Well the pressure was on, the first trip in the X3 had been booked months beforehand, she was to be base camp and chuck wagon for Lachie’s bucks’ party on Teerwah Beach – a dozen young blokes and a ute full of beer, what could go wrong they said….
In the week beforehand I’d been installing the various bits of kit purchased in anticipation of the camper’s arrival including the essentials of fridge, Weber BBQ, Nespresso machine and kitchen paraphernalia. I also purchased an aluminium roof rack to make it easier to carry firewood, dirty ground mats and other gear deemed too grotty to go in the car or camper. Lots of little tweaks were also introduced, like a ‘Croc’ rubbish bag holder and rubber lining of the drawers and shelves to stop things clanging around.
Not to be forgotten, this would also be first proper trip in the VX Landcruiser that I had also been hurriedly fitting out for the past fortnight. Although not finished many of the modifications I had made would be trialed which will give me a good baseline for the next batch of upgrades.
During the process of equipping the camper I noted a few minor quality issues missed on collection day, which I reported to Patriot for attention at the complimentary 1,000km service. I also seasoned the canvas over a few wet-dry cycles and checked for leaks, and thankfully there were none. We found that the tight new canvas was pulling the bed up at an angle which required it to be tied down to a ground peg, hopefully this will yield with use. Another design oversight seems to be retracted length of the bed access ladder, which props the bed up at an angle if the ground is rising on that side of the camper. But I won’t be too critical until we get it into the wild were it belongs, where hopefully some of these minor issues will work themselves out.
Soon enough Saturday morning came around and the crew assembled behind a Brisbane car yard to meet, greet and load gear into the respective rides. Lachie’s fiancé Sarah works at the dealership and came out to give instructions on what the crew could (and couldn’t) do to Lachie’s eye brows and appendages, based on what would grow back before their wedding next month.
The little roof rack added to the X3 was immediately put into service when a ute load of firewood turned up that had to be distributed around the vehicles heading on the trip. With Sarah capturing the moment on camera the crew pulled out and headed the 200km north to Gympie, from where we veered east toward the coast at Rainbow Beach.
First stop was the Rainbow Beach Hotel for a counter lunch. To ensure Lachie wasn’t missed the lads had fitted him out in a nice little black number which he accessorised with colour matched thongs. Hot lunch and a couple of beers were put in front of the Groom to be and plenty of banter bounced around the table as excitement levels crept higher. From there the convoy headed to top of the Freshwater Track to air down and start the 4WD action.
The weather was starting to close in with a few showers drifting through, which made the Freshwater 4WD access track a relatively easy drive. The team spilled onto the beach and headed south in search of a camp site large enough for six vehicles, two trailers and a couple of gazeboes. After a few false alarms a decent sized level site was claimed and Camp Teerwah went up in little time, with swags unrolled and tarps strung, all with plenty of ropes out to combat the tugging sea breeze.
The first full solo X3 set up was a little clumsy as I worked out the best sequence to erect the tent and awning, but on the whole I was happy with how it came together. The gloomy weather also gave me a good chance to assess how the trailer copes with wind and rain because it looked like plenty were going to be dished up.
The afternoon settled into a chilled pace with splinter groups breaking away to play beach footy, fishing or just staring into the fire’s embers. The sun fought hard to peak through the cloud all afternoon but eventually surrendered and skulked below the western horizon.
Night fell quickly due to the umbrella of clouds and shadow from the dunes behind camp, so grills were dragged over the fire pit to start the dinner BBQ. We’ll skip rest of the night’s antics because as they say, what happens at camp stays at camp.
The following morning dished up more of the same weather, with blustery winds and rain squalls that broke only long enough to cook eggs and bacon over the soggy fire for those fit to eat it. The pale light of the veiled sun did however create a great scene from top of the dunes behind camp, making the climb very worthwhile.
Unfortunately I had to break camp and head home a day earlier than rest of the crew because I had an immunotherapy appointment the following day. Packing the X3 went pretty smoothly except for the awning which proved to be a puzzle to begin with, resulting in me binding a soft aluminium awning arm on sharp edge of its steel hinge bracket, shearing away a sliver of alloy. As intended the roof rack fitted to the X3 was perfect for the sandy ground mats and wet camp chairs.
After farewelling the crew I headed south to the Tewantin ferry then onward to Home. Luckily for the guys the weather cleared and they had a great afternoon and following day at Double Island Point. The trip was a great chance to meet a few more of Lachie’s mates and put faces to names before the wedding later this year, and share some memories with my much loved son.
Here’s a quick video of trip highlights:
A few things I discovered about the Landcruiser and X3 on their shake down trip includes:
– I ended up loaded quite heavily with cartons of beer, food for the group and the X3 on the hitch, so even the 400kg constant rate rear coils yielded quite a bit and caused the Cruiser to squat noticeably. I am also planning a long range diesel tank, water tank and extra spare tyre on rear of the car so the helper air bag kit on order will definitely be needed to maintain a good even ride height.
– Leaving beer cartons piled up on the back seat without padding is not a great idea, the as-new interior trim is now well christened with scuff marks from pitching around on the Freshwater access track.
– This latest Cruiser definitely has more torque than the older one, which in fairness was getting tired, it easily towed the 1.6t X3 on and off road.
Patriot Campers X3
– I ended up with one minor water leak into the tent, where a bed sheet was touching the canvas on the windward side. I’m hoping that this will resolve with more seasoning but will keep an eye on things and take some precautions next time.
– The camper tent was rock solid in the blustery sea breeze, especially with the tropical roof clipped closed on the windward side. I’m very impressed with how the tent handled the wet and windy conditions.
– I’m less impressed with the new PCOR awning. The awning fabric is already stretched from holding water despite having all ropes out to form rain gutters.
– The puny velcro tabs holding the awning fabric to the alloy arms is also a poor arrangement, constantly ripping apart then rejoining as the each wind gust came through – it would be much better to have the velcro on sides of the arms rather than on top so it is pulling in shear, giving a much stronger attachment (a modification I’ll be doing before next outing)
– The awning does not appear to open fully at front of the trailer, the hinge joint has no more movement but the forward awning arm still has several degrees before it will run parallel to the trailer. I’ll investigate this further when at home.
– Setting the X3 air suspension at correct height looks to be critical, the trailer was bouncing on its bump stops on parts of the 4WD track despite starting at what looked like correct ride height. I later found in the Cruisemaster manual a reference shock absorber length of 395mm that is not achieved using the Patriot wheel arch marker plates, so this needs more investigation to prevent the bump rubbers getting pummeled to an early death.
– The Weber Baby Q1000 is next to useless in the sea breeze, the Bromic gas stove is completely useless in any breeze – some windbreaks will need to be made for both.
– The Redarc TVMS settings were incorrect to get rated output from the 1,500W inverter installed in the trailer. The 1,200W Nespresso machine was causing it to cut out on low battery voltage despite batteries being at nearly full charge, I suspect due to internal resistance of the gel batteries. The factory settings may work okay with LiFePO4 batteries but to get the system to work correctly with gel type I changed the trip settings to activate on State Of Charge (SOC) rather than low voltage. Side note, the little Nespresso machine was worked to its limit keeping hot coffee up to 12 blokes on a cool wet morning….
– As expected, the X3’s wheel track of ~1,550mm caused it jump around a bit when towed in soft sand behind the Cruiser at 1,680mm track. The trailer would hop from one Landcruiser wheel rut to another, causing it to crab a little until it settled back between the car’s tracks. Unfortunately Patriot refused to offer wheel and track matching as an option so I’ll have to live with this until I look at options in the future.