Thrash-test­ing a pro­to­type

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS -

In case you haven’t be­ing pay­ing at­ten­tion these last 115 is­sues, we’re big fans of camper trailers around these parts. You might even say we’re camper trailer en­thu­si­asts. We like camp­ing in them, trav­el­ling with them, and bust­ing a few knuck­les mod­i­fy­ing them. So it shouldn’t re­ally come as a sur­prise that when Skamper Kampers opened its doors to us to take a new pro­to­type out for a spin, we were more than a lit­tle ex­cited. Af­ter all, how of­ten do you get handed the keys to the only camper of its type in ex­is­tence and asked not to put “too many scratches” on it? Un­til re­cently, Skamper has been a ma­jor soft­floor man­u­fac­turer, with three of its four mod­els be­ing su­per light­weight op­tions. A few years back the mar­que in­tro­duced its first hard­floor, the Dingo. It was a run­away suc­cess for the small com­pany, so when the time came to put pen to pa­per for new de­signs it’s no shock the team fig­ured they'd take the pop­u­lar Dingo model and make it bet­ter in every way. En­ter, the Dingo Ultimate. Af­ter hos­ing it off from its first un­veil­ing at the Car­a­van, Camp­ing and Hol­i­day Su­per­show at Rose­hill Race­course in Syd­ney, Skamper threw us the keys for a day to put it through its paces and see if we could iden­tify any short­com­ings be­fore it hit the mar­ket.


It’s hard to judge scale in pho­tos, but the Dingo Ultimate is huge. At 5600mm from tow hitch to tail-light it’s 400mm longer than the reg­u­lar Dingo, and a full me­tre and a half longer than the Ranger soft­floor. The ac­tual camper is larger than the num­bers would in­di­cate though. Skamper has ditched the dual spares off the back (let’s be hon­est, when have you ever used both?), which means you’re ac­tu­ally get­ting closer to 800mm more camper for your 400mm gain. The axle has been shifted sig­nif­i­cantly fur­ther for­ward so de­spite the size in­crease it still main­tains a re­spectable 10 per cent tow­ball weight of roughly 168kg de­pend­ing on what’s loaded where. In typ­i­cal Skamper fash­ion, the Dingo Ultimate is very min­i­mal­is­tic on the out­side. There are bash guards where they’re needed, and gas struts to help sling the lid over, but other than that there’s very lit­tle to catch or get dam­aged on pun­ish­ing tracks. The team were also ea­ger to point out that they’ve even run the gas and wa­ter lines through the main body of the camper so there are no lines dan­gling low to snag of­froad. Colour us im­pressed. The other big stand out was how much stor­age there is. They’ve yanked the kitchen out from the rear and moved it up front to be closer to the fridge, and the re­sult is there’s now around 14 in­di­vid­ual com­part­ments in which you can store any­thing from a gen­er­a­tor through to a small re­cov­ery kit.


What use is a pantry just for hold­ing your dirty jocks if the camper is a pain to lug around ev­ery­where? That was our think­ing too, so we dropped the Dingo Ultimate down onto the back of this month’s tow-test, a 2.0L four-cylin­der petrol pow­ered SUV (read, the ex­act kind of car you don’t want for a near on 2T camper) and set to work. De­spite be­ing an ab­so­lute be­he­moth of a camper the rea­son­able 168kg tow­ball weight meant the tow-tug wasn’t get­ting mus­cled around just hitch­ing the camper on. To re­ally give it a solid test we fig­ured we’d zigzag our way through wind­ing back streets and sub­ur­ban man­i­cured lawns be­fore aim­ing the head­lights west and tak­ing on the 1000m climb up and over the Great Di­vid­ing Range to our top se­cret test lo­ca­tion. Those fa­mil­iar with the road would know we had more than our fair share of back­pack­ers and B-dou­bles to dodge on the climb yet the Dingo Ultimate never felt too large for a quick lane change, and the 12in brakes meant it wasn’t a huge drama when some numpty would jam on the brakes in front of us. We punted along a few fast cor­ru­gated fire­trails on the way and a few cor­ners so tight we had to do the tango with the steer­ing wheel and gear­box to get through rel­a­tively un­scathed, but the Dingo Ultimate al­ways did what it was told and never be­came un­set­tled or un­ruly.


You don’t buy one of the big­gest for­ward folds on the mar­ket if you’re not chas­ing space and to that ex­tent the Dingo Ultimate was an ab­so­lute win­ner. It packs a huge in­ner­spring queen-size mat­tress which is all but un­heard of in the hard­floor mar­ket. Be­cause of the ex­tra weight of the mat­tress there’s a winch up front to haul the lid over, and you can put it on the back to winch back over when you pack up, al­though push­ing it closed was eas­ier than push­ing it open so you might not need it. Like most for­ward folds the setup is in­cred­i­bly quick too: drop down the legs, ex­tend out a few poles and you’re good to go. There’s enough room when packed up that the trop­i­cal roof and an­nexe can both stay con­nected which se­ri­ously cuts down on setup and pack-up time too. The seat­ing area is your stan­dard six-seater lounge with a pop-up ta­ble in the mid­dle. It’ll pack down into a dou­ble bed for the young ones as well but the big change we no­ticed is the shelf in­cor­po­rated into the tent. It’s there to make the most of the new out­side

de­sign but makes the per­fect plat­form for 12V TVs or even bags of cloth­ing for the young ones. There’s LED in­te­rior light­ing through­out the camper as well as mul­ti­ple 12V sock­ets for charg­ing gear overnight. In an un­usual move, Skamper’s re­lo­cated the slide-out kitchen to the front help­ing open up space un­der the awning and make cooking eas­ier with ev­ery­thing within easy reach. The stor­age op­tions are huge in both the pantry and stain­less steel kitchen it­self with a Dometic three-burner stove­top tak­ing care of hot meals. The sink is also plumbed to the gas hot wa­ter sys­tem with­out any ex­tra con­nec­tions and draws wa­ter from a 140L stain­less tank un­der­neath so there’s hot wa­ter on de­mand. Skamper was quick to point out there’d be var­i­ous changes to some of the draw­ers for eas­ier ac­cess and a wider set of stairs in the pro­duc­tion model but the camper was per­fectly us­able as is. If you’re head­ing bush in win­ter the camper can bunker down pretty well and the 15oz heavy­duty can­vas should keep you rea­son­ably warm. A diesel heat­ing sys­tem would be great but for now the in­cluded en­suite and shower sys­tem is enough to warm the bones. In warmer months it can open right up with plenty of shade and air­flow, and the in­te­rior is a com­bi­na­tion of pow­der-coated steel and thick vinyl – easy to clean and dif­fi­cult to dam­age.


The team from Skamper couldn’t re­ally hide how proud of the new de­sign they are and were quick to point out just how much ef­fort has gone into not only mak­ing their own de­sign, but en­sur­ing it's fit­ted with the best kit they can get their hands on. While there are plenty of qual­ity bits like the McHitch 360 Off Road Cou­pling up front and ARK heavy duty jockey wheel the real boast­ing point is the ex­ten­sive 12V sys­tem de­signed in house. There’s two 100Ah bat­ter­ies which will eas­ily keep most fridges run­ning for close to a week with mod­er­ate use and they’re kept in check thanks to a suite of good­ies from CTEK. The brains of the op­er­a­tion is a CTEK D250SA DC-DC charger which can be hooked up to the tow-tug with an An­der­son plug up front. There’s a sec­ond An­der­son plug for solar in­put and, as the CTEK unit can reg­u­late, you can get by with more bud­get solar pan­els. In the main con­trol panel of the camper there are switches to con­trol ev­ery­thing from camp light­ing to the wa­ter pump or the hot wa­ter sys­tem. You’ll also find an­other CTEK item with a dig­i­tal sys­tem mon­i­tor al­low­ing you to keep an eye on bat­tery lev­els and charge times. A 240V charger also found its way in­side for eas­ier charg­ing at home.


It’s gen­er­ally ac­cepted you can’t have a big com­fort­able camper that is also ca­pa­ble. It doesn’t mean you can’t get damn close though. Sure, the Dingo Ultimate is a big rig and maybe not suited for crawl­ing up rock ledges, but it’s got plenty of stub­ble on its chin if you look un­der­neath. The big­gest at­trac­tion is the beef­cake one-piece chas­sis with 100x50x4mm box run­ning from front to back. It means there’s no po­ten­tial weak points for fail­ure or steps to get hung up on. The sus­pen­sion is a stan­dard fare in­de­pen­dent setup but works well of­froad with a com­pli­ant ride and plenty of ground clear­ance. For tech guys who care, the brack­ets are also as short as pos­si­ble so there’s min­i­mal lever­age on the mounts, and the bush­ing ends have been strapped with ad­di­tional ma­te­rial to pre­vent fail­ure on the tube seams. The tyres are the typ­i­cal Goodride MT in 265/75R16 or a lit­tle un­der 31in in the old size and wrapped around 16in steel wheels. There’s a sin­gle spare tyre un­der­neath but de­spite our best ef­forts we weren’t able to jag it on any of our test­ing. Through our test track the Dingo Ultimate stayed com­posed and ef­fort­lessly rolled its way through off-cam­ber wheel lifts and low-range work. The weight may have been an issue on soft sand, but you’d have rocks in your head to tow a large hard-floor with a four-cylin­der petrol any­way.


I’ve of­ten said there’s a per­fect camper for ev­ery­one out there, but it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean there’s a camper per­fect for ev­ery­one and the Dingo Ultimate is no dif­fer­ent. It’s plenty com­pe­tent of­froad, but that’s not where it shines. If you plan on head­ing to the Tele’ track and are happy to take a lit­tle ex­tra time to get the camper through then it’ll be up for the job, but if you’ve got a mate sit­ting on your bull bar while you push through vir­gin scrub you’d be bet­ter suited to a more ba­sic setup. As it is, the Skamper Kampers Ultimate Dingo is a great camper for large fam­i­lies look­ing for a step above a typ­i­cal for­ward fold. It’s got enough pol­ish to never feel as though you are rough­ing it, with plenty of of­froad abil­ity and a price tag that puts it af­ford­able for a large part of the mar­ket. Skamper said there may be a few tweaks be­fore it hits the mar­ket but if this is their pro­to­type, we reckon they’re onto a win­ner.

The setup is in­cred­i­bly quick and easy You'll never feel as though you rough­ing it in the Dingo Ultimate Handy stor­age spots deepen this camper's al­l­lure

The Dingo Ultimate sits on a beef­cake chas­sis Trop­i­cal roof and an­nexe stay con­nected to cut down on setup time

The kitchen has been moved up front

The six-seater lounge can con­vert to a dou­ble bed for the kids or guests at night

The in­cluded hot wa­ter sys­tem is a win­ter warmer The CTEK D25OSA DC-DC charger can be hooked up to the tow tug with an An­der­son plug up front

A top spot to put your coldies

There's plenty of room for the in­cluded 2x4kg gas bot­tles

Keep an eye on your wa­ter lev­els in the 140L tank

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