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.

Summary
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)

Appendix:
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.