One of the simplest, but best, camper trailers I’ve ever travelled with was the entry level Trackabout something-or-other from around 2010 (genuinely can’t remember what it was called, but probably the Explorer or something like that). It was a sturdy, no-fuss trailer, an excellent, easy-to-use tent and rugged enough to be towed just about anywhere off-road. But that sort of trailer went out of fashion over the next few years, replaced by fancy forward-folds, too-cheap imports and a mentality that forgot camping was meant to be a simple pursuit. Why spend $15,000 for a decent camper when you can spend $20,000, seemed to be the mentality.
Which is why I’m so drawn to campers like the Marlin Escape Off Road Deluxe (or these, by Walkabout Campers in QLD). They’re simple, inexpensive and so easy to use, and such good value, you’d be crazy not to at least have a look at one, even if your budget is much higher than $13,000.
Marlin Campers is a small business based up in Gosford, on the Central Coast of New South Wales. It’s not a massive operation with dealers across the country or the sort of marketing budgets that can pay for 4WD media personalities to spruik its stuff, but it does sell Australian-made trailers paired with one of the easiest-to-use, best-value tents from anywhere in the world.
It’s been a while since I’ve towed a camping package so light it doesn’t need trailer brakes, but the Marlin Escape Off Road Deluxe is just that. The trailer itself weighs just 220kg, and when the tent, battery, kitchen and other camping accessories are added, it’s less than 500kg, leaving over 250kg of load capacity. There are plenty of campers on the market with larger load-capacities, but most of them are twice as heavy before that load even gets added. If you are worried, just pay a little extra to have brakes fitted, and you’ll be able to load it to the gunnels.
In fact, the trailer is reasonably basic (on purpose), but as they’re built in Sydney, they can be customised to your heart and wallet’s content, with the only limitation being the overall height of the trailer. This model, ready for off-road touring, is a steel, 1800x1200x500mm (6x4x2-feet, approximately) box trailer with eye-to-eye leaf springs and a swing-away tailgate. There are mounts for a 4kg gas bottle and 20-litre jerry can, plus a toolbox and spare wheel on the drawbar. Underneath, there’s a 60-litre poly water tank, and it rides on a 40mm square axle with 15in steel wheels. Marlin uses a new Ark off-road ball hitch with positive indicators to show when it’s properly engaged.
It’s a breeze to tow. Even off-road, it posed little hindrance. The wheel-track is almost identical to my LandCruiser’s, so it followed reasonably closely in my tracks along the beach and is narrow enough that vision around it is not a problem. Marlin does specify a five-leaf pack, normally, although this one’s seven-leaf pack was too firm. Over one bump I’m sure it launched over a foot into the air. But nothing was out of place when I got it to camp, so it can take a beating.
Marlin deals exclusively with Drifta for its camper kitchens. Based in Gloucester, north-west of Newcastle, Drifta is largely considered to make the best timber storage and kitchen systems on the market. On this model, it’s fitted to the tailgate which can swing out a full 180° if you really want to open up the campsite. The kitchen is basic but very flexible. Two different fold-out sections create bench space, while there are just two drawers and two larger storage areas, but that’s about all most people really need to cook up a decent meal. In the closed position, it rests on nylon runners, which help bear its weight and prevent it being shaken off the tailgate if the towing conditions are rough.
Marlin is actually the exclusive dealer for Oztrail’s camper trailer tents which are most notable for their simplicity in set-up, and more importantly, in my opinion, pack-up. The roof is actually a triple layer piece – two canvas sheets sandwiching a sheet of insulation to keep the heat out in summer or in during winter. The floor is a 620gsm PVC vinyl, strong enough to not tear or puncture easily. All of the windows feature NoSeeUm mesh, fine enough to keep out the smallest of biting insects. However, more could be done to seal up some of the corners around bed base – there are a few holes bugs could get through, still. One person can set it or pack it up. The process is light, there’s only two poles to adjust once you’re inside and even on the sand, in the wind, it only took me a few minutes. The awning is also simple, and I got that up in about 10-minutes
This model comes with a simple power system. Under the bed base is a 100Ah Ark Pack – a handy battery box with battery regulator, voltage monitor and power outlets, plus a 200-watt solar blanket and a set of Oztrail 4 bar LED light kit. Considering there’s no fridge or extensive electronics on board, that’s more than sufficient to keep the lights running around camp, but I do think there needs to be a better way to string the lights through the camper. It was a bit fiddly getting it all together.
For $13,000, this is a very good camping companion. It’s light, simple, comfortable and rugged enough to take off-road, and can be customised to fit anything else you want. Check it out.
Specifications and Price
Marlin Campers Deluxe Off-Road
Style – Off Road, soft-floor camper
Chassis – Steel, (50×50 chassis 100x50x1500 drawbar)
Suspension – AL-KO 5-leaf, rebound spring, off-road
Hitch – ARK XO off-road coupling
Dimensions and Weights
Towing Length – 3400mm
Tent footprint – 2450mm x 2100mm
Towed Width – 1700mm
Towed Height – 1200mm
Tare Weight – 450kg
ATM – 750kg unbraked; 1000kg braked
Tow Ball weight – 20kg
Water – 60 litres
Gas – 1 x 4.5kg holder
Fridge – NA
Electrical – ARK Power Pack
Battery – 1 x 120Ah
Solar – 200w
$12,980 Tow away in NSW