The NockAbout Camper: Review

By: John 'Bear' Willis, Photography by: Alison Kuiter


Knock, knock! Who’s there? NockAbout! NockAbout who? NockAbout the bush without taking out a second mortgage.

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I get it! I get the advantages of minimalistic travel. I get the joy of lighting a fire and cooking in the coals. I get that the dancing flames and the company of friends provides greater entertainment than any TV screen. I get that the sounds of the bush are sweeter than any song, symphony, serenade or stomp. I get the fact that our lives are so often full of clutter that it’s really hard to break away and get back to basics.

This is exactly the thought pattern underlying the little NockAbout camper.

A BRIEF HISTORY

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NockAbout have produced a lightweight "chuck wagon" with a terrific rooftop tent. It’s a bit of a blank canvas, but one with a solid trailer and chassis, a tonne of storage for life’s necessities (however simple or extravagant) and is easy to assemble yet homely accommodation for a couple enjoying the pleasures of travelling and camping.

Dal McMahon’s NockAbout started life in a similar fashion to so many camper trailers. He saw what was on the market and decided to build his own, enlisting a group of mates to help with the construction, who, incidently, are all still involved in knocking out the production version.

This NockAbout is one tough little nugget that you’ll want by your side when the going gets tough. At only 500kg dry weight, it’s light on its feet and very nimble for tight bush tracks, campsites or maybe even just manhandling into that storage position in the yard at home.

Its weight and size makes the trailer very appealing to those with smaller 4X4s or possibly even commuter vehicles. Yet this little swaggie won’t like staying home for too long having wanderlust for its next on, or offroad adventure.

HITTING THE TRACKS

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We took the Nock About out of its home in Slacks Creek, Brisbane, and ran up and down some mountain tracks around Mount Cotton before progressing to our campsite at Mount Tambourine.

On first impression I expected the trailer to be fitted with a simple leaf spring suspension but oh how wrong I was! Nock About have built a fully galvanised box section chassis that is supported by a locally manufactured independent trailing arm suspension of quite some substance, complete with "Firestone" air bags.

It ran beautifully on the black top but it was when we left the bitumen that it really showed its worth, tracking easily over lumps, bumps and corrugations with good ground clearance and a terrific relief angle. It kept its feet firmly on the ground even over some fairly lumpy terrain. The demonstration unit was Dal’s own trailer which has 14" black Sunrasia wheels with conventional tyres and tamed by 10" electric brakes. Most production models opt up to 16" 5-stud or 6-stud wheels to suit the customer’s own choice and Nock About will match the towing vehicle. There’s heaps of wheel arch clearance for virtually any wheel and offset.

The main 100 x 50 x 3 mm galvanised chassis rails are folded to form the A-frame drawbar providing a very strong construction technique eliminating butt welds and gussets at the drawbar/chassis intersection. The chassis can be easily altered should the customer need to alter the balance if they intend adding heavy weights to the open section up front.

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The camper’s minimal overall weight is a real bonus for tough offroad use; however you can expect the loaded weight to grow considerably due to a huge amount of storage in the main tub, which are accessed by twin rear doors that are fully-sealed with compression locks and automotive rubber dust trims.

Overall the ATM is 1250 KG offering plenty of load capability with a light 50kg ball weight. Out front is an Anderson plug that connects to a CTEK charger allowing optional solar panels to be connected to power the twin 50AMP deep cycle batteries. Dal’s own camper had a Hyland 50mm offroad-style ball coupling out front, however, he now offers a choice of DO35 or ARK alternatives, as well as 50mm fixed ball, as standard.

Yes, they look a little bit like a little green box on wheels. However, as I said before, they really are a ripper little base package that can be optioned-up to suit your lifestyle.

This one had a loading basket up top to carry a few extras, and Max Trax mounts on the face, but Dal emphasised that he’ll customise to taste. There is a large unused section on the drawbar in front of the main tub that can be utilised for motor bike, outboard or generator racks; or any configuration of tool box, gas or fuel storage — or maybe even a compressor mount for double purposing as a tradie’s trailer. Most campers have come to expect a kitchen and pantry and Dal recommends the Drifta range as an option either on the drawbar or sliding out of the tub.

QUALITY CANVAS

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Dal’s expertise is in canvas, and this tent is a beaut. Assembly of the entire camper for an overnighter only takes a matter of a few minutes. There’s a front protection shield covering the forward hinge joint that’s easily unclipped. Only when it’s removed do you realise that the shield has folding legs doubling as the camp table. The powder coated aluminium lid opens through 180 degrees with the aid of a pair of premium gas struts. It comes to rest on a checker plate step on the front which can be converted into a storage locker, if desired.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the size of the tent area that pops up and tensions easily with three main cantilevered bows. There’s a simple frame with a few poles either end for the wing awnings, extending the undercover area. Inside, is a very large foam mattress, or, if you prefer, a 100mm innerspring with comfort cover is available as an option.

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Overhead are two rows of LED strip lighting and there are plenty of internal and external awnings, midge-proof flyscreens and very high quality No 10 BX zips. The tent is made from premium Dynaproofed Billabong Wax Converters canvas – would you expect anything else from a tent maker’s own camper?

NockAbout provide a two-metre wide full-length awning as standard, complete with zippered edges should you wish to opt up to further walls. They also make a shade screen privacy cover for the end of the trailer where you step up into the tent over the drawbar. Dal said, "The tent is where we’re from — it’s where we live, so it’s our priority!"

I also liked the fact that its elevation will assist in catching breezes on those balmy nights in the tropics, while at the same time keep all of those biting insects and animals away from the accommodation. A tropical roof is another option.

EYE-CATCHING EXTERIOR

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I have to admit that while I’m not usually a "green" person, I really liked the candy colour chosen for this unit. However NockAbout tell me that every time they do one in camouflage colours sales rocket! The main tub is constructed of zinc anneal steel that is etch and powder coated. The colour options include the full Dulux range.

Externally the tub has a fold-out table on the driver’s side, recessed LED lighting and grab handles in all the right places. Internally the tub is lined on the floor and houses the twin small batteries plus a control panel for the air bags, voltage indicator, aux power outlets and a large sliding storage box, this one was timber but all future models will be aluminium. The underside has two wind-down stabilisers and Dal will include an engineered recovery point/ tow bar receiver on all new models.  He has also fitted a reverse monitor on his trailer and it’s actually a very smart addition.

In its simplest "no frills" form, the NockAbout has no water, gas or kitchen. All are available as options, however, as there are many among us happy to cook on portable stoves and open fires, cart water in containers and wash dishes in a bucket. After all, most people progressing from tents to a camper will have all of this equipment already.

It reminds me of my brother and sister-in-law who started in the very same manner — with a basic camper that gave them loading space for kayaks etc, a tent to sleep in securely, and plenty of storage for their existing camping gear. Their fridge lives in the back of the towing vehicle, which reduces their power requirements dramatically. They only wanted the basics, preferring the simplicities of life to better teach their 10-year-old boy the ‘how to’ of camping.

I firmly believe there’s some good logic in this approach. It won’t suit all, but hey! — you never please everyone and niche products often gain excellent acceptance and market share.

THE WRAP UP

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Yep, I get it!  Dal and his lovely wife, Sue, plus a host of their skilled friends produce Brisbane’s own NockAbout Campers as a sideline to their core business. Dal’s Canvas has been going for some 27 years. These are really friendly people offering a nifty unit that has a definite place in the huge overall market. Their camper has some real purpose with its tough demeanor, huge storage, comfortable tent, long list of options and light weight advantages. This "box on wheels" contains more surprises than a Trojan horse!

HITS AND MISSES

Pros…

  • Lightweight
  • Tent
  • Simplicity
  • Chassis and suspension

Cons…

  • It’s all optional!
  • Checker plate alloy table/stone screen combo

SPECS

Trailer

  • Tare 500kg
  • ATM 1250kg
  • Suspension Independent trailing arm with air bags and shockers
  • Brakes 10" electric
  • Coupling Hyland on demo replaced by ARK or DO35 (optional) 50mm ball std
  • Chassis Fully welded box section galvanised
  • Drawbar 100 x 50 x 3 mm galvanised chassis rails folded to form the A-frame drawbar
  • Body Main tub powder coated zinc anneal, top aluminium.
  • Wheel/tyre 14" Sunrasia radial on demo – optional to suit towing vehicle
  • Style Black Sunrasia

Price as shown

From $12,990.00

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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