We picked up the Bushcamper 4X4 from the Adelaide Britz office and planned to head to the Flinders Ranges and Riverland. Our aim was to enjoy some fairly difficult four-wheel driving and general touring.
This feature was originally published in 4x4 Australia’s January 2009 issue
As we collected the camper late on a Saturday afternoon, we decided that we wouldn’t leave home until the following morning. It seemed like a good idea at the time as it would allow us the rest of the day to pack and to familiarise ourselves with the operation, equipment and layout of the vehicle.
What we didn’t realise on this beautiful, dead calm, 27 degree Saturday was that Sunday would turn out to be a shocker! Leaving home in quite cool, dark conditions with what seemed to be a fairly serious threat of rain wasn’t the worst of it.
Pointing the Cruiser to the north brought crosswinds you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Gusts of up to 70km/h had been forecast for this part of SA and warnings were broadcast by the weather bureau to tie down loose objects and batten down the hatches. Great! Probably every one of us has passed a Britz Cruiser in similar conditions and said ‘wouldn’t want to be driving that thing in this wind!’
We found it wasn’t so bad after all; in fact, it handled quite nicely despite the gale. The big V8 turbo-diesel has loads of grunt making overtaking a breeze – if you’ll pardon the pun. Wider tyres would have made for better ride and handling but, on the bitumen, the 16x5.5-inch steel split rims with their 7.50R16 eight ply tyres coped better than anticipated.
Our first night was at the Wilmington Caravan Park and, not being caravan park types, everything was new to us. We wanted to experience this versatile vehicle in all possible situations. After working out how to connect our little mobile home to the power we settled in for the night, very grateful we weren’t trying to pitch a tent or having to sit freezing around a campfire.
Instead we had a portable fan heater and a 12V DVD player borrowed from one of our teenagers. I can’t begin to say how pleasant it was listening to the howling wind and being cosy and snug watching TV while camping – the concept was alien to us but we were both rapidly warming to the idea.
After a few drinks there was much hilarity as the bed was set up and Brad tried to manoeuvre his aging and slowly expanding figure into the overhead double bed (definitely not for the larger person). Rather than become a contortionist, I chose the easier option of sleeping on the lower bed listening to the muffled, wheezing giggles of a slightly inebriated ‘Muttley’ still getting over his exertions above my head.
Meal preparations were straightforward with the two burner gas stove easily accessed and set up. Cooking can be done either inside on the long bench top, or outside on the drop down door table. For safety reasons, Britz would prefer all cooking to be done outside unless impossible due to inclement weather.
The camper comes equipped with a 30-litre Engel fridge which switches automatically from 12V to 240V when connected to mains power. Storage space is phenomenal considering the size of the vehicle and with strategic packing it is amazing what can be stowed.
The vehicle is licensed to carry three people but is more comfortable for two, especially for long periods. You may get away with a small child squeezed in between two adults but the 1.5 passenger seat is really only big enough to carry one adult or two small children.
The bitumen roads were handled without problem but now the dirt beckoned. We left Quorn and headed to Arden Hills Station, approximately 12km north of the town. Graham and Inge Stokes are the owners of Arden Hills and welcome visitors onto their property for a brilliant Self Drive Tour.
The Arden Hills drive is magnificent with views across the mountain tops and to the gulf. Native fauna is abundant and as you come to the bottom of one of the massive hills there is the most beautiful spot for a picnic lunch with a stone, wood-fired barbecue.
While reasonably difficult, with a few washouts to look out for, the experienced four-wheeler won’t have a problem. The only thing we were concerned about was height; at 2.8m you have to be aware of your perimeters but this drive is fairly open for most of the way.
Again the TDV8 proved its worth and climbed every challenging hill without fuss. However, it’s probably advisable for novices to travel in convoy with more experienced drivers; and this tough track should only be attempted in capable vehicles with decent low-range gearing.
Travelling via Hawker, Wilpena Pound and Bunyeroo Gorge was all easy 2WD bitumen or dirt and, once reaching Blinman, we decided to travel the Glass Gorge Road and then to make the journey up to Nuccaleena Mine ruins. The road through the gorge was fairly easy going until we reached the track into the mine which displayed a stern warning – 4X4 only and no towing of caravans for the 14km drive in.
The mine was well worth the drive and boasts a very interesting history. One can only imagine how tough life was out here. The logistics of carrying the ore out, even though it was crushed onsite, must have been a nightmare and it’s not difficult to understand why the venture ultimately failed.
Our Camper handled the rough terrain with ease and a short way back along the track was the site of our first bush camp. We still couldn’t get over how easy it was to organise our campsite, with no tents to erect and everything at our fingertips it took about five minutes before we were relaxing with drinks and snacks.
The following morning we made our way back to the beginning of this track. Turning left toward Artimore Ruins we thought the track would be much the same. Wrong! This was a real test with the Cruiser requiring the articulation of a millipede to negotiate the washed out 36km trail.
Apart from worrying (needlessly) about height clearance again, and taking twice as long as anticipated, we safely arrived at Artimore ruins. The only resident to greet us was a kangaroo, very appropriately
decaying on the equally decaying doorstep of the old homestead.
Here we took the time for a stretch as we fossicked about before heading on to a relaxing lunch stop under some shady trees near the Wirrealpa to Blinman road.
Once again we’d struck some extremely windy weather on this leg of our trip and this is where we found the camper to be invaluable as we sat cosily inside with our meal and drinks. Just having no flies was an amazing concept to us very hardened, but quickly softening, campers!
We headed back through Blinman, across to Parachilna via the picturesque Angorachina Gorge, taking a right turn onto the bitumen to arrive at our next stop – Beltana Historic Village. Although you can’t go into any of the buildings – they’re all privately owned – information boards explain what they were used as in their heyday.
Allow yourself an hour (an hour and a half if you’re lucky enough to have a coal train pass by; three locomotives and 169 carriages!) for a good look around Beltana. It’s well worth the detour off the main road.
Back onto the blacktop and heading north we decided to spend the night at the Leigh Creek Caravan Park. Admittedly this wouldn’t have been a first choice for us but as it was getting late in the day we thought it would have to do.
This park is looked after by the Leigh Creek Progress Association and they are to be commended. The toilets and showers are immaculate and Leigh Creek has a very good water supply in Aroona Dam, so it’s a good place to replenish water tanks. Here we saw our first and only snake – in town!
From here we travelled the road east via Nepabunna to Balcanoona where we turned south and headed down to Yunta on the Barrier Highway.
A reasonably long, desolate drive was broken by lunch in a dry creek bed under a tree. The flies were extremely friendly here so again we took the soft option for lunch and sat in the back of the camper with the airconditioner on.
Custom 4x4: Toyota 78 Series TroopCarrier
That night was spent in Dangalli Conservation Park near Renmark and, although we again endured windy conditions during the day, the evening settled to become balmy and we sat by the perfect campfire. We enjoyed a few quiet ones with the many curious kangaroos and emus who inhabit the area before retiring to the quiet comfort of the camper.
Our last few days were spent touring the Riverland towns between Renmark and Morgan and by this time Brad was sold on the Britz Cruiser. It was a breeze to drive and proved extremely economical, especially considering the height of the vehicle, the windy conditions and the big TDV8 engine. Average fuel consumption for the trip was 13.3L/100km – not bad for a laden vehicle in sometimes extremely difficult off-road conditions.
The Britz camper is not only a great option for overseas visitors wanting to enjoy a self-drive outback tour, it’s also suited to local off-roaders who want to avoid the long commute to far-off destinations.
The Britz Cruisers are well equipped, so all you really need to do is stock up with food and personal items and you are away. This makes them a great ‘try before you buy’ option for potential 4X4 owners who are not yet convinced that camping out is for them. To top it off, Big4 Caravan Parks offer Britz campers a 10 percent discount on site fees!
Not your average 4x4 on custom 4x4 reviews
Toyota TroopCarrier Britz Bushcamper specs:
Base Vehicle: 2007 Toyota TroopCarrier High Roof; TDV8; Five-speed manual; Manual hubs
- First aid kit is supplied sealed. If needed, a charge of $20 must be paid upon return of the vehicle
- Two burner LPG stove and gas bottle
- All cooking equipment and utensils; two stainless steel saucepans and one stainless steel frypan; stainless kettle
- Solar shower
- 15 amp power cord
- Melamine crockery and glassware, cutlery, plastic storage containers, grater, matches, teatowels, mixing bowls etc.
Optional Extras/Costs (Supplied upon request for a nominal fee):
- Linen, electric fan heaters, basic recovery gear (inc. EPIRB), table and chairs, tents, awnings, satellite phones, personal kits and child booster seats.
- Hire costs vary depending on the time of year with January being the most expensive and May and June the cheapest. Contact your nearest Britz office for more detailed information as there are a lot of variables involved. Check out britz.com.au.