The question in camper trailers used to be soft-floor camper trailer verse hard-floor camper trailer. But as designs and trends have changed, so has the conversation. Today, the big question is forward-fold camper trailer verse rear-fold camper trailer (and soon, I think, it will be one of these verse loft-camper trailer, but that’s another story). So, which is better – a hinge on the front or a hinge on the back?
Forward-fold camper trailers – Pros and Cons
As the bed is attached to the folding lid and not stuck to the floor, it means an interior living area can be left in place. In almost every instance, this is utilised as a wraparound lounge area with a table in the middle, and can usually be transformed into a second bed. Usually things like batteries or cabin heaters are found under the lounges, and whatever space is left can be used as storage. This means that a forward-fold camper trailer has exceptional interior comfort, and in general, a far more comfortable covered living space than the average rear-fold camper.
Forward-fold campers also don’t increase in length when they are set up. As the lid is hinged forward of the main body, it folds over the front storage boxes and draw bar. Whether this is a benefit or not is highly subjective, and probably depends on how often you camp in areas with tight camping sites. You’ll probably have less need to unhitch to fit on sites in some caravan parks, too. That the lid doesn’t fold onto the ground does mean it’ll never fold onto and uneven surface, but even that’s a marginal advantage.
Almost all forward fold campers use a winch to flip the lid, which takes all of the effort out of it. Interestingly, this is a feature popularised by Australia’s most prominent rear-fold camper builder – Cub Campers, which has used a winch to aid closing for as long as I remember – but the principle works equally well wherever the hinge is located. Forward folds, though, usually require two winches – one to open the camper and another to close it, which is just another piece of gear to carry.
Due to the location of the gas struts on the camper’s lid, the main body of the camper can’t be accessed when the camper’s closed, and alternatively, you’ve got to remember to close the door before packing up. It also means that anything stored in the main body has to be able to stay there until camp.
Ball weights are also often high on forward-fold campers because of the door’s position. As the wheels (or more accurately, the wheel arches) can’t be moved further forward and the largest storage areas are well forward of the axles again, very few forward fold campers have an empty ball-weight lower than 150kg, and this figure usually rises once they’re loaded.
Although there is an exceptional level of interior comfort in these campers, they are limited in their ability to house a family. This isn’t because there’s not the room – if you don’t need to live inside every waking moment, the dinette can easily stay as a bed – but because storage is limited. Inside most forward fold campers there is very limited storage – only what you can fit under the seats, usually. While they have large forward storage boxes, often these are filled with fridges and extra canvas or other bulky camping gear, so what’s available fills up quickly.
Rear-fold camper trailers – Pros and Cons
Rear-fold campers, although immensely popular in Australia, aren’t one of our own inventions – the first of them came from Denmark and New Zealand, of all places. The concept is simple, though. Inside the main body of the trailer is a bed, usually with storage space underneath. The lid of the trailer folds backwards to become the floor of your accomodation, once set up. This does mean that when still attached to the vehicle, a rear-fold campers length can be quite long and may not fit on a campsite.
The earliest models, and many still today, use a cantilever system to flip the lid. That is a rack which is hinged at the back and flips over creating a large lever to pull down on and open the rest of the body. There’s an elegance to a simple hard-floor, and many need no adjustment once open to set the tent, although most, these days, usually require the setting of at least two poles. Cub Campers, as mentioned earlier, have strong struts in them to push the lid open and a winch to pull it back closed again.
As the bed stays in the one spot, it can be left made up when packed, and if the camper’s well designed, can have other things stored on it too. Ideally, the space under the bed can easily be accessed either when the camper’s open or closed.
There’s usually more storage space in a rear-fold camper than a forward folding one, as there’s less internal structure (no dinette, basically. Usually that means a drawer or some form of organised storage under the bed can be easily accessed and less things need to be stored in external storage boxes. As there’s no formal interior furnishings, apart from the bed, it also forces you, good or bad, to do more of your living outside where the camp chairs are.
From a design and balance perspective, the axles and suspension and be fitted underneath the camper with more concession to balance and ball-weight. Generally rear-fold campers have light to moderate ball-weights as the axles can be moved forward to affect them, although this isn’t always the case. Campers, like the Kimberley Kampers, with extensive kitchens and large storage boxes forward of the camper can have ball weights well over 200kg once loaded up.
Do you have a forward fold or rear fold camper trailer? What do you love and what do you hate about it?