Jurgens challenged us to try and break their new off-road camper. Challenge accepted!
A lot of trailer manufacturers these days market their campers and vans as ‘off-road’ capable. The problem is – what do they classify as ‘off-road’? Some play it straight and design their frames and suspension to handle pretty much anything your 4X4 can. Others consider that ‘off-road’ means a well-graded dirt road and the grassy section of the local caravan park – and they usually say in the fine print that anything more hairy than that will probably void the warranty…
So we were a little surprised when Jurgens, who are well known in caravan circles, hit us up to take their new off-road van out and see if we could break it. Apparently it had just come back from the Cape, which it had handled with flying colours; and they wanted us to see if we could find any weak points.
Given that most of us here could break a steel ball in a rubber room, we leapt at the chance. Hey, more often than not on these tests most people ask us to take it nice and easy on their gear (not that we listen), not beat on it like we’d just caught it unbolting our driving lights from our bullbar.
So we solemnly promised to do our best to ruin a great-looking trailer…
Before I get into that though, let’s assess this thing on how it looks (yes, we know we’re shallow). I understand beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder and what I like may not be everyone else’s cup of Chai Latte, but I actually like how this thing looks. It’s way bigger than a ‘normal’ camper trailer, but the ‘slightly-tweaked cube’ look actually makes a lot of practical sense to me. It means the fridge, bed and storage will all be ready to go – no having to fold anything out or open anything up. And the pop-top means set-up is a breeze. But we’ll get to all that a little later.
Let’s start with the external features. The passenger side boasts a full-length awning, which was a bit annoying when closed as you have to lift it up out of the way of the door’s top edge to get in and out. It’s not a drama once everything is set up, but it’s worth mentioning. There’s a spare perched on the rear wall between a pair of water jerries, and LED lighting is used throughout. At first I was a little concerned that the external panel lights would be a bit weak, but they actually provided a nice healthy spread of light after dark without being overpowering. Nothing worse than glancing at a camp light and wondering if you’ve just had your memory wiped by one of the Men in Black while waiting for your vision to return…
The TuffTrax has clearly been built with some serious off-road use in mind. There are slider bars that run along the lower perimeter of the camper, protecting it from track damage. The underbody is covered by protection plates and there’s even a pair of rear recovery points that are bolted to the rear of the frame. The trailer has been designed to be dragged over pretty much anything without damage.
Despite the top-heavy pop-top configuration, the majority of the weight is still nice and low – so it stays well planted over rough terrain. This is in no small part thanks to the Cruisemaster XT independent coil suspension with twin shocks per side. The suspension arms are built out of beefy SHS gal-steel so you’d have to be pushing pretty hard to damage them I reckon.
The twin 100L water tanks are located just forward of the semi-aggressive AT tyres. While at first this may seem like it would add unnecessary ball weight, when you factor in that the spare, twin jerry cans and bed section are all behind the axle centreline it actually ends up being very well balanced.
Inside, an upright fridge and small bench are directly in front of the door. Rather than go with drawers or cupboards, Jurgen included zip-open compartments for all of your cooking gear and clothes – and there’s a bunch of them. Why not cupboards or drawers? Well, these compartments are lightweight and they keep everything where it should be. It’s a little old school and may remind you a bit of your great-uncle’s faded beige pop-top van, but it does the job – sometimes simpler really is better, eh?
Just to the left of the door is a storage bench that is large enough to accommodate a small air mattress for a child if needed, or it can be used (as I did) as a large parcel shelf. The crockery is kept in drawers underneath in foam cut-out compartments to prevent rattling, and the hot water system sits in an inside-or-outside accessible compartment. To the right is the dinette, which could comfortably accommodate a family of four. Once it’s time to hit the sack the table legs are removed, the table drops down and the backrest cushion is slotted into place on top of it – making a very large double bed.
The side windows can be fully opened, they can have fly screen over them, or they can have shutters slid into place for sleep-ins; while the upper windows can all be opened or closed off via zip covers.
Overall, the interior ain’t cavernous… but you wouldn’t expect it to be in a trailer this size. The useable space is more than enough for a couple, and what space there is has been utilised well.
SET-UP AND PULL-DOWN
As you’d expect, set-up and pull-down times are about the same. That is to say, a few seconds (not counting setting up the awning). Open the door, pull down the internal roof locking bars at either end, push the roof up, screw in the locking stays. If it takes you longer than about 30 seconds, you’re doing it wrong.
The awning takes a little longer to do, and it’s easier with two people on the case at first. Once you’ve got it sussed it only takes three minutes or so, and it’d only get quicker with experience. If you’re detaching the trailer from the tow vehicle, there are four stabiliser legs that can be folded down and extended to keep things on the level.
HOW’S IT TOW?
I dragged this thing over rocky trails, sand hills, water crossings and plenty of dirt road washouts and it never once felt uncomfortable. The tall stature of the TuffTrax means there’s a little more trailer body roll than with, say, a fold-out camper; but common sense will tell you to expect it and it’s easily handled by going a little slower than you otherwise might.
We dropped the AT tyres to 16psi on the sand and it never felt like it was wallowing or holding the Amarok tow vehicle back. The D0-35 hitch is still, in my opinion at least, one of the easiest and nicest hitches for off-road trailers.
At over 1,400kg it ain’t no lightweight, but the aluminium outer skin and Duratherm walls offer decent protection while keeping the bulk as low as possible – and it shows on the tracks. Despite putting it over some undeniably tough terrain it soaked everything up without a worry. I wouldn’t hesitate to take this thing on some big trips.
DID WE BREAK IT?
Despite dragging the Jurgens unit over some obstacles that would have other trailers splitting at the weld seams, bogging it to the frame rails and generally doing my best to find its weaknesses, it held up pretty well… all things considered. The on-board battery dropped a cell and we lost charge, and one of the leads for the Anderson plug for the solar panel came loose, but overall it took the abuse like a champ.
You win this round, Jurgens. Well played.