Updated: Mar 7, 2021
No sooner had I declared that a suitable off road camper trailer could not be found in the UK, 'up popped’ the Extreme Off-Road Air Opus (Opus). This camper trailer is manufactured in Great Britain and similar to the Ineos Grenadier, its design was born from a discussion with friends but in this case over a coffee (as opposed to beer). Fitted with Air tent technology, the Opus inflates the canvas tent in around 90 seconds with just the press of a switch!
The Opus seems to be pretty rugged, versatile and can sleep 4 in comfort but can be configured to accommodate up to ten people using an attached annex. The Annex can be left attached and connected to main tent for ease of inflation but when not required, can also be replaced by an inflatable awning. The waterproof and windproof qualities of the tent were successfully tested using a fire hose and a helicopter hovering immediately overhead which suggests it would stand up pretty well in a hurricane. The air inflation system and associated tubes and valves seem to be robust and easy to use. An optional foot pump is available in the (unlikely?) event that the onboard air compressor should fail. My first impressions were that the Opus would not be as capable off road as the Patriot Campers X3 being longer with smaller approach and departure angles but having watched a slightly smaller Opus perform at Gunshot and navigate the Old Telegraph Track at Cape York Peninsula Australia, it would seem my concerns are ill founded. You might want to take a look at this:
Built on top of a lightweight galvanised steel off-road chassis the fully-insulated and double-skinned aluminium panels provide a strong and lightweight outer shell. A waterproof 10-ply floor is fitted with durable vinyl flooring. The Opus is carried on an integrated spring suspension and has increased ground clearance to enhance its off road capabilities. Safe towing is assisted by overrun brakes that automatically apply when you brake. The trailer comes with 15” all-terrain wheels and tyres; it is not known whether these can be changed to match the towing vehicles wheels and tyres but this would be very desirable for Tip Toe to allow use on the vehicle too (and vice versa) if required.
A 50mm ball or NATO coupling arrangement are offered for connecting to the towing vehicle; a fully articulated towing hitch is very desirable for Tip Toe – for example something like Cruisemaster's DO35 coupling; it is not know whether this could be fitted as an option. The trailer has a Mass in Running Order (MIRO) of 1100kgs that allows a total payload of up to 650kgs to be carried whilst staying within the Maximum Technical Permissible Laden Mass (MTPLM) of 1750kgs.
Pressurised gas springs make setting up the Opus an easy, one-person operation. On pack-down, the Opus lids close against a finned rubber seal around the perimeter, which in conjunction with the roof cover, provides complete protection from water ingress. However the warranty for the Australian Opus says it covers 'water crossings where the water is below body floor level, but never where the water is at, or above, body floor level'. This perhaps tells a story and whilst you would never deliberately attempt to drown your travelling home and possessions, river crossings in Africa are pretty frequent and once committed you can't stop and retreat halfway!
The integral tent is manufactured from a heavy duty canvas designed to withstand the elements. A thermal roof lining is offered as an option to retain heat when travelling in colder climates, although there does not appear to be anything for the walls. There are plenty of windows fitted with bug screens that can be opened for ventilation including in the roof to allow star gazing at night. Like all tents, condensation can be a problem but condensation matting is also available as an Option.
The lack of Rear Recovery Points appears to be a weakness bearing in mind the intended Off-Road capability. There does not appear to be a rear hitch receiver either but loads can be carried on a variety of racks offered for the top of the trailer.
Living Area / Office
For a camper trailer, the living space is truly amazing. Its bright, open and spacious. There is a great leatherette curved seat around a central table and plenty of room to sit together and dine inside. It would certainly be a great area for sitting / stretching out with a good book, working or musing over a map. Rearranging cushions creates a double bunk. There is even an optional Bluetooth sound and a cinema system with a 'pop-up' screen for those that enjoy music and movie nights on the road.
Sleeping. The OPUS has a fixed double bed at each end of the trailer, both with inner privacy tents also designed to keep the bugs out. The type and comfort of the mattresses are unknown but 'toppers' are offered as Options. Up to six people can sleep inside the Opus but this can be increased to ten with the addition of the optional full awning system. It look as though the Opus would provide a great base camp for family holidays.
Galley / Kitchen. The Opus has a fully-functioning kitchen with two gas hobs, fridge, sink and microwave. It seems there are options for having a galley inside or a slide out which opens into the Annex. An inside kitchen (2 burner gas stove and microwave) with a slide out BBQ might be a good compromise depending on the impact on storage. The preparation area outside (work top) does not appear to be as good as the X3. At just 40L, the fridge offered is too small to support extended living off the grid. A large additional fridge freezer in the vehicle might be required but this will take up a significant internal space.
Gas. Two x 9kg gas cylinders can be carried. The logistics challenges associated with gas in Europe and Africa were described previously and I won't revisit this here. It is estimated that one 9kg cylinder should last for about 29 hours using a two burner stove or BBQ. That gives a total endurance for gas carried of about 14-16 days (or 7-8 days per cylinder) not taking into account any additional usage for example showers, fridges etc. This requires further investigation.
Storage. It is understood that there is plenty of storage within the Opus but the locations and functions of spaces are not as clearly defined as they might be. It does not appear to be as easy to load and unload without at least opening the trailer and tent. This also needs to be better understood.
Water. A total of 160L is carried in 2 x 80L tanks giving an endurance of about 6 days with 2 people traveling and with careful normal use. Each tank is designed to stand alone with its own pump and to service different parts of the trailer although tanks can be cross connected if required. There is no onboard filtration system so any UV treatment and filtering must be done before filling the tanks. There does not appear to be any ability to lift water from ponds or pools so an additional pump and hose may also be required. Grey water (for example from washing up) can be collected and stored in a portable container of about 20L capacity.
Shower. An external shower with hot and cold water is provided. A separate shower tent is required (known perhaps somewhat disrespectfully in our family as 'Mount Moriah').
Toilet. There is storage for a small portable toilet within the camper. The separate shower tent could also be used for the toilet.
Power. 12v & 230v electrics are included with a number of outlets provided throughout the trailer. AGM batteries are standard but these can be upgraded to the smaller, lighter lithium batteries which have a much greater capacity. The control system and the full functionality for the lithium system is currently unknown. Batteries can be recharged from the vehicle, 230V mains supply where available, solar mats / panels or a generator if carried.
Solar. The trailer is fitted with an Andersen plug and can draw power from a solar panel. The design of the camper doesn't lend itself to the inclusion of solar panels so solar mats would need to be used.
Heating. Electric heating is included. The efficiency of the heating system and the associated demand for power needs to be investigated further. If necessary an additional heater would need to be carried in the Arctic.
Accessories. The Opus is supported by a number of Options and useful additional accessories that can be viewed on the Opus website here.
Shipping. At a total length of 540cm with a spare tyre mounted at the back and 215cm wide, the Opus would fit comfortably in a 20 ft ISO container for shipping and / or a 40 ft container if shipped with a vehicle.
Despite its length, I can't help liking this trailer and am keen to try one out after the Covid-19 'lock down' to check out liveability and confirm that the assumptions made here are correct. I'll update this article afterwards. The Opus is a bigger trailer than the Patriot Camper X3 and its arrival and departure angles do not appear to be as good for off road performance but nevertheless, it is definitely very capable and offers better endurance.
The price starts at GBP £25,995, before options and accessories; it would probably cost over £30,000 'fully loaded' so it is not cheap. It is understood that the Opus has a non transferable warranty (so take note if buying second hand) but there are dealerships in UK, Europe, Australia, USA and South Africa; the potential for support if required is not likely to be bettered for Tip Toe's expedition. Not only does it look as though the Extreme Off-Road Air Opus will do the job, it would be a great family camper for use between adventures when back at home.
Note to readers:
1. The above trailer has not been physically towed or sighted by Tip Toe. The above summary is a view formed following desktop online research of websites and viewing of a number of different YouTube videos. It takes into consideration Tip Toe's overland requirements. It will be used to assist in the choice of vehicle and camper.
2. For the purposes of these articles, differentiation between the different categories of trailer are as follows:
Camper Trailer: A trailer fitted with an integrated 'trailer top tent' (with or without a hard shell), galley, water, power and associated items and storage for most or all of your clothing and equipment. For example Patriot Campers X3.
Off-Road Camper: A purpose built caravan style trailer with hard walls possibly with a soft walled 'pop up' roof, galley, water, power and associated camping items and storage for most clothing and equipment. The 'Bruder EXP-6 Expedition Trailer' falls into this category.
Expedition Truck: A truck of 7500 kgs or greater fitted with a camper box with or without crawl through. For example the Mercedes Unimog Camper.