Expanding on their 30-year heritage of agricultural manufacturing, Jacksons first entered the slide-on game in the mid-2000s when they started producing steel shells for the slide-ons made by another South Aussie brand, Candy Canvas.
In 2014, when the previous owners retired, Wayne and Marg of Jacksons purchased the product. Since then, they’ve revolutionised it, switching to aluminium and introducing the hard-lidded design, which now outguns its soft-top ancestor.
On an unseasonably sunny day during what has been a rainy start to our southern winter, Emma and I headed out with Wayne and Marg, and their lead man Stu, to check out the Hard Lid model, in both single and dual cab versions. Here's what we found out.
Jacksons’ 30 staff manufacture Carry Me Campers from the ground up in Murray Bridge, a riverside town of 15,000 an hour’s drive east from the twin spires of St Peter’s Cathedral. All materials are local in origin: aluminium is purchased en masse from home shores; the 10oz canvas is manufactured in Sydney and sewn in Adelaide; banana benders craft the water tanks and crow eaters the REDARC electronics.
The more that is done in-house, the less a brand relies on subcontractors, and the greater control they have over quality. Jacksons have the equipment to make in-house production possible: Fronius welders, a paint bay, a guillotine, and a brake press — to dip a toe. As such, they can meticulously construct their campers without accepting any compromises imposed by general-purpose, externally produced gear. Accordingly, the Hard Lid’s layout and weight distribution reflect clear ideas, undiluted by design restrictions.
FITTING A HARD LID TO YOUR UTE
You need a tray-back ute to own a slide-on. Most models are suitable, with preference given to vehicles designed to carry a greater load over or in front of the rear axle, rather than behind it. A Carry Me Camper secures to the tray with four over-centre latches. After removing the bars holding the latches, and inserting and jacking four legs, you’re free to drive out, roam, and return to a set-up camper. However, set-up and pack-down are faster than removing the camper, so there’s no need to bring the legs, which together weigh 48kg.
Ideally, your chosen vehicle will carry its spare tyre underneath. However, if you fit larger tyres or wish to carry two you may have to relocate the spare/s. For single cabs, there’s enough space between the cab and slide-on, plus Jacksons are experimenting with a tray-mounted rear spare holder. You can also use the cab’s roof rack, but retrieving and remounting a tyre from up here would be unpleasant.
Beyond a certain point of track difficulty, a mounted camper beats a towed one hands down. On our test drive along a dirt track parallel to a railroad, the two slide-on-equipped Cruisers frolicked through the mud and the dirt and enjoyed high clearances and mind-bending flex crawling down a gouged red slope. You’d need large kahunas, and a pinch of poor judgment, to tow something down that.
A slide-on’s main potential limiting factor is weight, but Jacksons have kept the Hard Lid to 500kg by using aluminium, cutting out circles in metal elements where they can, and excluding select bells and whistles. Still, you’d want firmer springs and tougher shocks than stock, to ensure a level ride and to guarantee the coils have their full range of motion. Other available improvements are to your brakes, GVM and potentially the axles.
When buying a camper, owners may sometimes feel like they’re left on their own to resolve these problems, but Jacksons also manufacture trays and toolboxes, and distribute and fit 4x4 accessories (including ARB and JMACX). For peace of mind that all elements cohere, Jacksons can’t be beaten.
The Hard Lid is powered by a 100Ah Revolution lithium battery; so, compared to AGM, expect reduced weight, quicker charging speeds, and the ability to power your gear at lower levels of charge. Still, to be thorough, Jacksons have installed a Victron low voltage disconnect that kicks in when your battery drops below 11V.
Alternator charge and 250W of rooftop CIGS solar channels through a state-of-the-art REDARC BMS 30. This system puts all relevant data at your fingertips and also allows you to top up via 240V. A male power cord for this purpose leads from the internal storage, out under the soft seals of your closed side door, to an external power source. For those seeking shade but wanting charge, there’s an Anderson plug you can hook up to an unregulated portable panel.
The 100Ah battery will handle up to a 1000W inverter, if you option this on. The inverter can be turned on and off from a button at the bedhead, so you could run an electric blanket at night, and then — just by poking a lone finger from under the blankets — turn off the electric blanket and prevent the inverter from draining charge on standby. If you became cold later, you’d just have to press the button again.
There’ll be minimal voltage drop because the cabling is shorter in a slide-on; a labelled Narva fusebox makes diagnosis of electrical grief cinch; and the wiring is out of the way and protected in convoluted tubing.
The two 54L poly water tanks tight up against the front of the slide-on are ideally positioned to keep the weight over the axles and provide the necessary redundancy — or seen another way, allow you a choice between raspberry or lime cordial (I’m kidding). Water is filled via head-height fillers each side and runs out of two trigger-operated hoses, with shut-off valves, on the kitchen side.
Hot water isn’t standard, but diesel heating can be optioned on. However, it’d just be for the hoses, as there’s no in-built shower. As Wayne explained, in-built showers generally result in you unsuspectingly draining the tanks, whereas heating up a bucketful and operating a 12V portable shower allows you to be mindful of your usage.
You’ll require gas to run the cooktop and, due to regulations, bottles will have to travel in an undertray toolbox or chassis-connected cradle, which may cost over a grand to have fitted. Fortunately, Jacksons have given an ideal home to the portable cooker, which allows you to keep passenger-side undertray gas bottles secured in place while cooking. If you’re just having a quick cuppa, you could consider using a Jetboil instead.
AUSTRALIA’S ANSWER TO THE PYRAMIDS
To set up, you release three over-centre latches down each side of the slide-on; drop the spring-loaded tailgate; open a hatch on the passenger side of the tailgate and slide out the four-step ladder; individually adjust its legs; climb onto the tailgate and give the first stage of the lid a gentle shove; go inside the door and pull the ‘bow’ (an unfolding mechanism built into the ceiling) into place to prop out the roof over the floorspace; take two poles from the sides of the bed and use one to push the second stage of the hard lid up into place; and then clip the poles onto the bow’s frame and extend to prop up the ceiling. Done!
Pack-down is the same, in reverse. You’ll need to take care that canvas doesn’t get stuck between the seals (permanently attached bungee cords and ample internal space help); shift the pillows to be more central; use the handle in the ceiling to pull down the hard lid’s second stage; and lay down a waterproof sheet to protect the bedding from any condensation that formed overnight. The canvas will momentarily rest on your head and shoulders when you’re on the tailgate, but that’s no biggie. The windows can be down or up when you pack the tent away, and during the process, the passenger-side door can be up as your partner fills a thermos for the road.
Set-up and pack-down take but a minute and are thoroughly painless, making speed a major selling point of this camper.
Adding on the gabled awning (if you decide to) takes about three minutes. To set it up, you lower the first-stage of the hard lid, unzip the bag, connect the awning around the tent’s right with zips, and then hold it up with three legs. You can also add optional walls if you wish. A simple roll-out awning would be quicker, but also heavier, and it wouldn’t work with the raising side doors, nor provide coverage of the entry.
SLEEPING ON HIGH
Entering is easy with the ladder’s four wide, deep, grippy steps, and left and right handrails. The resting tailgate forms the carpeted floor, which extends the tray’s width by about a metre. Under the high ceiling, there’s plenty of space to comfortably change clothes, or — if the conditions are dire — to sit in a camp chair.
Into this space slide two long drawers, one above the other, which are conveniently removable for packing at home or laundry on the go. Next to these a door swings out to grant access to a platform within the side storage made to fit a large Thetford porta potti. Internal use at camp beats depending on the ever-elusive public loo, but if you’d rather set it up outside with a bit more privacy and separation of spaces, a pop-up tent would be an easy addition to your travelling kit.
The 140mm innerspring mattress, made by Makin Mattresses, measures between a double and a queen in width and length, and is properly comfortable, particularly with an eggshell mattress topper added. One major market differentiator of the Jacksons tent is that its opening mechanism is two-stage; it’s hinged on both sides. So, unlike many competitors, the ceiling isn’t harshly slanted towards the edges, but is well clear of your head either end, creating a tremendous sense of space. You could sit cross-legged or with your legs in front of you and read a book or watch a movie on an iPad or laptop, easily. If you sleep with the canvas flaps zipped back, you’ll be able to watch the sunrise through one of the seven fixed midge-screen windows (eight including the door).
On hot days you’ll be cool thanks to the ventilation, insulation in the bow structure, and composite panel roofing. Whereas, on nippy nights, you’ll be warm thanks to the same insulation and the optional Webasto diesel heater (controlled via a dial on the bedhead).
At the bedhead there’s also clever space-efficient recesses that’ll allow your phone to stand up and receive charge from two USB chargers or a 12V cig point. Internal lighting is operated from the same spot and includes circular LEDs either side of the bedhead and a strip in the ceiling nearer the toe.
DOWN THE SIDES
Down each side of the Jacksons Carry Me Campers Hard Lid, a door lifts on gas struts to reveal the internal storage.
Passenger (aka living) side first. On the left, there’s a fire-extinguisher, the BMS panel, and the two trigger-operated water hoses. On the review model, an EvaKool 47L fridge freezer came out on a tilt slide (openable with one hand) made by Jacksons themselves, that lowers smoothly on a vertical gas strut upon gentle downward force. This slide weighs a measly 13kg for the 47kg model fridge. Differently sized EvaKool fridges, or ARB, Engel and Dometic fridges, are also available. Above the fridge extends an upper shelf ideal for two-part fishing rods.
To access the storage to the right on this side, you drop a food-grade stainless-steel working bench. This can then be extended on one side with a flip-up extension bench supported by a leg. Behind is an extensive shelving system, designed to fit plastic tubs by Willow and Oates brands. These tubs sit two-deep in some places; higher ones, including the cutlery tray, can be removed and rested below your eyeline. You’ll never have to rifle through an oversized tub in pursuit of an obscure item again. Tubs can’t come out in transit as they are retained by swivelling upright rods, themselves locked in by the folded-up bench.
Still on this side, there’s a slide-out shelf for an occy-strap-retained GasMate two-burner cooktop that runs off LPG. This and the pop-up sink are portable, not built-in, affording you prime real estate when not cooking or cleaning. You can move the cooktop out of the wind or where it can’t spit oil on the storage. Keep in mind a fixed sink wastes not only the space it’s in but the space it will have to move through when you operate the slide it’s on; and, with a portable sink, you can walk away from camp and toss out water without having to drain into a bucket first.
The door on the non-living or drivers’ side grants access to open spaces, ideal for larger items. At the rear, there’s the shelf ideal for a porta-potti and in front of this, the filler for the tank of the optional diesel heater. In the centre, there’s a shelf in a diamond grille pattern and some free space below this. To the right, there’s a second EvaKool 47L fridge on a tilt slide — it’s nice to have increased capacity and a back-up in case one fridge fails when remote — and the battery, the fuses, and the optional inverter. The floor of the storage space is carpeted as is all shelving but the grille.
Dimmable white/yellow LED lights illuminate from the underside of doors and several cords allow you to hang a tea towel or thread through a roll of paper towel. I’ve left off mentioning the numerous 12V cig and 5V USB plugs.
You can actually have a roof rack installed on the top of the slide-on, for a surfboard or kayak – however, it’d shade the solar panel and you’d have to take it off every time you set up the tent. Towing a separate trailer would be a better idea!
FOR THE DUAL CABS
The blue LandCruiser in the photos features the dual cab version of the Hard Lid. Power and water are the same, as is storage capacity in terms of litres, because Jacksons have heightened the compressed box. This requires the camper project over the cab and stand 300mm above its roof, creating more wind drag compared to the sleek 80mm projection of the single-cab version.
Inevitably, this dual cab has a higher centre of gravity and more overhang over the rear axle, so Jacksons have had to make some changes. They’ve reduced the bulkiness of the structural element connecting the two tiers of the roof; used plastic drawers in the hard-floor space; added a step up to the bed; shortened the working bench in the kitchen; and positioned the gas cooker to come out length-ways.
The single/extended/space cab version makes best sense. If you owned a dual cab because you have a family, where would the kids sleep when camping? That said, the dual cab product is a brilliant answer to market demand and a stunning achievement that delivers the outdoors in spades to dual cab owners.
Technically, the warranty for the slide-on itself is two to three years and the component warranties are as per manufacturer warranties. However, Wayne says that if there is a manufacturing fault with their slide-ons beyond that period they will always stand by their product and take care of their customers.
If you like what you see, expect a six to eight month wait time — something Jacksons are looking to keep under control by streamlining, jigging components, and building in groups, so long as they can do so without a single compromise.
No camper caters to everyone in the market. If it did, it would be a jack of all trades, master of none. If you want an internal cooktop and dinette, or God forbid a television, then this isn’t the camper for you. But, if you support Australian business and value high-quality; if you want the ability to tow something extra while camping; if you want to head off down testing tracks and not come back for your trailer; if you want to keep organised; if you want a rapid set-up; and if you want to escape for the long haul — then make sure you give Jacksons Carry Me Campers a call, or catch them on the show circuit when it fires back up.
ATM Refer to the car’s GVM
Style Two-stage pop-up hard lid slide-on
Paint Two pack automotive wet spray
Canvas 10oz Dynaproofed
Height when packed 1080mm from tray (single cab); 1220mm (dual cab)
Required tray dimensions 1850mm wide x 2120mm long (single cab); 1850mm wide x 1640mm long (dual cab)
Max length (single cab) 2290mm (2120mm on tray with 170mm tailgate depth)
Width (single cab) 1850mm (at base); 1475mm (at top)
Water 2 x 54L poly tanks with two fillers and two trigger operated hoses
Kitchen Stainless steel work bench with portable GasMate two-burner (running off gas bottle, with 24000BTU per burner output) and portable pop-up sink, plus extensive storage pantry
Fridge 2 x EvaKool 47L fridges on tilt slides, as seen. However, there’s a range of fridge options, with ARB, Engel and Dometic fridges also available.
Toilet/shower Porta potti with internal access hatch, no shower or hot water (as standard)
Battery 1 x 100Ah Revolution lithium battery with REDARC BMS 30 featuring 12V and 240V charging, Victron low voltage disconnect, optional REDARC pure sine wave inverter, multiple 12V and USB outlets
Mattress 140mm innerspring, between a queen and double in size, manufactured by Makin Mattresses
PRICE AS STANDARD
About $45,000. Precise pricing depends on customisations and will be provided upon consultation.
Webasto diesel heater (around $2600); REDARC pure sine wave inverter (cost depends on size, approx $1.40 a watt); awning walls or windbreaks; fridge/freezers; ISI dual bicycle carriers; undertray toolboxes; shelf above fridge; colour coding; spare tyre carriers.
Jacksons Carry Me Campers
Address 185 Thomas Street, Murray Bridge, SA
Phone (08) 8531 2700