CAMERON OFFICER GETS HIS FAMILY TENT OUT OF STORAGE AND PICKS HIS FIVE TOP VEHICLES FOR CAMPING
An ideal camping car should be the perfect storm of practicality. It should feature plenty of interior space, especially in the boot; plenty of towing power, because a caged trailer filled with bikes and barbecue equipment is as necessary as tent pegs and mozzie repellent; and actual off-road ability if possible, to access those harder-to-reach DoC sites.
Extras such as a decent satellite navigation system and rear seat entertainment — or at the very least, tablet device-friendly 12-volt charging points to keep the nippers happy on those longer jaunts — are nice add-ons too. As are hidden storage cubbies and somewhere to chuck wet towels without too much forethought (or wet camping gear, should the summer turn soggy).
Here’s Driven’s picks (in no particular order) for the best camping accessory you ever considered since the fork, knife and spoon combo tool.
A well-used short wheelbase Vitara of 1990s vintage launching a knackered tinny from the beach is as common a summer sighting as a Jandal tan line in New Zealand. But actually, Suzuki has taken the latest iteration of its dependable Vitara decidedly up-market.
Not only does the new Vitara showcase a refreshed exterior look, but it also adopts a feature-rich specification list that includes pure decadence like a panoramic sunroof, a reversing camera, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity and audio streaming, and keyless entry and start.
In camping-appropriate all-wheel drive guise, the new Vitara hasn’t forgotten its go-anywhere DNA either. Suzuki’s Allgrip four-mode driving system lets the driver access any of four selectable Allgrip modes simply by pushing a button in the centre console. Auto is for standard driving (with intelligent four-wheel drive when the system detects a lack of grip); Sport improves accelerator response; traction-enhanced Snow; or Lock, which sends torque to the back wheels to get out of the really rough stuff. Or off the beach.
The boot also features a segmented cargo organiser that slots underneath the floor to keep valuables out of sight while your Vitara is parked in the camping ground.
The ‘‘ute with a boot’’ formula has proved successful for a number of manufacturers over the years; think of the examples from Mitsubishi, Holden, Isuzu and the forthcoming Toyota Fortuna, to name but a handful.
But with Ford’s new Everest underpinned by the country’s best-selling ute — the Ranger — you have to wager this big seven-seater is going to be a particularly popular option among buyers over the next 12 months.
As such, this remains a serious off-roader; a heavy-duty ‘‘body on frame’’ build that feels more truck-like than its smaller Territory sibling. But as a result it’s built for the tough stuff and, especially if you’re heading off the beaten track, feels like it’ll get you there without breaking a sweat.
That’s not to say the Everest’s interior is compromised in a workmanlike fashion though; quite the opposite. In top Titanium trim the Everest features standard equipment such as an 8” colour touch screen, Bluetooth hands-free and audio streaming capability, a reversing camera, radar cruise control, Ford’s Sync two-voice control system and interface, satellite navigation, ambient interior lighting.
The Everest also boasts a 3000kg towing capacity, so if a trailered boat is a vital part of your camping experience, you’re well sorted with a vehicle that is as powerful as it is capacious.
Land Rover Discovery Sport
It’s curvier, chic-er, possibly more glamper than camper. But the Land Rover Discovery Sport Si4 will still take you anywhere you need to go this summer in style. The Discovery Sport Si4 is trimmed in sumptuous leather, and has lots of brushed aluminium accents and high quality instruments in the cabin, but it can still live up to the expectations the Land Rover nameplate carries.
The Sport line, now a stand-alone sub-brand that runs through both Land Rover and Range Rover, still incorporates Terrain Response, which lets the driver select between general driving, grass/gravel/snow, mud and ruts, and sand settings to maximise gearbox, differential and chassis performance and traction.
Also, with a wading depth of up to 600mm, the Discovery Sport Si4 really can go anywhere.
There is even an optional wade-sensing system in the door mirrors, which provides real-time pictorial information about the water’s depth in relation to the vehicle. Handy if your favoured tent site is the other side of that trout-filled stream. Or if you get rained out.
So it’s still definitely a Disco. But not as we know it.
Skoda Superb Wagon
There’s still nothing quite like a good old station wagon to get you and the family to your favourite camping spot. And although Kiwis have been ignoring wagons in increasing numbers over the past few years (heading instead towards SUVs and crossovers), the Skoda Superb TDi 4x4 wagon reminds us of what is achievable with this versatile body shape.
Skoda’s Superb boasts the sort of interior space only an actual motorhome might otherwise offer. Well okay, not quite. But the amount of room occupants get to enjoy is excellent; even with the longest-limbed driver up front, rear seat passengers can still stretch out, ideal for a long road trip.
And then there’s the boot space; between 619 and 1909 litres, depending on whether the rear seats are up or down.
Even with a full complement of five people onboard, there is still plenty of room for luggage.
Add the Superb’s four-wheel drive capability to the mix, along with its excellent level of comfort and convenience specification, and you have an exceptional vehicle to take camping this summer.
You can’t go wrong with a double-cab ute.
Especially one that is as useable and comfortable on the open road as any SUV. And with well-specified, double-cab utes becoming increasingly popular as family transport for those weekends away, Mazda’s BT-50 GSX (the one with all the toys) is a superb tool to tackle the big camping trip this summer.
The BT-50 remains probably the most comfortable and compliant ute to drive on sale in New Zealand right now. The five-cylinder 2.3-litre turbo diesel is smooth as silk.
With a decent 470Nm of torque on tap, there is plenty of grunt for pulling through tougher terrain or towing. But at the same time there’s no compromise on the sound effects: Mazda has banished the diesel rattle completely.
Other updates for the latest BT-50 include revised sheet metal at the front and rear ends, and a standard locking rear differential across the range. All BT-50s sporting wellside trays now feature lockable tailgates. The GSX model also boasts a reversing camera, side steps and comes with rain-sensing wipers as standard.
What’s more, when it is time to pack up and head home, playing camping equipment Tetris with all that gear you need to carefully re-stow is much easier when you can clamber into the load space and organise it at your feet, without a low-slung roof above.