Tuesday, March 12

Patriot Campers X1 Grand Tourer

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Patriot Campers has taken the off-grid, off-road camping world by storm. In a market where, increasingly, budget priced, imported campers are the accepted norm, Patriot has convinced us that spending more than twice that on an Australian made soft-floor camper is not only worth considering, but a bloody good idea we’d all jump at if money allowed. The company has famously won Camper Trailer Australia magazine’s yearly camper award five times in a row, but interestingly, apart from a few owners comments on a few forums, there’s a distinct lack of reviews by the camping media, or even mainstream media, floating around.

So, are Patriot Campers all they’re cracked up to be, or is fifty to sixty thousand dollars just too much for a soft-floor camper trailer, however flashy the laser cut steel panels are?

Straight up, fifty to sixty thousand dollars for a soft-floor camper trailer is a damn lot of money – even in the heyday of Aussie built camper trailers, it was rare to see one creep as high as $50,000 – both Complete Campsite and Mountain Trail campers had very good soft-floor campers, but neither of them builds one anymore, which seems telling. Both were, to put it crudely, essentially just glorified box trailers with tents on top, which might not have detracted from their functionality, but that crude perception surely didn’t help their appeal. Who wants to spend $50,000 on a box trailer, after all, fancy and Australian made as it may be? And you can say, all you want, that hard floor campers are a more premium product, a well designed soft-floor will always be easier to use, have more space and be more versatile.Patriot campers review x1gt

Which, I think, is part of the Patriot’s appeal. Sure the product is a box shape and a trailer, but there’s no looking at one and saying, ‘Yeah, I could get a similar result by chucking a tent on top of my garden trailer.’

The X1 Grand Tourer is Patriot’s top-of-the-line camper trailer. It weighs just 940kg empty and can carry another 660kg of gear or extra equipment. There’s a number of reasons for it, but part of it is that the chassis is a combination of steel and, where suitable, aluminium. It’s only a squat little thing – from front to back it’s only 3300mm and 1750mm tall (maybe a bit more if you’ve got some extra canvas folded up with the tent, and is just 1850mm wide. It’s a master-piece of laser-cut steel and flawless bends, with doors and hatches on every side and filling every flat surface. Even the numberplate is fixed with tapped screws and two small mesh compartments in the back-rear quarters aren’t mesh at all, but a lazer-cut panel that testament to the detail in every camper. I’m told, ‘Oh, it doesn’t cost that much extra to put that sort of stuff in,” but it certainly doesn’t cost less, which is what every other camper trailer manufacturer is focussing on, it seems.

The trailer itself is a collection of highly organised storage spaces. To the passenger side, the long door hinges from the bottom creating a fold-down bench space around the kitchen. Open, it reveals a sophisticated pantry space with three slide-out drawers and a slide-out Bromic two-burner gas stove. It’s well lit, with lights within the cabinet area itself, and on the underside of the awning above. Another compartment forward of here houses the slide-out kitchen bench and sink, with a spot on top for the fridge. The whole unit is telescopic, so you can just pull out the fridge or the sink or both.

In the rear of the X1, the large door folds down to reveal the camper’s largest single storage area. A false floor about one-third of its height allows for a pull-out drawer underneath, and there’s also a small, inconspicuous shelf high in the area to keep the camper’s poles. There’s an LED strip along the roof so you can see what you’re looking for, too.

The driver’s side storage areas are almost mirrored, although without the kitchen taking up room. The rear-most compartment has a fold-down door, which creates a bench. When the tent’s set up, this opens into it so is where clothes and spare bedding is expected to be stored, plus there’s also a small shelf with some charging sockets to leave phones and devices while they charge. Forward of this, the taller compartment has sliding and fixed shelf, so it’s a very versatile area.

The last large storage area is to the front, under a top-hinged gull-wing (if gull’s had their wings on their forehead, of course) door. In it is Patriot’s swing-out Weber barbecue arm and storage shelf and, if it’s been optioned, a Webasto diesel water and cabin heater. Outside of this, there’s two gas bottle holders for 4.5kg bottles, all of it Rhino coated to protect the front end from stone chips.

The tent is Australian-made with Wax Converters canvas, although this is a job Patriot has outsourced to a southern canvas shop. It’s good, though, as good as a soft-floor camper trailer tent gets. Soft-floor campers can be exceptionally difficult to set up, or exceptionally easy, all depending on design. The Patriot’s the latter – it is simply pulled off the roof and poled out. As an example of how simple it is, the Patriot took us just over 10-minutes to set up, awning kids room and all, whereas on average, I can set up a Jayco wind-up camper trailer, not including the awning, in about 7-minutes.

The awning is one of Supapeg’s 270-degree awnings, which is good in that it contains all the poles it needs within its folded-up self. Because the camper’s tent gets in the way of it being roped out properly to put tension on the outside edge, spreader bars do the same job. Bars do tend to trap water, though, and it’s not a terribly tall awning, so if you have to angle the outside edges down to stop water pooling, headroom might be limited under here.

One of the Patriot’s stand-out features is it’s folding bed. Unfolded it’s larger than a king, despite the fact the trailer’s roof is no-where near that big. And rather than using a ladder to climb up onto the high platform, Patriot Campers has patented its TentStep staircase, which is easier to use, even if it does take up a little more internal space within the tent.

There’s little doubt the Patriot X1 GT is a highly capable off-road tourer. Underneath it there is Cruisemaster X-Cruise air-bag independent suspension, which was developed specifically for these trailers. Unlike all the other Cruisemaster suspension systems, this version is only available on a Patriot product (that’s quite significant, because a number of off-road caravan manufacturers have developed their own off-road suspensions because Cruisemaster wouldn’t offer them exclusivity on a design – the most notable being Kedron Caravans and its KRS Suspension). The camper’s squatness also helps, as does it’s weight. In a world where many camper trailers weigh 1600kg before a drop of water or piece of clothing has been added, one that weighs that much with everything on-board is significant. Plus, it’s got a great departure angle, good ramp-over angle and most people who can afford one can also afford a high-powered, modified four-wheel drives with all the fruit. Ah, to be one of them…

Electrically, the Patriot Campers X1 GT has a two 135ah gel batteries standard (was previously two 120ah AGMs), but can fit two lithiums if you feel they’re needed. Redarc’s TMS is also standard, which monitors almost everything and controls almost every circuit in the camper, plus can be controlled via Bluetooth from a connected smart phone. There’s also a portable Fusion Bluetooth speaker with integrated charging dock, so it can pump out tunes at camp or follow you down to the beach. A 350W inverter is standard, as is solar input via an Anderson plug. It carries 85-litres and 70-litres of water. The kitchen will only fit a 60-litre fridge, which is one of the few things that are mildly disappointing – you’ll probably have to carry a second fridge in the car if you travel with a family.

So, back to the earlier question. Are Patriot Campers all they’re cracked up to be, or is fifty to sixty thousand dollars just too much for a soft-floor camper trailer, however flashy the laser cut steel panels are? The answer to the first is undeniably – the Patriot Campers X1 Grand Tourer is an exceptional camping product that’s almost without peer. The level of workmanship, design, detail and functionality is incredible.

Is it worth the money, or are we paying this much to fund the incredible grooming of Justin’s beard?

I think it’s worth the money, which sucks, because it means plenty of us will not be able to afford one any time soon. But I’ll clarify that, somewhat. The Patriot isn’t twice as good as some of the campers that are half as much – unfortunately that’s not how economy of scales work – but it is most definitely the best soft-floor camper and one of the best off-grid, off-road campers I’ve so far reviewed. Like so many things, to make something a little better often costs more than a little money.

I review plenty of good campers that I’d never buy, for one reason or another (almost all of them, really), but in the case of a Patriot, it’s on my list, even if it’s out of mine, and many others, reach. Maybe a few years down the track on the second hand market, though… The Patriot Campers X1 Grand Tourer starts from $52,990.

I borrowed this camper from Off Grid Outfitters, Patriot’s NSW dealer. If you’ve got a question about them, give Ryan a call on (02) 4648 4181, he’s one of the few camping industry people who’s just as passionate about camping as he is about his customers (actually, that’s not true, there are plenty who aren’t that passionate about camping and similarly passionate about customers – Ryan’s not one of them). 

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