The Marlin Escape Deluxe wowed our judges with its refreshing simplicity. A dependable side-fold, soft-floor base, expanded upon with quality componentry tailored to suit the customer’s every need, this featherweight trailer costs just over 10k, but is set to generate memories you’d pay millions for. Not only did it take the honours in the Under $25,000 category of REDARC Camper Trailer of the Year 2020, it also earned itself the 'Best Value for Money' award.
The Marlin Escape Deluxe is designed around the principle of simplicity. In the arms race to cram as much technology and as many features as possible into a limited space, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that what we are doing here is going camping.
Marlin hasn’t lost sight. They’re staying true to a back-to-basics theme that keeps camping a low cost, low tech process that gets you out in the fresh air, in front of this country’s greatest natural attractions, with minimal fuss.
The Marlin Escape Deluxe has all the basics for survival away from the usual trappings of civilisation. The heavy wall poly 60L water tank and a jerry can holder (a second holder is optional) give you over 80L of water capacity, though consumption would need to be carefully monitored. The tank is equipped with a manual pump which ensures minimum water wastage.
Electrically the 120Ah AGM battery in the ArkPak box is sufficient for a couple to live happily with a fridge, lighting and the many rechargeable batteries which form such a notable part of our life today. The ArkPak comes with a 300 watt inverter, which enables small 240 volt appliances to be run, as well as USB and cigarette plug points for charging and powering various devices. It also has a 240 volt input to supply the in-built six-stage charger. The ArkPak makes the provision of power a very portable affair, so that it can be used in the camper or around the car or even a boat if that is what’s required.
Recharging is taken care of solely by a 200 watt solar panel, which in a sunny environment would be more than adequate but would result in a gradual loss of capacity in the battery if there was any extended period of poor weather, as there is no option for charging off the vehicle’s alternator when away from services.
Gas is supplied from the single 4.5kg gas bottle that would go in the supplied ring (a second ring is optional).
The camper’s offroad-ability is quite good, despite the simplistic AL-KO five-leaf rebound suspension, absence of shock absorbers and 40mm beam axle. Remember, this, in its default mode, is a camper weighing just 750kg even when loaded; smaller soft roaders or even two-wheel drive vehicles could happily tow it around. Our test 4WD didn’t even recognise that it was there.
The decision to go with an AL-KO ball coupling hitch is another way in which the Escape Deluxe sticks with basic equipment levels.
The Marlin Escape Deluxe is an easy to assemble side-fold soft floor camper that promises an authentic camping experience without the traditional discomforts.
Configured with a 100mm HD foam queen sized mattress, this rig will get you off the floor and under cover.
When it’s time for a cook-up, the swing-out kitchen galley provides the essentials, with a laminated marine ply prep area, space for a stove, a hand water pump, a 60 litre poly water tank with lockable intake and an ArkPak 300 watt inverter standard.
Usefully, access to the under-bed storage area is made simple, both inside and outside the camper, with gas strut assistance. And if you’ve got kids onboard, there’s enough room in the soft floor annexe to chuck a couple of swags – 2400 x 4229mm of additional external living space once it’s deployed, to be precise.
While it would have been nice to see a dedicated insect proof wall separating the main sleeping space from the soft-floor annexe, even without it there’s plenty of scope to enjoy the outdoors without undue intrusion from creepy crawlies and midges; the main room is separated by a door which has a midge-proof fly screen included and all windows also include midge-proof screens.
Despite its simplicity, the Escape Deluxe offers a couple of notable improvements to this well-known style of camper. These include the removable layer of thermal insulation inserted between the fly and the camper roof. And the concertina-style poles that form the frame of the sleeping and living areas are done particularly well. Once folded out, the simple adjustment of one pole enables deployment of the tent within a couple of minutes.
Under the external awning, things are easy too. With a clever use of zips and Velcro, and a total of just eight poles to deal with — assisted by a hook-and-eyelet arrangement — there’s little standing between you and a great day fishing by a river somewhere.
The Marlin Escape Deluxe is indeed luxurious, that is, it’s luxurious if you’ve spent your fair share of time sleeping on the ground and are ready to take things a little easier.
And for everyone else, it’s hard to go wrong with such a simple, well thought-out unit, supported by a locally based team happy to incorporate your individual needs.
While other campers may have more bells and whistles, the Marlin Escape Deluxe is the affordable and straightforward camping buddy that’s simple enough to use — a lot.
TIM VAN DUYL
The team at Marlin told us that it’s often not price that people are looking for when they buy an Escape; it’s often about simplicity. Buyers are often very experienced in remote camping already and just want the bones of the camper to be perfect with a couple of basic but well-executed options added.
The Escape sets out to fool no one. It is not some flashy, over the top camper with features added for the sake of getting one-up on other manufacturers. It starts with a couple of things done exceptionally well, a tent and a trailer.
The Marlin-designed trailer is manufactured by Southern Cross Trailers in western Sydney and the tent is from Oztrail. This is fantastic as both suppliers are topnotch locals with passion and success in their fields plus an interest in hearing from Marlin and their customers what they could do better.
When looking at and towing the Escape Deluxe over our days of testing at CTOTY, the charm of the simplicity resonated so strongly with me that I had it as my favourite sub-$25,000 camper. It is practical, foolproof, built like an ox and I can easily see it making for a comfortable week-long stay, especially with the clever in-roof insulation.
The Deluxe bundles the most common and popular options — the swing-away Drifta-built kitchen, ARK Power Pak, 70L water tank, pole carrier, toolbox and LED strip lighting — onto the base Escape, plus we had a remote gas water heater to bring our test unit to $10,980 with the base Escape starting at only $8,149.
In pure dollars, that is not a lot for a camper but it is more than just affordable, it’s actually great value when you break down the inclusions, the construction and usability. This is traditional camping out of a trailer done exceptionally well.
Being able to easily remove the tent from the trailer frees up the 1.8m by 1.2m metre tub, which with its 500mm depth, would be super practical around the farm and will take a lot of popular fridges without issue.
Some will look at its simple suspension and folding tent and think it lacks innovation but the Escape Deluxe’s X-Factor is that simplicity. The leaf spring suspension will be hard to break, the 12-ounce canvas tough to rip, and the heavy-duty trailer will last decades with only the occasional paint touch up required.
The quality of finish and build quality on the Marlin are almost completely dependent on externally provided components. But Marlin don’t partner with any old businesses. Instead, products such as the canvas, power pack, hot water, tailgate kitchen and even the trailer itself are provided by well-known brands like Drifta, Ark, YKK zips, Country Comfort and Southern Cross Trailers.
Outsourcing this way, the owners of Marlin are able to focus on you — the customer. And that’s always a good thing. So you can ask to have the tyre, rim and PCD of your tow tug matched to your camper. You can even take the Marlin team your favourite trailer and discuss options for Marlin to retrofit their componentry for you. The team told us that many of their customers are pre-existing owners of soft-floor campers having issues with their old canvas (from other companies) and looking to give their beloved rig a face-lift.
For added peace of mind, Marlin offer a two year build warranty, in addition to the manufacturer’s warranty on plug and play components. With over 3,000 units from Marlin on the road in the last twelve years, that’s a lot of satisfied customers.
The base model comes with a 50mm ball coupling to match the majority of their market — making it suitable for towing by almost any car on the market. But, on request, this coupling can be replaced with a DO35, Polyblock or any other style or brand you would prefer. This flexibility and reliability on product and provision of personalised service is something that we Australians value; it makes the camper ‘yours’.
The Marlin Escape Deluxe is a bit like the chameleon of campers. To paraphrase the original Holden ute slogan, “You can take the family camping on the weekend and a pig to market during the week.” There’s similar versatility in the Marlin Escape Deluxe, because in the end, it’s a box trailer.
So, whether you unbolt the tent component during the week so you can haul the kids’ bikes around, go to the tip, or collect goods from your favourite wholesaler, when the weekend comes around you’ve got it made. Simply bolt the tent platform back in place and in no time you’ll be heading for the outdoors for as long as you like, wherever you like.
ATM 750kg as standard
Ball weight 30kg
Suspension Five-leaf AL-KO eye-to-eye rebound springs
Brakes None required if configured under 750kg ATM, electric if needed
Coupling 50mm ball standard, upgrades available
Chassis Steel 50 x 50mm RHS
Drawbar Steel 100 x 50mm RHS
Body Checkerplate floor and zinc anneal sides
Wheels/tyres 235/65/15 A/T tyres with steel rims
Style Side-fold soft-floor
Body size 1829 x 1219mm
Tent floor size 2100 x 2400mm
Awning size 2400 x 4229mm
Overall length 3500mm
Travel height 1250mm
Interior height (roof raised) 2700mm
Gas cylinders One 4kg ring
Water 60L poly tank plus 20 litre jerry can, Country Comfort hot water system
Kitchen/cooktop Drifta laminated Marine ply DSOB Tailgate Kitchen, three burner Primus stove
Battery ArkPak (120Ah AGM)
PRICE AS SEEN
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
|David Cook||Tim van Duyl||Kath Heiman||Scott Heiman|
|1. Fit for Intended Purpose||8||7||8||7|
|4. Quality of finish||8||7||8||7|
|5. Build quality||7.5||8||7||7|
|8. Ease of use||8||8||8||7.5|
|9. Value for money||9||7||9||9|
Address 12 Dyer Crescent, West Gosford, NSW 2250
Phone 0409 887 927