Wedgetail flies high with style
IAN GLOVER reviews a classy slide-on camper, designed by empty nesters, for empty nesters.
David Hazlewood and his wife got together through a mutual love of the great outdoors – hiking, camping, bushwalking and bird watching. All leisure hours were spent ‘alfresco’. But then their daughter showed a great deal of talent in ballet, and as the parent of any sporting or vocationally gifted child knows, if he or she wants to pursue it, tries to perfect it, that’s the end of holidays and weekends away.
When finally the Hazlewoods had time to themselves again, they were obviously a lot older, and felt the need for a few more creature comforts. They bought a series of camper trailers that David continually modified and improved, with single-minded dedication.
The Oxford Dictionary defines a perfectionist as ‘someone who aims at perfection in his work’. To be a perfectionist, you need to know what you want, and more importantly, what’s not good enough, what you don’t want. And you can only know what you don’t want if you’ve experienced something that doesn’t really work, and see the way to fix it. David is a perfectionist.
But the focus switched from camper trailers. He decided he didn’t want the limitations imposed by something you had to drag around behind a vehicle, and at that stage, camper trailers were being banned by some tagalong tour operators because of their potential capacity for environmental damage, particularly on desert tracks. A slide-on camper seemed to offer a number of advantages, like ease of parking, greater accessibility to genuine off-road areas (and supermarket carparks), and the fact that you only had to handle one unit, not two, with fuel savings thrown in into the bargain. David looked at the offerings on the market and found that they were either too big or high, were not particularly space-efficient, or simply too small. There seemed to be little alternative but to design and build one himself…
After seven years of design, research and prototype development, Wedgetail Campers was born. Based in Newcastle, the company has continuously embarked on programmes of improvements and innovation, and the latest innovation is easy living on wheels.
An easy life begins on the road, and on the road, the Wedgetail has a low profile and all the weight – gas bottles and the like – stored down low and towards the front of the vehicle, making for ease of cornering and, on off-road tracks great stability on side slopes. With dimensions measuring 1.22m high, 1.8m wide and a2.5m overall length, the Wedgetail makes it possible to explore narrow bush tracks with overhanging branches and flanking vegetation without risking the damage possible to larger vehicles. Fuel savings are achieved by the use of aluminium as prime construction material, combining a light weight with structural strength (and recyclability), and with an extended drawbar, it’s still possible to tow a boat.
Extremely important on Outback trips, dust-sealing is excellent, with a huge filtered air intake pressurising the interior, and it’s possible to move the unit while fully set up for camping – just the thing if that prime camping spot in the park suddenly becomes available!
Setup is simplicity itself; with a bit of practice, able to be achieved by one person in under ten minutes – obviously less with a couple working as a team. The back folds down through 90 degrees and remains off the ground. Instead of ladders for ingress, there’s a set of steps, complete with a handrail that’s stored in a rear compartment while on the move. Inside, there’s a very spacious living area for two. (The Wedgetail wasn’t designed for families; it’s more for empty nesters, or a fairly well-heeled young couple.)
It’s immediately apparent that with this design, form doesn’t follow function or vice versa. While everything is hugely practical, it also reeks of style, typified by the Italianate stainless steel sink, up close to the ute cabin – all curves and chic, complete with stainless steel dish rack.
There’s plenty of bench space, with the bench top on the left opening to reveal an 80 litre Waeco fridge and all your switches for running on both 240V and 12V. All the bench tops have rounded and reinforced corners for comfort, safety and longevity.
To the left is a commodious double bed, covered with a sheet of vinyl that serves two functions – one to stop the bedding getting wet when packing up after or during rain, the other to prevent oil spatters from the two-burner stove staining the sheets. The mattress is purpose-built, with box springs and foam, and a breathing layer on the bottom to prevent condensation forming while you’re asleep. Flexible-necked individual reading lights lay flat on the bed while travelling.
At the right hand rear of the camper is a full bathroom, including shower and Fiama 1520 chemical toilet. The hot water system is a Truma 14 litre that runs on either gas or electricity, and there’s a slatted shower floor that allows grey water to drain away to a storage tank. While travelling, the loo is stored in a snug storage compartment.
What’s most impressive about this camper is both the attention to detail and the quality of the fit-out: A cabin cruiser-style multi-staged CTEK seven amp battery charger tops up to three deep cycle batteries at once, and because it’s close to the battery box, there’s no current loss; the batteries remain 100 per cent ready to go at all times, with no drain at all on the ute battery; the regulator is a Max Power Tracker – the best for solar panels. Little things count, like the clear plastic tube that reveals how much water remains in the 90 litre tank. But what really sets this design apart is the fact that anything that’s accessible from inside the van can also be accessed from the outside: The ‘his and hers’ wardrobes (complete with a ‘smalls’ drawer in one); all switchgear, even the shower! So when it’s bitterly cold or stiflingly hot, you can stay inside and still do everything you want, and when it’s balmy outside, the same thing applies.
As you can imagine, Wedgetails aren’t cheap. The topline model goes for just over $45,000, with a base spec model coming in just under $39,000. But as with all things, you gets what you pays for!
Five year structural warranty
Phone: 0458 493 9170
Quality fit out
Fast continuous battery recharge
Easy set up
Accessible storage from inside and out
Won’t fit a dual-cab
Luxury price tag