Reviewed: MDC Campers Jackson Forward Fold

How MDC’s latest forward-fold camper surprised the hell out of me.

 

First impressions make a difference and, as part of MDC’s Luxurious Touring Series range, the Jackson Forward Fold camper looks impressive. The rugged mud terrain tyres wrapped around trick alloys and the streamlined shape adds up to a tidy appearance. I took it to the Victorian High Country for a couple of days to see if it could handle it. I admit it, as an entry-level hard floor that’s one of the lowest-priced on the market, I was a little concerned it would all go pear-shaped…

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OUTSIDE

While the 2300mm extended draw bar may make reversing the camper easy, it did struggle with the water control humps on the tracks. Consistently dragging across the top of them caused the jockey wheel handle to snap off meaning I couldn’t unhitch for two days. Still, the added length allows a large front box with multiple storage spaces. It hides a fridge slide, a smaller slide-out drawer and provides storage for the poles while another shelved section has a 12V point. Behind the stone guard is provisioning for two jerry cans and two 4kg LPG bottles that are plumbed to the rear of the camper.

 

The slide-out stainless steel kitchen contains a SMEV three burner stove and sink that’s hooked up to the water tank via an electric pump. A slide-out shelf provides added prep space and two drawers suitable for cutlery and other utensils. Six external 12V points are spaced around the camper to plug external lighting into as there are none hardwired. I liked the ability to lock the kitchen in place when open and secure it when closed and the support leg stability.

 

The nerve centre is nice and neat with all the switches for power, a 12V point, 30A battery management system, water level indicator (viewable when filling the tank), and volt/amp meters. It also houses a breaker for the Anderson plug connection on the draw bar. The rear of the camper is nicely dressed with twin spare wheels on a sturdy frame and two rated recovery points with bow shackles.

 

INSIDE

 

When the Jackson is fully set up including the awning, there’s an amazing 18 square metres of living space. A queen sized foam mattress graces the sleeping section and can be closed off with a handy privacy screen. The U-shaped seating area is a good size although the adjustable height table is small. It also converts to a double sized bed, perfect for kids to enjoy a good night’s sleep. The 80’s velour coverings are definitely, ah, a bit retro. Rolling up the wall and door opens up the lounge giving a real indoor-outdoor feel. All windows have internal and external curtains with midge proof screens.

 

The internal side support pole on the door side can be changed to a vertical position, with a footing in place to secure it. I thought the opposite side needed this feature too, as the pole is uncomfortable to lean against. As with most forward-fold campers, there is very little storage under the lounge as it is taken up with two 100AH batteries, a 1000W modified sine inverter, 240V battery charger, radio, speaker and two wheel arches.

 

Two 12V power outlets are very handy, a couple of USB power outlets would add value. The three portable LED strip lights supplied need to be plugged into 12V outlets. Hardwiring the internal lighting would solve this problem.

 

UNDERNEATH

 

The 3mm hot dip galvanised chassis hosts the body, constructed with 2mm steel and coated in a 2-PAK gloss finish. The independent trailing arm suspension with dual gas shockers and coil springs handled the High Country terrain admirably and the 10in electric brakes coped with slowing the camper down on the steep inclines without a worry.

 

The Poly-block coupling did its job on the off-camber tracks allowing smooth articulation. The 80L stainless steel water tank sits at the rear and everything else is nicely tucked away. Heavy-duty adjustable drop-down stabiliser legs sit on each corner giving easy levelling.

 

STEP UP & PULL DOWN

 

Set up was quick ‘n’ easy. Drop the legs and release the gas strut assisted boat rack. With no weight it rises fairly quickly and kept me on my toes, a strap would be handy to control the rack; or you could just tie a bit of rope on yourself.

 

From there, release the catches for the roof, connect the front winch, slacken the rear winch. The roof folds back as you wind from the front and after extending the internal support poles the tent section is complete. With two people on the job it’d be even quicker.

 

The awning diagram left me confused, and I gave up, unable to work it out.  I was instructed to lay the poles out and use the numbers on the poles to figure out where they go. A few poles were missing numbers adding to my confusion. I thought it strange that the ensuite tent attaches to the annexe on the opposite end to the plumbed water and LPG points.

 

Pull down was a little more difficult on my own. Folding up the camper was easy, it was just the reverse of setup, the roof rack again was a challenge. Stretch to kick out the lock bolts with my feet then work out to close the rack fully. If I let go, the gas struts would pull it open again. A strap would solve this issue too. I ended up hooking the rear winch up to the rack just enough to hold it until I could pull it closed.

 

VERDICT

 

The idea of forward-fold campers that offer somewhere to sleep and sit all on the same footprint is brilliant. However, the sacrifice is storage space. Hard floor campers have loads of space under the bed, this is lost and there isn’t an easy way to get that storage space back. With that said, this is not exclusive to MDC, more of a design observation. The current package includes the annex walls and ensuite privacy room, portable toilet and gas hot water unit.

 

I would like to see a 240V inlet as standard and maybe increase the height of the camper sides by 30cm and, in turn, the seating by 30cm. With false flooring in the seat bases, crucial storage space will be created. The Jackson is an extremely capable entry-level camper trailer that handled the High Country tracks with aplomb. Throwing in a load of added extras at a bargain price represents great value for money.

 

SPECIFICATIONS: MDC Jackson Front Fold

CHASSIS: 100 x 50 x 3mm RHS drawbar, 70 x 50 x 3mm chassis & cross beams

DIMENSIONS: 5.2m overall length, 1.8m width, 2200 x 1800 x 625mm trailer, 4150 x 1750 x 2150mm opened trailer

COUPLING: Poly block off-road coupling

RIMS & TYRES: 4 x 16in 6-stud LandCruiser steel wheels with 265/75R16 LT MT

SUSPENSION: Independent trailing arms with dual shock absorbers and coil springs

WATER: 80L steel

POWER: 2 x 100AH batteries, 30 amp BMS, 180W solar panel

LIGHTING: 3 x LED light strips

CANVAS: 16oz Closeweave

WEIGHT: 1330kg tare, 160kg ball, 1900kg ATM

BRAKES: 10in electric brake drum

PRICE: from $15990

 

PROS:

  • Quick to set up
  • Fridge slide to suit several different fridges
  • Rolling up the side wall opened up the space
  • Good seals prevented dust or water ingress.
  • Easy to tow

 

CONS:

  • Boat rack requires a strap to ease opening and closing
  • Distinct lack of storage for large items
  • No 240V inlet to run the battery charger
  • Setting up the awning is overcomplicated
  • Issues with opening the rear door on my Prado due to the hand winch

 

For more information, visit MDC Camper Trailers and Offroad Caravans

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