From where I’d pulled up in the Holden Trailblazer towing a Bluewater Lachlan, I couldn’t see around the bend to where our videographer had bogged her Pajero Sport. I’d been given the word over the CB radios to stay put; Tim, driving an unburdened Trailblazer, had continued around the bend to help.
I sat awaiting updates. Tensing my ears for the faintest crackle, I heard instead drops of water pattering down from the trees surrounding the infrequently used service track through this state forest near Healesville. The same rains now trickling down had saturated the dirt track and turned it to a swamp.
The rich mud smell, mingling with the scent of damp wood, reminded me of a horse stable — in a nice, homey sort of way. Steam from the brakes snaked up through the Trailblazer’s hubs, floating upwards like I’d made myself a cup of tea to wait out the moment.
All these peaceful symbols were soon to be utterly destroyed (tranquillity and 3500 revs per minute aren’t compatible). The moment started to fall apart with these crackly words: “Alright, we’re out. Come on through. Keep your momentum and favour the left.”
ON THE TOW
We’d rocked up here towing from the outer burbs and then onto the unsealed. The Lachlan weighs 1600kg Tare; you can load it up to 2400kg. At that weight it’s not a fleet-footed child dancing along behind the Pied Piper, but it’s still pretty nimble.
The 4WD’s tacho occasionally pushed 3000 revs, it took a moment to accelerate, and stopping on muddy inclines was a bad idea. There’s more feedback and interplay between car and trailer, more push and pull, than with a lighter trailer (and less than with a heavier one). But as we were setting out to prove, the weight is by no means limiting.
The drawbar is long enough to make reversing a cinch, without making corners hard to round. The overall length of 5.49m, height of 1.6m (50 to 90cm lower than hybrids) and width of 1.9m (similar to many 4WDs) ensure it’s easy to keep track of the Lachlan at all times. The camper’s body does a great job of playing ‘the floor is lava’; it didn’t kiss the turf once. Nor did the drawbar.
There’s a big stoneguard protecting the front. Only a few drawbar fittings for water and gas are exposed. Mind you, we saw a customer’s Bluewater when we picked up this Lachlan and their fittings were in perfect nick after a 20,000km lap of Aus.
The suspension, which features Aussie made Lovell coil springs with progressive bump stops and twin Ride Pro shock absorbers, was firm-ish under the Lachlan’s weight, but dependable.There was still a pleasing amount of absorption on the nasty stuff.
And, other than in the worst of it, it was gloriously smooth sailing; I was thrilled to feel absolutely nada in the cab when the Lachlan went up and over a drainage mound behind me.
The McHitch 3.5 tonne auto tow coupling is a godsend that brushes aside steadily mounting slopes, sudden mounds, violent sideways gradients and deep ditches like they’re child’s play. It flexed to multi-dimensional angles all around the protractor without issue. Hitching up is a breeze, too; you just get the height right with the jockey then reverse on.
A/Ts and 12” AL-KO electric brakes round out the picture. 272km of towing in mixed conditions had the Trailblazer drinking 14.3L litres per 100km.
SETTING UP AND DOWN
To set up you drop down the ARK XO 750 jockey wheel and four Manutec stabilisers. Release three latches on both sides of the body, then push up the forward fold with the assistance of gas struts, or attach the winch near the drawbar and haul it over. Alone I’d probably use the winch, with a friend I’d lift it over.
With the unfolding motion the poles within the canvas spread out and suddenly you have a semblance of your basic structure. You’ll struggle to open your car’s boot now if still connected.
Dropping the rear section, which features a tyre carrier and tool box, is easy thanks to an extendable arm that gives you good control. Any tools or loose parts in the toolbox may clank forward as you lower it. By this stage of set-up this toolbox and the box on the drawbar (which contains just your gas and jerries) cannot be accessed.
Next, unlock the back slide at four points and pull it out until it clicks into place. Reach up and grab a strap, pull it upwards, and you lift the frame into place on the slide-out end.
Walk around the sides and pull the edges of the canvas into place tight over the sides, zip the canvas to the body to close off the inside and clip down a few buttons near the door. Finally, unlock and lower the door and place the two-step ladder.
If you expect windy conditions head inside to reinforce the framework with six internal spreader bars. However, the internal framework alone, being spring-loaded, does a good job of keeping the canvas taut.
I reckon with practice this basic overnight set-up would take six to eight minutes. Set up to this extent, the Lachlan is perfectly ready-to-go on the inside, but you lack external shelter and have nowhere to shower or use your loo (unless you set up the ensuite separately).
Pack down is similar, but a tad longer. You strap the forward fold bed in, undo some zips to minimise canvas tension, make sure nothing is protruding above the dinette seats, and position the canvas so it folds neatly. A winch on the back then helps you to bring the forward fold back into position.
In fully-fledged mode, the camper’s footprint is 7100mm by 4300mm, but as we had it, it measured 7100mm by 1900mm (not including the slide-outs). The tent canvas is Aussie Wax Converters, the zippers YKZ and the PVC on the annexe floor is 680gsm (20oz).
The fully set-up Bluewater Lachlan suits folks who like to linger and appreciate areas to their full depth before rushing off. But if you keep the set-up minimalist, there’s no reason this can’t be a destination-hopping tourer as well.
One final piece of set-up is converting the dinette into the slide-out bed and vice versa. The toe of the bed is a removable cushion; you clear this then lift the backrest into position and place this cushion again along with two more. You undo this every time you go to bed, then redo it for brekky — unless you just use the side seats when dining and keep the bed in place at all times.
You can even convert the Lachlan into a genuine six berth by taking the portable table, folding the legs up, positioning it on the lip of the dinette seats so it bridges the gap, and covering it with the purpose-made cushions. This reduces floorspace further and will require extra set-up and pack-down on a daily basis, but it’s sweet to have the option. How versatile is this thing? Wowee.
PRIME REAL ESTATE
The forward fold section houses a queen sized innerspring Bambini Bedding mattress, nice and soft on your weary bones; the other side features high density foam, also very comfortable and just as big. Both sleeping quarters feature their own LED light with an adjustable dimmer switch, and both can be closed off for privacy. Access is easy for both, helped with a step on the forward-fold side.
The U-shaped dinette could comfortably host four or more. There’s pillow backing on one side (I’d probably prefer this to be a bit more upright), and no backrest, just canvas, on the other sides. Another adjustable LED light hovers above, providing a good level of illumination at night. Speakers are near your calves for the MP5 sound system. Handy to the dinette are 12V and cig plugs. At your side as you enter is a touch panel controlling all of the lights.
Headroom is impressive, including on the beds. Eight windows surround you — three down both sides and one on each end. They’re bloomin huge, much bigger than you’d get with a hard body. The inside will always be well-ventilated and you can enhance this by propping the window awnings out with poles. A safari roof, which stays attached, regulates internal temperature.
The use of a portable table, in place of a fixed one, allows outside use, frees up floor space and increases the Lachlan to a six-berth. I would probably fold down this table each night for convenience, otherwise it’d be hard to head outside in the dark.
A+ on the external slide-out kitchen with its Thetford cooktop, to the right of the door. There’s three burners fed by plumbed gas, huge wind guards, a hot/cold water tap fed by a Seaflo 42 Series pump and channelled through Bluewater’s trademark snake tracking, over a sink with its own place for drying that drains out of a pipe; plus a fold-up two-tier shelving system, nearby lighting on the camper body, a map light on a flexi-neck, and shallow drawers along the front for cutlery or similar. Extra working space flips over to the other side and extends off the end. Handy to it all are USB, cig and DC outputs.
On the other side of the door, you access pantry storage and the sizeable fridge slide. The available space is 980mm (L) by 540mm (W) by 590mm (H); you can bring your own fridge or option one on. To slide out you just depress a bar connected to the release catches on both sides. It’s refreshingly easy!
If you want to chill outside in the shade, you can set-up the awning or annexe (which offer 6000mm by 2400mm of shelter). You can light this space up with light strips that clamp on and are powered via conveniently placed DC plugs on the camper.
The double ensuite attaches to this; it has a wet and dry room, perfect for keeping your living quarters and provided 10L chemical toilet dry. Shower water is fed from a fixture at the drawbar and heated by a Smarttek 6 gas continuous HWS.
The 1600kg Tare, calculated to include canvas, poles and standard accessories, leaves room for 800kg of additional storage; or 640kg when you factor in full water tanks.
Down the driver’s side, at the front near the drawbar, is a big vented compartment. To the right, this features an open space ideal for the toilet or similar and, to the left, a drawer and storage cavern.
Further left, you access the management control panel featuring water level gauges, a volt meter, rocker switches and isolation key. Below this compartment, there’s a lever allowing you to choose which of the two tanks the water is drawing from. Then, on the opposite side of the tyre, is external access to the two batteries.
At the back of the camper now, we find the sizeable pole carrier, spare tyre, and tool box. Around the other side, we encounter the kitchen, then, to the front of the tyre, a big door over the drawbar which opens to reveal the fridge slide and pantry, which is basically two sizeable drawers.
Internally, the passenger and driver’s side parallel underseat storage is chewed into by the wheel arches. There’s an extra cavern on the driver’s side of the dinette. You can also use the floorspace for storage while travelling.
There’s a tie-down cargo rail system on the roof, allowing you to travel with some bigger goodies. Bluewater recommend a max of 80kg spread evenly on the roof.
Off-grid potential is solid, too. Two gas 4kg bottle holders and two 20L jerry can tie-downs occupy the front box. The AGM batteries combine for 240Ah and are charged via the the Projecta IDC25 DC Charger with the help of the 200W folding solar panel (an inverter and 240V can be optioned on, but are not standard). The 160L of water is ideal; four people showering will drain stocks, but you can set up a tap to run off mains supply if at a caravan park.
So, was the Lachlan up for the obstacle that laid around the bend? When I received my cue, I shifted into drive, put down the handbrake, and took a wide arc around the corner to avoid fallen gum tree branches.
As I came onto the straight and planted my foot, my eyes frantically sought out the risks I was approaching. To the right: a muddy morass, filled with stagnant ochre puddles — depth unknown. To the left, a narrow strip of slimy, slippery mud bordered by protruding branches — the lesser of two evils.
As I zoomed towards the debacle in High Four, all logical thought drowned out by the basso profondo of the 500Nm motor fighting the raw, sliding surface, I realised that the right tyres would have to enter the morass. Teeth clenched, I hugged the left as tightly as possible.
What happened next is a mishmash of sensations — body gyrating, view through the windscreen careening to encompass different cut-outs of forest, mud flying up in huge arcs from the tyres, revs reaching a fever pitch. Then, before I knew it, I was on the far side, with the Lachlan in perfect nick behind.
This thing is clearly tough, but your confidence can run even deeper than that. The warranty is awe-inspiring. Five year structural, five years on canvas, three on the AL-KO wheel hubs, three on the Seaflo pumps, five on the Lovells Springs, three or 60,000km on the Ride Pro shocks.
Bluewater have showrooms around the country, in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, WA, SA and Darwin. The product is 50/50 Aussie and imported, with the kitchen, body and chassis done overseas, and the rest, including gas, done in Australia.
With a price tag of $35,500, and the promise of awesome outdoor living, spacious internal sleeping and dining, and a relatively compact offroad-ready base, it could well be your turn to coat your very own Bluewater Lachlan in mud.
Ball weight 125kg (dry)
Suspension Independent trailing arm suspension with Australian Made Lovell Coil Springs, progressive bump stops and twin Ride Pro Shockers
Brakes 12” AL-KO brakes with waterproof seals, Japanese Bearings, 14mm wheel studs, custom made hub-centric hubs
Coupling McHitch 3.5t Uniglide Off Road Coupling
Chassis 50x50x4mm Hot Dip Galvanised steel
Drawbar 120x50x3mm Hot Dip Galvanised steel
Body 1.2mm zinc panels
Wheels/Tyres 16x8” alloy wheels and your choice of M/T or A/T 265/75R16s
Style Forward fold with rear slide-out
Travel size 5.49m (L) x 1.9m (W) x 1.6m (H)
Footprint when fully set up 7.1m x 4.3m
Awning/annexe footprint 2.4m x 6m
Gas 2 x 4kg plumbed
Water 160L across two tanks, Smarttek 6 Gas continuous hot water system, Seaflo 42 series pump with John Guest fittings and water lines, plus mains pressure water inlet (with limiting valve)
Kitchen Stainless steel Thetford kitchenette with flip over and pull-out table, three-burner gas stove, plumbed gas and 12V power to kitchen
Battery 2 x 120Ah AGM with Projecta IDC25 DC Charger and 200W folding solar panel with Anderson plug
Optional super tourer package Boat/Cargo Rack; 250W Solar Panel; Evakool Travelmate Fridge TMDZ-95 (96 litre, dual zone); Premium Mattress Upgrade to Pocket Spring with bed topper; Projecta 300W Inverter; 240V installation; Projecta 21A 6 Stage Charger; All-weather Storage Cover; 1 x Led Reverse Light; 1 x additional Gas Point (Rear for BBQ); 2 x 3.7kg full Gas Bottles; 2 x 22lt Proquip Jerry Cans; Annexe Mesh Floor; 3 x Aluminet Shade Walls (2 x side and 1 x front); Quick Day Awning; Canvas Cushion Covers; 5 x additional Annex Lighting. (Takes price up to $41,100)
PRICE AS STANDARD
- Small travelling dimensions compared to a van
- Very flexible McHitch coupling
- Tall and airy interior, with free-flowing ventilation
- Ability to sleep six, or four with space remaining
- A genuine mansion when fully set-up
- Impressive quality of finish throughout
- Stellar three-burner kitchen slide
- Heavy-ish, without being unrealistically weighted
- Difficulty of access to front and rear boxes when set up
- Full set-up is time-consuming
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
Fit for intended purpose — 8.5
Innovation — 8.5
Self-sufficiency — 8
Quality of finish — 9
Build quality — 7.5
Offroadability — 7.5
Comforts — 7
Ease of use — 6.5
Value for money — 8
X-Factor — 7.5
Address 2 Embrey Court, Pakenham, Victoria, 3810
Phone 1300 594 000 or 03 5945 5344