The great ES­CAPE

AUSSIE BUILT, SE­RI­OUSLY CA­PA­BLE AND BIG ENOUGH FOR THE WHOLE FAM­ILY, THE CUB ES­CAPE MIGHT BE THE CAMPER YOU’VE BEEN LOOK­ING FOR.

Camper Trailer Australia - - REVIEW - WORDS AND PICS DAN EVERETT

When eye­ing off a new camper trailer, your first im­pres­sion is of­ten a clean show­room with a hand­ful of sales­peo­ple milling about, and pos­si­bly a few more out the back as­sem­bling them from im­ported parts.

So, my ex­pe­ri­ence of the Cub Es­cape – and as a re­sult, my first im­pres­sion – was vastly dif­fer­ent to this scene.

This is a camper that screams hand-built (but in the good way), and that’s prob­a­bly be­cause while you’re in­spect­ing the al­loy pan­els for pre-de­liv­ery, there’s a fella just 30m away riv­et­ing them on. Just next to some­one wield­ing a welder.

Paint is down the hall­way, as is trim­ming and can­vas in­stal­la­tion. You get the picture...

This whole process and ex­pe­ri­ence makes you look at the Es­cape, and all Cub campers with a dif­fer­ent out­look.

Sure, they might not nec­es­sar­ily have com­pli­cated pan­els or con­struc­tion meth­ods that re­quire ro­bots, but it does have a tal­ented crafts­man out the back, sign­ing off each model with pride.

It’s im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous these campers are built with care and pre­ci­sion and that’s a damn good first im­pres­sion to make.

MAK­ING AN IM­PACT

Away from the work­shop, in the peace and quiet of the bush, the ap­peal of the Es­cape did not wane.

It’s ruggedly built, with a clear un­der­stand­ing of what it truly takes to build a re­li­able camper.

Ar­eas that are open or sus­cep­ti­ble to dam­age are pro­tected with alu­minium plat­ing, es­pe­cially un­derneath. The paint is thick, the doors feel solid, and there’s lots of lit­tle de­tails that show the Cub pedi­gree and knowl­edge of its mar­ket. Even the flares cov­er­ing the tyres are made of rub­ber, so they can take a hit or two against a stray tree be­fore show­ing signs of fa­tigue.

Open­ing up the Es­cape re­veals more of the same. It’s a tried-and-tested rear-fold de­sign, so set­ting it up isn’t overly com­pli­cated. There are six over-cen­tre latches that need to be popped, as well as a hatch in the rear be­fore you can sling the lid over.

Despite pro­vid­ing a huge floor space, the lid is one of the light­est I’ve ever used and can eas­ily be lifted to its bal­ance point

one-handed, be­fore slowly be­ing winched down into place.

In­side, most of the poles can re­main ex­tended with just the rear-most hoop and legs re­quir­ing at­ten­tion.

The tent is made in-house from Aussie

Wax Con­vert­ers can­vas and the de­sign and ex­e­cu­tion is leaps and bounds ahead of some other sim­i­lar-priced campers, with no holes in cor­ners or hinge area.

It’s even held into place with a se­ries of mounts all round, to help min­imise any cold air sink­ing in. This alone makes it worth any ex­tra in­vest­ment.

STOR­AGE AND PRAC­TI­CAL­ITY

On the stor­age front, the Es­cape doesn’t dis­ap­point. Up front there are two 4kg gas cylin­ders in­cluded, and two 20L jerry cans on the draw­bar with enough room left over to squeeze in a bag or two of fire­wood or a cou­ple of small kids’ bikes.

Be­hind that, the stor­age box has a built-in slide that’ll ac­com­mo­date up to an 80L fridge from most pop­u­lar man­u­fac­tur­ers with a pre-wired Merit socket. There’s also stor­age for all the tools re­quired to ad­just the AL-KO sta­biliser legs at the rear or lower the spare tyre. In a wel­come sight, the Merit socket is kept high in­side the fridge box to keep the power cord away from the slide and the ver­ti­cally-lift­ing gas-as­sisted door pro­vides an easy-to-use unit.

On the driver’s side, the same box has a sec­ond stor­age area large enough to swal­low a gen­er­a­tor, hot wa­ter sys­tem, the an­nexe or any other bulky items.

Mov­ing into the main box, the pas­sen­ger side hatch hides mul­ti­ple stor­age op­tions. The first is the large stain­less steel kitchen. There’s a twin-burner Smev stove­top that serves as a food prep area when the lid is down and there are draw­ers un­derneath for stor­ing cut­lery, plates, bowls, and cups. The sink uses a hand-pump to keep costs down but can be up­graded to a 12V op­tion if needed.

Be­hind the kitchen is a pantry, that while not big enough to store large items, does pro­vide easy-to-reach stor­age while cook­ing.

In­side there’s even more stor­age, with a stand-alone lock box at the foot of the bed, a rear sec­tion ac­ces­si­ble with the camper closed, and a huge area un­der the bed it­self.

Sadly, the down­side of such a light­weight camper is with less than 400kg of pay­load

avail­able, you’ll run out of weight be­fore you run out of space.

But, when it comes to prac­ti­cal­ity, the Es­cape is right up there with the best of them. The setup is quick and easy, with­out any of the heavy lift­ing of­ten found with hard­floor campers. Like many rear-folds, it sports just the one bed, but there’s plenty of floor space for a cou­ple of kids in bunks un­til they’re old enough to hoof it them­selves.

There are barely any poles to set up if you’re not throw­ing the an­nexe on, and a com­fort­able camper-queen-size mat­tress in­side. It does lack an en­suite and light­ing, but the list of avail­able op­tions is long and rea­son­ably priced, so it’s easy to cus­tomise to your needs.

OFFROAD CRE­DEN­TIALS

Put sim­ply, the Es­cape per­forms bet­ter offroad than a hard­floor camper has any right to, but it’s not by ac­ci­dent. It’s in­cred­i­bly light by mod­ern stan­dard, at only 960kg

Tare or 1350kg fully loaded. Ball weight is a rea­son­able 130kg, and for a hard­floor, the Es­cape is ac­tu­ally quite com­pact, but that doesn’t tell the full story.

Up front, there’s the oblig­a­tory Treg hitch which al­lows the camper to pitch and roll be­hind you with­out flip­ping the tow ve­hi­cle on to its lid or bind­ing up. But be­neath that are a lot of clever in­clu­sions that, while not ex­actly ground-break­ing, are bush-proven win­ners.

The jockey wheel doesn’t swivel up only to be ripped off later, in­stead, the bracket is hard welded, with the wheel just pop­ping out when you’re hitched up. The hand­brake mech­a­nism hangs be­low the draw­bar, and so has a beefy plate pro­tect­ing it.

Rather than a com­pli­cated in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion that can miss the mark, the Es­cape uses a sim­ple, weight-sav­ing eye-to-eye leaf spring de­sign with plenty of ground clear­ance and a rea­son­able ride. If you were to strap your­self in for 1000km of cor­ru­ga­tions you might be able to feel the dif­fer­ence be­tween leaf and coil springs, but your mat­tress isn’t go­ing to care.

In an­other un­com­mon but wel­come sight, there’s one good shock on each wheel, with a pair of Rox Shocks in­stead of the cheap­ies many run.

Like­wise, the chas­sis has been con­structed

out of 2.5mm Aus­tralian steel to keep strength up and weight down, in­stead of the overkill fre­quently found. It’s backed by a five-year struc­tural war­ranty and comes sport­ing

31in Goodyear Wran­gler tyres on 15in steel rims too, so Cub is putting a lot of faith in its prod­uct for se­ri­ous offroad work.

On our favoured test track, the Es­cape eas­ily tracked be­hind the Cruiser with plenty of ground clear­ance to weave through the ruts and rock ledges that have left bat­tle scars on more than a few lesser campers over the years. Its low weight and am­ple ground clear­ance helped avoid the ground an­chor feel­ing many campers have.

In short, if there’s a track you’d be com­fort­able tak­ing a camper down, the Es­cape is up for the job with a few dented pan­els be­ing the worst pos­si­ble out­come.

WHAT’S IN­CLUDED

With a low weight and at­trac­tive price, you can’t ex­pect a laun­dry list of in­clu­sions from the Cub, but it still man­ages to hold its head high.

The 12V ar­range­ment is a com­bi­na­tion of Narva and Pro­jecta com­po­nents through­out. The heart of the op­er­a­tion is Pro­jecta’s

IC2500 bat­tery man­age­ment sys­tem, al­low­ing for charg­ing through the 240V in­let on the driver’s side or the An­der­son con­nec­tion on the draw­bar.

The ex­ter­nally ac­ces­si­ble power panel has a re­mote dis­play for the IC2500, so you can man­age your bat­tery sys­tem with­out crack­ing open the camper just to check bat­tery lev­els.

There’s 12V Narva out­lets in­side and out, with a set of 240V in­lets at the foot of the bed, although you will need to be plugged in to mains power to use these.

It’d be great to see built-in light­ing as well as power op­tions by the bed­head, but as they’re easy ad­di­tions, this won’t be a deal breaker.

If you’re plan­ning on spend­ing ex­tended trips in the one spot, it’s worth spring­ing the ex­tra $150 to have the camper wired for so­lar in­put as well.

The kitchen is well equipped with the two-burner Smev stove­top ar­riv­ing al­ready plumbed to the in­cluded gas cylin­ders, with only two plugs re­quired to get the kitchen up and run­ning when stopped.

The sink is fed with a hand­pump from the 80L poly wa­ter tank, which although on the small side, is a nec­es­sary sac­ri­fice for a light­weight trailer. You can’t build a two-storey house then com­plain about stairs…

It doesn’t come sport­ing hot wa­ter in stan­dard spec ei­ther, but can be op­tioned up for a rea­son­able amount to in­clude an en­suite, shower, hot wa­ter sys­tem and an ex­tra open­ing in the tent to ac­cess it all.

THE VER­DICT

It’s a sad fact of life that in our quest to save a few dol­lars, some campers be­come al­most throw­away items – buy them, camp for a few years then sell it dirt cheap and start again.

The Cub Es­cape is the kind of camper you only buy once.

It’s a ver­sa­tile plat­form that can work for fam­i­lies of all sizes, in­clud­ing those with just two mem­bers.

There’s plenty of space, the gear that is in­cluded is all top qual­ity, and should, in the­ory, hold about 90 per cent of its value and con­di­tion for years to come.

If you were set­ting off around the coun­try for the big lap and wanted a camper you could bounce around some se­ri­ously re­mote tracks, or you just want a faith­ful camp com­pan­ion you’ll keep well into re­tire­ment, the Es­cape will do it all with a smile on its face.

ABOVE: There’s plenty of un­der­body pro­tec­tion so dif­fi­cult ter­rain doesn’t mean find­ing an­other way around RIGHT: Rox Shocks and AL-KO leaf springs are the per­fect com­bi­na­tion for a tough of­froader.

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE: Upfront, the large al­loy tool­box saves on weight and pro­vides more stor­age; Qual­ity Narva ap­pli­ances are used through­out; The Treg hitch helps to soak up the bumps.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP: In­gre­di­ents and uten­sils are close at hand; A light­weight lid helps with set­ting up; The wa­ter and gas con­nec­tions are safely en­closed; The lid of the Smev two-burner dou­bles as a prep area.

ABOVE: The gas as­sist struts make open­ing and clos­ing the hard­floor a one-handed op­er­a­tion.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: The Aussie built can­vas tent is sewn in-house and is se­ri­ously heavy duty; There’s am­ple floorspace in­side for kids’ bunks or a ta­ble for cou­ples; The foam mat­tress is rea­son­ably com­fort­able and there is a locked box with power op­tions at the foot of the bed; The Pro­jecta charger sys­tem keeps things run­ning; One 100Ah bat­tery is in­cluded but a sec­ond is avail­able as an easy up­grade.

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