Rooftop tent, camper trailer, what the?

ByUnsealed 4X4November 26, 2018
Rooftop tent, camper trailer, what the?

The (sub-$20k) question… do you really need a full-size off-road camper trailer?

When I think of the name Simpson, my mind immediately races to our national heroes who stood Australia proud on the gruesome hills of Gallipoli, and the brave soul of John Simpson Kirkpatrick, who carried food and water up to the front lines and returned with the wounded on his humble donkey. He carried no arms, but was killed in action some four weeks later.

The all-new Austrack Simpson has big shoes to fill to live up to its name – and it does it well! It is forged with the Aussie ethic of strength, guts and determination but combines modern engineering skills, technique and materials with a host of facilities and accessories to make your Simpson crossing a whole heap more comfortable and reliable.


It’s amazing how much accommodation this compact camper reveals

So, what’s the go?

Austrack offer the Simpson in a basic configuration for a very low $14,990 however they rarely ever sell them, as their optional ‘X-Series’ packaging is so inclusive that you’d be mad not to spend the extra. It includes over $9K in extras including an 80-litre fridge/freezer, portable gas hot water, LED lighting kit, awning walls, ensuite/shower/portaloo, sand peg kit, McHitch off-road coupling, stereo system, solar panel, 240V charger, two extra gas outlets and all for a complete kit price of a very low $17,990. For that extra $3k, you’d be mad not to take it!

However it’s not just the price that makes the Simpson so attractive. It is a compact, go-anywhere style of unit with an amazing amount of storage and essential facilities like power, water, and cooking equipment that will really appeal to serious travellers, and perhaps some not-so-ambitious with smaller 4X4s and even commuter vehicles due to its lightweight. Its small on-road dimensions make it awesome in the bush, but also very appealing for tight storage back at home. When you reach that dream campsite it opens to a very large liveable footprint with plenty of shade.

Who wouldn’t be comfortable in this huge elevated bed? Plus it’s high enough to be clear of creepy crawlies and more serious bities!

What’s the tent like?

Rooftop tents have their plusses and minuses. In this assembly, the premium ‘Superior’ 1.8-metre wide tent folds out very easily for a quick overnight stay and keeps you well elevated away from the Aussie bush’s creepy crawlies and sometimes toothy adversaries. The elevation increases air flow for humid environments and in this case forms the structure for a complete lower annexe either as a kids’ room, or perhaps just to keep your bags and accessories on a longer stay. On the down side, while access is via a quite easy ladder, it won’t appeal to the less mobile among us. Nevertheless, it assembles really easily with a solid frame, upgraded 280GSM canvas, a 75mm queen size foam mattress, auto-erect tropical roof, and all secured neatly in a water and dust-proof PVC bag.

The tent has plenty of ventilation from opening windows with two-stage awnings and midge mesh protection, plus a small vestibule area at the entry secured by a couple of pegs and ropes. The added roof area supplies that extra level of protection before climbing into the sack if it’s raining. The package will also appeal to more experienced campers that are sick of heavy-weight units that take forever to assemble. For those that prefer swags or their rooftop tent on the towing vehicle, the Simpson can be supplied with roof racks or basket options.

Tough suspension, high ground clearance, a shrouded water tank, recovery points and high departure angle

What’s the trailer like?

To make life easy there are checker plate steps either side of the wheel arch and continued to the rear of the trailer, making the roof easily accessible. Underneath and secured to the chassis are double-slide recovery hitches and also accessories/tow socket for a push bike carrier or similar. Austrack’s Linden Lawson (another great Aussie name) says, “The Simpson is a perfect size to tow absolutely anywhere; bush, beach, desert – it does it all! It’s light and nimble, has excellent ground clearance and is always ready to go. In fact it’s probably over-engineered if anything, but there’s nothing wrong with that!”

The Austrack Simpson is built on a strong foundation with its fully welded hot dipped galvanised 100 x 50 x 4mm RHS box section drawbar and chassis. The trailer has excellent ground clearance and rough track capability, thanks to the heavy-duty independent coil-spring suspension with double shock absorbers that ride on 265/75 x 16-inch alloy mag wheels with six stud hubs, heavy-duty parallel bearings and 12-inch heavy-duty electric brakes.

Out in front of the A-frame drawbar is a McHitch off-road coupling, mechanical handbrake, swing-down ARK XO Series extra heavy-duty jockey wheel, Anderson plug and a convenient handle for easy manual maneuvering. Also in front of the main tub are a 9kg gas bottle and two 20-litre jerry can mounts, alloy stone guard with spare wheel mount and a large toolbox.

The Zincanneal steel tub and body shell feature a very attractive baked enamel metallic finish with polished stainless steel trim. All components have underbody deadener and galvanised chassis and drawbar, plus the compartment doors and hatches are neatly folded and finished featuring compression locks, quality hinges and automotive rubber seals.

Robust and compact with a low towing size and weight – this little chuck wagon is built for adventure!

Rub a dub tub

I often call this style of compact camper “chuck wagons”, but hey, they are just so much more. Before we get to the fittings and accessories, I just must mention the huge amount of storage options not only in lockable compartments, but also in the large cage that supports the tent. You will adapt your containers to suit yourself but be assured you will be able to carry all of your necessities, plus your toys!

The kerb side of the trailer is the ‘living’ side and the 80-litre fridge/freezer slides out from the rear.  Overhead is a retractable bat wing style 270° foldout awning allowing shady protection over these living areas and it is easily folded out for shade during a wayside stop. A full set of walls for the entire area forms part of the ‘X-Series’ packaging for extended stays.

The Simpson features a stainless steel slide-out kitchen on the front kerb side with a twin-burner Smev stove and pressurised cold sink with a handy sliding drawer out the end for all of your utensils. Austrack emphasize that all of the fittings and assembly are fully gas compliant. On top of the kitchen is a full-width storage compartment for long items such as tent poles and fishing rods, and it is all carpet-lined. There are plug-in fittings for auxiliary 12V power, water and gas fittings plus electrical switches for external LED lighting plus a Bluetooth stereo with speakers tucked neatly out of harm’s way.

On the driver’s side we find similar hatches to the opposite only with the rear compartment housing the electrical control panel with twin 120Ah deep-cycle gel batteries plus indicators and management system, water level gauge, double USB and resettable electrical switch gear. There’s another large cabinet with sliding drawer over the wheel arch, and of course the full-width cabinet reflecting the kitchen in front.

The Simpson features a large 100-litre water tank that is mounted under the chassis and protected by alloy shrouds. It doesn’t impede ground clearance or the high departure angle but keeps the centre of balance low, adding to steady footing in harsh terrain. The tare weight is a very reasonable 900kg including the tent and with an ATM of 1480kg you can carry plenty of toys, equipment and supplies for a long tour.

Simpson used a donkey to carry his precious cargo to safety, and now you can use the Austrack Simpson to carry a complete and comfortable load to enjoy the peaceful recreation offered by the sacrifices made by diggers to protect our great country. This little nugget has a huge future.

Simpson had a donkey to carry supplies to the front lines – this camper makes it so much simpler

Measuring up
HITS (Pros)
  • Advanced and easy setup
  • Excellent off-road capability
  • Great layout and functionality
  • Innovative packaging
  • PRICE!
MISSES (Cons/compromises)
  • Up to the purchaser whether they want to climb a rooftop ladder. Some will, some won’t!
Specifications: Austrack Simpson X

Tare: 900kg including rooftop tent and awning

ATM: 1480kg

Suspension: Independent trailing arm with coil springs and dual shock absorbers each side

Brakes: 12-inch electric

Coupling: McHitch off-road coupling

Chassis: Full box section galvanised 100 x 50 x 4mm

Drawbar: 100 x 50 x 4mm galvanised A-frame

Body: 1.2mm Zincanneal panels and paint oven-baked enamel with polished checker plate alloy trims

Wheel/tyre: 265/75 x 16-inch mud-terrain

Style: Alloy mag


More Info:



Box width: 1900mm overall

Body Height: 1800mm (ground to top plus 400mm of rooftop tent)

Length (hitch to tail lights): 4100mm overall

Tent size: 4200 x 1900mm PLUS 6000 x 2400mm annexe



Gas cylinders:
1 x 9kg brackets only

Water: 1 x 100-litre stainless steel tank with alloy shrouds and 12V pump

Cooktop: Smev two-burner

Kitchen: Stainless steel kitchenette, sink, pressurised cold water, 1 x drawer, and LED light

Battery: 2 x 120amp gel