Camper Trailer of the Year 2017: Patriot Campers X1 Grand Tourer

By: Dan Everett, Photography by: Ellen Dewar, Matt Fehlberg, Nathan Jacobs


Looking for a camper trailer that won’t hold you back? Patriot Campers X1 Grand Tourer is the answer.

Camping means many things to many people. For some, the perfect trip is a week at a seaside caravan park where the kids play in the nearby pool. For others, camping is exploring the country, never knowing what tomorrow holds. There’s a veritable smorgasbord of offroad campers for those who sit and stay. But those keen to forge tracks should get on the phone to Justin or Sarah Montesalvo from Patriot Campers, and for good reason. After only being on the market for a little over four years, Patriot Campers is reputed not just for its unique, adventure-based camper trailers, but for the impeccable attention to detail and real-world R&D instilled into every new model.

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Now, after claiming the crown in its respective category three years in a row, the Patriot X1 returns to the Camper Trailer of the Year awards for a fourth time with more features and clever designs in the new Grand Tourer specification. Here’s what we thought.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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Patriot’s range of campers is nothing if not visually impressive. You could park one in the main street of Sydney behind a BMW SUV and it’d still look part-way through an epic adventure to tackle tracks long forgotten, and that’s its main appeal. Before opening a single latch or zipper on the X1 Grand Tourer, the attention to detail is simply amazing. Every panel gap is perfect, every rivet straight, every hinge a heavy-duty item. It’s clear right from the start the updated X1 mixes cutting edge manufacturing techniques with old school simplicity and it just works. It’s the kind of trailer you could pour yourselves over for hours on end and struggle to find a single imperfection and, believe me, we tried.

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While they don’t openly admit it, it’s clear the design focus for Patriot was for the X1 range to be a tool used to make remote travel easier, rather than a centrepiece to spend your time huddled inside. If you find yourself in a situation unable to do something because of the trailer, Patriot considers that a failure and will return to the drawing board. That design philosophy is obvious the more you look at the X1, too. It’s incredibly sturdy, has massive amounts of ground clearance, is almost unbelievably lightweight and compact for fewer issues on tight winding tracks. And we haven’t even opened it up yet.

STORAGE AND PRACTICALITY

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Until someone invents a camper trailer with Tardis technology, things will always be a compromise. If you want multiple beds, seating areas, and hardfloor setup times, you’ll pay for it with excessive weight and size. Considering the X1 Grand Tourer weighs in at a featherweight 940kg with an overall footprint comparable to a small box trailer, its comfort level is impressive – the benefit of continual refinements.

You’ll notice the tent is somewhat of a hybrid between traditional side-fold softfloor and a roof-top tents found in earlier Patriots. From go to whoa, you can have the complete trailer set up, kids’ room attached and awning good to go in under 15 minutes. If it’s just for two, the whole setup is down to around five minutes, for an easy-to-use and practical setup when you’re pushing on late into the night or through rough terrain.

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That practicality extends past the tent setup as well. Inside is a huge camper-king-size bed with a clever fold-over panel to stow it, saving on floor space when not in use. In a move that won’t surprise anyone familiar with Patriot Campers, the ladder of previous models has been replaced by a patented staircase to access the raised bed. With the bed set up, access to the driver’s side storage is still easy with huge amounts of room for bulky items like generators, jerry cans or portaloos underneath.

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The clever design elements extend through to the kitchen as well. By utilising components like fridge slides and doors as practical elements, the X1 GT is able to have a feature-packed kitchen all in an incredibly compact footprint. There’s easy-to-reach pantry storage, meal prep areas and sinks right next to the fridge and cooking station, and even little tricks like a spice rack all included. Hidden behind the spare tyre on the rear is the heart of the Patriot’s storage solution, a cavernous space large enough to swallow a swag or two, kids’ pushbikes, or any other bulky items you want out of the weather as well as a side-stacked roller drawer under the false floor. All up, there’s 1800L of usable storage throughout the trailer in intuitive locations with well thought-out sizing.

OFFROAD CREDENTIALS

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Physics is a great thing. It cuts through any marketing BS and tells us the bigger and heavier something is, the harder it’s going to be to take offroading. If that’s the case, the inverse must be true. A lightweight, compact trailer with good ground clearance and very little overhang must be good offroad. To that end, the X1 GT won’t disappoint offroaders or physics as we currently understand it.

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Because of the light weight, the X1 GT is incredibly resistant to sinking into soft terrain like sand or mud and doesn’t act like an anchor in steep terrain. Smaller vehicles will barely notice it’s hitched on, while larger beasts like V8 Cruisers will just laugh it off. The model we got our hands on had not only the optional 33in Mickey Thompson tyre package fitted but Patriot’s new prototype suspension, adding serious rigidity and strength while further reducing unsprung weight, making it a huge benefit in corrugations. Not yet available, this new suspension will be released to the market once Patriot has completed rigorous testing and finalised R&D.

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If you find yourself on tight inland tracks with stray branches threatening you from every direction, the compact size of the X1 GT comes into its own allowing it to easily follow in the path of the tow vehicle rather than swinging wide like some larger models. The sheet metal on top and exposed chassis underneath configuration also provides a barrier of defence from rock ledges that’d otherwise destroy vulnerable sheet metal in less considered designs. Patriot claims around 50 per cent of the trailer’s weight is down low at chassis level so, despite the comparatively tall package, it’s incredibly stable in off-camber situations avoiding a pendulum effect in difficult terrain. Put simply, there’s nowhere you’d take a tow-rig and not be confident taking a trailer like this with you.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

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It’s all well and good to look the part and have easy-to-reach spices, but what really counts for many of us are the features, does it have enough power for extended stays, what’s the water storage situation like and can it keep my 12V gear charged?

This is going to be a long slog so let’s start from the bottom. No longer optional, the X1 now rides on full-time airbag suspension that’s able to be tweaked to suit your exact load from Tare right through to GTM rather than a one-size-does-all coil spring. The whole arrangement is digitally controlled and adjustable at the flick of a switch. Moving up to the front box and there’s now standard a gas hot water system for showers. The model we tested was fitted with the optional diesel Webasto unit that includes hot water at the sink and ducted heating to the tent. The box also contains the unique Patriot swing-out barbecue holder and a shelf perfect for tools and spare parts. Standard, the X1 GT comes with twin 4.5kg gas cylinder holders although one can be swapped out for a jerry can holder. There’s 140L of water spread across two isolated tanks as well.

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Moving inside the main box and the electrical system starts coming into its own. The brain of the operation is the command centre tucked in with the kitchen. There’s a Redarc Manager30 constantly monitoring the twin 120Ah batteries indicating their charge rate and time till flat at current usage levels. The command centre also contains the circuit breaker, switches for lighting throughout, 12V and USB power outlets as well as a water level indicator so you know exactly how much shower time is left. There’s LED lighting inside and out with a 350W invertor for charging 240V gear like cameras and laptops as well as a Fusion stereo system.

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Cooking duties are handled by a Bromic two-burner stove and grill arrangement and even the optional EvaKool fridge has been ripped apart and rebuilt to Patriot specifications. To be honest, I’ve poked and prodded every nook and cranny of this trailer and I’m still not sure how they’ve managed to include so much gear and so many features into such a compact and lightweight package.

THE WRAP UP

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Imagine spending months on end in remote country with your family and every time you found something that didn’t sit right with your camper trailer, you could make a phone call and it’d get changed.

That’s essentially what the Patriot X1 range is. They’ve been finely honed over years of Montesalvo camping adventures and it shows in the details that other manufacturers miss, simply because they haven’t spent the time camping in their own gear.

If your idea of a fantastic camping trip is plonking yourself lakeside in a caravan park for a week, there are more suitable campers for you than this one.

If, however, you err on the adventurous side of life and want one that makes life easier off the beaten track you’d be hard pressed to find a better option than the X1 Grand Tourer.

The only problem buying a Patriot camper is knowing next year’s model will be better again, as will the year after that...

HITS AND MISSES

Pros…

  • Arguably the most capable camper trailer money can buy
  • Clever designs throughout
  • Comfort features you wouldn’t expect in a compact package
  • It has a staircase, what more can I say?

Cons…

  • It’s a serious adventure rig so it doesn’t come with a wrap-around leather lounge

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.