knocking off work to hitting the tracks in full swing.
So, the XT12 spent a good week or so parked in the garage stocked up like it was my own until it was all systems go – how’s that for real world testing, eh?
Come Thursday morning I hitched up the camper solo. It was pretty easy too thanks to the McHitch offroad coupling, which kind of guides you into the right position unlike the traditional offroad couplings. That’s one tick right there! After that myself and fellow photographer Tony, AKA Mr Fuss Pot, busted out of Sydney like a bad smell on a lukewarm day. The destination of choice – buggered if I know! I figured we’d have a random adventure this time around, but for some reason we decided to head west through the Blue Mountains region in the middle of winter.
Now, I knew this thing would be a bit on the heavy side, but after lugging it through all those hills the old LandCruiser near on had a heart attack. Tipping the scales at 2000kg (Tare), plus a tank full of water and a bunch of gear loaded in, you’d want a decent tow tug to pull it. I mean, it tracks as straight as an arrow and seemed to handle well enough, but for a relatively small camper it was surprisingly heavy.
HITTING THE ROUGH STUFF
The XT12 has that tough, go-anywhere look and feel to it. There’s mountains of ground clearance, plus a sturdy set of rock sliders just in case you tow it behind a bloody monster truck! While we didn’t skull drag it through the depths of hell, we did use it like the majority of other campers would, and I’d happily say it’s a capable bit of gear.
I was surprised at the amount of hoses and wiring literally scattered all around the undercarriage just waiting to get tangled on tree branches or covered in mud. Sure, most of it is wrapped in conduit and there are a few rubber grommets to help reduce wear and tear, but this is definitely one area that could be improved in my opinion. I can’t say I’m thrilled about the dozen or so self tappers being drilled straight into the drawbar either.
Suspension wise, it looks about as heavy duty as a Mack truck on steroids. It sports an independent trailing arm design with coil springs and twin shock absorbers, which handled everything we threw at it with relative ease. The welds are nice and tidy with plenty of penetration, too. There are 12in electric offroad brakes, full mud terrain tyres, a handbrake and break-away system fitted as well. Let’s make something quite clear here – this camper will go anywhere your tow tug can pull it!
SETTING UP CAMP
For the XT12, setting up is a fairly easy process – not the simplest camper of all time, but quite manageable and worth the effort. The process all starts by removing the lynch pins and flipping the over-centre latches on all four corners of the pop-top, which could be an issue for the vertically challenged camper but nothing a portable step can’t fix. Popping the roof up requires a little oomph at first, too. Then you’ll have to fold out the back bed section, which means you’ve got to drop two separate spare wheels down (there’s six latches to release) then unfold the panels to form the main extension before climbing back inside and unfolding the two-piece innerspring mattress into position.
It’s quite an easy process that took me about 10-15 minutes to work out, but it does serve to remind you that this is still a camper trailer, not a caravan.
A nice touch is the electric awning, which is quite easy to set up solo thanks to the main switch located close by in the kitchen area. Like most kitchens these days it slides out in about two seconds flat, but you’ll need to plug the gas line in before you can fire up the stove, which just adds to the setup time. Oh, and talk about wasting time – sorting out what key you need to unlock each different lock can be a right pain in the backside, but something you would get to master over time, I guess.
One thing I really loved about this camper was the internal shower – there’s literally no extra setup required, which is great for those quick overnight stops.
LIVING IN THE XT12
Once you’re all set up, this thing is super comfortable to camp out of – it’s got the whole kit and caboodle with a flair for being fancy! On the inside the first thing you notice is how well it lights up at night thanks to a reflective white interior. The layout is functional too. It’s the kind where you can roll out of bed in the morning, grab a quick shower, brush your teeth at the internal basin, sit on the lounge to whack your shoes on then hit the day head on.
Ventilation is plentiful; not only does the pop-top canvas have zip-up windows, but the walls have solid windows too. Mr Fuss Pot our photographer won the toss of the coin, which earned him first dibs on sleeping in the camper for the night. He had a few good points to raise too: “I really liked the massive back window,” Mr Fuss Pot said. “It’s easy to open and is good from a safety aspect in case of a fire, not to mention the uninterrupted views of the early morning fog over the lake. The mattress also seemed to be decent quality, but I fitted a latex overlay to soften it up a bit.”
All the cupboard doors and latches are nice and modern too, except for the shower locking latch which seemed to let the team down with its constant rattling around – it was enough to get Mr Fuss Pot on a rant!
The cooking quarters are an important part of any camper, and the XT12 falls back on a fairly proven setup; the stainless steel slide-out kitchen with a Thetford four-burner gas stove and sink. We cooked up a big feed of chilli con carne to test out how everything worked, and I can honestly say it’s a top little setup, although the lighting is realistically in the wrong spot thanks to the side windows’ location. The stove boiled up about a litre of water in just less than 10 minutes, which isn’t a bad effort when the temperature was a finger numbing 4°C degrees at 8am. Hot water is plumbed to the sink, and the water pump seemed to have really good pressure compared to other campers I’ve tested. There’s only one drop-down bench available though, so if it lacked anything it would have to be bench space. But hey, who doesn’t carry a fold-down table these days?
GADGETS AND ACCESSORIES
One thing the team at MDC do very well is add plenty of value in terms of quality accessories to their campers, and this one is no exception. The solar system and 300AH worth of batteries were the big winners for me; I didn’t even have to plug the Anderson Plug into my vehicle – it was already totally self sufficient. It runs quality Projecta gear for the AC and DC chargers plus a 240V inverter, a 14L Truma “Boiler” hot water system, and even a Kenwood entertainment system, which is located nice and low near the entry door so you can access it easily from the outside. All the master switches are located in the front compartment, which is nice and easy to reach and clearly labelled too. I can ramble on all day about the accessories, but trust me, it’s got what you need to head bush comfortably!
THE WRAP UP
Make no mistake; this is a budget entry into the hybrid camper market that is absolutely loaded with value. It looks just as shmick as any of the more expensive players in the game, but without the hefty price tag, and I’ve got no doubts it’ll do exactly what it was designed to do – get you out there in comfort!
Th MDC XT12 is a little obese for a camper of its size, and there are little things here and there that remind you it’s not an $80,000 unit, but overall it’s a bloody solid camper that’s built tough and I reckon you would struggle to find a setup as comfortable, and as packed full of features for the money. Especially when you compare the overall build quality to anything in its price range!
HITS AND MISSES
- Internal shower is very handy
- Heaps of ground clearance
- Jam packed with features
- Internal lighting is great
- Functional layout
- Tare weight is quite heavy
- Does require more setup time than other hybrid campers
- Pop rivets for hinges could be improved
- Wiring and hoses underneath are exposed
- Locks all require a different key
- Tare 2000kg
- Ball weight 200kg
- Suspension Independent trailing arm, coil springs, dual shock
- Brakes 12in electric offroad drum brakes and breakaway system
- Coupling McHitch offroad
- Chassis 150x50x3mm (galvanised)
- Wheel/tyre 4x16in rims, steel radial mud terrain 265/75 R16
- Style Hybrid
PRICE AS SHOWN
(At time of test): $40,491