Hero Ranger review

Hero Ranger Review

Paul Owen goes back to the future as he takes a wander through a new teardrop caravan that takes inspiration from some century-old aerodynamic mastery.

The ‘teardrop’ shape has long been embraced by aerodynamicists because of the way it slips efficiently and effortlessly through the oncoming airstream, creating the least disturbance and turbulence.

For this reason, Ernst Henne wore a teardrop-shaped helmet when he set 76 new speed records for motorcycles between 1929 and 1937 while racing down Germany’s recently built autobahns astride his supercharged BMW. It was a headpiece that could have inspired the cycling helmets used in time trials today. The aero-friendly shape also framed the design of a host of lightweight camping trailers throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, some of which placed so little demand on the towing vehicle that they could even be hauled by motorcycles.

By the 1960s, petrol had become more readily available and accessible, as had cars, and the popularity of the teardrop-shaped camping trailer began to decline in favour of larger, heavier, more spacious brick-shaped caravans. Fast forward six decades, and the ‘teardrop’ camping trailer is now making a comeback, possibly for the way it oozes retro-cool as much as for its aerodynamic efficiency when towed.

Naturally, if you’re Danish then it’s the latter that matters, because the Danes as a nation appear to be more conscious of the need to reduce global CO2 emissions than most. Hence when #HeroCamper set itself up in Esbjerg, Denmark, the aim was to bring a range of affordable, well-made, fuel-frugal teardrop camping trailers to market, like the Ranger model sampled here.

It’s a business that has taken off, especially as the trailers tend to attract a younger, more adventurous buyer demographic. Hero Campers are now sold by 150 dealers in 20 countries worldwide. Here, the campers are distributed by Hamilton’s RV Supplies Ltd., to a network that includes the best-selling New Zealand dealership, Tristram European, which finds the camping trailers to be a good fit with buyers attracted to their usual wares: the SUVs and estate wagons made by Volkswagen, Skoda, Audi, and MG.

Hero Ranger review
Fully optioned, the Hero Ranger looks ready for anything
Hero Ranger review
The Danish-made Ranger is the caravan equivalent of a Swiss army knife

HOW THE RANGER ROLLS

The Hero slogan ‘Get Out and Stay Home’ is written in large letters on three sides of the Ranger, effectively summing up the kind of lifestyle that owning one will enable. For this isn’t a camping solution where you stay huddled inside four walls, staring out of windows.

You’ll have to go outside to cook, for example; raising the large curved rear tailgate reveals a stainless steel kitchen unit divided into three sections. At the left is a stack of three drawers, while at the centre is a cupboard with a slider designed house something like a Dometic 40L 12V/240V fridge, and the right-side cupboard located beneath the sink houses the 30L freshwater tank that feeds the tap, leaving room for extra stowage.

It’s a kitchen that encourages Ranger owners to add a few handy accessories to improve it. Many fit a gas bottle in the checker plate storage compartment located on the drawbar, then get a gas line plumbed to the rear kitchen so that a BBQ can be plugged in and used there. Another good addition is to have an electric hotplate installed there, powered by the 240V plugs located in the left side kitchen corner along with USB sockets. The final finishing touch is the Danish Isabella Windjammer rear awning (a $1,950 option) that can be quickly attached to the rear tailgate to fully weatherproof the kitchen area, and is large enough to create a dining room with the addition of some outdoor furniture.

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The interior of the Hero can be accessed via a door on either side, and there’s a minimalist Scandinavian vibe to the interior of the teardrop. The arrangement of mattresses and squabs encourages you to sit facing the rear of the trailer with your back comfortably resting against the upright squabs resting against mounts attached to the inside front wall. Here, you face a beautifully crafted pair of metal cupboards and a beautifully trimmed bench that’s handy for creating a work/entertainment station. Below the bench there’s enough legroom left so that you can lower yourself down to the mattresses, lie down, and stretch out. A matrix of sprung plastic supports aerates and suspends the lower mattresses creating a comfortable king size bed (2.0m x 1.5).

With a decent amount of storage available behind the back supports, it adds up to a cosy place to hang out, complete with an abundance of LED strip lighting that can be adjusted to add either more ambience or more illumination. It’s also well-insulated, the ‘Thermo Proove’ sandwich construction of the walls, floor and roof enabling it to stay “warm and cosy down to -21 degrees Celsius” according to #HeroCamper. Heating options include thermostat-controlled heating, with the choice of either diesel or electric. It’s probably a good idea to upgrade the standard 30Ah battery of the Ranger if choosing the latter. The Hero can also be powered from the towing vehicle via the optional DC/AC converter as befitting for a camping trailer made in a country where every second vehicle is electrically powered. (To check out how compatible the Hero is with an electric tow vehicle, tune into the Spectrum Geeks channel on YouTube.)


The design is deliberately chosen with one thing in mind: to keep the footprint of the camping trailer as minimal as possible. With the standard $32,275 Hero Ranger weighing just 827kg before the addition of any accessories, it’s an easy camping solution to move just with human muscle. That ease of movement when you’re unhooked bodes well for big energy savings for any vehicle selected to tow the Hero (see sidebar).

Hero Ranger review
The lower mattress is sized to provide a king-sized double bed
Hero Ranger review
The doors may be small but there’s plenty of room inside
Hero Ranger review
Additions like the Sky box and rear awning complete the camper

REACH FOR THE SKY

All Hero Rangers come with a rack and attendant side ladders, giving the option of two hard-top ‘Skybox’ compartments to add another bedroom on top. The choice is between the three-berth Kepler Skybox or the easier to deploy two-berth Galileo, which rises automatically on gas struts after the release of the restraining loops. Both offer more than two metres of memory-foam mattress length and come with their own ladders. However, the narrower Galileo is lighter at 63kg instead of 90kg. Both require fitting a $575 mounting bar, and the Kepler costs $5,595 versus $4,495 for the Galileo. Further accessories for the Hero Ranger include an extra stabiliser leg ($325) for fitting to the drawbar (two legs come standard at the rear), axle protecting armour for off-road use ($625), checker plate wheel arches ($1,595), side mounted spare wheel (1,995) and extra bedside storage ($1,175).

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With the starting points of $32,275 for the Ranger and $33,750 for the Ranger Limited Edition (different paint scheme, more offroad-oriented wheels/tyres), you could spend up to $43,340 and $46,485 for the fully equipped versions by ticking every box. Be prepared for your caravan-owning friends to chime that ‘you could have got a proper caravan for that’. The best comeback is: ‘yeah, right, but it wouldn’t have looked as cool.’ Nor would that larger brick-on-wheels make your holiday fuel budget go as far.

Hero Ranger review
The slide-out kitchen unit is cleverly designed to create maximum storage
Hero Ranger review
With a camping trailer this light, your hook-up will never be easier
Hero Ranger review
Double-glazed windows have privacy and insect blinds

A TOWING HERO

Tristram European’s West Auckland dealership kindly loaned a 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace seven-seat SUV to tow the Hero Ranger with. There was just the one problem to solve before heading to the Huapai Golf Club for our early-morning photo shoot: the 2.3m width of the Hero made it pretty hard to see what was behind it with only the stock Tiguan side mirrors.

It was a problem solved in minutes by breaking out a $195 set of Milenco Platinum Grand Aero towing mirrors from RV & Marine Supplies. These can be attached quickly with their hand wheels; the only tool required is a small screwdriver to attach the mirror heads to the mounting bars.

With stainless steel and brass in key areas to ensure reliability and prevent salt corrosion – particularly useful in this ocean-wrapped country – these large mirrors are cleverly designed to fit well and securely, and are tapered to improve fuel efficiency by reducing aerodynamic drag. The Milencos can extend to a width of 2.5m on a compact SUV, more than enough to provide a clear rear view past the wheel arches of the Hero to the road behind. The brackets that attach to the mirrors of the tow vehicle are well insulated from vibration by rubber strips, and when it came time to remove the Milencos after returning the Tiguan to the dealership, these strips had completely protected the exterior paint. These mirrors will become a life-long towing visibility solution for their ability to be easily attached and removed from any vehicle without leaving scratches or marks.

Once hooked up, the Tiguan easily shouldered the burden of towing a fully optioned Hero that probably weighed around 925kg. The four-cylinder 2.0litre turbo-petrol engine develops 162kW of power and 350Nm of driving force, and is capable of delivering these maximums to all four wheels as required via a seven-speed dual clutch gearbox. Expect to use around 9.1litres/100km on average when towing a camping trailer as light as the Hero Ranger.

Hero Ranger review
The problem was solved in minutes with these towing mirrors

Hero Ranger Specifications

Chassis

German-made galvanised Knott trailer with beam single axle

Overall Dimensions

4.78mL x 2.3mW x 2.32mH (with no Skybox fitted)

Rack Dimensions/max. load

2.08m x 1.35m/500kg (parked), 200kg (mobile)

Berths

Up to 5

Freshwater tank

30L

GVW

200kg (unladen mass: 827kg)

 

Thanks Matthieu Molina, a passionate Hero Ranger owner, for sharing photos of his family trips in the camper. You can access Matthieu’s excellent videos of the Hero on his YouTube channel or via his Instagram page.

Price as reviewed: From $32,275

Looking for motorhomes or caravans for sale in NZ? Browse our latest listings here

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