Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Demountable Camper Review: S-karosser Camper (EC7 ; ECO200)

In a blog posting a few months ago, I hinted at the possibility that a demountable camper (truck camper in the USA market) might be an alternative option to the traditional overland vehicles.  You can read the previous posting here.

I was impressed with the concept - a perfect daily vehicle, and an ideal camper for short or extended trips.  As a result, I searched the UK sale websites and found a Leisure Camper mounted to a Ford Ranger 2.5l diesel double-cab (four door, five-seater).

The demountable camper I purchased was designed in Sweden by S-karosser and exported to various European countries under different brands.  In the UK, they are registered as Leisure Campers and in Germany NordStar.  My model is listed as an EC7,2-0 in the UK and as an ECO 200 in Germany.

The EC7-2,0 (ECO200) is a three berth camper, fitted with a twin gas stove, sink, 80L fridge, 60L fresh water tank, and an ALDE 3010 hot water & central heating system.

The stability legs (standing posts) are mounted in strategic places on the camper.  The front legs are mounted horizontally whilst the rear legs are lifted vertically (as seen in the photo).

This model is designed to fit on most Japanese single or double cab vehicles.  A modification is required to fit it on a Land Rover Defender 130.

 In the first posting on this topic, I raised a number of questions.  Here are my thoughts after a few months of ownership:

Q: Flexing - would rough roads flex the camper and cause damage?
A: This model is connected via four retaining bolts which hold the front and rear in place.  The camper does not move on normal tarred roads (like you would expect). I have not tested the unit on rough gravel roads.

Q: Wind resistance - in strong winds (like Patagonia & Mauritania), what effects does this have on the vehicle
A: Strong winds will affect the driving experience and fuel consumption.  Suspension is key to this setup.  The EC7 (ECO200) weighs about 650kg fully loaded.  The rear shock absorbers do work hard.

Q: Space - how much living space does this give you over and above a camper?
A: The living pod is perfect.  There is sufficient space for two adults however the area lacking is expedition packing space.  There is not much space for vehicle spares, recovery kit, jerry cans, sand ladders and the host of other paraphernalia.
In the photo on the right, you can note the height difference between the camper and a standard Land Rover Defender with rooftent.

Additional Thoughts:
Mounting / Demounting:  This process is relatively straight forward.  The camper rests on the rear load bin on the vehicle and is connected via four retaining connectors.  Demounting the camper requires the retaining bolts to be undone, the standing legs removed from the mounts. Once this has been done (about 15min), the camper needs to be raised so that the vehicle can be moved.  The standing legs involve a very manual process of walking around the camper winding in the legs in turn.

Once the camper is raised, the vehicle can be driven away and the process of lowering the camper begins.  This requires a number of laps of the camper as each support post is lowered.  Total time to remove the camper is about 30min.

Mounting the camper is reverse of the demount process except this is the hardest bit - reversing the vehicle squarely under the camper.  My tip on this process is to use low-range reverse as it gives me less speed whilst reversing. Mounting time is roughly 40min.

Central heating: Perhaps not fully required for the Southern Hemisphere, the combination of the ALDE3010 hot water and central heating system on the camper is a winner for the Northern Hemisphere.

I would encourage you to look at a demountable camper as an option for an overland trip - the ideal journey would be trans-continental in a colder climate i.e. Asia Overland.  My thoughts are that in the hotter climates like Africa, the ventilation in the camper would not be sufficient to make it a good experience.

There are not many occasions that you would consider demounting the camper (on a typical overland expedition) however a good option would be in the various game parks.  Demount the camper, and you have very quick and easy access to the vehicle for those early morning drives.

If you are based in the Northern Hemisphere, this combination of camper makes the perfect choice for the climate, the occasional trips to Northern Africa and more importantly the ability to camp anywhere in France (caravans & tents are restricted to camp sites but motohomes & campervans are allowed to park and camp anywhere).

Additional Photos of the Leisure Campers EC7-2,0 (Nord Star ECO 200)

Additional Photos & Reading:
Reisemobil Ludwig - S-Karosser Campers branded as Nord Star (German Brand)
Peter & Jill Bardsley - Expedition to Africa (Popup Camper)

Mounting the EC7 (ECO200) Camper on a LR Defender 130. 
My understanding is that the LR Defender 130 rear load bin is to deep to mount the EC7 camper. As a result, the load bid needs a platform fitted for the camper to rest on.  I have two thoughts about this:
- The ride height might make the Defender and Camper unsteady in windy and rough terrain
- The raised platform will allow for additional storage (a good thing).

The photo on the right is from the Reisemobil Ludwig website.  Note the extra length of the load bin compared to the Ford Ranger.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The HUBB Forum Review

In a recent post I reviewed the Southern Africa forum and the North American Expedition Portal.  In this post, I explore the huge UK based forum run by Grant Johnson (Horizons Unlimited) and more commonly known as The Hubb.

This forum is huge! At the time of writing this blog, it has over 25 000 registered members.

The forum is web based, however it does offer a RSS feed.  An example of a website using the feed is the Overland Live website.

The audience the forum appeals too are primarily adventure motorbike fans. The site is categorized into Planning, repairs, 4 wheels, events along with numerous other categories.  Each section is moderated which simply means that someone oversees the content and manages the level of flame wars.

The forum is busy, and the content generated is good. The forum members are encouraged to search the site prior to requesting information due to a lot of duplication occurring in the content. This assists in preventing general questions being asked by new members.

A clear benefit of this forum is the fact that you can read a category relevant to your topic.  Registration is required to post however reading entries are open.  This forum is well known especially amongst the adventure motorcycling clans.  Well worth registering as a member and contributing with relevant content.

Forum Overview
Advertising: Low
Spam level: Low
Forum activity: high
Forum Content: Good (UK focus)
Off Topic Content:  Encouraged in the HU Bar section
Language: Primarily English with a slight mix of european languages.
RSS Feed: Yes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Expedition Portal Forum Review

Having reviewed a Southern hemisphere Forum ( and a UK based Forum, The Hubb. I thought it best to provide an overview of the Expedition Portal website.

This is another huge forum and encourages registrations to submit posts.  At the time of writing this blog, the registered users had exceeded the 15,000 mark.  Very impressive.

Similiar to The Hubb, this forum is purely web based and is categorised according to various topics.  The forum is based in North America, hence the flavour of the site is distinctively American. This is noted in the type of vehicle and equipment discussions that occur.  Don't let this fact put you off... North America is a growing overland community hungry on sharing and receiving information.

In summary, this North American forum offers interesting insights into a growing overland community and offers alternative insights into vehicle preparation, equipment and general overland travel.  It is worth registering and monitoring the category that you are interested in.

Forum Overview
Advertising: Yes
Spam level: Low
Forum activity: high
Forum Content: Good (excellent for Northern America)
Off Topic Content:
Language: Primarily English
RSS Feed: Yes
Twitter: No

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Overland Forum Review

The amount of overland related content on the web is growing daily.  The vehicle prep, the route, equipment and the paperwork all lead to many questions.  Often these questions have been asked and answered on various forums.  In this blog, I highlight and focus on a Southern Africa forum run by Hennie Rautenbach.

The Overland Forum has been online since the mid 1990's and has attracted a huge number of follows and contributors.

Primarily emailed based, each new topic and subsequent reply is emailed to the recipient.  This forum type works well as you get every topic in your inbox which allows for instant replies.
The Forum is now hosted by Google Groups which adds the benefit of search, email distribution,web views and additional content uploads.  Signup to the forum is easy, especially if you already have a Google account.

This forum is clearly Southern Africa based, which, as a result means that topics are generally African focus. This is fantastic if you are about to explore Southern Africa and in need of advice or information.

Like many forums, the Overland Forum does suffer from the occasional 'flame wars' relating to vehicle types, and what equipment is best.
Wikipedia describes Flame Wars as follows:
A flame war results when one or more users engages in provocative responses to the originally posted flamebait. Flame wars often draw in many users (including those trying to diffuse the flame war) and can overshadow regular forum discussion if left unchecked.
Flame wars are not tolerated and warnings are issued to users who attempt to flamebait.

The Overland Forum encourages users to share information and one good factor which has emerged over the years are Travel Reports.  These independent reports, written by forum members, are used to share trips, photos and various statistics.

In summary, this is a good forum to belong to, especially if you live in Africa. The content and response time to questions is prompt. Overall, a good forum and one that encourages all forum members to contribute.

Forum Overview
Advertising: None
Spam level: Low
Forum activity: high
Forum Content: Good (excellent for Southern Africa)
Off Topic Content:  Topic subject lines are marked Off Topic.
Language: Primarily English with a slight mix of Afrikaans.
RSS Feed: Yes, via Google Groups.
Twitter: Yes (tweets below)

Twitter Feed

Saturday, June 5, 2010

5 Years Ago... Cabinda to DRC

Today, five years ago, my wife and I were crossing the border between Cabinda and the DR Congo as part of our BigSky Adventures Overland Trip.

It's a strange feeling looking back at the photos and reading the diary section of the website - the photos and journal jogs memories, but the sounds, smells, heat and dust have melted away.

In hindsight, I think we would have been a little apprehensive as we had a border crossing to do, plus a notorious road to Matadi.

Here are the photos from the day...

BigSky Adventures - June 2005