REVIEW: EXPLORER TRAY-BACK SLIDE-ON
The Explorer Tray-back slide-on cuts a fine figure as it ventures offroad.
Few camper trailer manufacturers turn their hands to slide-on campers, but for Explorer Campers, in Gosford, NSW, it seemed a natural extension to its core endeavour. The design and implementation call for the same skill sets to deliver a similar end product: a well-built excuse to get out in the bush and enjoy Australia.
The Explorer Tray-Back’s camper trailer origins are evident in the side kitchen and the surrounding canvas awning. The softfloor features a roof-mounted flip-over tent extending to the rear of the vehicle and a rooftop bedroom under canvas. Access is simple, via a sturdy extension ladder that travels inside a rear opening locker. This isn’t a daunting climb on narrow rungs but a hoist to an intermediate step, which travels with the ladder providing a broad and sturdy landing below roof level and, when exiting the bed area, an easy and secure first step.
Laser-cut 3mm marine-grade aluminium forms a monocoque structure with few welds and framing minimising the camper’s weight, and it’s available in a range of powdercoat finishes. The camper as shown weighs just 330kg, which includes a dual battery set-up among the long list optional extras. Large aluminium doors lift up for access to the passenger-side kitchen and driver-side storage.
Unzipping a protective vinyl cover provides access to the tent. The awnings over the kitchen and at the rear are pulled out and a tropical roof self-erects as the tent opens. During our review, it took 10 minutes for two people to set it all up. A small step ladder was necessary to adjust the tension in the spreader bars.
The tent is made from quality Wax Converters canvas and both awnings can be enclosed with optional walls, which were included in our review model, for a kids room or changing room at the rear and a meals area near the kitchen.
The optional rear room attaches via sail tracking to the unit’s sides and a one-piece zip beneath the rear awning extension.
The vinyl floor has a 150mm lip keeping the zips and canvas clear of splash and it’s welded rather than sewn to prevent leakage. Outward-sloping walls provide a comfortable 1900x2400mm floor.
The optional walls for the side awning include roll-up sections over mesh windows and they attach in sections for a flexible layout netting 2400x4500mm of enclosed space.
The upstairs bedroom is equipped with a standard 6in high-density foam mattress, though an innerspring is optional. The mattress sits on extruded aluminium mesh, clearing the top of the unit for excellent ventilation and creating a void to keep wires out of the way.
There are light switches immediately inside the doorway and next to the bedhead as well as a hardwired LED in the tent roof. There is also a 12V outlet at the foot of the bed, inside the door, so you can plug in a TV or another appliance for comfort at camp. Three screened windows provide lighting during the day and airflow at night and can be enclosed with clear, hook and loop fasteners and vinyl coverings during inclement weather.
Lifting the large passenger-side locker reveals a spacious kitchen. A stainless steel shelf folds down and extends to 410x1500mm, providing plenty of room for a cooktop and food preparation in addition to the small plastic sink at the left end. Our review camper came with a cooker but the standard configuration offers it as an option, saving those who already own one a few hundred dollars on the price published here.
At eye level, above a space to carry your stove, are five large plastic storage drawers for crockery, cutlery and food items. The longer single-cab version has a larger drawer set-up. Above the drawers is a long shelf for other items.
At the left end of the kitchen is a MSA Drop Slide DS40 fridge mount, capable of holding up to a 50L fridge.
A fold-down swivel-spout tap pressurised by an electric pump and plumbed to a 53L water tank delivers water to the drop-in sink.
There’s an LED light above the kitchen, under the lift-up side, but the stove’s gas bottle must be located externally. This requires the optional under-body box, which was fitted to our review model. The Tray-Back has room for two of these boxes, which can also serve as external storage. A methylated spirits stove avoids the issue altogether.
On the driver’s side there is a vast storage area and access to the electrical fit-out. In standard form, this includes a single 100Ah AGM battery, 12-blade fuse block, digital volt monitor, 10A three-stage mains charger and an Anderson plug to take current from the alternator.
All up there are six 12V outlets: one in the top bedroom, two at the rear, one next to the fridge and one next to the water tanks.
The Tray-Back’s side legs drop down and can be cranked to raise the unit clear of the vehicle for a day’s adventure in the bush or a trip to the store. Reattaching is easy, by simply backing underneath the unit and lowering it in place. It locks in place with four large over-centre latches that do up in seconds. All heavy items — batteries, water tanks, fridge — are well forward of the rear axle centreline for a well balanced unit.
I wonder whether the fiddly task of repacking the awning onto the top of the unit could be messy when the canvas is wet.
THE CAMPER TRAILER AUSTRALIA VERDICT
The Explorer Tray-Back is a well-thought-out camper, which is what I’ve come to expect from this manufacturer. It ticks all the boxes on construction and is very popular, especially with fishermen and those who dislike towing.
The Tray-Back requires a little more effort setting up compared to other slide-ons, but you’re well compensated with a lightweight yet comfortable and beautifully finished unit. To top it off, it’s Australian made and it comes with a good two-year warranty. What more could you ask for?
The Tray-Back sells from $17,900 for a dual-cab or $18,900 for the single-cab version and retails for $24,035 as shown.
> All-Australian materials and products
> Attention to detail
> Light weight
> Well designed access ladder/step
> Easy latch fasteners to tray bed
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
> Second gas bottle as standard
> Reading lights and pockets near bed head
> The opportunity to take this away on a really long trip
Adapted from Camper Trailer Australia #69, October 2013