‘4WD vehicles only’ counsels the sign above the steep gradient to Blowhole Beach in Deep Creek Conservation Park, South Australia. I don’t know what’s most fun — the drive down, leaning into your seatbelt, eyes intent on the track but conscious of the deep blue ocean beyond the grass trees; or the drive back up, with salt in your hair, muscle memory of surf rippling under your skin, and a sandy big toe gripping the accelerator.
In four-wheel drive, first gear selected, and the tyres lowered to 28psi, we cruised up in our Mitsubishi Challenger, as did Bronte and Tamara from Cameron Campers in their LandCruiser ute topped with a customised Compact Slide-on. For me, the location drilled home the allure of a slide-on. It’s just like everyday driving; you don’t have to be aware of a separate entity behind you, nor invert your brain’s hardwiring to reverse, nor clear boxes of junk out of your second garage space.
At 900mm tall, Cameron Campers’ Compact slide-on sits the same height as most ute cabs and protrudes no wider than your side mirrors. Wind drag will be minimal to none and you’ll be able to take it into low carparks and into your garage.
As you’ll see in images, the Compact on review overhangs the tray at the rear and is complemented by custom under-tray work. Neither of these features are standard. As a general rule, the storage box at the front is for single and space cabs, so most vehicles won’t end up being any longer than normal either.
The 821L within the optional storage box is accessed via lockable doors each side which butterfly upwards. A tunnel boot extends across the top; a divider cuts the larger bottom level in half. The passenger side is ideal for a chest fridge (riding on an optional slide or drop-down) to complement the 30L drawer fridge in the Compact itself.
You can have this box bolted to your tray or attached to the Compact so that it’s removable. To ‘unhitch’ the camper, you undo the four ratchet straps with seat-belt webbing that secure it during transit, then secure heavy-duty jacking legs on the four corners and raise them with a cordless drill. The ability to drive on out spares you from packing up camp when adventuring for the day and frees up your tray for domestic duties.
The legs weigh 13 kilograms each and where they travel depends on your specific set-up. On the model reviewed, they were stored in a custom shelf that slid out from under the tray. Other possible locations include under the ute chassis if there is available room, in the drawer under the bed and under the road cover. Whether you bring them depends on your trip plans.
The Compact weighs 410kg Tare including the front storage box, or 345kg without. Given many tray-back utes have a payload of 800 to 900kg, you may not need to dip into the unnerving and costly waters of a GVM upgrade.
That light weight is courtesy of the aluminium construction. As Bronte explained, the Compact is designed on CAD; the program then talks to a laser cutter which performs upon the aluminium. This cut aluminium is then precisely computer folded, which adds strength. Finally, the structure is glued and riveted together. Primer and powdercoat protect the exterior.
The team say the Compact can be made to suit any type of tray-back ute and that the brand follows a precise process to ensure the camper is safely securable to the utility in every case.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Almost all storage space can be accessed with the side-fold soft-floor slide-on open or closed. The seals are not attached to the doors but are positioned around the rims of the slightly recessed storage spaces that these doors reveal. At the bottom of these recesses there are small holes to allow dust to escape. Bottom line, there won’t be any dust in your camper when you rock up at camp.
On the passenger side, a compartment opens to reveal a 100Ah AGM battery, with a 10A Projecta 12V seven-stage DC to DC charger that charges as your car racks up kilometres or as sun hits the optional solar panel that clips into the camper’s roof and can be placed remotely on an extension cable. A Narva distribution box with fuses is easily accessible, and Bronte says their electrical guy is fanatical — so it’s brass to brass, no earthing to the Compact body. An inverter is optional.
The next door along reveals a long storage slide, three-quarters of the camper’s width. This can be used for large items or divided with baskets. The final door on this side reveals a narrow strip of storage that runs to the tap at the rear.
The tailgate lid lifts and holds at a diagonal to reveal the kitchen area. Along the top there’s access to the bedside storage; meaning, if you pack up and realise you’ve left something there, or on the bed, you can easily retrieve it from the outside without setting up fully. This upper shelf features one merit, two cigarette and double USB plugs.
On the larger bottom level there’s a tap fed by a 12V pump which as default supplies cold water. You slot a U-shaped metal frame into two small holes below this tap and cradle an included plastic tub sink to catch the stream; you can also attach two more to the right of this, for drying, cleaning, and so on. Above sits a water level indicator and three switches (pump, lights and spare).
To the right of the tap there’s an in-built 30L Dometic fridge, which will keep key ingredients cool. Further right are two drawers, one wide, one narrow, both easily operated with one hand.
On the far right, the kitchen slide comes out. The cooktop travels upside down and folds up and over 180 degrees into place, freeing up the flat space it has abandoned for preparation. An extension that attaches like the sink ring can be added to its end.
Our model featured a two-burner Companion with well-spaced burners and an added mild steel hot plate that slotted over the top to increase cooking space, while leaving the other burner accessible.
You can have gas plumbed or attach a bottle each time (gas can be fitted securely under the tray as an option). The cooktop was supported by a singular leg. I wondered whether a second leg would increase stability, but then a singular leg is more adaptable to uneven ground.
There is no dinette, so pick up a few quality camping chairs and a table, and you’ll be able to eat indoors or outdoors depending on conditions.
Storage is deliberately loaded to the rear and passenger sides so you can safely access it from the roadside without standing on the tar. The more sparsely populated drivers’ side is accessed through a lid that opens upwards like the tailgate.
Below an upper tier of storage, to the right of the space where the kitchen slide stores, there’s a general storage drawer. Then on the right, some narrow storage space next to the 95L poly-prop water tank, filled from a lockable filler above. This tank extends most of the tray’s width, along the line of the axle. Opposite sits the battery. Weight distribution will be very even when the tank is full, and with the main weight over the axle, the car’s tyres will remain in command.
The front panel, hidden against the storage box or cab, is bolted on and can be removed to grant easy access to the electrical set-up or tank.
SETTING UP THE TENT
No pegs or poles are required to set up the Compact in standard configuration. To commence set-up you unzip and un-velcro the slide-on cover and remove four corner pins. Then, you remove this cover, on its attached metal frame, and place it to the side.
You then unlatch a panel on the passenger side which lets you lift the staircase to the bed over and into position on its hinge. You then locate and pull a strap hand over hand, which lifts the interior pole framework into place around the staircase, opening up the tent. It’s light lifting thanks to gas struts.
You then enter and extend the poles on the far side of the tent beyond a locking pin, then extend their length until the canvas is taut. Pegging the floor down through the eyelets is not strictly necessary.
Inside still, you lift the stairs back up and onto the bed. You insert a strip of Velcro along slide tracking at the bed base, secure the floor skirt to this, and zip up the sides to enclose the interior. All told, the tent set-up takes about five to ten minutes.
The tent employs Defab supaproof 12oz canvas (15oz finished), made in Melbourne, which Cameron Campers cut and sew, and back with a five-year warranty. The double layered roof protects interior temperature and reduces condensation inside. There’s a tub floor, meaning the waterproof rip-stop comes partly up the wall, ensuring a better seal. An ‘easy floor’ option attaches an aerated layer of material below the floor to prevent mud and dirt from sticking.
The tent’s peak is high, creating a sense of space plus a sharply gabled roof for best possible water run-off. Of course, as with any canvas, it’s best to not leave it packed up when wet for more than a couple of days.
There are two or three doors in the living space (depending on customisation), then another three windows around the bed. If you option on the ventilation package, there’s an arch door in the skirting behind the stairs and a moon roof above the sleeper’s heads so that air channels in all directions.
You can leave bedding in when you pack the Compact away. An under-mattress adds an extra level of rain and dust protection to the mattress and prevents the stairs from rubbing. As you close the tent, dust has an opportunity to escape off the underside and through the inside to the open floor. You can use the stairs to get on top of the camper and pack the canvas away neatly. Removing the road cover and putting it back on again can technically be achieved by one person, but is easier with two.
AN ORIGINAL AWNING
The road cover doubles up as the awning and is traditionally placed over the kitchen. You simply add extension legs onto two corners and secure them with split pins, lift the awning into place on this, prop it up with two support legs on the distant corners, and it’s up.
The black cover weighs 670gsm, is composed of tear-stop reinforced polyester scrim and finished in gloss acrylic lacquer, and is UV stabilised and fire rated; it can stay on this framework through the whole process. The framework isn’t flat, but is vaulted/recessed, such that the cover adds extra protection from slanting rain. This shape also means that, when you’re packing up, there’s room to store items like chairs or a camping table on top of the canvas tent and stairs.
You can Velcro on, zip together and peg down walls, such as those pictured with transparent screen uppers and black vinyl bottom sections, for added privacy (these come free with the standard package at time of writing). There’s even a skirting to shut-off the space underneath the camper body, that attaches with press-studs.
When over the kitchen, the awning can be extended upon with an annexe that attaches to the tent’s side, creating a continuous sheltered space. Alternatively, the awning can be put into different positions around the camper, such as over the drivers’ side storage.
As Bronte explains, “You need options. No two campsites are the same.”
LIFE ON THE INSIDE
When you’re not in bed, you can fold the stairs out of the way to use the 4.9sqm floor space to its full potential. You could dine, play cards, heck, even play a game of Bocce in here.
The wide carpeted stairs are supported from above on both sides and do not touch the floor at the bottom. This way, you don’t have to adjust the legs, and you don’t risk damaging the floor. When you step up there’s a minor shift as they take your weight, but they are sturdy and make for a very easy climb. Optional handrails on both sides make it as easy as can be.
There’s a good amount of floorspace even with the stairs down, and you can still slide out the long storage drawer and open the one to the right on the passenger side of the camper body. Clever canvas shelves extend off the back of each step, as well as below the ceiling on both ends of the camper.
The Australian-made queen-sized mattress is inner-sprung and about five inches thick. It’s pleasantly comfortable and trumps any foam offering hands down. A separate foam piece forms the bed’s toe, so that the mattress can be packed down with the rest of the Compact.
Down both sides and at the head of the mattress there’s open space for storage of small items (this is the storage that’s accessible externally), plus access to a merit and accessory plugs. A dimmable strip of LED lighting runs across the ceiling’s highest pole.
Our review model was fitted with the optional ensuite extending off the end of the folding tent, which is built into the canvas and needn’t be set up every time (alternatively you can add a room extension here). Two U-shaped poles unclip from each other and guide the canvas into shape; the bottom one extends the floor, while the top one, supported on two loose poles, props up the ceiling.
There are waterproof walls and floor, drainage through mesh in the four floor corners, an in-built receptacle for shampoos and lotions, and mesh on the sides at the top. An included hangable circular vanity mirror and an in-built shower curtain make this space very home-like.
A portable shower (with an accompanying HWS) can be rigged up in this space if you desire. On the review model, I struggled to stand at my full 6’1” under the optional ensuite’s angled ceiling; but Cameron Campers reassured me that, because they manufacture in-house, they are able to increase the ensuite’s roof height to cater for taller individuals.
Alternatively, this optional ensuite may be used as a toilet space, or for privacy when changing clothes, applying creams or similar.
IS IT THE ONE FOR YOU?
At $25,620 standard and $30,550 as seen on review, the Cameron Campers Compact is competitively priced within the slide-on market and the camper trailer market more broadly, particularly when you consider that it is Australian made — and I can’t think of a better time to be supporting Australian industry.
The team at Cameron Campers have clearly poured original thought, camping experience and passion for design into the well-finished and well-built Compact. These innovations, such as the double-purpose awning, the tailgate kitchen and the exterior access of bedside storage, make camping life simple like it should be.
No perusal of the slide-on market would be complete without having viewed a Cameron Campers Compact in the flesh.
Tare 410kg (with front storage box); 345kg (without box)
ATM Refer to the car’s GVM
Style Side-fold soft-floor slide-on
Paint Durable primer and powdercoat exterior finish
Construction Aluminium, glued and structurally riveted
Canvas 12oz loomstate/15oz finished (508gsm) Defab canvas, manufactured and sewn in Australia
Tent floor area 4.9sqm
Set-up footprint (inc front box) 4300mm (L) x 4830 (W) [Or 6730mm with room extension)
Travel dimensions (exc front box) 1850mm (L) x 900mm (H) x 1980mm (W)
Travel dimensions (inc front box) 2500mm (L) x 900mm (H) x 1980mm (W)
Front box storage space 821L
Water 95L heavy-duty poly-prop water tank with lockable water filler, with tap and 12V pump and water level gauge
Kitchen Aluminium stainless steel slide-out with swing-over two-burner cooktop with mild steel hotplate
Fridge 30L compressor drawer fridge (Dometic on reviewed model); front box can also be equipped to suit larger second chest fridge
Toilet/shower Not included as standard but can be used in optional ensuite
Battery 1 x 100Ah AGM standard, with 10A 12V DC to DC charger, various 12V outlets, optional inverter and detachable 200W solar panel with 3 or 6m lead
Mattress Queen sized innerspring and pillow top mattress
PRICE AS STANDARD
$25,620 (no front storage box and includes fitting, subject to vehicle; two free kitchen walls valued at $450 included)
Front storage box $3995
Ensuite package $900
Ventilation package $460
Easy floor package $340
Handrail package $160
PRICE AS SEEN ON REVIEW
Address 38 O’Sullivan Beach Road, Lonsdale SA 5160
Phone 08 8186 6666