We’ve upgraded our Camper, and in a seriously big way. For those who’ve been following us for some time, you’ll know we’ve had a soft floor camper trailer now for a couple of years, and clocked up nearly 150 nights in it. It’s been fantastic, but we’ve been looking for a long time now for an upgrade. We have spent more time researching, doing figures and trying to find the perfect solution for us than I care to think about, but I reckon its paid off.
There’s a lot of people travelling Australia in all sorts of setups, and a lot of them don’t suit the way we like to travel. Finding something that was light and small enough to drag around anywhere we wanted (including the more challenging, tight and less travelled 4WD tracks) whilst having a few more luxuries, easy setup and plenty of storage was a mission and a half. So, what have we ended up with?
Introducing our new Hybrid Camper – a 2018 Lifestyle Reconn R2:
What is this thing?
I’m sure a few people are looking at this now, and trying to work out what we’ve bought, especially if you’ve not seen them before. Keep reading and check out the photos; you’ll soon see! This unit is certainly unique in many ways, and we love it. For us, its pretty much perfect in every way (or so we think – I’ll update in a few months!).
It’s light, has a massive payload, fantastic amenities, is built to take serious punishment, carries a lot of water, batteries and solar and has a huge range of modifications that can be done to it. It’s the ultimate compromise of comforts and off road ability. It doesn’t suit everyone, and that’s fine; its as close to perfect as what we could find on the market for us.
We did install a Baby Bunk Cot into the camper to allow our one year old to sleep safely, but other than that it remains unchanged so far.
About Lifestyle Campers
Lifestyle have been making camper trailers since 1999 in Queensland, and that’s pretty impressive in itself. There aren’t too many businesses that have been in the camper trailer industry for that long, so its a testimony to their work and adaptation to a fast changing industry (with lots of cheap imports flooding in!).
Starting off with the basic soft floor camper trailers (which are a dying breed today) they soon progressed into a range of hybrid caravan/camper trailers, and currently sell 5 variations – the Breakaway, Iconn, Reconn R2, Reconn R4 and the Stylecraft. The first two are primarily built in China under strict quality control, and the Reconns and Style crafts are Aussie built in their entirety.
The Reconn R2
The Reconn R2 is called a Hyper camper, because its fast to set up, and not quite a Caravan, or a Camper Trailer. The term Reconn comes from Reconnaissance, which means small, strong force that would be prepared for anything. They way they are built would reflect this. Now, into the nitty gritty of the unit we purchased (bearing in mind that they are somewhat customisable and not all have these specs):.
- 5800mm long from the hitch through to the spare rear wheel
- 1600kg tare weight (or empty weight) with a 1000kg payload (2600kg ATM)
- 270L of fresh water tanks split into 3 x 90L tanks, with two water pumps and two flow metres
- 240W of solar on the roof feeding a 40 amp Enerdrive battery management system and Victron 12V battery monitoring system
- Projecta 240V mains charger
- 240aH of deep cycle batteries
- 1 spare tyre and a wood/generator storage box on the rear
- 265/75/16″ mud terrain tyres
- Cruisemaster 2600kg independent suspension
- 150mm hot dipped galv chassis
- DO35 hitch
- Queen size bed and two bunks, with seating and a small table inside
- 2150mm tall while travelling, and it pops up to 3025mm tall.
- Rope awning and full canvas sides
- Quickpitch shower tent and shower on the side
- 11L Truma Hot water system
- 85L fibreglass Evakool Fridge/Freezer
- LED touch lights throughout
- MSA storage pockets throughout
- Two 4.5kg gas bottles
- Amazing external kitchen
The Reconn R2 is 1700mm longer, 500mm taller and 30mm wider than our existing soft floor camper. It’s got more than double the water capacity, nearly double the payload and easily as much storage. On the flip side our soft floor had 30 amp hours more of batteries and 160W of extra solar, but that can always be improved on!
I have done a YouTube video walk around, which might be of more use if you are trying to work out how big it is inside:
What else did we look at?
I honestly don’t think there was a camper trailer or hybrid caravan we didn’t look into. Seriously. We started off looking at Aussie made hard floors, and then the forward folds, and then the hybrid caravans.
Anything over 2.3 metres tall, 2 metres wide, 6 metres long or 1800kg empty was ruled out straight away purely on the basis that it wouldn’t go where we wanted to tow it, or we’d be pushing the towing weights. If you don’t know much about the weights you need to comply with, there are 7, which are explained very clearly here – Simple towing guide.
From there, it had to have a decent payload (400kg of payload on a camper trailer or Caravan is just ridiculous), sleep 4 and have a reasonable amount of water/electrical capacity.
We looked at all of the Chinese hybrids (Fantasy, MDC, Ezytrail, ModCon, Black Series, Warrior), and some are quite attractive but extremely heavy (and I’m still not 100% convinced of their quality). I checked out second hand Australian Offroad, Complete Campsite, Zone RV, Track Trailer, Rhinomax, Noosa RV, Condamine, Kimberley Karavan) along with some of the imports (Jurgens, Echo Kavango, UEV).
Some of these are truly next level, but either hugely expensive (like a 10 year old unit selling for the same as a new Lifestyle Reconn R2!) or time consuming to set up.
We even looked at a range of different pop ups – Windsor, Jayco, etc) but I wasn’t convinced that after tens of thousands of corrugations they’d still be in one piece. Their construction is OK, but not designed for full on 4WD tracks and endless corrugations.
Absolutely nothing fitted the bill. It was all a compromise in one way or another, and often something Sarah found I’d rule out straight away, or the other way around. The Reconn R2 fits a very interesting niche. It’s priced somewhere between the extremely expensive Aussie made hybrids and the cheap Chinese imports, and yet competes (and is better) on so many levels.
Why the upgrade?
EDIT: We’ve done a full comprehensive post covering Why we moved from a soft floor to a hybrid camper trailer. In short though, the upgrade has been life changing and makes camping so much better and easier, especially with young ones!
To be honest, we never intended on getting something like this so soon. We’d eyed the R2 out some time ago and decided it was too much money to spend. However, over the last 6 months we looked at every single camper trailer and caravan hybrid on the market, and couldn’t find the perfect setup. We were just waiting for the perfect solution to roll around, even though it seemed unlikely to happen.
Lifestyle have an amazing reputation, and we looked at the Breakaway Ultra, and then more recently the Iconn, but weren’t quite satisfied with what they were offering for us to travel long term. We wanted something you could comfortably live in for months at a time, and after paying the freight to get one over, plus the normal accessories (extra batteries, solar, awning walls etc) they were coming in at close to 40k.
This Reconn R2 popped up second hand, and despite being extremely reluctant to part with a massive chunk of money we decided to have a look. Not only was it fairly priced, but it was also the exact configuration we wanted, and located in Perth (which pretty much never happens!). It was not a rushed decision, and in many ways it fell into our laps and felt right, so here we are.
Our soft floor camper trailer has been amazing. We’ve had some truly epic trips with it, and I’m sure the new owners will also get lots of enjoyment out of it. It’s seen more of WA and the Northern Territory than most Australian’s would do in a lifetime, and we never had any real issues with it. It will be tidied up and put on the market shortly; do you know anyone chasing a quality, Aussie made soft floor camper trailer in Perth with a number of aftermarket accessories?!
There were a few things that were frustrating with the soft floor, which contributed to the need to upgrade. Please remember that this is our home for months at a time, and while you can live with them short term they do become frustrating after many, many nights.
Setting up and packing down was time consuming, required a fair bit of effort and resulted in you getting filthy if the camper was dirty (which it often was!). You literally couldn’t pack the tent away when it was damp (which it often was) without getting the bed wet and then having to set it up at home (which we struggled to do due to a small block).
Then, accessing gear was difficult and living out of tubs and clothes bags got old real fast. It was also a giant setup when folded out due to the rear tailgate kitchen, tent folding the other way and a big boat loader/solar rack. This meant finding a suitable camp site (especially in Caravan Parks) somewhat difficult.
Now, I realise comparing these two units together isn’t very fair given the price difference, but the soft floor was a super solid unit that we will miss in some ways. The light weight, compact and cheap camper has made us some of the most incredible memories we’ve had, and we will forever be grateful for it. For now though, we’ve upgraded in a major, major way and we look forward to sharing the future journey with you all.
Long term review to come
We’ve only spent 20 nights in this so far, and are still working out how to pack it and how best to use it. In due course I’ll do a full review about what is amazing, what’s terrible and everything in between.
See you out there!