As the name suggests, Islander Campers’ range of slide-on campers comes from the holiday island of Tasmania. Their model range features lightweight composite construction with an extensive list of standard features that allow luxurious off-grid camping with a minimal compact footprint. This review and road test investigates the pros and cons of the Mersey 2.4 slide-on slide on the camper.
The Mersey 2.4 slide-on camper fits neatly on most single and space-cab utes, and there is a shorter 2.0-meter version to suit dual cab utes, which has the same living space as its larger stablemate. However, the lower storage space is smaller to fit a dual cab’s shorter tray length. Additionally, the Mersey model requires minimal set-up time. In fact, if you manage to find a flat spot to park for the night, you only need to open the door and unfold the steps, and you’re set for the night.
However, to fully appreciate the inherent structural strength that is an integral part of the lightweight composite construction of the Mersey slide-on, it’s well worth looking into its pedigree, and what better place to start than at the Islander Campers, Penguin factory.
Initially based in Devonport, Islander Campers was acquired by Penguin Composites in 2009 and integrated into their Penguin manufacturing facility. Today, in addition to manufacturing Caravans, Motor homes and Slide on Campers, they also offer repair and refurbishment services.
But here is where it gets interesting. Penguin Composites designs and manufacture specialised products for a diverse customer base, some of which are expected to endure the harshest conditions on the planet. For instance, their Polar igloos used by Antarctic researchers for over 35-years are capable of withstanding winds blasting at speeds over 300kph. The design of the assembled igloos enables transport to remoted isolated research sites by helicopters travelling at speeds of 70 knots. Their Polypod snow-camper sledge is built strong enough to travel at 50 kph behind snowmobiles. Moreover, it can carry 500 kg of research equipment and supplies. But, importantly, it provides insulated shelter for Antarctic researchers. Penguin Composites also build composite bonnets for Elphinstone mining Haulmax 3900 equipment and vehicle components and panels for the Thales Group, which manufactures the Hawkei protected tactical vehicle for the Australian Army.
It’s reassuring to understand that the same technology employed to manufacture equipment that survives in some of the harshest working conditions around the world is also used in the Mersey 2.4 slide-on.
The fixed hard roof virtually illuminates set-up time on this model. At the same time, all the windows are double glazed with fly screens and block-out shades to further aid the insulation properties of the camper. In addition, the roof includes a hatch with flyscreen and shade to allow for increased ventilation when required.
Left Hand Side
Entry into the camper is via a set of foldout steps at the left-hand rear of the camper. Each step’s leg features adjustable height feet, locked and unlocked by a pull-out release pin. The safety grab handle folds rearward and acts as a secondary security lock for the door while travelling. In addition, the clever design of the safety handle allows it to swing shut in the unlikely event you’ve forgotten to close it before driving off.
Other features on the left-hand side of the camper include a sturdy fold down bench, which is very handy for the outdoor BBQ and the like. It also provides a wide access point to the left-hand storage locker. The locker also incorporates a drain hole. So, if any liquid you’ve stored in the locker accidentally leaks while travelling, the spilt liquid can drain away quickly, preventing additional damage to other items stored in the locker. Incidentally, access to this locker is also possible from inside the camper by lifting the left-hand seat cushion. Finally, at the rear on the left-hand side is the access point for the toilet cassette. it features a pull-out telescopic suitcase style handle which means a full cassette is easily wheeled to the dump point for emptying.
This camper includes the 2.3-meter Fiamma awning ($1650) with an extension handle to wind the awning in and out. In addition, the stabiliser legs attach to the side wall of the camper to secure the awning while extended. And finally, there is an outside LED light to illuminate the outdoor living space at night.
Rear of Camper
There are two weatherproof cabinets at the rear of the camper. One door provides easy access to the main electrical components that control the camper’s off grid power systems. It’s worth noting, too, that the electrical components include quality components like the Victron Energy SmartSolar Charge Controller for the 290-watt roof mounted solar panel. A Victron Energy DC/DC charger and the Narva 12-way fuse box with isolator switch. The right-side door provides access to the 14-Litre Truma gas hot water heater with a 12-volt, 11-litre per minute pump. An optional gas and electric water heater are available for an additional $390. Above the hot water system, there is a generous storage shelf. The grey water outlet exits the camper here at the right-hand rear. The outlet hose is purposely left open to allow the user to connect an extension hose to drain grey away from the camp site or connect it to a portable grey water tank (not-supplied) depending on their camping requirements at the time.
Right Hand Side
The right-hand side of the camper boasts a very neat outdoor shower with hot and cold water, perfect for a rinse off after spending a day at the beach. Above the outdoor shower locker, there is a mains pressure water inlet if you’re camped up with mains pressure water availability. The mains power inlet is conveniently located nearby. If you’ve specified the optional gas heater ($2950), the inlet vent is next to the 70-litre fresh water tank lockable filler cap. The gas storage locker has storage for 2 x 3.7kg gas bottles. It’s worth pointing out here that there is no industry standard for gas bottles, and sizes will vary depending on the supplier. For instance, 3.7kg Supagas bottles are 340x265mm while 3.7kg Origin QuickSwap bottles are 310x260mm, and if you use SwapnGo, then it’s a lucky dip as to what size bottle you’ll get. There are taps inside the gas locker to allow easy isolation of the gas feed to the accessories when required. The Mersey 2.4 also boasts a sizeable forward storage locker, which we used to stow our outdoor items like the table and chairs. The Mersey 2.0 model doesn’t have this forward storage compartment.
But it’s inside where the real opulence of this camper reveals itself. The entry is cleverly designed with a grated floor mat that serves two purposes. Before we go on, I must point out that whenever I’m camping, I place a floor mat outside to wipe my footwear, then remove them before entering my van, and I’m pretty sure you’d do the same. Nevertheless, this mat at the entry acts as secondary means to ensure that no dirt is trudged into the camper. Its second function is as the shower base, and there is a water outlet neatly positioned in the corner, which can be connected to a hose or plumbed into a portable grey water collection tank.
The ensuite with cassette toilet and shower is accessed by raising the bench top and swinging the cupboard door to meet the outer wall. The shower curtain stows neatly in the far corner of the camper and is easily pulled around to keep water in the shower area. Above the shower is an exhaust fan to get rid of steam and moisture while showering.
Once the ensuite gets packed away, the roomy L-shaped kitchenette has ample bench space to prepare a feast for two or when having company over. There is no shortage of storage space either, with a 4-stack draw set, starting with a deep draw for pots at the bottom up to a cutlery draw at the top. Next to the 95-litre Evacool fridge is a generous three shelf pantry cupboard. All cupboards and doors feature push-button lockable latches. The stove top has two large burners, and the sink includes hot and cold water. The splash back consists of a double 240-volt power point. All the electrical control and monitoring functions, along with two marine grade 12-volt cigar power outlets, are neatly located in the kitchen corner.
The two-seat dinette has a slide out table. When the table is stowed, the cushions can transform this space into a single bed if required. Access to the 120ah AGM deep cycle gel battery and optional heater is located under the right-hand side seat cushion.
Over time, the evolution of the sleeping area design has certainly moved living in the Mersey model into the ‘glamping’ arena. The deep innerspring matters runs north-south with the head of the bed at the front. The curved roof design allows ample head room as you sit up to get out of bed. There are low voltage LED reading lights on either side of the bed. The base of these lights also includes a USB power socket for phone charging. A 360-degree Sirroco fan is installed for those hotter nights for added comfort. On each side of the bed are storage lockers that can be accessed while in bed, similar to your bedside draws at home. The large cupboards at the end of the bed provide either hanging space when the top shelf is folded up or two sleeves when the top shelf is folded down.
The camper is equipped with a roof mounted smoke detector, a floor mounted gas detector, and a recessed 1kg fire extinguisher.
Slipping the Mersey 2.4 slide-on camper on the back of the Isuzu Dmax is a simple task, and even with the manual wind-up legs didn’t take much effort. The Mersey-2.4 fully kitted out, including 70-litres of water, two full gas bottles, and enough tucker to last a week, tips the scales around 900 kg. Islander Camper’s Casey Hiscutt wisely suggests that customers considering purchasing a slide-on get a GVM upgrade to their vehicle, which will improve the vehicle’s handling and safety. Testament to Casey’s advice was the way their Isuzu Dmax with a GVM upgrade handled with the Mersey 2.4 on the back. The Dmax was surprisingly stable while cornering even through tight Tasmanian bush corners.
Performance wise, out on the Bass Highway, the Dmax cruised comfortably at 100 kph, and it marched up and down the rural mountain roads with ease. But as you’d expect with any slide-on camper, the big box on the back certainly doesn’t slip through the air with the grace of a streamlined bullet train, and consequently, there is a slight fuel consumption penalty compared to driving without the camper.
There is much to like about the Mersey 2.4, apart from its impressive raft of standard features and robust construction. The low maintenance factor indeed pricked my attention, and realistically from a maintenance point of view, there is not much to do other than keep it clean. In addition, the Mersey 2.4 is so quick to slide on and off the vehicle, which means it’s straightforward to remove if you’re camping in one place for a few nights and to speed up this process, there is an option for fixed electric legs.
But if there’s one addition I’d make, it’s to fit LED lights in the locker boxes.
One surprisingly nice feature is how quiet it is inside with the door shut, thanks to the unique composite construction and double-glazed windows. The road noise virtually disappeared once inside the camper when camped along the foreshore next to the highway. In my opinion, the Mersey 2.4 has ample storage space for a week’s comfortable off grid camping with the 70-litre water tank. If you’re a keen fisherman, it’s no trouble to hook up your boat trailer behind the ute.
A slide-on camper might not be for everyone. Still, with the long list of standard features built into the Mersey 2.4 of rival caravans twice the size, it might well be an option worth a little more consideration, and remember there’s no additional registration cost.
Make: Islander Campers
Model: Mersey 2.4
Price: $57,160 (as reviewed)
Travel length: 4000mm
Body length: 2100mm
External Body width: 2050mm
Travel height: 1620mm
Interior height: 2180mm
Wet weight: 900kg
Body: Composite construction
Fresh water: 70L
Battery: 120 AGM Deep Cycle Gel Battery
Gas: 2 x 3.7kg bottles
Hot water: 14L Gas
Cooking: 2 x Burner LPG
Fridge: Evakool 12V 95L fridge/freezer
Toilet: Domestic Flushable cassette
Shower: Internal & External
Lighting: 12v LED
Options fitted: 2.3-meter Awning and Gas heater