SKAMPER KAMPERS DINGO ULTIMATE
Thrash-testing a prototype
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.
HOW DOES IT TOW?
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.
CHÂTEAU DE SKAMPER
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.
BRAINS OF THE BEAST
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.
PAST THE BLACK STUMP
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.
THE MUSTARD CUTTER
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