RANGER XL REVIEW
SKAMPER KAMPER RANGER XL REVIEW
By: Dan Everett, Photography by: Dan Everett
The term ‘do-it-all’ gets thrown around far too liberally these days. Got a bed and also got a seat? Congratulations, you’re a ‘do-it-all’ camper. Able to go offroad, but also have a microwave? You betcha, ‘do-it-all’ again. And don’t even get me started on those ‘do-it-all’ caravans. The term has been watered down so much recently, it’s almost lost all value. Yet despite all that, and my clearly irrational hatred for the word, it’s the first thing that springs to mind after spending the better part of a week lugging the Skamper Kamper Ranger XL up and down the Great Dividing Range.
If you haven’t heard of Skamper’s Ranger series, don’t be alarmed. With every man and his dog offering whiz-bang hardfloors, the soft floor market has all but been forgotten by many, and good riddance some may say. Sure, they’re often a little cheaper than their hard floor counterparts, but you’re trading savings for a bag of poles and spreader bars that have ended more marriages than arguing over which way the toilet paper should face (it’s over the top, you godless heathens). At least that’s been the logic for many camper trailer owners, me included.
But I’m not too proud to admit when I am wrong. No, really. And on this weekend it turns out I was wrong twice, much to my wife’s boundless enjoyment. ‘Do-it-all’ is still occasionally the best adjective to describe something, and softfloor campers can be better than hardfloors in every single way. So what is it about the dirt-cheap Ranger XL that makes it stand out amongst a sea of also-haves? You’re just going to have to read on to find out.
With so many shiny new hardfloors on the market softfloors tend to look a little underwhelming sitting among them in the showroom. But to be honest, that’s kind of what drew my attention to the Ranger XL; I’m a fan of tougher tracks and remote locations more than chrome door handles and alligator-skin futons in a camper. Off the showroom floor the Ranger XL screams utilitarian with a non-nonsense construction and just the basics you need. It lacks a bunch of kit you’ll find standard in Skamper’s more expensive models with a gas kitchen, LED lighting, boat rack, kids room and storm cover all being optional extras. That said, the gear that was there was top quality. The canvas is thick 15oz kit where needed, and thinner in non-critical parts like privacy screens to help keep weight down, there’s no fancy latches or self-closing drawer, but you’d near on need to drop it off a cliff to break it.
STORAGE AND PRACTICALITY
Like most softfloors, the Ranger XL is an absolute behemoth when it comes to storage. Pop the two over-centre latches holding down the tent, or crack open the tailgate-mounted kitchen and you’ve got easy access to what is essentially a 7ft by 4ft box trailer. For those who prefer their units of measurement a little more obscure that’s roughly large enough to fit the spoils of a Japanese fishing trip, sorry I mean whale research expedition. On our adventure, we were able to shoehorn in a fold-out camping table, a ladder, awning, tarp, gas heater, four camp chairs, floor matt, shovel, a few bags of clothes and a bag of food with plenty of room to spare. In short, if you find yourself struggling for room in a camper like this, maybe it’s time to consider leaving the flatscreen TV at home.
Of course, storage isn’t limited to a giant box either, there’s plenty of options over the length of the trailer depending on your needs. Up the back there’s two sealed and lockable boxes, the driver’s side box houses the battery unit and control panel, but there’s plenty of room to load in a whole handful of tools or spare parts too. The passenger side has an identical box that many owners use to install a second battery to the system. Running along both flanks are mounts for three 20L jerry cans for a total of 60L of liquid goodness and twin 4kg gas bottle holders. There’s no gas plumbing though, so you’ll need to yank the bottle and carry it back to the kitchen. It’s worth mentioning too the under-bed storage can also be accessed with the tent setup through two panels under the mattress.
Up front there are two separate storage boxes. The front most box is your typical alloy checker-plate toolbox handy for storing bulky items. There’s a couple of gas struts popping it open too which is a handy addition. It’s not vented though, so putting gas or fuel in there isn’t recommended unless you smelt a little too much glue in primary school anyway. An unfortunate side effect of the hinge system means any water on top will tip into the box when it’s opened too. Not a huge issue considering it naturally slopes down, but a build-up of condensation rolling down into a sleeping bag will make for an uncomfortable night’s sleep. Behind that box is a custom arrangement that houses a fridge slide on the passenger side with a storage box on the driver’s. They’re a no frills arrangement but get the job done. Our Waeco CFX-50 did fill most of the available space so larger fridges may struggle.
In a clever design, Skamper has included a storage section between the main box and the fridge box for firewood. It’s easiest to access before the tent is set up, so a drop-down hatch at either end would be appreciated in any future revisions. It runs the full width of the trailer so stores plenty of firewood, but if you’re as eccentric as me with a campfire it’ll really only last a night or two but it’s a god-send compared to loading it into your tow-rig.
Like most proven offroad campers the Ranger XL is incredibly capable because of its simplicity, rather than a laundry list of ‘upgrades’ the factory has thrown at it. Starting from underneath, the chassis is a one-piece unit from front to back. By doing that Skamper has not only kept the weight down with 3mm compared to 5mm thick steel (for comparison, most tow rigs would have a 3mm thick chassis) it also means there’s no step where the drawbar attaches to the chassis. That means no welds to potentially fail and around 100mm extra ground clearance. Wins in every direction. The suspension is your typical independent arrangement with twin shocks but sits reasonably high and didn’t act as an anchor through some of the tougher terrain we travelled through. The hitch is a quality unit with a McHitch 360 coupling giving a direct connection to the trailer without the slop or clunkiness found in cheaper alternatives.
All that aside, the biggest boon for the Ranger XL is how light it is. At just 910kg dry it doesn’t push you around going down-hill, requires very little brake input to keep it inline through challenging descents, and is easy enough to bounce over obstacles with a quick blip of the throttle on climbs. The running lights on either side of the toolbox make life a little easier dodging trees at night too. With the body being as tough as nails and components easily replaceable there’s really no concern about it being roughed up too much offroad. A stray branch dragging along its length will barely be a blip on the radar, especially when you consider it could ruin a powder-coated paintjob and would have all but destroyed your tow tug anyway. The only downside we found was the jockey wheel managed to catch itself on the stoneguard mount through some of the steeper terrain. We couldn’t do it again if you paid us, but it did make disconnecting the trailer an interesting affair afterwards with the Skamper team learning a few new words when we unhitched.
No-one has ever denied that softfloors are normally superior to hardfloors in terms of weight and storage room, but if you ever mentioned they were also easier to set up you’d be laughed out of town, with me doing most of the laughing. They were cumbersome, required a huge amount of poles and micro-adjustments to get right and were almost always a two-person job. None of that is applicable to the Ranger XL.
Unzipping the thick canvas cover reveals a thin protective stocking to help keep out dust, while the heavy cover can be either tucked into the firewood box or removed completely. From here the floor drops out and the camper’s mechanism is revealed. If you’re familiar with a rooftop tent design you’ll be right at home with the Skamper. On the driver’s side of the tent are two large hinges with three hoops in between the two. As the tent rolls over the hoops fall into place. One goes vertically up requiring no adjustment at all, another stays over the bed with two quick adjustments.
The other is a two-part hoop swinging out over the side-entry doors with a second hoop coming off it and reaching out the full length of the main tent. All up there’s only three hoops that need any sort of adjustment at all, and just two vertical poles. That’s it, that’s the entire process to set up the tent. Swing it over, prop in two legs and make a couple of very minor adjustments. It can be knocked out in under 5 minutes by one person with a few celebratory drinks under their belt and there’s more than enough room in the bag to leave your blankets and pillows tucked away inside. If it’s hot or windy the tropical roof can be popped up into place by putting in a couple of tent pegs and tying them off, it all stays attached too.
Setting up the awning is the typical pole and spreader bar arrangement you’ll find in basically every camper ever made, but the main tent has enough room when packed up that you can leave the awning folded over making it a five minute job as well.
CAMPER TRAILER OF THE YEAR
DINGO ULTIMATE REVIEW
What is it about the NEW Dingo Pup that makes it the leader of the pack? LIGHTWEIGHT DESIGNDue to listening to customer feedback and recognizing the growing popularity of Medium SUV’s and 4WD’s, Skamper Kampers R & D team have developed a...
Just brought your new camper trailer and looking to head out on your next big adventure but just not sure where the road will take you? Here are just a few off road camping destinations that are a must see! NEW SOUTH WALES About 1.5hr drive from Sydney, surrounded...
Planning your next big off road camping holiday? Do you know what are some of the most important things that should be checked before you begin your adventure? Whether you are towing a soft floor camper or hard floor trailer, it is always a good idea to...