What do you get when two Englishmen start a camper trailer business? While this may sound like the opening line of a very corny gag, I assure you a RhinoMax Hybrid Camper is definitely no joke.
As we ventured along Booloumba Creek Rd just outside of Kenilworth, QLD, with the sun starting to get lower in the sky, kicking up dust behind the LandCruiser and partially obscuring our view of the RhinoMax Defender Hybrid, it dawned on me that it was school holiday time and I hadn't booked a campsite.
Our chances of finding a nice place to set the camper up may be a little slimmer than normal. Through one creek crossing and then another we arrived at the camping area to find what I had expected. A full camp. “Not to worry,” said Steve Punton of RhinoMax. “I know another spot just on the other side of Kenilworth.”
Back through the creek crossings, down the dirt tracks, past the horses, then it was back on to the bitumen via a quick detour to the Kenilworth Bakery (if you're in the area check out the 1kg doughnut challenge!) before heading through the gates of Bluff Creek Campground.
Although there were already quite a few campers set up, there's plenty of room to spread out and find a spot of your own. A creek flows through the property, so if you're staying for longer, remember to bring your boardies for a swim.
GETTING SET UP
We managed to find a great little grassy spot, nestled in amongst the trees with its own fire pit and even a porta loo! Needless to say, we all wished we were there for longer with return trips already penned in our diaries.
To say that setting up the Defender Hybrid is a quick and simple task would quite possibly be the understatement of this issue. I didn't have a stopwatch on me for our review, but even if I did, it would have been barely worth the effort. Drop down the stabiliser legs, unclip the roof, press the button for the electric automatic roof (raised by two internal rams), then wind out the massive awning and you're done. Grab your chairs, kick back and relax.
When the tummy starts to rumble, it's good to know that the gourmet kitchen is but the releasing of a few clips away. Appearing from a hatch in front of the wheel arch, the stainless steel kitchen first slides out, then an expandable benchtop extends along the side of the camper, creating a fantastic cooking/preparation area.
A three-burner gas cooktop and a stainless steel sink with a hot/cold mixer tap completes the package. Storage is also abundant, with a cutlery/utensil drawer and a utility space beneath the work area, and two pantry drawers above.
Pull out the fridge slide located on the left of the kitchen to reveal a clever storage unit behind for pots, pans and larger items. The fridge slide will handle up to an 85L EvaKool fridge/freezer. Unfortunately, a fridge is not part of the standard inclusions, and will have to be purchased separately or added as an option.
STORAGE FOR MILES
There's no denying that these days, we have a lot of 'stuff'. And when we head away, we take a lot of this 'stuff' with us.
Well, you'll be happy to know the Defender has lots of places for you to put your stuff with storage compartments and hatches all over the place.
Perched up front is a mass of black powder-coated aluminium. There are spots for a couple of 20L jerry cans and a lockable box that contains your two 4kg gas bottles (that are plumbed up to the kitchen and hot water system). Behind that is a full width storage box with drop-down access doors on both ends.
This is a space that could quite easily handle an extra fridge and slide or a generator if required. If not, it's left to your own imagination. Did I hear 'golf clubs'?
This camper has been optioned up with the diesel cab heater, with the diesel tank neatly tucked in on the offside of the front storage box and protected behind an aluminium shroud. Sitting on top of the big black box is an open storage unit, just perfect for when you need to collect a bit of firewood for the night.
At the front on the offside are three more storage compartments, all with bottom-hinged doors making it very easy to put your stuff in, and take your stuff out. The front box takes up the void behind the fridge compartment from the other side, and is designed to take a Baby Q or a small generator. Behind door number two is pretty much a cave. Camp chairs and tables, ground sheets and even a spare kitchen sink would all fit in here and there would still be room left over.
The smaller of the three hatches houses the electrical hub of the hybrid. In here you will find a 200Ah lithium battery (upgraded from the standard 2 x 120Ah AGM units), an Enerdrive 40A battery management system in both DC and AC variations, along with all fuses and the 240V/12V changeover switch, if you are at a powered campsite or to make sure that everything is full of juice before leaving home. Mounted on the roof is a pair of 160W solar panels to keep your off-grid exploits fully charged.
One thing I did notice while poking my head inside the electrical cabinet was the location of the water tank filling hoses. They run right through, over and past all the electrical gadgetry contained within this compartment. A damaged/cracked/loose filler hose may be the cause of some pretty expensive consequences.
The last hatch at the back is one no one really wants to know about, but you really need to. It's where the removable waste tank for the Thetford cassette toilet lives...
THE HIDDEN UNDERBELLY
There is no use having a fancy camper with a heap of bells and whistles if what's underneath isn't up to the challenge. Thanks to the design and engineering team at RhinoMax, they've got you covered. Or should that be, “Got your under covered?”
First up there is the one-piece chassis and drawbar constructed from heavy duty 150mm x 50mm x 3mm galvanised steel. This runs all the way through to the rear of the camper where a pair of recovery points are located. This one-piece chassis also provides the mounting point for the powder-coated steel rear bumper with recessed LED tail-lights and single spare wheel carrier.
Soaking up the bumps and helping to keep everything on an even keel when the going gets tough is the Cruisemaster XT independent coil spring suspension with twin shocks. For those who want even more under their trailer, option up to the airbags for full ride height and levelling control.
So the chassis and suspension get the tick of approval, but there's something else that's required in my books to prove a trailer’s true offroad credentials.
Are all those wires, hoses and gas lines that are run underneath the trailer mounted nice and high? Are filler points, water tanks, fittings and connections protected from flying rocks and the like? The RhinoMax Defender gets another tick here, too.
Wiring is run high and out of the way and through chassis rails where possible. Gas lines are the same, with convoluted split tubing giving a bit of extra protection and water lines following suit. The twin water tanks and grey water tank are made from heavy duty roto-moulded polyethylene with all vulnerable fittings mounted high or protected by stainless shrouds.
Up the pointy end, the Cruisemaster DO35 hitch keeps you attached to the tow vehicle, while a swing-away ARK jockey wheel is there for when you disconnect. There's a handbrake to stop the camper from rolling off down the hill and a Breakaway brake safe system if things go pear shaped while on the road, as well as safety chains.
BIGGER THAN YOU THINK
When it's time to head inside for a snooze or a shower (that's right ladies and gentlemen, this baby's got a shower inside!) it might be a good idea to first grab a small portable step to help you get in. You see, with a camper that has this much clearance and offroad potential, there has to be a few compromises. If that means less chance of getting hung up when entering or exiting a gnarly creek crossing, then hand me that plastic step.
Once inside, I think you'll be quite impressed by just how roomy it feels. It's light and bright and doesn't feel cramped at all. The two double glazed front windows (with flyscreens and blockout blinds), along with the four windows located in the top expandable skirt (also with flyscreens) allow for plenty of light and ventilation. The 30mm-thick fibreglass composite body and roof panels help to provide insulation and strength while keeping the weight down.
A full sized queen bed runs north-south at the front of the camper. Handy 12V charging sockets are located at the foot of the bed, allowing you to have your phone or the like charging while catching some zees, or if you are relaxing in the four-seater lounge. If the weather's a bit nasty outside, there are reading lights either side of the bed, or kick back and watch the TV (available as an option). If not, pop some tunes on the stereo, crank up the volume and boogie away.
Continuing on the theme from outside, there's more storage inside than you can poke a stick at. Under the bed there are two deep drawers just perfect for your clothes, while running across the back of the camper is a storage unit with four more drawers and a pair of little cupboards. Above the drawers is the internal sink unit with hot and cold water, 240V sockets, USB outlets, as well as battery and water monitors.
Hiding beneath the lounge cushions on the offside is the upgraded 2000W inverter (1000W standard), the Truma hot water unit, the water tank change-over valves and 12V pump. Under the seat cushions on the near side is where I have my only issues with the interior, when compared to the rest of the Defender's fit out.
First up is the rear of the switch panel, which is located on your left as you enter the camper and controls the internal and external lights, the water pump and the raising and lowering of the roof. Even though all terminals, wiring and connections are insulated, the wiring looks a little exposed and really should be fitted behind a shroud for protection, for if you were to use this under-seat space for storage, the wiring could easily become caught and dislodged from the back of the switches. Under this seat is also where you will find the fire extinguisher — not the most convenient of places when you need to access it in a hurry.
I may have left the best ‘til last. For those who don't mind ridding themselves of the day's grit and grime, there's something just for you. A full sized internal ensuite takes pride of place in the rear offside corner, complete with a Thetford cassette toilet and shower. The best thing is, even for all the tall folk, you can mount the shower to the roof and get the top of your head wet!
THE BOTTOM LINE
I'm not going to deny that a 4.6m (15ft) hybrid camper at just a shade under $100K (with options) is a lot of money. I'm also not going to deny the Australian-made build quality of this unit and how well it is fit for the purpose of offroad, off-grid touring.
At 2500kg max and with a pretty healthy payload of 760kg, this is one hybrid that will follow in the tracks of most 4WDs on the market today and could very well be your next dream-making machine.
RhinoMax claim that its campers are ‘Built to go the Distance’. From what I've seen, I'd tend to agree.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Length (hybrid)4.6m (15ft 1in) Length (overall) 6.9m (22ft 8in) including rear-mounted spare wheel
Width 1.97m (6ft 6in)
Travel height 2.44m (8ft)
Internal height 2.1m (6ft 11in)
Ball weight 145kg
Bed size Queen with innerspring mattress
Body 30mm insulated fibreglass composite panel construction (frameless)
Chassis 150mm x 50mm x 3mm hot-dipped fully galvanised chassis with integrated drawbar
Suspension Cruisemaster XT All Terrain 2600kg independent coil spring suspension with twin shocks
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35 3500kg
Brakes 12in electric drum
Wheels 265/70R17 all terrains on 17in six-stud alloy rims (can be matched to tow vehicle as an option) with single spare
Water 1 x 125L and 1 x 85L (fresh), 1 x 85L (grey)
Battery 200Ah lithium
Solar 2 x 160W panels
Fan Sirocco 12V
Gas 2 x 4kg
Sway control N/A
Kitchen External slide-out with three-burner gas stove, stainless sink with hot/cold mixer
Fridge EvaKool 85L
Bathroom Ensuite with combined shower/toilet, internal vanity sink with hot/cold water
Hot water Truma Gas
Lounge Four-seater lounge/dining area
200Ah lithium battery, diesel cabin heater, 2000W inverter, multimedia entertainment system (HD digital TV with integrated DVD/USB player plus external Winegard antenna), EvaKool 85L fridge, electric automatic roof opening system, cargo/wood basket on front storage box, rearview camera
PRICE AS SHOWN
$97,990 with options
$89,990 with standard inclusions