CAMPER TRAILER REVIEW
By: Emma Ryan, Photography by: Hayden Griffith, Jack Murphy & Ellen Dewar, Video by: Hayden Griffith
Emma’s mission was simple: take our newest giveaway trailer, the Skamper Kampers Dingo Hard floor camper trailer, and put it through its paces in the most remote corner of Australia.
I’ve got a secret and I don’t want you to tell anybody. I’m in love with the Kimberley. There, I said it. Since the first time we met three long years ago, she has haunted my dreams and distracted me in my waking hours. Well, this year I was going to take matters into my own hands; I was going to get out there and win her back. Serendipitously, I was also asked to take Camper mag’s giveaway camper trailer, the Dingo Hardfloor from Skamper Kampers, somewhere epic to review it and create a bunch of awesome travel content. I knew just the place, but was this entry-level camper up for the task? Only one way to find out.
ALL ROADS LEAD NORTH
With the forward-fold hardfloor Dingo affixed to the rear of the Isuzu MUX that would serve as our dutiful steed for the trip, myself, best mate Bec and our pal Hayden finally headed north and let Perth slip quietly away in the rear view mirror. Although the Dingo is fairly heavy at 1440kg tare (1990kg ATM) it went largely unnoticed behind the MUX on the blacktop; towing at highway speeds was a breeze and visibility was unhindered thanks to the clean lines of the hardfloor design. Initially the Isuzu and the Dingo were a bit of an awkward fit, the high-riding camper having to dip rather severely to meet the MUX’s low-riding tow bar. But with the help of a height adjustable hitch we were back on the straight and narrow.
And just as well, because Google Maps advised us, somewhat mockingly, that we still had in excess of 2200km to go before we’d reach the western gateway to the Kimberley. Thank goodness for Spotify. A few hundred songs and several roadside schnitzels later and we eventually rolled into Broome and straight down onto the compacted sands of Cable Beach for a dip as the sun sank into the Indian Ocean. Winter who?
DINGO IN THE WILD
After a happy reunion with long-term Camper contributor Macca, who currently calls a tiny island off the coast of Derby home, we headed for our first destination: the Dampier Peninsula. But given our timing in the midst of the school holidays in the Kimberley’s busiest month, we decided to avoid the popular Cape Leveque and instead opted for the equally epic James Price Point (JPP).
James Price Point typifies the concept of ‘where the outback meets the sea’. It’s comprised of a vast, blood red rock shelf that tapers down to pristine white sandy beaches and shallow rock pools, beyond which the Indian Ocean glimmers in iridescent aquamarine. Pink mulla mulla flowers fringe the top of the incredible wave-like structure of the rock shelf, rusted to deep red hues over the millennia. And this place sure is ancient; the rock shelf is home to the prehistoric footprints of 21 different species of dinosaur, including some of the largest footprints ever found at 1.7m.
Back in 2017, the little Dingo was keen to make an impression of its own. We’d already dropped the tyres to accommodate the soft sand en route to JPP, so we trod carefully over the jagged crimson rockshelf to find our perfect spot. After playing eeny meeny miny moe between at least a dozen equally epic places to camp, we set her up on the ocean edge of the rock shelf where she could survey the endless coastline and the beach below like a Dingo cub held high into the air on Pride Rock.
The downside to this plan was the wind, which only increased in ferocity throughout the night. We therefore opted for the bare basics set-up, and in a matter of minutes we had dropped the stabiliser legs to even the camper out on the rocky ground, flipped the lid, adjusted a few internal poles and hey presto, shelter. Our full photo shoot would have to wait.
The hardfloor folds forward to sit above the drawbar, so in this configuration without the awning (thanks a lot, wind) the camper occupies the same footprint when set-up as it does when packed up. Although we had 20-odd kilometers of campsite at JPP, this fact means the Dingo will fit easily into tight spots in caravan parks and campsites dotted with godforsaken bollards, the natural born enemy of the camper trailer enthusiast.
After yet another perfect West Coast sunset and an after-dark exploration of the rock pools which revealed cantankerous crabs and amorous octopus, to name but a few of the critters we encountered, we settled in for a wild, windy night. The canvas itself proved firm fitting and capable of enduring the plight, but we were wishing we’d removed the light tropical roof before bed as it flapped around like a flag atop Everest until the wee hours.
ONWARDS AND INWARDS
After exploring the coastline of JPP we were keen to ditch the wind, by far the worst of the elements, in my opinion, and head inland towards Kimberley Downs Station.
The drive in was rough and tumble and crossing the river to find our perfect spot meant traversing some seriously jagged, rocky terrain. The camper took it all in its stride, its independent coil sprung suspension with shocks and 16in tyres walking over the gnarled rocks and deep, water-filled holes with cautious ease. The galvanized chassis is strong, and is backed up by a five-year structural warranty. The 360-degree McHitch off-road coupling handled the articulation well, while the camper’s excellent clearance kept the business end high and dry. We scraped a couple of times but there’s little to catch on the tidy undercarriage and the water tank is shrouded in protective checker plate steel. There’s a spare tyre mounted to a bar on the rear of the camper (two in our case, thanks Mr Skamper) in case you come undone. Can the sub-$20k Dingo hack it in tough offroad scenarios? You betcha. Even as we ventured deeper into the remote Kimberley I was surprised by my own confidence in this camper trailer’s offroad capabilities.
CAMPED BY A BILLABONG
We found ourselves the perfect spot to camp beside a deep, cool waterhole beneath a couple of boabs and set up camp for the next few days. Blissfully devoid of wind, we had the Dingo looking tip top in no time; canvas taught, window awnings in place and Skamper’s optional, easy-use Touring Awning looking the goods above the kitchen. This awning is a three pole set-up that zips easily onto the side of the camper – a process that takes only minutes – or can be left attached and flipped over the canvas roof during pack-up. It’s so simple to use and an options box I’d highly recommend ticking.
Beneath the awning, the kitchen is comprised of three slides: one containing the sink, stove and working bench space; another for a fridge of up to 90L (we were running a 60L Engel on this trip) and a third for pantry storage. The Dingo doesn’t come with a fridge, which of course helps keep the price down and allows you to make use of an existing fridge, should you happen to have one. The fridge slide has an LED light and an exhaust fan – perfect for the 35+ degree days we found ourselves enjoying. The main kitchen slide has a plumbed stainless steel sink, fed by an impressive 150L of water storage across two tanks. There’s a three-burner Dometic gas stove with a glass top, storage drawers beneath and a bench extension slide for additional working space. The Dingo accommodates two gas bottles on the drawbar (supply your own) but the gas is not plumbed – the bottle must be moved to the kitchen when you need it. Both the fridge and pantry slides as well as the large external storage cabinets on the opposing side are lined in marine carpet and have a quality feel about them with smooth sliding and locking mechanisms. The dust seals were the best I’ve seen on a budget camper, making a decent effort to keep out most of that fine red Gibb River Road dust that seems to permeate even the darkest corner of your psyche and shows up in weird and wonderful places weeks after you get home. The kitchen area lacks light with only a bedside-style LED light near the sink, but there is adequate 12V outlets to power an additional light bar or rope.
From the kitchen, a drop-down stairwell takes you to the inside of the camper, which is luxuriously high off the ground thanks to the forward-fold concept. This allows the camper to catch a breeze in the often stifling tropical heat, which we appreciated no end.
To the left above the drawbar the hardfloor becomes the queen-sized bed, with straps to hold bedding in place during pack-up. Standard with the Dingo is a foam mattress, and while I do not consider myself fussy when it comes to sleeping surfaces, this one wins the award of most uncomfortable I’ve slept on in a camper. Thankfully an upgrade to an innerspring is available (and mandatory, in my book), but for this trip we problem solved with a quick run to Target in Broome to buy a plush mattress topper, which thankfully did the trick. High density foam would be an improvement, but you cannot expect every comfort on an entry-level trailer. On the plus side, the bed is enormous with excellent ventilation, and sleeping sky high is a great comfort when camping.
The remainder of the interior is taken up by an enormous, U-shaped dinette that would comfortably seat four or more adults. This folds down to become a second bed, sort of a square-shaped double that would comfortably sleep two or three kids. Beneath the seats you’ll find the twin 100Ah batteries and storage space – the only internal storage in the Dingo. There’s not great capacity to unpack clothes, and both Bec and I lived out of our suitcases on this trip. If the camper were mine I would invest in a couple of plastic storage tubs to clothing; these could ride on the floor on the camper in transit and alternate between the ample dinette seating and the bed at camp.
My favourite feature of the Dingo’s forward-fold layout is the café-style sidewall between the dinette and the kitchen outside. The entire panel rolls up to create a seamless indoor/outdoor living area, facilitating conversation between whoever is cooking and the rest of the party. This is a nice touch indeed. My least favourite feature of the forward-fold layout is the fact you cannot get into the interior of the camper when the camper is packed away thanks to the forward hinging mechanism that prevents the stairwell from opening. That means if you want to get something out of the inside of the camper on the road, you need to open the whole thing up. Alternatively, be organised for the day ahead and pack any swimmers, towels or other gear you may need into the car.
After a few blissful nights back at our sleepy billabong it was time to move on. Packing up the Dingo is as simple as setting it up; the hardfloor is on effective gas struts but there is also a winch, so there’s no need to strain. Having used more camper trailers than I’ve lived years on earth, I can say with authority that the difference between a camper you can love and one that makes you want to rip off your face is a quick and easy pack-up procedure. Thanks, Dingo!
THE WRAP UP
Having used the Dingo for two weeks all up, I grew more than a little fond of it. It’s offroad-ready, easy to tow, easy to set-up, has a wonderfully social layout, a functional kitchen and a simple yet effective electrical system. There may not be too many bells and whistles, but for me, that’s a positive. I like things that are simple and easy to use, without unnecessary adornments and complications. If that’s the price range you’re shopping in, you can’t do much better than this camper trailer. If our epic adventure is anything to go by, it’ll certainly serve you well in far-flung places like the Kimberley.
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