So we sat looking at the Patriot X1 Grand Tourer sitting in our back courtyard and decided that, maybe camper trailers are just not for us. The things we're looking for from something that has to be towed are just not there and so the decision was made to advertise the trailer and yet again re-configure our camping set-up. So what was missing for us from our Patriot ownership experience? There are a few things but we'll start with the tent. Whilst mechanically it was amazing the canvas side of things lets it down in our opinion, particularly the kid's room and the awning extensions in both the way they attached to the main body of the tent and also the cut of the canvas. The awning extensions are a bit like 'so what are we going to do with this bit? Oh we'll just add a velcro flap here and a zip over there'. The bottom line is they are difficult to install, especially the rear and they are prone to water pooling in inclement weather. As mentioned in the previous post, the main tent is a little cramped for anything more than a night or two. Now the advertising blog says the trailer is designed for fast setups and pack downs and for moving each day but that's just not how we travel. So that isn't a fault with a trailer but more so us not analyzing our needs more thoroughly.
We also found that the storage was just a little too tight everywhere, again probably an issue of ours more so than the trailer. We tend to take everything that opens and closes and our Prado ended up jam-packed with gear as well. Driving a Prado at the time we went down the trailer path meant that as the car was lean on space, a trailer technically would alleviate that issue. We've since moved the Prado on and have taken delivery of a Ford Ranger PX MKIII XLT, there is a blog about our initial thoughts here.
A problem that reared it's head after we had sold the trailer was the Redarc TVMS system had a failure. It wouldn't accept a charge from mains power, the new owner had contacted me to alert me to the fact. I ran through a few things with him and he ended up getting touch with Redarc and they replaced the unit under warranty. The Redarc TVMS system is amazing and if we end up towing something in the future we will definitely be using the system.
The quality of the Patriot X1-GT is as good as the manufacturer claims and any issues we had were with 3rd party components, being the aforementioned Redarc issue and a previously discussed compressor failure. Everything else worked fine, water pump, electrical components, suspension, etc. In short we enjoyed owning the Patriot but are looking forward to not towing anything for a while before biting the bullet and heading down the caravan path, we approaching 'Grey Nomad' age after all.
Living as we do in the Sydney's Inner City quick weekend get aways can be a real drag. Like everyone we yearn for the longer but far more infrequent journeys that see us covering big distances over multiple weeks and really exploring new places and just generally living the 4WD touring and camping life. So it is that we have to satisfy our selves with quick weekend trips, usually leaving mid afternoon Friday and returning Sunday arvo. There are some key factors that we look for with these weekend escapes and they are, in no particular order, the ability to have an open fire, be within two to three hours drive from home and close to water. River, dam or coastline, it matters not. So it is that we have made Grady's Riverside Retreat our go to camping spot for our sneaky weekend trips. Located just two and half hours drive from home 20 Klm's inland from Nowra on the Shoalhaven River, Grady's ticks all the boxes and the nice level grassed sights and decent amenities are bonus. But this blog is all about our Patriot X1-GT camper trailer so if you want more info on Gradys you can see our review here or go straight to their website for more detailed info.
So we had had the Patriot into our local dealer whom we purchased the trailer from back in August 2018. As mentioned in the last post the compressor had failed and we had an awning in dire need of repair due to the excessive winds we encountered in South Australia's Flinders Ranges. Upon collecting the trailer we were advised by the service manager that the trailer had been washed as part of the service, twice in fact because it was so dirty. Good job to the team at Off Grid Outfitters on that front for making it look almost as good as new. On the not so good front was the scratches on the rear of the trailer, there were two of them and they were very light and about 6 to 8 inches long. I ran my finger over them as I chatted to the service manager about the work that had been performed, we'd also requested a full service whilst they had the trailer. My none to subtle hint wasn't acknowledged and I never verbalised my concern as they may well have happened on the night that the awning broke, when I swung by home to pick up Rainey the first thing she did was point and say 'They're new' but how do we prove it that.
The service itself was expensive at $550.00, we could get a European car serviced for that but we did want to take care of the trailer so we paid it without dispute. We thought we'd check Bundeena camp ground near Kangaroo Valley for the first time and stayed there on the Friday night. It's not a bad place but it was fairly crowded and you can't have fires so we decided to pack up on the Saturday morning and move onto Grady's as originally planned. I folded up the awning in the usual manner and as I swung it around into the closed position the hinge where the whole thing pivots came apart. Was I annoyed? Well, just a little. You see the $550 we were charged for the trailer service didn't included the awning repairs and so we again we paid the additional $100.00 for the work. I rang Off Grid Outfitters on the Monday to let them know that I wasn't happy with the work and this is where the real disappointment began. The service manager advised that 'we didn't charge you to service the awning, just replace the broken part' to which I replied that the hinge was part of the area that they were repairing and that also we'd paid for a trailer service. The answer will go with me to my grave, 'the trailer service doesn't include the awning, just the trailer itself and we did take the job on at short notice'. It's disappointing that all I was hearing was excuses and as far as the short notice goes we had advised Off Grid that we had the compressor failure a couple of weeks earlier and would it be OK to drop it in on our way past on our return from our South Australian trip to which we were advised that it wouldn't be a problem. Adding to that we advised them that when we dropped the trailer in that we had no planned trips so take their time with the work. We also lost a rubber plug that stops the spare wheel from rubbing on the trailer body and could they replace it whilst they were working on the trailer. No only did that not happen, there was another one missing. Now I understand people get busy but the lack of acknowledgement of the issues and the lack of attention to detail means that we'll be taking care of servicing ourselves or seeking out alternatives for trailer servicing in the future.
Anyway back to the weekend away. We arrived at Grady's early but due to it being fairly quiet we had no problem checking in. We set the trailer up and proceeded to attach the kids tent for the first time, even though we don't travel with kids we wished we'd had it on our South Oz adventure as at times we needed and escape from the chilli winds blowing in from the Bight. The tent itself seems like a fairly simple but effective design but attaching it to the main tent can be a little fiddly, you know that thing with zippers when you wish you had a third arm so you could hold tension on each end of the zipper? Anyway we thought that once it was on we would just leave it on so this would be the last time we'd have to do it, we were wrong though. Canvas is heavy and attempting to heave the thing up on top of the trailer with added weight of the kids room proved too much for us. Sure if we only did long stays you'd manage but we do a mix of both long stays and short overnight stops where fast set-up and pack downs are essential. So when removed the kids room lives in its canvas carry bag and just gets thrown on top of the folded up tent along with the awning walls and man cave and tent door extensions. There's still enough room to avoid making the bag difficult to fit.
The kids room itself is roomy enough for us to use it as an area to store clothes thats far more accessible than reaching under the bed to get them out of the cupboard where they are stowed when in transit. Access to storage cupboards on the right hand side of the trailer under the bed is fine for a night or two but when set-up for a week or more it becomes frustrating, to get in there you have to stoop down and contort yourself around the staircase. The advertising blurb states that folding the bed up each morning is easy, which of course allows easier access to the cupboard but we purchased a camper trailer so we didn't have to partially pack up each day just to make the space usable. We have an Oztrail collapsable cupboard thats light weight and folds down to about 50mm in height and we put it in the kids tent and this becomes our change room or somewhere to sit if the weather is really shitty. I believe the unit we have is no longer available but there are loads of similar options out there. Our kids tent appears to have a bit of a fabrication issue but I can't quite put my finger on what it is thats wrong, it doesn't matter how much tension we put on the straps or how we peg it down we just cannot get tension on the canvas. We're yet to have it set up in inclement weather but pooling will be an issue. We haven't taken this up with Patriot yet as we're not convinced that this isn't down to something we are doing wrong during set up.
We decided on this trip that the rear door being suspended at 90 degrees made life very difficult getting into and out of the main storage compartment and rather than dropping another thousand bucks on more kit, ie: the Drifta slide out unit, we would just removed the guy wires and allow the door to swing down out of the way. Access, whilst still challenging with heavier items up the front is greatly improved. We have removed the guy wires all together and just leave them stowed away with some various spares and things that live in the Prado. Another option if you feel the need to use the door as a table as it was intended you just un-clip the bottom and leave them hanging and simply re-attach when needed. Another little trick we've added to the remaining guy wires is a light weight lead sinker. This slides up and down freely on the guy wires and places just enough tension on it to stop getting caught in the rubber seals when closing the storage cupboard doors.
We're really starting to get the hang of setting up and packing down the tent now and we can have it sleep ready with in ten minutes of arrival and that's not rushing around like lunatics either.
So collection day had arrived and it was a good six weeks earlier than expected bonus. At the time we purchased our camper trailer the deal was that you put down yer five grand and join the queue and then a week before your trailer comes off the production line you get sent an invoice for the balance. Now someone ahead of us in the queue had a problem with getting their finances together and via the dealer network asked to swap places with someone else further down the line to delay their final payment, and so it was that we were offered the chance to swap places with them in the queue, which of course we did.
So the final balance was paid and the collection was arranged for Friday afternoon. There were a couple of hiccups with freight which meant that our trailer arrived at about 1:00 pm so the team at Off Grid had their work cut out doing the Pre-Delivery in time, all good though and after a shorten hand over process we finally hit the road and headed down to Grady's Riverside Retreat on the Shoalhaven River 20klm's West of Nowra. Of course, we couldn't get away without buying a new 60L ARB Fridge to suit the slide on the trailer, both of our Dometic fridges were too big, damn. The salesman had told us that handover usually a two-hour process as they run through all of the salient points of setting up and operating the trailer. We had made nuisance during the waiting period and knew the trailer fairly well by now. With trailer quickly connected we made our way out the driveway and started to make our way South.
So how does it tow? Very well, the X1 is well balanced and the old cliche of you'd hardly know it was there is almost accurate, you can only expect so much when towing with a 3.0 Turbo Diesel Prado. The old girl certainly copes better with the Patriot than she used to with the old Black Series hard floor, We haven't put the Patriot over the scales yet but I'd suggest there's a weight saving of anywhere from 35 to 50% once fully laden.
Setting up in the dark is never fun and setting up in the dark with a new trailer is almost as unpalatable as a plate full of Brussel Sprouts. We popped the head torches on un-hooked the trailer and turned the Prado around and left the lights on whilst we set about removing the tent cover and setting up the tent for the first time. It was quite impressive and I would guess that we had it sleep ready with 30 minutes of our arrival, this includes the Supa Wing 2.1 metre awning that comes as standard fitment on the Patriot range.
We couldn't find the master light switch for the tent light which was a bit of a pain that first night but found it tucked out of harms way down the left side of the bed as your facing it from the ladder, flicked it on and all was well for night two. The lack of lighting in the 'man cave' was a different problem. There's a small multi-plug right where the wires come through the wall from the main trailer compartment and the wire connectors had been pulled out of at the time of installation, we reported this to Off-Grid Outfitters so we could get it fixed under warranty after our planned upcoming trip to South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, there was simply no time to get it done before our planned departure date. I did attempt to re-connect this myself but with the time or the patience, I decided the best course of action was to crack a tinnie and sit around the campfire whilst that night's roast was cooking away on the coals.
We spent most of the day trying to work out where to put stuff of which, we have a lot, a real lot. We're not lightweight campers my wife likes some creature comforts and like to tinker and mess about with my toys when camping with multiple cooking accessories and a bunch of camera gear I was probably more accountable for our podgy camp set-up. We didn't quite get it usable but that's something that will evolve over time. The storage on the X1-GT is very good when you take into account how compact the whole design is. I would like to see a more spacious version with the Grand Tourer moniker attached, it is a tourer after all. An extra 500mm in length would make the X1-GT a true touring trailer for those like us that want to spend more than a few weekends away and who also like to take half of the house with them.
The thing that really kept popping into my head and as I opened and shut everything I could and switched things on and off was the build quality of the trailer. It's well thought out with very little wasted space, the fittings and fixtures are robust and everything does as what it says on the tin. You turn the tap on and water comes out, you flick a switch and the lights work, well most of them, and it's a beauty to look at. Something is always going to happen though when you make everything compact is that things can get fiddly and initially the Patriot excels in this area. Starting with the man cave and trademark BBQ swing away. This is a great concept but putting the BBQ away for the first few times is light trying to sort out one of those kids 3D puzzles where have to make the chrome ring inside the wooden box through a hole that is significantly smaller than the said ring. Think of the Webber BBQ as the chrome ring and the man cave as the wooden box, add into that, in our case the Webasto diesel hot water system and it's a very tight squeeze indeed. The other negative is that the swing away itself takes up a lot of room in what is already a small space. Like everything, I'm sure it will get easier with use.
We decided that we didn't want to use the supplied Bromic cooker in the position in which it comes from the factory. Whilst the kitchen bench area is spacious enough for quick overnight stops for our longer stays we feel that that the space could be more effectively utilised. So we removed it and found a Sistema brand container that we had in the Prado fitted fairly close to a perfect fit on the stove slide out which we use for storing pots and pans. We hoped that the Bromic cooker would fit on the shelf in the man cave but it was too big so we decided to store it and use our old Coleman Eventemp 3 burner due to it's slimmer design. The Coleman resides in the rear main storage compartment along with a lightweight aluminium camping bench that we set up next to the Webber. All of the cooking would now happen in one place.
We fired up the Webasto hot water system after breakfast and a few minutes later we were doing the dishes in hot water from the tap, very handy. We didn't use the shower on this first trip so we'll add more info on how it functions at a later date.
How did the pack up go? Pretty good I must say, of course, it was the first one so we were learning what went where but again less than thirty minutes I'd reckon. The tent is relatively compact and means that you weren't trying to lift a whole bunch of weight up onto the trailer and Rainey and I coped with it without and problems. Once we get the technique down pat we're sure it will get easier and easier, I'm also working on my patience and trying to stop looking at my watch during pack ups. We are on holidays after all so what's the rush?
Anyway, we'll bring you more after our next trip...
Trip Distance: 336Klm's
Total Mileage: 336Klm's
So after what seemed like an eternity the day had arrived when we would head off on a four week adventure that would see us take in the Eyre Peninsula and both the Filnders & Gawler Ranges in South Australia.
We crawled South down the M5 with all of the tradie traffic in the mid afternoon with a view to getting to Wagga Wagga for an easy overnighter. We arrived at about 7:30pm and used the last remaining minutes of daylight to set-up the trailer for the second ever time and already it was easier than the first, daylight assisting no doubt. After maybe twenty minutes we were set and proceeded to sort dinner. One of the important lessons we learnt with the set-up is to ensure that you connect the storm flap/tropical roof of the tent to the awning support coz once the awning is set-up you can't reach it.
Dinner was a simple affair and we planned on hitting the road early so we cleaned up and packed away what we could and sat down with an evening bevvy and prepared to find out about the weather resistant capabilities of the tent and awning as the heavens opened up and gave us a good drenching. Considering that none of the canvas had been seasoned if faired very well with just a few drips from the seams on the awning and some leakage onto the floor area of the main tent, thankfully away from the bedding. We'll keep an eye on this but experience tells me that once the canvas has been seasoned a few times we should be golden.
One thing that seasoning won't help as it's a design issue is the fact that there's a gaping opening between the awning and the tent over the left rear corner of the trailer that allows water to flow in at its leisure. We made sure that we had the awning sloping downwards towards the outside so at least it didn't funnel down that way. We would have to wait until we got more familiar with the set-up to decide if we could alleviate this problem.
The pack up that morning was uneventful and we were away much earlier than anticipated for the long slog to Adelaide and nothing to report contrary to earlier towing reports, the Patriot X1-GT tows like a dream.
We arrived in the Adelaide beachside suburb of Semaphore for a two night stop catch up children and grand-children. We didn't have the kids room tent fitted and the Patriot fitted on the standard caravan site with no no problems. If we'd had the kids room attached I'd imagine we would have had to swivel the trailer 90 degrees and run across the site to get the length needed, this is only a suspicion though.
We were worried about security in the caravan park as from our experience thats when most camping thefts occur. We headed to Bunnings and purchased a couple of packs of padlocks. A couple of four packs of Lockwood Absa Alloy 30mm silicone covered locks took care of the over centre latches on the all of the storage compartments, eight in total. We also had a spare 40mm version of the same lock, sans silicone that we used to lock the spare wheel swing away in place. The lock set-up gave us peace of mind both at night and during the days when we would stop in the many small towns and communities to explore or top up supplies.
After the family commitments were taken care of it was time to head for the Eyre Peninsula and some free or, off grid camping. We found a place called Carrow Wells and after a short jaunt down some relatively smooth dirt roads and bit of a sandy track we found a nice sheltered and secluded spot behind the sand dunes. We had found a relatively level site so had no major issues with levelling the trailer using the onboard compressor to operate the air bag suspension. We did find that the built in spirit level wasn't bang on accurate and we did feel a little head down feet up that first night, a simple flick of the switch and it was sorted for night two though.
We spent a few nights at Carrow Wells before packing and heading down the coast towards Coffin Bay. There's a great spot down in the Coffin Bay National Park that involves some simple off roading and leads down to a couple of very secluded spots, you can find 'em on Wikicamps. This was the first real foray into towing the Patriot in an off road situation and again there is very little to report other than the fact that it's compact size made it easy to turn around at the bottom.
We had howling winds here that were approaching the trailer from the North or man cave end of the trailer. We'd set up the man cave awning extension for the first time and decided to lower the poles as much as possible to try and deflect some of the wind over the tent. It survived the night with just a couple of pegs pulled out of the sandy soil.
It was now though that we were starting find a couple of areas of concern design wise and for today we'll start with the awning extension. The part that zips to the main tent is great but it has to be said that the methodology behind attaching it to the main awning is pretty ordinary. It was very difficult to attach, looked like a dogs breakfast and impossible to get any sort of tension on. I'm quietly confidant that it will make a great catch pool with a good nights rain fall.
Anyway onwards and upwards, after a three night stay we packed up and moved on finding a fantastic organic pig farm on the way to our next stop (we didn't know where this would be at this point in time!). We grabbed some of their incredible bacon and checked out their antiques and collectables store, amazing.
We headed Westward and pulled over at road house littered with the usual paraphernalia that outback road houses seem to accumulate over their lifetime. It was ten thirty and we figured a couple of toasted ham & cheese sandwich's would be ideal to get us through to lunchtime. We ended up chatting to a local bloke who walked up from his place just down the road to buy a new pair of thongs, summer was on the way after all. Terry was a nice bloke and he suggested, between swigs of his JD & Coke from a tin that we pull into Sheringa Beach, just down the road a bit. We decided to take a punt follow Terry's directions and aren't we glad we did, it was spectacular. It was now that the Patriots ease of use whilst still being attached to the vehicle came into its own. We quickly opened the kitchen side storage compartment and put the jet boil on and had a coffee whilst soaking up the view, thanks Terry.
Whilst we thought Sheringa Beach was amazing it was still fairly early and we decided to move on. About 100Klm's down the road we spotted a sign for Venus Bay and it looked amazing, we hit the brakes and washed off enough speed to make the left turn, just. Venus Bay the township almost doesn't exist, if your looking for a walk to the local pub or club in the evening this isn't it. There are a bunch of houses, mostly used for holidaying and a caravan park where we were fortunate enough to blag the last spot over looking the water. You're allowed contained fires and so we decided this would be home for a few days.
The wind was approaching from the rear of the trailer, South East and we decided to set up a couple of awning walls, it was fresh after all. The design of the Supa Peg awning has been played with to work with the Patriot Camper and this creates the second of our list of design issues that, thus far, have all been related to the canvas work. When the Supa Peg awning is fitted to a vehicle a tie strap is used to pull the awning all the way around and create tension on it, not an option with the Patriot CS3 tent being where it is. So whilst initially looking like a clever design idea, the Patriot fix is to have the awning pole, that would normally be restrained with a tension strap retained by the spare wheel swing away. This is fine until you want to put a wind break wall along where the spare wheel swing away rests. It makes installation difficult and leaves black tyre carbon all over the awning wall, which still does a job of slowing the wind but it looks bad and reeks of design short cuts being taken.
The stay at Venus Bay was amazing, we met some great people, the pelicans were friendly and we could have just stayed put but we were forced to move on as the place was booked out. So move on we did, to Streaky Bay. Again it was another caravan park and this one a little more like the new modern style of Big 4 or NRMA style of all in one resort. It was within walking distance of the town so we stayed a night, explored the town and moved on to the Gawler Ranges. Streaky was also home of the first failure of the Patriot X1-GT. The site we had been given was slopping fairly steeply towards the water and when using the onboard compressor to level the trailer it failed. The compressor still ran but it didn't pump any air into the suspensions air bags. There was a loud pop and the show was over. At that point I suspected that it was split airline or that it maybe even popped out of one of the fittings. We left it for now as it was late afternoon and we wanted to explore instead.
The next morning we lowered the trailer down to the correct ride height and thought we'd have a look when we got to our next camp site as it was only an hour or so drive up the road. We took the opportunity to ring Off Grid Outfitters and let them know about the failure so at least there was a record of the fault so if we couldn't fix it on the road they could upon our return. I asked if they had any clues to which they replied 'call Patriot HQ'. Now after spending a lot of years in retail leisure products I would have expected a 'let me contact Patriot for you and see what they have to say, do you mind if I pass on your contact details to them?'
I rang Patriot and they were far more helpful and gave me a bunch of clues for where to look and they suspected it was a popped line. We were fortunate to find a level site in the Gawler ranges, we'd entered in from Minnipa and just drove around around until we found a spot at Mattera Camp Ground. Before we set up the tent I emptied out the forward storage compartment on the left hand side of the trailer as this is where the compressor was located. Removing the panel on the left near the water tank switch gives you... er, access. All of the fittings appeared to be intact and there was no sign of split hoses. Rainey operated the the compressor whilst I listened for the sounds of leaking air, nothing. Just the compressor spinning away in its normal fashion.
So the next thing to do was check the fittings behind the control panel on the right hand side, four Allan key type screws hold the panel in place. Swinging it out of the way revealed nothing untoward and quick flick of the compressor switch revealed that again there was no air leaks. There was nothing more we could do here and it would have to wait until we'd returned home, the search for level ish sites would be our motivation for the rest of the journey.
We'd now been living with the Patriot for about two weeks and we were still playing around with storage arrangements. It's one of those things I guess that you don't really know what works until you use it, a lot. The other issue is that when you're on the road, if there is something you decide you don't need you either throw it away or put up with it until you get home. At this stage we kept the man cave for BBQ gear and set up stuff like pegs, ropes and cordless drill etc (we use screw in tent pegs). We also kept a food grade water hose in there. Our sullage, or grey water hose was kept in the wet storage boxes at the rear of the X1-GT.
With our decision to use our old Coleman Eventemp 3 Burner gas cooker in conjunction with the Webber BabyQ I looked around on our travels and found a gas bottle POL fitting T-Piece and a POL to 3/4" adapter which allowed me to run both from the one gas bottle. It's annoying when you have two gas bottles run out at the same time so now I can just swap over to the other one and get the empty refilled at the next opportunity. The negative of the T-Piece is that it doesn't have any type of valve so you have to have both stoves connected so you can control the gas flow. I tend to unscrew it when not in use so if we pull up for a quick one nighter and just want to use the Coleman the T-Piece stays in the man cave.
The wind that we'd had on the coast had stayed with us up into the Gawler Ranges and the tropical roof flapped like crazy and prevented a decent nights sleep. We cooked Bacon & Eggs for breakfast on the campfire before deciding we really wanted to spend more time in the Flinders ranges so we had to make a sacrifice, packed up the trailer and moved on. We headed East out through Buckleboo and down towards Kimba before rejoining the highway to Port Augusta.
We spent some time in Quorn stocking the pantry and checking out the historic buildings and railway station, it's an interesting town and worth a look. If your a train buff it's worth researching what days the trains run, but anyway this blogs about the Patriot X1-GT not the journey itself.
We found the best place to carry pantry items is in the ample rear slide out drawer of the rear compartment. We use the left side for food items and the right side for other kitchen stuff like pots and pans, paper towels, tea towels, dish cloths etc. It works well but we will have to do something about the pots and pans though as they are just a bit too big for the space, they fit but take up too much of it. Any bulk dry foods that we take on a longer trip such as this live in a couple of Sistema containers in the back of the Prado.
The rear main storage compartment of the X1-GT is a good space but it fills very quickly. We carry our Gstove camping stove and it's associated accessories as well as our porta potty and spare canvas. This pretty much fills it. Anything stored at the front of the space is a right royal pain in the backside to access and the guys at Drifta do a slide out tray which looks like the solution. My only concern with it is that there will be some loss of space but I guess the counter to that is that it's more usable. We'll give it some thought. In the meantime though we'll just have to lean in, use tent poles and various other means for extracting gear stowed at the front of the trailer.
We took the right turn at Hawker and headed towards Wilpena Pound, the place to book National Park camp sites. After some guidance we settled on a place and started the hour long, mostly bitumen drive that had some lightly corrugated dirt for the last 10-15Klm's. The area itself looked great and contained about a dozen well spaced camp sites, ours was too small to fit out trailer, damn. We were faced with the choice of the hour long drive back to the Information Centre or look for something nearby outside of the National Park, we did consider just taking a spot that we would fit into but the last thing we wanted was to have a late arrival turn up and demand their spot that they had booked. We decided to find something else and did our dough on the National Park site.
We found Alpana Station 5 Km's South of Blinman and at $15.00 per vehicle per night for an un-powered site we jumped on it. We were in Bill's Paddock, set amongst the massive River Gums alongside a dry river bed, there were toilets nearby and we had the place almost to our selves. We quickly set up the tent and awning and gathered some wood for a small fire, two reasons, there wasn't much around and the wind was picking up. Willie Weather advised that the wind would drop after about 9:00pm. Little did we know that the opposite was about to happen and the Patriot CS3 Tent and Supapeg awning were about to cop a beating.
We called it a night fairly early, more to escape the blustery conditions then any real need for sleep. We tossed and turned as the wind picked up, it sounded like a freight train as it made its way down the dry river bed towards us. It would hit and the trailer would rock from side to side, it felt like we were onboard a boat at anchor in a severe chop. It was disconcerting given the proximity of the huge widow makers standing quite close by.
It was about 1:30am and we heard this enormous roar as the the next gust came through which was followed by a load crack as our awning folded itself up and over the top of the tent. I went out and strapped it into its folded position as best I could in the conditions, estimated wind speeds the day claimed gust of up to 70kmh. There were broken poles sticking out of the canvas a bits of awning support legs still pegged to the ground. Once the awning was secured we got in the car and moved to a clearing well away from the Gum tress, and there we slept.
The wind had calmed overnight and we made our way back to the trailer to access the damage. The tent stood up to the challenge which was great to see and all the trees had stood fast in the onslaught, now for the awning assessment. We undone the straps holding it in place and folded it out into the open position. One of the plastic hinges had snapped in half which had allowed the awning to fold in half, and as mentioned one of the legs had pulled in half and I simply slid it back together and it functioned as intended which meant that the ole hadn't bent. That aside it looked fine, the hinged bracket had splayed open and I easily bent it back into shape. There was also some minor tearing in one of the pole sleeve seams, just pulled stitching for about 25mm. All in all I was pretty stoked as we really didn't want to fork out large sums for a new one. We wouldn't be able to access the spare parts to repair it though so I used some bush mechanics best friends, tip ties, to hold it in place each evening when we set it up.
We took some time exploring around the Flinders Ranges before moving on towards Mildura and the Murray River region, time was getting away from us so we had to press on, adding many new places to our must do list that we were forced to pass along the way. We went into the river land area from Renmark and travelled many of the tracks and trails towards Mildura, the trailer handled it well and few shallow water crossings caused no concerns. The tracks were fairly slippery due to recent rains and looking at sky we were in for plenty more with a large storm cell looming ever closer. We decided to get out whilst we could, the thought of being stranded, whilst having certain appealing aspects, you know fridge full of food and beer kinda thing, would have been hard to explain to our bosses.
We ended up finding a nice low key van park on the banks of Lake Cullulleraine, it was reasonably priced, you could have fires and the sites were grassy and level. It comes highly recommended if you need the sanity of a van park with full amenities. We moved through Mildura to re-provision the pantry and beer fridge before heading North to Broken Hill where time only allowed us to spend one night before turning right and heading East towards home. Rainey had some work commitments in Dubbo so our arrival date was not negotiable.
I spent the time at Dubbo un-packing and re-packing things seeing if there was a convenient way to arrange the plethora of gear that carry. I also fitted our Duncan Biscuits shelf to the kitchen of the trailer. This is a great addition and well worth the messily $150 that Mr Biscuits charges for his handy work.
The installation was a fairly easy affair, it's just a case of making sure the mounting bracket is level. I did it by eye because I figured that using a spirit level would only be accurate if the trailer was dead on level. It wasn't difficult to gauge along the edge of the sink unit. I ended up drilling the middle hole first and then pop riveted the bracket on and then simply swivelled it up or down until it was inline with the top edge of the shelf, as mentioned.
From Dubbo it was an uneventful trip home with a quick one nighter at Lake Windemere near Mudgee, the sites are severely sloped and not having our compressor working meant that we had to dig a hole for the right hand tyre to sink into. We now have levelling ramps.
Trip Distance: 5,565Klm's
Total Mileage: 5,906Klm's
The Patriot range of camper trailers need little to no introduction to anyone with anything more than a passing interest in camping. They are widely considered the best soft floor camper trailer on the market and five consecutive 'Camper Trailer of the Year Awards' are testament to their design and engineering excellence. Our Patriot is our third camper trailer and the reasons for choosing the Patriot are many and varied but the main one was quality. We had had a range of issues with our Chinese made camper trailers which you can read about here.
So the decision to buy a new trailer came after yet another frustrating trip up to the Turon River near Mudgee. On the drive home we decided we would put our trailer on the market and look for a new one with two criteria in mind, quality of manufacture and ease of use being the other. After some research we decided we liked the look of the Patriot and their brilliantly put together videos on YouTube reinforced the build quality and functionality we were looking for. We then went to our local dealer, Off-Grid Outfitters in Smeaton Grange South West of Sydney for a look at the range.
We had a brief chat to the salesman and told him of our frustrations with our existing trailer and he offered to show us around the X1. We accepted the offer and he went through the trailer from front to back, explaining all of the features along the way. He even took the time to set-up the awning and tent and pointed out the little tips and tricks to help speed up the process and avoid rookie errors in the process.
We sat down at the table whilst he put together a quote based on the options we selected whilst we pondered how we could scrape together the money to get the deal on the move. At the time there was a 5 month waiting list so all we needed to do was cough up five grand to get a spot in the queue and scrape the rest together in meantime. OK Drum roll please.... just under $60,000.00 was the number. This wasn't a complete shock as Patriot advertise their prices on the website but we weren't sure how much our selected options would add to the base price of $49,990.00.
We drove home and crunched the numbers along the way and thought that if we could off load our existing camper trailer then we'd be able get the rest sorted by the time it was delivered, so we rang rang Off-Grid Outfitters and placed an order. We settled on the top of the range model at the time, the X1-GT. We figured if we were going to buy the best then scrimping on a few bucks over the life of the trailer made no sense. The X1-GT is no longer available but you could option up a new model to the same spec. The GT came with the some features that we really thought made sense at the time but with use, maybe not so much and we'll discuss those and the reasons why as the blog progresses. So for the extra money you get a BBQ swing away located in the man cave, the kids room tent and awning extensions, the amazing REDARC TVMS and a few other bits and bobs that have for moment escaped my memory.
We decided the number one option would be the Webasto diesel hot water system, this added a lazy 6K to the price which isn't cheap but knew it was something that we would never get around to fitting at a later date. We'll talk about the Webasto through the course of the blog updates. We also added the extended draw bar at just under four hundred bucks. This allows us to fully open the rear door of the Prado without un-hitching the trailer, although depending on the angle of the vehicle we do occasionally have to remove the jockey wheel from its storage position. The other advantage with the extended draw bar is that it makes the trailer slightly easier to reverse. If you do tight single track stuff then maybe the extended draw isn't for you.
Next up was the Mickey Thompson tyre upgrade, for what we do this was a decision motivated purely by ego, they look great and I have no doubt that the standard tyres would done whatever we asked of them. Our ego cost us just under $700 that day. We then added two wind break walls constructed out of the most expensive canvas on the planet, think six hundred dollars worth of expensive canvas. We added a new Webber BabyQ even though we already had one that we use at home we didn't want to messing about each time we wanted to go away for a weekend, we just wanted to fill the fridge hook it up and go. More on how that's not working for us later!
There is also the exorbitant $1250 pre delivery fee and the usual government registration costs, $355.00 worth.
We did get a Lightbar and Rhino rack thrown in as part of sales promotion at the time, we sold the lightbar and fitted the rack to our 120 series Prado.
So as mentioned we put our money down and the waiting game began.
We use a bunch of camping and travel related products in our day to day lives, find out what we think of them here.