Straight from the Showroom
We knew we wanted a hard floor camper trailer for our next big adventure and the value for money range on offer from Black Series Campers was hard to go past. We knew the quality of the components used on the trailer wouldn't be quite as good as some of the other brands on the market but overall we knew that it would suit our needs and more importantly our budget. The trailer itself is a rearward folding hard floor design with ample storage and a fully enclosed, insect-proof annex that measures some 2.40 metres by 6.04 metres. There is also an additional en-suite room suppled that measures about 2.00 metres by 1.50 metres.
On first impressions, the trailer is an imposing looking thing with the independent suspension pairing up with a set of 16" inch alloy wheels shod with mud terrain tyres raising the trailer dramatically and when packed ready for towing the top of the trailer is almost 6' high, or about 1750mm's for the younger generation. The Pheonix comes standard with electric brakes, an integrated 12 Volt electrical system, an electric water pump, plumbed gas lines from the left-hand side 9kg gas bottle rack to the Dometic 3 Burner stove fitted to the stainless steel slide-out kitchen. The quality of the kitchen looks good and slides in and out with a minimum of fuss although it has to be said that a little more care could have been taken with the shipping of the unit as there are a couple of dents and rub marks in ours. Actually, now that I've raised the subject of pre-delivery damage there are a few marks and scratches on the trailer and it was delivered to us with a solid layer of grime that can only be acquired when something has been left out in the weather. I was disappointed that such little care was taken in terms of pre-delivery inspection and hand over the presentation and I would have expressed my views to our salesman but he chose to hide inside and let one of the other salesman deal with it. Poor form really. We also discovered that the latch that holds the spare wheel bracket secured didn't work as it fouled with the spare tyre and it took about 30 minutes for the boys in the workshop to drill out the rivets and turn it around 180 degrees to solve the issue. This should have been seen too before our delivery as it then leaves you looking for other problems, of which we found a couple. The number plate light wasn't working and required some re-crimping of one of the connectors, again this should have been picked up prior to our arrival. Another minor issue was that one of the reflectors had fallen off and was laying on the ground next to the trailer, as I said a minor thing but it just added to the overall impression that the little things didn't matter to the staff at Black Series and left us wondering what else was overlooked in the assembly phase.
Enough of the whinging, what led us to choose the Pheonix? Well as I said earlier our budget had a lot to do with it and the final price of $18,000 gave us an awful lot of trailer for the money. The other things that mattered were the ease of set up and storage capacity. The tent itself appears to be a fairly easy set-up and pack down and I estimate that we can have it 'sleep ready' in around five minutes. As always the first few times take a little longer, but once you have the routine sorted out it should be a relatively stress-free affair. The staff at Black Series have advised us that due to levelling requirements the trailer needs to be un-hitched for set up but we've purchased some plastic levelling ramps from Supercheap Auto to see if we can't come up with a method of quickly setting up the tent in the event of a quick overnight stop. We found on our last big lap around Oz that there are days where you put in some big miles and find yourself arriving late for a one night stop and need to back it up with an early getaway the next morning, leaving the trailer attached would make this so much easier, we'll keep you posted how it goes.
We have fitted our Waeco 65 Litre Dual Zone Fridge/Freezer onto the Pheonix's fridge slide and we have around 25cm's left in front of the fridge, with which we'll find some use. The kitchen and pantry area of the trailer is well thought out with a range of sliding drawers varying in size from big enough for a few plates, cups and bowls to 'we could lose stuff in here quite easily! The large compartment to the left of the fridge know has a couple of plastic boxes with handles so we simply lift them out should we need to get to the bottom of the 750mm (approx.) deep drawer. (pics to follow). On the right is the slide-out combination cooktop/sink with a fold-down tap fed by an electric water pump from the 100-litre onboard water tank. Likewise, the stove is fed by a plumbed in gas line. The built cutlery draw looks the business but, bafflingly the spaces for the knives and forks are too short to fit your knives into and the integrated cup holders will only hold a cup when the drawer is open! There's a slide-out bench to the right of the cooktop which makes for a great place to stack your dirty dishes, leaving the sink and sideboard free for food preparation, the folding bench on the rear side of the kitchen as a large area of usable space, negating the need to carry additional folding camp tables. The lid that hides the whole fridge/pantry away whilst travelling has an integrated LED light that is automatically activated upon opening. There is a switchable 12 Volt socket to plug the fridge into but some care will need to be taken to ensure the power cable doesn't get damaged during use of the fridge slide, we'll let you know what if any solution is found to this problem. There are also some 12 Volt outlets being the lockable slide-out kitchen door, one ciga socket and a dual USB socket as well as a connector for folding LED light mounted above the sink.
As the trailer is delivered there are only two methods for charging the dual 100Ah AGM batteries fitted to the Pheonix, either via the 50 amp Anderson plug from the rear of the tow vehicle or, the supplied 160Watt folding solar panels. I feel that this a is a massive oversight to not have either a mains charger, a DC to DC charger or both as standard fitment. Correct battery charging is paramount to their longevity and more information on the subject can be found here. We are undecided as to which way we'll go to solving the charging problem but we will use either CTEK or Redarc Products, between now and then we'll have to be diligent with the usage of the solar panels and ensure we don't leave the Anderson plug connected when stopped as the last thing we want to do is flatten the Prado's starting battery.
The trailer towed with a minimum of fuss on the 30-kilometre drive home and reversing was a snap with the axle being toward the rear of the trailer meaning that it responds slowly to driver input, just what you need when reversing into difficult places. We are taking the trailer for its first trip, a weekender just to get a feel for setting the whole thing up to great a little spot two hours drive away on the South Coast of New South Wales. It will be interesting to see what modifications we find we'll need to carry out before heading off on our next 'big lap'.