Article from Which Car.
Military tough, Hilton luxury. Lifestyle Campers has hit a home-run with the Reconn R2 Elite
I’m going to start this yarn with a quick little disclaimer here, I’m going to be biased. Not because Lifestyle Campers have lined my pocket, hell they’re probably going to charge me for cleaning out the empty beer cans I left in the fridge. No, instead I’m biased, because this is the camper I’d buy right now if I had the money in my pocket, and I don’t, due in no small part to the beer I just mentioned. Ain’t life poetic sometimes?
You see, campers of any description fit a reasonably small part of our life. If you camped every weekend of every month of every year of your life, your camper would still spend more than 70 per cent of the time parked in your driveway. To me, that means a camper needs to make life a lot easier so I can maximise my time kicking back drinking the previously mentioned beer and watching the sunset over the water somewhere far beyond the nonsense the other five days of the week bring. I’m not overly fussed on how many comforts I’m bringing, I just don’t want to have to wrestle a tent and collapsible table just to be away from it all. Camping should be about camping, ya know? Building camp fires, cooking up a good feed, exploring the tracks nearby, and to that extent the Lifestyle Campers Reconn R2 Elite knocks off-grid living out of the park.
OFF THE BEATEN PATH
I’m going to start here, because this is a 4×4 magazine, not Queen Bed Monthly. There are a few things I look for in any camper trailer to gauge its off-road ability, things that have never led me astray after a good couple of hundred thousand kays towing these contraptions around, and things that you can pick out yourself as problems or benefits before even laying your eyes on one in person – unladen weight, and dimensions packed up. Get those two features right and everything else damn near falls into place. So how does the Reconn R2 Elite stack up against its competitors off road?
The R2 Elite’s tare or unladen weight punches in smack bang on the 1600kg mark. It’s not exactly a featherweight compared to some of the hardcore off-road options on the market, but it’s also 200kg lighter than some of the dual-fold camper trailers on the market and nearly 400kg lighter than some comparable ‘hybrid’ campers too. The end result of that alone is your tow-tug won’t have an overly difficult time yanking the Reconn R2 Elite across creek crossings, through mild mud holes or through wombat holes. Even our little bi-turbo Everest had no trouble muscling the Lifestyle Camper around.
The overall footprint is reasonably compact as well. At 1880mm wide and 5800mm long it’s not only narrower than most of the twin-fold campers on the market, it’s shorter too. The result is when you’re off roading, you’ve got less of an arc swinging around behind you to clip trees on tight tracks, and the trailer will track within the width of most 4WDs so you won’t be constantly paranoid if it’ll make it through a spot your tow-tug is already through.
Actually, in the real world there were a few key things that stood out in the Lifestyle’s favour too. The axle placement hasn’t over or underloaded the tow-tug making for a smooth and predictable towing experience with no bucking or bouncing on or off road. The optional Airbag Man set-up tucked on to the Cruisemaster independent suspension also provided plenty of articulation and ground clearance, so match that with a full range of motion from DO35 coupling and the Lifestyle Camper had no issues following the Everest wherever it’d go.
Ease of use comes second, because that’s basically how we judge an off-road camper, right? I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say this has to be one of the easiest camper trailers on the market to set up. From front to back, the entirety of the set-up is as simple as popping the four over-centre latches that keep the lid clamped down, open the front storage compartment, and press the button that opens the lid. From there, the whole roof opens electronically while you’re grabbing a cold one from the fridge. It really is that simple. If you’re going to unhitch the camper from the tow tug there are the typical stabiliser legs at each corner too.
Two minutes after tapping the button the camper is effectively set up, at least enough that you can duck inside for an early night if it’s flogging down rain on the road. Unlock the screen door, climb up the stairs and to your right you’ve got a full-sized inner-spring queen bed surrounded by large opening zippered windows, they open under the attached wind-out awning so can be left open in rain too. There’s under bed storage with a handful of drawers at the foot of the bed perfect for storing clothing, while a set of fold-out stairs makes accessing the bed a little easier.
Back down on ground level you’ve got a three-berth dinette in the base R2 Elite, with additional storage off to the passenger side. There’s premium fabrics used throughout but with the optional bunk bed fitted, you’d want to be short to tuck yourself right into the table. There’s also a straight dinette available without bunks, or an optional en suite, so suit the layout that best fits your needs.
Back out on the outside and setting up is quick and easy again. There’s a hard-shell wind-out caravan-style awning that makes setting up shelter a one-person operation. The kitchen is twice as fast too, pop open the side compartment, connect a couple of quick fittings and you’re up and running with huge pantry space, a cutlery drawer, prep bench, gas stove top, and hot and cold running water to the sink. Our demo was fitted with the optional air-bag suspension which allowed us to level the camper out despite the uneven terrain we parked on helping get the kitchen to the perfect height.
The storage space is best described as cavernous too. There’s a huge dry storage space on the driver’s side perfect for stashing additional clothing, kids’ pushbikes, camp furniture, or anything else you can think of really. There’s also additional storage space up front in the bulkhead and protected by sacrificial plates guarding against wayward rocks.
If you’re after a shower, there’s an external one at the rear. The shower head itself is quick to deploy but the shower tent is a little awkward, needing to be manually clipped on to an additional strut on the rear. Hardly a deal breaker but considering the build quality and overall design of the camper, it’s surprising to see it not permanently hard mounted.
OFF THE GRID
The third aspect camper trailers need to be judged on, at least in my books, is the gear they bring to the table to enable extended camping without needing to plug in a generator and pray for water. After all, if the camper can barely cope with more than a night off the grid then essentially, it’s an horrendously expensive tent.
To that end the Reconn R2 Elite does a fair job carrying its own, so to speak. On the water front you’re looking at a combined 180L of water split between two 90L poly water tanks. In an unconventional move the tanks are mounted internally so aren’t susceptible to wayward branches ruining your day. There’s room to fit an additional 90L tank bumping capacity up to a massive 270L of potable water. The water system runs through an in-line carbon filter to protect against general nastiness and pumps up both to the kitchen and the Truma hot-water system.
On the electrical front, the brains of the operation is the trusty Redarc Manager 30 battery management system that combines inputs from the 175W solar panel up top, 240V inlet on the side, and 12V DC through the Anderson connection on the tow tug to keep the battery levels topped up. The base model comes with a single 120amp/h AGM battery but can be optioned up to a second 120amp/h AGM battery. On the cooking front, you’ll have enough gas to last for months on end with twin 4kg gas bottles up front in their own compartment, with a large slide capable of handling a large dual-zone fridge-freezer. If it were our own camper we’d be throwing in a little more battery and solar but as is, will suffice for most camping trips.
SHOULD YOU BUY ONE?
Let’s get one thing clear, if you’re a little more established in life, have a little deeper pockets, and want to spend less time fighting tarps and more time enjoying camping, you need a hybrid camper, it’s as simple as that. Should you buy the Reconn R2 Elite from Lifestyle Campers? That really depends on a few things. The first is where your happy place lands on the value-for-money scale.
Imported campers will do the same thing for cheaper, but most won’t be as smooth and well-thought-out in the design. The Lifestyle will also perform better off road than most as well, so ask yourself if you’ll be using it in places where that matters. And finally, does the layout suit you? If you’re travelling with two adults and up to two kids it’s unarguably one of the best set-ups you can buy, but that’s no use if your kids’ earn their pocket money playing for the Harlem Globetrotters. For me, it ticks every box I can think of, and some I hadn’t considered, now I just need to find a spare 60-odd thousand tucked in the lounge and I’m home free.
LIFESTYLE CAMPERS RECONN R2 ELITE
- STYLE: Hybrid pop top
- BODY MATERIAL: Aluminium composite
- BODY SIZE: 4400mm (L) x 1880mm (W) x 2150mm (tow H)
- LENGTH: 580mm (coupling to tail-lights)
- TARE WEIGHT: 1600kg
- ATM WEIGHT: 2800kg
- SUSPENSION: Coil sprung trailer arm w/ twin shocks
- BRAKES: 12in electric drum brakes
- COUPLING: Cruisemaster DO35
- WHEELS/TYRES: 265/75R16 MTs / alloy mags
- WATER CAPACITY: 180L std; 270L optional
- RRP: $66,950
- AVAILABLE FROM: Off Grid Outfitters, (02) 4648 4181 or offgridoutfitters.com.au