Lightweight off road camper trailers offer more than beach travel

lightweight off road camper trailer on beach

Travelling on the beach at Fraser Island in easy with a lightweight off road camper trailer

Having travelled with a range of off-road caravans and camper trailers, why choose lightweight off-road camper trailers? Are these only necessary for beach travel?

One of the most exciting things about travel is the adventure of not knowing exactly where you will be camping tomorrow.
Sure, you have the sight seeing points targeted; but journey details are fun to pencil in as you go. There is “freedom and adventure” with journeys like this. Freedom that just can’t be replicated with hotels and motels which after a while, all start to look the same.

Lightweight off road camper trailers give you a huge amount of freedom. You can cross any river and go any place that a 4WD can go, and of course, travel and camp on any beach.

lightweight camper trailer river crossing

Crossing the Daintree with lightweight off road camper trailer

Is that a guarantee I hear you ask?

Well it is guaranteed if you have a quality  lightweight camper trailer that is setup to follow you anywhere.

Before we discuss some of the features that make off road camper trailers lightweight, let’s discuss “setting up”.

One way to see this is on the scale of setup time below. You decide what level of comfort you want balanced with hassle free camping :

Lightweight off road camper trailers setup times

Setup time
lightweight off road camper trailers

Opening up and setting up with a 6m x 2m awning Time to have piping hot water at the sink and cup of tea ready to go Time to setup for the toilet suite/ensuite and having a hot shower

1 minute

Kimberley Kamper

5-10 minutes

Kimberley Kamper

Kimberley Kamper

10 minutes +

Most rear folding with gas hot water
(need level ground and time for hot water)

20 minutes +

Most cumbersome side or front folding campers
(you “ultimately” get there though)

30 minutes +

Most Asian sourced “hard floor” campers
(too many things to clip and tuck, Asian “canvas”)

40 minutes +

Most Soft floor campers
(great for new fathers with boundless energy)

Lightweight off road camper trailers special setup requirements

In isolated beach settings, there are can an abundance of wind which requires camping in sheltered spots that may have uneven ground.  If you are away from the coast, there are great camping spots near water: a stream or billabong which is ideal for extracting water for endless showers. Consider these factors for lightweight off road camper trailers:

Setup on uneven ground gives you the million dollar view Strong wind blowing
(no insects though!)

Time to access water if it is close by for an endless hot shower.

1 minute

Kimberley Kamper with air suspension just needs a touch on the paddle valves to level

5-10 minutes

Kimberley Kamper
draught shirt and drivers side wall Velcros together  to face the wind

Kimberley Kamper visi-flow system can directly pump from creek or billabong and bypass tanks

10 minutes

Most campers that need digging out for a wheel and/or leveling with ramps

20 minutes

Most side or front folding campers need careful orientation or the bed is in a wind tunnel (but you “ultimately” get there)

30 minutes

Most Asian sourced “hard floor” campers have Asian polyester for canvas which is poor in high wind

A long time +

Most Soft floor campers are poor to setup with uneven ground

How big is your bucket?

Driving on beaches with lightweight off road camper trailers

View of 1770 and Round Hill head from adjacent beach. Getting access took careful travel across salt pans and through beach creeks but the 10 days here was wonderful. The benefit of lightweight off road camper trailers.

Features of lightweight off road camper trailers

Now what are some features that make off road camper trailers lightweight and easy to travel with?

1 Low Tare weight requires the maximum use of alloy materials in all the right places. Steel boxes and construction is just too heavy. Most people don’t know that a well known Aussie camper trailer is 200kgs heavier than a Kimberley because of a choice of steel and timber. This is just dead weight.
To operate a gas hot water system, the 14-20l hot water tank must always be full. This means the water in it can’t be drained and used. This is just dead weight.
2 Tracking width If your camper trailer’s wheels track the same or similar to your vehicle, they are following in the same tracks as the vehicle reducing the drag significantly.
3 Only alloy poles and very few of them Steel poles are heavy and cumbersome.
Kimberley use alloy poles and can be setup with the side and front awning without a peg in the ground. The simple front strap system is stronger than pegs and a breeze to use.
4 Solar panels that are less than 5kgs for 180w Traditional 180w glass solar panels weigh 25 kgs and are painful to store.
Kimberley’s 180W solar on the tropical roof is a small 5kg addition to the tare weight and can be separated as a portable 180W solar kit if camping  in the shade.
5 No major folding table needed Kimberley have a stainless steel dining bench included in the tare weight in most models. Easy to use, big and seconds to slide away.

Then finally if you wish to take the comfort of a sit on toilet (and why not), the technology is here now to do this with the super lightweight waterless toilets available with easy storage in a Kimberley Kamper. Combine this with the new Toilet Suite and you have excellent comfort anywhere off road.

lightweight waterless toilet option for camper trailers

The waterless toilet is a very lightweight comfort option for off road camper trailers

180W Flexible Solar on a Camper Trailer Roof

180W-Integrated-Solar-Tropical-Roof-for-off-road-camper-trailer

The 180W Super-Light flexible solar panels have these benefits:

  • 12-14A maximum output.
  • For a typical 6 hour peak solar day with northern orientation, without moving the panels, this will give 45-60 Ahrs of power
  • This is the perfect size solar for a single 80L fridge, hot water, lighting and stereo
  • It perfectly compliments 210Ahrs of battery capacity

Photo shows 180W flexible solar panels on a Kimberley Kamper off-road camper trailer. It can be any model in the wide range.

The tropical roof on a Kimberley Kamper off-road camper trailer provides these benefits:

  • Airflow between the roof and the tropical roof keeps the Kamper cool on hot days
  • Air gap between the two also eliminates condensation in the winter months
  • If you are camping in the snow, the snow accumulates on the tropical roof
  • When you pack up the Kamper, there is no moisture transfer to the bedding from the roof

And now Kimberley have combined these 2 products with these added benefits:
folding-off-road-camper-trailer-with-180W-flexible-solar-panel-inside

  • The tropical roof opens automatically as you open the Kamper. The photo on the right shows the Kamper half way through the opening process.
  • The Super-light solar is concealed inside the kamper, emerging automatically as it opens.
  • The flexible solar panels can move and flex inside.
  • The super-light flexible solar panels are only 2.2 kgs per panel. This has negligible effect on the shape of the roof.
  • The flexible solar panels have an integrated solar optimizer for shade balance between panels.
  • The solar output is to an on board MPPT solar controller for maximum output.
  • Set and forget the solar system with less likelihood of theft.
  • The super light flexible solar panel has a fluorocarbon plastic base that is white and does not absorb heat.
  • The panels can be manually removed and setup as a portable solar system if required.
  • There is no impact on any other canvas accessory like the toilet suite, ensuite or second bedroom.

The best feature is the value of this flexible solar and tropical roof combination by:

  • Utilize a single MPPT controller upgraded to 20A that is switchable between the 25W glass solar panel on the front for constantly trickle charging the battery and this tropical roof system
  • Attach the panels with Australian designed “stay put” canvas to canvas toggles that allow the super-light panels to either “stay-put” or be easily removed.
  • Reducing the weight compared to glass solar panels by over 80%.

Weight saving with flexible solar panels is a key benefit:

180W Glass Portable
Solar Kit

24 kgs  

180W Super Light
Solar

4.4 kgs 82.3% weight reduction compared to glass panels

The price addition for this combination on top of the standard tropical roof is $990 incl GST

(this includes the upgrade to the 20A Mppt Solar controller which is switched from either the front 25W panel to this solar system as required. The 25W solar is generally under cover while camping)

More Technical Information:

  • Now there is an even lighter technology for semi-flexible solar panels:
  • The backing sheet is a Fluorocarbon Plastic, UV stable and taken from the marine industry.
  • This is the technology used on world travelling yachts as it is light and withstands consistent heat and UV conditions.

The Super Light 180W array consists of 2 x 90W panels that have eyelets around the edge and attach to the canvas backing through these eyelets. The panels weigh only 2.19kgs each, which is a 80% reduction in weight compared to glass panels.

180W Glass Suitcase 180W Super Light
Technology: Glass Mono crystalline SunPower cells on Fluorocarbon Plastic
Weight in Kgs 23.6 kgs 4.38kgs

In addition, the solar cells are “SunPower Cells” which are the highest efficiency in the Industry. Photos show actual panels with “shipping protection plastic layer” on the front, which is removed. SunPower makes the world’s most efficient production solar cells – 24%, which result in the most efficient modules of about 20%. These high efficiency cells result mostly from the back contact design which avoids grid lines of metal on the front of the cell and therefore more light gets converted to electricity.

There will be a digital optimiser installed with each panel, which is the latest technology for shade and balancing effects.

Read about SunPower cells here: http://solarcellcentral.com/companies_page.html

The panels have a panel output of 23.3V and 3.91Amps for each 90W panel.

180W Solar Using 20Amp MPPT Controller Battery Voltage Maximum Current charging Comment
Charging Batteries in perfect solar conditions 13.8V 12 amps Battery needs to be less than 90% full to get full charge current

This kit includes 5 components:

  • 2 x 90W Super Light Solar panels weighing only 2.19 kgs
  • 20 Amp MPPT controller which can be selected for AGM or Lithium Batteries
  • Digital optimizer for shade conditions

The system folds up with the Kamper when packing it up; (or they can easily be removed and used as a portable system in which case they can still be stored in the Kamper when folding up)

Here is what you can get from 180W of super-light flexible solar panels with an MPPT solar controller:

Fridge in Kamper Other Electrical items in Kamper Fridge in rear of vehicle Total per day
Typical power consumption per day 20-40 Amp Hrs 5-10 Amp Hrs 20-40 Amp Hrs 45-90 Amp Hrs
180 W solar with 6 hours of sun with northern orientation angle with 6 hours of sun with northern orientation angle but not moving the panels during the day. 45 -60 Amp hrs per day
210 Amp Hours AGM Batteries Will mean 4-6 days independence if fridges are using 90 Amp Hours per day & virtually total independence if efficient fridges are used at the total of 45 amp hours per day.
100 Amp Hours Lithium These charge 40% faster than AGM and therefore allow for faster recovery by solar when full sun is available.

Interested? Go see a Kimberley Dealer or visit us at shows!

Emergency caravan braking requires a learned skill!

caravan-braking-on-cornersHave you had to do a emergency caravan braking on a sharp corner? Or have you found that stray animal in the middle of the road at a bend and you have to brake and turn? If you have done this successfully you would most probably have applied the caravan or camper trailers brakes remotely from the vehicle first, then applied the vehicle brakes. Why?

If you apply the vehicle brakes hard and fast and turn the wheel, the vehicle will turn but the caravan or camper trailer is still in a straight-line. It will tend to push the rear of the vehicle out and induce a dangerous spin inertia on the vehicle.

If you apply the caravan brake hard and fast just a second or 2 before the vehicle, there is the reverse effect. The caravan or camper trailer acts like a large parachute on the rear and slows the whole turn inertia down. You feel more in control to get out of a difficult predicament.

Platinum offroad camper trailer

Platinum offroad camper trailer

For this to happen, you need 2 things:

  1. The brake controller in your vehicle has to be so close to where you normally keep your left or right hand. You need to be able to locate and slide/activate it fully without taking your eyes off the road.
  2. You need very good brakes on the caravan or camper trailer  that can apply fully braking and not fade.

For the first point, there are many electric brake controller installers that want to install the manual controller “out of the way” or on a dummy dash position that has minimum impact on how the vehicle looks. Please say “no thanks” unless it is the perfect position. If looks are a concern, here is an alternative: On a fairly expensive Range Rover, the author has a “hard shell velcro strip” on the top of the brake controller and this presses up on a discrete metal bracket with the matching “hard plastic” velcro. This sits just under the dash 100-150mm from where the left hand is on the wheel. It can be applied as fast as a flash. Several practice runs are made at the start of every trip to get the reflexes and “feel” just right. On every trip so far it has been used at least once!

Compliance-to-ADR-rules-for-brakingThe second point is the most important. The Australian Standard on braking stipulates a measurement of the effectiveness of the braking with a tow vehicle. The problem with this measurement is if you have a powerful tow vehicle, the caravan or camper trailer braking test will probably pass every time. The 6 pot disc brakes on the Range Range will even pull up an un-braked trailer within the standards. So this doesn’t give good assurances for emergency caravan braking when you are applying JUST the caravan brakes.

offroad-camper-trailer-air-suspension-2862-600x400-resized-600.jpgA simple way to measure how effective your brakes are is by doing an emergency “pit stop” at a low controlled speed and then measuring the distance covered. This is broadly how the Australian Design Rules describe the testing of Caravan and camper trailer brakes. Rule 128 stipulates the exact testing process. Manufacturers should do this on each model to ensure that they comply. Then do this on the caravan brakes only and you can compare it to our findings below. Please do this in a safe section of private road with no traffic. Use a maximum speed of 35klm/hr. No faster please!

Brake manufacturers issue guidelines from what they estimate their brakes should be able to achieve but we have never seen these documents state compliance to the Australian standard brake tests. Why not?

There are 9 factors that link the braking capability of your caravan or camper trailer with the braking outcome as described by the standard:

  1. The size of the wheels and tyres: a larger rolling diameter requires higher braking capacity
  2. The weight of the caravan or camper trailer: the heavier the weight, the higher capacity required
  3. The weight of the vehicle: The heavier the vehicle, the stronger the stopping capacity if the vehicles brakes are more effective
  4. The matched balance between the drivers and passenger’s side braking components and/or the electric signalling system: Any imbalance and the caravan or camper trailer will push to one side regardless which can be dangerous.
  5. The speed of the vehicle: the faster the speed the greater the braking capacity need. For double the speed, it is 4 times the capacity required.
  6. The road conditions: Uneven loose stones give less grip
  7. The weather, specifically if it has been or is raining: water can cause aquaplaning and brake fading
  8. The vehicle’s braking ability: How many pots and what size on the vehicle?
  9. The change in drawbar weight when the braking is applied; and the effect this has on the rear brakes of the vehicle: if the nose goes down because the caravan or camper trailer brakes are highly effective, there is more pressure on the rear of the vehicle for potentially a better result.

Given these factors, it is impossible for a braking component supplier to make a compliant statement with respect to the standard without a practical test. It is the caravan or camper trailer manufacturer that should do a practical test for the peace of mind of their users!

The test describes a precise way to calculate the braking deceleration of the combined vehicle and caravan or camper trailer. There is a standard of braking level of 3.8 metres per second per second that has to be complied with. Don’t be concerned with this number, we will give you practical meter distances in this article for you to compare with.

Before looking at some data, consider again the impact of your vehicle size.

At Kimberley we use a Hilux Diesel with a GVW of 1650kgs and a Toyota 200 Series with a GVW of 2650kgs. Both vehicles are at least 5 years old and fairly represent a “typical” tow vehicle in their class. Neither have been modified nor have non-standard braking systems. This gives a fair range of results and representation for users.

The results are in meters apply brakes with an off-road camper trailer or off-road caravan.

Distance to perfect stop in a straight line from 35km/hr to zero.   Vehicle and 1.2 tonne Kimberley Kamper power assisted Disc Brakes   Vehicle and 2.1 tonne Kimberley Kruiser S Class  power assisted Disc Brakes   Vehicle and 2.8 tonne Kimberley Kruiser T Class  power assisted Disc Brakes
 With Hilux Dualcab Ute  towing (Amarok Dual Cab Ute with T Class Kruiser) (1.65 tonne)  6.05m  5.7m  4.84m
 With Land Cruiser 200 Series
(2.65 tonne)
 5.55m  5.43m  4.59m

There are some interesting points here to note. The power assisted discs are very powerful brakes. Infact the stopping power is in excess of the independent report published by “AL-KO Sensabrake TM” for their own braking system (we calculate the deceleration from their report).
The Tandem axle braking is superior to the single axle caravan because the double braking capacity outstrips the additional weight.

The other interesting thing is the Heavier single axle Kruiser is less than the Kamper with the 200 Series. Why is this? The weight distribution on the Single axle S Class is just perfect for maximum braking. The wheels don’t lock and the brakes are right on the money. This is 220% of the requirements of the Australian Design Rules!

The results in meters of applying the brakes manually on the off-road caravan or camper trailer ONLY and stopping on just these brakes.

So the vehicle brakes are not used and this is a measure for emergency caravan braking.

STOPPING USING THE CARAVAN OR CAMPER TRAILER BRAKES ONLYDistance to perfect stop in a straight line from 35km/hr to zero.   Vehicle and 1.2 tonne Kimberley Kamper
power assisted Disc Brakes
  Vehicle and 2.1 tonne Kimberley Kruiser S Class
power assisted Disc Brakes
  Vehicle and 2.8 tonne Kimberley Kruiser T Class
power assisted Disc Brakes
 With Hilux Dualcab Ute  towing (Amarok Dual Cab Ute with T Class Kruiser) (1.65 tonne)  7.95m  20.02m  14.95m
 With Land Cruiser 200 Series
(2.65 tonne)
 10.95m  21.0m  16.54m

There are some interesting points here to note. The lighter combined vehicle mass with the caravan or camper trailer gives the best result. This is to be expected.

The Tandem axle braking is superior to the single axle caravan because the double braking capacity outstrips the additional weight.

These results are at 35 km/hr. If you are going much faster you need a much longer distance. But this data gives you a practical guide of the “parachute” effect of apply the caravan or camper trailer brakes ahead of the vehicle.