When Pioneer handed over its biggest and best camper, we were more than a little excited. Find out if it lived up to our expectations…
Naming your flagship camper trailer after someone as ingrained in the Outback heritage of Australia as Thomas Mitchell means you’d better come up with the goods. We took the Mitchell on a week-long trip through southern Victoria to find out.
Originating in 1997 as a backyard business in Perth, Pioneer Campers has come a long way. Picked up in 2011 by fabrication experts Actco Pickering, the operation was moved to Dandenong in Victoria. The new owners began moving the brand in a new direction, full steam ahead. Pioneer Campers has stayed true to its heritage – maintaining complete research, design and manufacturing right here in Australia. In 2015 the Mitchell was born and Pioneer Campers hasn’t shown any signs of slowing since.
Immediately the design of the camper grabs you, drawing you in for a closer look. It’s certainly easy on the eyes and screams adventure. The body has been designed to give a great mixture of aerodynamics and off-road ability. Being built from a combination of insulated aluminium sheeting and fibreglass, it’s as light as possible without sacrificing any strength. The 1,400-odd litres of storage space in the box arrangement out front left me more than impressed. The two 9kg gas bottles on either side give ample capacity to run the Truma hot water service and Smev stove on that next long trip.
The internally accessible pantry is located behind the fridge box. The two slide-out drawers give plenty of space for even the fussiest camp chefs… however unfortunately these don’t lock out, which can be a little painful on an uneven campsite. While the recently redesigned two-piece slide-out kitchen (featuring a plumbed Smev sink and stove) had us wondering why more companies hadn’t adopted such a functional setup.
The first thing you notice when entering the camper is the huge amount of space. The cavernous interior features an inner-sprung queen mattress, storage hatches at the bedhead, LED bedside lights and (in our unit) an optional LCD TV and fan – lucky us! Both side windows and the sunroof on the Mitchell open to allow good ventilation.
The lined liftable roof is a welcome feature. It’s assisted by gas struts and it lifts to give roughly another 40cm of headspace and another window. The under-bed storage is huge and is easily accessible from the slatted swing-up bed base. And a rear hatch gives you access to your gear on the road.
This sure was an upgrade from our usual swag. Unfortunately we were left longing for the ability to control the electronics from inside the camper; and wishing there were a couple of power sockets near the bed for overnight charging.
At the front is a DO35 off-road hitch bolted to a huge hot-dipped galvanised chassis. The whole unit is suspended by an independent trailing arm spring/shock setup, soaking up just about anything we could throw at it. Our model FEATURES BFG KO2s and CSA Raptor rims (a great- looking combo, I might add) but these are optional extras. Pioneer says that most people order a custom setup to match their tow vehicle anyway.
Tucked inside the rear of the chassis is a 120L stainless steel water tank, with a digital gauge mounted inside; we would have liked a gauge on the outside of the trailer to help when filling as well. A lot of thought has gone into the wiring and fit-out underneath, keeping everything tucked away well. Right at the back, letting you know it’s ready to head off-road, is a hitch receiver intended for recovery.
Set-up and pack-down
The best thing about this camper is the set-up and pack-down functionality. It takes under two minutes to have a bed to sleep in and a kitchen to cook on. Simply open the folding hatch on the rear, button the (Aussie-made) canvas down and stand up two internal poles and you’re done. It’s a little longer if you need the quick awning deployed as well; but even that takes no longer than the awning strapped to your four-wheel drive. Also included is a full-size awning for those times where you are in place for a little longer or need more space to get out of the elements.
Everything that opens and shuts on this trailer has gas struts to assist it, which means it’s easy for a single person to complete the entire set-up. That’s a big plus for me.
The hybrid camper market is somewhat niche at the moment and the Mitchell camper fits in very well. For a camper trailer, it’s a little heavy, there’s no getting around that; sitting at 1,330kg with a 145kg ball weight before you’ve filled the water tank. But Pioneer has done well with its dynamics – once you are up to travelling speed, you won’t know it’s there. It doesn’t upset the vehicle, and off-road it comes into its own… it’s well planted and doesn’t buck the tow vehicle around – and the wide wheel track keeps it nice and stable.
Set-up is as simple as a small caravan. The attention to detail and quality of inclusions are excellent. At $63,450 the price is roughly in line with other competitors in the segment, and more than worthy of a look if you are in the market.
What we liked:
How well it towed
Set-up and pack-down speed
Great kitchen layout
Plenty of storage space
Availability of spare parts