TESTED: MOUNTAIN TRAIL ESCAPE
Quality components and intuitive design are defining characteristics of the Mountain Trail Escape camper trailer.
The rural NSW city of Albury on the mighty Murray River not only provides quick access to the High Country, but is also a gateway to our hot dry interior. What better place to build premium quality camper trailers? This is the home of proud local manufacturer Mountain Trail Campers.
Mountain Trail returned to OCOTY this year busting with new innovations and features. The brand certainly demonstrates an appreciation for the finer things in life and strives for ultimate quality in its products. Almost all of the campers are built in house utilising local skilled trades and Australian materials and accessories wherever possible. They use the latest in CAD and laser cut technology to refine the products ensuring peak design and performance in the harshest outback environments. The new Escape is no exception, and is simply spilling over with great design, premium manufacturing and quality fittings.
The trailer of the Escape features a heavy-duty monocoque design that is fully welded, sand blasted and zinc coated before powder-coating and sealing with Sikaflex. Its rugged construction is ADR engineered to two-tonne rating even though the tare is only around one tonne. There are two-tonne bearings, a 50mm solid axle, 12in electric brakes and nine leaf outback springs towed by a DO35 offroad hitch with handbrake.
Mountain Trail fitted three major options to the base model for the competition: a beautifully designed boat loader capable of carrying an 80kg tinnie and delivering it to the ground with ease, a Waeco 80L fridge and a fully insulated roof. Sensible options indeed, particularly if you are a fisherman, however the loader can be used for general cargo, kayaks, or even with a Rhino rack as displayed. It has a beautiful gas strutted mechanism that is reported to have cost plenty to develop.
Mountain Trail also works on the principle that if it's not easy to use, don't use it! One person can assemble the main tent in about three minutes, while the complete set up with kitchen and annexe will take only five minutes longer. The main tent framework folds over easily and needs no adjustment. The frame is built from square section steel which means gas struts can be fixed securely to assist assembly.
The 2.8x4.15m Escape tent is a beauty, and is the same unit that Mountain Trail use for all its models. It has plenty of fresh airflow through large, internally opening windows with midge mesh screens and a fully removable zip-in floor in case you damage the PVC or need to remove it for a good clean. The insulated roof option provides protection from the harsh desert sun, while keeping the tent warmer in winter. Mountain Trail has returned with plenty of pockets inside the tent - an almost essential feature of a good camper. The standard full-length annexe can be left on at all times and comes with two walls as standard.
Quality abounds throughout, and the kitchen is no exception. The slide out mechanisms on the kitchen unit and fridge are simply beautiful, and they easily lock into place for a roadside stop on uneven ground. There are four stabiliser legs for levelling for an extended stay. The Escape has an array of kitchen storage, drawers, pantry and hamper facilities all with lovely soft close doors and runners. The stainless steel kitchen also has a three-burner Smev stove and sink with cold water. All gas and water hoses are on quick connect fittings, but there's no hot water as standard. There's a neat flip-up bench on the reverse side of the rear door as a preparation table.
Mountain Trail's electrics system is truly state of the art. The entire system is fully loomed and is ordered under a single part number to ensure consistency. The enclosed electrical cabinet houses twin 100Ah batteries with the facility for an extra if chosen. There is a 25Ah seven-stage AC multi charger, a 20Ah DC-DC three-stage charger for use while towing, a solar input socket for the optional outback power pack, 12 slot fuse panel, 240/12V system, water pump on and off switch and an exceptional battery management system all fitted to a stainless backing plate. There are external and internal lights in all the right places including in every drawer and stairwell, as well as twin bedside touch on/off fittings.
We put the Mountain Trail Escape through some very dusty testing and it came home without a thing in the wrong place, a real achievement from high quality sealing mechanisms and keyed alike compression locks. There is a huge 130L baffled poly water tank underneath with gauge and the lockable filler is fitted to a stainless pump enclosure on the open sided trailer.
There is a host of standard accessories and fittings including jerry can and gas bottle mounts, fully-lined internals, enclosed bed bag, a front mounted garbage bag, front mud flaps, a fold down jockey wheel and stone guarding with enough clearance for a Prado rear door.
You can even choose your own colour scheme for this proud Australian camper. It is the base model in the range with options to suit even the most fastidious buyer. We love quality at CTA, and that's exactly what we found in the Mountain Trail Escape.
THE JUDGES' NOTEPAD
STUART JONES: The Mountain Trail does a great job meeting the needs of travellers looking for comfort and quality in their offroad pursuits. The company continually works to make their products better, and for 2013 the electrical set-up has been idiot-proofed; it's just so smick.Love the boat rack. The laser cutting of holes in the pantry box to reduce weight is a truly innovative idea. I also just love the kitchen - few will walk past it and not mutter 'wow'. Few guy ropes are required for the annexe and the internal frame is all good. No hot water as tested, but it has plenty of everything else. It does everything really well.
NICK MANNELL: The Mountain Trail Escape is a well-made trailer fitted with top notch components. Set up is a snatch thanks to the struts and pre-adjusted frame. It was impressive to watch Mountain Trail owner Nick Edwards set up the tent and the awning in less than 10 minutes. The tent and most of the trailer are made in-house, with the laser cutting and powder-coating outsourced locally. Soft close mechanisms are fitted to the lockers and the kitchen and fridge slide-outs, and the mattress and bedding are of luxury hotel standard. The seven internal pockets are a great idea. Dust sealing is excellent and all lockers are secured with posi locks protecting your gear offroad. I like that you can pick the colour option for the external tie downs. A boat loader (up to 80kg) fridge and insulated wiring are options, included in this price. The Escape's finish and fittings are impressive, but it was good to see Mountain Trail shaving off the kilos with a chassis redesign for 2013. I liked the new electric fitout, including the DC/DC charger, solar input socket and water and power gauges. But at $35k, hot water and solar remain as options. You're paying for quality here.
ANITA PAVEY: Mountain Trail presents a well-built trailer in the Escape, fitted out for touring in comfort offroad. The annexe opens out effortlessly and the bows are steel so they're stronger, allowing for bigger windows. The Escape is a comfortable trailer: the kitchen is excellent with soft close drawers, heaps of benchtop space and a large pantry box, although no hot water service was included in this price. It is available as an option. This is Mountain Trail's third appearance in the CTA's Offroad Camper of the Year awards and everything has been reworked so that it's stronger. The spring brakes are bigger, and the bearings are steel, and trailer rides on a remodelled chassis. It's a class act.
MIKE PAVEY: The Mountain Trail Escape is a well-built and designed family camper with quality fittings. I was impressed with the level of innovation in the Escape. The boat loader is engineered so that one person can load the boat from the ground, most of the tent bows need no adjustment, the tent comes with a bag to protect the bedding, and the annexe almost erects itself. The high attention to detail is evident in the build quality; I like the chassis, the monocoque body and the soft close drawers and bin doors. A quality product that's thoughtfully designed.
JOHN 'BEAR' WILLIS: Mountain Trail Escape is a luxury trailer with plenty of great design features. The laser cut rails give it flair, and it has good door locks and seals all round. The kitchen is great, the Narva electrics are terrific, it has great storage and it's very a tough trailer. I love that it was presented with a boat rack. It's a great design that picks up an 80kg boat and delivers it to/from the ground. The lasercut chassis is well engineered and all the trimmings are top of the line. Two batteries come standard, and it's easy to fit an extra one. Comforts include the zip out floor, bearing slides on the kitchen, the innerspring mattress and the comfy step up to the walkway. The Mountain Trail Escape is a fantastic camper which performs well offroad and comes with plenty of features.
JUDGE'S PICK: ANITA PAVEY
The quality of the Mountain Trail camper was evident across every detail. From the computer aided design (CAD) storage rack, capable of holding a couple of bikes, a mountain of firewood or a couple of kayaks; the walk-up trailer design and under tub storage drawers; the soft close kitchen drawers and the impressive kitchen.
The Mountain Trail would make an awesome touring trailer, ideal for the big lap, loaded with all the features needed to endure long distances away from civilisation with plenty of water, gas and battery reserves. With all of these credentials and more, it's the kind of trailer I'd happily see sitting in my garage.
Originally published in Camper Trailer Australia magazine #60, January 2013.