Built for the intrepid outdoors enthusiast who likes a little extra comfort, the Burke and Wills Simpson XL swag is the company’s flagship model. And with its durable build, versatile design and roomy interior, it’s easy to see why. Burke and Wills is well known for its Australian made swags and oil skins and has been supplying the market since 1975.
Who it’s for: Campers and off-roaders looking for a top-of-the-range swag and who are prepared to pay a bit extra for a superior product.
What we like: A robust swag that is built to take anything you can throw at it; cross section poles at the head end allow it to stand freely; large size you plenty of room to move.
What we don’t: The design puts some pressure on the zips, making them difficult to open and close at times. This isn’t a huge issue but was slightly annoying.
We were impressed with the quality of the Burke and Wills Simpson XL swag
When we got the opportunity to review the Simpson XL swag from Burke and Wills, our first impressions were very positive. The thick, waterproof canvas and top-level craftsmanship made us really keen to get off-grid and give it a proper spin. So we decided to put it through its paces by heading to the Grampians National Park in western Victoria on a rainy day in the middle of winter. What could possibly go wrong? Luckily for us, the Simpson XL held its own.
Everything about the Simpson XL swag from Burke and Wills tells you it’s a portable shelter built to last. Made from 16oz Ripstop Stormguard Canvas (which is both waterproof and rot proof), it only takes a cursory look to see that this canvas is extremely heavy-duty and is not going to let you down in a hurry.
Unlike some other swags we’ve tried, the poles don’t feel like they’re going to snap under the pressure when you bend them into place and, once up, feel nice and solid.The pegs are decent and didn’t bend when we hammered them in.
The Simpson XL features heavy-duty zips and hardware
Hardware and stitching
All the hardware on this swag – from the zips and velcro, to the eyelets, clips and pins – is as rugged as you could hope. This, combined with well-stitched canvas, leaves you feeling confident this swag isn’t going to need repairs anytime soon.
Setting up the Simpson XL is a straightforward process (which is a good thing considering it doesn’t come with instructions in the box). Two poles slot through canvas sleeves at the top of the swag and are secured down the side with plastic clips and a metal pin at each end.
The cross section design of these head end poles means the swag can be used as a totally free-standing shelter if needed. For the full set-up, there’s another pole that can be set up at the foot end before pegging the swag down with a guy rope at each end.
The Simpson is completely free-standing thanks to its cross section poles
This is definitely a swag for those looking for a little extra comfort. The 75mm high-density mattress (with zip-off cover) ensures a stray tree root or rock isn’t going to ruin a good night’s sleep and provides enough support that you don’t feel the hard ground beneath you.
The Simpson XL is also really spacious inside with plenty of room to move around. It’s 2150mm long so there’s plenty of foot room for most people. And at 1100mm wide, it comes close to the width of many double swags. The cross section poles elevate the head end to a height of 800mm, meaning you can almost sit up inside – making getting changed, for example, much easier.
It was a cold, wet night in the Grampians (it got down to around 2 degrees C) but it stayed warm and toasty inside the swag. The Simpson felt well-insulated from above and below with no cold felt through the mattress.
There’s a handy pocket at the head end where you can store items like a torch, keys and wallet so you don’t have to grope around in the dark if you need to get up in the night. There’s also a small hook overhead to hang a small light or torch on.
Getting in and out was really easy. You just zip off the top panel and fold it back, from here you can sit in the swag, take your boots off and slide in.
Doormat/ boot bag
Another great feature on the Burke and Wills Simpson XL swag is the PVC doormat-come-boot-bag. It’s a simple addition but it’s one of those little things that makes life a whole lot easier. As you slip off your boots to get into the swag, you can zip them up in this handy bag so they’re nice and dry, and easily accessible, in the morning.
There’s a mesh panel at the top of the head end and this is covered on the outside by a canvas flap to ensure no rain gets in if the weather turns bad. There are also triangular windows on each side of the swag for added airflow on dry nights.
In addition to this, there’s a zip off panel at the foot of the swag that can be used both for ventilation and to access anything you have stored in the little annex.
There is a handy little annex and ventilation flap at the base of the swag
The Simpson XL has a canvas base which adds breathability and reduces condensation compared to a synthetic-bottomed swag. This, combined with the many ventilation panels, should minimise any condensation.
That said, some condensation did build up on the inside of the swag overnight – not enough to be a problem though. And considering the outside temperature, some condensation was to be expected.
Possibly one of our favourite features of the Simpson XL is the ability to completely zip off the top canvas panel, leaving only the full length fly mesh between you and the stars. The mesh also zips off all the way making it easy to sleep in any configuration you choose. These features, combined with the aforementioned windows and zip-off panels, make for a very versatile swag.
One drawback of the above design is that it does seem to put some tension on the zip. While it’s doubtful there’s any danger of the zip being damaged under the strain, it does make it a little difficult to open and close the swag at times.
The Simpson's top panel zips off completely
Sleeping in this swag you certainly feel fully protected from the elements. Watching the rain bead and roll off the thick canvas was further reassurance that, no matter what the weather's like outside, you’re not going to get wet inside this swag.
Before heading out to the Grampians National Park we conditioned the swag by spraying it with a garden hose and letting it dry out. But even during this process, the inside of the swag stayed completely dry.
Water beads off the canvas on the Simpson XL
Rolled size and weight
Due to the thick canvas and large overall size of the swag, it is quite bulky when rolled up. Although, weighing in at 12kg, it’s still pretty easy to get in and out of the ute. The Simpson XL rolls up easily and the straps sewn onto the floor of the swag make it easy to clip up the bundle nice and tight.
The swag rolls up in to a tidy (though quite large) bundle
Price and Warranty
With an RRP of $499, the Simpson XL from Burke and Wills is more expensive than than many swags but, in our opinion, if you can afford to spend a bit extra it’s well worth the money. The Simpson XL swag also comes with a lifetime Burke and Wills product guarantee.
Overall, we were very impressed with the Burke and Wills Simpson XL. The canvas and construction are of top quality, lending the swag a ruggedness that makes the user confident they’ll be well protected from the elements for many years to come. The canvas base – aside from any practical benefits – is just altogether nicer than a PVC base and adds to the top-shelf appeal of the swag. It’s comfortable, roomy and easy to get into and out of.
The only negative we found was the zips getting stuck at times when zipping/unzipping overhead due to the pull from each end of the swag. However, this was a minor annoyance and definitely wouldn’t be a deal-breaker for us.
If you’re prepared to part with a few extra dollars for a top-of-the-range swag, the Burke and Wills Simpson XL should definitely be on your short list.
The product tested in this review was supplied by the brand. We thank Burke and Wills Australia for the sample provided.