Aussie camper trailers pack Outback-grade mettle, five-star comfort
Australia has developed a well-deserved reputation for building some of the toughest no-nonsense camping trailers on Planet Earth. Engineered to surgically explore some of the most remote topography on continent and planet, Aussie trailers and caravans are marvels of modern engineering that pair military-grade construction strategies with amenities lists that make some vacation homes look shoddu and outdated. With a proper 4x4 vehicle out in front, a quality Aussie trailer will go anywhere you have the courage to take it. These are some of the highlights from the sea of towables at the recent Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow.
Lotus Off Grid
The Lotus Off Grid looks worlds different than it did when we first spotted it in 2016. What started off as a compact, single-axle 14-footer for three has blown up into a full range of family caravans that land between 16.5 and 23.3 feet (5 and 7.1 m). While smaller, stouter camper trailers are considered Australia's most rugged, Outback-worthy way to tour, caravans like the Off Grid aren't exactly highway-tethered road tourers. The Off Grid's marine-grade German-composite body is fortified with checker-plate body armor, and a Control Rider twin-shock independent suspension eats up bumps below.
Rugged doesn't mean "roughing it," in this case, as the Off Grid lives considerably more comfortably than a standard hotel room. The spacious 23-footer pictured sleeps a full family of six with a double bed and four bunks. It keeps that hearty family fed and entertained with a four-burner cooktop, microwave, oven/grill, compressor fridge, 24-in LED TV and Fusion premium sound system. It also packs standard heat and A/C, along with a washing machine. Two 120Ah AGM batteries and three 170W solar panels team to keep all that essential and non-essential equipment humming. The 23-foot model wore an AU $96,719 (approx. US$56,000) price tag at the show.
A versatile Aussie squaredrop trailer, the 14-foot (4.3-m) Australian Off Road Sierra consists of a Raptor-coated livable lockbox atop adamantine bones. That latter bit means a Supagal high-tensile steel chassis that chews through the rough stuff with help from an independent trailing arm suspension with off-road shocks. Bash plates around the tanks and stone protection on the pipes ensure that all systems are go on arrival, no matter how rough the journey there. A standard river-drawing system even lets you tap into Mother Nature's bounty for camp water.
Up above, the lightweight fiberglass shell has been sliced and shaped for optimal off-road capability and filled with a 6-in (15-cm) multi-density foam double mattress laid out next to a picture window. The side-access kitchen has enough drop-down and slide-out space to house a dual-burner stove, sink, fridge/freezer and BBQ grill. The shower tent, available roof-top tent and available annex tent add serious canvas-walled expansion space. A 150Ah lithium battery with battery management system feeds onboard electrical equipment.
Only in Australia can $42,500 (US$24,625) be considered "entry level" for a trailer, but we reckon hardened, demanding adventurers will find plenty of value in this innovative "micro camper."
With a similar (but less green) all-terrain squaredrop look, the 17.7-foot (5.4-m) Lumberjack Birdsville seems quite like the AOR Sierra at first glance. However, this squaredrop has a very different layout. Instead of merely accommodating two people inside the insulated fiberglass walls, Lumberjack cuts the roof open, attaches some hinges and creates a forward-folding tent topper. With a combination of double bed in the tent and convertible sofa/dual bunks inside the hard walls, the Birdsville becomes a camper for the whole family, sleeping two adults and two children. And with a hot-dip galvanized chassis, dual-shock independent suspension, skid plate-protected double-water tank system and dual-battery electrical system backing them, that family is free to chase as much adventure as it likes.
The Birdsville was retailing at AU$29,999 when we first covered it last month but is now advertised online for a reduced $27,999 (US$16,225) price.
Camper trailers might be better than caravans for straight-lining away from civilization, but the off-grid-friendly ERV caravan might just be the world's best for staying away. That's because it does away with fuels like LPG and diesel, relying solely on electricity to keep all the onboard equipment running. Designed by Retreat Caravans and OzXcorp, the ERV was billed as the first of its kind when it debuted last year, feeding a 14.3-kWh lithium battery pack with up to 2,000 watts of solar charging and distributing that battery power through a robust 5-kW inverter meant for running multiple appliances at the same time. That system doesn't merely run basics like the induction cooktop and LED lighting but a glamping-level amenities list that includes heating, air conditioning, a microwave/convection oven, a 24-in TV, a full-size 274L fridge and even an electric BBQ grill. A Supagal chassis and off-road suspension enable the ERV to wander far enough away from the grid to put that robust power system to the test.
In addition to the central dinette layout we looked at in December, the wraparound sofa dining lounge floor plan pictured above was on display in Victoria. ERV plans five floor plans in all, with pricing starting around AU$110,000 (US$63,725).
Vista RV Crossover Classic
Designed to fill the space between caravan and camper trailer, the aptly named Crossover series from Vista RV comprises off-road teardrops with pop-up roofs and walk-in cabins. The 16-foot (4.9-m) all-weather Crossover Classic pulls out the stops in supporting an indoor/outdoor camping getaway. Inside, it features a convertible dinette/queen bed, radio and kitchen block with 80L fridge, pantry and sink. Outside, it completes the kitchen capabilities with a slide-out stove and sink and available door-mounted storage pantry. The drop-down shower tent around back lets campers wash down after sweaty, dusty adventures, and the 160W solar panel and Redarc battery management system keep the lights on.
The Crossover's hot-dip galvanized chassis, asymmetric link suspension, and mixed fiberglass, vacuum-pressed composite and sheet metal body construction provide a mix of extreme off-road readiness and smooth highway driving. The smallest, base-level trailer in Vista RV's three-model lineup, the Crossover Classic starts at AU$70,200 (US$40,675), according to the invoice we spotted at the show.
Find a fuller walk-around of each camper and a few additional hardcore trailers in the gallery.