Aussies are known for our ingenuity. From wireless internet to pacemakers, Google Maps to the electric drill, we sure are a clever bunch. It should come as no surprise then that when you combine that Aussie ingenuity with one of Australia’s big names in manufacturing, you’re going to get something a cut above the rest. We recently had the opportunity to take Cub Campers’ forward fold Frontier deep into the Great Dividing Range to see if Cub still has what it takes to compete with the onslaught of imported campers.
After over 50 years in the manufacturing game, and inventing some of the most popular styles of campers on the market, does Cub still have that ingenuity they’ve earnt a reputation for over the decades? And are their campers still good value for money when there’s so many cheaper options vying for your hard-earned dollars? That’s what we’re here to find out.
14 hours on the road, snaking our way along the western edge of the Great Dividing Range with the spotlights pointing firmly at the tip of Australia. The dogs in the passenger seat, and the family flying into Cairns the next night to join us. There are no motels in this part of the country, no beachside campsites, and even less amenities. A gravel truck stop on the side of the road somewhere north of Charleville would be our home for the night. It was our first experience camping out of the Frontier, and it’s something that has stuck with us ever since. 60 seconds after turning the ignition off we were in bed, the rain pelting on the canvas outside while we climbed into a dry bed preparing for another big day tomorrow.
There’s no magical reason why the Frontier can set up so fast, but the results might as well be magic. A typical forward fold camper will have a dozen individual adjustments before you can call it a night. Three hoops to be adjusted into place, and up to eight spreader poles all required to keep their shape. Inside they have the same storage room as the Cub. They look the same as the Cub from the outside. And the creature comforts are comparable at best. So why does the Cub take 60 seconds to do something the others need 10 times that amount to do?
Like most things, the devil is in the details. Cub has painstakingly designed every facet of the Frontier with a speedy setup in mind. Forget the stabiliser legs, they don’t need to be wound down if you’re still attached to the towball. Flip six over centre latches. Crank on the silent winch for around 30 seconds. Gently push a gas strut assisted hoop up, one hand will do. And you’re done. Two beds ready to go, a large seating area out of the weather, standing room to get changed, reading lights, charge points for your accessories, and a Bluetooth radio for the dulcet tones of Barry Manilow to soothe you to sleep. From start to finish you can be done in less time than it takes to get a swag out of its bag.
The kitchen will add another minute or two. As will all the window awnings, although clever spring steel poles cut the time of those in half as well. Even going to the extent of setting up the cleverly designed easy zip-on awning will still see your full camp setup done in 10–15 minutes solo.
We’d love to talk more about the setup, but that’s honestly all there is to it. If you’re after a forward fold and a quick setup is important to you, you’ve found your camper.
Off the Beaten Path
Campsite performance is always fantastic to see, but it’s not the only measuring stick we use. After all, a cabin or caravan will always set up faster and larger than a camper trailer. When you get past the black stump with the Frontier (or at least into low-range) there are a few features that go fantastically in its favour, and a couple against.
First of all, it’s light. Not as light as a Patriot, but it also offers a far more elaborate camp setup than a Patriot. At 1270kg tare weight it’s roughly 25% lighter than most of its forward fold competitors. That low weight means winding our way through tight switchbacks was confidence inspiring. The tail never wagging the dog pushing us around downhill and requiring very little throttle input to get it moving uphill. It also allows the Frontier to travel over soft terrain with minimal concern it’ll dig into the sand or mud and ruin your holiday. It sports the classic Cub independent suspension with twin shocks on either side. Hardly groundbreaking technology but it’s tried, tested, and constantly performs well in all terrains.
That suspension helps balance the chassis perfectly too. As a general rule the higher percentage of the camper’s weight that sits on the tow ball, the smoother it’ll tow. Roughly 10% is the goal. Too much weight on the tow-ball can negatively affect the tow-tug though. It’s a delicate balance, and something the Frontier’s low weight helps with. The Frontier manages to beat that figure with nearly 12% of the camper’s weight on the towball, but a figure of just 149kg. That’s significantly less than the 200kg some of its competitors would knock off your payload. That directly translates to an easier time towing, on and off-road.
It’s not all sunshine and roses though. Like all forward folds, the Frontier is wide. Nearly 2m wide. That’s going to put it dead in line with most tow-tugs mirrors, so extended towing mirrors are a must. You’ll also need to watch both mirrors as you duck and weave through tight trees. Likewise, the overhang isn’t anything unusual, but the addition of the storage boxes and rear mounted spare will mean you’ll be paying extra attention of the back end as you swing through turns. Don’t take these as slights against the Frontier; all forward fold campers will have you watching the mirrors on tight tracks.
Bang for Your Buck
While the Frontier is a delight to tow, and even better to setup, when you finally put your feet up at camp is when forward folds really come into their own. The Frontier has a few features and design elements that make it that little bit nicer than the competition, here.
Starting from the outside, the unique easy-up awning is one of the simplest and lightest on the market. It means you’re far more likely to actually set it up and spend more time outside and less time sitting inside. The kitchen is quick to set up and extensive in both space and features. Sliding the stainless-steel kitchen out into place reveals a full suite of Dometic appliances, a three-burner gas cooker quickly connects to the twin 4kg gas bottles up front, while the mixer sink is plumbed into hot and cold running water when you tick the Truma hot water box. From the showroom floor you’ll have 100L of water, with an additional 80L available as an option.
Moving up through the sideways swinging door you’ve got the typical dinette/second bed combo. Unlike its imported competitors, the Frontier’s dinette table is as solid as a rock. Bolted to the floor, it telescopes into place with the push of a button, then with a simple lever can be swung around into any orientation you desire. If you’ve ever fought with the cheap tables some campers run, you’d know why this feature is so well received.
The entire tent is 100% Aussie made Wax Convertors canvas, with mum and dad’s pillow-top bed hiding behind a privacy screen. Windows throughout have internal clear plastic weather shields for when the weather turns bad, and midge-proof fly screens for when the weathers good.
On the electrical front the fit out is classic Cub. A 100Ah lithium battery comes standard, with a second available as an upgrade. A combination of Projecta chargers handle both 12 and 240v standard as well as handle solar input. LED lighting and 12v power outlets are available throughout, although you’ll need to option up an inverter if you want 240V power on the road.
How Does it Stack Up
The Frontier is right at home when you’re a three day’s drive from the nearest street sign. But back on the showroom floor it sits in a strange place in the market. At around the $45,000 mark it’s nearly double the price of a comparatively spec’d imported forward fold camper. It’s also nearly half the price of most Aussie-manufactured campers that do the same job. It’s in a class of its own, and that’s either a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it.
If bottom dollar is your deciding factor, then it’d be hard to look past the imported campers at an Aussie one with a similar spec sheet for twice the price. Sure, in getting the imported camper you’ll be getting significantly worse resale value when you decide to sell. You’ll also cost yourself countless hours fumbling with less refined setups. Have a measurably worse time towing on and off-road, and you’ll forgo the extensive real-world R&D that Cub have put into ensuring their campers just flat-out work. But if budget is your key factor those are features you can live without.
Likewise on the other end of the scale, Cub’s local competitors offer a more refined product. Fancier touch points, unique designs. More envious campers eyeing off your setup as you roll into camp. But expect to pay twice the amount.
So, who does the Cub range, and specifically the Frontier suit? Put simply, anyone who needs a camper to do the job, not look flash, and isn’t afraid to spend more to get more. The Frontier will faithfully follow you across the country without fuss. It’ll set up quick and easy when you need it. It will expand its footprint out in bad weather, and make camping so easy you won’t hesitate to throw it on for a Friday night run to the local campground. You don’t even need to swap the hitch out.
If you can justify the extra payments or afford to look long term at the total life cost rather than the upfront purchase, the Frontier is about as sensible choice as you can make.
SPECS (As tested)
Tare - 1270kg
ATM - 1900kg
Suspension – Independent with twin shocks
Brakes – 12in Electric Drum Brakes
Coupling – Al-Ko Off-road Ball Coupling
Chassis/drawbar – Powdercoated Galvanised Steel
Body – Steel and aluminium baked enamel
Wheels/Tyres – 17in alloy wheels – 265/65R17 All Terrains
Style – Forward Fold
Length 5610mm (Coupling to taillights)
Height 1600mm (Closed)
Gas holder 2 x 4kg
Water 100 Litre Poly
Cooktop Three Burner Dometic
Battery 100Ah Lithium Battery + Solar input
Quickest setup on the market
Easy to tow
Fit for intended purpose: 10
Self sufficiency: 7
Quality of finish: 7
Build quality: 9
Ease of use: 9
Value for money: 8