Tipping the scales at 1,320kg ATM, the lumberjack Sheoak is a lightweight pod camper, requiring virtually no set up, that operates as a mobile adventure base ideal for couples. $23,999 and you’re ready to head into the outback. Here's what the judges had to say about this worthy finalist.
TIM VAN DUYL
Pod style campers have been with us for a long time and now they are regaining popularity with a vengeance. The style is back in vogue, with many major brands offering both road and offroad focussed versions.
Why are they back? Major benefits are their fully sealed bodies and lack of canvas, making for minimal dust ingress; they are water-tight and have instant set-up times. They are also damn light, with the Sheoak coming in with a car-friendly 1,320kg ATM.
Lumberjack has revitalised the Sheoak for 2020 with a new kitchen arrangement and styling. The audience for the Sheoak is still couples but with the addition of independent offroad suspension and a good load carrying roof rack, they have added storage options and a high load capacity, meaning this is now a legitimate base station option for the adventurous group or young families.
A rooftop tent option adds additional sleeping, or you can instead use the 250kg roof rack for water toys, bikes, or a bunch of swags. For smaller, heavy objects, the massive front storage bin will appeal and with 470kg of payload capacity, you’ll struggle to overload it.
The built-in 65-litre water tank might seem small for family touring groups but add on a jerry in the standard jerry can holder and it should be more than enough for a couple for a week. The 100 amp hour Century battery is great and, if used considerately, will handle an optional fridge for a week or so. You’ll want to carry a portable solar blanket or panel if using the rooftop for storage, as under the rack is the only obvious space for a fixed solar set-up, or you can charge the battery through a direct Anderson plug (a charger is optional).
The newly revised kitchen makes use of Lumberjack’s buying power with the same four-burner stove as you’ll find in their much bigger campers fed via a 4.5kg gas bottle. It is overkill for what starts life as a couple’s camper but it doesn’t affect space too much in the slide-out sink/stove combo and if you did drag your mate’s swags along for the trip, no doubt they’ll appreciate and make use of the instant set-up kitchen complete with deep pantry cupboards.
Having solid walls and a roof adds more than just sealing; good pod-style campers also add a lot of insulation, something canvas can never compete with. The Sheoak uses composite panelling, giving it exceptional heat management as well as good sound deadening, while the midge mesh screens on the large Dometic doors and windows will allow goof airflow.
Weighing as little as it does and with independent suspension giving exceptional clearance, we guessed it would be a breeze to tow and it was. Behind a 2WD Colorado, we still made it up the steep climbs at our testing area inland from the Gold Coast. The height (2.5m) is the only consideration but even then, it did not present an issue.
The Lumberjack Sheoak is aimed at couples who want to get out in the bush, though the addition of the optional rooftop tent (with remote opening fibreglass top) would provide for up to two children if the necessity arose. This camper has very good underpinnings, with a sound chassis and independent trailing arm suspension and well done and well insulated body, so is capable of living with tough offroad conditions.
The company representative at the contest said it mainly sold to people who want a bed on wheels, and if that’s what you want, then that’s what you get. Storage is largely confined to the large front box (which also houses the battery) and two drawers, two cupboards and two wire racks in the kitchen, so there isn’t room for heaps of gear.
With a basic recommended asking price of $23,999, the Sheoak is located towards the bottom end of the asking price for camper trailers today, and the show price of $21,999 makes it even better. When you throw in a free $5,500 worth of any Firefly brand camping gear from their range, you can be set up to go camping at a pretty good price. Coupled with a five-year structural warranty this would all seem to be a good package at the right price. The small features help: TV, stereo, drawbar gas connection.
However, the Sheoak needs to have more thought put into the kitchen. One interpretation is that the factory in China has used kitchen patterns and designs they had in existence, which has resulted in wasted space and imperfectly suited components. But for these elements, the kitchen could be a nice revisiting of an old and much loved teardrop design format.
The Lumberjack Sheoak may lack the spark that sets it apart from the crowd, but the makings are all there. Modern technology makes teardrop designs potentially better value than ever, with electronic and comfort features that can resolve many of the shortcomings of the past. Some of these have been added to the well insulated and finished package of the Sheoak, but with them, so have one or two new shortcomings. Fix those points up and this will be a really good little camper.
Modern vernacular would categorise the Lumberjack Sheoak as a hybrid pod-style camper. But the fundamental design has been around since the 1930s and it’s known to many as a teardrop camper.
It’s hard to be innovative with something that’s been around since before granddad went to war in the 1940s, but there’s definitely scope to capitalise on the availability of modern materials. And this is something that Lumberjack have done with their fibreglass foam-filled composite panelling, which is backed by a five year warranty.
Another nice touch is the inclusion of a roof rack system that will take a load of 250kg. This inclusion on a teardrop camper is uncommon, but very welcome. A decent rack like this makes it possible to transport bikes, a kayak, or even a rooftop tent — an option which Lumberjack will be happy to discuss. All of a sudden, your little camper can accommodate your rug rats, grand kids or a fishing buddy, creating an unexpected level of versatility.
Teardrop campers are synonymous with ease of use. Simply open a door and you’re asleep. Essentially they are a bed in a pod. For its part, the Sheoak offers a 100mm mattress that is just shy of 190cm long, where you can lay in comfort and watch your favourite shows.
The Sheoak has a larger front box than previous models. It’s big enough to readily hold an 85 litre fridge, but there’s no slide. So unless you’re six foot tall, you’ll be hard-pressed to reach the goodies at the bottom without looking like a ‘dumpster diver’. A better option would be to house the fridge in the tow tug and use the Sheoak’s storage box for lighter, bulkier items.
Once you’ve gotten hold of your food, you’ll be looking at a kitchen that needs some refinement. Once the kitchen slide is deployed and you’re cooking, you can’t access the other drawers nor the pantry. This is a lay-out problem that shouldn’t be too difficult for the team at Lumberjack to solve.
The Lumberjack Sheoak will get you off the beaten track. Unlike many other campers of this style, it has a 300mm clearance from the bottom of the trailing arm. So, combined with its featherlight weight, this is a camper that you should be able to take almost anywhere.
The Lumberjack Sheoak is a pocket rocket I’d love to see behind a two-door Jeep Wrangler or Suzuki Jimny. With insulated 25mm fibreglass walls, and twin two-part doors with fly screen inners to assist air circulation, the Sheoak offers surprisingly effective protection against the elements for a camper of this type. Especially when you match it with the pair of 2.5m 280gsm Firefly awnings (one for each side) which are manufactured from poly-cotton ripstop with aluminium twist locking poles. The awning stands high enough to function as a hang–out for a couple, although it may get a bit squeezy in inclement weather. A good time, perhaps, to head inside and flick on the TV.
When you get there, you’ll be lying on a 100mm Firefly memory foam, in a light, airy and comfortable sleeping space. At 1.9 metres, the bed length is touch shorter than a standard queen. As in many campers, black vinyl storage pockets are affixed to the wall. It would be good to see additional storage of this type also fixed near the bedhead for reading glasses and the like.
Structurally, the Sheoak delivers the goods. The rig’s hot dipped RHS chassis supports a body clad in 25mm foam filled fibreglass panelling. While the camper’s suspension and springs are fitted at point of manufacture, the electrical wiring and bearings are all dealt with here in Australia and the unit runs on a set of Goodyear Wrangler A/Ts. The poly-block hitch comes standard and the aerodynamic design augurs well for easy towing. With a payload of 470kg, a lot of use can be made of the impressive storage box over the tow bar, supplemented by the simple cargo rail up top for whatever toy takes your fancy.
In short, the Lumberjack Sheoak is a sturdy little beast with virtually no set-up time and more underbody clearance than most teardrop style campers on the market. For off-grid adventures, this camper would pair best with a tow tug that has capacity to carry a fridge. Or, you could use it for quick weekends away and travel light. While the Sheoak would benefit from some tweaks around the kitchen, it’s backed by a five year structural warranty — Lumberjack are clearly confident that they’ve hit the sweet spot in overseas and local components.
Ball weight 120kg
Suspension Independent trailing arm with coil springs and dual shocks
Brakes 12” Electric and handbrake
Coupling Polyblock style rated to 3000kg
Drawbar 100 x 50 x 4mm RHS hot dip galvanised
Chassis 100 x 50 x 4mm
Cladding Insulated sandwich panel
Wheels/tyres Goodyear Wrangler 265/75R16 A/Ts on Lumberjack branded six-stud wheels, alloy rims
Style Hybrid pod/teardrop
Size (closed) 4.75m (L) x 2.2 (W) x 2.5 (H)
Body length 3.65m
Awning 2 x 2.5m (Firefly)
Gas 1 x 4.5kg bottle holder
Water 1 x 65L stainless steel tank plus 20L jerry can holder, 12V pump, outlet on drawbar
Kitchen Stainless steel kitchen slide-out with four-burners and sink, nearby pantry
Battery 1 x 100Ah Century deep cycle charged via Firefly charger
Solar Anderson plug on drawbar
Automatic rooftop tent, foxwing awning, 240V power, fridge. See fireflycampinggear.com.au for more options and prices.
PRICE AS SEEN
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
|David Cook||Tim van Duyl||Kath Heiman||Scott Heiman|
|1. Fit for Intended Purpose||5||7||4.5||5|
|4. Quality of finish||7||6||6.5||7|
|5. Build quality||4||6||5||5.5|
|8. Ease of use||4||5||5.5||6|
|9. Value for money||5||7||3.5||3.5|
Lumberjack Camper Trailers
Address (Vic) 290 Princes Highway, Corio VIC 3214
Address (Qld) 2/11 Moss St, Slacks Creek, QLD 4127
Phone 1300 30 40 45