The Evolution of MDC Camper Trailers

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Australians love camping and the outdoors, it’s a big part of our lifestyle and affordable to almost everyone. Equipment can be as simple as a small tent or a swag, or as complex as a large caravan or camper. From humble beginnings, many companies thrived with the introduction of camper trailers in the early days.

The soft floor camper trailer was MDC’s first venture into campers. At the time, there were many companies building soft floor camper trailers across Australia. As good as many were, they were expensive and often far more camper trailer than the average person needed, in both terms of off road bias and specification. Many Aussies just wanted a soft floor camper for a few weeks of annual leave and long weekends to setup in a Big 4 or other holiday park just to get away from the city rat race.

In terms of versatility, soft floor campers were exceptional for their era. In the most basic terms, a soft floor camper trailer was a fold up canvas tent on a box trailer with a bed. Many had room extensions and screen rooms either included or as add on features that turned them into large, sheltered areas capable of accommodating large or multiple families. You could literally have 2 adults and 8 kids and find somewhere for everyone to sleep. The downside was the bigger the tent and more people to accommodate, the longer it took to setup for your holiday. The great thing was most were light weight compared to the hard floor campers we see today. Many weighed under 750kg and could be towed by a family sedan without the need of electric brake controllers or a 4wd. Soft floor camper trailers got a wider variety of people out camping in comfort than ever before at affordable prices.

Starting with basic box or garden trailers and tents in 2005, the humble beginning of MDC soft floors had been born. Starting at just a few thousand dollars compared to many similar styles priced at over $10,000 at the time, the inexpensive cost of an MDC soft floor resulted in many sales. As soft floor campers became even more popular, the options and features began to grow. Water storage, 12 volt power, integrated kitchens and more began appearing as the products were improved and updated, to meet the needs of a growing customer base.

Early model soft floors had a very basic kitchen which consisted of a stainless steel or powder coated kitchen cupboard with a sink and often a fold out bench section, mounted inside the trailer tailgate. A simple water pump or hand pump operated tap mounted on the sink provided water via the water storage tank. For cooking, you simply placed your camping cooker on the kitchen with the gas bottle beneath.

Features kept improving but not all customers were feeling they had the complete setup and many, demonstrated their ingenuity and creativity with some soft floor camper modifications that became iconic, none more so than this MDC soft floor camper fitted with beer on tap and a pizza oven.

With the boom in interest surrounding 4wding, the demand for soft floor camper trailers capable of taking on off road conditions increased enormously. The market was crying out for affordable campers that had greater ground clearance, tougher chassis, and suspension capable of tackling it all. In response to the demand, MDC started to fit independent suspension with coil springs and longer travel to the soft floor range. Now producing economical yet capable full off road soft floor camper trailers, MDC was moving forward gaining market share and opening up remote camping and travel at a price point many more people could afford.

The Offroad Deluxe was an extremely affordable soft floor, with independent off road suspension that 4wd owners could take on their adventures all over Australia. Many are still in service today having travelled just about every iconic 4wd track in the country. In 2018/19, a young family completed an around Australia trip, 2 adults and 3 young boys took an epic long term adventure in their beloved MDC Offroad Deluxe around Australia, tackling some of the country’s most notorious tough tracks such as the Gibb River Road, Anne Beadell Highway and many more.

Models changed and wider choices became available. Storage being a strong feature saw the introduction of models such as the T-Box and Trooper. With modular external cabinets and drawers around the trailer, it was easier to stay organised and have a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.

Arguably, the T-Box was one of the most popular soft floor camper trailers on the market, sealing well against dust and having enormous amounts of storage, it was a customer favourite.

Alongside the T-Box was the Trooper Extreme, similar in look and layout it had a fully galvanised frame and alloy checker plate body.

Not wanting to forget or leave out those wanting a less extreme camping experience but still wanting the benefits of a soft floor camper trailer, MDC continued with the Semi Off Road model for those that wanted to tow behind their “soft roaders” and family sedans, and for those with larger families, behind their people mover. Light, affordable and with next to no waiting time on delivery, families more in tune to holiday parks snapped up the Semi Off Road soft floor in their hundreds.

As with most things in life, often people want more. More space, more bed, more comfort, and this demand is what spawned soft floor camper trailers such as the Stepthrough. The Stepthrough allowed a walk up to the bed area and also allowed for a king size bed. Still a full off road soft floor camper, people could have that little bit of extra comfort, and many took up the opportunity.

The kitchen even had a built in cooktop taking convenience in soft floors higher.

As we headed towards 2020, the tastes of camper trailer owners was becoming more refined and with the introduction of affordable hard floor campers, peoples buying choices started to favour the more stylish and faster to set up style of camper we mostly see today. At first rear folds were what people were more used to seeing and the demand was met with MDC products that started from quite basic and economical up to well featured and spacious.

The Ranger Rear Fold was the MDC entry level rear fold, featuring full off road capabilities and having all the basics such as water storage, electric water pump, slide out kitchen and annex, it was an affordable, quick to set up and easy to tow camper. For just $10,999 it was a small step up in price from a soft floor camper for a far greater return in convenience and comfort.

For those wanting more, the Venturer Rear Fold offered more space, more features and convenience than just about all other rear folds on the market. Options in electronics, storage layouts and ease of use and setup was beginning to make soft floors all but obsolete. Boasting more battery power, more water storage, hot water heating and state of the art electronics for charging, the Venturer and Venturer Cape York Edition were a juggernaut in sales success.

With a kid’s room attachment and a massive annex, small and medium size families had an affordable option with enough space and far more convenience than soft floor campers.

Hard floor campers were also proving themselves to be extremely capable off road despite having the added weight over a soft floor and were far more convenient when travel required daily setup and pack up on the road than a time consuming soft floor camper setup.

Forward fold campers were on the scene at the time, but it appeared that the market was so used to rear fold campers that they were seemingly overlooked for some time. That was all about to change, and the market started to embrace the forward fold concept. With an advantage over soft floor campers and rear folds of setting up on its own footprint and being exceptionally good at being setup on uneven ground, the forward fold market quickly began overtaking traditional soft floor and rear fold camper trailers.

Offering a built in lounge/dining area that converts to a second bed, being well off the ground and able to be set up in under ten minutes in their basic form, forward fold campers were now the prime market in camper trailers.

By now campers had come a long way in every aspect, design, build quality, features and ergonomics were making it easier to get away on a Friday night with minimal setup on arrival.

Soft floor campers were still around and sought after by larger families, but the death blow to these much loved campers was about to land in the form of the dual fold camper. Able to offer in camper sleeping for 6 or more, all of a sudden soft floor campers that were in demand because of large families were competed against by a camper with just as much space but only a small portion of the required setup time, and features that couldn’t be accommodated in a soft floor.

A bed at each end, a lounge that converts to a third bed, built in hot water, 200 litres of freshwater storage, massive front storage cabinets and everyone sleeping well off the ground was too much for people to pass up. The introduction of the Robson XTT Dual Fold Camper tipped the scales and was the demise of the soft floor camper market for MDC.

In 2022, we have reached a point where the development of campers has made one of its own, (the soft floor camper trailer) a relic of sorts. In a world that wants fast, convenient, and minimal effort, it has lost its place to the current crop of high tech, lithium powered glamping trailers. Many of us that were there in the days of the soft floor boom look back nostalgically at great trips and experiences we have had in soft floors and will never forget them. MDC has continued to advance our camper trailers to be able to suit our customers needs and wants. We continue to expand our range so that you can escape with confidence. 

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