Back in August 2019 we picked up a second hand Lifestyle Reconn R2, and now its time to do a long term review! It was (and still is) a major commitment, and we had intended on waiting more time before getting a hybrid camper trailer, but it was a deal too good to pass up. The unit itself was almost brand new, with the new owners upgrading to a Reconn R4 (the slightly bigger unit, with more gear).
We’ve had the hyper camper now for nearly a year, and spent over 70 nights in it. In short, we absolutely love it, and its been a total game changer for our lifestyle. The improvement from our soft floor camper trailer to the new Hybrid is beyond what we’d ever hoped for, and I guess in a way it should, given the significant price difference.
It has made us camp more, do it easier and to have more fun, and you can’t ask for much more than that especially when you have two young kids under 4! If you want to know more about the unit we purchased, check out Lifestyle Reconn R2.
This review is genuine
Before we go on, you need to know that this Reconn R2 was purchased with 100% of our own personal money, and there is no silly games going on promoting Lifestyle. We call a spade a spade, and Lifestyle have had zero input into what is posted here. I don’t think they have any real cause for concern either, as its a quality product.
That said, there is room for improvement, and we cover a couple of things that are a real pain and others that are just a bit annoying, and every product you buy is going to have things that you don’t love!
Why not a full size van?
If you are wondering why we bought this over a full size van, there are a number of reasons, but you can check this out; Why we upgraded from a soft floor to a hybrid camper trailer.
Essentially, a full size van is too heavy, too big and won’t go where we want to spend our time. Of course, we could sell our Isuzu Dmax and get a bigger vehicle to tow a heavier van, but it would still be restrictive and we can’t keep anything bigger at home anyway. That, and we aren’t too keen on spending more money!
If you are also considering a Hybrid, we have the ultimate guide to buying one right here – Hybrid Campers.
What we love about the Reconn R2:
It’s got everything whilst being light weight and compact
There really is nothing on the market that comes close to what the Reconn R2 does in terms of weight, storage capacity, durability, pricing and creature comforts. It is unique in many ways, and has everything in/on it that we personally need. It is actually scary how well this suits our requirements (and you’ll find many Lifestyle Reconn owners agree).
We have comfortable beds for 4 that require zero setup (other than popping the roof up), an amazing kitchen, outdoor shower and toilet, lots of water on board and room to sit inside in bad weather, at under 6 metres total length and the same width as a normal 4WD. It just fits in our driveway (and is secured by a Nemesis Wheel Clamp), which was a huge pre-requisite.
At 1560kg empty and with a one tonne payload, its meant for getting off grid, and away from everything. The 240 aH of AGM batteries and 240W of panels is enough to run the fridge/freezer and various accessories without any modifications.
You can pack it away wet
We didn’t camp much in the winter months with our soft floor camper, as the effort was often simply not worth the reward. Packing it away wet meant a wet bed, and a difficult setup at home (especially when it doesn’t open properly on your driveway due to space constraints!).
The Reconn R2 can be comfortably packed away when wet. You might end up with a tiny amount of water that comes from the PVC pop top section, but on the whole its completely dry and not something we ever worry about. If it is a bit wet, we just pop it up when we get home home for an hour or so when the sun is shining and you know there will be no mould issues. There aren’t too many campers out there that have such a small footprint and allow for easy wet pack up.
We love camping in winter time now, especially with our diesel heater pumping warm air around! Weekends away in winter are made very easy with this camper.
Huge water capacity and flow meters
The one thing you cannot live without for long is water. No matter how much gas, solar, batteries and food you take, there will be a need to go back into town for water. Our R2 came with 270L of water (3 x 90L tanks), and combined with our 50L in the Isuzu Dmax, and a couple of Jerry cans as required, we can comfortably carry 360+ litres of water. That lasts us for a very long time, even if we are having showers.
The other thing that we absolutely love is the water flow meters. You reset these after you fill your tanks up, and it counts the water going out your taps. At any time, you can press a button and know exactly how many litres of water you have left. This means regardless of what angle you are on, or how you’ve been using your water, you have an accurate reading. The water level gauges are extremely unreliable, and the last thing you want to do is run out of water mid shower, covered in soap!
Low tow ball weight
I am deeply concerned at the tow ball weight of some of the camper trailers and caravans out there today, especially when you consider what they are being used for. For us owning a dual cab Ute meant I was determined to get something that wasn’t too heavy on the ball weight, as it would just greatly increase the chance of a broken or bent chassis. We’ve measured the tow ball weight on our Reconn a few times now, and gotten anywhere between 120kg and 175kg, which is outstanding considering what they are. Of course, this depends on how you load it!
So many Chinese built setups start off at about 180kg and work there way comfortably into the 250 – 350kg mark. That sort of weight is guaranteed to do damage when you are 4WDing, or you hit a big dip in the road at any sort of speed.
Its super fast to setup
A fast setup has been life changing. Seriously, you don’t realise it until you have something faster. If it was pouring rain and we needed shelter, I could make it sleep-able in under a minute, comfortably. To detach, open the kitchen and put legs down etc it probably takes about 5 minutes, but its literally only a few seconds longer than the setup of a full size van.
The storage is unbelievable
We have a huge amount of easily accessible storage in the Reconn Hypercamper, and its greatly appreciated. The side hatch is comfortably big enough to sleep in (and some people do), or you can keep anything from Weber BBQ’s to firewood, camp chairs, fishing gear, extra food or anything else that you might want.
There’s a big tunnel boot and two Jerry can holders at the front along with your usual pole storage.
One night stays are easy!
The fast setup and pack away mean that even with two little kids under 4 we will happily do one night stays as required. Of course, we avoid this just because it gives you no time to look around, but if we are on the move to a specific destination we will happily do one night in the Reconn R2. With the soft floor, we literally would opt to pay for a nights accommodation somewhere to avoid the hassle of one night stays.
The kitchen is amazing
A huge attraction for many on the Reconn R2 is the kitchen. Outdoor living at its best, without having to pull anything out, set legs up or bother with anything cumbersome. Simply open the hatch and you have a bit of shelter, along with a fantastic kitchen with lots of room. The bench space is great (although you can always have more!) and it actually has an incredible amount of pantry storage too.
It can be set up on ground that isn’t level
Our soft floor required a relatively flat ground to set up. The Reconn R2 can be setup anywhere, with the use of a shovel or levelling ramps. This greatly improves your options for where you can camp!
Setup space required is minimal
Another major tick for the R2 is setup space – where you can park it, you can stay. It has doors on either side for the kitchen/storage and you need to be able to get the fridge out, but the footprint is extremely small. This gives you lots of options for choosing a nice camp site!
We have camped in spots where you wouldn’t get a full size van, but because its nice and compact we can.
It has a door
Never in my life would I have thought I’d appreciate a door, but with two small children sleeping inside at night time a door is amazing. Being able to open and close it quickly, or allow air flow through the fly screen at the click of a latch is brilliant . To top it off, the door is almost silent, so no more noisy zips to wake the kids up.
Our second child is a very average sleeper, and having another thing to wake him up would not be appreciated.
It can be used in bad weather easily
We’ve used the R2 in some pretty feral weather, both in terms of rain and wind. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how it handled. No water leaks, and the wind doesn’t flap anything or wobble the trailer around. This means we can go away knowing that even if it does turn foul we have a dry, warm and comfortable place to kick back and wait it out.
Limited cleaning and upkeep required
One of the comments Sarah made about the Reconn R2 is that there is very little maintenance and cleaning. The kitchen needs a wipe down, but inside we just pull the marine carpet out from time to time and give it a whack. Other than that, there’s nothing that needs cleaning. The toilet and shower outside are easy to pack and unpack, and its just an easy unit to use in terms of keeping everything clean.
Quick food stops are easy and simple
If you want to pull over for lunch, or a bite to eat, its super quick and easy. Two latches open the kitchen and give you access to everything you need, and the chairs are quickly grabbed from the other side, or you can jump inside to eat. The easier it is to stop for food means the less likely you are to stop at the bakery and eat into your travel funds! Of course, the bakeries still get a work out when we travel, but its nice to be able to kick back next to the camper.
D035 Hitch and Ark Jockey Wheel
The hitch and jockey wheel fitted to these from standard are amazing. The hitch is quiet, rotates every direction you need it to, is rated to 3500kg and is extremely easy to hook up, and detach with. I’ll never go back to a Treg Hitch.
The Ark Jockey Wheel is strong, has a removable handle, can be adjusted in several different heights, locks in the up position when driving and overall is just a brilliant unit.
It’s built like a brick
You don’t have to look far to notice that these are built to cop a flogging. The chassis is similar to what you’d find on a full size off road van, its got almost nothing underneath to get smacked by rocks, the suspension is top of the range Cruisemaster suspension and the internal van frame is steel, with panels on the outside.
It’s Australian made
Last but not least, these are built from the ground up right here in Queensland. It’s nice to know that we are supporting the local economy, and that the quality is up there with the best. There are a lot of imported trailers that don’t get anywhere the level of quality that they really need, and especially when you consider the price for us it was a no brainer.
What we don’t love
Gas bottle removal
I’m not sure why the gas bottle holders were designed and installed as they have been in the R2, but they could be easily improved. A bolt is used to keep the bottle secure in the holder, which means every time you want to replace the bottle, you need to get spanners and undo the bolt, then struggle to lift the bottle up and out of the holder due to the limited room.
An over the centre latch could have been put in very easily with a detachable centre piece for each bottle holder. Fortunately, we don’t swap gas bottles too often, so its not been ‘fixed’ yet. In the grand scheme of things, not much of a big deal.
Gas outlet and hatch issues
I mentioned above that we think the kitchen is fantastic. This is true, with exception of the gas line for the burner. To use the burner, you have to open the side hatch under the kitchen, pull the gas line out and plug it in to the side of the camper. I don’t have a problem with this (and I believe it needs to be this way without being signed off as a permanent installation).
The kicker though is once its plugged in, you can’t shut the hatch. Now, what little kid wouldn’t want to swing the hatch back and forth? I’m told it breaks off easily too, so we have to watch like a hawk, and you have a gas line sticking out right where you want to stand to cook. Even worse is that this hatch goes into where your water tanks and electrics are, and if its windy, you’ll be getting dust and other rubbish into expensive, fragile electrical components.
I understand the need to be able to unplug it, but the outlet could have easily been put on the back of the van, with the ability to feed the line out a smaller hatch and back onto the gas bayonet fitting. I believe the rear gas bayonet fitting is now standard, but they still make you feed it out the hatch. I see a lot of owners are installing tank flange fittings on the rear so you can poke the gas hose out that, and then plug it in without having to leave the hatch open all the time.
Again, not the end of the world, but it is super annoying especially when the solution is so simple.
Breathers for water tanks
There are so many people who have issues with breathers not allowing water tanks to fill or empty properly, and the R2 suffers this very badly. By design, to keep the water tanks out of the way, they have been put above the floor level. This is fantastic in terms of clearance and protection, except that the fill point, and breathers are probably only about 130mm taller than the tanks. This means that its extremely hard to get all of the air out of the tank (and fill them up properly), and if you park on an angle you end up with your precious water running out of the breathers and onto the floor.
The previous owners got sick of the water running out the original breathers on slopes (and fair enough so!), so detached them and ran new lines for the breathers into the front of the van to avoid this. We could never get them to work properly without splashing water inside, and I didn’t want to risk water going into the timber drawers and where the electronics were.
The breather outlets should have been put on top of the tanks, and not on the side, and they really need to be run somewhere much higher. Also having two tanks tee’d together to the same breather is a mistake.
Our solution this far has been to install the original breathers again, along with the ones that go to the front of the van, but have them all on ball valves so we can select where the air comes out. We then fill from the bottom drain points under the camper as this forces the air out (you only have air coming out the top, and not water going in and air trying to get out at the same time)
We close the breathers up high in the camper and open everything else, so the air can escape out the original breather lines, plus the original fill points (which don’t allow you to fill the tanks all the way). Once its nearly full, we close the main ball valves and gently keep topping it up until the air stops coming out.
When I’m comfortable that the tanks are full, I close all the ball valves except the two that run to the higher breathers inside the van. This was we guarantee no water ends up inside the van while filling, and when you travel nothing can leak out either. This is a bit fiddly, and as per the photo looks like spaghetti, but it is the best solution I could come up with. There are a few people online who have complained of the same issue. If you aren’t wanting to fill your tanks up all the way then you won’t have as much of a problem, but it is very annoying for us.
It is frustrating to fill the water tanks to the brim due to air getting stuck at the top (you can literally push the tanks down and get air out) and by design you have terrible access to the fittings without emptying half of your storage on the side of the trailer.
This is a major annoyance, and something I want to make better.
Cooking when its windy
Having an outdoor kitchen is great, except when its pouring with rain, or its windy. In heavy wind, it can be extremely hard to get your pots hot enough to cook anything. Of course, you can easily swing the camper around, or in our case, I will just build a nice wind barrier for the burner that folds up and packs away.
We also carry a small portable burner that in real bad situations I’d happily use inside the van (with a couple of windows open).
A few months after getting our camper, and a couple of lovely weekends away, I was packing again for a small trip. I lifted the hatch up underneath where the batteries and water tanks are, and to my horror found about 80mm of water sitting at the front of the water tank storage area. Luckily the trailer was angled down and nothing important had gotten wet.
I pumped it all out using a 12V shower, put towels everywhere and kept replacing them along with installing the water absorption mats. It eventually dried, and I found that one of the small plastic barbs on the plastic filter had cracked, and was leaking water out slowly.
How this happened I’ll never know, as it was on the section of hose secured to the floor, hadn’t ever been touched before and should have been just fine. Perhaps it was a manufacturing defect, but either way it took a long time to clean, and I was disappointed to have to deal with it.
Strangely enough, not long after this my water flow meter (just one) stopped working, and I eventually traced it to the cables that were sitting on the floor and obviously running through the water, and it corroding a join away. I got them fixed, and it was all good.
DCDC electrical installation incorrectly done
Not long after getting our R2, I realised that our vehicle wasn’t actually charging the batteries. Up until then the solar had comfortably kept up, so I never bothered to investigate. Looking into it further, we found a manual reset circuit breaker had popped, and kept popping when it was drawing current. The install was done by Lifestyle with a 40 amp Enerdrive DCDC using only a 40 amp breaker, which is no where near sized correctly.
Even worse, and a major safety concern, we found that the pan head screws used to hold the circuit breakers down were actually stopping them from popping as required. Fortunately there was no fault, or there could have been a nasty fire. One was damaged (probably from not being able to pop easily) and we removed it (as it wasn’t needed anyway!).
Lifestyle tell me no other units were wired like this (as the Enerdrive was optioned) but it should have been done better.
If its cold, you want to keep your windows reasonably shut. The problem with doing this in the R2 is you will end up with a lot of condensation inside. Even with the windows cracked a bit, any metal will end up with a lot of droplets on it, and you get a fair bit on the roof too. Felt lining is a popular fix for the walls, but expect to need to wipe the inside of the camper down from time to time before you pack it away. Of course, if you leave it up drying for a bit in the sun it goes away very quickly.
The condensation is made worse by the fact that it is PVC material in the pop top. This doesn’t breath as well as canvas, although it does have some other benefits. I’m sure the primary reason for condensation is the actual pop top though, with it being cold outside and warm inside (and you breath a lot of moisture out with 4 people in a tiny space!). Caravans with insulated walls suffer condensation a lot less.
Exiting the door
By design, the door is about 1.5 metres tall. Not such a problem if you are small, but for the majority of the population it is a bit awkward. Even at 6″6, I haven’t had too much of an issue, but you do need to duck quite a lot to get out of it. Some people recommend exiting backwards, but I find this a hassle.
I have bumped my sons head on the roof carrying him as I entered, and Sarah’s also hit her head a number of times, but it is something we are getting used to, and by design there really is no alternative. It’s not so much of a design flaw, but just a by product and something you soon get used to.
The interior lights are bright as the sun
In a camper, especially when others are sleeping, being able to turn lights on gently so you can see what you are doing without waking everyone else up is ideal. The lights in the Reconn are great, but they are so bright that even turning one on away from everyone makes the whole camper pretty much daylight. They are basically on and light everything up, or off with no in between.
As an alternative, we use a small mozzie light, or have a few of the Luci lights floating around which do a great job of providing a gentle light that we need at night time. Asides from prior to bed for the kids, we rarely use the lights as they are just too bright. I guess you could make them dimmable, or install some smaller, less bright lights in addition, which would be far more user friendly.
Smoke detector position
The Reconn R2 comes with an in built smoke detector that for most people wouldn’t be an issue. For me though, at 6″6, my head just touches it, and the smoke detector is right above where you’d stand to put your kids to sleep on the front bunk. I have on several occasions stood up and set the testing alarm off. As you’d imagine, this usually doesn’t go well, and the position has frustrated me a number of times!
Pole holder locks and space
The canvas rope edge awning and walls that came with our Reconn are great, except that the pole storage cannot be locked, and anyone can open them and help themselves. Now, probably not likely, but still an oversight in our opinion. The usable space here is also pretty average; its a fairly big hatch that runs the width of the camper, but you can only access it via a tiny 150mm plug.
I understand the new units have a bigger access door that is much better.
Kitchen door height
Again, for someone who is tall, I find the kitchen a bit annoying in terms of height and access. I have bumped my head a few times on the door and cupboards, and try to park the van in a way so that its sloping down on the kitchen side, which effectively raises the door height. The issue with this is Sarah’s not the tallest, and doesn’t like it up high, so we end up compromising.
For this reason alone, I’d love to have air bags, but as it was a second hand unit (and they are super expensive) we will live without them!
Door latches and locks
There are a lot of door latches, and when leaving camp somewhere I don’t trust it can be a bit of a pain doing them all up. To top it off, some of the locks are installed upside down, or opposite to each other, so you have to remember to put the key in the wrong way around. This could certainly have been done more carefully.
It’s small inside
By the very design, its small inside. 4 people can comfortably sit inside on the ‘couches’ when the bunk bed is up, but if you wanted to get changed with another person there that wasn’t on a bed, you’d have a hard time. They’ve crammed a bucket load of gear into the R2, and depending on what design you get, you will get a lot in it, but expect it to be tight; they are very small!
For us, we don’t really care as our time inside the actual camper is limited. We use it to sleep, relax in when its bad weather, and to cook from, and the rest of the day is spent outside anyway. I will admit that in the mornings when a few of us want to stand or move around it can be a bit annoying.
The pop top hurts your insulation
There is no doubt in my mind that the pop top (or PVC part) hurts your insulation badly. This is in terms of both heat retention and noise. It’s a thin layer, so people can easily hear whats going on inside, and you can hear what others are doing outside. When you compare it to a caravan, they are a lot colder when you’d like them to be warmer, and warmer when you want them to be colder. This does affect how you use it.
We’ve just started using a 5kW portable diesel heater, and can comfortably keep it warm inside even when its in the single digits, but they are a lot colder than a fully walled van. On a night where it gets down to single digits we could keep the heater running on low all night. You’d never be able to do that in a full size insulated van as it just retains heat too well. Yes, I have compared this with full size vans camping with us, with the same number of people inside each overnight.
They are quite ‘basic’ for what you get
I will be careful here, as basic is not exactly the right word. I’m taking about bling, and ‘fruit’. For the same money, you can buy a very, very nice caravan. I’m talking airconditioner, 240V wiring, stereo, TV, flushing toilet, 240V/gas hot water unit, oven, fans, a huge variety of LED lights inside and out, and a heap of other ‘niceties’.
The Reconn R2 doesn’t come with any of this from the factory, unless you option it. Instead, they come with a tough as nails suspension and chassis setup, and other features that appear (and seem to be) quite basic. Of course you couldn’t take a normal van anywhere near the places you’d get an R2, so its not really apples for apples, but it is certainly something to think about.
They aren’t aimed at everyone
Not everyone would be happy with an R2. There is something amazing about waking up on a big queen size bed, swinging your feed to the side, walking down to the kitchen and turning the coffee machine on in the morning. You won’t be doing this in the R2.
These are aimed at those who want a light, small and compact setup to follow them anywhere around the country. This includes 4WD tracks and places you wouldn’t (and couldn’t) fit a full size caravan.
If you want amazing features, you either option them, or you go to the much higher level priced hybrids, like the Australian Offroad, Complete Campsite and Track Trailers.
What we’ve done to make it easier
We really haven’t done too much work to the camper. It does what we need it to surprisingly well. We’d like to get some more hooks, clothes lines, better access to a few things and sort out some better storage for the kitchen, but we’ve only changed a few things below:
You need somewhere to chuck rubbish, and it has to be outside. The simple solution was our Bushranger Bin Bag that I’ve had for more than 10 years. This attaches to the spare wheel, and we love it.
Sarah’s had a ball buying bits and pieces from Kmart to sort and store things in the kitchen, and its now much more user friendly. There’s still a few more things to do, but being able to stack and keep parts of the pantry separate has been a game changer.
I mentioned above that we have made further changes to the breathers. Essentially we have the same setup as what they come with, plus two extra breathers that go to the front of the van. I’d like to re-tap the breathers on top of the tank (like they should have been originally) and potentially re-do it, but its the best I’ve been able to do in a time poor environment!
Baby bunk cot
Cooper’s still far to young to sleep on an open bed, so we had a Baby Bunk Cot made by Morley Canvas (measured up by me) that just clips on with press studs, and zips open and closed. The camper would not be usable for us without this, and we are fairly happy with it. Once Cooper is a bit older we will get rid of it completely.
Overall; is the Reconn R2 worth it or not?
I hope this post has been balanced. It’s our opinion, and a completely honest and unbiased one at that. The Reconn R2 is a fantastic bit of gear, and we absolutely love ours. Yes, there are a few issues, but that is the case with every van and camper trailer out there.
Some are by design, and cannot be easily remedied, and others have simple solutions, or Lifestyle have already fixed them in newer models. Some are a bit frustrating, but really not much of an issue in the grand scheme of things.
I’ve seen a number of new vans purchased over the last couple of years, and they all have flaws or things done very poorly. There are times we wish we had a full size van, and times we are very glad we don’t. The Reconn R2 is hugely appreciated by us, and for our stage in life is the perfect camper.
I’d have no problem recommending them to others, and have personally shown a number of people around and through our camper trailer already. If you are looking for a quality, Australian made hypercamper (or hybrid camper) seriously take a look at these. They are a great unit.
If you have any questions or comments, let me know below and I’ll get back to you!