Jayco Swan camper

While today Jayco is perhaps best known for caravans, the company has an incredible track record and heritage cred when it comes to camper trailers.  Since 1975 it has built literally thousands of them– and has an enviable market share, based upon meeting critical price points in the market. That means that they are designed to meet the needs of the majority of potential customers’ needs, not necessarily all of them. More on that later.

Amongst the Jayco fleet are seven models of camper trailers, six of which display the archetypical Jayco trademark bedding arrangement which has them sliding out the ends and supported on props.

At the upper end of this selection is the Swan, which weighs in at 1067kg tare in its standard on-road format and 1275kg in offroad trim. It’s a physically big camper at 2240mm wide and 5365mm long, so it won’t go down some narrow bush tracks with ease.

The Swan provides for two pull out beds, one at each end.  At the front is a 1460mm wide bed – between king and queen sized – and at the rear a 1310mm wide bed (just under a standard double) and ideal for two children. The mattresses are inner spring for good comfort, and as an option you can convert the dinette to another double bed.  Plenty of sleeping potential.

The roof, as with all the Jayco campers, is a pop top, cranked up via their patented roof lifter system. This requires a little elbow grease at the crank handle inserted in the front, but a nifty do-it-yourself option that we saw one camper using was to make up another cranking bar with an old screwdriver end welded into the outer end and it went up and down via a cordless drill very neatly and quickly. The newly redesigned door top drops down quickly and easily into place.

Nevertheless, the set-up is pretty quick and easy, and you’re soon ready to enjoy the camper.

Internally the Swan comes with a comfortable lounge at the front end, with a well equipped kitchen and dinette towards the back.

The kitchen consists of a 93L Thetford upright three-way fridge, stainless sink with mains pressure (for life in caravan parks) and hand pump taps and Smev four-burner (three gas and one electric) stove and grill above a microwave oven, with plenty of cupboard and drawer space beneath. Opposite that is the four-seat dinette.

There is more storage in the Swan than you’re ever likely to use, given that the “carrying load” is 300kg, which includes your 82 litre water tank and 9kg gas bottle (adds 91kg when both are full). By the time you add crockery, cutlery, food, clothing, bedding and other utensils of comfort you’re going to never fill all the space available to you without being overloaded, which includes storage bays under the lounge, cupboard space in the buffet in front of the dinette and the stand-up wardrobe next to the bed.

Inside the Swan, like all the pop-top Jaycos, is light and airy, with great 360 degree views through the clear plastic windows. Curtains are provided all the way around. Each of the beds has plenty of ventilation to keep you comfortable on those hot nights.

All Jayco camper trailers are built on a sturdy hot dip galvanised frames – what they call their Endurance Chassis – with 150 x 50mm RHS main chassis members and 125 x 50mm RHS drawbar. Beneath the floor is a web of pressed steel C-section supports.

Jayco offers all its campers in a standard on-road fitout and an optional offroad set-up. The latter replaces the single beam axle with the newly developed JTECH independent suspension. This is a trailing arm set-up with Pedders coil springs and shock absorbers, Aeon rubber internal springs and Al-Ko stub axles. With full toe-in and toe-out adjustment it is a classy bit of gear that gives the offroad Jaycos a soft and compliant ride over the roughest terrain.

The whole set-up works well with optional Al-Ko Electronic Stability Control, a great innovation for those looking for absolute safety while towing.  Add to these the standard nitrogen-filled tyres on alloy wheels and you have a rig that’s well set up for highway cruising.

If you choose to up-spec your Jayco to offroad trim you also get a 100Ah battery, a jerry can holder at front, Al-Ko offroad electric brake magnets and drop jacks, a checkerplate aluminium skirt around the base of the body, 16 inch alloy wheels and a few other minor additions, which also sees the camper riding 250mm higher for added ground clearance.

The disappointing thing is that for an offroad camper Jayco still only provides for a standard ball coupling, with its limited articulation, a number of wires and hoses under the floor which are dangerously exposed to snagging on sticks, and no stone protection (other than that jerry can holder) at the front and a trip along somewhere like the Birdsville track would make a mess of that nice curved front bodywork.

All of these shortcomings are not going to prevent these campers being very functional and practical for the majority of owners, who are really not likely to be undertaking such serious off-road treks.  If you are serious about going outback, you can accessorise with relatively little effort.

There’s a huge range of options for the Jayco range. You can add a side awning and a full set of walls, flies to shade the extended beds, bike racks, battery and water metre, stereo sound system, roof-mounted air conditioning, 120 watt roof-mounted solar, external slide-out barbecue, hot water service (dual gas/240V operation), external shower, extra water tank and more. You will never be able to say your trip wasn’t comfortable.

They come with a 12-month warranty, 24 hour roadside assist for three years and are backed by over 100 dealers and agents around Australia -it’s a pretty good assurance that you’re never that far from assistance.

Jayco’s Swan is a very good camper for those highway miles and with the addition of the new independent suspension has taken a great step into becoming a competent offroader.  It’s not in the same league as the hardcore offroaders – not yet – but for the casual camper who simply wants to access some of those quieter camping spots in some of our national parks this is a great option that ought to be on the table when making decisions.

Read the full review in Issue 11 of Time to Roam