With room for a crowd, the Bluewater Lachlan is the perfect partner in off-road family adventure.
Words and Images by Emma Ryan
Forward-fold camper trailers are really having their moment in the sun. At the affordable end of the vast camper trailer spectrum, they provide a social, family-friendly layout with more scope for indoor living than most other styles of camper. And, for the most part, they are fairly quick and easy to set-up – at least to an overnight level. But what happens when you make this concept even more family-friendly? Enter the Lachlan by Bluewater Campers, retailing at $34,000.
LAYOUT TO SUIT YOUR GANG
The thing about forward-fold hard floors that has resonated with families, particularly those with younger kids, is that they facilitate everyone sleeping within the body of the camper. The U-shaped dinette that is exposed when the hard-floor roof flips open is converted quickly and easily to a second double bed, thus parents sleep within easy reach of the fruit of their loins. But of course, the camper then becomes all bed, and resetting the dinette each morning is kind of a drag when you’re supposed to be on holiday. Add to the mix the fact older kids might want to be more than whiffing distance from dad’s farts, and the concept of the Lachlan camper comes into its own.
Incorporating a rear slide that extends the camper by 1.3m to create an additional bed that would accommodate two small kiddos or one big one, the Lachlan provides more versatility than the Macquarie model from which it is based. Kids’ sleeping quarters can remain set-up during the day while still having full use of the dinette area that makes a forward-fold so appealing. If you’ve got two bigger kids, they can have a bed each without anyone needing to pitch a swag or having to set up the full annexe with floor and walls, a task that – I don’t care what anyone says – will make you old before your time.
But, you know, it’s good to have the option, which you do with the Lachlan; it comes with a fully enclosed annexe including walls, floor and two-room ensuite, with gas hot water service and portable toilet included. It’s top notch stuff, too, with Bluewater Campers using quality Australian-made canvas, heavy-duty YKK zippers and Finetex mesh on the windows that kept the sandflies at bay when we set it up on the beautiful Noosa Foreshore.
FROM BEACH TO BUSH
Despite accommodating six people to the Macquarie’s four, the Lachlan weighs only 100kg more than its little brother, for a tare weight of 1600kg. Its ATM is a substantial 2400kg, so you’ve got plenty of payload to work with. It towed well behind our Isuzu MU-X, despite getting bogged once because we wanted the VERY best campsite on the Noosa Foreshore, via extremely soft sand with a poor approach angle that prevented us from building enough momentum to make it to that heavenly, pandanus-fringed spot among the dunes. Some may see this as a fail, but I reckon if you don’t get bogged at least once while towing on sand, you lack ambition. In the end we settled for the still-very-beautiful campsite on a nice patch of hard sand.
Towing on the blacktop was a piece of cake, although the front lights on the body of the camper activate with the car’s headlights and shine in through the back windscreen rather blindingly at night. In addition to the Noosa Foreshore, we also took the Lachlan up into the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, near Kenilworth. Here, it endured rocky creek crossings and steep, loose gravel roads. And you know what, Lachie had a ball; if not for the lack of opposable thumbs I’m sure he would have written you a postcard.
While far from arduous, the slide extension adds a couple of steps in the set-up procedure. After you’ve opened the gas strut-assisted hard floor (with the help of the winch, if needed), you drop down the rear spare wheel mount (on which I’d like to see more effective gas struts as it’s very heavy – too heavy for me alone), pull the rear slide out to tension the tent, then zip up the canvas around the base of the slide from inside the camper. This leaves small gaps where the zips end and where particularly precocious flying critters would be able to get through – the tent is not completely bug-proof.
There is no need to adjust internal poles, which are spring-loaded to automatically tension the tent (a definite design win), but you can put in three spreader bars if it’s a bit windy and/or you run a tight ship. That’s your prerogative. Then hey presto, in about five minutes you’re in overnight mode. The awning roof will add at least 15-20 minutes, once you’ve got it down pat. Poles for this live in the handy rear pole storage box that runs the width of the camper trailer. During this review I remarked I’d like to see the Lachlan come with a quick, touring-style awning to cover the kitchen area with minimal poles/effort required, and have since learnt such an awning will come standard on the 2019 Lachlan. Rejoice!
The interior of the camper has a very pleasant, airy vibe about it, with external window awnings that, although an additional step in the setting up process, provide all-weather ventilation to catch a breeze even during summer downfalls. Windows can open and close internally as well, so no need to scurry about the outside of the camper in the dark of night in your smalls. Unless that’s your jam, of course.
As is standard on a forward fold, the side wall that opens onto the kitchen rolls up, transforming the interior of the camper to an indoor/outdoor space that creates a wonderfully social atmosphere between those who are slaving over a hot stove and those who are bludging over a game of Uno. It also means you can kick it with a magazine and a beer in the interior lounge without feeling like you’re shut away inside. This is camping, after all.
KITCHEN AND STORAGE
That hot stove I speak of is a three-burner Dometic, plumbed internally to where the gas bottles are housed in the storage hatch on the drawbar. This sits on a stainless steel slide-out kitchen with a large sink and water plumbed via a SeaFlo 42 Series pump with quality John Guest fittings and waterlines, all fitted at Bluewater’s Melbourne factory. There’s 160 litres of fresh water storage across two stainless steel tanks on the underside of the camper trailer. These can be isolated from one another to avoid cross-contamination if your water source is less than delicious during remote travel, or bypassed altogether when there’s mains water available while camping in caravan parks.
The kitchen has a flip-over bench extension that provides a huge amount of working space; the perfect place for a sanga production line before a game of beach cricket. It’s all kept steady with a drop-down support leg and the quality of finish is good – no sharp edges or flimsy locking mechanisms here. There’s an enormous ventilated fridge slide to house a very large fridge indeed (BYO or tick the options box for a Waeco or ARB), sitting alongside twin pantry drawers that will easily house your food items as well as pots and pans. The kitchen slide has a large cutlery drawer, a spice drawer and some under-sink storage, shared with drainage and gas hoses.
Inside, storage is limited. There is some space in the hatches beneath the dinette seats, but this is shared with the wheel arches. This is the irony of the forward-fold concept; its layout is perfect for families, but it has very little storage to stow that family’s stuff. The Lachlan benefits from the additional bed space, however, here you could store bags or plastic storage tubs out of the way during the day, moving them onto the floor at night and into the car during transit. There are two large external storage compartments on the far side of the trailer, one of which is dedicated storage for the annexe canvas pieces. The toolbox on the drawbar is split in two, one side housing two adjustable 4kg gas bottle holders, the other two 20-litre jerry can holders. There’s some space among these to store other items.
Overall, I found the Lachlan to be a well-balanced and versatile camper trailer that is both sturdy and affordable. Its mix of imported and locally-made components results in a quality product that won’t break the budget at $34,000; exactly what’s needed for a camper trailer targeted at families who want to explore off the beaten track. It has space aplenty for a family to eat, sleep and hang out together, with a central dining space that just begs for a game of Pictionary after a long day splashing about in the surf or hiking into hinterland waterfalls. Making those precious family memories is what this camper trailer is all about, and I reckon it nails that brief.
• Accommodates a crowd of up to six
• Large functional kitchen for family meal prep
• Numerous Aussie-made components
• Spare wheel mount needs better gas struts
• Driving lights positioned too high
• Tent not totally bug-proof
Suspension: Independent with twin shocks and coil springs
Brakes: 12-inch electric
Coupling: McHitch 360 Off-road Coupling
Style: Forward-fold hard floor with rear slide
Kitchen: Stainless steel slide-out with plumbed gas and water
Battery: 2 x 100Ah AGM
Price as standard: $34,000
Click for more info: Bluewater Campers