Some days don't go quite as a planned. The brief was simple enough: hitch a Jayco Eagle camper-trailer to Subaru's latest Outback and head off to the Blue Mountains for a day's worth of 'getting to know you'.
Then the rain set in. It started as a bit of light drizzle, enough to keep the windscreen wipers on slow intermittent on the journey along the Bells Line of Road from Sydney. But by the time photographer Mark was out on the side of the road to take a few snaps of the Outback/Jayco combo on the move, the sky was like an enormous grey blanket over us. And, as Murphy's Law would have it, the biggest dump of rain was waiting for us both to be out of the car and setting up the Jayco.
I could have wallowed in self-pity (okay, okay, I did for a little while). But it dawned on me to see the silver lining in those nasty clouds above us. If this Jayco couldn't handle the elements on a day like today, I thought to myself, what good was it buying one? Even if I wasn't enjoying getting soaked to the skin, the conditions were actually perfect for testing what this camper-trailer was capable of.
The Jayco name is synonymous with camper-trailers, of course. The company celebrated its 35th anniversary last year and took the opportunity to launch some improvements to its camper-trailer range for 2011. Among the improvements were a new roof featuring an interlocking design that Jayco says adds extra strength. It incorporates three new elements: ABS corner moulds, extruded powder-coated side walls, and a one-piece fibreglass top sheet.
These changes aside Jayco has stuck with what it does best: manufacture a no-nonsense but perfectly competent camper-trailer that won't cost the earth.
The Eagle featured in this review features a galvanised 'Millenium Chassis' with an interlocking aluminium frame with fibreglass skin that comes thicker than the standard aluminium. There's a front storage boot with one piece boot liner, a flexcoat pebble guard, LED side running lights, alloy wheels, 82L water tanks with stone guard, electric brakes, a spare wheel jack, a 9kg gas bottle, and ALKO corner stays. It's finished with a gel-coat finish that is hail and dent resistant.
The tent section is a double-stitched, one-piece construction that is manufactured in-house with state-of-the-art computerised cutting equipment.
Some changes have been made to the door, too. It now features a split construction (resin transfer moulded at the top and a fibreglass at the bottom), as well as more rounded corners to prevent any nasty mishaps.
Winding up the roof section is easy enough, even if we were slowed down by the inclement conditions. The roof lifter system is fully enclosed above the floor to eliminate the chance of damage from road debris or the weather. Steel pulleys with built-in bearings makes the cables track accurately and won't wear out. There's also an automatic brake that helps prevent the roof falling as it elevates.
Start by unlatching the roof clips at each corner, then remove the winder from the boot and insert it into the enclosed wind-up system to wind up the roof. Once the roof is raised, beds at the front and rear of the camper slide out on built-in rollers and nylon slides. Poles are then put in place under each bed to support them.
Once the roof has been raised, forming a fully enclosed camper is simply a case of lowering the split door, which has been stored on the camper ceiling while travelling, and connecting the top section of the door to the bottom.
The internal bed poles are then inserted into place by inserting one end into a bracket and then sliding the top end into a small groove. This can be a little tricky and requires some elbow grease to get the upper part of the pole in place. Once in, though, it keeps the bed structure in good shape. There are two beds, with the general idea that parents sleep at the front and the kids towards the rear; the front bed has about 300mm more width, and the rear one features a child safety rail.
With the beds in place, it's clear there are acres of space inside the Jayco. 'Euro-style' furniture has been fitted throughout, with aluminium framing used not just in the beds, but also in the dinette and the club-style lounge that abuts the sleeping area to the front. The lounge can be converted into an optional bed, which means the Eagle can sleep up to a claimed maximum of eight people, though I think that might be pushing it a little.
Base and bolster cushions on the lounge are made from Enduro foam, which is fire-retardant and features anti-microbial protection to inhibit the growth of mould, mildew and fungi. The fabric is customisable, too. The Eagle we tested featured a tasteful one called Ferius Navy, but there are four other major fabrics to choose from. Similarly, there's a choice of laminex and floor vinyl.
The cabinet drawers utilise what Jayco call an 'Easy Roll' system of opening. They are certainly lightweight, but strong, with the fronts securely screwed, rather than stapled, to provide added strength.
The kitchen features a 4-burner gas griller and a Dometic 3-way fridge. Elsewhere, lighting is on either a 240v or 12v supply and there are rubber-backed curtains and ties.
There's no shortage of optional extras should you wish to add them. They include an external slide-out BBQ, bike racks, roof racks, a luggage storage pod, microwave oven, 100amp auxiliary battery, an inner-spring mattress, a club lounge bed converter, a DVD/CD player with iPod auxiliary input, an external shower and a Fiamma awning.
Out on the open highway towards the Blue Mountains the Eagle tracked straight and true, and it easily accounted for some rough trails and muddy potholes we encountered near Leura. Jayco give their customers the opportunity to take on more challenging conditions by offering each of their camper-trailers as an 'Outback' variant. Specifying the Eagle in Outback form provides the camper with added strength and clearance for conditions that demand it. It adds 300mm to the length in the form of a bumper bar and spare wheel, and 250mm to the travel height. Otherwise the base model is perfectly suitable for most people's requirements.
It's always a shame to have to pack up a camper-trailer when it's raining cats and dogs - it means having to open it back up again when the weather clears up to allow the canvas to dry out. But sometimes there's no avoiding it.
With the trip back to Sydney awaiting us, we flip the door back up, secure it to the ceiling and wind down the roof. It might be handy to have some help at this point: one person to do the winding and another to ensure the canvas is neatly tucked away as the roof is lowered. With the latches shutting the one-piece roof securely, the Eagle is ready to be hitched up and towed.
Luckily, we have an airy and spacious garage to bring the Eagle back to. Once there we opened it up again to dry out – quicker now that we have the hang of the process.
It'll be dry by the next morning, waiting to hit the road again, more adventures awaiting. Rain, hail or shine…
Article published in Australian Caravan+RV magazine, December/January 2012.
|Country of manufacture||Australia|
Jayco (St Marys office, Sydney)
T: (02) 9623 1971
|Options||External slide-out BBQ, bike racks, roof racks, a luggage storage pod, microwave oven, 100amp auxiliary battery, an inner-spring mattress, a club lounge bed converter, a DVD/CD player with iPod auxiliary input, an external shower and a Fiamma awning.|
|Length||5118; Open: 5923 mm|
|Tare weight||950 kg|
|Towball download||100; Outback: 105 kg|