I’VE OWNED a Carry Me Camper for the last 14 years, and back when the campers were produced by Candy Campers of Tintinara, South Australia, with the steel canopy built by Jacksons. A few years back when Phil and Sandy Candy wanted to retire, Jacksons bought the Carry Me Camper product and shifted the whole operation to its huge Murray Bridge HQ.
For the last 30 odd years or so, Jacksons has been building silos, storage bins, animal shelters, pig troughs and a host of other sheet metal products, including ute canopies and trays, so it has a huge amount of knowledge and design experience on such products. A camper was a natural progression, especially now it has a well set-up 4WD store in Murray Bridge as well. Jacksons 4x4 Accessories is an ARB retailer, while also supplying a range of other brands such as Redarc, Jmacx and others.
But back to the campers.
All Jacksons’ vehicle-based product, such as canopies, trays and slide-on campers are made from aluminium, significantly cutting down on weight. Back that up by the best cad-cam design, computer controlled machinery and fine welding, and you have the impressive basis for a great camper.
The company’s latest design of slide-on is a two-stage, hardtop camper, unlike anything else on the market, giving unparalleled space and ventilation in the sleeping area. Since its inception, not even 18 months ago, the hardtop two-stage camper has become the unit everyone wants and now Jacksons has released a model suitable for extra-cab and dual-cab utes and pick-ups.
This is a very impressive camper, the build quality being absolutely first class with some great design innovation that you just don’t see on other cheaper campers. The unit sits on an 1850mm x 1640mm tray and weighs-in, as a complete package for this top-of-the-line unit, at the 500kg mark. Expect to see a reduction in that of 50kg or so as the engineers at Jacksons look at ways to get rid of some excess weight. Even so, you’ll probably need to look at the suspension of your vehicle, perhaps a GVM upgrade for the best handling and ride comfort under all conditions, but something that Jacksons 4x4 can help you out with too.
The canopy roofline is low, the top around 300mm above the roofline of the Cruiser the unit was sitting on. And I just loved the way the 250W CIGS solar panel (standard on this model) is integrated into the roof and lies flat within it – another well-thought-out design criteria of this camper.
The kitchen area is accessible at all times by opening the large easy-lift side door which exposes the fridge on a drop-down fridge slide, and in this top-of-the-line version there’s a large stainless steel kitchen work bench, plus a two-burner stove, again on a slide-out self-supporting tray.
The stove is not plumbed into the camper and could be moved away if and when required. The gas bottle can be stored on the far side of the camper or, if small enough, in the under-boxes of the tray. The storage pantry includes four heavy-duty boxes, three drawers and a pop-up wash bowl; everything you need for a quick lunch stop or an even quicker morning brew stop.
In the very front of the camper are two 54-litre water tanks with a hose and tap for each tank, located beside the fridge. A single, gutsy 100amp/h lithium battery is located on the opposite side, again at the front of the camper, while a Redarc battery management system is integrated into the whole 12-volt system. There are white and yellow LED dimmable lights on both lift-up doors which is great for illumination, while the yellow light helps keep bugs from being attracted to the area.
On the other side of the camper, lifting the door reveals a vast storage space that you can really set up any way you want. In our case we had mesh shelving along with some under-shelf storage boxes; many people opt for a second fridge slide. Above the aforementioned lithium battery is a 12-volt power distribution box with fuses and a circuit breaker. Scattered around the canopy, in handy spots, are a number of 12-volt and USB sockets for powering and charging all those power-hungry items we seem to have these days.
To open the camper for an overnight stop is easy and quick; just drop down the rear tailgate and slide out the self-levelling steps from their hideaway box in said tailgate – another unique Jacksons design. Then climb up onto the now horizontal tailgate which has also exposed the canvas area of the camper. Undo a couple of latches allowing the roof to raise to its normal position, sneak under the exposed rear canvas and unfold the canvas roof support, add a couple of legs and you’re done, the whole operation taking less than a couple of minutes. (Check out the speed of the set-up here).
The previously mentioned canvas roof support is another unique Jacksons development and also adds a layer of insulation to the tent area of the camper in addition to the roof insulation in the hardtop section. Here in this tailgate area of the camper you’ll also find LED lighting and an access hatch for an optional portable loo.
A fold-down step from the tailgate dressing area gives easy access to step up the short distance to the large north-south bed, complete with a 140mm thick innerspring mattress. At the head of the bed you’ll find lighting and 12-volt and USB power outlets, but what really impresses is the amount of ventilation and headroom this unit has; it is superb.
Oh, and a couple of more quality issues. The canvas is high-grade Aussie made, the zips top-quality YKK, the sewing first class, while the mesh is midgee proof to keep those blood suckers away from any sleeping souls.
This model of hardtop camper also comes with an exterior awning adding shade and protection over the kitchen area, although the lift-up doors seem to provide enough for all but the hottest or wettest of conditions.
Slide-on campers are fabulous for long-distance touring. We have, as previously mentioned, an early-model Carry Me Camper on our Patrol and a Four Wheel Camper on our Ram in the USA. With a slide-on camper the capability of the vehicle is not compromised and if you want you can tow a trailer with your toys such as bikes or a boat. That opens up even more country and adventures for the daring souls amongst us.
The camper comes with four legs so you can unload it and have it freestanding for those forays into town, if you so wish. Some people may use them but in all my time with slide-on units I’ve never bothered; in fact, both my units are bolted to the tray of the vehicle and have rarely been lifted off!
Pricing for this Carry Me Camper starts at $38,830. The top-line unit we were testing comes in at $42,780 and includes everything we’ve yarned about as well as dual fridge slides. Optional extras included diesel cabin heating and hot-water systems, an LPG hot-water heater if you prefer, storage/rubbish bags and a bike carrier and the like.
Currently the spare wheel needs to be carried on a roof rack, as shown in the pics, which I’d hate to put up there on my own in the scrub. However, Jacksons is working on a drop-down tailgate version of a tyre carrier and it would be one I’d be opting for.
You are probably thinking that 40 odd grand for a rooftop camper is a lot of money … and it is. But, I’ve gotta tell ya, in my 35 years or more of being in the 4WD touring industry, I haven’t seen a better designed or manufactured slide-on camper anywhere, at any time. Some of the innovation is fantastic to see … and will, no doubt, be copied by others. This unit looks the goods, works extremely well with a minimum of effort and will give you many years of useful and faithful service.
Now, if I could just convince Viv it would be great to upgrade...
- Jacksons Carry Me Camper
Phone: (08) 8531 2700
- Jackson 4x4 Accessories