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Jayco Swan Outback 2018 review

Marcus Craft
Editor - Adventure

29 Oct 2018 • 22 min read

For off-road adventurers, having the flexibility to be able to tow your camper-trailer off the beaten track, out bush and along a beach, opens up a whole new realm of fun and possibility – and that's why Jayco's Outback versions of the company's mainstream camper range have a growing legion of fans.

But the question for camper buyers is: should they upsize? Bigger is often better, but does that hold true in the camper-trailer world? Is a big camper actually worth the extra cash? And is it more difficult to tow?

We take the Jayco Swan Outback (from $30,490), the biggest camper in the Outback range, on a trip into the bush to answer these questions and plenty more.

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

This Outback expands from 5365mm long at travel length to more than six metres when it's set up at camp. (image credit: Brendan Batty) This Outback expands from 5365mm long at travel length to more than six metres when it's set up at camp. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

Length5365mm
Width2240mm
Height1910mm
Weight (Tare/ATM/Tow ball)1385kg / 1685kg / 130kg

Features and options offered don't change a whole lot between camper-trailers – after all there's only so much manufacturers can pack into a unit without pushing the boundaries of physics and the law – but specifications, dimensions and weights may vary.

The Swan Outback – at a travel length of 5365mm – is the longest of Jayco's camper-trailer range tested so far; the equal second-longest Outbacks – the Hawk and Eagle Outback – are 5060mm long but have a heavier tow ball weight (145kg and 150kg respectively) than the Swan's 130kg.

Travel height (1910mm) and width (2240mm) remain the same.

The Swan Outback does, however, have a higher tare weight at 1385kg, than the Hawk Outback (1285kg) and Eagle Outback (1270kg).

Jayco reckons that the Swan Outback "easily sleeps four adults and two children, with an option to sleep two more children on a convertible bed". I'll be the judge of that.

How easy is it to tow?

The Swan Outback is built for light off-roading only. (image credit: Brendan Batty) The Swan Outback is built for light off-roading only. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

Jayco campers are easy to tow and the Swan Outback is no different. It towed steady and stable – no worries – behind our long-termer 2019 2.0-litre four-cylinder bi-turbo Ford Everest 4WD (157kW/500Nm).

We did decent stretches of highway, country back-road and gravel track, deeply rutted in places, with no strife.

The extra length (305mm) over its top-tier stablemates – Hawk and Eagle – was hardly noticeable and only took a little adjustment and increased vigilance when turning in between trees on pinched bush tracks.

With a 130kg towball weight, it feels marginally livelier than Hawk (145kg) and Eagle (150kg), but nothing drastic – again, as long as the driver pays attention there's no issue.

Visibility back along both sides and over the top is good without need for towing mirrors.

The Swan Outback’s JTech coil-spring suspension works to keep it towing nicely on undulating gravel tracks. (image credit: Brendan Batty) The Swan Outback’s JTech coil-spring suspension works to keep it towing nicely on undulating gravel tracks. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

The single-axle Swan Outback has a hot dip galvanised 'Endurance' chassis on Jayco’s 'JTech' coil-spring suspension with a little extra ground clearance over road-focussed Touring models. (Note: Jayco’s Outback models are made for dirt tracks and gravel roads, not 4WD-only tracks. They are not built for hard-core off-roading.)

How easy is it to set up?

Adhering to the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach, Jayco has ensured the Swan Outback uses the same simple set-up process as the other campers in its range.

On arrival at your chosen campsite, unclip a latch near each upper corner of the trailer’s body, remove the winder handle from its rack in the camper’s forward storage space, fit that handle into the designated position at the camper’s rear and then wind until the camper's roof hits the stars. Only joking – you wind until the support bars at each corner are almost at full lock-out but leave some slack in the canvas. Don't ask "Why?", just remember to thank me later.

Next step, pull the bed out at each end, place the bed support struts, which are stored underneath the mattresses, on each bed base and corresponding point on the camper body. This requires a bit of shoulder strength to get those bed bases up and into position. Make sure everything is securely in place.

Pull the canvas down and over the corners of each bed and secure all loose canvas in place with the sewn-in Velcro strips.

The remainder of the process involves positioning the interior ceiling poles for each bedroom (you did leave a bit of slack in the canvas walls as advised, didn't you?), and locking them into place with provided Velcro backing, and then moving furniture from its travel position into its camp-ready position.

Make sure everything is wound up to lock-out and fitted securely in its position.

Voila! You're now set up. It took me about eight minutes from start to finish, but I moved at a leisurely pace.

The Swan Outback is 6505mm long when set up; the Hawk Outback and Eagle Outback are both 6200mm long when fully extended. That's an extra 305mm, a little more than the length of a school ruler, the Swan Outback has over the other two Outbacks.

How practical is the space inside?

The Outback’s interior is simple and camping-friendly. (image credit: Brendan Batty) The Outback’s interior is simple and camping-friendly. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

Correct me if you reckon I'm wrong, but no camper-trailer from any company will ever be in the running for a 'Gorgeous Temporary Home' award. But that's part of this camper's appeal; it's highly practical and functional, not pretty and useless.

The forward bed is to the left as you step inside; the rear bed is to the right. Its kitchen is in front and to the right of the door as you enter the camper.

Interior height is a standard 2070mm and inside is spacious, but tempers will likely fray if all four adults and two kids are standing or sitting around inside at the same time. Hope for no rain.

The interior includes a four-burner stove, Dometic 95-litre fridge (Touring models get the 90-litre fridge), stainless-steel sink, dinette seat, table, club lounge, and the two beds plus the dinette-convertible bed.

It has plenty of storage room inside and outside, such as this deep space on the left-hand side exterior wall. (image: Brendan Batty) It has plenty of storage room inside and outside, such as this deep space on the left-hand side exterior wall. (image: Brendan Batty)

If you can't find some places in which to stow away your gear in this Outback, then you're not looking hard enough.

The 'Ezi glide' pull-out drawers include room enough for your large pots, cutlery, kitchen gear and numerous other bits and pieces.

Interior lighting includes overhead LEDs for the dining/entertainment area and reading lights for the beds. There’s a fan for the beds.

What are the beds like?

  • The Swan's beds – at the front (pictured)... (image credit: Brendan Batty) The Swan's beds – at the front (pictured)... (image credit: Brendan Batty)
  • ...and at the rear (pictured) are comfy enough. (image credit: Brendan Batty) ...and at the rear (pictured) are comfy enough. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

Don't climb in expecting five star hotel-style bedding and you won't be sorely disappointed – this is still camping after all.

Jayco beds have innerspring mattresses and the bases are unsealed ply.

The front bed is 1460mm wide (same as that in the Hawk and Eagle Outbacks); the rear bed is 1310mm wide (over the Hawk and Eagle's 1140mm-wide beds). It has child restraints – easily attachable netting – to prevent children from rolling out of bed when they're sleeping.

Sleeping spaces each have a privacy curtain, as well as zippered canvas windows and mesh screens.

This camper’s converted bed – which is created by rearranging the dinette area (as standard) – is strictly for kids ... or that mate you're not particularly fond of. The club lounge bed converter is an option.

What’s the kitchen like?

The kitchen area. (image credit: Brendan Batty) The kitchen area. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

If cooking is your cup of tea you should be right in this workable camp-friendly space.

The area is a simple layout with stainless-steel sink (with mains pressure), cutting board and meal-prep area, four-burner stove, and 95-litre fridge as standard. There is an 82-litre underfloor water tank.

Want to re-heat your coffee? The microwave is standard on Swan models. (image credit: Brendan Batty) Want to re-heat your coffee? The microwave is standard on Swan models. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

A microwave, positioned under the stove, is also standard on Swans, but a hot-water service and extra 82-litre water tank are options.

What options are available for it?

You could add a roof rack and add a little more touring versatility to this nice Swan Outback package. (image credit: Brendan Batty) You could add a roof rack and add a little more touring versatility to this nice Swan Outback package. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

The extensive options list has a stack of accessories including air-conditioning, another 82-litre water tank, awning walls, slide-out barbecue, 16-inch wheels (15-inch are standard), extra nine kg gas bottle, TV and stereo.

Add some load-carrying flexibility to your trips away by optioning up to bike and roof racks.

Any potential issues with it?

Feel free to tackle light-duty off-roading in this but don't head along 4WD-only tracks. (image credit: Brendan Batty) Feel free to tackle light-duty off-roading in this but don't head along 4WD-only tracks. (image credit: Brendan Batty)

The beds need a fair bit of 'old man gorilla' strength to lift and get the struts into place.

The beds' unsealed ply bases may suffer cumulative minor damage over time as the struts are repeatedly wedged into position.

Remember: Outback versions of the Jayco camper range may have extra ground clearance (over Touring models), all-terrain tyres and dirt track-ready coil-spring suspension, but they are not designed or built for hard-core off-roading – they are certainly not to be taken on 4WD-only tracks. Want some confirmation? Take a look at the warranty fine print.

The Jayco Swan Outback is a nice solid camper, packed with features and suited for most trips away.

Sure, it's not the roomiest or flashiest camper around and – you've been warned – it is definitely not up to hard-core 4WDing, but it does come from a company responsible for sharply priced units with plenty of flexibility regarding optional add-ons so that counts for a lot.

What do you value more in a camper-trailer – size, or off-roading capability? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

Jayco Swan Outback specifications 
Warranty24 months, 3-years Roadside Assist
SleepsSix
Water capacity (Fresh/Grey)82L / n/a

 

$30,490

Based on new car retail price

Adventure score

3.5/5

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

$30,490 - $30,490

Based on new car retail price

This price is subject to change closer to release data