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Blue Tongue XH15 2020 review

Hybrid campers are no longer a new development in caravanning and camping. We've been seeing trailers like them, in some form or another, for nearly two decades.

The concept is straightforward: hybrid campers offer some of the best comforts of a caravan (solid walls, proper beds, little to no set-up time) with the best aspects of camper trailers (light, small, rugged and able to be towed nearly anywhere).

Although Blue Tongue Campers has been a leader in the traditional camper-trailer market for more than a decade, its first hybrid has been a long time coming. First chance we got, we hooked it up and headed out to Wee Jasper to see what it's about.

The Blue Tongue XH15 is the manufacturer’s first hybrid caravan, featuring an in-built kitchen. (image credit: Brendan Batty) The Blue Tongue XH15 is the manufacturer’s first hybrid caravan, featuring an in-built kitchen. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

How big is this camper-trailer? How much does it weigh?

In the old tongue, this is a 15-foot caravan, which translates to 4.7-metres in body length, and 6.5m once you measure from front to back. That actually makes it somewhat petite by today’s standards, although its rugged off-road appearance and high ride-height make it appear larger. It’s only 2.2m wide, which is great when it's towed along narrow, off-road tracks. 

Length (Body/Towing)4780mm/6450mm
Width2220mm
Height2365mm
Weight (Tare/ATM/Tow Ball)2100kg/2700kg/150kg

It weighs 2100kg before any load is added, and has an ATM of 2700kg, giving it a 600kg payload capacity. For its size and spec, it's middle of the road on weight.

Some of the most notable Australian-made hybrids are up to 400kg lighter, although several other imported campers are heavier, for example – MDC XT15: 2360kg, Black Series HQ15: 2230kg, Stoney Creek SC-Scout 4: 2100kg. 

The small caravan is light enough to be towed almost anywhere you’re game to take it.  (image credit: Brendan Batty) The small caravan is light enough to be towed almost anywhere you’re game to take it. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

How practical is the space inside?

A lot of these hybrid campers are little more than expensive metal boxes with a large bed inside, although the Blue Tongue is a little more than that.

It has a fold-out extension from the driver's side of the camper, which contains the queen-sized bed. By expanding sideways, rather than rearwards, Blue Tongue's managed to create access around the bed from three sides. The upside is, no one ever has to climb over the other, or shuffle along it, to get in. It's a feature almost unique in the genre.
Considering the XH15 also fits a small shower and toilet cubicle, cosy dinette, a small sink, bunk bed and heaps of storage, it's quite a practical little space that doesn't feel as cramped as it sounds.

The dinette lounge is good for the occasional meal away from the bugs, while the bunk above it folds up to improve access. And even if you're not travelling with a child, it makes a great shelf.

The en-suite, if we can call it that, is naturally compact. With its own toilet and shower plumbed into the grey-water tank, this is a fully self-contained camper, which is becoming increasingly more important at many free and remote bush camps.

With a bed extension that folds out to the side, there’s great access around it. (image credit: Brendan Batty) With a bed extension that folds out to the side, there’s great access around it. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

What are the beds like?

The camper's queen bed, as I've mentioned, is easy to access. Compared to many hybrid campers, it's actually smaller than the norm (which is something a little bigger than king), but considering this is a small caravan, not a large hotel room, the smaller bed makes sense.

The model I tested featured a mattress that folds in half across the bed, rather than down it, so the join is perpendicular to your sleeping orientation, but I've been told by Blue Tongue that'll be changed for production models. I was expecting it to be uncomfortable but was surprised when it wasn't. The top-spec Limited version has a different, pillow-top mattress with appropriate join.

The dinette converts to a twin bunk, which will suit the occasional use for grandchildren (or as a better option than a doghouse). The cushions are firm, and there's not actually a ladder to the top one – the occupant steps up from the main bed. I expect many empty nesters will just remove it to shed some kilos and improve headroom around the table.

The bed is simple, but large and comfortable. There’s good light and ventilation all around. (image credit: Brendan Batty) The bed is simple, but large and comfortable. There’s good light and ventilation all around. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

What’s the kitchen like?

Like most hybrid campers, the XH15’s kitchen is on the outside, but this one doesn’t slide out. Instead, it’s built into the side of the camper, behind a large access door.

Once open, the door provides instant shelter and simple access whenever you need it – be that at camp or on the side of the road in the rain. It's a simple affair but very effective.

There's a three-burner Dometic stove and stainless-steel sink next to a tall, double door pantry. More storage is found overhead, and another two drawers, which can be accessed even when the kitchen is closed, are located underneath. Because bench space is tight, a small, fold-out counter is just next to the kitchen.  

The camper doesn’t come with a fridge in the base-model version, but a 95-litre Dometic CFX is offered in the Limited. It stores in the large box at the front of the camper, on a slide-out platform.

The in-built kitchen can be used anywhere, anytime, and provides its own shelter when open. (image credit: Brendan Batty) The in-built kitchen can be used anywhere, anytime, and provides its own shelter when open. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

How easy is it to tow?

The 15-foot off-roader is well balanced behind our tow car. At tare, there's 150kg on the ball, which gives it room to move up once a load is added. We carried a load of camping gear, nearly 200 litres of water and the fridge, all of which helps add stability to the combination.

Towing the XH15 along the highway, it tracked beautifully and even with soft, off-road suspension it didn't wobble around. Onto the narrower, winding roads into Wee Jasper, it was compliant and followed without incident.

When the drive became a bit challenging, such as when we had to navigate steep, loose tracks into our campsite, the camper's high-clearance, angled cutaways and off-road hitch made sure none of its underbody scraped or bumped on the ground.

It rides on coil-spring, independent suspension with dual-shock absorbers each side and this is a robust, well-proven system, which is really great when roads become a little rougher. 

The camper’s light weight makes it a breeze to tow, even off-road. (image credit: Brendan Batty) The camper’s light weight makes it a breeze to tow, even off-road. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

How easy is it to set up?

Considering there's a button you press to lift the pop-top roof automatically, things are pretty simple. A lot of these electric roof-lifters are remarkably slower than just doing it the old-fashioned way, but the XH15's lifter is quick enough that you'll only have time enough to flick through a few pictures on Instagram while you're waiting.

Next, you have to unfold the bed extension, which is a little more of a labour-intensive task, but there’s very little weight involved, thanks to gas-strut assistance.

Inside, you do have to unfold the bed mattress, but the bed can be left with sheets and blankets on, so it’s just a matter of making it all neat.

Most importantly, it’s far easier than dealing in canvas, with myriad tent poles to contend with. 

 There’s a button to pop the top, but you do have to set up the bed pod. (image credit: Brendan Batty) There’s a button to pop the top, but you do have to set up the bed pod. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

What options are available for it?

The XH15 already has plenty of the features that would typically be options. It has 300Ah of gel batteries and a 150-watt solar panel on the roof, for instance.

There's also a grey-water tank, external and internal showers, roll-out awning and a complete annex kit, and a 2000-watt inverter.

So, the options list is small, and all of them are included in the Limited edition, at a discount. 

It includes an upgraded pillow-top mattress, a swap to a 150Ah lithium battery, black ROH alloy wheels, a Dometic 95CFX fridge, diesel room-heating and Redarc Manager 30 battery management, plus Redarc Redvision. 

A 95-litre fridge is a popular option and part of the Limited pack. (image credit: Brendan Batty) A 95-litre fridge is a popular option and part of the Limited pack. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

Any potential issues with it?

There are a few small areas where the hybrid can be improved.

I’d love to see some more lighting around the dinette, especially a reading light in the corner for those overcast days when you're all stuck inside.

I also think a more traditional bunk version that better caters to families would be great, even that the expense of the en-suite.

Given that Blue Tongue is a relative latecomer to the hybrid caravan market, it’s done its homework.

For $50,000, the HX15 is a great value, highly capable off-road camper with a comprehensive list of features to keep it self-contained and self-sufficient when you're camping.

That it includes an island bed, 2000-watt inverter, grey-water tank and enough battery capacity to free camp almost endlessly, is a testament to all that. 

Warranty5-year structural warranty, 1-year manufacturer warranty
Water capacity (Fresh/Grey)150L/130L

$50,000

Based on new car retail price

Daily driver score

3.8/5

Adventure score

3.8/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

Price Guide

$50,000

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data