Mars Spirit Hammertone Forward Fold Review

By: John Willis, Photography by: John Willis


Mars Spirit Hammertone Forward Fold is a well finished and affordable offroader.

Mars Spirit Hammertone Forward Fold

Ground control to Major Tom, red alert! Those tricky folks from Mars have been at it again infesting the galaxy with the spirit of freedom gained from their terrific range of great value camper trailers. Their latest temptation is the Mars Spirit Hammertone Forward Fold, a camper that filled me with wanderlust as we travelled through the lush Victorian central highlands to touch down at ground zero beside a beautiful stretch of H2O. Warning, warning, Danger Will Robinson, once infected with the Martian Spirit you’ll be imbued to boldly going where no man has gone before. Well, nearly!

Mars Campers is experiencing a period of meteoric growth; the company has not only established a wide range of dealerships throughout the country, but has opened a showroom, assembly and warehouse facilities in both Sydney and Brisbane to support its Melbourne base.

The relationship between manufacturer and customer is essential and one which Mars Campers management value highly. They listen to feedback and constantly strive for improvement in their range of offerings. The base construction is strong, and so is the fully independent trailing arm suspension with its dual shock absorbers either side and coil springs, which are well designed to cater for the 1300kg Tare and 2000kg ATM. Fill up the 120L stainless steel water tank, add a pair of 4.5kg gas bottle plus two 20L jerry cans into the retainers provided and you will still have around 500kg of useable load weight for a fridge, accessories, tools, toys and personal needs.

The overall engineering looks very solid to me with the enamel Hammertone external finish providing a dark but attractive appeal. Personally I prefer lighter colours for increased safety on the road, but then again, I drive a red car!

The main chassis is fully galvanised 70x50x3mm RHS with a 100x50x4mm drawbar also coated in Hammertone paint. Out front is an Australian Standards approved poly-block coupling and chains rated to 2000kg along with Anderson plug, trailer lighting and hand-brake for the 10in electric drum brakes. There is a heavy duty removable 10in jockey wheel which pleases me no end – I hate swing-up models! The drawbar is quite long with good reversing clearance and also holds a strong stoneguard plus twin gas bottle and jerry can holders. It also presents a good place to keep a pair of recovery tracks. She runs on 16in alloy mags with 265/70 R16 all-terrain tyres and the spare on the back acts as a bumper stop where we also find ADR-approved LED tail and number plate lights. There are four stabiliser legs to secure the trailer when assembled.

Mars Spirit Hammertone Forward Fold 1

Customer feedback has seen Mars move from a rip-stop canvas to a heavier 15oz close-weave canvas for the 4160x1740mm main tent and detachable 2.5m full-length annexe, which I think is a good idea. A separate tropical roof pops up automatically as the tent cantilevers open and there are only a few poles inside to tension the canvas. The company is now also using internal plastic seals on its main internal stitching to help waterproof the tent.

Two people can lift the forward-fold floor, but it is heavy, even with the assisting gas struts; It’s more sensible to use the 750kg manual winch to hoist it up and over to reveal the large tent over the main chassis. You can be set up for an overnighter in a matter of minutes, but if you want to put up the 4160x2500mm annexe with its detachable walls and floor it takes considerably longer, as with others I’ve seen.There are plenty of windows in the canvas walls and they all have both inner and outer awnings, quality zips and fine mesh insect screens. I really quite like the way Mars (and others) are using adjustable poles on their external awning frames leaving you with no guy ropes to trip over! Simple but practical, that’s how camping should be.

Hardfloor campers hold broad appeal. They are generally easy to assemble and keep you above the ground on solid flooring. When assembled, the Mars Spirit reveals a large queen-size bed with a high density foam mattress that is easily accessed with a folding step. The bedding area has a screen divider for privacy. It’s not quite insect-proof but could be with some inventive use of Velcro or similar.

There is a U-shaped convertible sofa in the main trailer tub and when combined with a drop-down table it can become a queen bed. The seats have a tonne of storage under the cushions. This is an inviting and civilised dining area, a place to work, a great spot for a game of cards, board game or just the spot for the kids to play their mind-numbing electronic games. Access into the tub is via a fold-out stairwell and whilst our demonstration unit had lift out carpeted floors, all new models will have a more appropriate hard-wearing vinyl.

Mars Spirit Hammertone Forward Fold 3

ON POINT

Some competitors in this end of the market fit questionable locks, fitting and seals and have sharp steel edges exposed that leave plenty to be desired. Not our Martians! I was very pleased to find the premium fittings we expect from quality campers, but Mars has also spent a considerable amount of time and effort developing flush-fitting doors. These doors present beautifully and are less susceptible to damage in offroad scenarios such as tight forest tracks. Various compartments including a toolbox up front house an array of vital accessories like the lockable water filler, 100Ah AGM deep cycle battery, isolator switch, full house switch panel and battery indicator.

The kitchen area is really inviting. The main unit slides out of the rear of the trailer very easily. It is a combination of folded steel and a stainless top. The sink has pressurised cold water and a drain board, as your cooking is well catered with an Australian Standard installed and certified three-burner gas stove. I love the way you can open the entire side of the canvas tent above the kitchen area. It’s not a new idea but it really helps provide full flow for the living spaces as well as easy serving to the internal table and seats. I personally call it a "Do-nut van" servery curtain! More large compartments to the left of the stairs house the pantry/storage and a pull-out fridge slide, although the fridge is optional. There are plenty of 12V sockets, USB ports and internal LED lighting.

It is nice to see Mars backing its product with a five-year structural warranty giving buyer’s confidence in the products. I genuinely believe the Mars Spirit to be exceptional value for money, especially considering the heavy 15oz canvas that will really make a difference when the pea soup hits the fan. It has a realistic towing weight with good load capacity and can even be top loaded with the push bikes, canoes, kayaks and other toys to enhance your touring even further.

The 120L water tank will keep the family clean and refreshed for a good holiday period and whilst the electrical system is quite basic it is really only running the low drawing LED lights, 12V outlets and water pump so the 100Ah battery should last quite well. It can be topped up with an optional solar panel or simply via connection to the vehicle through the Anderson plug.

Mars Spirit Hammertone Forward Fold 2

THE VERDICT

I have certainly been infected by the Mars Spirit of adventure and I am sure that this model will find huge success in the market due to its quality, appeal, facilities and price. The whole unit is currently being offered at a low $15,499 (excluding fridge) which is well within the reach of many Aussie families today.

We enjoyed a terrific day out with the infectious Martian Spirit. We had a barbecue, went fishing, splashed through mud, crashed over tree stumps, challenged a few hills, had a few beers, enjoyed great company and generally did all of the things that offroad dreams are made of.