Tested: Cub Drifter II camper trailer

The Cub Drifter II is a family-friendly off-roader that provides so much more than shelter

Cub Camper Drifter II camper trailer
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AH, CAMPER trailer touring. A bit of a pain in the arse to be towing something around the tracks, let’s be frank, but ever so worth it for the luxury that befalls you at camp. Fully equipped kitchen, room for the family, hot shower, comfy bed and space to retreat out of the elements. Keep your swags, plebs, this is luxury living gone mobile.

You’d think, then, that when I took the Cub Drifter II dual-fold hard-floor camper trailer away for an overnighter in the Blue Mountains National Park at six months pregnant, I’d be sitting pretty. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine-looking camper trailer. One of the best dual-fold family setups I’ve seen for off-roading, in fact. More on that shortly. But was I sitting pretty?

Unfortunately, as is increasingly the case with camper trailer and caravan reviews these days, I wasn’t actually able to use the Drifter II, lest I soil it for the inevitable owner. Instead, we were met at our chosen campsite by the manufacturer, who brought the camper along for the once-over. It is for that reason that this review will be more of a “here’s what it’s got and how I think it might go”, than a “hell yeah, I bloody loved it”.

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Back at camp, I was setting up my alternate accommodation. No camper, no worries; I’d pitch my beloved ultralight hiking tent, purchased for its piddling weight and Chinese-made price tag. Inside I’d roll out my plush self-inflating camping mattress, bought on a whim from BCF the day before because I’m-too-goddam-pregnant-now-for-that-flimsy-hiking-thing. I’d arrange my mandatory six pillows for head and back and hips and tum comfort. Happy as an upwardly-duffed Larry, right? As I cast my eyes to the sky, I had a moment of doubt.

“Just scud, don’t worry.” This came from fellow 4X4 Australia journo, Scott Mason, who came along to take photos. Scott’s got a brooding, man-of-nature vibe about him that gives you the impression he knows stuff. You know the type, committed creative who clutches a camera like a bible and follows crap weather around to get sexy photos.

As he quietly eyeballed the clouds in the northwest sky through plumes of his own durry smoke, I felt reassured. “Just scud,” I nodded, amused by how ridiculous the same words sounded coming from my mouth. Time to check out this camper trailer.

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GONE DRIFTIN’

ONE of the largest rigs in the Cub range, the Drifter II is designed for comfortable off-road family touring. It’s named in honour of an early ’70s model of Cub, examples of which occasionally can still be seen cruising the tracks. This is a testament to Cub’s long history of manufacturing Australian-made and off-road-ready campers that go the distance.

While the dual-fold configuration of the Drifter II is something you’ll see ad nauseum on the stands of Johnny-come-lately brands selling cheap imports at RV shows, the point of difference with this one is manufacturing quality, a focus on weight reduction through clever design and excellent resale value.

Sure, it’s not as affordable as other offerings on the market at around $45K and so won’t suit everyone, but if it’s off-road reliability you want, this is a great place to look. And she’s a pretty stylish and comfortable unit to boot.

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FAMILY-FRIENDLY TOURER

THIS big girl sleeps up to six in the main body of the camper. There’s a quality pocket-coil queen-sized main bed at the front over the drawbar, a double medium-density foam mattress at the rear, and a U-shaped dinette between that converts to a third bed, more than adequate for a couple of tuckered out little kiddos.

In its lounge form, the latter is the ideal place for board games or cards with the crew, the central, wind-up table pivoting with ease to whatever position you require it. Handy, too, for those dinner times when it ain’t just scud in the sky.

This rather palatial interior is topped off with under-seat storage, quick-access storage hidey holes beneath the main bed, bedside reading lights, USB charging outlets and privacy curtains sectioning off the beds at either end.

There’s great airflow thanks to twin roofline vents and oversized windows on all sides. Three of these are protected from rain by Cub’s ingenious, easy-as-pie two-pole window awning system. Wonderful news for anyone who has ever spat expletives at those godforsaken three-pole arrangements, which require the exact amount of tension and a foot rub to do what you want them to.

But my favourite feature in this style of camper trailer is the roll-up café blind that opens up the whole middle panel beneath the awning, creating what real estate agents like to call a ‘seamless indoor/outdoor living space’. Simply put, your husband can offer you tasting rights to whatever he’s cooking without you having to move from your comfy reading nook in the lounge area.

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OVERNIGHTERS OR EXTENDED STAYS

SET up without the side awning, the Drifter II sits on the same footprint it occupies in transit, which will come in handy when setting up at tight bush campsites. This is also the ideal arrangement for quick overnight stops, something camper trailers aren’t usually known for.

With the help of Cub’s whisper-quiet winch and a smart design with no internal poles to tension, one person can have the Drifter II set up and ready for the family to sleep and hang out in within minutes. The benefit of this cannot be overstated when your road-weary and ravenous progeny are snapping at your ankles, seemingly oblivious to the long and aching months you spent lovingly gestating them.

The awning will add to your set-up time somewhat, as awnings typically do. You’re probably looking at about 20 minutes for two people to erect the awning, once you’ve got it down pat. It comes standard with a weather shield end wall to protect the kitchen area, while a full set of walls and floor is optional should you wish to maximise your internal living space. As with the rest of the tent, it’s Australian-made Dynaproofed canvas from Wax Converters. In short, top notch stuff.

With capacity for quick overnight stops and comfortable extended stays alike, the Drifter II is a versatile camper that will adhere to whatever style of touring you prefer.

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OUTDOOR LIVING

THE kitchen pulls out the side beneath the aforementioned café blind and has a sink plumbed to the hot-water system, a three-burner gas stove plumbed to one of two 4kg gas bottles housed on the drawbar, and a couple of storage drawers beneath the sink. There’s a fridge slide that can take up to a 95L Waeco and a 1400mm pantry drawer. Sitting atop these at the drawbar is a luggage rack for hauling extra gear to camp.

The external shower provides somewhere to hose off those grubby rugrats at the end of the day – just BYO shower tent. There’s 180L of freshwater on board, stored across two tanks that ride high out of harm’s way on the underside of the camper.

There’s plenty of external lighting sustained by two 100amp/h batteries and a Projecta 12V DC-DC charger. These are stowed in a slide-out storage drawer for easy access when it’s needed – no rummaging around in pokey under-bed storage compartments trying to change a fuse. The Drifter II is set up for 240V power for when you find yourself camped in civilisation. It’s also solar-ready with a solar input Anderson plug, but BYO solar panels.

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OFF-ROAD CAPABILITY

THE Drifter II has all the hardware that would see it travel easily across the rough stuff. But first, let’s talk about weight.

As mentioned, there are a lot of imported campers in a similar dual-fold style that promise all the bells and whistles as well as off-road capability. But they’re heavy. The folks at Cub, being seasoned pros at manufacturing off-road products over the past 50 years, understand that a camper is only as off-road as its weight and dimensions will allow. The Drifter II weighs a touch under 1400kg tare, with a 1900kg ATM. That’s around 500 to 600kg lighter than most competitors in its class. When it comes to off-road adventuring, that’s a huge advantage straight off the blocks.

The Drifter II rides on Cub’s own independent suspension system with twin shocks, supporting an Australian galvanised steel chassis. Both are manufactured at Cub’s factory in Sydney, along with all other components of the camper. It’s got 17in six-stud alloy wheels with Goodyear Duratrac tyres and a rear-mounted spare. The underside is extremely clean and tidy, with heaps of clearance and nothing to jag on rocks or branches.

There’s an off-road ball coupling as standard, 12in electric brakes, rear recovery points, and a galvanised steel stone-guard with a couple of jerry can holders tucked behind.

The ‘Xtreme Off Road’ upgrade pack swaps out the hitch for a Cruisemaster DO35, the tyres for 265/70R17 Goodyear Mud Terrains and gives you an extra 50kg payload.

Like I said, I didn’t get the opportunity to put the Drifter II through its paces, but the track into our campsite was hairier than expected – steep, windy and slippery from a summer of relentless rain – and it managed just fine. Which was one thing on the way in, when the sun was shining intermittently, and another thing entirely the next day …

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WHEN GOOD SCUD TURNS BAD

I’LL be honest, I’d never heard the word ‘scud’ until that day in the Hawkesbury. But as day turned to night and thunder growled menacingly in the distance over the range, my confidence in ol’ storm boy Mason’s assertions of a clear night ahead dissipated. Scud my arse.

An hour later we were all huddled beneath the awning of the Drifter, where the boys had lined up their swags as far out of the bucketing rain as possible. And I’m talking end of days rain. Cats and dogs. Relentless torrents for a solid three hours.

I thought of my poor little tent, which I’d placed strategically on the far side of the sprawling campground away from snoring swaggies, and as I eyed the sheets of water covering the ground I wondered what state I’d find it in when the rain eventually eased enough for me to get to it.

Finally, propped in my surprisingly dry fortress of pillows pulled in tight away from the tent’s sodden edges, I drifted into a fitful sleep to a deafening chorus of thunder and deluge as my baby rolled in my belly beneath my hands, seemingly in response to the fray. Yep, the comforts of the Drifter II – standing strong like a lighthouse yet housing no one – sounded pretty bloody good to me in that moment. Where do I sign?

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SPECS

TARE: 1390kg
ATM: 1900kg
TOWING LENGTH: 5510mm
TOWING WIDTH: 1940mm
TOWING HEIGHT: 1710mm

AVAILABLE FROM: cubcampers.com.au
RRP: From $45,000

 

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Emma Ryan
Journalist
Scott Mason
Photography

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