Complete Campsite Exodus 16: Review

By: David Cook, Photography by: Matt Fehlberg


David Cook takes Complete Campsite's hybrid marvel for a spin in the forest.

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When the phone call came from the editor saying he needed a review on the Complete Campsite Exodus 16, I was only too happy to take up that burden as I knew this to be a classy piece of gear. I had only looked over the Exodus 16 at shows, but I had much more detailed familiarity with some of the smaller Exodus models from the past, and I’d been impressed every time.

The problem that arose when I contacted Complete Campsite was that there was only a limited window for me to take the camper, as business owners Grant and Jodie Joyce were taking it away for themselves for a fair chunk of the time in which I had to complete my review before deadline. However, everyone worked together to make it happen.

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And after a day of towing this premium camper around the very dusty tracks through the Watagans National Park, on the southern edge of the Hunter Valley in NSW, I began to realise the significance of that intention by the company owners to go away in their van. It wasn’t that this was an excuse to have a few days of pleasant camping on business time, it was that this was a camper rippled with little signs of finely tuned engineering that reflected a management which actually used and wanted their customers to enjoy their campers to the max.

You might be surprised, but there are people selling campers who have never used them, or if they have, it’s been to the bare minimum. You can pick the manufacturers and sellers who take their campers out into the bush and bring it back to have their team add or modify some feature time and again until it all blends into a functional whole that really works.

Generally such campers are a little more expensive - that’s because of the constant refinement that’s gone into them – but you know it all works and in the long run you are getting better value for your hard earned dollar.

A CUT ABOVE

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The Exodus range is Complete Campsite’s venture into the hybrid market, and the 16 is the largest of that array; the result of a continuing evolution over a number of years.

The 16 expanded on the Exodus 14 as the top of the range, using the same proven chassis and Cruisemaster independent trailing arm suspension package, but by reconfiguring the body has squeezed an extra 650mm of internal space yet the total towed length is only 400mm longer, and it retains the same track and basic tare weight and GTM.

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The chassis remains the same hot dipped galvanised product from the Complete Campsite workshops. In fact almost everything that can be done in-house is done there, other than the laser cutting of the metal, the galvanising and the production of the one-piece fibreglass body, not something formed up out of separate panels. Complete Campsite prides itself on having as much Australian input into its campers as possible.

That foam sandwiched body is critical in the Exodus, and it’s handled by specialists at a boat manufacturing facility in Newcastle. It provides a tough, thermally insulated structure that keeps out the dust, heat and bugs of the outer world to sustain that portable world of comfort that can make outback travel a real pleasure. What was once done by a "chopper gun" has reverted to hand-laying of the body. It’s a slower process, but produces a job that is lighter, allowing for better control of the glass resin outer skin, so that non-critical areas can be thinner and important structural or stressed areas can be thicker and stronger.

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That fastidious concern for weight has extended to the external finish. Checkerplate around the lower half of the body is heavier and soon loses its gloss and looks a dull grey, and for a fraction of the weight a tough spray-on Rhino Stone coating does the job of giving the offroad protection that’s necessary.

The rest of the body is presented externally and internally in the white high gloss gelcoat finish, accented on the outside by grey and red stripes along each side.

The generous body makes for a large camper trailer – probably as large as you could go before it became a caravan – that would have its limitations in tight scrub, but I’d have to say we didn’t strike any problems when manoeuvring among open forest trees.

RUGGED & BEAUTIFUL

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Internally, there is a standard size queen inner spring bed, with several options on the rest of the layout. Our camper had a roomy eatery for four and a spacious area in front of a rear bench and drawers, but other options include two, three and four-bunk layouts, a separate toilet cubicle, an internal shower/toilet or internal hanging space. One benefit of this much internal room is an array of options to suit many tastes.

The four-person eatery had leather covered cushions either side of a swinging and pivoting table that can remain in position and can travel swung back onto the mattress to avoid stresses from corrugations being carried by the table mounts. It can be broken down into two mounting brackets and the table top, the latter travelling in the top of the under-bed electronics cupboard but assembly seemed to be fiddly.

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Along the back wall were nine roomy drawers, all made from PVC for weight and strength and all fitted with positive latches. In the back wall are two cupboards with sliding doors, one of which is a mirror, though using it requires squatting due its low height. There are also two roomy cupboards in the wall next to the bed above the external kitchen.

There is a stainless sink and mixer tap in the corner but no cooking facilities in the textured stainless bench top. "We don’t encourage internal cooking, though it can be optioned as such if the customer wishes," was Grant’s comment, as the fitting of gas appliances inside means the need for venting which might let in dust, smoke alarms, food smells through bedding and other issues. And, face it, you go into the bush with a camper trailer rather than a caravan for that outdoor experience.

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There are two LED lights inside, plus one over the rear bench, and two reading lights on the shelf behind the bed. Above the bed is a roof hatch with fitted fan for those hot nights in the summer months.

There is also a stereo system with internal and, in our review camper, optional external speakers, as well as two TV points (a TV is optional).

There are four large and two smaller double glazed windows around the van, all equipped with sliding blinds and insect screens, plus four windows with clears, screens and blinds in the vinyl walls beneath the flip-up roof.

The floor is a tough-wearing vinyl and all the internal walls are finished in gloss white gelcoat, which will draw insects like a magnet so make sure you are using the window screens and the mesh door at all times at night if you have internal lights on.

OFF-GRID CRED

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Beneath the driver’s side seat were two large water filters that are claimed to produce bacterially pure crystal clear water from the murkiest river water, a particulate water filter, the internal heat exchanger for the cabin heating system and the ducting and fan for an internal pressuring system. The latter is turned on when offroad and a large air filter provides air for the fan which keeps the internal air pressure a tiny fraction above external atmospheric pressure, ensuring that no dust ever gets into the camper or any of its attached storage zones.

Under the opposite seat sat a 200Ah Enerdrive lithium battery, a top of the line option but one which bulletproofs the electrical supply. The standard set-up is two 100Ah AGM batteries.

The charging duties are handled by one of those great Redarc 30-amp Battery Management Systems that can be switched between AGM and lithium (as well as other options) by the flick of a switch. Mounted below the BMS is a 2000-watt Redarc pure sine wave inverter. This can give you enough punch, in conjunction with the lithium battery, to run things like an electrical kettle, microwave oven or just about any other electrical appliance you could rightly desire.

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With that inverter Complete Campsite has been very smart in wiring all its 240V outlets throughout the van through the RCD safety switch for both mains input if you’re in a caravan park or through the inverter, the option being simply selected by a switch.

There is an abundance of 12 volt and USB power outlets throughout the camper, at the bed head, at the rear bench and at the external kitchen. Almost all external storage bays have their own LED lights.

On the pop-up roof the standard configuration includes three 100 watt thin film solar panels (for a weight saving of 10kg per panel over more traditional panels), but our review camper had an additional two panels for a total of a huge 500 watts.

CAMPER WITH THE LOT

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This really is a totally self-sufficient camper, when you combine that sort of electrical capacity with the water supply, which consists of two water tanks, an internal 130 litre and underbody 100 litre. Add to this the siphon feature, with its own pump, which permits you to draw water from an external source like a billabong or creek, running it directly to the shower, to a water tank or through the filters, or the water from either tank through the filters to the other tank. It’s a very impressive set-up.

Coming soon will be a grey water system, which will collect water from the internal and/or external sinks and/or from a hard shower floor via a pump.

The water is heated by a 14 litre Webasto diesel system, providing hot water to the mixer taps at either sink, as well as to the shower.

There are also two jerry cans and two 4.5kg gas bottles included as standard.

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Our review camper had the external flip-up ensuite. Simply undo the two over-centre clips at the base and the pod swings up, undo the two velcro straps and then unhook the four corner loops and the whole ensuite drops into place. It provides a 1000 x 930mm shower room and a similar sized change room next to it. The shower rose travels in a small locker on the back wall with a matching window and press studs in the corresponding wall of the ensuite and an internal light is provided.

Returning the ensuite to its travel position was essentially a simple process, but it was one of the few spots where I could find anything to question, as the gas struts took a fair bit of force to overcome to get the pod back down and able to get those latches hooked up again. Anyone vertically or physically challenged would find it something of a struggle.

Externally our camper was equipped with an optional Sizzler barbecue which slides out from the side of the front storage box, and a custom-made 82 litre Evakool fridge/freezer next to a cavernous 360 x 1000 x 380mm pantry drawer with a sliding stainless top. This is one of those areas where you see the little touches of good design, with the two release tabs on the fridge and pantry slides being connected by a welded aluminium crossbar, so opening them becomes a simple one-handed rather than two-handed task.

MASTERCHEF ON TOUR

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The kitchen, which pulls out adjacent to the pantry, swings around along the body, with a stainless outer skin with a zincanneal drawers for lighter weight. Let into the top are a stainless sink and mixer tap and a three-burner Smev cooktop. There are two drawers and a large flip-over bench extension on the front end and the same level of engineering and finish at the other for a small gain of 150mm of fold-over extension to maximise the bench space.

At first we thought there was no wind guard for the cooktop, something which all low pressure regulated gas cookers need to prevent heat from the burners being blown away, but then we realised that Complete Campsite had fitted small stainless steel rings around the outside of each burner at the extremity of the flame to retain the heat.

Using the pantry top and the extensions there is more bench space than you would ever want.

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Entry to the camper is via a two-layer door, with the inner unit acting as an insect screen and the outer as a lockable security guard, assisted by a fold-out step that tucks away neatly under the floor. A supplied portable aluminium step makes accessing the fold-out step easy. With the aid of the door-side handle entry is easy and comfortable with little need for ducking and dodging.

Down the driver’s side of the van are lockers to contain the water pumping system, the hot water service, access for the porta-pottie which allows for internal use on the other side, and three spare storage voids.

Across the front was a large storage boot, in which we carried the ground matting and additional canvas as well as having a heap of room to spare. Across the front of the storage boot was a checkerplate floored carry area, behind the mesh stone guard, where an optional outboard motor mount could be installed, or pushbikes carried.

Above this was an optional wood rack/storage tray, which could also be equipped to carry up to three push bikes on rails.

At the very front was the tough drawbar with DO-35 coupling, hand brake, winch to access the spare wheel mounted beneath, the Ark XO dual jockey wheel and the breakaway unit to comply with regulations because of the camper’s ATM. Another option is an extended drawbar which provides clearances for Prado and Pajero type vehicles with swinging rear doors.

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Above the kitchen is a Fiamma awning that is simple and quick to extend to its full 2400 x 4350mm coverage. It has two outer support legs which drop into position. At the front Complete Campsite has developed a handy extension which shelters the fridge/kitchen area. This goes on in seconds and can be used in conjunction with a front wall for additional protection. It even has a water drain hole to prevent rainwater collecting behind the front lip.

A ground cover comes standard with the camper, and a draught skirt and walls are options.

Total set-up time for a one-nighter is under five minutes. Winding out the awning is less than a minute. Our camper had an optional electronic lift system for the tilt-up roof operated by a rocker switch just inside the entry door, which takes about a minute to do its job. Should it ever fail you simply remove one of the two connecting bolts and the roof can be manually lifted and lowered.

The roof also has drain points at each corner to ensure no water builds up anywhere around the large area.

THE WRAP UP

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Let’s face it, this is not a camper for those on a budget. It requires a willingness to spend over $100,000, and that’s a lot in anyone’s world. Yet these campers continue to roll out of the factory at a steady pace and find homes with all manner of people.

We found the Exodus 16 to be excellent – as we’d expected. It towed politely, hardly registering its presence either on the highway or along corrugated and rough bush tracks, and I just wish my Pajero was as dust free at the end of the day as was the Exodus. It was comfortable, roomy and a true pleasure to experience.

I’m a fiddler – I can’t help myself – and I crawl over review campers thinking, "If I bought this I’d be modifying that or fixing this," but frankly I came away from the Exodus feeling a little bored because it was all done. Everything you might like in a camper such as this was there, finished and working. Top marks for a top camper.  

HITS AND MISSES

Pros...

  • Great comforts
  • Fully self sufficient
  • Quick set up and pack up
  • Great attention to detail

Cons…

  • Rear shower pod hard to close
  • I can’t afford one!

SPECS

Trailer

  • Tare: 1760kg
  • ATM: 2500kg
  • Suspension: Cruisemaster trailing arm independent
  • Brakes: 12in drum
  • Coupling: DO-35
  • Chassis: 75 x 50 x 5mm hot dip galvanised
  • Drawbar: 150 x 50 x 3mm hot dip galvanised
  • Body: Moulded insulated fibreglass with pop-top
  • Wheels: 6-stud 17in alloy
  • Tyres: 265/70/R17 all terrain
  • Style: Hybrid

Price as tested

$111,000 (plus on-roads)

Check out the full review in issue #119 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration

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