ARE FORWARD-FOLD CAMPERS TAKING OVER?
We take the EzyTrail Stirling GT out for a weekend to see if this style of camper really is the way of the future.
If you haven’t seen a forward-folding trailer before, you’re about to see something pretty impressive. Unlike a traditional hard floor where the floor folds rearwards off the bed, a forward-folder has the bed coming up off the ready set-up dinette and it ends up sitting over the drawbar. It’s a great design and offers a ready-to-go lounge/eating area/double bed where a rear-folder would have just a bare floor. In fact, I’d have to say it’s a more efficient design than a rear-folder… and I love those things.
However forward-folding trailers are not without their drawbacks either. But we’ll get into those in a minute.
For images and the full Unsealed 4X4 experience, CLICK HERE.
The trailer we picked up was an EzyTrail Stirling GT. This is up towards the top end of what EzyTrail produces, and at first glance you sure do get a lot of bang for your buck. For 20-odd grand you get a hard floor, quick to set up trailer that has all the top-shelf inclusions such as independent coil suspension, four-burner pull-out stainless BBQ/kitchen, fridge slide, ample storage, external speakers and even a TV! If this got any closer to ‘glamping’ there’d be a complimentary spa and shiatsu thrown in.
After 1,000km or so with this trailer, we got a pretty good idea of what it’d be like to live with one of these things long-term.
First off, it towed nicely with our Prado tow mule easily able to stay at the speed limit on the freeway. However, you wouldn’t say it was overly light. At 1,600kg it’s not really suitable for anything smaller than a mid-sized 4X4; but then you do have to consider the inclusions – of which there are plenty – and the sheer beefiness of the thing. The frame is constructed from depleted-uranium-density 4mm thick hot-dip galvanised steel for starters. That’s thicker than your average 4X4 rock slider… so while it has plenty of strength and corrosion protection you have to wonder if anything would really be lost if they dropped the wall thickness down a millimetre or two. The boat rack is again made from heavy steel, and is without a doubt a perfect setup for those who get as much enjoyment from being on the water as they do on land; however it is still extra weight, and may be worth unbolting if it’s not needed.
Towing off-road we noticed that the poly-block coupling actually seemed to be doing more work than the suspension – with the limiting straps on the trailing arms having only about an inch or so of slack at ride height. EzyTrail tells us that the suspension is adjustable, though. So this may be something that can be tweaked. The twin gas shocks look the business, but for serious trips I think I’d rather swap them out for quality single shocks that are aligned a little better, but that’s me…
Getting the trailer set up for camping is a doddle. Simply hook up the front winch and wind the roof forward over the drawbar. Roughly 30 seconds later you’re ready to push up the internal hoops and click the spreader bars into place. The whole thing takes about 90 seconds. Pro tip: Wind out enough slack on the rear winch and hook it up before you unfold the camper. That way, when it comes time to fold her back up, you simply wind it closed rather than having to loop the strap over the top of the camper. We found out the hard way.
The interior is spacious, with 18m2 of floor space – which is impressive no matter how you swing it. The U-lounge is comfy and versatile – becoming a dining area, a couch or an extra double bed for the kids. There’s plenty of storage under the seats as the dual 100A/h batteries are accessed there too. One thing we noted was that the bracket for the panel support, which allows it to become a bed, was quite sharp.
A crew member actually managed to cut his shin open on it. Not a huge negative, but something to be aware of.
We like the fold-up side panel that allows the living area to be fully enclosed or to serve as a verandah. Perfect for those hot nights on the beach.
The canvas is 450gsm which should be pretty hardy, even in our conditions; although it is recommended that you season the canvas a couple of times before taking it out in the bush.
The queen-size bed is easily big enough to accommodate two adults without being claustrophobic and the bed area has a zip-close privacy screen which is a nice touch. There are storage pockets all over the place for your knick-knacks, and LED interior lights provide ample illumination after dark while drawing next to no current.
Outside the trailer there’s an awning that you can attach; however we were experiencing high winds on the day of our test and after about an hour of wrestling with zips, and some accidental paragliding episodes, we thought we’d leave it off. Truth be told it’s one of those things that’ll take you an hour to set up the first time you do it, and ten minutes the 100th time.
The stainless kitchen, fridge slide and storage drawers are all on rollers and pull out easily. If you’re staying at the one site for a few nights and have the awning and annexe in place you’ll be wind, sun and rain protected and have a heap more undercover space available.
The wheels are fancy-looking alloys and there’s quality 265/75R16 Cooper rubber wrapped around them. There are even external speakers so you can enjoy your favourite Metallica track while cooking up a storm… or annoy everyone else at your campsite.
There is another huge storage locker on the far side of the camper and the electrics and water pumps are all easily accessed via swing-open doors. Underneath are two water tanks, one 35L and one 120L, both powered by electric pumps – so you’ll pretty much never go thirsty. There are more storage boxes on the drawbar and on the rear of the camper. The front box has provision for a couple of jerries and the rear is the perfect size to accept dirty recovery gear or general rubbish.
At the end of the day, this isn’t the best trailer we’ve ever taken out. But it’s not meant to be. It’s a budget trailer for those who want plenty of creature comforts without having to fork out a premium. Yes, there are a few things I’d want changed: A lighter frame; a few tweaks to the suspension; brackets that aren’t going to require me to carry a ‘Sewing Stitches for Dummies’ book; ditch the rack (I don’t need it); and just a generally simpler package overall. With that said, this trailer represents excellent value for the money. It’s offered at a mid-level price that delivers a lot of inclusions for the coin. And that’s hard to argue with.
EzyTrail Stirling GT
|Chassis||100 x 75 x 4 mm hot dip galvanised steel|
|Coupling||360 degree poly block|
|Rims and Tyres||16in alloy rims and Cooper tyres|
|Suspension||Independent trailing arm with coils and twin shock absorbers|
|Living Area||U-lounge, converts to double bed|
|Water Tanks||120L, 35L|
|Canvas||450gsm fine-weave with midge-proof mesh|
|Price as tested||$20,000|
Words by Dex Fulton, Photography by Scott Mason