UNDER 15K - WINNER
The Mars Rover is that gem of a camper that makes it accessible for everyone to discover the beauty of the great outdoors. With a friendly price point and enough features to get you out there exploring, it offers an ease of living and a level of self-sufficiency great for those dipping their toes into the camper world for the first time. Our judges cast a keen eye over this one, and for the price, they were impressed by the lifestyle that it offered.
THE PERFECT ROVER
In this price category you’ll be hard pressed to find a camper that is offroad in the true sense of the word, but the Mars Rover will certainly get you to that hard-to-find campsite down a sandy beach trail or have you trundling comfortably along well-graded outback roads like the Oodnadatta Track. Serious offroading? Probably not. Serious exploration? Absolutely! The hot-dipped galvanised chassis is 100x50x4mm and sits off Mars’ own independent trailing arm suspension with twin gas shocks. It rides on 16in six stud alloy wheels and mud terrain tyres and is pulled up by 12in electric brakes. Articulation at the hitch is supported by a Poly Block offroad coupling rated to two tonne, and your vehicle is protected by a stone flap. The 120L stainless steel water tank is shrouded in checkerplate for protection on the tracks, and two recovery points of the rear enable a rescue should you need it. Mars claims the Rover is dust resistant rather than dust proof, a level of honesty I appreciated given the number of campers at this end of the market I’ve used that have claimed to be dust proof, but are far from it. This dust ‘resistance’ alone prevents the Rover from being truly offroad capable, however for a family or couple looking for soft adventure out the back of beyond, it’ll do the trick nicely.
FULL OF VALUE
For years cheap campers were thought to be just that, cheap. Cheap was normally followed up with clarifiers too. Words like cheerful, cost effective, crap. That’s no longer the case, and Melbourne based Mars Campers are one of the front runners in the ‘cheap and actually good’ category. This year they presented their rear fold Rover. At $14,990 it’s one of the least expensive campers of the field, and scraped into the under $15k category by just $10. With an included kids bed, Mars market the Rover as a family camper, although there’s no permanent second bed so unless you’re bringing bunks the Rover is a strictly two-up arrangement. Swags or inflatable mattresses are an option, although I’d most likely end up there with the kids in the bed. Dad life, right?
Despite its place in the least expensive category, Mars has thrown in a bunch of freebies which definitely need to be considered when counting your gold doubloons. Free mud tyres and an upgraded kitchen are the big-ticket items, although a set of front mud flaps and bow-shackles also snuck their way in. At 1500kg the Rover’s no lightweight, but does come reasonably well appointed with plenty of open plan living once the side is dropped. With a low-slung profile, plenty of ground clearance, and draped in that oh-so-black paint, the Rover could be the perfect arrangement for adventurous couples or young families on a budget. Mars pride themselves on their upgrade paths too, so the camper can grow as your family, needs, and budget grows.
A SOLID START
The Mars Rover is reasonably self-sufficient and it also has the capacity to expand on this with added extras. If so equipped, it would be a better camper for those long stays away. As judged it came equipped with a single 100A AGM battery, but there is room for two more, and even if a buyer is limited by budget to the standard set-up, there is a good basis here on which to build. The optional mains charger is highly recommended, but was not installed as seen. The only charging was available via the drawbar Anderson plug wired by 6mm cable, and solar is optional.
The Rover comes equipped with a single 120L stainless steel water tank and this is permanently plumbed to the kitchen. With storage capacity for up to three (or four if the gas bottle storage is cut back to one) jerry cans, there is plenty of capacity to feed a shower in the ensuite. The Rover is adaptable, with the option for either one or two gas bottle holders, which can be varied for either 9kg or 4.5kg depending on carrier inserts. The offroad suspension and sturdy chassis would get you wherever you wanted to go. And the inner spring mattress and the generous size kitchen with its large fold-over breakfast bar bench, the large pantry and fridge capacity under the huge area below the awning would make this a comfortable camper in which to spend a long time away from home in a remote environment.
John 'Bear' Willis
The largest rear fold camper in the Mars range assembles easily for an overnighter, and presents you with a slightly raised solid floor, without having to clamber or climb a staircase every time you want to get to your socks and jocks. The hard floor is finished with faux parquetry vinyl that not only feels inviting but is practical. The Rover displays a large tent footprint with terrific internal head height. It offers protection from the 15oz poly cotton canvas that comes complete with instant tropical roof, inner and outer awnings on all windows, quality stitching and fly screens.
The biggest appeal of this camper is that it is easy to live with. You step in and out easily, and climb in and out of bed in the same manner. You don’t have a dinette – but ask yourself, how often do you really need it?
The Rover comes with a single 100A AGM battery with LED lighting, isolator switches, battery management system, water tank and battery charge gauges. There's also an individually fused switch panel to receive the optional 120W solar panel connected via the forward Anderson Plug and 240V if desired.
There’s plenty of storage in the toolbox, as well as in the huge forward module with the fridge slide, pantry and multi-use compartments as well as large drawers under the bed. With the top solid when packed, there’s room for the push bikes, kayaks and even a firewood rack.
Suspension independent trailing arm suspension with dual shock absorbers and coil springs
Brakes 12in electric
Coupling 2000kg Australian Compliant Poly Block
Chassis 70mmx50mmx3mm galvanised RHS
Drawbar 100mm x 50 mm x 4mm galvanised and painted RHS
Body 1.6 zinc anneal with hammertone finish
Wheel/tyre HT 265/70R 16in tyres
Style 16in alloy mag
Box size 2220x1860mmx700mm
Length 5350mm (hitch to tail lights)
Tent size 4200mmx1860mm – Annex room 6000mm x 2400mm
Gas cylinders 2x9kg holders
Water 125L stainless steel with shroud
Cooktop Three-burner gas Thetford Australian Standard installed and certified
Kitchen Cooktop, stainless sink, pressurised tap, utensils drawers
Battery 100Ah AGM deep cycle
$14,990 plus on road costs. Fridge optional extra.