Camper Trailer of the Year 2017: GIC Black Series Patron

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


The Black Series Patron offers strength and comfort for the whole family, with the kitchen a highlight at camp.

If it’s a great value camper trailer for under $20,000 you are after, then the Black Series Patron should be high on the list. The Black Series brand evolved after a major fire swept through the GIC factory giving opportunity for a full facelift to the long-established branding and image. GIC has been supplying a large range of budget-sensitive camper trailers since 2007, having sold well over 12,000 units in that time through its dedicated stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

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The Patron is the flagship of the Black Series range. Black Series claims to be the first on the market to offer a forward-folding hardfloor camper with the extender that allows three full living areas under the main tent body. There’s a camper-queen-size bed each end and a convertible dinette in the middle. It’s certainly a great idea for a large family, or even smaller families who can’t spare losing the internal living space or simply can’t be bothered converting the dinette whenever the kids need to sleep at camp.

ONE-PIECE CHASSIS

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Black Series takes plenty of pride in the construction of its trailers, utilising a full RHS chassis as a major point of difference to its competitors. Many years ago, the boating industry moved away from butt-welding drawbars to the rest of the trailer chassis in favour of rolled full-length rails that provide maximum strength and durability. It reduces the dependence on weld strength and penetration at the point of maximum flex and fatigue. Black Series has incorporated the same concept, running 100x50x4mm main chassis rails from the front of the drawbar to the back of the chassis at the same time increasing the rolled RHS from the industry standard of 3mm wall diameter to 4mm. The slight increase in Tare weight is well and truly compensated by the overall strength. The entire box section design appeared to be one of the strongest chassis I have seen in this style of camper, and is fully hot-dipped galvanised and a further deadener is applied to the undersides after construction for longevity.

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Black Series has developed its tried and tested coil sprung independent trailing arm suspension with twin shock absorbers either side for a confident offroad capable ride that will feel at home on those long stretches of corrugations and ruts. The strong chassis has also allowed for a pair of fully engineered recovery points at the rear of the trailer. She rides on Black Series 16x9in custom alloy wheels with a 0 offset, six-stud LandCruiser/Patrol stud pattern, and with a loading capacity of 955kg each, they’re the perfect wheel to match the majority of offroad tow vehicles. The package comes complete with 12in electric brakes and two spare wheels that are neatly fitted to a tilting loading rack that also serves as a strong bumper bar-cum-tailgate.

Out front, Black Series fits its own poly-block coupling that has been tested, engineered and complies in full with Australian Design Regulations (ADR 62/02). There’s a handbrake, swing-up pneumatic jockey wheel, Anderson plug connector to charge the battery and even a neat little handle that comes in handy if manually pushing or pulling the trailer. Just in front of the main tub are retainers for twin jerry cans plus two 9kg gas cylinders all protected by a stone screen with replaceable mesh. Then there’s the winch that can be utilised for easy single-handed erection of the main fold over section.

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Underneath the rear is a single 100L stainless steel water tank with cover plate. It is very strong and robust complete with a very strong drain plug on the bottom, yet I often feel a bit let down when I see such a strong construction undermined by a soft hose outlet exposed to the flying sticks, stones and sand blasting that are inevitable in any tough environment. It’s an easy fix, though – either hard plumb the delivery with copper tube or replace the outlet with a solid elbow and saddled hoses. Left as is, you run the chance of arriving at your dream destination without fresh water. Don’t think I’m just picking on Black Series for this – it’s a common trait on many campers no matter their budget. Other than this, the plumbing and wiring was neat and tidy and really quite pleasing.

CAMPSITE COMFORTS

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There are two major box components on the Black Series Patron and both are finished in attractive and strong zincanneal with baked enamel silver paintwork. There’s the main tub with the fold over and extender, but in front of this is a large component box that houses a fridge slide capable of fitting a 95L Waeco fridge/freezer, that’s not supplied. There’s even a sensor light that triggers automatically when the door is opened making life easy at night. Then comes another hatch, complete with full-width pole storage and a slide-out pantry. A similar size hatch and pantry-size slide-out are replicated on the driver’s side, behind the large storage hatch up front. The driver side also has a flush finish and dustproof hatch for the electronics controls where we find a battery isolator switch, individually-fused circuit switches and an LED water tank indicator.

Speaking of electronics, the Patron has twin 100Ah AGM batteries fitted as standard side by side. There is plenty of power outlets and LED lighting throughout and even a ventilating fan in the fridge compartment. The batteries can only be charged via the Anderson plug or via a pair of alligator clamp connectors with a separate charger.

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Whilst the fold-over and extender process is relative easy for an overnighter, the erection of a complete camp with full-length awning and detachable side walls will take quite some time, even with the whole family helping. It’s terrific when finished but a full camp could be quite trying when the family is weary and hungry at the end of a long day on the road. The 16oz close-weave canvas is used on all roofs and panels and seems very good quality. There are midge and mosquito-proof screens, double-stitched canvas, SBS zippers and it’s all really well-ventilated with big windows and doors as well as pop-out awnings on major tent windows. I must admit that I do like the ability to fully open the canvas on the living side of the trailer nearest the door, especially when the full annexe is assembled as it creates a very sociable and hospitable feel inside the enclosure.

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There’s also a full-length tropical roof that opens automatically with the main tent, yet all this heavy canvas and the multitude of poles add up to become a reasonably heavy towing weight.

To complete the set up, you enter the main body via an easy folding stairwell. Inside, you find a camper-queen bed either end complete with privacy screen to the master on the front. The cabinetry has a light woodgrain finish forming the U-shaped lounge with a portable table that can drop down to form part of yet another bed base.

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The stainless steel kitchen is a beauty, sliding out easily from the rear of the camper. It features a three-burner Smev stove, stainless sink with cold mixer, a ripper full-length folding bench, utensil drawers and a further pull-out shelf off the end. The gas is plumbed from the bottles at the front and up to the stove at the rear with approved installation utilising bayonet fittings. The hot water is supplied from a portable ‘Hot Tap’ gas HWS that’s generally stored in the front locker and attached up front when camping. This hot water service also feeds the detachable ensuite that comes as standard in the full package price.

A full-length tilting boat rack completes this very comprehensive package. It is really quite amazing value for the low purchase price, containing loads of creature comforts usually found in much more expensive competitors.

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You will have to be a little careful with the loading capability, though. The bare unit has a Tare weight of 1500kg but by the time you add the full water tank and boat rack this rises quickly to around 1620kg. The boat rack is rated to 100kg and then you have to add your fridge, food, clothes, gas and jerry cans plus and other gear. It’s going to all add up when you consider the GVM of 1900kg and ball weight of 130kg with no water.

THE WRAP UP

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The Black Series Patron offers loads of features in a very strong and presentable package with more than enough creature comforts to keep the monarchy fed, refreshed, comfortable and happy travelling in some tough Aussie environments.

It comes complete with a five-year structural warranty for further peace of mind. Black Series says, ‘Go See Australia in a Black Series Camper Trailer’. Don’t mind if I do – like so many others before me!

HITS AND MISSES

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Pros…

  • Loads of gear for the money
  • Chassis
  • Strong canvas
  • External finish
  • Boat rack

Cons…

  • Heavy weight
  • Too many poles impact setup time

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.