Our first Ultimate trip – Honeysuckle Creek

So with a big trip planned for later in the year, we made the big decision to get a camper trailer. After a lot of research and reviewing, we started looking for a good used Ultimate Camper. These campers had everything we were looking for:

  • A king-sized bed
  • A built in kitchen
  • Good offroad ability
  • Quick set up time
  • Light weight

Really the only problem was cost. These campers tend to keep their value, though post-COVID and with interest rates rising the prices had been trending down. We found a good example of a 2013 XPLOR model with a lot of extras included up in Sydney. It was little bit more than we expected, but well-kept and most of the extras were ones we would have chosen for ourselves. The previous owners had taken it on a lot of remote trips but had kept it in very good condition.

Picking up the camper from Sydney had been fairly uneventful, and the drive back confirmed that the new engine was easily capable of powering the van and a trailer at motorway speeds. Reversing it into my driveway is hopefully something that I get better at 🙁 It’s a good thing the camper is light enough to move by hand if necessary. If asked I’ll blame the trailers short drawbar length, but it’s probably just my inexperience with reversing trailers.

After spending a weekend transferring our gear into the camper, trying all of its features and learning how to set it up, we decided on a quick overnight in Namagi for its first test run. Honeysuckle Creek Campground is just up the road from us, so if anything did go wrong or we left something behind, we could probably just head home. For this trip we took my nephew as well on his first ever camping trip. He’s around the same age as Ollie, and the two of them get along great most of the time.

Given it’s winter in Canberra and the campsite is up in the hills, we packed very warm. Lots of extra blankets and warm clothing. I even snagged a Kmart 12v electric blanket just in case. We hitched up the camper to the van with very little fuss, and then headed down south to Tharwa and Namagi National Park.

The trip down to the campground was pretty uneventful. The road in is quite steep and winding, with big cliffs for some of the climb up. The vans new engine did well, not quite speeding up the mountain but at least going as fast as most other traffic.

The camper tows very well behind the van, but does block all of the rearview mirror so I’m relying entirely on my side mirrors. I’m looking into the best place for a reversing camera or always on camera to compensate.

We arrived at the campsite around 11am and it was packed out. Cars were everywhere, which was disappointing at first as we thought it would mean difficulty in finding a camper trailer spot. It turned out that almost all the cars were for various hiking groups, so we managed to choose a good set up spot close to the amenities. Camper set up went fairly well, with me reversing into the approximate spot then unhitching and dragging the camper around a little to avoid an overhanging tree. Set up time was about 25 minutes all up, but that time should go down when we don’t have two 4-year olds running around helping.

The first thing we did after set up was cook some toasted cheese sandwiches in the new gas stove jaffle iron. They turned out pretty good. Rosie was very impressed with the fact she had an actual kitchen to move around in with everything close to hand. The built in fridge also got a thumbs up, at 110L it was quite a bit larger than the 60L van fridge we’d been using for the past 7 years or so.

With the feral children fed for a bit, we ended up going for a walk up to the old Honeysuckle tracking station foundations.

Heaps of wallabies and kangaroos around

We did a bit of exploring on the rocks and tracks in the area, then headed back to camp. The weather never really got sunny, but it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t too cold out of the wind.

Once we got back to camp the we fed the kids and chucked them both into the king sized bed with the tablet to watch a movie. Rosie and I stayed outside and had a cheese plate and some beer/wine.

Tucked in for movie night

Later that afternoon we got the kids outside and had them collect some sticks and twigs to start a fire with. My nephew got a small scratch, so the bandaids came out.

Tiny scratch, big tears, one bandaid

With the fire going, Rosie and the kids headed off to the creek down the 1.5km walking track. They didn’t make it all the way and ended up heading back the same way then came in.

Marshmallows did come out later
The mysterious white tent in the background. What was it all about!?

That night dinner was dinosaur pasta and sausages for the kids, and cheese and bread for the adults. The inclusion of an actual built in sink in the camper was a huge benefit, making clean up easier. We do need a bucket for the grey water overflow though, so we’ll add that to the list.

Once it got dark the kids were given torches and they set off looking for bugs. They ended up making ‘scarecrows’ from buckets with torches in them. We converted the dining table and couch into a bed for the first time, and found it held both kids pretty well.

I rocked out my sleeping bag suit for the first time on this trip. Highly recommended Aldi purchase. A lot of possums came right up to the camper once it got dark as well – no fear at all. Lots of beers were consumed.

That night Ollie had the small bed and my nephew, Rosie and myself slept in the big bed. The mattress was surprisingly comfortable, and the camper retained heat pretty well. We didn’t get any interior condensation either. I ended up turning off Ollie’s electric blanket around midnight as it was getting far too hot for him.

The next morning I was the first to wake up and get up and about. Rosie hadn’t had a great nights sleep, so her and our nephew got a bit of a sleep in while me and Ollie did some exploring and relit the fire. I ended up cooking some more toasties for breakfast on the fire as well, something that Ollie was very impressed with. I don’t think it had occurred to him before that fire can be used for cooking.

That morning was a relatively leisurely pack up. All up it probably took an hour to fully pack up and get the camper connected to the van again. We drove off with two very overstimulated kids in the back. The camper brakes worked quite well down the hill, but it required a bit of adjustment of the brake controller to ensure the proportional braking was working with the vans braking.

Once back home we again were stuck reversing the trailer by hand to its spot on the front lawn. The 90 degree turn at the end of a sloped driveway ended up a bit too hard to back into. A backup camera is definitely on the cards so I don’t have to rely on Rosie’s hand signals.

Overall the camper worked great on its first trip out. We’ll go on a few more 1 or 2 night trips so that we can decide what equipment is necessary and what’s not required. While we have more space now, we still ended up filling up the vans boot, so the goal is to work out what is essential and what might not be necessary.

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