We needed a tough off-road trailer, and we needed it at seriously short notice. The intended trip was from north to south – well, more like north-west to south-east – through the Cederberg Wilderness area, which meant a lot of gravel road towing.
More or less on the way from Cape Town to our entry point into the Cederberg, with a slight detour, is the ever-expanding town of Worcester, tucked in behind the Du Toitskloof mountains and Breedekloof valley. This is where you’ll find the headquarters of a brand of off-road towing products that has truly stood the test of time: Bushwakka. They’ve been doing their successful manufacturing thing, perhaps somewhat out of the limelight, since 1997, so 2012 is their 15th year, and in the competitive off-road trailer sector, that’s no mean feat.
After a bit of a new-product hiatus, they’ve breathed fresh life into their range with the development of the Fox-Trot 4, a unique off-road trailer design that I haven’t ever seen before. Coming up with a new design for off-road trailers these days isn’t easy; it’s hard not to believe that everything that could be devised has been thought of already. But this creation was born out of the experience and knowledge of Bushwakka owner Jasper Hewitt. His many long years with off-road towing products have taught him what off-road towing enthusiasts and their families need in a trailer, and what they don’t.
Hitched onto the car and ready to tow, the Fox-Trot isn’t the best-looking off-road trailer I’ve seen. It’s box-like and, in my opinion at least, not an exemplar of beauty. But there’s function in its form, and clear-cut reasons why it’s shaped like it is. The unique selling point about this trailer is the way in which it folds open, revealing a central living, or changing, area. The roofrack-covered lid is split down the middle, with each half folding out laterally to become a single bed. The space left in the middle of the trailer’s body is a seating area – but with boards placed across it, the seating space transforms into a double bed. This allows Mom and Dad to sleep in the middle, and the kids on the sides. This entire area is covered by the trailer tent, which is one of the simplest I’ve seen to set up: once you’ve familiarised yourself with the procedure, preparing the sleeping area for a quick stopover shouldn’t take more than eight or ten minutes. And the best part is that it’s just as quick in reverse, when you want to hit the road the following day.
So what’s so great about a central living area inside the trailer? Well, it means no climbing down a ladder in the middle of the night when nature calls: you can keep your portable loo right there. Also, it gives you a sheltered place to sit in if the weather’s bad, without forcing you to go to the schlep of setting up an entire side tent. This is all about convenience, comfort and economy of set-up time. Access is gained to the trailer from the back: you open the rear door downwards, and this unfolds to reveal three flip-down aluminium steps fitted to the inside of the door – no misplacing this ladder by accident!
That all said, there’s a tent that zips onto the side of the trailer tent, and out over the back of the trailer, expanding your sheltered living space at camp and incorporating the outside kitchen. But you needn’t set this all up if you’re just making a quick stopover. Bushwakka have stuck to their tried and tested field kitchen, which is essentially a metal box on hinges right at the back of the trailer. Unclip it, swing it open, drop the door flap and you’ve got a work surface, two-plate stove-top and pantry. The gas cylinder slots in right next to the kitchen. It’s all quite basic, but wonderfully practical, whether you’re pulling off the road in the middle of your journey for brunch, or chilling on the Mozambique coast for two weeks.
The stabilisers on the rear corners take a few seconds to drop down and settle securely into place, so that they keep the trailer level and stable in camp. There are several hatches accessible from the outside, each with automotive-grade rubber seals to keep dust out. Naturally, much of the storage space is inside the trailer, under the seating area. The nose cone on our test unit was thickly rubberised for stone protection. It seemed to have fared well when I inspected it after covering more than 80 km on gravel. The nose is designed to house, among other things, a National Luna fridge-freezer of up to 90 litres, which glides out on a rail system. This feature is one of a long list of optional extras, which include a comprehensive 12 V battery system. The nose cone opens on both sides. I’ve mentioned the roofrack on top of the trailer lid; there’s more loading space on the top of the nose cone, with a railing to keep cargoes such as piles of firewood in place.
The trailer incorporates a heavy-duty 2.5-ton braked axle with coupler, long-blade leaf spring suspension and, of course, a removable jockey wheel. The trailer’s aluminium lids with roofracks come standard, as do all the mattresses, Fox-Trot tent, inner lining, flysheet, tent pegs, ropes and poles, which are only needed when you set up the rear awning and tent sections. The battery box housing, kitchen, spare wheel bracket, packing cupboards and side storage boxes complete the core unit.
It’s not uncommon for manufacturers to have a long list of optional extras, allowing you to be selective about how you accessorise your trailer, or to use any gear that you already have. The price sheet for the Fox-Trot 4 also accommodates these variations. From additional lighting to your choice of padlocks and fridge-freezers, the options are wide-ranging.
So how did the Bushwakka Fox-Trot 4 feel behind our Nissan X-Trail 2.0-litre turbo-diesel? In two words, ‘barely noticeable’. Granted, the jerrycans weren’t full, and we didn’t have loads of food and gear packed for our short trip, but, making allowances for its bulky dimensions, this trailer followed us like a well-trained German shepherd. Not once was I subjected to the dreaded sensation of trailer sway. The trailer was a bit nose-down in profile; the test X-Trail’s towbar wasn’t quite at the right height, which could’ve aided stability a tad. But right through, up to 130 km/h (yes, I pushed it once or twice on the tar, but oh so carefully), no tyre stepped out of line.
I think this trailer isn’t pretty. The aesthetic styling on competitors’ products trumps the Fox-Trot any day of the week. But for innovative design, ease of set-up, sleeping configuration ingenuity and towability, it gets two thumbs up. Our car-trailer combo swallowed up the kilometres of gravel, no questions asked. I’m sure that hitched behind a tough off-roader with low-range, this trailer would maintain its following distance and direction, no matter what the terrain.
With a braked GVM of 1500 kg, it’s legal and safe to tow with most respectable towcars, as well as those Toyotas that are oddly rated to tow only 1.5 tons. The tare is 650 kg, giving you an 850 kg payload – and that should sort out your packing woes. The volumetric capacity is 3200 litres, which excludes the packing space on the roofracks. Would I feel confident taking it to an off-road trailer beauty pageant? Sorry, nope. But would I feel confident taking it on a 3000 km trek through Namibia? Without a doubt.