This week, Opus announced the forthcoming launch of their latest model, the AirOPUS, so I thought now would be an appropriate time to do a review of this innovative, and inherently cool, camper.
The Opus Camper first gained mainstream recognition when it appeared on the television show; The Apprentice, in 2013. The company, subsequently, appeared on Dragons Den. last year, albeit it, purely, as a PR exercise.
The Opus is built by Purple Line, the caravan accessory designers and manufacturers. A few years ago, the company decided that they should not just design for the recreational vehicle market, but, actually, get involved with it, and the Opus Camper was conceived.
The Opus Camper is, unusually, a five berth folding camper, but with a traditional six berth camper layout. The reason for the loss of one berth is that the U shaped seating area, in the Opus, only makes up to a single bed, as opposed to the, more traditional, double of its competitors.
The layout of the Opus is exactly the same as most, if not all, six berth models on the market, today. Entry is via a near side door, towards the front of the camper. To your left is a small storage cupboard, beyond that, the first double bed. Directly opposite the door is the kitchen unit, and to the right of the door, a second storage unit. Towards the back is the U shaped seating area, and, beyond that, the second double bed. The layout is where the similarity with other models largely ends, and you can very much see that it was built by a team of ‘designers’, as it does have one or two issues in terms of practicality, but more on that later.
The Opus Camper is extremely sturdy, and is, actually, the heaviest model available on the UK market. Weighing in at 1,050kg, for the basic model, it is 50kg heavier than largest competitors the Pennine Pathfinder and Conway Crusader. Not only is it the heaviest, though, it, also, has an pretty impressive payload. At 250kg, it is 70kg more than that of the Pathfinder’s 180kg limit.
When folded, the Opus is 416cm long (including tow hitch) x 195cm wide x 127cm high. Once opened out, on site, it is 580cm long, with both beds extended, x 127cm wide.
Opus were, originally, a little economical with the truth when it comes to the dimensions of their ‘full awning’. It was quoted as 620cm x 240cm. Sounds very impressive, until you realise it was considerably shorter than the main trailer unit. The latter is only 580cm long, so how can a much shorter awning be 620cm? It would appear that the answer lies with the optional extension pods. A little naughty, when you bear in mind that these add a further £398 to the price of the awning. The latest version of the brochure has now been amended, and the full awning is now sold, with pods included, however, the price has increased, still further, to a whopping £1,499.
Review / Appraisal
I have to say, I really love this camper. The main reason I love it, however is that it is just so cool, and different from anything else on the market. Unfortunately, therein, also, lies its core weakness. The Opus Camper is a designer’s dream, but I can’t help feeling, in certain areas, it is a triumph of style over practicality. It looks undeniably brilliant, but how usable is it on a day to day basis, and how much is this exclusivity going to cost us?
Pretty much everything on the Opus is an extra. At the time of writing, the base model will set you back £12,995. Ok. Not horrendously scary, until you look at what it doesn’t include, compared to its competitors. Just to bring the Opus up to the level of an equivalent competitor, you are likely to need the following:
- Alloy wheels (£399)
- Spare wheel & carrier (£199)
- Cover (£99)
- Carpet (£149)
- Dometic fridge (£349)
- Awning (£1,499)
These are just the basic extras, and take the cost of, even, a standard model to £15,689. Compare that to something like the latest Pennine Pathfinder, at £13,995, and you start to realise just how far behind the Opus is, in terms of equipment levels. Almost £2,000 more, and it has no toilet, oven, or, even, hot water.
Fortunately, it’s not as bad as it appears. Opus, also, offer a range of other variants on the model, up to the ‘Full Monty’ incorporating a wealth of options, including the full awning and leatherette seating. At a cost of £14,995, this represents, according to Opus, a saving of £2,610 on retail value. It’s still £1,000 more than the Pathfinder, though, and, still, without a proper toilet or hot water.
On the subject of extras, the overall list is pretty impressive, with many extras being unavailable in any other model on the market. Once again, though, some of them will put a pretty sizeable hole in your pocket.
Some of the options available include;
- Premium body colours (£999)
- Luxury body colours (£1,499)
- Sound system (£499)
- Cinema system (£999)
- Sun canopy (£299)
- Side skirts (£299)
This is far from an exhaustive list of options available for this model, and you could spend well over twenty grand on one, without running out of extras to buy for it.
OK, so, back to the every day basics of the camper, and what it’s like to use. As mentioned, above, the Opus Camper could be described as a bit of a triumph of style over practicality. So. what does that mean in reality?
Well, firstly, there is no denying that the Opus is one cool camper, and a great space to relax in. Another great thing about it is the interior height and head room. The main cabin height is 244cm max, or 8 foot. Most folding campers struggle to get over 6 foot of headroom. Add this to the clear plastic roof lights in the Opus, and it really does give an airy and spacious interior to the cabin area.
I can’t help feeling, though, that the Opus canvas always looks like it doesn’t quite fit. I think this is, probably, just down to the fact that all other folding camper models are set up in such a way as to pull the canvas taut over the main frame. The Opus doesn’t comply with this ‘norm’ and sits in a far more casual manner across the light weight aluminium poles. At the end of the day, I think the appeal, or not, of this will, largely, be down to the individual user.
Storage in the Opus is adequate, but not great. There is plenty under the main seating area, but the kitchen and cupboards either side of the door are a little lacking, compared to other models. There is a small cupboard to the left of the door, as you walk in. There is an option to have this replaced with a ‘toilet cubicle’, however, this is little bigger than the porta potti it comes with, and not practical to use as an actual toilet area, simply to store one in.
Storage in the kitchen area, although reasonably comprehensive, is mainly comprised of open shelving, designed to house storage baskets, or similar. There is also space for the optional (£99) microwave. Kitchen equipment, also, leaves a bit to be desired, in a camper with this price tag. There is, as standard, a two burner hob (no grill) and sink, with no hot water. On that note, I did speak to Opus, last month, and they assured me that hot water is very much on the wish list for the near future, so that will be a bonus, if / when it happens.
A Dometic fridge is an option, at £349.
Unfortunately, however, it sits on top of one of the cupboards, thereby losing the available surface space of that cupboard.
That wouldn’t be an issue, if the fridge were not top opening, meaning that anything stored on top of it must be moved every time you wish to gain access to the fridge.
Although there is no hot water in the Opus, it does have an electric blown air heater, mounted into the kitchen unit. This heater, along with the insulated aluminium trailer panels and heavy duty poly cotton canvas mean that this camper is reasonably well equiped to deal with some of the more inclement British weather.
The awning of the Opus is, to say the least, unusual. It is only the width of the main trailer body, but is extended to the full width of the camper by the addition of two extension pods. These are no longer optional, so the awning is a pretty expensive option, considering the actual available living area in it is far smaller than comparable models.
In a seemingly tireless attempt to re design the marque, regardless of practical application, Opus have brought out a number of variants, with varying degrees of success. The first, and most practical, of these was the Opus Drifter. This is, basically, an off road version of the camper, which was designed, primarily, for the Australian market, where it seems to have been reasonably well received.
Another experimental model, which is yet to hit the mainstream market was the Opus Moto. This model was designed specifically for the moto cross market. Its chassis was up rated to allow it to carry two moto cross bikes on top. It, also, incorporates a 500kg crane, to lift the bikes on and off. This crane then folds away inside the camper, when in transit. Who on Earth ever thought that would be a good idea? (Style over practicality again). Firstly, the market is relatively niche for a folding camper, especially when most involved in the sport prefer to transfer them in a standard van, or on a standard trailer. Secondly, having a crane that folds inside the camper means that you, automatically, lose the only decent sized storage area in the whole camper, and, thirdly, the up rated specifications takes the gross weight of the Opus Moto to a whopping 1,550kg, meaning that most people who would tend to use it are unlikely to be able to tow it on their post 1997 driving licences, not to mention the large number of smaller cars that would struggle to legally tow it. Great planning there, Opus.
The most recent, and, potentially, equally poorly conceived, model is the AiROPUS, which was announced earlier this week, and is scheduled for release in 2017. This is a self inflating canopy for the main trailer, which allows the AiROPUS to self erect, to a certain extent. Like most things Opus, it looks really cool, and your first impression is, usually; Wow! I want one”! Then you look at what it actually does. You still have to open the bed boards out manually, and attach the canvas, yourself. Basically, the air system inflates the air beams and tensions the canvas. Hold on. Isn’t that what we do when we push the main poles up? So we are paying goodness only knows how much to automate a process that is, perhaps, the easiest part of the whole procedure, and only takes a matter of seconds, anyway. Oh dear. It’s a little bit like buying a ‘self driving’ car, and then finding out that all it, actually, does is operate the indicators for you.
The Opus Camper is, undoubtedly the coolest folding camper on the market, at the moment, but, boy, does that come at a cost? There are some really nice features, like the leatherette seating, and huge eight foot of head room, but you have to seriously question the logic of any company that provides a £1,000 home cinema as an optional extra, but can’t muster the basics, like hot water or a ‘proper’ toilet.
The Opus design is inherently flawed in so many ways, and, yet, to many, that simply wont matter. In the same way that the average Lamborghini driver is unlikely to be worried about rear visibility, or space for the shopping, I suspect that Mr and Mrs Opus are unlikely to be overly phased by its apparent short comings. If you love the Conway and Pennine models, you will, probably, hate it, however, if you find traditional folding camper styling a little less than exciting, and you have very deep pockets, the Opus Camper may well be worth a closer look.
Personally, whilst I’m very much aware of the limitations of this model, I can’t help feeling more than a bit of love for it. That said, given fifteen grand to spend, I would be straight down to Pennine, for a new Pathfinder, plus a bit of left over spending money. Fortunately, for Opus, though, we aren’t all the same.
If you think the Opus Camper might just be what you are looking for, why not rent one for a night, under their ‘try before you buy’ scheme, which includes a camper and pitch at their North Essex camp site. The cost, of £100, for a night, is refundable against any subsequent purchase of an Opus Camper, so you can’t say fairer than that.
If you’d like to know a little more, feel free to check out their main web site, or give them a call on 01473 601200. You can, also, check out the Opus Page on our Web Site for more model details, and a number of videos. If you want to check out the release video of the AiROPUS, you can do so here.