What is the ideal configuration for an angler who wants to camp in comfort? There are certainly some elaborate tents around but finding space for all the necessary camp accessories can be a problem, not to mention the time it takes to put up and pull down the whole show.
Then, there are camper trailers, and there are stacks on the market these days - from basic models to the Taj Mahal of camper trailers. They have been a very welcome invention, particularly to off-road travellers, but what happens when you want to carry a boat as well? The load is usually limited to a couple of yaks or a lightweight dinghy.
Towing a substantial boat is possible with a campervan or small motor home but it can be quite inconvenient when you are stuck with having to use the vehicle to launch and retrieve. Leaving the van parked all day in an area of doubtful security also poses a problem that can be followed by the hassle of trying to find a fresh camping spot each evening!
A solution to the dilemma of camping comfortably while towing a larger boat presented itself to me during a trip to Awoonga Dam with Warren Steptoe late last year. From the door of our hired cabin, we watched enthralled as a newly arrived couple unloaded and set up an elaborate utility tray mounted camper, then headed off fishing towing their boat - in less than 20 minutes. Now that was the way to go!
The tray mounted or slide-on camper allows a degree of flexibility for travelling anglers that is unmatched by other accommodation options. Just choose your camping spot, drop the camper, hook up the boat and you’re headed for the water. Then, when you come back, detach the boat and head off shopping – with no parking worries.
The concept was so interesting that I have since made a point of checking out the extent of the slide-on camper market. There are quite a number of excellent units available in a wide range of configurations including pop top and rigid. As in the camper trailer market, prices range considerably, thereby offering an option that will suit most budgets.
Whatever way you choose to go, I believe that the slide-on camper offers fishers the ideal option whether you are headed camping for the weekend or plan to spend your long service leave on the road. Now you can most definitely take your boat with you!
I’m going to be looking at some of the locally manufactured slide-on campers in QFM beginning with this beauty built on the Gold Coast.
Starting with a unit that is at the top of the slide-on camper range might seem like I’m going at this the wrong way around, but, on the other hand, I think it is important to establish just what options are available for potential buyers. Given the finish quality and attention to detail found in the Ozcape range, it certainly rates as a benchmark product for higher end models.
A background in the European Recreational Vehicle industry is reflected in proprietor Joe Reid’s approach to the styling and construction of Ozcape Campers. The company specializes in building slide-on campers that suit a two or 4WD one tonne capacity utility with a flat rear tray. Three main models are offered, all based around a robust but lightweight rigid shell that is styled to enhance its aerodynamic ability.
To maximize the strength of the unit as a whole and simplify the building process, the internal fittings are constructed on the camper base before the exterior walls are attached. Only quality materials are used and all furniture sheeting is top grade marine plywood.
These campers are engineered to withstand a bit of rough stuff while keeping overall weight down. Average unit weight, depending on options, generally runs between 700-850kg, an acceptable load for the average ute.
Joe and his staff are enthusiastic about their products so while the interior configurations of the Prima, Optima and Charisma options are offered as a starting point, they are always open to any specific requests from a potential customer. A rod holding tube mounted in the front of the camper is just one that would be of special interest to anglers.
With an Optima model mounted on the tray of a 4WD Mazda BT50 3L turbo diesel, Joe and I hit the road towing a 3.9 Ally Craft tinny to experience the joys of travelling with a slide-on. The vehicle had no trouble maintaining the 100km/h speed limit on the open road when loaded with both boat and camper. Fitting pump up shocks or airbags can enhance the ride and stability of a full load but most standard suspension systems will adequately handle the weight of the camper.
On arrival at a pleasant spot in the Tweed valley, we unhitched the boat before unloading the camper on a piece of uneven ground adjacent to a launching area. The four legs on the camper are adjusted via electric motors that can be operated either together or individually. It was a simple matter to adjust the height of each leg so that the unit was level before lifting it from the ute tray, then driving the vehicle clear.
In less than five minutes, the boat was reattached to the tow ball and we were ready to go fishing! It took another couple of minutes to roll out a side awning and set up a table and chairs for a cup of coffee.
Of course, we could have had that coffee inside if we’d preferred. The interior of the Optima is stylish and classy and reflects Joe’s European heritage. It’s compact, yet spacious, and offers a level of luxury that is usually only available in caravans or motor homes.
A large double bed is sited at the front of the camper in the section that extends over the vehicle cab. Cushions on the settee that back onto the bed can be raised to increase the sleeping area if required or the settee can be used as a second bed.
The kitchen area includes a three-burner gas stove, sink, 90L fridge and microwave plus heaps of storage drawers. Both the sink and burners have glass covers fitted to maximise bench space. A moveable table and seating are opposite, along with a wall mounted LCD television.
This Optima camper comes with an electric flush toilet and shower cubicle plus its own grey water tank. There is also the option of having an exterior shower and screen, if preferred.
The camper was airy and bright thanks to four large windows and two roof vents. All the windows were double glazed with insect screens and blinds. Air conditioning and heating units are also popular options.
Joe advised that all gas and 240 volt installations comply with Australian standards, but for extra safety, a smoke alarm and fire extinguisher are fitted as standard to all models. Unlike motor homes or trailers, slide-on campers require no registration for on-road use.
Loading the camper back on the ute was a breeze thanks to a couple of locating pins mounted on the base of the unit. This recent innovation means that the camper always comes to rest at the same spot on the tray limiting adjustments to the turnbuckles and catches that secure the unit to the vehicle body.
When you consider that there are camper trailers on the market that are as expensive as the top of the range Ozcape models, then these slide-on campers are a very interesting option. With prices starting in the mid $30K range; they represent excellent value for money in today’s marketplace.
After reviewing the Optima, I can certainly envisage the slide-on concept being readily accepted by the next wave of travelling anglers.Reads: 19913