skAMpEr kAMpEr rAnGEr xL

An old favourite with a new out­look

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS - Words and pics DaviD Cook

In all fields, there are en­dur­ing prod­ucts and themes that an­swer to a mar­ket need and find a con­stant home. But changes in mar­ket ex­pec­ta­tions can end such runs of suc­cess, un­less the prod­uct evolves to meet new de­mands.

For six years now, the Ranger has been a main­stay for Skamper Kamper. In fact, it was the only model in the range when the com­pany was launched. As a ba­sic side-fold soft­floor model it met the needs of the mar­ket when such campers rep­re­sented prob­a­bly 60 per cent of the sales, and while it went through ini­tial up­grad­ing – go­ing from a round tube axle to a beam unit, mov­ing to a mesh stone­guard, fine-tun­ing the tent and other smaller items – it has re­mained pretty much as orig­i­nally in­tro­duced in 2010.

Skamper Kamper now finds an in­creas­ing mar­ket share with its im­ported for­ward-fold

(Dingo) and rear-fold (Gecko) mod­els, as well as its lo­cally-made Brumby light of­froader, and while its suc­cess is re­flected in a move to a huge fac­tory unit, ware­house and show­room com­plex, the com­pany wasn’t pre­pared to see the Ranger drift off into a grad­ual de­cline, hence the Ranger XL.

Driven by cus­tomer de­sires, it re­tains the spirit of the old Ranger, but with many for­mer op­tions now stan­dard along with a few struc­tural changes.

THOUGHT­FUL CHANGES

The new Ranger is built on a longer 100x50x3mm chas­sis. The main frame rails run un­bro­ken from the hitch to the tail-lights, giv­ing it good strength. The added length pro­vides room for ad­di­tional units at the front, mainly in­clud­ing a large fridge/ stor­age box combo. Hap­pily, this hasn’t re­sulted in a dra­matic in­crease in ball weight, which is at 90-100kg, depend­ing on the tent op­tion.

The weld­ing could’ve been neater but it works and, given it’s hot dip gal­vanised, in­clud­ing the 2.5mm body pan­els, dura­bil­ity isn’t com­pro­mised. In fact, the only metal items not coated in zinc are the alu­minium front­box and the stain­less steel kitchen, nei­ther of which are sub­ject to rust.

The campers are im­ported flat packed and bolted to­gether lo­cally, with eas­ily re­place­able parts. Clob­ber a tree with a guard or box and it can be un­bolted and swapped for new.

Skamper Kamper tests its campers out on the tracks in the hands of em­ploy­ees (there are plenty of YouTube videos on the sub­ject), do­ing the hard yards in tough en­vi­ron­ments and im­prov­ing on the ba­sis of that test­ing. One re­cent ad­di­tion be­ing added to the Ranger is a bar across the bot­tom of the front box to pro­tect the alu­minium outer pan­els from the un­wanted at­ten­tions of pass­ing trees, as re­vealed in a re­cent Cape York trip.

I wel­come many of these changes but I am con­cerned that the u-chan­nel folded in the side body pan­els for rigid­ity may hold dirt and wa­ter and lead to rust. The small drain holes in the model we re­viewed were largely cov­ered by a rub­ber mem­brane. If you re­mem­bered to reg­u­larly check and hose it out, it ought to be fine, but just keep it in mind.

The trailer Tare is 910kg and GVM is 1400kg, giv­ing a rea­son­able 490kg load ca­pac­ity. The ad­di­tions and ex­ten­sions have pumped the price up from $7000 to $10,500 but, for what you get, that is still a good buy in this world.

The pack­age rides on a trail­ing arm in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion, with twin shocks and coils and 10in elec­tric brakes on 1.4t hubs with Ford bear­ings. The wheels are black 15in Sun­raysia-style rims fit­ted with light truck 235/75 R15 mud pat­tern rub­ber.

As with all the Skamper Kamper mod­els, the hitch is a McHitch with 2t rat­ing and added han­dle. The fold-up jockey wheel is a hard tyre model. The stone­guard is laced in with heavy cord which does leave a string of holes be­tween the eye­lets where small stones can get through. Given that you are pro­tect­ing an alu­minium box be­hind, this isn’t a great prob­lem, but it’s not the best of pro­tec­tion.

At the front is a wide alu­minium stor­age box with struts and, as with all hatch cov­ers and doors, pinch-weld seals. There is a jerry can holder on ei­ther end, as well as a third on the driver’s side of the trailer. Be­hind the stor­age box is a large 470x810x510mm fridge box with slide, ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing a rea­son­able size fridge. Op­po­site is a 600x600x630mm stor­age area. Both these boxes have gull-wing doors. The spare trav­els on top of the box, so might be a bit prob­lem­atic in get­ting it on or off for some­one with­out rea­son­able strength.

Be­hind the fridge box is a fire­wood box, which can also be used for car­ry­ing any dirty items

(wheel chocks, ramps and so on).

The cam­per comes with two 4kg gas cylin­der hold­ers.

eAsY tO Use CAN­VAs

The ba­sic tent supplied with the Ranger XL is 9ft (2780mm floor), which gives plenty of room for a cou­ple or, for an ad­di­tional $500, a fam­ily can go for the 12ft (3780mm floor) tent, which gives room for bunks and for kids to play. The lat­ter also comes with a small en­closed room on the end of the awning to pro­vide a great place to get away from in­sects, or from the kids.

All can­vas is 15oz plain weave, with a 600gsm

heavy-duty vinyl floor.

Erect­ing the tent seemed pretty easy. A one-handed push on the top bow as it lay on the trailer opened it up, with gas strut as­sis­tance. Walk to the pas­sen­ger side and pull out the top bar of the tent on that side un­til you hear the lo­cat­ing pins click into place. Step in­side, pull the outer tent bow out, ex­tend­ing and tight­en­ing the four in-built spreader bars as you go, in­sert the two outer up­rights and, if it’s rain­ing or windy, in­sert the two small up­rights next to the bed to give the tent more shape and strength.

For an overnighter all you need then is four pegs at the cor­ners of the tent on the ground. To­tal time to this stage was about four min­utes.

The fin­ished tent has high doors, so even a six-footer (182cm+) can walk in or out with­out hav­ing to duck or worry about hit­ting their head on the tent bow. The win­dows have in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal cov­ers around the bed so they can be al­tered with­out hav­ing to step out­side at night, as well as midge-proof screens.

There is a pri­vacy screen across the front of the bed area. The foam mat­tress is be­tween a cam­per-king and queen in size, so it re­quires king-sized sheets, but many cus­tomers ap­par­ently buy a queen in­ner­spring and that fits okay. Ac­cess is via a three-step alu­minium lad­der that trav­els on the top of the cam­per.

There are few com­forts around the bed, just two pock­ets, one at each end, for small items. If you want a read­ing light, you can run a lead out through a side hole and plug it into one of the 12V sock­ets ad­ja­cent to the bed end of the trailer.

There is a 2m wide kids’ room avail­able for ei­ther tent, with floors, walls and win­dows.

On the op­po­site side of the tent is the awning, 4600x2400mm in size on the 9ft tent. This comes stan­dard with three walls, with screens and doors, plus a draft skirt and ground cover. This was sur­pris­ingly easy to erect, de­spite the usual ar­ray of spread­ers and poles which come with some campers. All poles are 25mm steel for strength.

There is a light­weight alu­minised sun roof which re­mains at­tached and merely re­quires a rope at each end to pull the curved fi­bre­glass end sup­ports up­right. It is a very ef­fec­tive ad­di­tion, al­low­ing plenty of air un­derneath to act as a buf­fer to ex­cess tem­per­a­tures.

The Ranger pack­age also has an op­tional Storm Cover ($250), which is a full cover for the awning and tent and which helps con­trol tem­per­a­tures right across the setup.

The awning can re­main at­tached to the cam­per, with other can­vas, as well as poles and ex­tra­ne­ous items, trav­el­ling on top of the folded tent, be­neath the vinyl cover. Hav­ing a side-fold cam­per with such a gen­er­ous cover was great; it made at­tach­ing it a re­ally easy job with nearly an ex­tra 100mm spare if needed and with no fin­ger-aching wres­tle. The cam­per also comes with a silk dust cover that is ap­plied un­der the vinyl cover to pro­tect against any dust ingress through the zip and vel­cro.

SIM­PLE SO­LU­TIONS

The kitchen is ba­sic but func­tional. It is stain­less steel and mounted to the tail­gate. It has a stain­less sink with elec­tric pump from the 90L stain­less wa­ter tank, and a small locker un­derneath with a 400x490mm slide in­side that suits the op­tional Gas­mate two-burner with grill cooker. It has a

580x480mm flip-over shelf.

Elec­tri­cally, the Ranger XL comes with a sin­gle 100Ah deep-cy­cle All Rounder bat­tery that with 760 cold crank­ing amps might one day be able to get you out of trou­ble if your tow tug’s bat­tery fails. If you want a sec­ond bat­tery, you will have to in­stall that your­self, with many cus­tomers fit­ting one in the spare locker on the other side of the trailer.

There is a volt me­ter, a se­ries of five cir­cuit break­ers, rather than fuses, which give a sim­ple push-but­ton op­tion to re­con­nect a cir­cuit, plus five on-off switches for the var­i­ous cir­cuits. There is plenty of spare stor­age room next to the bat­tery for leads and so on.

Out­side the elec­tri­cals locker, on the driver’s side rear, are two 12V out­lets.

The draw­bar An­der­son plug looks to be wired with 6mm cable, which makes it a bit un­der­done for get­ting max­i­mum volt­age back to the bat­tery. There is no mains charger or so­lar in­put point.

An­other op­tion is a boat rack which at­taches to brack­ets front and rear. This doesn’t im­pede the tent but the boat must be re­moved each time the tent is set up.

the VerdiCt

The Ranger XL is a good pack­age for a young fam­ily af­ter a touch of ad­ven­ture. It has all the ba­sics in a sturdy setup. It’s much more user-friendly than the old side-fold soft­floors and, at $10,500 (not in­clud­ing dealer de­liv­ery or on-road costs), it is within reach of most. With a five year war­ranty on the ba­sic chas­sis/body (12 months on the tent) it should see you make an easy con­ver­sion from tent camp­ing to some­thing a lit­tle more con­ve­nient.

Don’t ex­pect the fi­ness­ing of de­tail that you get with top dol­lar campers, but also don’t ex­pect the price tag.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: Even with ad­di­tions up front, the tow­ball weight is re­spectable at 90-100kg un­laden; The in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion was thor­oughly tested in Cape York; A gull­wing door box re­veals the fridge slide up front.

ABOVE: Am­ple give in the vinyl cover helps en­sure a hasty get­away.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: Fast and easy ac­cess to the mod­est tail­gate kitchen; Clear plas­tic on the win­dow bases help keep the in­te­rior clean in wet weather; A pri­vacy screen in­su­lates the bed­room; The 100Ah All Rounder bat­tery can dou­ble as a spare for your tow tug.

RIgHT: The cam­per comes with a camperk­ing-size foam mat­tress, with stor­age pock­ets close at hand.

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