What are you looking to get out of camping? It’s a question we all ought to ask before taking the plunge and selecting a camper trailer from among the vast field of choices that extend like wildflowers to the horizon, all smelling sweet, all warranting a sniff.
But your arrival at the show, or the showroom, is preceded by a whole saga of brainstorm sessions and late nights at the design tables, happening behind the scenes well before you even come into the picture. Your purchase is but the last act in a long, long play.
Manufacturers are creating and designing their RVs with you in mind, before you even know it. They’re weighing up, who are we making this for? What does this individual, or this family, want to achieve? And then, the all-important question: how can we design a trailer that best suits those goals?
Most folks nowadays want the best of both worlds. They want to be comfortable at camp, but they want that camp to be hidden at the end of a last minute detour off the bumpy road to Hell. But an increase in offroadability can spell a decrease in comforts, and vice versa.
Occasionally, trying to find the middle ground can result in a jack of all trades, master of none, destined to eke out a sad life in the garage. However, in successful cases, manufacturers succeed in creating the perfect all-rounder — the Jacques Kallis or Garry Sobers of camper trailers, so to speak.
Camper recently took a Jayco Crosstrak Hybrid to the Victorian High Country to see how well this 13ft Aussie-made hybrid with a starting price tag of $36,990 aced the balancing act.
A lot of living is done outdoors with the Crosstrak, and in style, no less. The kitchen is recessed into camper’s side. There’s a sink on the far left with a hot/cold mixer tap; above this, a towel rack. Empty bench space fills the middle of the recess; to the right there’s a Smev two-burner. Above all of this, two cabinets. I commend this recessed kitchen for its improved wind shelter, enclosed bench space and the room it frees up under the bed.
The upward-lifting kitchen hatch acts as an impromptu shelter for the cook, but you can expand living space beyond this with the 10ft manually operated awning, which sets at varying lengths and angles, providing thorough shelter and covering the entry door. I can picture many campers relaxing under here as the sun goes down, able to see thanks to well-appointed outdoor lighting and listening to Bob Dylan using the installed Furrion bluetooth speaker dock inside.
My one gripe is that the awning must be part way out before you can set up or set down either the pop-top roof or outdoor shower. This adds unnecessary labour to setting up a quick camp where you plan on leaving the awning in.
At the camper’s tail, a lid lifts upwards and drops down a pleasantly spacious ensuite which you then peg down into place. A compartment on the camper body feeds you the trigger-operated showerhead; the water is heated with a Nautilus Instant HWS. The mesh floor would let mud through but this could be resolved by using a mat. Packing the ensuite down requires no precise folding; you just contain it with straps and hook-on tabs before closing the lid.
A WAREHOUSE ON WHEELS
Jayco have managed to keep the 13ft structure relatively light by using vacuum-bonded quad-layer fibreglass walls, a lightweight aluminium frame, and their own pressed steel C-Section floor members on their lightweight ‘Endurance’ chassis. Weighing in at just 1350kg Tare with a ball weight of 135kg , you can load in up to 570kg payload until you reach the ATM of 1920kg.
The Crosstrak backs up this payload with plenty of storage space. Perpendicular to the drawbar through the camper body you have a 720L tunnel boot, accessible from both sides. On one side there’s the myCOOLMAN 60L fridge/freezer on runners (you’ll see in pictures that our review model featured a Sphere 55L); on the other, free space ideal for the jockey wheel and maybe a few poles or camp chairs. Just back of this on just the driver’s side is a wide horizontal hatch granting external access to the gear stored under the bed.
Inside, you can really sort out your gear and keep it organised. It’s awesome to have so many compartments. As you enter, there’s a one door cabinet on your right and a tall two-door cupboard to your left. On opposite corners of the living space there’s mirrored triangular cabinets up high. All around above the L-shaped dinette are padded storage channels. Two cabinets and a lifting lid revealing a cavernous recess extend the length of the bed’s passenger side and two pop-up drawers sit above the bedhead.
There is underseat storage below the dinette which takes some effort to access. Most of the underbed space is available thanks to the use of a recessed kitchen as opposed to a slide-out. The triangular cabinet on the driver’s side stops you from lifting the bed fully and having it sit up; this makes access to the passenger side far end of the under-bed storage difficult.
All cabinets release on a satisfying, if a tad snappy, press-button system. Some campers may miss the lack of storage for big toys. All in all though, the storage is widespread and wisely compartmentalised.
INSIDE OF 13 FEET
Here’s the full set-up process. Unhitch, grab the winder from the tunnel boot, drop down the stabiliser legs; unlatch the awning and bring it forward a little; walk around the camper and release the pop-top latches; drop the retractable step, head inside; push up on the pop-top handles first at the tail, then climb onto the bed and do the same at the front; head outside again and set the awning as desired; open the kitchen door; unlatch the shower ensuite’s door, push up, unclip and unhook the fabric, and peg it down. That takes about four to five minutes.
The workhorse of the interior lighting is the LED ceiling lighting (though earlier variations, such as the one reviewed here, included strip lighting). You can also enjoy abundant natural light and breathability. In addition to the flyscreen semi-circles in the vinyl, there’s three windows — one at the bedhead over the drawbar, and two down the driver’s side. The window over the drawbar has an exterior lid for protection, which enables use of the flyscreen in rainy conditions and reduces glare while driving.
The sizeable L-shaped dinette could easily fit four in the comfortable seats with plush backrests. The table itself, which is on an adjustable arm, could fit three plates without diners rubbing elbows. So, the dinette is arguably oversized for a two-berth. A smaller dinette could free up more floor space, which would be desirable because there’s limited ‘room for activities’ inside. However, it does make for a nice, spacious internal dining experience.
Hovering over the double innerspring mattress is a Sirocco II fan positioned over both sleepers. Sleepers can watch their favourite soap opera on the optional Sphere LED TV/DVD; if they option up to the Winegard antenna, they can even watch the Blues get thrashed. Blue/white lights on flexi-necks await their moment by both sleeper’s heads and on the passenger side there’s a power point plus two USB outlets.
SHIRKING THE BLACKTOP
There’s two 9kg gas bottles. Gas, tick. There’s two 82L water tanks and two jerry can holders, making for a potential 200L of water onboard. Water, tick.
One 100Ah deep cycle battery comes as standard. Fortunately, when it comes to power-hungriness, the Crosstrak is more a Gandhi than a Putin. It recharges via a mounted 150W solar panel and mains power.
Real bush-goers might be tempted to option on a second 100Ah battery, or to customise an extra 150W mounted panel. The highly capable BMPRO J35 Battery Management System leaves room for this.
The JHub phone app is a nice touch. Using bluetooth, within a certain range, you can monitor water and battery levels. This takes the guesswork away from when you need to return to civilisation for a refill.
Our review model connected with a 50mm ball coupling. However, Jayco point out that they customarily fit a preferable Trigg polyblock hitch, which offers greater shock absorption and offroad articulation. Black checkerplate at the front acts in lieu of a stoneguard; however, the jerry cans and gas bottles are exposed to missiles sent back by spinning tyres.
The positioning of the door and step behind the axle makes for better ground clearance than if the door was in front. Overall the ground clearance was stellar when entering abrupt rises, pivoting over crests, and coming down onto level ground. The drawbar kissed the turf a few times but you expect as much when the tow vehicle has no lift and the camper is medium-length or bigger. The camper body itself rides quite high.
Suspension, tyres, chassis — all ideally selected. GT Radial Adventuro A/T 3s on 16” 245/70R16 wheels provide all-important traction over slippery surfaces, and they glide, wonderfully, on the JTECH 2.0 independent coil suspension, which connects to the ‘Endurance’ chassis, hot dipped galvanised to prevent corrosion and featuring sturdy Jayco Pressed Steel C-Section floor members.
The weight was without sway and barely noticeable when towing to and fro on the highways. It was noticeable, though not too limiting, when going up Newman’s Track to Mount Terrible. I put our few struggles to gain ground on steep slippery uphills mostly down to our tardiness in tyre deflation and the road tyres on the tow vehicle. We might have struggled more if fully loaded up to near two tonnes.
A huge fallen gum stopped us from reaching the summit so we had to turn around on the narrow track, but this wasn’t too challenging; for a well-appointed hybrid, the Crosstrak’s 13ft body size is refreshing when on the tow. That shortness certainly helped with cornering tight, sharp bends as well.
An added bonus — the Crosstrak is a teetotaller. It consumed at about 12.9L per 100km of highway driving when towed by an Isuzu MUX.
STRIKING A BALANCE
So, how well does the Crosstrak strike the balance? I would say quite well; in terms of offroad-ability and comforts, the Crosstrak is plentifully capable in both directions for most. It’s not quite a Kallis or Sobers, but definitely a Shane Watson or Andrew Symonds. And, for good reason, Australia picked these two all-rounders for years!
Who would the Crosstrak suit? The two person configuration reviewed here (there’s also a four person configuration with bunks) would be ideal for 40 to 60 year olds, who want to dwell on the unsealed and who enjoy the odd offroad challenge within reasonable bounds. The ideal owner would appreciate their comforts, too — such as a simple set-up, a comfy dinette, and solid walls to sleep within.
When you measure the quality and inclusions against the outlay of $36,990, you begin to realise how alluring this hybrid is. It slots into a group of other pop-top hybrids around this price point, very competitively. If you are budgeting somewhere between 30 to 50 grand, make sure to check it out — or give it a sniff, to continue my earlier analogy.
Ball weight 135kg
Suspension JTECH 2.0 trailing arm independent coil
Coupling 50mm ball coupling as seen (Trigg polyblock standard)
Chassis Hot dipped galvanised Endurance chassis
Cladding Vacuum-bonded quad-layer wall construction (Jayco Tough Frame)
Wheels 16” 245/70R16
Tyres Adventuro A/T GT Radial
Style Pop-top Hybrid
Body size 4190mm (length), 2200mm (width including awning), 2400mm (travel height)
Length 5100mm (hitch to tail lights)
Awning 10ft Carefree
Gas cylinders 2 x 9kg fixed
Water 2 x 82L tanks with guards, Nautilus Instant hot water system
Kitchen Recessed kitchen with Smev two-burner gas cooktop, s/s sink with flick mixer tap with 12V pump, 60L portable fridge
Battery 1 x 100Ah deep-cycle (optional additional battery), BMPRO 12V/240V management system
Solar 150W flexi panel (mounted)
Air-conditioner Optional Freshjet roof mounted
Sway Control Optional AL-KO electronic stability control
Options fitted TV/DVD Sphere LED 12V (24”)
PRICE AS SHOWN
- Balance of offroad versus comforts
- Value price point
- Superb outdoor living (recessed kitchen, shower, awning)
- Decent payload and storage
- Weight relative to size and inclusions
- Sizeable L-shaped dinette
- Need to adjust awning to open pop-top and outdoor shower
- Hard to access parts of underbed storage
- Limited floorspace inside
- No stoneguard
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
Fit for intended purpose — 8
Innovation — 6.5
Self-sufficiency — 7
Quality of finish — 7
Build quality — 7
Offroadability — 7
Comforts — 7.5
Ease of use — 6
Value for money — 8
X-Factor — 6
Phone 1300 JAYCO RV