Story and photos: David Cook
The debate over local versus imported campers can be a challenge to most prospective buyers, as well as those in the industry.
Those who import campers or vans from overseas have to face the fact that there are limits to what you can alter or amend when things are pre-made and finished. For some the response is, there it is, take it or leave it, for other companies this is a matter of discomfort and they go looking for a solution.
For Sydney RV outlet, Freedom Off Road the answer seemed obvious: introduce a line of locally made campers to complement their existing range of Northstar imported slide-ons.
The Northstar range of US-built trayback campers have been good to Freedom Off Road, forming the core of the business and establishing an excellent name in the market, winning numerous awards and setting standards that others must chase. But the problem is that coming as finished units from a factory overseas – even though they are specially remodelled there to meet the market needs of Australia – there were limits to the variations that could be incorporated.
“We had potential customers asking us for features that we found it difficult to meet,” manager Matt Miller said, “and I don’t like sending a customer away disappointed or unhappy. It started us looking for a solution, and we found it in a factory at nearby Windsor.”
Northstar found a business that could provide the standard that they wanted, and was prepared to build to order, so that colour, fit-out, orientation of major components and all sorts of other customer-preferred options.
The new camper has been tagged the Beyond, and is a Euro-style unit, with white walls, dark bench tops and stylish fit-out throughout.
It is designed for trayback vehicles as we saw it, but can also come in a space cab version. The doorway access as we saw it was on the side, but rear door entry is also an option.
This sort of flexibility is just what Freedom Off Road was looking for when they went down the path of having their own line of campers made locally.
As we saw it the queen-sized bed, with its reading lights, was in an east-west orientation, with the head at one side and the feet at the other, but with a slight extension of the overhang on the camper – which also provides for additional shelter over the windscreen of the vehicle – a north-south orientation is also available.
Above the bed is a Heki-style hatch in the roof, which allows you to lie in bed and look at the stars, or to open the hatch, to catch the breeze at night. You are always protected from the elements by a slide-across insect screen or light shield.
All windows come with the pull-down insect screens or lift-up light shades for privacy.
For complete control over your internal environment there’s a remote control reverse cycle Dometic air conditioning unit.
The insulated walls contain a well equipped kitchen, with a two-burner stove and a mixer tap over a stainless steel sink. Both fittings are provided with glass tops. There is a good array of cupboard and drawer storage beneath the kitchen bench and extractor fans and light above, with additional cupboard storage there.
On the opposite side of the camper is the110 litre Waeco fridge and the microwave oven, with yet more cupboard space underneath.
Adjacent to the entry is the dinette area with comfortable seats either side of the table and two 240V outlets beneath. Above this is an array of small cupboards, all with gas strut assisted doors for ease of access and more cupboard space next to the door.
The shower and toilet stall is reasonably roomy for the confined space and because of the ceiling height has good headroom, with the obligatory ceiling fan. The complete seal around the top ensures bathroom odours are never an issue. At the foot of the bed, at the end of the kitchen bench, is a television with DVD player.
Portable power comes from a 160 amp/hour battery which can be topped up by the optional 180 watt solar panel or via the Anderson plug from the alternator. The battery and the 90 litre water tank are located toward the front of the camper to optimise weight distribution ahead of the vehicle’s back axle.
An option that can also be added is electric legs for an additional $1490 so loading and offloading can be done with the assistance of a cordless drill.
The Beyond weighs in at 1000kg tare, a bit on the heavy side, as by the time you add gas, a tank of water, food, clothes, chairs for outdoors and other items the gross weight would be up around 1500-1600kg.
All up the Beyond is a quality package, with lots of flexibility in design and priced at $34,990 as we saw, with a two-year on-road warranty, it would be a good buy for those who want a bit of comfort on their explorations of Australia.
Price: $34,990 as tested
Read the full review and comparisons in Issue 10 online