Camper Trailer of the Year 2021: Marlin Explorer Deluxe

Various — 22 April 2021
With a back to basics approach, Marlin are a popular brand, but their recent offerings, like the Explorer, are offering a little more pizzazz


Score: 82.5

For a number of years Marlin Campers filled a cryptic role in the camper trailer industry, feeding simple, common sense campers to those who didn’t want to be overwhelmed by technology that was becoming prevalent throughout the field. They kept their head down, finding a ready market across a surprisingly active sector of the pastime, without making waves. Then Camper discovered them, and their business model began to change.

What had been intentionally simplistic campers began to accrue a level of detailing that had been out of their policy profile, and slowly they began to include those little extra touches that made their campers just that little more desirable. At the last CTOTY, Marlin won its segment and a market that was keen for a basic camper like this was discovered outside NSW and Queensland, where it had once been anchored by geography.

Today the watchword is still ‘Keep it simple and use quality’, and they are still cautious about not overreaching on camper complexity — a fine balancing act. However, they have successfully remained grounded in the basics of what a camper should be about.

Marlin accepts their campers need to meet the needs of people who want to go camping without allowing the process to overwhelm the experience — that they are meeting that need was exemplified by the young couple at the rain-sodden Showcase at Port Macquarie, who came back, and back, and back, and in the end said, “We keep coming back because as much as we look at all the others yours is the one which answers all our needs in the simplest manner possible.”

Sale made. Business model confirmed.

There is not a lot of overt innovation in any Marlin models as these are campers that use nothing but tried and tested products, but they bring a unique level of reliability for the price and a well balanced approach to meeting all of a camper’s basic needs. Whether you’re heading out for a weekend break, or looking to circumnavigate the continent, Marlin has a camper for you.


Score: 73

The Marlin Explorer Deluxe takes a traditional side-fold soft floor camper design and makes it better. From the layer of thermal insulation inserted between the fly and the camper roof, to the simple to use concertina style poles that frame the sleeping and living areas, care and attention is evident everywhere. 

Indeed, the Marlin team were able to reel off a menu of improvements to design, fit and finish that have been made to their campers since their last appearance at CTOTY 2020. From the enhanced underbody cable installation, pinch welding and improved hitch paint, it seems that nothing has escaped attention. 

At $15,990, the Explorer Deluxe is an investment in an outdoor lifestyle that won’t require a long conversation with the bank manager. And the value for money is self-evident in the 540mm high-sided 7 x 4m Southern Cross box trailer that forms the bones of the Explorer Deluxe, as well as in the obvious quality of fit and finish throughout. 

When it comes time to pack, this rig has 1060L volume of storage space, which is at least 4 milk crates greater than its little brother, the Escape Deluxe, which sits on a 6x4m trailer. This increase in overall space adds considerably to the camper’s versatility, both on the road, and back home where, with the removal of a few bolts, the trailer can be released from its camper components to take on day-to-day load duties. If coin is a driving imperative, it’s worth remembering too that Marlin can provide the same camper specs on a standard 6 x 4m trailer for $3000 less. 

The Marlin Explorer Deluxe is an easy to use 2–4-person camper with room for expansion. With its sturdy build, quality finish, and supported by a local team that’s ready to help get you out on the highways and byways, this is the affordable and straightforward camping buddy that’s simple enough to use — a lot.


Score: 69

When it comes to self-sufficiency, the Explorer Deluxe is basic but falls short of being able to keep a family off-grid for anything more than a long weekend. With a mere 60L of water stored in the poly tank to cater for drinking, cooking, cleaning and showers, a little has to go a long way. As a family-based camper, it could do with a second water tank to increase its self-sufficiency, though the two jerry holders could be used to carry an additional 40L of water.

The 200W portable solar panel will keep the 120Ah AGM battery in an ARK Pak battery box topped up. The Country Comfort portable gas hot water system sends hot water to the Drifta tailgate kitchen that also has a Camec premium hand pump. There is bucket loads of accessible storage under the bed and in the front toolbox plus the kitchen has three slide-out drawers. There is also provision for two 4.5kg LPG holders that will run the hot water service, a stove and a portable BBQ for ages. 

The Southern Cross high side 7 x 4m trailer has neat welds, and the wiring is tidy with grommets and corrugated tubing used to protect it. The canvas is 12oz Ripstop canvas walls, 15oz SatProof insulated canvas roof and PVC floor with double stitched seams. SBS zips are used and there are midgee screens on all the windows and doors. The Drifta kitchen unit is a nice touch, adding functionality and storage.

The build quality is to be applauded, very neat and tidy with a care for detail. The drawbar is 100 x 50 x 4mm steel and the chassis 50 x 50mm RHS. The body is zincalume steel etch primed and painted hammertone. There are gas struts on the front toolbox, bed base and internal access lid, making them easier to open and close.


Score: 77

The Marlin was far and away the lightest camper at CTOTY — hell, we were picking up the drawbar to move and hitch it without the jockey wheel, it was so light and easy to move — and that translated well to a great offroad tow. 

With a 750kg ATM, you’d tow the Marlin with, well, pretty much anything with a drawbar, but head onto the slippery stuff where you need 4WD, and it’s still a case of pretty much anything can tow it. We had a late model D-Max which, to use the common cliche, had us feeling like the camper wasn’t even there. Being fairly narrow at 1.75m meant we could pick our lines between trees easily. Probably the only thing you had to keep in mind was knowing where it was as it’s hard to see, being a short 1.3m from the ground to the top of the canvas cover.

Our test Marlin had the upgraded Explorer suspension and tyre package which gave it a bit more ground clearance, ability and stone protection by way of harder paint finishes. The all-terrain tyres were a good match on the dusty when dry and slippery when wet Port Mac bush.

Setup of this style of camper has been known to be a bit time consuming but Steve has done a great job of minimising internal poles that need to be tensioned, though the awning still requires a fair amount of fiddling — not to worry, as you don’t need to fit it unless you know you are staying put for a period of time or have the kids in tow. At a guess, a quick pitch would be five to ten minutes and the full gambit maybe 30 once you’re familiar with the process.

Once set up, the Explorer is pretty comfortable. The standout for me was the very simple yet clever insulation in the ceiling of the main tent, as it drastically reduces internal temperatures, while the innerspring mattress is about 150mm thick and was soft to touch but firm enough when lying on to know it’ll be a good night’s rest. Being able to access the main storage under the bed when set up is a fantastic feature. 



TARE 540kg

ATM 1400kg

Ball Weight 35kg 

Chassis/Drawbar 50mm x 50mm x 3mm RHS chassis with 1500mm x 100mm x 50mm x 3mm drawbar

Frame 40mm x 40mm RHS corners with zinc anneal walls

Coating Etch Primed then 2 coats Hammertone paint in charcoal

Camper Style Side folding soft floor camper.

Tyres 235/75/15 AT tyres

Rims 15in steel rim

Coupling XO 2500kg Off Road coupling from Ark. 

Brakes AL-KO 9in override brakes with hand brake

Suspension    AL-KO 7 Leaf rebound eye to eye suspension

Axle 45mm solid axle

Canopy/Tent 15oz cotton poly blended canvas, with Rip Stop thread. Double folded and double stitched seams throughout. Roof is dual layer with InsuCell Insulation throughout


Body Trailer 3700mm (L) x 1750mm (W) x 1300mm (H) 

Height 2700mm (tent open) 


  • Drifta Tailgate Kitchen
  • 60L WaterTank plumbed into Kitchen with further 2 Jerry Can Holders for max of 100L.
  • 2 x 4kg Gas Bottle Holders
  • Ark Power Pack — dual 12/240V charger, 300W Inverter, 120Ah AGM Battery, 200W Solar Panel with Controller
  • Anderson Lead into Car from Trailer
  • Country Comfort hot water system with 4m shower hose and additional kitchen tap for instant hot water
  • Insulated wiring warness runs through the chassis so it's not exposed to elements.
  • 160L checkerplate toolbox.
  • 2 x 100mm pole carriers
  • 8in swing-up jockey wheel
  • Custom made stone guard
  • Queen Size 150mm high density foam mattress.
  • Drifta storage pockets
  • Aluminium ladder into bed.
  • Insulated roof.
  • Full annex with individual walls and floor for optional set up requirements.
  • 7x4 Extreme Off Road Trailer, with internal storage area of 2100mm (L) x 1200mm (W) x 500mm (H)


  • On Road Trailer Option for the SUV family or buyer who wants a lighter option for light dirt roads and highway travelling. The tare drops to 450kg thus removing the need for brakes.
  • Boat Rack 
  • Match Tyres/Rims to tow vehicle
  • Removable tent installation so the trailer can be used as a box trailer
  • Larger slide out kitchen
  • 40/60/80L fridge/freezer
  • Hot dipped galvanised chassis
  • Additional gas/jerry holders
  • Motor bike carrying capacity 
  • Push bike holder
  • 105Ah lithium battery
  • Second water tank
  • LED strip lights
  • Rear kids Room for additional sleeping, 2400mm x 2400mm




Marlin Campers

Email steve@marlin



Camper Trailer of the Year 2021 Finalist Marlin Explorer Deluxe Port Macquarie Back to basics Couples camper