Camper Trailer of the Year 2017: MDC Cape York Venturer

By: Stuart Jones, Photography by: Ellen Dewar, Matt Fehlberg, Nathan Jacobs


The MDC Cape York Venturer sports a premium fitout in its victorious return for the CTOTY crown.

When I was judging the MDC Cape York 10th Anniversary Edition Venturer, the thought bouncing in my bonce was that this is a hell of a lot of trailer for under 25 big ones.

Winning last year and fast forward to 2017, MDC showed us it was serious about the Cape York Venturer retaining its crown with the company’s director Vaughan Hindley reeling off 18 separate changes to the model. Upgrades and improvements vary from an ensuite and kids’ room to ROX shocks, an increase in GVM to 2250kg and a break-away system. Forward-folds appear to be all the rage this year but this traditional rear-fold camper stacked up extremely well.

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Pitched at no particular demographic, this trailer is one that appeals to many, from the families looking for comfy room for all and explorers seeking a holiday base station to the touring empty-nesters yearning for a capable offroader with a heap of comforts and an easy hardfloor setup. It’s the all-inclusive, price-attractive package that will appeal many.

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The kitchen is what you’ll notice first. It’s a beauty... well lit with two LEDs, there’s a seeming ocean of stainless steel staring at you. Ergonomically it works really well with operations on the sink side including hot and cold water access, a four-burner Thetford stove and a fridge and pantry. On the reverse side of the kitchen slips out another large stainless steel food preparation area so two can cook, clean and prepare food at the same time (bad luck and off ya’ bum. That fire will be okay by itself). There is plenty of storage and the drawers even have fancy soft-close hinges. The pantry is a stacked three-drawer affair next to the huge fridge-slide. No fridge is included in the price but the slide will take up to an 80L Engel.

FLEXIBLE ARRANGEMENT

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Setting up the Venturer is a varied affair, depending on your camp. For a quick overnighter, flip the hardfloor and set up the stabiliser legs and you are inside in a few minutes. You wouldn’t bother with the kids’ room here, just bed the billy lids down on the floor for the evening; there’s enough room for all. For longer stays, spent an extra 15 minutes and set up the awning stored on top while you travel. All the canvas is 16oz. The kids’ room is zipped on to the main tent and then held up with a series of poles. If you were setting up for a long stay, the Venturer comes with walls to enclose the main awning with midge-proof screens plus a PVC floor, so it’s worth spending the time setting up your castle.

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All of these standard extras in the package come at a weight and storage cost. MDC has worked on changing the front toolbox to aluminium, saving 60kg while increasing the GVM to 2250kg giving a payload of 760kg. Now that’s a lot beer. Storage in the Venturer is a strong point for me, it’s where it wins out over the forward-folds. If you can carry the load, the Venturer gives you plenty of space and accessible organised space at that. You’ve got the large front toolbox, the boat loader storage rack, a luggage rack on the toolbox, but the winner for me is the smart use of the room under the bed. If you’re away for an extended trip, you need storage to cater for the eventualities that come your way. There are three large slide-out carpet-lined drawers, plus lift up the bed and there’s even more storage there. You can even access the drawers from the rear when it’s all closed up – perfect for a lightning quick Friday arvo get away. Top stuff.

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The construction is a hot-dipped galvanised drawbar and chassis with a zinc steel sheet body and quality components such as a DO35 hitch, a swing-away jockey wheel King springs and ROX shocks – a long way from the early days of imported trailers (I admit I’d prefer a removable jockey wheel... bend just one and you’ll understand why).

Off the blacktop the trailer’s capable but, remember, with a GVM at 2250kg, it isn’t light and you will spend the majority of your time close to the 2t mark. It can be towed by, but not ideal for – and especially when you hit sand – your light-duty 4WDs. And being 5.2m long, a tight High Country track won’t be your best friend either. To smooth out your ride, the suspension set up comes with independent trailing arms. The camper also has dual recovery points on the rear. As long as you realise what and where you’re driving and adjust accordingly, you’ll be fine.

AT CAMP

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At your favourite special place on an extended stay off-grid is where the Venturer really shines. It’s just so comfortable; the complete canvas keeps you shaded and dry and you’ll slumber on the camper-queen-size innerspring. Entertainment is a champ; included is a Kenwood two-speaker stereo, and a 19in TV/DVD player on a swing arm mount, which while not for me, is visible from either outside under the awning, on the internal floor or laying back in bed. At night the place is lit up like a Chrissy tree with seven LEDs throughout the trailer. Bad light won’t be an excuse for stumbling over tent pegs.

Zipping on to the side is your ensuite where you can store the supplied Porta Potti, or set up the Country Comfort instant hot water shower to wash off the day’s grime. At pack up, the ensuite can stay so that you don’t need to zip off the awning each time you move, just pull it in through the door and close the lid... very handy.

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By day three off-the-grid you’re in absolute heaven. To keep the twin 100Ah AGMs going, this year MDC went for the benchmark-setting Redarc BMS30 battery management system. The top-of-the-range unit looks after all charging and battery requirements, whether it’s 240V, solar input or DC-DC conversion to deliver the optimal voltage to your AGM batteries, this system is a cracker. Solar is a 120W panel permanently fixed to the boat loader/roof rack. The 1000W inverter is the final piece of the power puzzle but if it were me, I’d opt up for a pure sine wave job. The risk of frying a gadget or gizmo, for me, is too much. There’s no shortage of 12V outlets, nine in total scattered all around. Resettable circuit breakers protect all circuits.

THE WRAP UP

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There is so much to like about this trailer, it’s solidly built with lots of room, ergonomically well thought-out and easy to use.

This proven rear-fold setup comes with so many quality options to make your offroad camping adventures truly memorable and all for under 25 big ones. Kudos to the team at MDC for again offering the market such a capable, all-inclusive package at an affordable price.

HITS AND MISSES

Pros…

  • Quality componentry standard
  • Amazing package
  • Electrical setup
  • Rear-fold simplicity
  • Usable storage capacity

Cons…

  • The inverter isn’t pure sine wave
  • Heavy at 2t-plus laden
  • No reading light by the bed

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.