Camper Trailer of the Year 2017: Camel Campers Bushman Extreme

By: John 'Bear' Willis, Photography by: Ellen Dewar, Matt Fehlberg, Nathan Jacobs


The Bushman Extreme upholds Camel’s tradition with a tough, easy-to-install softfloor, now kitted out for modern touring.

I breathed a great sigh of relief after inspecting the all-new Camel Bushman Extreme camper at the beautiful Bribie Island for this year’s Camper Trailer of the Year event. The last time I had a look at this good-looking Camel, I was most impressed with its good old Aussie strength and value. I said, "Camels, ships of the desert – tough, reliable, self-sufficient and able to withstand long stretches in the desert or bush. It’s not a bad name for a tough Aussie-made camper trailer, is it? Queensland’s Camel Campers lives up to its name with a simple, honest camper built in Australia to provide the wandering offroad nomad plenty more comfort than its hump-backed namesake."

I was a bit concerned that the company philosophy may have changed under its new ownership, however, any such thoughts were proven ungrounded in this latest display.

Camper trailer importer MDC acquired Camel name and intellectual property of the company last year. Camel has traded since 1999, establishing a name for honest, reliable campers without the bling and full of manufactured quality backed up with sensible features. MDC intends to retain the full Brisbane manufacturing base and strengthen the Australian content with an injection of ideas, capital and, most importantly, enthusiasm.

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Thankfully, the camper’s basic design and materials haven’t changed for more than 17 years; rather it has evolved, with some options new to the range including the use of either the new AL-KO Enduro, MDC or Vehicle Components Cruisemaster fully independent trailing arm suspension. The other welcome change in my eyes was the fitting of the popular Drifta kitchen, complete with separate pantry drawers and a large extendable benchtop, or as I called it ‘the bar’. All that’s needed is a couple of stools!

FROM THE GROUND UP

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This tough camper sits on a very solid box section chassis culminating with a 100x50x3mm A-frame DuraGal drawbar with a DO35 offroad coupling. The trailer box is 2mm zincanneal where as many others are 1.2mm and 1.5mm, making it a very strong base for the rest of the robust features. The finished product is powder-coated in Hammertone for a strong, even finish that is easily touched up should stone and sand blasting take its toll.

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Underneath, she rolls on a set of reliable 16in Cooper tyres and attractive CSA alloy mags with a six-stud LandCruiser pattern and 12in electric brakes. You simply won’t run out of water with a sensible 160L total capacity in twin 80L food-grade plastic tanks. All of the plumbing and wiring is neatly and securely protected; my only criticism in this department is the fairly light gauge tank outlet and delivery line which, if damaged in rough terrain, could lead to a substantial loss of water. It’s very easily fixed with a brass fitting and stronger delivery hose – a mere trifle in the overall camper assessment.

The Camel Bushman Extreme has a very realistic Tare weight of 1150kg, with an ATM of 1995kg allowing enormous loading capacity. The handbrake is standard, as is a fold-up 10in jockey wheel. Everyone knows by now that I don’t like swivel jockey wheels so I won’t start on that – again!

THE WHOLE KIT

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This very comprehensive package comes with a well-constructed tinnie and storage rack that has a 100kg load rating giving the unit some really functional carrying and storage options. Up front is a huge 220L toolbox with pole holders, plus a stoneguard with replaceable mesh and facility to carry three 20L jerry cans in secure mounts. Unladen, the whole unit has only a 120kg ball weight, which actually serves it well whether it’s towed with a small or large 4WD.

The Camel Bushman Extreme features fully lockable enclosed side compartments, the first of which on the driver’s side takes the electrical box complete with twin 100Ah AGM batteries with Redarc battery management system (BMS30). I particularly liked the inclusion of the Redarc 1000W pure sine wave inverter also stored here and the 180W solar panel. I find this essential equipment for charging the all-important cameras, computers and the massive array of electrical gizmos that nowadays seem essential.

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I must make mention that all of the side compartments have very strong plate aluminium doors with dust-proof automotive seals and strong hinges with compression latches for prolonged security. Over the wheels are lockable safes, and rear of the wheel arch on the driver’s side are mounting brackets for the twin 4.5kg gas cylinders, with lockable filler points for the water tanks forward of the BMS. Out back, the tailgate has the spare wheel mounted as a reversing bump stopper and the waterproof tail-lights are well shrouded in the body.

SETTING UP CAMP

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Many softfloor campers can be a real pain to set up but not this Camel. It took a total of 17 minutes to fully assemble the entire camper including the kitchen, folding out the boat rack and the annexe. The tent folds out from the passenger side on an easy framework that requires very little adjustment. It’s a large 10x8ft 7in tent and the quality of the Australian Wax Converters Dynaproof canvas hits you straight away; 15oz on the roof and 12oz on the side walls, with a 10oz ‘thermal roof’. The tent also features high quality midge-mesh flyscreens, plenty of large windows with awnings, and premium YKK zips.

Many manufacturers need to take note of the quality canvas manufacturing giving a terrifically taut tent with good strong poles and a tonne of head room and living space. Camel has stuck with the single door theory, believing that it stops the kids making a race track in and out of the tent and, I must admit, I agree with them. It also frees up valuable floor space otherwise used as a walkway. The 2.4m-wide full-length awning assembles quickly and easily and can be packed up with the rest of the tent for convenience.

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Inside the tent, the stairwell folds down easily but watch that first step as it’s a bit of a doozy due to the high ground clearance of the trailer. Nothing that a cheap plastic step doesn’t fix though. The stairwell is relatively narrow compared to some but this is done intentionally to keep the overall length at a minimum. It really is quite easy and very sensible and the walkway also allows added loading space when packed for the road. The camper-queen-size 200mm innerspring mattress makes it a very comfy bed with plenty of lights and 12V power outlets for more gizmo charging. You can access all of the trailer side compartments with zip sections in the full PVC liner.

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I think the whole world loves Drifta kitchens and this one’s a beaut. It incorporates a three-burner Smev gas stove, stainless sink with pressurised water, tonnes of drawer space for utensils as well as a separate twin system as a pantry. There’s a 60L EvaKool fridge neatly mounted in the kitchen slide and the big fold-out bench bar as previously mentioned. It’s a kitchen worthy of the most meticulous bush chefs.

A quick run through of some of the other highlights include an ensuite with quick connect Truma gas hot water supply (unseen), portable strip lights and numerous power outlets, 240V inlet/outlets and a five-year limited warranty to assure you of manufactured quality.

THE WRAP UP

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The Camel Bushman Extreme is one hell of a proud Aussie traveller with the credentials to keep a family well serviced on the roughest offroad safari.

The brochure says it all: "All Australian, all quality, all good".

HITS AND MISSES

Pros…

  • Drifta kitchen
  • Tough Aussie quality
  • Sensible accessories
  • Big water and power capacity
  • Large load capacity

Cons…

  • No engineered recovery points
  • Removable jockey wheel preferred
  • Heavier duty tank outlet preferred

Check out the full feature in issue #110 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.