As the packed dirt gave way to soft red sand punctuated by rocky knolls and washouts, we exchanged a look of surprise. The landscape had morphed into levels of ‘outback’ I hadn’t expected of the Great Western Plains, and as we ventured ever deeper into the vast, untamed Pilliga Forest – or as the locals call it, ‘the Scrub’ – our excitement levels began to rise.
I shifted the Isuzu MU-X into 4WD and reminded myself to observe the behaviour of the camper trailer at the rear; see, I could easily have forgotten it was there. With its offroad componentry, this hardfloor from Mars Campers, the Extremo Deluxe, is made for these roads. It offers an affordable escape for the camper trailer enthusiast to explore beyond the beaten track.
And what better place to test it than in the Pilliga? This pristine wilderness carpets a significant chunk of the plains. The gently undulating terrain and thick, semi-arid scrub is almost dizzying, and the arterial roads of red earth seem to surge on forever.
As always, it felt amazing to be so totally enveloped in the cosy arms of Mother Nature, and as we pushed on I felt my urban woes slip into the cloud of bulldust behind us.
OFFROAD AND ON TRACK
I must confess, when a camper with a sub $20k price tag claims to be ‘offroad’, I am cautiously optimistic. But my experience with the Extremo Deluxe in the Pilliga tells me it can be so.
This camper is equipped with all the running gear you’d expect to see on an offroader. The strong hot-dipped galvanised drawbar and chassis is finished in Hammertone paint and checkerplate detailing. Underneath, Mars’ own independent suspension with coil springs, KYB gas shocks and 10in electric brakes combined with 15in alloy wheels create a capable rig to get you off the beaten track.
Uneven ground is further tackled by a poly-block offroad coupling rated to two tonnes, while a mesh stoneguard protects the front of the camper and your towing vehicle from rogue stones.
There was some dust ingress on our trip, however, with that fine red Pilliga powder sneaking into the camper’s compartments. The offroad score sheet would therefore be improved with tighter dust seals all round, which is something Mars says it’s working on.
SETTING UP CAMP
At camp, we were looking forward to testing out the camper’s electric opening system. We hooked the hardfloor to the electric winch at the drawbar, unclipped it and watched as, with the push of a button, it slowly but surely unfurled until it was parallel with the ground.
The system works well and is equipped with gas struts if you need to open and close the camper manually. We tested it out when we were packing up and got it done, but it did require considerable exertion from the two of us. Your best bet is not to drain the battery before you pack it away.
Erecting the remainder of the camper is straightforward, with only three internal spreader bars to tighten on each side and no additional interior poles. The awning will add another 10 minutes or so to set up, while the awning walls, floor and skirt – which come with the camper as standard – will take 10 minutes more. It should take you 20-25 minutes to get the camper to family-friendly mode from go to whoa.
BILLION STAR ACCOMMODATION
The canvas is 14oz rip stop and after a night of torrential rain and thunderstorms on the Great Western Plains, it protected us against the elements valiantly. There’s a wonderfully large skylight/moonlight above the bed, which framed the region’s famously dazzling night sky perfectly as I drifted off to sleep in the calm before the storm.
To that end, the camper comes with a queen-sized foam mattress as standard but buyers can upgrade to an innerspring should their orthopedic needs demand it. I found it comfy and slept like a baby, so am happy to say this camper’s predominantly younger market will find the foam mattress suitable.
Inside, there are LED lights, 12V sockets and USB outlets in all the right places, plus an under-bed storage drawer for clothing and other items. Power comes from a 100Ah battery which is charged from the towing vehicle in transit via an Anderson plug. For 240V connectivity you’ll need to option up – pretty much mandatory in order to get the best from your camper when visiting caravan parks and other powered sites. Or for a cheaper alternative, run an extension cord from the power source to use appliances in the kitchen.
Outside, the stainless steel kitchen slide includes a plumbed sink fed by an electric pump from the 70L stainless steel water tank, which has a level gauge so you know what you’re working with. Additional water can be stored in two jerry cans, which there is dedicated room to house on the drawbar.
The plumbed four-burner gas stove makes catering for your little crowd a breeze, while the breeze itself is kept at bay by generous wind protection panels on three sides. The bench extension means you’ve got plenty of space to prepare food while cooking, while under-bench drawers provide a home for cutlery and other kitchen items.
You’ll need to BYO fridge with this camper, a factor that certainly helps to keep the rig’s cost down. This makes sense in an entry-level trailer, because a decent chunk of buyers are likely to be upgrading from a tent and likely already have a fridge they run from their car. They can install this in the fridge slide toolbox, which sits alongside the kitchen drawer.
One thing the camper doesn’t have is pantry storage, but this can be overcome using large plastic storage tubs on wheels (available cheap from Kmart), which can be stowed away in the car and brought out to sit beneath the kitchen bench at camp. An additional storage compartment is available on the other side of the camper in the toolbox, opposite the fridge slide. All compartments are lockable, but you’ll need to keep track of three keys because unfortunately they aren’t keyed alike.
THE WRAP UP
Coming in at $19,990, the Mars Extremo Deluxe represents value for money that’s hard to beat for an offroad hardfloor camper trailer.
It provides an excellent, user-friendly alternative to the more complex softfloor campers that dominate this sub-$20k category, particularly with the inclusion of the electric winch to aid set up. With a full set of awning walls and floor as standard, this camper will be perfectly suited to young couples and families ready to take their camping – and their offroad adventuring – to the next level.
It mightn’t get you all the way to Mars, but offroad locations like the picturesque Pilliga are very much on the map with this camper trailer in tow.
HITS AND MISSES
- Easy to use electric opening hard floor
- Independent suspension
- Dust seals could be more effective
- Hardfloor heavy in manual mode
- No pantry storage
- Tare 1040kg
- ATM 1500kg
- Suspension Independent coil spring
- Brakes 10in electric
- Coupling Poly block offroad
- Chassis Hot dipped galvanised
- Drawbar 100x50x3mm
- Body 2mm galvanised with Hammertone paint
- Wheel/tyre 15in alloy, 235/75 R15
- Style Auto-opening hard floor
PRICE AS SHOWN