Remote testing the DRIFTA Offroad Tourer AKA DOT
Since first spotting the rugged looking DOT I was impressed by what seemed to be an ‘over engineer first’ and ‘accessories second’ design philosophy.
With our July trip to Steep Point, Dirk Hartog Island and Francois Peron National Park looming Luke, the Founder and Owner of DRIFTA, was eager to challenge his DOT to some rugged west coast terrain. He expedited a freight run and sent a DRIFTA truck cross country with a brand new near top spec DOT 6 Independent Suspension model for us to put through its paces. Those of you that know (or have heard of) the Steep Point Road will be aware of its notorious corrugations. Francois Peron National Park is currently worse, and on Dirk Hartog Island the track conditions cycle between corrugations, sharp limestone and soft sand - some good testing ground.
So as enjoyable as testing new gear is, and as tough as the DOT appeared to be, I must say once it was heading our way across the Nullarbor I did have some hesitations. We like to look after gear, and although DRIFTA were confident, we would still be dealing with the situation in quite a remote location if the trailer were to fail.
Fast forward and the trailer was loaded, connected and we were on our way north, and away from the winter rain.
So, let’s dive in and have a look at the DOT’s performance. With 100 litres of water, 20 extra litres of diesel and supplies for off-grid camping we were reasonably loaded and I was first keen to make sure it would pull up with ease. After some slow speed testing, setting 5 on our REDARC Tow-Pro Elite brake controller was activating the electric brakes in harmony with our four-wheel drive, and from then on, the trailer was barely noticeable when pulling up from any speed.
Our first stretch, Perth to Hamelin Station, was 724 kilometres and the DOT fell in behind our Prado and was perfectly steady. The couple of times overtaking was required, we could still accelerate well and get back on the safe side of the road quickly - not too heavy!
Next up we were headed to Steep Point, Australia’s most westerly point. At first dirt, we aired the Prado and DOT down to 20 PSI – time for corrugations and time to see what the dual shock absorbers and independent suspension was made of!
With my eyes on the DOT I tried to find ‘that speed’ that makes teeth rattlin’ roads tolerable. Between the suspension and the tyres the DOT absorbed the bumps with ease and I was thankful to not have to crawl along to stop the trailer from jumping around.
The DOT also took the twists and turns of the single-track sections of our trip in its stride, requiring only a modest room allowance around corners.
The two-metre-long drawbar made reversing a breeze, thankfully, as reversing off the Dirk Hartog Island barge is a good test for one’s reversing proficiency.
In camp this top of the line model was feature filled. The roof top style tent is cavernous. With plenty of shaded windows, an additional skin to keep the sun and rain off, a comfy mattress and inbuilt lights and USB charge points it’s a great space for both sleeping and lazing. Whilst we were slow to erect and pack away the tent the first time, we quickly had it dialled and the rugged YKK zippers of the final cover and protective cover over the aluminium ladder to prevent it from rubbing through the main cover when stored were thoughtful details.
Off the rear the awning connects with the shelter provided by the rooftop tent providing a giant undercover area. The tent and awning are mounted on a frame which is height variable by the flick of a switch and four electric actuators. In transit, everything is low (stable and aerodynamic) and at camp you can adjust it above the tallest camper (I’m 6’3” and it was great). Western Australia, and especially Dirk Hartog Island, can be exposed to some powerful winds. Awnings can be nerve wracking. This awning has a solid support structure and with the leading edge lowered to the wind, the connections screwed tight and the peggable feet of the poles anchored with Snow Peak 40 centimetre stakes we had no issues leaving camp for daytimes of exploring.
In foul weather the entire outdoor area can be walled in and clever connectors and even canvas gutters are included to cover almost every eventuality.
The kitchen slides out of the back of the trailer and includes a fridge/freezer, two burner stove, drawers, a tap and a slide out basin. It also unfolds to provide more bench space and more storage space. The other side of the trailer has two drawers as part of the kitchen, and then behind those is a long storage drawer with a DRIFTA long table nestled on top as well.
Between the trailer body and the tent above is a clever canopy. Divided centrally we stored our food in the left and all our resupplies and other gear in the right. It was great to be able to place everything away from the animals and the weather so easily. And for roadside stops the lunch and coffee gear was at our fingertips. The rear of this toolbox has a third door which was home to a Bluetooth stereo, USB charging ports, a battery gauge and a gauge for the 80-litre water tank. And on the front the space is home to the optional MAXTRAX.
Each side of the trailer has a jerry can holder and a 4-kilogram gas cylinder holder. Above each wheel arch is also a small toolbox. We stored our peg bag in one and the stabiliser winder and our trailer lock in the other.
The front of the drawbar has a full width stone barrier. In behind, this is a rubbish bag. Next up is a giant toolbox. This is home to the dual house batteries, REDARC 1225D charger and 240-volt charger – meaning the house batteries can be charged by 240 volts, a vehicle or solar. Our 150-watt REDARC solar blanket kept the house batteries topped up for the days the trailer was disconnected from the vehicle. Also fitted to the drawbar is a full width firewood box complete with tonneau cover.
The most decadent feature of the trailer must be the en-suite! Attached to the right side of the trailer it simply unzips and swings out – completely free standing. The gas hot water unit hangs on the purpose fitted point, and then simply connects to the electric water pump and gas cylinder and away you go. It’s soooo good, just be careful not to drain your water tank if water is scarce.
The build quality throughout the entire trailer is hard to fault. What’s interesting is the build story. DRIFTA own their own property in Gloucestor, NSW. The DOT team in their dedicated DRIFTA factory build the chassis and some other components and assemble the trailers. The DRIFTA kitchen team supply the kitchens and drawers, the DRIFTA canvas team supply all the custom covers, and Australian suppliers supply the rest – mostly of Australian Canvas, Australian steel etc.
After being bounced up to Cape Inscription, the tip of Dirk Hartog Island, and back around and to the tip of Francois Peron National Park how did the trailer pull up? Well we lost, found and refitted one nyloc nut off one of the awning arms and also lost and had to replace one nyloc nut from one of the two bolts that hold in place the right stabilising foot for use at camp. Considering everything that could have broken, it was close to a perfect durability score.
This trailer was even better than we hoped it might be. It was easy to tow and a pleasure to camp from - and we especially loved everything being up out of the sand, and the abundance of accessible storage. It is built for tough touring and fun camping, and does both with ease.
Whilst we tested a top of the line model, one of the most appealing aspects of the DOT is the accessibility that lies within their range. With the choice of more and less features, and the choice of 5, 6 and 7 foot sizes there is a model to suit a variety of uses and budgets – so camping in comfort, or perhaps a lap of Australia may be more achievable than you think.