Skipper Tent Trailer. Three simple words that in my estimation seem inadequate to describe this compact home on wheels. Simple, easy to put up, comfortable, and with the side tent it is also very spacious.
The Skipper range of tent trailers is the brainchild of the Kerkhof family. Robbie Kerkhof and his wife Jenny have been in the caravan game all their lives. Perhaps you remember the Gazelle or Kerkhof Gazelle? Hand-built, it was considered the Rolls Royce of caravans in its time.
Robbie and Jenny finally decided to retire to Pennington on the south coast of KZN. But you can’t keep an old ‘gypsy’ like Robbie down: caravanning is in his DNA. Teaming up with his son Reinhart and daughter in-law Charmaine (who makes all the tent accessories), the fi st Skipper Tent Trailer rolled off the small factory floor in Park Rynie in 2006.
I like the Skipper, finish en klaar. I have camped in both the Model T and top-of-the-range Oyster models. The last time I towed a Skipper was a Model T that I took up from St Lucia through the thick sand tracks of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park 4×4 trail to Mbibi near Lake Sabiya, on to Bhanga Neck, and fi nally ending up at Kosi Bay. Thank goodness these tent trailers are so light that you can unhitch and turn the little trailer around on your ace… otherwise I would still be at the blocked entrance to Rock Tail Bay in thick dune forest.
I was also hit by a storm while camping on the edge of the lake at Kosi Bay. I discovered that the 100% pure cotton canvas swells to keep you warm, snug and comfortable in your cosy little home.
The New Addition
I was invited to a gathering of the Skipper clans – 29 of the tent trailers met at the Fairhills Caravan Park near Ramsgate. It was also an opportunity to see the newest addition to the Skipper line-up, the Oyster Family.
With the lid closed, the Oyster Family looks almost just like its original, but once you put up the tent, you can immediately see the genius of the new design.
What you’ll find is that there’s a bunk that now folds outwards. Simple and ingenious, this bunk (with a narrower bunk on the interior of the trailer,) allows a comfortable sleeping area for two kids. Can you believe it? This little trailer is now a 4-sleeper!
As I watched Reinhart and Charmaine setting up camp, I fi red off the questions.
How did the Family variant come about? Reinhart smiles, ‘Well, Charmaine and I started a family. We’ve got two kids now, and I was sick of sleeping on the floor on a mattress!’
Enough was enough for Reinhart, who has been building caravans and trailers for the past twenty years. So, the whole Kerkhof team sat down in the evenings and lunch breaks to come up with ways of creating an affordable trailer that can accommodate kids.
And that was how the Oyster Family was designed. A trailer aimed at the younger market.
Incredibly, this has been done at only an additional R3 600 to the cost of the standard Oyster.
The basic construction of the Oyster Family is identical to all the Skipper products. It has an aluminium outer skin, wood on the inside, and some fibreglass parts, all on a hot dipped galvanized chassis.
Where the Oyster does differ from the Model T is that the unique clamshell-type lid does not open up along the length of the trailer, nor does is open up completely. The lid is hinged on the front, so that when opening up you get a diagonal “roof”.
So, what’s new with the Family model? In order to house the bunk beds, the Oyster has a slide-out base for a bed at the back, so the top bunk sleeps “outside” the trailer frame. This leaves space below for another small bed. The slide-out is kept sturdy and in place by two support rods.
The fold-out expanding canvas section of the body has most of the poles already attached to the canvas, to simplify set up.
The simplicity of the setup comes from a lifetime of camping and building caravans and tent trailers. For instance, you don’t need to put storm straps or cargo netting over your Skipper tent.
The tents are so well made that the roof and sides are always taut.
A Skipper owner at the gathering told me of a terrible storm in a caravan park when a large number of the caravan tents were ripped to shreds. Fellow campers couldn’t believe their eyes the next day to see the little Skipper standing as if there hadn’t been a storm at all.
The Family model comes in four models: The standard Oyster, X, LT and LTX.
The normal Oyster and X have 155 x 13” wheels, while the LT and LTX have larger 195 x 14 wheels. The larger wheels are arguably better for load carrying and navigating more rugged roads.
The X and LTX derivatives are also fitted with an overrun break system.
Choosing the Family unit makes no difference in weight to the Oyster models, since the bunk bed system at the back of the trailer is installed in place of cupboards, and they weigh the same.
All models offer the choice of either a double bed, located on the front right-hand side of the fl oor plan, or two singles, with no difference in price. You’ll find the bulk of the packing space under the beds.
It comes standard with fold-out step at entrance, fi re extinguisher, lockable cupboards, 130L fridge (220V), 10m extension lead, deluxe awning and weather skirt.
Optional equipment: Fold-out kitchen, rubber stone-protector, rally awning, side tent wall (shade cloth, plain, window or deluxe), multiroom.