A Campa Trailer One Year Review

I spent a bit of time looking for reviews on ExPo and other sites of both Campa and AT overland trailers and didn’t find many with the depth of opinion I was looking for. My wife Lori and I bought a Campa about a year ago and I’m writing this in hopes it helps someone with the same questions I had leading up to the decision to buy. I apologize for the long winded post but it’s what I was looking for while doing research.

Why We Went With Campa

Like many, we spent months pondering the best direction for us in an expedition trailer. I have a old 416 I’ve used for years that I thought about building up and also considered a build from scratch. I also considered many of the purpose built trailers available. The original location of Adventure Trailers was near where I live and I spoke to Mario several times at his shop, considering the purchase of a Horizon. Had AT not moved and had Campa not offered a discounted price on a trailer built on a previous generation frame it would have been a much harder decision. Our friends bought a Chaser from AT and are very happy with it. In the end the 40 gallons of water stored underneath, the robustness of all stainless steel construction, the advantages of the lifting rack, and a few of the cool gadgets like the kitchen box gave Campa our business.

The Purchase Process

We spoke to Chris and Anne (the Campa folks) at OX11 and several times on the phone. They are both friendly and knowledgable and I never felt as though I was asking a dumb question. They would generally provide more information than I expected on any topic in question. Although seeing the trailers in person is invaluable I found that at OX Chris and Anne stay pretty busy answering lots of inquiries. I was more comfortable speaking with them in depth a few weeks after the event when they had more time. I might add that Mario at AT is equally informative and helpful. After considering the wide variety of options available beyond the base model being offered we came up with the list of options we wanted.

A piece of advice I can offer is that when placing an order for this type of equipment be specific. Really specific. We opted for the Partner two-burner stove they offer and spec’ed an ARB Simpson III touring roof-top tent. Anne sourced the tent for us and sent a few photos during the build. When it came time to mount the tent I saw in the photo it was different than the one we wanted. I had researched ARB’s website carefully and there was only one Simpson III touring RTT available. When Anne assured me I was seeing that very tent I sent her to the ARB website to see the one I wanted. Anne had found that there was indeed another ARB design under the same model name and had ordered that one. Anne took care of it and got the correct one, but lesson learned.

As for the Partner stove, when our trailer arrived we found the stove was a model that did not have wind wings attached to the lid. Not Campa’s fault, but be specific and send web links when possible to the specific part your wanting included.

Delivery

Have you ever watched Shipping Wars on TV? For those that haven’t it’s a show about the people who handle one-off freight shipping around the country. They each have a diesel truck and a big trailer and make a living bidding on odd shipping jobs. Most don’t appear to be former rocket scientists. Buying a trailer in Ohio when you’re in California means a week off work and a lot of gas or else shipping through a freight carrier. We chose to have it shipped and Anne made the arrangements. A few days later a guy with an iffy truck and a trailer with a wonky axle showed up with a new Campa on top. While bemoaning the ticket he got for vehicle issues from a State Trooper he started unlashing our shiny new trailer. My first hint at disaster was when he asked for suggestions on how to get our trailer off of his. Long story short, despite his best effort to tip it over when he sent one wheel of our trailer over the side of his, we got it unloaded relatively unscathed. Next time I’ll take the week off.

Initial Impressions

The only problem we found on delivery was with the Hi-Lift jacks (more on those later). The jacks are mounted to the trailer rear bumper and used as support/leveling legs. They are held in place by drilling and tapping the lifting face of the jacks and threading two 1/4” bolts through the bumper into the jack. Those bolts had sheared at the jack face. I suspect it was the shipper who tried to use the jacks as a lashing point. It was a minor issue to extract the bolts and replace with grade 8. I worried that if that had happened in the field I would not have had the tools to properly repair.

If you’ve looked at Campa trailers you’ve seen the fridge mounted up front where a nose box might go. I have read concerns by other ExPo members about the exposure this creates for a $1000 fridge and certainly share those thoughts. We spec’ed an ARB 63 qt. fridge with a transit bag. There have been a handful of times that I’ve shut the fridge off when we’ve been traveling on particularly dusty roads (aren’t they all) because the thought of all that dust getting sucked in the vent by the cooling fan just eats at me. After a lot of dirt road miles and some snow and ice I can report that although it still concerns me, our fridge is still working fine. Short of moving the fridge inside the main box I’m not sure how you could solve this.

Rivets and Box Seams

By far my biggest complaint with the trailer is the sieve-like quality of the main box. When the trailer arrived it had 2000 miles of road grime and bugs on it from traveling on the shippers trailer. Being a bit OCD about our equipment I had to wash it immediately. After a quick scrub and rinse I found about 1/4” of water in the main box.

On the two side boxes and the kitchen box the sheets of stainless steel that form the boxes are welded at most seams and the welds ground smooth. Really nice work. The main, center, box is accessed by a lid on either side of the trailer. The seams on the main box are not welded but rather they are riveted. The seam that runs along the top sloped surface of the box overlaps in a manner that directs water running down the top into the box rather than shedding it. The two opening lids are attached with full length piano hinges. These hinges are held to the box by Home Depot pop rivets and the rivets are done poorly. There is a 1/16”-1/8” gap between the hinge and the box. The slope of the top of the box directs water into that gap and though the rivet holes into the box.

I called Campa about the problem and they assured me the rivets and hinges were as designed, but that there should have been silicon applied inside the box at each rivet. They offered to send me silicon and a application gun. I used my own and applied the silicon as directed. I have been able to reduce the water intrusion by about 95% but that’s been a task. I saw on an ExPo forum thread that at least one other Campa owner drilled and replaced those rivets so this isn’t a problem unique to us.

A quick internet search revealed a whole world of rivets I didn’t know about. There’s aircraft rivets, marine rivets, flush rivets, fried rivets, rivet gumbo... I digress. Of the dozens I saw many were designed to create a watertight seal. I think Campa would do well to rethink what rivets it uses and greatly improve the trailer. Each time we’ve been in rain or snow (or washed the trailer) we pull the contents of the main box to keep it dry.

Hand Brake

We really like that there is a hand brake on the Campa. After we’d used the trailer a few times the hand brake wasn’t working. Crawling underneath I found the brake uses a threaded rod that runs from the front handle all the way back to cables near the axle. The nuts that hold adjustment on the threaded rod had loosened and travelled down the rod. Adjusting and tightening the nuts lasted only a few days of rough roads. Lacking lock washers or locking nuts I have difficulty keeping them in place.

In fairness to Campa I have not discussed the brake issue with them. My only suggestion to them would be to replace the nuts they’re using with nylon lock nuts during installation.

Hi-Lift Jacks

As mentioned earlier Hi-Lift jacks are used on the rear of Campa’s for stability and minor leveling. I hate Hi-Lift Jacks. I fought with them almost every time we set up. Did I mention I hate Hi-Lift Jacks? The frame piece next to where the jacks attach has a vertical piece of heavy wall 1 1/4” ID tube welded in. I asked Anne about the tube and she said they were left over from prior failed stability leg attempts. I recently bought some 1 1/4” OD .065 stainless tube and some extra bits to make stabilizer legs (photos included). I’ve only had them out once but they seemed to do the job and were so (so!) much easier to use. If you don’t mind Hi-Lifts disregard this section. Anne and Chris might have concerns about my solution and I haven’t spoken to them about their experience experimenting with tubular legs and why they abandoned the idea.

ARB RTT

We love the ARB tent. Good quality, easy setup and plenty of room for two. We got the lower annex and it makes a perfect kitchen room (our tent unfolds to the rear over the kitchen to form a roof). It’s big enough for a couple chairs on a damp evening and the dogs can sleep there at night. There’s plenty of great RTT’s out there and ARB Simpson III is one of them.

What We’ve Added

We spec’ed a second battery box but are only using a single battery so far. The second box is great for small parts and quick access tools.

I added an 80 watt solar panel hard-mounted to the front of the top frame. It can tilt for a better sun angle and to access pelican cases. I mounted a charge controller in the battery box and we can run the fridge, Campa’s LED’s and some Goal Zero lights indefinitely. We may still add a second battery in the future if we find the need for 110 and add an inverter.

We had room on the top frame in front of the tent for a couple Pelican cases. I added an extra cross bar and fab’ed two dimpled trays that hold the cases. We keep clothes there and can access them from inside the tent. The solar panel latches above the cases while driving and Stratchets hold the cases in place. We would have spec’ed the trays and solar panel mount to Campa and had them build them but it’s one of those things you have to live with a while before you see the possibilities.

Campa said they’re shying away from on-demand hot water because they’ve found the available and affordable systems unreliable. We bought a $100 on-demand heater and have used it a lot with no problems. We do treat it much more gingerly than most of our other equipment and I can see why Campa chooses not to supply them, but if you’ve never used one I can tell you they’re outstanding. Half the water on board can supply 6-8 luxurious field showers. The trailer provides a pressurized hose tap that’s perfect for running the shower.

Overall Impressions

We love the trailer. It’s well thought out and goes anywhere our Jeep can pull it. Our friends AT has airbag suspension that has been flawless over some crappy terrain, but I like the simplicity of Campa’s leaf springs. We’ve had no major failures since purchase. I attached photos to try and depict the issues and additions discussed here. I’ll be happy to try and answer anything I might have missed.

Spend as much time as you can around these trailers if you’re thinking about a purchase. If you have one and have done any modifications you’re really happy with share them so we can steal your ideas. If your buying one discuss the mod’s you’ve seen and like with the builder and they’ll be happy to incorporate them if you don’t want to tackle them yourself. Cheers and happy overlanding.

Paul and Lori Davenport
 

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I have never understood the attaching the solar panel to the trailer. It forces you to camp in the sun.

I met Chris at the Expo this year. Great guy, has a lot of good ideas and a great trailer.

Glad you are happy with it. How has the rivot situation turned out. No leaks I would assume or hope
 

mbuckner

Adventurer
Nice trailer .....

I recommend you locate the fridge inside the trailer or your towing vehicle before you go out next time.

Best regards,

Mike
 

Dgurley2000

Adventurer
That gas-assisted lifting platform for the roof top tent looks nice. Do you have more details on how it's constructed and functions?
 
The upper frame has 1 1/4" square tube sleeved inside 1 1/2" square tube with the gas shock housed inside. They have a simple connection that keeps it from binding as you raise one end at a time and latches to keep it secure in the lowered position. Pins drop in to hold it in the up or down position. It's a great feature for us. Compact and low center of gravity while driving and great height for access and a roof (the tent floor) while in camp. It's worked flawlessly for us.
 
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