By Malcolm Street
Being the largest caravan manufacturer Australia means that Jayco Caravans can offer one of the widest selections of caravans and camper trailers on the market. From the largest and most luxurious Sterling to the diminutive Penguin camper trailer, there is something for everyone.
It is with this in mind that CW decided to have a look at Jayco’s Eagle camper trailer. While the bigger and better appointed vans will be of more interest to cashed-up retirees and empty nesters, it’s undoubtedly the camper trailers that better suit the family budget and tow vehicle.
Not only do the folded-down campers make for a very easy towing proposition but they also give plenty of room for a family with well separated bed ends and, in warm weather, a well ventilated living area.
Our Eagle camper trailer came from the ever-helpful David Carrick at Jayco Sydney. In August 2006, Jayco Sydney moved to a new premises and if you are thinking about a new camper trailer, caravan or motorhome then it is worth a visit.
The Eagle sits mid range in Jayco’s Finch, Dove, Hawk, Swan, Penguin and Flamingo camper trailer line-up and at 959kg (Tare) with a closed-up body length of just over 12ft 3in (3.8m), it is ideal for any number of tow vehicles. Its travel height of 5ft 3in (1.6m) also means it can be easily stored under cover.
Around the outside, apart from the usual items on the drawbar – ball coupling, brake handle and 9kg gas cylinder – there are two external storage bins, front boot and front nearside locker, rear mounted spare wheel plus an external light and powerpoint mounted mid nearside.
Underneath the camper trailer body, the chassis is hot dipped galvanised, the suspension leaf spring and the 90L water tank with galvanised sheet protection sits behind the axle.
Although it might look complicated, setting up the Eagle (or any other Jayco camper) is really not difficult at all. After arriving at the campsite, the camper has to be manoeuvred into position – that can be done quite easily by hand with two people – and the corner stabilisers jacks lowered.
That is actually quite important in these little campers, especially at the rear, because too many people at the back can see the front drawbar leave the ground rather suddenly!
Next the roof can be unclipped and the roof raised by inserting the winding handle into the front nearside socket and turning. There’s no risk of winding too far because a fixed cable prevents that. With the roof up, the next step is to pull out the bed ends.
They slide out fairly easily but the next step should be done before anyone steps into the camper – the external bed support poles should be fitted back and front, otherwise someone getting on the beds might get a little surprise.
Fitting the door is a little bit of a fiddle, because it is split for folding down the camper but after a bit of practice, attaching the door sections together and attaching the inner and outer seals to the door can be done without a problem.
An option with the Eagle is what Jayco call a ‘bag awning’. It’s not quite as quick to set up as a more conventional caravan awning but because of the wind-up roof, it is the next best thing. When set up, complete with screened walls, it does add greatly to the camper living area.
Inside, the other canvas set up job is fitting the internal bed poles to the end frames in order to stretch the bed end canvas. That should be done before attaching the Velcro bed walls underneath the bed base – otherwise, as CW discovered, fitting the internal bed poles does require some muscular effort.
In the Eagle, the only other set up item is the small, full height wardrobe that sits across the dinette seat when travelling. It is hinged and put together by simply lifting and inserting a bolt through the back of the cupboard to hold it in position.
Setting up the Eagle might sound time consuming but it really isn’t. CW did it in about 15 minutes and with two people it will be much quicker.
Once set up, it becomes quickly apparent just how much room there is in the camper. In addition, all around screened windows let in plenty of light and ventilation.
In the bedroom areas, zipped internal canvas flaps cover the windows, but in the main body of the camper clear plastic is used to keep the rain out and there are curtains, including those across both bed ends, for night-time use.
The Eagle layout features a nearside dinette, offside kitchen, front club lounge and slide-out beds at both ends. For more than four people, the dinette and lounge can be used to make up extra beds but it might be a bit of a squeeze, and for long-term holidays some family members might prefer to sleep under an annexe outside.
Both end beds run the full width of the Eagle but the front bed at 5ft (1.5m) is 12in (30mm) wider than the rear bed, making it the parent’s bed, with the rear bed having a ‘safety net’ to prevent any little ones rolling out of bed.
Bed end area lighting is provided by an extension light that plugs into the main overhead lights and clips on to the centre support pole. If you like to read in bed at night, then a small battery powered fluorescent or LED reading light might be welcome.
Catering is very caravan-like with stainless steel sink and drainer, four-burner hob (one electric, three gas) and grill and 90L three-way fridge.
With the latter, if you are planning on using 12V when travelling, then either an optional battery will have to be installed or a 12V supply rigged from the tow vehicle – making sure the current carrying capacity of the cables is adequate, using something like an Anderson plug.
Beside the sink there is a reasonable amount of benchtop working space
and under the bench area there are three cupboards and a cutlery drawer. The wheel arch does occupy part of cupboard space.
About the only problem for taller people is the low height of the kitchen bench but, given the camper design, it’s somewhat unavoidable.
At both ends of the kitchen bench there are powerpoints, the one towards the rear not being so obvious – it, along with a TV antenna connection, sits behind the folding wardrobe but is still reasonably easy to get to.
Four travellers are going to be able to sit comfortably at the foam cushion dinette.
There is the usual under-seat storage area with both seats having a large drawer, and they’re less fiddly than lifting the ply hatches.
The wheel arch occupies the rest of the front seat storage area, but there’s still some vacant space underneath the rear seats. In addition to the dinette seating, the front club lounge offers seating for three or, stretched out, feet up comfort for two.
Like the dinette, there is storage area underneath all the seats, the nearside area also being accessible from the outside.
The Bottom Line
Although taking longer to set up than a conventional caravan, camper trailers like the Eagle offer several advantages for families or couples whose budget is tight but still want to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle without living in a tent.
A downside, given the design of a camper trailer, is the lack of general storage, especially overhead compartments.
It does mean packing lightly, but you do still get the kitchen sink.
An advantage of this particular design is that it offers seating that is additional to the normal dinette area. Once set up, there are quite reasonable living and sleeping areas, particularly given the Eagle’s price and the fact that it’s a relatively small and lightweight trailer.
For more information contact Jayco Sydney, 63-67 Glossop Street, St Marys, NSW 2760, (02) 9623 1971, www.jaycosydney.com.au
For your nearest Jayco dealer visit www.jayco.com.au
• The spacious interior feel of the camper considering it’s a lightweight towing package
• A generally easy setup
• Bed ends with ventilation all round
Now I’m being picky
• Although it worked reasonably well, a less fiddly door to setup
• Better lighting in the bed ends
|Jayco Eagle Camper Trailer|
|External length: 12ft 3in (3.8m)|
|External width: 7ft (2.1m)|
|Interior height: 6ft 9in (2m)|
|Nameplate ATM: 1259kg|
|Nameplate GTM: 1139kg|
|Nameplate Tare |
|Chassis: Hot dipped galvanised|
|Suspension: Leaf spring|
|Cooktop: Smev four-burner (one electric/three gas) and grill|
|Fridge: Dometic RM2340 90L|
|Lighting: 12V incandescent|
|Gas: 1 x 9kg|
|Water: Hand pumped or mains pressure|
|Fresh water tank: 90L|
|Price: POA |