New Age Wayfinder Adventurer 2019 Review
All-terrain wind-up camper passes family road trip test
Jayco may dominate sales of wind-up camper trailers in Australia but it doesn’t have the market entirely to itself, with a few rivals keen to grab a slice of this popular entry-level family camper segment.
A more recent arrival is New Age’s ‘Walkinshaw design and engineered’ Wayfinder camper, which left a good impression after our initial ‘walk through’ review in late-2018.
More recently we had the chance to put the stylish new Melbourne-built canvas camper through its paces on a 3500km long, three week road trip along West Australia’s Coral Coastline, raising the roof at various scenic spots from upmarket caravan parks to remote coastal campsites (click here for more on our ‘Wild West’ adventures).
There’s nothing like setting up and packing down a camper trailer a dozen or more times, while juggling family and driving duties, to get a better feel for its touring capabilities…
The Wayfinder was launched in early-2018 in both couple and family layouts, and for this trip we had the more popular 12ft four-berth family version. With a slide-out 1500m wide bed at each end and a kitchen galley and two large lounge/dinettes in the middle, it's designed to accommodate a growing family of four.
Pricing for the four-berth Wayfinder starts at $33,790 but the range-topping Wayfinder WF12F Adventurer we picked up from New Age’s Perth dealer boasted a sticker price of $49,540, thanks to the addition of the top-spec 'Adventurer' pack plus three other optional extras.
That’s serious coin for a wind-up camper, but you do get desirable off-road extras like the AL-KO Enduro Outback suspension and a Cruisemaster DO-35 coupling, 16in alloy wheels with all-terrain tyres and a waterproof underfloor liner, along with a beefed-up 12V power system incorporating a 150W roof-top solar panel and controller to keep the 100Ah AGM battery topped up when free camping.
You do pay extra for a gas hot water unit and outside shower. However, our review camper was fitted with the optional floor-mounted air-conditioner, bed end flies and wind-out ‘box’ awning -- all worthwhile additions depending on your needs and budget.
Ups and downs
There's a bit of work involved in setting up any wind-up camper and the Wayfinder is no different, but after working out a routine it became a relatively easy -- even enjoyable! -- one-person task.
The easiest jobs included winding down the corner stabilisers, pulling out the bed ends and inserting the support poles (both inside and out), and connecting the top half of the door before sealing up all the loose canvas, mostly with attached velcro strips.
The hardest and most time consuming task is the 100 or so vigorous cranks of the winder required to raise the aluminium roof. I got used to it by the end of the trip but most owners will want to purchase a battery-powered impact wrench and suitable adaptor to make the job easier.
Winding down the roof during pack-up is much easier, although I struggled on occasion to tuck the heavy-duty canvas in neatly over the mattresses to allow the roof to close fully before latching down (operator error, perhaps?). Regardless, it shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes to set up or pack down, once you know what you're doing.
By comparison the optional Dometic box awning was a breeze to wind out, taking less than a minute to set up. We also made good use of the Wayfinder's drop-down picnic table, two external lights and outside TV and power connections throughout the trip.
There's also a gas bayonet to run a portable BBQ and mains pressure inlet for caravan park stays although the Wayfinder's water pump, located in the underbody under a protective plate, also worked quietly and efficiently.
Outdoor living on the inside
One of the most appealing features of any wind-up camper is the elevated but protected, 360 degree panoramic views delivered from inside, and the Wayfinder was no different. Being able to open up the large meshed windows on all sides (canvas at the ends and plastic on the sides, all with built-in insect screens) really enhanced the holiday experience, especially when set up in a stunning coastal spot.
The big windows also provided a nice flow-through breeze on warmer days, while excellent headroom throughout further contributed to the airy feel.
Also keeping the family happy were separate lounging/eating areas for the ‘kids’ and ‘parents’, with a four-person café dinette next to one bed, and larger U-shaped lounge/dinette that could seat up to six people at a pinch, alongside the other.
While not coil sprung, the queen size foam mattress beds were almost as comfortable and importantly, offered another good option for daytime lounging. They both sat on solid composite bases with a reassuringly high 350kg rating.
The privacy/block-out curtains for each bed as well as the clear plastic side windows also came in handy, although the doorside curtain wasn't quite wide enough to cover the door-window at night. And if being really picky, a slide-cover on the fan hatch over the kitchen, would be a good addition to block out annoying caravan park lighting at night.
No complaints about the extra-long kitchen galley though. A good amount of benchspace on both sides of the combination three-burner cooktop and sink made it easy to prepare and cook family meals, while glass lids on the cooktop/sink could further boost workspace as required.
Also handy was the Wayfinder’s small under-bench microwave for various heating tasks (we even cooked a lasagna in it one night), while the 93 litre fridge/freezer was big enough to keep us in perishable food and cold drinks for a few days before heading back to the supermarket.
The fridge ran mostly off mains power, but also worked well when switched to gas on the couple of times we camped off-the-grid.
Although we didn’t attempt any spicy curries, the small 12V fan located in the ceiling above the cooktop did a decent job of extracting most of the cooking smells, even without any windows open.
We missed not having hot water running through the mixer tap though, especially when washing up greasy plates. Another 'gripe' in the living area concerned the two pedestal tabletops, which could be adjusted horizontally but not vertically so weren't always at the optimum height when working on a laptop computer, for example.
Most of the interior storage options in the Wayfinder are located under the kitchen bench, including two drawers and a number of good-size cupboards and shelves. While there was more than enough space for all our dry food and cooking and eating utensils, we kept most of our clothes in suitcases in the tow vehicle due to a lack of suitable storage options inside.
There are some further storage options under the seats, albeit harder to get to, and some of that space was taken up by the battery, charger and air-conditioner.
Externally, the plastic-lined front boot with drainhole was a good spot for hoses, cords, awning mats and all our other ‘wet’ items, while the only other external locker next to the entry door was just big enough to swallow our three compact camp chairs.
Back inside, another cupboard near the door was useful for storing various knick knacks. The water gauge and solar charge controller were also located here, close to the Clarion Bluetooth audio unit that pumped out our favourite Spotify tunes through the internal and external speakers.
There's also another set of sockets close by for hooking up the 24in TV that sat on the shelf above. and easily swivelled around for viewing from either lounge.
The Wayfinder was also well serviced by internal 240V points, along with a ceiling-mounted 12V ‘cigarette’ socket at each bed end for plugging in a portable night light. The three LED dome ceiling lights provided plenty of light, but it would have also been nice to have a dimming function for the option to create some softer 'mood' lighting at night...
With a few hot days (and cold nights) during our travels, we appreciated the optional under-seat air conditioner with its three floor-mounted vents for delivering some climate controlled comfort. While not as powerful as a rooftop unit, it was quite efficient and whisper-quiet for overnight operation.
With an ATM of 1940kg, the Wayfinder Adventurer was a good match behind our three tonne rated, Ford Everest tow vehicle. We had no problem keeping up with traffic or cruising at the West Australian maximum towing speed of 100km/h, and the overall average 13.2L/100km was impressive.
Even better the low-slung Wayfinder never felt nervous or unstable behind the big Ford, with the added reassurance of AL-KO ESC fitted as standard.
While not designed for hardcore off-roading, the Wayfinder Adventurer confidently tackled some dirt roads and soft sandy tracks; the independent coil suspension combined with off-road coupling helping smooth out the ruts and corrugations on a 20km long 'driveway' into West Australia's Warrora Station.
We also squeezed down some overgrown tracks, thanks to the Wayfinder's low travel height and relatively narrow width (2145mm), with the gal-lined water tanks and Raptor lower-body coating providing some protection if required. The only visible 'damage' was some stone chips on the Raptor paint up front, but if that’s an issue a mesh stone guard could be fitted to the A-frame.
Some dirt and dust also made its way inside the camper through the gas vent in the door and some internal gaps in and around the furniture, but nothing that some additional silicone sealing might be able to fix.
The Wayfinder also coped well with a few days free camping, with the fridge running off gas and the solar panel charging the battery. We did miss having the (optional) external shower after a couple of days (although the 80L tank would have limited our shampoo time!). However, the drawbar tap came in handy for washing sandy feet after another session of shell collecting or snorkelling...
Solid build quality
While the Walkinshaw influence is clear in the Wayfinder's eye-catching design, it proved more than skin deep with the camper holding up well to some family holiday 'punishment'.
Structural aspects like the sliding bed-end rollers and Wax Converters canvas and zips held up well to constant (ab)use, as did the tent frame which withstood some fierce battering on one particularly gusty night on exposed coastline.
Fixtures and finishes on the interior furniture also proved hardy, as did the grey fabric seat upholstery which hid the dirt well, even when pounded by dirty feet!
Less impressive was the two-part Coast to Coast entry door, which felt a bit flimsy and worse for wear by the end of the trip. The AL-KO jockey wheel was also showing signs of strain after being used on a variety of uneven terrain.
The Melbourne-built Wayfinder Adventurer wasn’t perfect by any means, but it proved the ideal RV option for our sun-seeking, nature-loving family adventure.
Promising a 'built to last' structure, it's easy to overlook a few minor things when you get such an inviting family-friendly design that provides easy access to some spectacular camping locations.
New Age Wayfinder WF12F Adventurer
Travel length: 5900mm
External body length: 4630mm
External body width: 2145mm
Travel height: 1760mm
Ball weight (Tare): 140kg
Body: Alucobond aluminium exterior cladding over timber-framing. Aluminium roof.
Chassis: Galvanised steel
Suspension: AL-KO Enduro Outback trailing arm, coil springs, shocks
Brakes: 12in electric drums
Wheels: 16 x 7in Karmistic alloys with 245/75 Federal Couragia AT tyres
Fresh water: 1 x 80L
Battery: 1 x 100Ah AGM plus BMPro BatteryPlus35PM charger
Solar: 150W roof-top panel with regulator
Gas: 1 x 9kg bottle
Cooking: Dometic three-burner gas internal cooktop
Fridge/freezer: Thetford 93L 3-way
Microwave: NCE 20 litre
Audio: Clarion head unit with internal/external speakers
TV: NCE 24in Smart TV/DVD with Winegard antenna
Lighting: LED throughout
Price: $43,790. As reviewed with options: $49,540
Options fitted: Dometic box awning, Bed end flies, Truma Saphir floor-mounted air-conditioner
Supplied by: New Age Perth, Beckenham, Western Australia
More info: New Age Caravans, Epping, Victoria
Credits to https://www.caravancampingsales.com.au/