Camper Trailer of the Year 2017: Conqueror UEV-490 Evolution
The Conqueror UEV-490 Evolution is tougher than it looks, and it looks tough as nails.
The camper trailer market is at bursting point. Go to any caravan and camping show and attempt to swing a cat. Not only will you be receiving a rather angry call from the RSPCA, but you’ll also most likely strike more than a few camper trailers with said cat swinging attempt.
The problem is, though, that many do the exact same thing: provide a reasonably affordable platform to make camping in your local state forest a more pleasant experience. While there are plenty of fantastic campers on the market, it does stand to point out just how drastically different the Conqeuror UEV-490 is from the pack. It’s not a cheap setup to take the wife and kids camping in your nearest state forest, even lugging one to more iconic destinations like the Victorian High Country or Fraser Island would feel a little like bringing a satellite-guided ICBM to a knife fight, with optional bayonet fitted, of course, but that’s kind of the point.
For those not familiar with the brand, UEV stands for Urban Escape Vehicle and that’s exactly what the Evolution claims to be. The kind of trailer for which you’d bash a for-sale sign in your front yard, load a year’s worth of food into the fridge and hit the road with no deadlines, no worries, and no overnight camping permits.
So what exactly makes the UEV-490 stand out from the crowd?
The UEV-490 looks like a piece of military gear, and it’s easy to look at anything painted drab olive with scepticism.
But the Conqueror range has the bite to match its bark. Hailing from South Africa, the original Conqueror lines were designed and manufactured specifically as mobile command stations for the South African military and, despite countless tweaks as they entered the civilian market, that heritage still shines through; not just in the paintwork, but in the construction methods as well.
The UEV range is built tough. Rather than constructed with traditional welds the body is comprised of glued panels and rivets, allowing the body to bend and flex to significantly reduce stress fractures from a brittle construction.
The design is modular so that individual panels can be replaced if they’re damaged and incredible amounts of thought have gone into essentially making it the Swiss army knife of camper trailers.
Throughout every nook and cranny in the construction, it’s obvious the Evolution hasn’t swayed far from the original military designs at all. Hinges and doors are heavy-duty, clever and simple designs like the push into place stabiliser legs are used throughout and it has an air of rugged simplicity without losing out on the creature comforts you’d expect in a camper with this price tag.
STORAGE AND PRACTICALITY
With some campers, clever use of storage means finding every spare inch of space and fitting a tent pole holder or water tank. The Conqueror (like all hybrids) skirts this fact by essentially being a giant box on wheels. If you’re looking for somewhere to store a bag of clothes or a case of drink, simply open the door and put them in.
That said, the UEV-490 is more than just a one-trick pony with lots of clever inclusions you rarely see at any price point. There are internal tie-downs throughout, so bulky or heavy items don’t need to float around dangerously inside. Heavy-duty canvas bags have been slung on the back of every door and hatch to allow storage of small and often fiddly items like maps, torches, and fire lighting equipment. Twin jerry cans on the rear bulkhead allow diesel storage of up to 40L while twin storage boxes in the up-swept rear quarters are the perfect place for recovery gear and tools, and being situated so close to the axle will reduce their effect on tow ball weight, too.
Another tick in the UEV-490’s favour is its Jekyll and Hyde personality. If you’re setting up for an extended time, it has an impressive covered area with twin awnings on either side (a joiner between would be appreciated) as well as a large kitchen area with pantry, hot water on tap, included fridge and extensive bench space. Set up for a night and you can literally just open a door and go inside. In an usual, albeit welcome, move, a large amount of the storage is available inside and out with both the fridge and pantry having external and internal access. If you’re converting the dining area into a camper-king-size bed you can pull up for a night’s rest without popping a single clip or over-centring an over-centre latch.
If you’re chasing a little more room, a camper-queen bed folds forward from the front bulkhead while the room raises to a 2m head height with a simple push.
For all intents and purposes the UEV-490 is a hybrid. That said, it’s arguably the most capable I’ve ever laid eyes on and would easily show up a few camper trailers in the offroad department.
Starting from the front, there’s a Vehicle Components Hitchmaster DO35 hitch, allowing plenty of articulation offroad without the risk of flipping your tow rig if it all turns pear shaped. The chassis and many other low hanging components are hot-dip galvanised, the independent suspension setup is heavy-duty and sold as ‘bomb proof’, although we weren’t willing to test it out. Shocks are Tough Dog items with Dobinsons coil springs providing a supple ride. The spare tyre carrier on the rear comes with a complete and ready-to-go wheel bearing set in a hub making for easy repairs, although with the mud-terrain tyres you’ll rarely be reaching for the wheel jack.
Despite its size, the rear has been tapered off on an impressive departure angle to aid in steep transitions like into and out of creeks as well as up and down rock ledges. The powder-coating is extensive and seriously stout so there’s little concern about damaged paint even through thick lantana country. There are lots of inclusions which make these perfect for remote travel too, things like flip-down stairs that are slotted to trap mud and sand on entry during the day and are easy to clean when closing up for the night. Even the doors have heavy bolt locks for when you’re concerned about armed insurgents, or nosey neighbours.
IS IT UP TO THE JOB?
So is it up to the job? Well that’s really a subjective question, one that depends entirely on what ‘the job’ is. But I doubt you’d find many people who would use the UEV-490 and feel it was lacking in literally any department.
There’s nearly 360° coverage from the rain with twin fold-out awnings that can be setup by one person.
An extensive electrical system with twin 100Ah AGM batteries and a 200W solar system on the roof which can be upgraded to a 1000Ah system.
There’s also 130L on-board water and twin 4kg gas cylinders powering the stovetop. There’s an included diesel unit that not only sends hot water to the sink and the external shower but runs the heating inside as well. In typical Conqueror fashion the diesel tank even comes filled and the gas bottles included, a true get-up-and-go system.
Inside, there’s plenty of storage and power options, a full dining table that converts into a comfortable king-size bed that can sleep three, and a second bed that folds out for a queen arrangement. Combine that with serious offroad capability, military-proven build quality and niceties like a wine rack, stereo and TV and it’s hard to imagine a single situation in which the UEV-490 wouldn’t be up to the task at hand. It simply has everything you could ever ask for in a camper trailer.
THE WRAP UP
There’s no skirting the fact the Conqueror UEV-490 has an imposing figure. Not just in sheer size, but on the scales and the back pocket as well. It’s inarguably one of the most expensive campers on the market and fully loaded tips in close to 2t.
That said, it doesn’t pretend to be a cheap and cheerful overnight camper. The Conqueror UEV-490 is the kind of setup that you could comfortably pack up and head off into the great unknown for months at a time, if not years.
If you were to purchase one and leave it parked in the driveway all but a few weekends a year you’d not only be doing it a disservice, but yourself as well.
HITS AND MISSES
- Incredibly tough
- Massive living space
- Military quality finishes
- Quick to no setup time
- Internally lockable doors
- Comes at a premium price
- Military styling is polarising
- No niceties like leather or timber, it’s purely functional
- Low payload
Check out the full feature in issue #111 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.