Checking out all the latest cool gear on offer at a recent 4X4 show, we were impressed by the range of quality South African products – and struck by the number of South African accents we heard.
It really shouldn’t be a surprise given the similarities between the South African and Australian landscapes. They are both big lands and also share various climates from the semi-arid to the sub-tropical.
It’s also clear that South Africans love camping just as much as we do, which has led to a growing exchange of quality 4X4 products across the Indian Ocean.
ARB, for example, has had a lot of success supplying protection equipment, locking differentials and sturdy suspension systems into the South African market.
Matt Frost, the national sales and marketing manager for ARB Australia, travelled extensively through Africa for six months and told Unsealed 4X4: “I’ve experienced first hand the conditions off-road and what the vehicles have to contend with. Like Australia, southern Africa is a land of harsh environments, remoteness and extreme weather. Vehicle preparation is very important, hence the demand for well-engineered products is high”.
With our backyards being so similar it’s a no-brainer to expect South African suppliers to understand the importance of solid build quality, reliability and durability in practical, simple designs.
There are plenty of new players providing access to some of the best equipment South Africa has to offer. With robust, quality-built products and innovative designs, it’s a win-win for both sides – unlike our epic battles on the sporting field against the Springboks or the Proteas, where only one of us can triumph.
Here’s a few South Africans you’ll meet regularly around campsites.
Front Runner was started over a decade ago in South Africa by a group of professional off-road drivers, designers, engineers and outdoor enthusiasts. From concept to construction and final testing, it’s their innovative approach to problem solving that has seen their equipment in demand by safari operators, and the serious expedition drivers who choose Front Runner roof racks and water tanks. Front Runner has even earned the distinction of having many of their products recognised as official accessories by Land Rover.
Keeping all design, engineering and manufacturing in-house has allowed Eeziawn to stay in business for more than 30 years. Its reputation is built on consistent quality control over its product range – from roof and trailer tents, retractable awnings, 270-degree awnings, fridge sliders and K9 roof racks. Jess Stuhler from Eeziawn explained: “The manufacture of product in South Africa and Australia and the industry as a whole is pretty similar – the only difference (we see) is that the 4X4 fraternity in South Africa is far smaller than that of Australia.”
Howling Moon has a reputation to be envied. With over 40 years of experience in manufacturing tough, durable and practical roof-top tents and accessories, the company is at the top of its game. Owner Andre Coetzee told Unsealed 4X4: “Our products have been tested in Australia for almost 20 years and gained a reputation for suiting the most serious adventurer”. He agreed that there was a great exchange of products across the Indian Ocean. “Our terrain and weather is much the same, so our equipment compliments each other to a large degree.”
One of the strongest connections between the Australian and South Africa is Hannibal Safari, which uses Dynaproofed canvas manufactured by Wax Converter Textiles in the Hunter Valley for its tents and awnings. Dynaproofed canvas is a resilient, stable, long-wearing canvas suitable for all the conditions that Australia can throw at it. The collaboration between Hannibal Safari and Wax Converter Textiles and the use of the Australian canvas guarantees a tough product for the Australian 4X4 market. Peter Spowart of Hannibal Safari in Brisbane said: “In 10 years of servicing this product I have never had a negative comment about product with a South African origin. Consumers accept the product will meet their demands and exceed their requirements.”
Mission Trailers set out to fill the needs of the experienced 4X4 camper looking for a no-nonsense, go-anywhere camper trailer. The down-to-earth package has been refined for the Australian market by distributor, Daniel Fluckiger of the Expedition Centre in Sydney. There’s a quicker tent and awning system, re-worked kitchen and electric brakes. Fluckiger explained: “Mission Trailers have been around in South Africa for a while. The functional and rugged design together with excellent build quality and materials has had a very positive impact on the Australian camper trailer market. Similar climatic conditions and terrain in both countries gives the advantage that most products can be transferred from one market to the other without major modifications. As the saying goes, ‘The only difference between Africa and Australia is the animals’.”