Words and pictures by Grant Spolander.
Off-Road trailer review: Summit andes
Summit Trailers are made by Frantel Industries, an engineering company specialising in the petrochemical industry. Some years back, the company’s three business partners – all of them engineers, campers and outdoor enthusiasts – decided to build their very own off-road trailer.
And in ’08, Summit Trailers launched their first camper unit: the K2. This trailer was a great success. A short while later the engineers at Frantel Industries built a similar trailer with a slight twist: one with a low-bed and low-roof layout, the Summit Everest.
The idea paid off; before long the Everest’s sales figures surpassed the K2’s by an 80 / 20 percent margin. Fast forward to 2013, and the folks at Summit Trailers have again constructed something new. So new, in fact, that it wasn’t yet launched at the time of writing – we used a prototype unit for this review. A hefty unit, boasting extra long, extra spacious dimensions, this one goes by the name of Summit Andes.
FORM & FUNCTION
Let’s start at the beginning: the Andes’ low-slung roof led to its creation. As previously mentioned, the Everest was hugely popular thanks to its low roof and bed height, but with the absence of a second storage level, this trailer had significantly less packing space than the K2.
Many campers felt that the Everest’s limited packing space was too… er, limiting, so the trailer’s design was revised and lengthened by 600 mm, thus creating an all-new trailer – the Summit Andes. The benefits of a low-roof trailer are three-fold: the bed is easier to access, the trailer’s centre of gravity is lower and there’s less wind resistance.
So, how much lower is this trailer? And does it make a difference when one is climbing into bed? Well, it’s not so low that you can just fall into bed; however, a small step-ladder will get you to the top bunk. Or, you can open the bedroom cupboard and use the drop-down shelf as a step up – it’s rated to take more than 100 kg.
In terms of measurements, the Andes’ bed height is 1.2 metres to the base of the bed, whereas the K2 measures 1.5 metres. So it’s a full foot lower than the K2, which is a big deal if you’re bursting for the toilet at night, suffer from climacophobia (fear of climbing), or if you’ve just had hipreplacement surgery.
Another benefit of the Andes’ low bed is the fact that you don’t need a ladder, which means there’s no clumsy scaffolding blocking your cupboards or occupying floor space. And finally, the Andes’ bed length runs parallel with the trailer – and not at right angles to it like many other campers – so there’s no need to wake your partner, or roll over them when getting out of bed.
Pitching the tent is rather unusual. Unlike those of other trailers, the Andes’ tent folds to the rear of the trailer and not to the side. In many ways this makes the tent narrower and easier to erect when you’re doing it yourself – a narrower tent bears less torsional strain when lifted from one side only.
The downside to the Andes’ rear-folding tent is its space requirements. To be more specific, with a combined trailer / ground tent length of 6 250 mm, you’re gonna need a huuuuge campsite to park this puppy. Add the length of your 4×4 to this (should you wish to remain hitched for the night) and you’re looking at a freight-train length of 11 250 mm. Coming back to the Andes’ ground tent: it’s not the largest tent around (2 050 x 1 675 mm), but you can comfortably sleep three people side by side – maybe four kids at a push. But the point is that space is limited, and you’d battle to get a stretcher bed in here.
One of our favourite features of the Andes trailer is its terrific lighting. This includes bedside reading lights, a powerful LED light bar inside the tent, cupboard lights and plenty of small LEDs throughout the trailer’s exterior. Unlike so many other off-road trailers, the Andes’ electrical distribution board (DB) is mounted inside the bedroom cupboard. It’s a clever move, as it allows you to control the trailer’s lighting from inside the tent rather than having to walk outside.