As a Melbournite, I savour any chance to get up north — so I felt blessed to find myself on the banks of Coochin Creek recently.
This waterway flows into Pumicestone Passage, the narrow channel between Bribie Island and mainland Queensland. And it’s rather pretty. Crab pot floats bobbed on the leaden water. Midday sun sent fragments of light dancing over the ripples and cast the shadows of mango trees onto the banks.
I was there with Adam Mathieson, General Manager of Swag Camper Trailers, who lives up this way himself. It was interesting to hear Adam reminisce fondly about areas even further north; we all seem magnetised towards the equator.
As he ran through the set-up of the Raptor X13 Explorer, Swag’s family-friendly six-berth hybrid priced at $39,990, he pointed out a tinny on the water and said: “We used to pull drag nets through creeks like this in North Queensland. You wouldn’t do that anymore. Too many crocs.”
It was clear Adam felt a hint of nostalgia for the Northern wilderness — even if business and family mean he can’t get up that way as frequently as he once did.
His priorities have shifted and now he’s more focussed on helping others take on the North. In particular, he and the broader Swag team want to empower the oft-forgotten but bulky demographic of family men and women with a flock of kids to accommodate.
Hence the hybrid standing on the banks of Coochin Creek.
SIX-BERTH. DID I HEAR THAT RIGHT?
Indeed you did. The Raptor X13 Explorer can be configured from a three-berth up to a seven-birth, but as we saw it, it accommodated six. The ability to configure for five or more on permanent fixtures (rather than floorspace) is what makes the X13 Explorer unique. A key factor enabling this human cargo is the fold-out rear, which extends the living space of the 13 footer to 16 foot.
After going through the usual rigmarole of hybrid set-up — putting down the ARK XO 750 jockey wheel, unhitching, and dropping down the four stabiliser legs — you head to the back where the magic happens. You release and drop down the two spare tyres, then lower them smoothly on gliding gas struts until they rest on the ground. This makes it easier to change the spares as well.
Folding out the rear extension is much easier than it looks. You unclip the main door, fold it up to create the roof, bring out the side doors one at a time and secure them, fold down the base, lift up the back wall and clip it in at the top. Voila!
To continue the set-up you unclasp the pop-top on the outside; it’s a little awkward to do on the awning-side if you have the oversized awning (though you can opt for a shorter awning). Then you head inside and fold the main mattress out into the created space of the rear fold-out, then push up the pop-top on both sides.
That simple set-up takes about five minutes. The bunks, which stay in position when packed down, are ready to go. They hover over both sides of the queen sized main bed, measuring 180cm long by 60cm wide. If you need to get them out the way, say to access the batteries under the bed, you can push them up on gas struts, into the space made available by the raised pop-top.
The other two sleepers sleep near the entry. Both sleep perpendicular to those sleeping in the main sleeping section, one on another mattress across the toe of the sleepers and the other to the left as you enter, where you sit in the dinette. You can also add another bunk to the front section to create sleeping for a seventh person.
Due to the limited space, there are a few small compromises. Getting in and out of the top bunks via vertical ladder may be tricky for kids with developing motor skills, and space may be limited as they grow towards adult-size — but growing tackers may be keen to sleep in their own swags by this stage, anyway. The mattresses of the bunks are also firmer, being foam, but most kids — who unlike Mum and Dad don’t keep a stockpile of lumbar spine X-Rays in their bedroom drawer — ought to cope fine.
All in all, Swag have managed, somehow, to keep the interior relatively uncrowded — a terrific design achievement. This is a genuine six-berth that could take two adults and four kids into the bush and genuinely accommodate them.
HOUSE OR HOME?
The X13 Explorer is very well-ventilated. There’s one window on the passenger side, one at the back on the fold-out extension, and two down the driver’s side. These can be opened fully, with midgee screen, or blacked out. Then, there’s five vented windows in the pop-top vinyl. You can even take the coolness to the next level with an optional DOMETIC FJ2200 reverse cycle air-con. Two bits of wiring running up through cable on the pop-top power this.
The Fiamma F45S awning goes out without heartache using your standard wind-out stick. The oversized awning offers a good amount of coverage over the fridge and kitchen sections and is ideal for outdoor relaxation. You can relax under here with the in-built bluetooth stereo with external speakers going. Alternatively you could head indoors and chill in the dinette; it’s L-shaped, or arguably U-shaped if you count the bed across the toe with the ladders at its sides.
The stainless steel kitchen with stabilising leg slides out under the awning to reveal four-burners and huge wind-guards. The Big Bad Wolf would do well to blow your flame out. To the cook’s left is a sink and space for dishes, with the tap heated by a Truma HWS and powered by a SEAFLO pump (as with the showerhead). Along the slide-out there’s various drawers for storage and a pull-out extends working space off the end. External LED lights keep this reasonably well lit at night. There's room for an 80L fridge near the front, on the other side of the awning.
To the left of the cook a side table folds down from the camper’s side, offering another convenient working space while cooking (though it blocks the sink if used this way) or a nice flat surface to put something down on when around camp. On this, there’s access to 12V and USB outputs.
We didn’t see the external shower ensuite on review day, but I could see where it slots into the slide-tracking, at the body height of the camper on the driver’s side near the press-operated shower-head with hot and cold taps.
The toilet can slide out into the internal living area, which is potentially convenient for kids who don’t want to go outside at night. However, I’d personally opt to use it in the external ensuite. It can be accessed on its slide-out from an external door, from where it can be placed into position.
CAN IT SURVIVE THE NORTH?
The Raptor X13 Explorer features a lot of the requisites for offroad travel through rough terrain. We put it to the task on a few washed-out and lumpy logging roads in the state forests near Coochin Creek.
Upfront an ARK 360 offroad hitch rated to 3500kg enables a lot of flex, making for minimal feedback from the trailer and smooth, easy motion. The trailer rides high with a nifty departure angle, helped by the positioning of the door in front of the tyre. The rear fold-out enables a 13ft travel length, which helps with navigating tight bends and safe driving.
The dimensions of 5.7m (L) x 2.35m (H, when closed) x 2.05m (W) are more compact than many hybrids. The X13 Explorer is average for its category in terms of weight at 1.85 tonnes Tare, allowing for a calculated payload of 750kg up to the ATM of 2600kg. Meanwhile 135kg bears down on the ball. That ATM is getting a bit heavy, but it’s pretty common; most 4WDs are up for it.
Serious offroad punters may want to not include the air-con, which adds height, and to ask for a shorter awning, as the oversized one sticks out.
Everything rides nicely on independent coil spring suspension with dual Monroe shocks. Swag transitioned to these shocks based on customer requests. Now, given they’re commonplace in certain 4WDs, they are easy to source if they happen to fail.
It was bone-dry on our test day, so the Goodride Radial Mud Terrains weren’t fully exercised. They were like Babe Ruth mucking around in the Little Leagues. Their aggressive tread could find traction on much barer and slipperier surfaces than we encountered, and you could drive with the confidence that there is not one but two spares on standby.
On tighter tracks the scrub bars, or rock sliders, would keep the camper’s sides in good health. Checkerplate along the lower half protects the body from flicked-up rocks and also acts as the stoneguard.
The forward mudflaps ahead of the tyres will, to an extent, protect the underside from anything flying back from your 4WD’s tyres. Underneath, there was, on our model, a bit of wiring run in certain places but it was always tethered or attached to the camper closely and seemingly out of harm’s way.
Two recovery points at the back could save the day and your investment. Another great piece of protection is the five year structural warranty on Swag’s hybrid vans. Component warranties, such as on the shocks, charger and awning, are also covered by Australian-based companies.
WILL WE HAVE TO SCAVENGE FOR MUD CRABS?
The Raptor X13 Explorer will enable most folks to spend a week or potentially two weeks out in the sticks. Of course, it needs to carry a few more resources than other RVs, being a six-berth.
On the drawbar there’s two rings for 4.5kg plumbed gas bottles and two holders for 20L jerry cans. The aluminium box in between these fixtures folds forward and is pretty spacious and ideal for firewood or tools. In terms of water, there’s 205L across three tanks; two 85L tanks and a 35L tank.
The most impressive off-grid feature is the power arrangement. There’s three 100Ah batteries. Without you having to lift a finger, these stay charged thanks to the 300W of solar mounted across three panels on the roof; you can also charge via Anderson plug while driving or via mains power. All of this feeds through a 16A 240V Projecta Pro-Charge charger. You can also add on an inverter — our review model was fitted with a 1000W Pass Power.
With the two tanks full you’ve got a 500L payload to play with and there are plenty of areas to distribute it. Heading down the driver’s side, there’s a high tunnel boot with its own lights with switches. Below this, there’s the major tunnel boot; the driver’s side slide features a box ideal for a generator, Weber Q or 55L fridge; above this, another drawer pulls out. On the other side of this boot we find the main fridge, up to an 80L EvaKool.
Further towards the back on the passenger side, is another low storage cavern and the toilet slide-out. There’s also another small slide-out to the left of the door on the passenger side.
Internally, three wide drawers slide out from under the bed. If you lift out the smaller mattress at the toe of the big bed you gain access to storage over the driver’s side wheel arch and if you lift the bed you find the batteries and can access one of the external storage caverns.
IS IT THE ONE?
The Raptor X13 Explorer was first launched at the tail-end of 2018 and is already in its third generation. It’s imported, but gas, electronics, 240V, HWS and a lot of the componentry are done here in Australia. It’s customisable, within reasonable bounds. If something you saw here doesn’t suit you, or you think something is missing, you might be able to change it up or add it when you order.
The target audience for this hybrid is parents with three to four kids, parents who plan to grow or start a family, or parents who want to embrace the social life of their kids (camping sleepovers always were the best).
Ideally the kids along for the ride are young; when kids hit puberty or reach 15 it will become more crowded inside — but at this stage they might opt to sleep outside in a swag instead! For the younger years, this is an awesome offering that will make the kids enthused to go camping.
The brilliance of the Raptor X13 Explorer is that it fits many of the inclusions usually reserved for larger hybrids into a 13 foot unit — without becoming overly crowded. Adam told Camper that, with the Explorer, he was trying to create a turnkey package, ready to go immediately after purchase. The hybrid really does have everything you’ll need and given it costs $39,990, that’s pretty impressive.
SPECS (WITH GENESIS OFF-GRID PACKAGE)
Payload 750kg (calculated)
Ball weight 135kg
Suspension Independent coil spring with dual Monroe shocks
Brakes 12” electric
Coupling ARK 360 Offroad Hitch
Body Fully welded aluminium frame with insulation and aluminium composite sheet walls
Cladding Composite sheeting
Wheels/Tyres Six-stud LT265/75R16 wheels, Goodride Radial M/T
Style Pop-top Hybrid
Travel size 5.7m (L) x 2.05m (W) x 2.35m (H, closed)
Body length 13ft closed
Interior 1.9m x 4.1m when open
Awning size 4.5m x 2.8m (oversized) or 3.5m x 2.7m (fitted)
Gas 2 x 4.5kg bottles plumbed
Water 205L (two 85L tanks and one 35L tank), with Truma HWS and SEAFLO pump to external showerhead and sink tap
Kitchen Fully plumbed stainless steel kitchen slide-out with four-burner and windguards, sink with hot/cold tap, extension bench
Battery Three 100Ah batteries, Projecta Pro-Charge Charger, 1000W Pass Power Inverter (optional)
Solar 300W across three roof-mounted panels, with PWM solar charge controller
PRICE AS STANDARD
$39,990 + ORC
ADDITIONAL EXPENSES ON MODEL TESTED
Air conditioner $2,000
1000W Inverter $950
- Empowers an oft-forgotten market segment
- Accommodates a family of six or seven, with permanent fixtures
- Value price for inclusions
- Straightforward set-up
- Just about everything you need is standard
- Compact for its berth and inclusions
- 300Ah of battery capacity topped up by 300W solar
- Interior will eventually be outgrown by youngsters
- Getting onto bunks requires some effort
- A reasonably heavy ATM
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
Fit for intended purpose — 9
Innovation — 8.5
Self-sufficiency — 8.5
Quality of finish — 6.5
Build quality — 7
Offroadability — 7
Comforts — 7.5
Ease of use — 7
Value for money — 8.5
X-Factor — 7
Swag Camper Trailers
Address 7 Collinsvale St, Rocklea QLD 4106
Phone 1800 SWAG CAMPERS (792 422)