At the end of the day, you have to be happy with what you do. And if you're a manufacturer of camper trailers, you have to be satisfied with the product you put out to market.
This is especially the case if you are a one-man band that designs and builds your own camper trailer from the ground up. Chatting with John Huth (owner, CEO, CFO, labourer and floor sweeper) of Condamine Campers about his latest camper, the Compact, you can tell he's pretty happy. He has every right to be.
NEW KID IN TOWN
John has been building camper trailers out of his shed in South East Queensland since late 2014. First, there was his flagship Condamine Camper followed by a toy-hauler variant. Never one to sit on his hands, 2020 has seen the Compact join his stable.
The Compact is a mid-priced, two-up camper trailer built with the same quality and attention to detail as its older siblings. There's no denying the DNA of the Compact to those that have come before it. All of the best ideas have been carried over, as well as a few new ones.
STREET SMARTS AND OFFROAD CRED
Apart from the apparent prerequisites when purchasing a trailer (ie how many it sleeps, how much water/battery/solar it has?) a primary consideration has to be how well it tows.
Let's face it, that new trailer you just bought is going to spend a lot of time getting pulled around this great country — so it better do a good job of it.
Things such as tare and ATM have to be considered, as well as the suspension system employed and the overall balance of the trailer. And let's not forget about the its centre of gravity, offroad ability and the availability of spare parts if, heaven forbid, you had a failure out the back o' Bourke! So, let's see how the Compact stacks up.
While it may be compact, it's also an absolute lightweight, tipping the scales with a tare of only 1050kg, meaning you would have to put more than 950kg of payload into it before going over your ATM of 2000kg. Maxing out at 2000kg, even mid-sized 4WDs and SUVs are going to be able to drag the Compact on holidays and adventures.
Add in the fact it is only 1.9m wide, it's also going to fit down any track the tow vehicle can fit, with one exception — the awning bag. You're going to have to keep a close eye on the passenger side on tight tracks as the awning bag is massive and will no doubt get caught on sticks and branches.
When it comes to the suspension, the Compact runs the Cruisemaster XT Independent system with coil springs and twin shocks on each wheel. On-road manners and offroad ability are well catered for by this setup. Being such a widely used suspension system, availability of replacement parts also won't pose a problem.
Complementing the suspension are the Federal Couragia mud terrain tyres (265/70R17) wrapped around 17in black steel rims. With the articulation afforded by the Cruisemaster DO35 hitch up front, you'll be tackling the challenging tracks with aplomb.
While on our test circuit, it was the lack of wheel travel and traction of the tow vehicle that stopped our forward progress up the trickiest of sections, not the trailer.
RUNS IN THE FAMILY
Just like those that have come before from Condamine Campers, the Compact is built tough to tackle our worst outback tracks and it's also made to last. A one-piece 150 x 50 x 3mm hot-dipped galvanised chassis and drawbar provides the backbone of the sub-floor assembly. Laser-cut outriggers and cross-braces offer additional strength and support while also minimising overall weight.
To balance the overall weight distribution, the two 90L water tanks are positioned fore and aft of the axles. Typical of the rest of the build, plumbing, gas and wiring is as neat as a pin and run in a way to minimise damage from errant sticks and stones.
A heavy-duty 150 x 50 x 3mm rear bar gives plenty of protection to the back of the trailer for when the going gets tough. It also provides a mounting point for the twin rear recovery points. These points are absolutely essential for any camper trailer that's going to see its fair share of the outback.
Due to its relatively small footprint, stabiliser legs can be found on each corner for improved stability when fully set up at camp.
Another nod to the lightweight brigade is the use of 2.5mm powder coated aluminium for the construction of the body. Laser-cut panels go together like a big Mecano set before being riveted together. And talk about attention to detail — every rivet is powder-coated to match the body colour!
PARK IT UP
Once the perfect campsite has been found, the setup time for the Compact has a lot in common with its dimensions — pretty small.
If the awning is not required, it's just a matter of getting it all level before flicking a couple of latches front and rear and lifting the pop-top which raises a full 800mm to reveal a queen-sized, pillow-topped, innerspring mattress. But more on this later (see breakout).
This is all that would be needed for a quick overnighter.
If you are staying for longer, or need some extra protection from the elements, you're going to need to set the awning up. You'll need to do that before raising the pop-top.
I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with awnings. I love the shade and cover they give but hate how bulky they are and how far they protrude from the side of the camper, making them vulnerable to snags and damage.
The 2.5 x 2.5m Square Back Deluxe SupaPeg 270-degree Awning is no different. It's a great awning, but gee whiz, it also sticks out like a sore thumb.
A little different to most other 270-degree awnings that hinge from the rear left corner, the awning on the Compact hinges from the front left. It swings around to give full cover along the near side of the camper, the kitchen, A-frame mounted storage box and the entry/exit point to your sleeping quarters. It's close to perfect, except for its darn size when packed away!
With the awning set up and the pop-top raised, it’s time to get the kitchen set up to start cooking dinner. Alternatively, the kitchen and all storage lockers are fully accessible at any point in time, perfect for quick road-side morning tea or lunch stops.
Borrowing heavily from the larger Condamine Camper, the kitchen on the Compact proudly carries on the family tradition. While not having as much pantry storage as its big brother, the Compact still holds its own, especially considering that this camper is only designed for two tourers.
A large stainless steel kitchen pulls out from the front of the camper, complete with a flip-over stainless prep bench, a Dometic three-burner gas cooktop and stainless sink with plumbed hot and cold water.
Another stainless-steel preparation/server tray pulls out from beneath the pantry. At the rear, a fridge slide, large enough to handle up to a 95L fridge takes pride of place.
The Compact has a lot going for it, not only as a quick weekend pleasure machine but also for those more extended forays into the wild when annual leave comes around. Especially when it comes to its off-grid attributes.
Up front in the storage box, there's a single 9kg gas bottle, storage for two 20L jerry cans as well as providing the home for the Girard Instant gas hot water system. Out the front of the toolbox, a hand-held shower will rinse the red dust away.
The filler necks for the twin water tanks can also be found here, and 180L of freshwater is going to keep a couple going for a while, even if they are using the shower.
Keeping the 100Ah of lithium battery at maximum potential is a pair of roof-mounted 250W solar panels. If you prefer to park up in the shade, the Compact comes pre-wired with a solar input for a portable solar panel.
If you think 100Ah of lithium power isn't enough, there's space for another battery to up your capacity to 200Ah.
A Redarc Manager30 battery management system looks after all the charging inputs while the BCDC charger pumps in the amps when driving. A 240V mains point allows you to keep everything topped up at home and ready to go at a moment’s notice.
All of the electrical controls, switches, 12V and USB charging points are located in an easily accessible panel above the slide-out kitchen. Perhaps a little inconvenient is the location of the battery, fuses and circuit breakers which is below a lift-up panel at the bottom of the pantry.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In a very competitive market segment, the Compact from Condamine Campers can definitely walk tall. It’s a 100 per cent Aussie-built camper that's tough, with excellent offroad and off-grid credentials, low tare and heaps of payload and will give you change from $40K, which has to be a good thing in my books.
STEP RIGHT UP
With rooftop tent-style accommodation on the Compact, there was a need to work out a way to get the occupants up and down quickly, safely and easily.
Not wanting to use a ladder or portable/folding steps, and having them take up valuable storage space, a bespoke solution was required.
Rear access was out due to the location of the single spare wheel, as were both sides of the camper. The only option left was the drawbar, but that had to remain clear and free of obstruction so that a full-sized tailgate (like those found on a Toyota Prado) could open fully even with the camper still attached.
Thankfully, John didn't mind thinking outside the square and came up with a simple, lightweight solution — a removable aluminium step.
During transit, the step attaches to the front of the storage box using quick-release fixings, similar to those found on the tray sides of utes. When at camp, the step is removed from its storage position and attaches to the A-frame with the same style fixings.
This allows the occupants to get easily onto the A-frame, then use the toolbox as the next step to get into, and out of the sleeping quarters. If required, a grab handle can be fitted to the front box for additional support.
The pop-top tent features a 25mm composite fibreglass panel on the roof for its lightweight, strength and thermal properties. Its massive windows and the elevated position allow for plenty of ventilation, even on the warmest of nights at camp.
A single, roof-mounted LED strip light provides more than enough illumination and charging your gadgets is taken care of by a single 12V or twin USB socket located in the corner of the tent.
Ball weight 60kg
Suspension Cruisemaster XT Independent coils with twin shocks
Brakes 12in electric drum
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Chassis 150 x 50 x 3mm hot-dipped galvanised chassis
Body 2.5mm powder coated aluminium
Wheels 17 x 8 black steel rims
Tyres 265/70R17 Federal Couragia MT
Style Compact camper trailer
Body size 2850 (L) x 1900 (W) x 1800mm (H)
Towed length 4500mm
Awning size 2.5 x 2.5m Square Back Deluxe SupaPeg 270-degree Awning
Gas cylinders 1 x 9kg
Water 2 x 90L fresh water tank
Hot water service Girard Instant gas
Cooktop Dometic three-burner gas
Kitchen Slide-out custom made with Dometic three-burner, Dometic sink with permanent hot and cold water plumbed and bench space and flip-over serving bench, stainless steel preparation bench
Solar 2 x 250W
Options fitted 65L Thunder Fridge
PRICE AS TESTED
85 Sungold Road, Chambers Flat, Qld 4133
P: 0418 761 161