Story and Photos By DAVID COOK
While there’s a huge range of options when it comes to touring and enjoying the outdoors these days, there’s a lot to be said for the flexibility of slide-on campers.
Growing in popularity, they give you the capacity to tow a boat, a horse float or other trailer. Buyers especially like the fact you can offload the camper and drive away exploring, while your camp remains undisturbed as a base. There’s also the ability to easily park in standard sized spaces in town and, matched with a suitable 4 wheel drive, go pretty much anywhere off road your vehicle is capable of driving.
All these features, combined with affordable entry-level pricing is behind the success of the Northstar range of slide-ons, from Freedom Off Road.
Freedom Offroad has been importing the Northstar range for 11 years, and also have them sold through agencies in most states.
The Northstar range is manufactured in the USA, but specially designed and built to comply with Australian standards. This includes correct multi strand cabling, approved gas appliances.
Responding to the popularity of tray-top vehicles in Australia market, Northstar has developed completely new models solely for this market. These include a side entry which is very handy if you need to tow anything.
Add this a general great range of features that come out of the Northstar factory and you have a winning combination, especially with 17 different slide-ons models available.
Northstar is a family-owned business in the US, with three generations of the Willett family ensuring the success of the company since 1961.
Northstar slide-ons are built on a sturdy frame, with fibreglass walls and a tough roof that’s strong enough to walk on, so it can carry solar panels or air conditioners. All units are fully insulated in the ceilings, walls and floor as they are designed to meet the extremes of North American weather where it can get just as hot and an awful lot colder than Australia.
All joints in the timber framing are screwed and glued, and all plywoods used are chosen for their low or non-existent formaldehyde emissions.
There is a wide range of models in the Northstar range, designed to meet a wide range of customer requirements and vehicles. The low profile pop top designs give good clearance in wooded areas, but the solid sided vans require less set-up and have greater room inside.The interior layouts also vary widely, but all come with inner spring mattresses, hot water system, fresh water tank, mains water inlet, two-or three-burner glass top stove, sink, fridge, C-Tek charger and battery(s), 4 or 9kg gas bottle, grey water tank, screened entrance door, porch light and assist handle, fire extinguisher, one 12V and two interior 240V power outlets, exhaust fan and LPG, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors.
Layouts can include east-west or north-south beds, all have interior eating nooks which can be adapted as lounges and/or additional bedding, some have showers and many have toilets. All beds are located at the front, above the vehicle cab.
All models also come with manual corner jacks, but these can be converted to power units that can be operated by a portable drill and all come with fitting kits to adapt them to your vehicle.
The models are variously designed to match the vehicle, and can vary from smaller, light weight models to larger roomier layouts intended for heavy duty vehicles. All popular ute and tray back models are catered for. There’s also a huge range of optional extras.
All Northstar units come with a five-year offroad warranty on the basic structure (all appliances carry their manufacturer’s warranties) so you will at least know that if you want you can undertake that Gibb River Road or Cape York adventure that you’ve always dreamed of in complete confidence, even if all you end up doing is cruising up and down the motorways near home.
Slide-on campers fit on a utility or tray-back vehicle and are held in place by restraints. The Northstar range come with spring-loaded Happijac or Torklift turnbuckles, which are designed to permit the vehicle’s chassis to flex as it was designed to without strain on the camper’s mounts or the vehicle’s chassis or
body. Freedom Off Road will set up your vehicle with detachable underbody chassis mount kits to enable easy installation and removal at home or away on camp.
About the only other adaption that might be necessary is the fitting of set of air bags (available for either coil or leaf spring suspensions, which will assist in the vehicle’s ability to carry the load safely and comfortably. If desiring to carry a camper that might exceed the GVM of the basic vehicle Freedom Off Road can advise you on upgrading the vehicle’s rating.
Since their introduction to Australia, Northstar slide-on campers have won a number of underlining their quality.
$27,990 plus fitting kit
Five years (structural)Full details and specs
Good range of options
Relatively heavy compared to some slide-ons
Side legs can snag logs or other roadside obstacles
Fairly limited electrical fitout