A few years ago, the thought of towing a trailer down a two-track trail was frightening. The closest things to off-road–worthy trailers at the time were old military M100 trailers. They left a lot to be desired, especially in sketchy situations. In addition, you would have to customize said trailer to haul camping gear, an ice chest, and a bundle of firewood.
Fast-forward to present day, and the off-road camper trailer market has exploded. Heavily influenced by overseas camping trailer manufacturers from Australia and South Africa, the off-road camper trailer market is settling into its groove. For example, the 2018 Overland Expo West event was chock-full of off-road campers from all over the world. The Aussies have been in the forefront of off-road camper design and functionality.
Case in point, we tested a unique style of off-road camper that recently hit our shores. It’s called the AIR OPUS, and the trailer’s “tub” is manufactured in Australia and then shipped to the States for final assembly. Once in the U.S., the wheels, tires, and suspension are all assembled to meet U.S. standards. The AIR OPUS Camper is a hybrid between a traditional pop-up camper and an inflatable mattress on steroids. Setup and breakdown is relatively quick and easy, which is a relief on multiday excursions that require a new camping destination each night.
We tested AIR OPUS’ latest model, dubbed the Walker Evans Racing Edition, which takes the standard AIR OPUS to the next level. The Walker Evans Racing Edition comes with optional Walker Evans coil springs and shocks (dual shocks on each swingarm), Walker’s 17-inch beadlock wheels, and 235x65R17 tires. The available blue color is strikingly similar to Walker’s signature blue Dodge Baja race truck from the 1980s.
Setting up the AIR OPUS is a straightforward multistep process: Set the hand brake, unfold and secure the two lids (beds), close the air valves, tighten four corner straps, and then turn on the air pump. In fewer than five minutes camp is set up. When it’s time for dinner, just slide out the outdoor kitchen, which includes a wash sink with electric pump-fed faucet, four-burner gas stove, and portable refrigerator.
The main body “tub” of the AIR OPUS is built in Australia out of aluminum tubing and composite panels. For durability, the exterior is coated with a baked enamel finish and the chassis is hot-dipped galvanized metal. Fit and finish is exceptional. Closed, the trailer length is 18 feet 4 inches (including spare); open, it’s 21 feet 4 inches long. The optional roof rack folds out of the way on hydraulic struts during tent setup and holds up to 700 pounds of gear.
We hooked the AIR OPUS to our Jeep JK Wrangler and drove over 300 miles. The camper tracked very well on- and off-road, and most of the time you could hardly tell that it was behind us. With 12 inches of suspension travel and dual Walker Evans Racing shocks on each swingarm, the AIR OPUS handled rough terrain with composure.
The curb weight of the AIR OPUS Camper comes in at only 2,780 pounds, including the tent, and has an additional 1,100 pounds of cargo capacity. Even loaded for bear, the trailer doesn’t tend to push the tow rig around like heavier camping trailers would. Its low center of gravity is the main reason for that surefootedness, and it helps keep the tires planted in off-camber situations. The AIR OPUS Camper is the Swiss Army knife of off-road campers.
The Walker Evans Racing Edition AIR OPUS Camper was built with off-roading in mind. It includes a heavy-duty independent swingarm suspension system with Walker Evans Racing coil springs and dual shock absorbers on each wheel. It boasts 12 inches of suspension travel and an impressive 16.4 inches of ground clearance.
Once the trailer has been leveled, the two top lids can be opened and secured. Then, it’s time to access the control panel, turn the red lever to “power on,” and depress the shiny “inflate” button that spools up the air pump to fill the tent. Inflation time takes under two minutes, and full setup takes under five minutes to complete. The power distribution center also houses the switch panel, where you can activate the water pumps, refrigerator, sockets and lights, as well as check the battery and freshwater tank levels.
The portable air pump fills all five interior air chambers, which are plumbed together and act as a solid backbone of the tent. The air chambers require only 6.5 pounds of air pressure to fill and can be adjusted depending on temperature and elevation changes. Once the air tubes are inflated, they are very firm and support the tent even in windy conditions. We had the tent set up in 20-mph sustained winds; the tent remained upright and unaffected by the heavy gusts.
The portable kitchen slides out to reveal a sink with a faucet fed by an electric pump. Our test unit had two 20-gallon stainless steel water tanks mounted on the undercarriage of the AIR OPUS, along with two 6-gallon jerrycans located on the tongue of the trailer.
A four-burner stove is also part of the portable kitchen slide-out, and a 10-gallon propane tank delivers enough fuel to cook for at least a week in the backcountry.
A slide-out portable refrigerator completed the mobile kitchen setup. The fridge in our test unit was a Dometic CFX 50W, which can hold 72 beverage cans and can also be used as a freezer, dipping down to a frosty -7 degrees F.
The optional outdoor portable shower offers hot and cold running water. The shower is great for trips to the beach or multiday adventures in the boonies.
The interior of the AIR OPUS Camper is well laid out, with the two 6-foot 1-inch by 4-foot beds on either side of the main living area. There’s enough seating for six people to sit comfortably around the dining table. On cold nights, there’s an optional forced-air heater.
The interior is very open and airy with four skylight windows that help increase airflow and also let sunlight in. The Tropical Roof rainfly is removable, allowing even more sunlight and air into the camper in drier climates. The tent fabric is made from a durable, fine-weave 14-ounce, 420-gram material.
For entertainment, there’s an optional portable movie projector and built-in roll-up screen, so you and the family can watch a movie from the comfort of your AIR OPUS. Twin 100Ah AGM deep cell batteries keep the electronics powered. There’s also a Sony DVD player and stereo included, with two Sony speakers and USB inputs.
A Lock ’N’ Roll articulating hitch system is standard equipment on the AIR OPUS and a welcome addition. The Lock ’N’ Roll utilizes three axes of movement with 360 degrees of rotation, and it won’t bind up, even when articulating over twisty, uneven terrain. The system eliminates the “herk-a-jerk” action experienced with conventional ball hitch setups, and it is much safer overall.
Specs (as tested)
Trailer: AIR OPUS Walker Evans Racing Edition
Base price: $24,499
Price as tested: $28,000
Dimensions (L x W x H, in): 220 x 82 x 57 (lid closed), 256 x 82 x 138 (lid open)
Ground clearance (in): 16.4
Suspension: Independent swingarm w/dual Walker Evans Racing shocks and coil springs
Suspension travel (in): 12
Wheels: 17-in Walker Evans Racing beadlock
Tires: 235x65R17 Maxxis Bravo AT-771 104T
Bed size (in): 73 x 48
Dry weight (lb): 2,870
Tongue weight (lb): 220
GVWR (lb): 3,970
Load capacity (lb): 1,100
Power supply: 12V, 120V
Water storage (gal): 52