In the world of camper trailers, hybrids are the coming thing — that’s only if you consider they haven’t already arrived with a big thump. They form a necessary and significant component of any brand’s line-up, and sales to the over 50s are almost exclusively in that area. In fact, there are now so many brands and styles on the market that you have to have a very price competitive and/ or well featured camper to stand out in the crowd.
Signature Camper Trailers is a relatively new brand in the market, having been only established in 2016. Since then, it has gone through a number of major changes, with new owners and new premises in the northern Sydney suburb of Thornleigh. Our first impression of their shiningly clean workshop-cum-showroom was of a space of buzzing activity and crisp efficiency.
Signature offers a range of four different campers, amongst which are two different hybrids, the Iridium 13 and Iridium 15. Sales are roughly equally divided between the two, the 13 attracting buyers who are more budget conscious and those seeking more internal room preferring the 15ft version.
We grabbed a 13-footer for some fun in the bush, with the S version bringing with it air conditioning and rooftop solar.
INTO THE DETAILS
The 13S has a tare of 1920kg and an ATM of 2500kg, making it a little on the heavy side for a van of this size. Nonetheless it is well equipped and well appointed. The ball weight of 185kg when empty was noticeable on our air bag equipped Pajero, but you soon got used to it.
The camper is built on a 100 x 50 x 3mm hot dip galvanised chassis and a 150 x 50 x 4mm drawbar, with a separate chassis and drawbar, the latter running back to the front of the trailing arm suspension. At the rear are a bike rack receiver and two recovery points with CNC-machined fittings, but to use them would require an equaliser strap as the shackle on one side is hidden behind the number plate mount.
The suspension is the now-obligatory trailing arm independent suspension with twin shocks and 12in electric drum brakes. Lovells is currently preparing an optional lift and upgrade kit for the Iridium that will provide an extra 30mm ground clearance if desired. The suspension is actually rated to 3000kg, and Signature can uprate the camper from its 2500kg standard ATM to 2750kg if needed.
The six-stud black alloy rims carry 265/75R16 mud terrains. There are two spares on gas strut assisted fold-down rear arms that are at chest height when latched into the travel position, so these would be awkward to reattach a rim and tyre to unless you feel you can deadlift close to 40kg.
At the front of the drawbar is a McHitch 3.5 tonne Uniglide coupler, break-away system, an AL-KO 400kg rated jockey wheel, and Anderson and seven-pin plugs. The stone guard seemed effective, with its laced mesh centre section and wings in steel-coated checkerplate with underbody stone-resistant paint. The mud flaps underneath would help with stone control and would in turn by assisted by the body-wide mud flap in front of the suspension which would greatly reduce stone damage of the shock absorbers and related components.
Our review camper had just returned from a week-long venture to Cameron Corner plus a week in Watagans National Park and did show signs of stone damage on the flanks of the front face of the body. The Signature crew did say that this was one of the few times they’d seen this and was blamed on the body lift of the tow vehicle, but it might be something to keep in mind if you have a similar set-up. They told us they had raised the issue of front body bras with the builders but was told that these create issues with moisture and mould if not adequately dried after exposure to wet weather.
Behind the stone guard are jerry can holders and rings for two 9kg gas bottles, with a simple switch on the regulator to swap from bottle to bottle. These are flanked by two carpeted and lockable storage boxes.
In the front wall of the camper behind are two hatches: the right one giving access to the side of the fridge, a space which can be used for storage while travelling, and the left gives access to electronic controls, battery management, and the batteries.
Cooking in the great outdoors is simple
The basic battery set-up is for three 100Ah AGM batteries and a 30A mains charger, but Signature frequently meets the request for up to 300Ah of Enerdrive lithium battery capacity and a 40A Enerdrive battery management system for those desiring the added ener›y security of the lithium storage. The latter setup is strongly recommended if you want the capacity to run the roof-mounted Houghton Belaire air con from battery power beyond mains sources. This is a true reverse cycle system that cools or heats the air inside the van, rather than trying to simply inject a cooled or heated version of the air from outside which is often the most likely to be installed. The air conditioning can be run directly from a mains source or generator if at a campground or similar, but not from the standard AGM batteries.
The standard setup does not include a DCDC charger because Signature says they feel some customers don’t need it. Those travelling between caravan parks only need the 12V system to sustain the fridge from point to point and are able to retop the batteries off the mains each night, and leaving it out reduces the price, which is okay, we suppose — as long as the customers understand why you need a DCDC charger if you’re ever going off the grid. A 40A DCDC charger is optional.
Additional features in that front box are battery volt and amp metres, the 240V RCD, a PWM solar regulator, and resettable fuses for most of the van’s 12V circuits. On the roof of the S model are two 150W solar panels so there is a fair level of self-sustainability to the package.
The fridge compartment is big enough to take up to a 96L Evakool (no fridge is included in the package) and comes with a dual 240V outlet, Anderson plugs, and two 12V sockets. The compartment also has a fan to keep the space provided with cooler outside air.
A camper-wide tunnel boot above is carpeted and lit and is big enough to carry all the poles and other longer items you might need.
ON THE BODY
The body is built from aluminium composite so is well insulated, with black anodised aluminium around the bottom and a silver colour above. This is the only colour scheme available. The roof is fibreglass composite, with internal bracing to support the weight of the air conditioner. The floor is checkerplate steel with a vinyl internal covering. Beneath the sides at front and rear are rock sliders to protect the extremities, and four stabilisers keep the setup steady when camped.
The electric side awning has a manual override and, delightfully, a sail track that runs around the perimeter of the front bodywork so that the awning front wall can shelter the fridge in wet weather — something that is simply ignored by far too many camper manufacturers. The Iridium comes standard with an awning kit that includes front, back, and outer walls, draught skirt, and floor.
The camper has dual external speakers, which can be isolated, if desired, from the internally mounted stereo, and a 240V outlet point. The latter is mounted immediately adjacent to the kitchen so is potentially a nuisance to those attempting to use the sink.
The kitchen is pretty much the standard stainless-steel kitchen seen on most import campers, with a stainless sink, end support legs, two drawers, pull-out end bench, stalk light, drainer and adjacent small item shelves. The cooktop is one of the four-burner cast iron domestic fittings seen so often in import campers, but at least comes with good side wind guards to shelter the flame. Gas, hot water, cold water, and the stalk light are easily plumbed during the setup process. In the side of the kitchen access space are gauges for the water tanks, 12V plugs, switches for the pump, kitchen lights, and resettable fuses.
Next to the kitchen is a small 200mm deep pantry next to a fold-down side shelf, and there is an option for a double gas bayonet fitting at the rear which would permit the connection of both the kitchen and a gas barbecue if desired.
There are three LED lights on the kitchen side of the van, so vision will never be a problem at night, but you’d need to remember to tuck in the radio aerial if you’re going to be driving in any tight country as its standard alignment is to project out at a 45-degree angle.
The Iridium comes with two spare tyres
The driver’s side of the camper has the outlet point for the Truma gas/240V electric continuous hot water heater (connected to the interior and exterior sink taps and the interior and exterior showers), two LED bar lights, external shower, water filler point, mains water connection (to the taps only), 15A mains input, and coaxial cable connection for a TV aerial. The aerial itself is an optional extra.
At the front are another access to that tunnel-box storage and a carpeted 620mm deep x 700mm high carpeted storage box. This has a slide in the bottom which would be handy for a generator and two very handy storage drawers in the top. These are removable to permit taller generators or other gear to be carried below. The door for this is also well stiffened internally which assists greatly in ensuring dustproof qualities.
Water is carried in two 100L stainless steel tanks, with a ball valve between to permit them to be isolated or to be treated as a single reservoir, and there is an 80L grey water tank. In addition, Signature includes a 40L portable grey water tank on wheels to capture waste from the kitchen.
Access to the interior is via a spring-loaded fold-out step. The doorway has a separate mesh security door, and all three body windows are double-glazed with sliding insect mesh and blockout blinds. The pop-top roof is lifted with the assistance of gas struts and opens access for six windows in the vinyl walls. While the lift is fairly easy, the design of a lever system has just been finalised to make it even easier.
The basic layout of the Iridium matches that of a number of other import hybrids, with the rear wall folding down and out to extend the top half of the bed out after folding down the spare wheels. This process only takes one to two minutes.
It locates the internal ensuite immediately in front of you as you enter. This is a reasonably sized space, with the shower rose suspended from the ceiling, rather than the wall, to enable you to wash your head easily with both hands rather than having to hold the rose in one hand.
The bed is an oversized queen that in standard fitout is an innerspring pillowtop, with an option of an Australian-made Dunlop foam version. There are two reading lights on stalks on either side, but these are well forward of the bed head so kind of useless — but this is countered by a dimmable LED light in the back wall above each pillow. About a quarter of the mattress at the foot end is shrouded by a wardrobe and the mattress butts up hard against the walls on most of the rest of its perimeter, which may render making up the bed difficult.
There is also an option to install a single bunk bed above the main bed.
Other internal lighting includes four dimmable LED lights in the roof, all controlled from a switch and resettable fuse panel immediately inside the doorway, adjacent to the Bluetooth/CD/USB/FM radio with its twin internal speakers.
There is a heap of storage space throughout the van in the steel-built cupboards. There is hanging space for pants or dresses alongside four shelves in a cupboard at the foot of the bed, approximately 700 x 400mm of space under the foot of the bed that can be accessed under the mattress or via a bed end doorway, three shelves in the cupboard immediately inside the doorway, a small vertical cupboard at one end of this structure and some space under the small seat at the right of the entry door. Next the kitchen side of the bed is small lockable security locker, while on the other there’s a handy pocket for your nighttime reading matter, glasses and other items.
Above the internal sink are two double doors which open into a huge, carpeted storage space that runs right across the front of the camper. Access into the far corners might be difficult so it would suit only larger bulky items, but you could carry heaps of gear in there.
For those wanting to eat inside there is a separate fold-out table with extendable legs that can be moved around to suit requirements or even used outside in conjunction with the external kitchen.
On the end of the wardrobe at the foot of the bed is a 23in TV, the hot water system switch, the air conditioning remote, two USB ports, a 12V socket and another pair of 240V sockets.
At the entry door there is a sink under the fold-up bench top, along with a mirror, with an LED light above.
The Signature Iridium 13 S model is a mix of features. Like most camper trailers there are compromises that we would rather not see, but it sustains the industry-wide rule of thumb that there is no such thing as a perfect camper trailer. With a price of $38,900 plus on-road costs (which will vary from state to state) for the basic model or $41,990 plus on-roads as we saw it for the S model (without the fridge, gas bottles or jerry cans) there is a lot of camper for the price.
The warranty is five years on the chassis and suspension, and 12 months on the rest of the core construction and manufacturers’ warranties in installed appliances.
The Iridium seemed to be a competent and comfortable camper that is well-finished and soundly built. Five years ago, this would have been an industry-leading package that would have amazed everyone, and it speaks volumes that now, in 2021, we expect this level of features to get us out of our seat.
There aren’t many optional extras in the Iridium range, as Signature says they’ve included just about all of the regularly desired items in the standard package. I’d rather see thought given to a DC-DC charger being standard, work done on producing a lighter Tare weight, maybe a bigger and better kitted out kitchen, more easily accessible spares, and few other things, but gee — you can’t complain about what you do get for your money, and you would get many hours of good camping with an Iridium.