The Dingo Pup is the newest member of the Skamper Kampers family, but is it as lightweight and carefree as its namesake promises?
Words and Images by Emma Ryan
When it comes to shopping for camper trailers, affordability and ease of use would have to be two of the major deciding factors. Sure, an options list as long as your arm and more comfort than you’d expect on your average evening at home watching Netflix is all well and good, but everything has a price; your wallet will be lighter and your camper will be heavier. Personally, I’d prefer to switch those two things around. Which is why my little dingo ears pricked up when I heard about the lightweight, affordable new addition to the Skamper Kampers family, the Dingo Pup. Sounds cute, right? Well, it is, but this practical little Pup is also a legitimate off-road unit built to deliver bucket loads of simple camping fun.
ANATOMY OF A PUP
In essence, the Pup is like a pre-pubescent version of its bigger brother, the Dingo. It’s shorter, narrower and lighter, coming in at just 4500mm overall length and 1760mm wide, with a tare weight of 1160kg, ATM of 1600kg and ball weight of 100kg. These reduced dimensions of course result in less storage and living space, but make for a more nimble trailer than can handle tighter bush tracks, is a breeze to tow on- and off-road, and is simple to manoeuvre at camp or back at home in the garage. Best of all, these reduced size and weight figures make this camper appropriate for a wide range of tow vehicles, including SUVs and small 4X4s. Not having to upgrade to a full-sized 4X4 is a major tick on the affordability checklist. And if you’ve already got a capable off-road tow vehicle like the Isuzu D-Max we used to tow the Pup for this review, you’ll hardly even notice this camper trailing along behind.
The little Pup mightn’t have as deep a voice as its big brother, but it’s got the same DNA when it comes to construction. A one piece continuous galvanised chassis backed by a five-year structural warranty. It sits atop independent suspension with dual shocks, 15in black steel wheels and Goodride mud-terrain tyres. The undercarriage is nice and tidy, with the 120L stainless steel water tank riding high and shrouded in checker plate with fenders for added protection. There are also two rated rear recovery points.
Up front, there’s a McHitch off-road coupling offering 360-degree rotation, a heavy-duty Ark swing-away jockey wheel and a mesh stone guard protecting your vehicle’s rear window. This set-up handled the moderate bush tracks we took it up on the NSW Mid-North Coast easily, and positions this camper well as an all-rounder suitable for relaxed family coastal adventures as it is more serious off-road exploration.
A major benefit of a forward fold camper trailer such as the Pup is that it sets up on its own footprint, occupying no additional space when unfolded than it does when packed away. That makes setting up at tight bush campgrounds or pokey caravan parks that little bit easier. The set-up can be handled easily enough by one person, with the folding hardfloor mechanism aided effectively by gas struts, although shorties like me would still need to use the winch – also quick and easy. The Pup saves on weight by only having the one winch, so this needs to be transferred from front to back during pack down. Don’t forget to grab your gas bottle out from one of two holders on the drawbar before you unfold the camper – another weight-saving technique is the removal of the gas storage access doors which means you cannot access gas bottles while the camper is set up because the hardfloor sits over the drawbar. Mildly annoying the first few times you forget, I’m sure, but lightweight trailers will always come with sacrifices.
Moving inside, there are three optional spreader bars and two support poles to keep the 15oz canvas nice and taught. Other than that, it’s simply a case of tensioning off six fixed poles and hey presto, you’re in overnight stop mode. A tropical roof remains fixed so you can keep your cool. Add five minutes or less for the optional quick awning (just three poles and guy ropes – take my money!), 15 minutes for the full awning, and approximately half an hour for the whole kit and caboodle complete with annexe walls and floor, plus an ensuite room – all of which come standard. The latter is tremendous value on a $16k camper trailer, making this camper a suitable prospect for families who need the extra undercover real estate, and indeed anyone who wants to set up at their favourite hidden campsite for a week or more. There’s a pole storage compartment across the rear which is a little bit on the small side (poles need to be arranged just right to fit them all in), and Skamper has introduced quick connect carabiner clips to the poles that attach to the body of the tent in a bid to make erecting the awning that little bit easier.
Inside, there’s a double-sized foam mattress on the main bed which personally, I reckon needs a good pillowtop comforter to make it comfy enough for languid holiday sleep-ins. Again, an easy fix – I’ve got a great one that cost me around $70 from Target. Alternatively, upgrade to an innerspring – but beware the additional weight and cost. A six-seater dinette makes for a fabulous indoor living area, ideal for card games on chilly nights or somewhere functional to retreat if the weather turns nasty. When the sun is shining, the café-style rollup side wall creates a seamless indoor/outdoor space that facilitates socialising between anyone in the kitchen/annexe area and those hanging out at the dinette. There are storage compartments beneath the seats, and you’ll find the battery set-up here, too.
When the sun goes down, the dinette converts to a second bed, ideal for two or three small kids to get some shut eye nice and close to mum and dad in the body of the camper trailer. When they get a bit bigger, stretcher bunks in the annexe gives everyone a bit more personal space. In this way, this camper trailer will continue to be suitable as your family grows. The interior living space is bright and airy, with large windows that can be rolled up or held open with window awnings via three poles per window – worth the extra effort to keep the air flowing during summer downpours. There are LED lights and 12V outlets where you need them, too, powered by one 100Ah AGM battery complete with CTEK charger. A simple electrical set-up designed for a couple of nights unplugged, rather than long stays at the one off-grid campsite. Look to upgrade to an extra battery and solar if that’s your plan for the Pup.
KITCHEN AND STORAGE
The Pup’s kitchen is a simple slide out stainless steel number with plumbed cold water, a two-burner portable-style stove and a folding bench extension with a supporting leg. It’s basic but will do the trick. My only gripe here is how close the small sink is to the body of the camper – it would be nice if a couple of inches of bench space pushed the sink further out to provide a more functional area for washing dishes.
There’s an insulated fridge slide storage compartment complete with a light and fan, but you’ll need to BYO fridge. I never see this as a bad thing, however – you might already have a fridge you’ve been using for car-based camping, or you may have a preference for a particular brand. Personally, I’d rather pay less for the camper and choose whatever fridge I like. Alongside the fridge slide is a pantry drawer that will accommodate all the staples. On the other side of the camper there are two additional storage compartments.
Forward fold campers generally struggle for adequate storage space and one with reduced dimensions such as the Pup is always going to feel the pinch. There isn’t really anywhere to store clothing items, so a system of plastic tubs that travel in the boot of the car would be necessary. At least that way you can get to your bathers or grab a jumper on the road – you cannot access the interior of a forward fold camper during transit as the hinge mechanism blocks the door, so storing clothing in the car has that advantage. Swings and roundabouts…
It’s great to see a camper trailer that has a very specific brief: provide a compact, lightweight and affordable camper to suit a wide range of applications, from family camping, to solo travel, SUV-based adventures to full off-road exploration. The Dingo Pup nails that brief. Sure, it’s a basic camper with only the essentials included, but you can’t argue with $16,000 plus on-road costs for a capable escape machine that will fit around your current lifestyle. I reckon this little Pup is worth a scratch behind the ears and serious consideration for anyone looking for an entry-level camper trailer.
Suspension: Independent with twin shocks and coil springs
Brakes: 10in electric
Coupling: McHitch 360 Off-road Coupling
Style: Forward-fold hardfloor
Length: 4500mm (hitch to tail lights)
Kitchen: Stainless steel side out
Battery: 1 x 100Ah AGM
Price as tested: $16,000 plus on-road costs
• Can be towed with smaller vehicles
• Great for families
• Not much storage
• Mattress isn’t super comfy
More info: Skamper