Kelly Campers XC-1: Review

By: John 'Bear' Willis, Photography by: Alison Kuiter


Old school bushranger, John Willis, pulls out his pistols and bails up the latest from Kelly Campers.

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-1

I’ve often found with offroad touring, that it highlights the need for simplicity and strength, rather than complexity of design. Great design is often in a seemingly simple form, and in the case of the Kelly XC-1 camper its primary concept was to cut out an array of intricate accessories and concentrate on the simple necessities, while offering a sensible list of personalised options. Our old CTA mate, Macca (Anthony McDonald — the original!) often reminds us that if any camping accessory doesn’t have more than one use, then leave it at home. It’s not a bad theory and one that our mates at Queensland’s Kelly Campers would agree with, wholeheartedly.

My first exposure to the brand was at Camper Trailer Of The Year 2017 at Bribie Island, where Dave and Todd wowed us with their ripper hybrid camper: the Glenrowan II. To say I was suitably impressed is quite an understatement. Furthermore, they’re a couple of ripper blokes who share great pride in their Australian DNA and good old Aussie ingenuity, attitude and pride. This attitude is reflected in their new offering, the Kelly XC-1 — it’s a great base on a tough trailer, built for serious bushrangers!

I laughed out loud when researching the specifications on the Kelly website. They proudly reminded us that Kelly Campers are built in Bundaberg Queensland, "the home of Bundaberg Rum, Bundaberg brewed drinks and Bundaberg Sugar," and my imagination immediately swept to memories of the cane fields, the smell of the distilleries and the echoes of GANGgajang’s Sounds Of Then (This is Australia). In fact, I just put this Aussie classic on the Tube and moved to the humid balcony to write! (Interestingly, the YouTube clip was closely followed by Yothu Yindi’s, Treaty. Have I set the Kelly Campers scene for you yet?)

The Kelly XC-1 is built by "Australian tradesmen with Australian products in partnership with Australian and local companies, providing Australian jobs and invigorating the local economy." The XC-1 is a sturdy, no-frills camper that will undoubtedly serve you well for a lifetime of extended outback sojourns. But for that, you must start with a strong base.

XC-1 FROM THE BOTTOM UP

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-8

What better way to start than with Vehicle Components 2200kg-rated Cruisemaster XT independent trailing arm suspension, with twin Shockmaster shocks and coil springs (can be optioned with air) either side, including toe-in and camber adjustment. This is a time proven premium suspension system that simply won’t let you down and you can be sure of braking efficiency with 12in electric brakes. The standard wheels are black 16in Sunraysia wheels with 285x75 R16 all-terrain tyres, however, our demonstration model had optional Globe alloys. Kelly will match the track width, wheels and stud patterns to suit most 4WDs, on request.

Kelly keeps the tare weight down low by utilising an aluminium body on the rugged steel chassis. The actual tare weight is a low 820kg yet the ATM is 1750, which combined with the 2200kg suspension, allows terrific loading capacity. This loading capacity on top of a tough, offroad trailer, is the very heart of the XC-1. Kelly recognises that we tend to carry plenty of gear on extended excursions and there’s plenty of options available on the camper to suit all-comers, including motorcycle and push bike racks, boat loaders, roof-top tents, accommodation and containerised storage systems.

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-9

The weights and measures all stack up beautifully, but so too does the ground clearance. This trailer will drive over anywhere your 4WD can take it. Its setup is very clean and neat underneath, with no exposed wiring or plumbing to catch on passing branches. Even the water tank is enclosed within the tub and not hung under the trailer. Its neat dimensions and height give it an excellent recovery angle, and the lowest drag point at the back of the trailer, is the strong rear bumper and hitch receptacle where you mount a stabiliser leg when stationary. It also doubles as an engineered recovery point and will accept a bike rack or similar option.

The drawbar weight is only 80kg, so in reality, the XC-1 is suitable for many smaller and mid-range 4WDs, and even commuter vehicles. The ball weight will not vary greatly with the internal 84L polywater tank and 110Ah AGM battery, that are centrally mounted within the main body over the axle — provided you pack sensibly.

FROM THE FRONT

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-2

Out front, our demonstration unit was fitted with an ARK 3.5 tonne off-road, coupled with the handbrake that has now been replaced by Cruisemaster DO35 (formerly Vehicle Components). There is also an ARK heavy duty jockey wheel, Anderson plug and a strong mesh stoneguard. You can remove the optional stoneguard with a couple of cotter pins should you find yourself in a bit of a jack knifing predicament and need some extra turning angle.

In behind is a 4.5kg gas bottle which can easily be upgraded to a 9kg unit, or two, if you really want the option. There is quite some distance between this and the main body of the camper, where Kelly often fits checkerplate alloy as a mount for all sorts of additional toy storage. It’s also possible to bolt on a toolbox and jerry can holder. There is an extra Anderson plug on the front of the main body for accessory charging from optional solar inputs, or similar.

THE TUB

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-5

The alloy camper body itself is a real surprise. You just won’t believe how much storage you can get into a square box! Furthermore, it is very well manufactured with professional folding and high quality hinges, compression locks, automotive seals and accessories that will really last the distance and keep the dust and grime out. It will also retain its great looks with powder-coated surfaces all over.

Naturally, most of the living area is on the kerb side of the trailer. Up front is a large, heavy-duty fridge slide, that will take up to a 96L Waeco unit, however, we had a 75L dual zone EvaKool in our demonstration unit. The cavity comes equipped with another Anderson plug for powering the fridge, plus another input for external charging. Note: there is no charger nor 240V facility fitted as standard, but rather offered as options.

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-6

There’s a nice big pantry cavity and folding stainless work bench in the middle of the trailer. It really is considerable in size and will probably need some customised plastic container storage to maximise the efficiency. It has its own lighting, and houses the circuit breaker fuses for the trailers, electronic circuits, a REDARC DC/DC and solar charger, dual cigarette lighters, water level indicator and USB outlets to power life’s necessities.

The rear compartment has a very simple but very nice pull-out stainless steel kitchen with plumbed cold water to a removable plastic tub/sink. There’s a big storage cupboard, work space on top and a flip bench where you would mostly place a portable stove. The Kelly boys brought a Weber Q for this demo, but again, it’s an option left up to the individual. There is room for a fixed cooktop to be fitted to the top of the kitchen unit and quick connect fittings for the water and gas connections.

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-7

Overhead, Kelly fitted an optional Supa-Peg, 270 degree folding awning that easily pops up to height and provides a great amount of shady protection. This is a premium quality Aussie designed awning with real strength in the structure, plus quality canvas to last the distance. Walls are also available, but I doubt you would use them too often.

To the rear and driver’s side, we find large doors leading to the immense storage facility offered by the XC-1. These cavernous cavities are big enough for inflatable boats, outboard motors plus all of your accessories, clothes and camping equipment. There’s a false floor over the water tank and battery compartments, and even more storage under the carpeted floors. You can tailor the storage to suit your own means with tubs, drawers and containers.

THE ROOF

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-4

This compact camper is only 1530mm to the top of the alloy checkerplate roof, allowing a terrific loading height for your choice of roof-top tent, pop-up bed, swag storage, or maybe a boat or kayak rack. The edges of the camper are raised as gutters to keep any rain away from the living areas and hatches. The roof racks are fully welded and well supported with a terrific load rating of 300kg. That is over triple the maximum load offered by many big brand and expensive alternatives.

The tested unit was fitted with an Alu-Cab pivoting roof-top tent with its solid aluminium shell. To be honest, it would be OK for one decent-sized bloke, but otherwise I hope you really like cuddling your sleeping partner. The quality is there but the price is high. I would personally prefer a roof-top tent such as the Crazy Dog modular Aussie-made unit that Kelly now fits to its new demonstrator, or perhaps a James Baroud option.

THE WRAP UP

Kelly -Campers -XC-1-3

Travelling patriots will see the value in the Kelly XC-1 camper. It is certainly built to last the distance with premium manufacturing and componentry. The XC-1 will have a lot to contend with in this price bracket, particularly from imported competitors. I sincerely hope there are those in the market place that will pay the higher price for the robust and adaptable XC-1 base, and build their ultimate camper from the long list of options.

Go Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!!!!

HITS AND MISSES

Pros…

  • Terrific storage
  • Easy setup and rugged offroad
  • Tough components
  • High ground clearance
  • Compact
  • Build your perfect camper from the base up

Cons…

  • Alu-Cab option
  • Premium price

SPECS

TRAILER

Tare 820kg  

ATM 1750kg

Suspension Cruisemaster XT 2200kg-rated independent trailing arm suspension with twin Shockmaster shocks (air optional)

Brakes 12in electric

Coupling ARK OXO 3.5 tonne off-road coupling (now DO35)

Chassis Full box section galvanised and powder-coated

Drawbar 100x50x4mm galvanised A-frame

Body Powder-coated aluminium (choice of colours)

Wheel/tyre 16in Globe alloys (shown) tyres with 285x75 R16 wheels AT tyres or Black Sunraysia (standard)

Style Roof-top

DIMENSIONS

Box size 1900mmWx2715mmLx720mmH

Length (hitch to tail lights) 4750mm

Tent size Alu–Cab 1300x230mm, optional 2700x1600mm Crazy Dog roof-top tent    

ACCESSORIES

Gas cylinders 1 x 4kg

Water 80L poly

Cooktop Weber Q option as displayed, four-burner Smev

Kitchen Stainless-steel kitchenette with wind shields, removable plastic sink, pressurised cold water, large cabinet, bench extension, full-length bar bench

Battery 1x 110Ah AGM

PRICE AS SHOWN

$34,510

Check out the full review in issue #124 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration

To buy your own camper, head to TradeRVs.