REVIEW: ALTITUDE OFF ROAD HIGHLANDER CAMPER TRAILER REVIEW
The new kid on the block is the Altitude Off Road Highlander, an affordable and comfortable family camper trailer.
A new camper trailer manufacturing company with roots as old as the industry itself is creating a bustle of excitement up on Queensland’s Fraser Coast. Founder and former owner of Johnno’s Camper Trailers, Brian Johnston, has proudly unveiled his new brand, Altitude Campers. The new starter makes its debut with the Off Road Highlander; an affordable family-friendly camper loaded with luxuries.
This is an exceptionally well-constructed, feature-packed, strong and accommodating camper with a huge liveable space for extended touring or relaxing at a favourite destination. It is built with families in mind and offers a most attractive package price.
Brian, his lovely wife Juls and their clan of kiddies just love camping, and have plenty of offroad experience under their belts. As they know, roughing it is not so hard when there are only two of you, but add a few kids into the mix and you quickly appreciate a few luxuries, like a hot water service and shower, a toilet, a good kitchen, a separate kids room, a shaded annexe and plenty of storage. You also get to know what works, what doesn’t and, most importantly, what breaks and what survives.
ALTITUDE HIGHLANDER ON THE ROAD
When we got our first glimpse of the battleship-grey unit it was turning heads everywhere. Sometimes, quality just grabs you.
After making our introductions, we headed into the hills, dales and water crossings of the Imbil State Forest in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, where the unit showed complete confidence on all surfaces. This is a strong trailer constructed with a 100x50x4mm RHS drawbar, a 50x50x2.5mm chassis and an Australian Duragal steel box. It’s finished in simple and attractive hammertone enamel after double priming on all welded sections. Underneath it sports strong AL-KO eight-leaf greasable springs with AL-KO 10in electric brakes on a 45x45mm solid axle.
While I was under the trailer I noticed the twin 85L poly water tanks were fully shrouded with checkerplate protection. The manufacturing shows strong welding skills and there’s no loose wiring or plumbing to snag in the bush. Altitude supplies black powder-coated steel rims for the 15in Bighorn Maxxis offroad tyres with LandCruiser six stud pattern as standard. However, customers can select their own choice of wheels and tyres to suit their towing vehicle.
Out on the drawbar we found plenty of turning angle available between the Hyland offroad towing hitch and the steel-framed mesh stoneguard, which also had mounts for the popular MaxTrax vehicle recovery platforms. There’s a handbrake, sight level and a swing-down hard rubber jockey wheel that Brian says, "may not be as good as pneumatic in the sand, but at least they stay firm".
Behind the stoneguard is a large aluminium toolbox that opens a huge compartment with hinged doors each side. Inside there’s a shelf for the 120W portable solar panels that keep the fridge and lights powered up. In front of the box and behind the stoneguard are mounting brackets with dual 4kg gas bottles and jerry-can holders. I would like to see some locks on these portable items, but that’s optional. On top of the storage box is a well-proportioned and strongly constructed pack rack for firewood, bikes and more.
Altitude Campers’ core construction team boasts over 50 years’ devotion to camping products, and it shows. I was most impressed with the ease of basic assembly for an overnighter. Brian and Juls had the main tent unfurled in no time.
Altitude has minimised the internal poles and relies on the diagonal pole to support the weight, which seems to work well. The Australian Bradmill canvas looked great in its grey colourtone with blue trim, and being cut by computer it has great consistency. The canvas package sees a 15oz roof teamed with 11oz walls, YKK zips and Tentex midge-proof flyscreens. There are awnings inside and out of the big windows and doors for plenty of ventilation and great views. I asked about a tropical roof and Brian told me it’s one of his current projects, along with a hardfloor alternative and a walk-up softfloor. Stay tuned on that front.
The hard-wearing PVC floor is fully stitched and completely encloses the tent area right up the sides of the trailer. It has zippered sections for a massive sliding drawer complete with four large sealed plastic crates for sealed storage, the electrical cabinet and a separate "safe" to lock up valuables.
Power is provided by twin 75Ah AGM deepcycle batteries with a 15A Projecta charger, a 600W Projecta inverter and the 120W portable solar panel. There’s a weatherproof 240V inlet as well as the Anderson plug to the towing vehicle. It’s a fairly simple system but it supplies all the basics commonly required, while the solar unit continually recharges during daylight hours when stationary.
Altitude also provides plenty of LED lighting in all the right places. Every compartment has its own light, including strip lighting to the interior and exterior tents as well as bedside lights and six other 12V power sockets for versatility.
You and your partner will sleep peacefully on the queen-sized innerspring mattress, the underside of which is carpet lined for further insulation and ventilation. The ground space in the main tent is 2.7x2.2m. That allows room for family but you can easily add an optional full-sized kids’ room — complete with windows and sewn-in floor — which connects to the side door with Velcro.
When travelling with the whole family, big living space is a blessing. The standard unit comes with the usual freestanding 4.5x2.4m awning, but the Johnstons understand family needs. You can make do with a limited amount of shaded area for a short stay but when it’s time to pitch a real camp you can break out the optional extension to double the external undercover area.
There are detachable walls with flyscreens and external awnings all round. Walls can be assembled as required, for example if you only want screens on one side for weather protection. This provides so many advantages, be it to escape the hot midday sun, the pouring rain, or even to create a windbreak for the huge campsite.
The thoughtful practicalities continue in the slide-out kitchen. Brian told me he has experienced considerable cracking problems with lightly constructed or even stainless steel kitchens in the past, so the main unit is made from 1.6mm zincanneal with a stainless top. There’s a three-burner Thetford stove and a 370x370mm stainless sink with hot and cold water mixer tap.
Great design flows throughout the versatile kitchen. The utensils drawer pulls out to reveal the cutlery container on top, then a further slide opens up to reveal storage for plates, cups or pots and pans. A further sliding section reveals a marine-grade stainless "BBQ Mate" twin-burner gas barbecue and a further slide-out benchtop. That means you can cook your meat on the barbie and the vegies on the stovetop all at the same time and in the same space.
I was impressed with the thought Altitude has put into the fridge slide for the optional 80L Waeco. In many camper trailers the kitchen and fridge slides are parallel, making access to both difficult, especially when cooking. The Altitude fridge drawer is on the vertical face inside the camper body and is hinged so the fridge simply pulls out and then rotates 45 degrees to lock in parallel to the trailer body, creating an L-shaped workspace. That’s clever thinking. All the gas and water lines are hard wired with no need for quick connects. To be really critical, there’s not a huge amount of bench space, but you will usually travel with folding tables anyway.
Around the driver’s side the outside window flap turns into the ensuite awning with Velcro walls. Opening the forward compartment reveals a very handy Aqua Cube Logic three-way gas/12/240V instantaneous hot water service complete with its own tap and a plug-in shower handset. This combines with a simple pole mount for a satisfying hot/cold shower when you need it.
There is also a pull-out drawer that can be used to store all of your accessories and the twin 85L poly water tanks will keep you going for a fair stint. Again, simplicity is the key and Altitude has found the lock.
Speaking of locks, the entire camper has both pinch weld and industrial rubber seals on all compartments as well as premium quality keyed alike locks. "I’d rather get it right by using top quality components than waste time, money and frustration on warranty problems," said Brian.
There are brackets under the rear of the trailer in case it needs to be towed out of a difficult situation, the spare wheel is mounted to a strong pivoting bracket on the rear of the trailer, and it even has optional bike racks.
Best of all is the special introductory price. The unit has a very comprehensive list of standard equipment normally offered at $27,990, but is currently reduced to $24,990 to launch the brand. That includes the standard awning, ensuite, storage box on the drawbar, water tanks, hot water system, spare wheel, gas bottles, jerry cans and much more. If you include the big annexe extension, kids’ room, barbeque and Waeco fridge it comes in at a very competitive $32,000. Now that’s value.
THE CAMPER TRAILER AUSTRALIA VERDICT
The new Altitude Off Road Highlander is set to turn plenty of heads — and wallets if it continues to provide such quality at this price. It’s a camper with loads of features, excellent quality, a host of accessories and a huge living space that retracts to a neat, compact trailer on the road. It has the offroad credentials for many years of touring and the looks to please all campers. Add to that the experience and heritage of its creater and you’ve spelled out a winner to me.
> Great value
> Excellent construction
> Great combination of features
> Extended awning
> Functional kitchen
> Refrigeration sliding mechanism
> Easy plumbing
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
> Locks on jerry cans as standard
> 2 x 75 amp/hr batteries — could use bigger
Originally published in Camper Trailer Australia #70, October / November 2013.
Visit www.altitudecampers.com.au for more information.