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iMotorhome caravan +

Jul 2019

TEARDROPS? RETRO IS ALIVE AND WELL...

SPLASH CAMPER I BRITZ EVOLVE READER WRITES - PT 2 1 I RV FRIENDLY TOWNS


This is living Just arrived. The latest in premium motorhoming with the 2019 Bürstner Lyseo Harmony Line. New features of the range include a more spacious entertaining area with twin couch layout, and a groundbreaking dropdown island bed. Create your ‘apartment on the road’ with a choice of interior styles in Bürstner’s innovative wohnfühlen design combined with premium fittings for a modern, comfortable home away from home.

Come and see the new Lyseo range at our sales centre in Auckland and Christchurch. Or visit smartrv.co.nz Motorhome in photo: Carado T449

Exclusively distributed in New Zealand by

11 Pavilion Drive, Airport Oaks, Auckland | 3 Export Ave, Harewood, Christchurch | 0800 005 312 (NZ) | imotorhome@smartrv.co.nz | smartrv.co.nz


iMotorhome + Caravan iMotorhome + Caravan is free and published monthly. Dowload the app today to enhance your reading experience! All back issues can be found HERE Publisher/Managing Editor Richard Robertson (+61) 0414 604 368 richard@imotorhome.com.au

Road Tests

Malcolm Street (+61) 0418 256 126 malcolm@imotorhome.com.au

Technical

Allan Whiting (+61) 0410 677 966 allan@imotorhome.com.au

Business/Advertising

Neil Hobbs (+61) 0418 295 575 neil@imotorhome.com.au

Design

Agnes Nielsen agnes@imotorhome.com.au

Regular Contributors Emily Barker Sharon Hollamby Phil McLeod

Š 2019 iMotorhome Pty Ltd. All content of iMotorhome + Caravan magazine and website is copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the Publisher.

Published by iMotorhome Pty Ltd PO Box 1738, Bowral. NSW 2776. Australia. ABN: 34 142 547 719 T: +614 14 604 368 E: info@imotorhome.com.au W: www.imotorhome.com.au

While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of content, however no responsibility is accepted for any inconvenience and/or loss arising from reading and/or acting upon information contained within iMotorhome + Caravan magazine or on the website.

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ON MY MIND

Surprise!

I

t’s time for a new look and refocus, so welcome to iMotorhome + Caravan! Agnes, our designer, is taking a well deserved break after seven-plus years and so the new design and at least the next few issues are all down to me. What do you think? Apologies in advance for any foibles, but you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks. I bet you never thought you’d see something without an engine on the cover? Surprise indeed, eh?

Those of you who still have subscriptions running I truly thank you for your support and belief in what we do. While I know this news will be disappointing, in essence, nothing has changed: You’ll continue to get the same ‘best’ magazine as before, only now there won’t be a renewal bill at the end. Thanks for your understanding and support of our ‘brave’ experiment.

If a week is a long time in politics, a year is a lifetime in publishing. Relentless competition from Facebook and Google continues to erode print and digital publishing incomes, while largely, people still don’t want to pay for online content. It’s a vicious circle and one that continues to shake out this business – witness the demise of Caravan & Motorhome Magazine earlier this year. Both Malcolm and I cut our RV writing teeth at that magazine some 20 years ago and it always claimed to have the biggest readership in the genre (ironically, right up until the end). Knowing how profit driven its publisher is, it obviously realised that making a buck from an RV title just wasn’t worth the effort – and I can understand that. To combat falling advertising revenue, last August we switched to a paid subscription model in the hope at least half our subscribers would be prepared to part with two dollars a month. At the time the decision was also made to give it a go until the end of the financial year. With the results in and a take-up rate of less than 20 percent, the time arrived for some hard decisions. To those who supported us with your hard earned cash, thank you! However, because we didn’t achieve ‘critical mass’ we remained an advertising funded publication; hence the introduction of iMotorhome Magazine Lite last September to keep our advertisers’ messages out there. That in itself created extra work and some degree of confusion, and with too few paying readers I’ve decided to simplify things and return to a free magazine.

Why + Caravan?

S

pecialising in motorhomes and campervans gave us a real point of difference, but it hampered our ability to attract advertisers. After all, most companies we talk to have products that sit across the RV spectrum and want the most bang for their adverting buck – and who can blame them? So, after much soul searching and the odd bottle of red, the decision was made to embrace ‘the dark side’.

That means all issues inside the app are now free and all issues of iMotorhome Magazine Lite have gone. On the website it’s basically the same: All previously hidden paid issues are now available and free to download, while all Lite issues have been removed. Ditto on issuu.com. Yep, it’s just like ‘the good old days’...

The good news is motorhomes and campervans will remain our primary focus. On the caravan/camper trailer front, we’ll especially be on the lookout for the interesting and unusual. And, we’ll continue to cover New Zealand, although talking Mr Street into covering ‘towables’ is proving a challenge! 4


ON MY MIND

Moving Forward

W

In 2020 we’re looking at running escorted motorhome tours again (yeah!) – New Zealand and Route 66 – and will have more information later in the year. They will be variations of the highly successful tours we ran in 2017 and hopefully just the beginning of some exciting and unusual tours to follow. Stay tuned.

here do we go from here? Our app – in the process of being rebranded as iMotorhome + Caravan – becomes central to things. While delivering an excellent reading experience it also has a range of features that will help us attract advertisers and we really need you to install and use it if at all possible. What are the app’s advantages? 1. It’s self contained, so not cluttered with other publications. 2. It lets you download issues for offline reading. 3. To save space you can delete issues when read, but re-download if desired. 4. Enabling notifications means we can send you a message (push notification) when a new issue is ready – no need for email and less clutter in your inbox. 5. The Categories list at the bottom of the main menu lets you bring up issues with specific content, i.e. brand, class, style, article topic, etc. It’s not a full content search feature, but still very useful. 6. A search bar at the top lets you search for words in the issues’ descriptions, i.e. specific vehicle or travel destination. 7. Push notifications will also let us share breaking news, emergency advice, flash sales and special offers – but we promise not to bombard you. 8. New functionality is being developed that will let us add features like basic navigation, the best rental deals and even an online store, just for starters.

Reader weekends will return, although not for this year as we ‘regroup’, perhaps with two a year now we only have one magazine to produce! Last but certainly not least, Neil Hobbs (of Duvalay Australia fame) has joined us as Business and Advertising Manager. Many of you will know Neil and what a powerhouse of passion and energy he is. While his excellent Duvalay business continues, Neil becomes a part of the iM+C ‘think tank’ and a valuable team member as we forge ahead. So there you have it, and yet it isn’t all. Other changes are in the pipeline which, if instigated, will be announced next issue. There’s a lot going on in our think tank at present and some of it could be a real surprise. Bet you’d like to be a fly on the wall...

Convinced? To download the app, iPhone/iPad users click HERE, Android users click HERE. For now, on the app you can download issues back to July 2018, and soon beyond. Those of you for whom even the word app causes palpitations, don’t worry. All issues will still be available to download from our website for a year at least.

But Wait There’s More

O

f course, there’s more. We’ve just launched the iMotorhome + Caravan Facebook Group, which will give you the chance to post questions, photos and comments, and share links and information, very much like a forum. It will work in tandem with the revitalised and renamed iMotorhome + Caravan Facebook Page and we’d love you to get involved. 5


CONTENTS

4 8 12 15 23 38

50

ON MY MIND Surprise indeed! Richard explains iMotorhome + Caravan

62

STREET VIEW Haere Mai! Malcolm recounts last week’s adventures in New Zealand

65

LETTERS Your chance to let us know what’s on your mind

72

NEWS A glimpse at what’s happening in the wide world of RVing

78

TESTED Southern Spirit Campervans’ Splash: Embracing Van Life!

TESTED Britz eVolve: The first production electric RV is a Kiwi rental!

6

TESTED Teardrop Campers’ Smidge: Proof that retro is alive and well...

PRODUCTS Tow-Pro 3 from Redarc is the latest generation of brake controller

READER Part 2 of Phil McLeod’s Tassie adventure that didn’t go to plan

SHEDRIVES Final installment of U.S. Millennial Marsha’s life changing adventures

RV FRIENDLY Three more country towns supporting our great way of life!


STREET VIEW

Haere Mai

I

’m currently in Auckland – well Miranda Springs on the Firth of Thames to be precise – and I’m in the middle of doing a couple of motorhome photo shoots. Unfortunately the weather has not been particularly kind as I’ve seen a good selection of rain and wind, plus the odd bout of sunshine (which usually occurs after I have given up waiting and moved on from an otherwise excellent location).

L

ast night I was staying in the holiday park at Orewa (north of Auckland) and was surprised by the number of caravans there. I mention that because there are a few people who look at New Zealand and Australia and think the respective country’s Recreational Vehicle industries are the same. They are similar, but whilst the caravan sector dominates in Australia, in New Zealand motorhomes are the dominant choice. There are other factors too, like the availability of a much greater range of imported RVs generally and only a few local manufacturers of both motorhomes and caravans. Australian manufacturers like Avida, Jayco and Apollo/ Winnebago have a presence here too.

Something that was somewhat less affected by the weather was a tour of the Action Manufacturing factory at Albany. Action, a part of the THL Group, manufacture a range of motorhomes for the Maui/ Britz/Mighty rentals in New Zealand and Australia. Additionally, it gets involved in light commercial truck builds for an interesting selection of organisations, including the Queensland Ambulance Service. My guide for the factory tour was Managing Director Grant Brady and we discussed a few items of mutual interest, including the issue of manufacturing standards. Both NZ and Australia use the same standards, but it’s the interpretation in different countries and states that causes problems! I was hoping to get my hands on one of the newest Everland motorhomes built by Action, but unfortunately there wasn’t one available at the time.

A

trivial thought occurred to me as I walked around the holiday park this morning: How do motorhome travellers make the decision to drive or reverse into their parking spot? It might be the way I drive (I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that - Ed), but I always back into parking spot unless there is a very good reason not to. Mostly, it’s because I do not like reversing out into road/traffic ways. Obviously, the score here was 50/50!

F

or a few days I’m getting around in a Wilderness Helix rental motorhome, otherwise known as a Carado T135. It’s a French-bed layout that’s 5.9 m (19’ 4) long, making it a relatively short motorhome. It also has an interesting feature: good ground clearance, requiring double electric steps. I mention that because I’ve seen a few Fiat Ducato motorhomes around here that have a very limited ground clearance and look like they might struggle on anything other than a flat sports field!

A

lso in my holiday park wander I came across this combo: A Spanish-built motorhome on an Italian chassis parked by another Italian. The Benimar Mileo isn’t big, but it stacked up quite well against the rather diminutive Fiat. Note in particular the Fiat’s registration plate, which gave me a laugh for the day! Haere Ra...

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Go wherever the road takes you. Literally.

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Discover the AppVantages...

Download issues to read offline and then delete to save space. Don’t worry, you can download again at any time

The Categories list lets you display issues with specific topics – like 4x4s, A-Class motorhomes or book reviews

Full page display is just the beginning. Links take you straight to stories while ads take you to their websites

Pages turn like a print mag, but without the need to cut down trees – or lug old copies to the tip for recycling! 10


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www.rvlifestylevillage.com.au 11


LETTERS

Sad News I just heard of Dave Berry’s passing an hour ago but felt very sad, having come over the course of the building of my Trakkadu AT to know many of the people there. Not that any reminder was ever needed but it certainly reinforces the notion of living every day as though it may be your last. I hope like hell that Trakka had a strong succession plan in place and that they can manage this calamity, Martin is a very steady guy and hopefully the business has War Gamed such an event. Kind regards, Peter (The guy who took your advice and bought a Trakkadu AT just 4 weeks ago and loving it.) Yes, incredibly sad news Peter. You’re quite right: No reminder is needed about living life to the full, but it certainly helps put things back into perspective. I’m sure Trakka will have a plan and as you said, Martin is a steady hand at the tiller. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the AT – I don’t know how you couldn’t. Safe travels mate and keeps living that life to the full.

Personal Viewpoint I was prompted to send an email after I read your last editorial about some very sad recent losses in your life. You wrote from a personal point of view - something I enjoy reading very much. You always add value to your magazine, which is not common among editors of magazines in my experience, as they are more likely to just summarise the contents of that month’s magazine in their editorials. You contribute thoughts, opinions, information and experiences that I find very interesting to read, and which give an insight into the industry. Thanks, Di. P.S. Did you recognise this handsome fellow in the photo I sent? I was having coffee at a Barcy cafe on the day before the Longest Line world record attempt when I overheard a conversation which contained the words "motorhome" and "New Zealand". I guessed that I was sitting next to one of your most famous magazine contributors. I ended up having an interesting conversation with him about his role in the world record attempt, up in the helicopter. Here is a better photo of Malcolm than currently appears in iMotorhome. I would gladly relinquish copyright if he would agree to its use – only if he doesn’t mind me being so cheeky. Good to hear from you again Di and thanks for your kind words. I try to keep iMotorhome ’real’ because we’re personally invested in it and it seems to connect with readers. Thanks for the pic of Mr Street, I’ve updated his bio pic in this issue, so thank you for your handiwork. Hope all is well and all the best until our next ‘chat’.

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RV FRIENDLY TOWNS


LETTERS

Different Beach Interesting read of the VW production line Beach camper. Liked the review on the vehicle’s overall capabilities. For the money, as a camper conversion, I think a better alternative would be Southern Spirit Campervans mini-campervan conversion of the Caddy. Advertised at $9k, I think it looks like Reimo components from Germany . Can actually sit, cook (if you want to) and stand up inside the van, as well as sleep. Has more storage, including a small fridge, and still keeps the 2nd row of seats. Can also increase storage removing left side 2nd row seat. Also an alternative is VanEssa boot package to create a basic camper package. About $5k I think. There is an agent, Southern Sydney VW dealership. Cheers, Tony. Thanks Tony, very interesting. In reality the Beach will probably be a young person’s ‘lifestyle choice’ thing, with serious campers looking elsewhere. You’re certainly right about both versions offering better value, especially in a lightly used Caddy, which could make a very attractive small campervan.

Flat Chat Just after some advice, can I flat tow a 2017 Suzuki LYS auto 2WD? Many thanks, Graeme. G’day Graeme, the bloke to chat with is Mark Blyton from Northcoach RV Equipment (see below!). He’s the guru as the company specialises in A-frames and he’ll be able to answer all your flat towing questions.

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NEWS

Dave Berry Farewelled Trakka founder and industry icon, Dave Berry, was farewelled by hundreds of family, friends, staff and industry colleagues at an informal but emotional service on Sydney’s Northern Beaches on Tuesday, 11 June. Ably lead by son Alister, with the support of sisters Alex and Lil, and Dave’s brother Mike, the service was as much a celebration of a life very well lived as it was a sad farewell. Afterwards, a true celebration was held in Mona Vale with the requirement to wear, "Your best party shirt", in honour of a man who loved nothing more than family and friends getting together for a good time. Dave’s passing marks a double blow for the Berry family as it came shortly after the fifth anniversary of the death of his wife and Trakka co-founder Sally. Despite the loss, Trakka General Manager Martin Poate says the business remains focused on moving forward and continuing the passion-driven innovation of its founders, as the baton passes to the second generation. iMotorhome + Caravan wishes Alister, Alex, Lil, Mike and the whole Trakka Team the very best as they regroup and find their way forward.

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NEWS

Truck Friendly Well Received An ambitious nationwide program to improve relationships between caravanners and truckies has been officially launched in Queensland. Bundaberg Mayor, Jack Dempsey, congratulated Truck Friendly founder, Ken Wilson, saying road safety was everyone’s responsibility and the initiative would help all drivers gain "Peace of mind" while on the road. Speaking at the CMCA RV Park in the Rum City, he said the number of caravans and RVs on our roads was increasing.

understand how to work with truck drivers. He said feedback on the program had been phenomenal.

"I want to say to everybody to get on board. If we can save just one life on the road that would be a magnificent thing."

"We are getting great support, with some comments asking why the Government is not doing more," he added.

Mr Wilson – an avid caravaner – says his program is based on a website, brochures and specially designed distinctive green stickers for RVs and trucks. It aims to make RV travellers better

Mr Wilson praised Bundaberg Regional Council for spearheading the program. Also on board are tourist information centres at Kingaroy, Gin Gin, Childers and Charleville, where program stickers are available.

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NEWS

Business As Usual The Motorhome Conversion Company has reassured customers they have nothing to fear after its finance arm was forced into liquidation. "It means nothing to the public, nothing at all," according to Managing Director and Owner, John Jeffreys. "Nobody is losing any money." The reassurance came after the Australian Securities and Investments Commission announced liquidators had been appointed for Motorhomesoz, following court proceedings brought by Scottish Pacific Trade Limited, a company incorporated in Hong Kong. Mr Jeffreys said the action followed a disagreement with SPT. "We had an arrangement which fell through. The Motorhome Conversion Company is the prime company while Motorhomesoz was a business within our business," he said. Founded by Mr Jeffreys in 2005, the Queenslandbased Motorhome Conversion Company converts buses and vans into custom motorhomes and campervans. While some RV manufacturers report a slowing down in sales, Mr Jeffreys reports his business is, "Doing okay. We are not breaking any records but we are having to work a lot harder and do more and more shows."he said.

Hobart Storage Fire Mystery Investigators have failed to determine a cause of the massive blaze that destroyed caravans and trailers at a warehouse in Tasmania. The damage bill is estimated to be approximately $3.5M, Tasmania Fire Service said today. "Fire Service investigators have completed an investigation and due to the severity of the fire, which completely destroyed the buildings and contents, the cause is undetermined," it added. Flames were spotted leaping from King Trailers warehouse on Creek Road at New Town, in Hobart’s north. One local resident reported hearing gas bottles exploding as the fire took hold and local residents were warned to take precautions against airborne smoke and ash. Career and volunteer fire crews from all over greater Hobart were called to the inferno. Tasmania Fire Service said the warehouse had collapsed and several million dollars worth of caravans and trailers were destroyed. Experts wearing special clothing were called in to decant gas from a leaking 100 kg ammonia cylinder into another tank. Machinery was brought in to allow investigators to access the site in order to determine the cause of the blaze. 18


NEWS

Tassie Caretakers Wanted Dorset Council in Tasmania is looking for new caretakers to take over the reins at its Bridport Seaside Caravan Park through to 2024. "This is a unique opportunity offering an excellent work/lifestyle balance and will suit a couple or an enterprising individual that enjoys the hustle and bustle of a popular holiday destination," the council says. Employment will be on a contract basis and include fully self-contained on-site accommodation with an attractive management package of between $180,000 to $200,000. It will also offer the ability to generate additional revenue from the on-site kiosk. Details can be obtained from www.dorset.tas.gov.au and submissions close Sunday 21 July 2019. Alternatively, call John Marik, director - corporate services, on 03 6352 6500.

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NEWS

Jayco Founder Leaves CIAA Board Gerry Ryan, founder and owner of industry giant Jayco, has resigned from the board of the Caravan Industry Association of Australia (CIAA), Australia’s peak body for the caravanning industry. Mr Ryan is being replaced by Jayco Chief Executive, Garry Moore, until the CIAA’s November annual general meeting, when he will be subject to renomination and election. In a statement the CIAA said, "There has been much achieved at a national level since the merger of CRVA and RVMAA back in 2014, and Gerry has provided incredible guidance and support during this time as a director, while making a significant contribution to the board. Gerry remains committed to Jayco and Caravan Industry Association of Australia." It also said the association was currently busy with trade-based compliance within the Industry. The board said it determined it was appropriate to fill the casual vacancy with an individual with the necessary background and experience, and that was determined to be Garry Moore. Mr Moore is reported as having a wealth of experience in manufacturing and engineering, and was executive general manager for Fisher and Paykel in Thailand and New Zealand.

Family Parks China First Family Parks, which operates a chain of 100 holiday parks throughout Australia and New Zealand, has set its sights on China. "I am proud to announce that the Family Parks flag has been raised across holiday parks in China for the first time," Chief executive Karl Heyman said.

"We welcome Garry and look forward to his valuable contribution over the coming months," the statement said. "We thank Gerry for his dedicated service to "Our mutual partnership with Sunshine Glamping the National Board and look forward to working with Parks now sees our brand proudly on display across Garry over the coming months." multiple holiday parks, initially targeting both Beijing and the south coast." Beijing is regarded as one of the main tourist gates for the Great Wall of China, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Caravanning is increasing in popularity in the People’s Republic, with more ‘red ants’ (as they are called) taking to the road or holidaying in on-site caravans.

Garry Moore

"Our assessment is that this partnership will be a stepping stone to many other holiday parks in China carrying the Family Parks brand in a short space of time," Mr Heyman said. "Without doubt this is a significant announcement given the ever-increasing interaction our industry has in China in both tourism and manufacturing. We are proud to lead the way in this area." 20


NEWS

Avida Opens Parkes Dealership Avida continues to expand its authorised dealer network, with the addition of a new dealership in Parkes, NSW. Parkes Caravans, trading as Avida Parkes, is the newest Avida dealership and is owned and operated by Troy Thomson, who reportedly has many years experience in the local RV industry. While Avida Parkes carries new caravan stock it is also the place for local Avida enquiries, including service, warranty, spare parts, accessories and insurance work, carried out by an RVMAA accredited technician. The new Avida Parkes dealership is located at 84-92 Forbes Road, Parkes, NSW. Call (02) 6862 6122 and ask for Dyllan or Troy.

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NEWS

22


TESTED: SOUTHERN SPIRIT TESTED CAMPERVANS SPLASH

! h s a l p S Making @

by Richard Robertson 23 23


TESTED

Splash celebrates the simplicity of van life without sacrificing comfort or practicality

H

"In many ways it was a dream build," Ollie explained, "Because once we had the basic specifications we were left to it". The result – called the Splash for now – meant some ‘roundthe-clock days (daze?), but the end product proved a hit at the Brisbane Show: so much show the display vehicle tested here was sold and due for delivery the day after this review, with other buyers lining up.

ow do you reinvent the wheel? That would seem to have been the dilemma faced when Brisbane-based Southern Spirit Campervans (SSC) received a call to design and build a Van Life-inspired camper for the 2019 Queensland Caravan & Camping Supershow. The call came from Brisbane’s Austral Volkswagen and the brief was simple: Keep it simple, but design and build it in three weeks. No pressure...

"Southern Spirit Campervans’ new Splash will make, well, a splash..." KISSing With traditional campervan design stuck firmly in the 70s – right down to the woodgrain – husband and wife team Pia and Ollie had carte blanche to use their years of custom van building experience and German attention to detail to pull something special out of ‘das hat’.

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hat makes the Splash special? Simplicity. The Van Life movement is built on the KISS maxim: Keep It Simple Stupid. The movement started with people buying old vans, building or installing a makeshift cupboard or two, throwing in a mattress and hitting the road. The usual aim

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TESTED

While ‘authentic’ van life can leave you with a hang dog look, it’s not a requirement...

wasn’t full time travel, just ‘escapes’ from the every-day, and the cheaper the better. Embracing this philosophy, SSC has built a van that pays homage to the whole Van Life thing, but neatly balances minimalism with practicality and functionality. The results is a van without a poptop roof, hot water system, 240-volt mains power, internal kitchen or grey water tank. It’s best thought of as a camper van ‘lite’, but one with more that just a touch of innovation and street smarts.

The Basics

B

efore telling you what the Splash has, here’s a quick look at what it’s built in. Austral Volkswagen nominated a long wheelbase, mid-roof VW T6 Transporter, powered by a 103 kW/340 Nm 2-litre turbo-diesel driving the front wheels through a 7-speed DSG (auto) gearbox. While that’s nothing earth shattering, it’s a great starting point as the current iteration 25


of Volkswagen’s venerable Transporter is refined, comfortable and provides an enjoyable driving experience. It also means this is a modern, practical and economical daily driver, although inner-city dwellers will need to check underground parking clearances to accommodate its roughly two point two metre height. Still, at just five point three metres long, finding on-street parking shouldn’t be difficult. The choice of the mid-height roof is interesting and in practice seems a good compromise between headroom, aerodynamics and parking considerations. What it does is remove the complexity, cost, weight, maintenance and potential water leak problems from a traditional pop-top. And because there’s no internal kitchen there’s no real need for stand-up headroom.

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TESTED

Inside Out

T

alking about a floorplan might be a bit over the top. Basically, you get a swivelling passenger seat, a cabinet-with-fridge immediately behind the driver’s seat – and a bed! At the back is an outdoor kitchen comprising a pull-out cooker, sink and drawers, beneath the protection of the raised tailgate and (standard) tailgate tent. Of course there’s more to it than just that, so let’s look at the Splash in detail. Swivel the passenger seat and attach the removable table, which can also be used outside on the sliding door, and you have a great little office for one. For dining, a second person can sit opposite, on the bed. Either way, headroom is surprisingly good thanks to the VW’s mid-height roof. Of course for the most part, anyone buying a van like this will be living outdoors, but it’s good to have all-weather options. 27


TESTED An 80-litre Waeco compressor fridge sits in a small cabinet (with benchtop) between the driver’s seat and bed, and it runs off a generous 120 AH AGM house battery connected to a Redarc BCDC1125D dual charger that uses engine output or optional solar power. The good news is that wiring for portable solar panels is standard and they can just be plugged into a socket on the driver’s side, near the water filler. There are three long, flexible 12 V LED readingstyle lights – one in each rear corner and one by the passenger seat – plus an LED strip over the fridge cabinet and a swivelling LED reading light midway along the driver’s side wall. That’s actually quite a lot of lighting for a small van, and I was pleased to see a combination dual-USB/ cigarette-socket outlet conveniently positioned on the rear wall of the fridge cabinet, just below the bench top. The other 12 V power inclusion is a swing-down Scirocco fan, mounted in the middle of the ceiling just inside the tailgate. It’s bound to get a fair bit of use as at this stage the only opening window is a small, screened slider in the factory window in the side door. While the Splash does come with a pair of screened, louvered vents to fit into the tops of the cab windows, it would be well worth ordering the optional Heki roof hatch. After all, you won’t always be able to camp overnight with the tailgate up and the (standard) insect screen letting the breeze in...

An insect screen and tailgate tent are standard equipment 28


TESTED

Southern Spirit’ own Store ‘n Go bags are removable, have insulated backs and come in a range of colours

Storage

S

torage is surprisingly good and will get better on production models, thanks to the 40-litre water tank moving from under the bed to under the body. In a clever move there are three small storage pockets on each side of the panelling around the internal roofline, making good use of what might otherwise be wasted space. They’re ideal for small, soft items like hand towels or T-shirts that you want quick and easy access to. Deep but narrow cupboards are fitted each side of the bed, plus there is a stack of drawers in the front end of the bed base, on the passenger’s side. Along with a huge slide-out drawer at the

rear, these can be removed to provide unimpeded floor space for long items like surfboards or essentials from Bunnings. For clothing, big, removable Stow ’n Go soft storage bags, on each side above the bed, not only look funky, they’re surprisingly unobtrusive. A final item of note is a replacement for the trim panel on the inside of the sliding side door. It’s a moulded unit with three recessed shelves and is a great use of otherwise wasted space. It also highlights the careful thinking that has gone into this vehicle’s design.

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TESTED

Removing the under-bed drawer units makes room for a surf board or those bits from Bunnings for that DIY project

The shelved panel in the sliding side door makes clever use of otherwise wasted space

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TESTED

Camp Kitchen

A

s this is very much a camping vehicle the kitchen slides out – camper trailer style – at the rear, under the protection of the tailgate. The main unit holds a two burner gas cooker with grill and a glass-lidded sink with folding tap, plus a cutlery drawer at the end. It’s simple and sturdy, and you attach a drain hose from the sink to a bucket, plus connect-up a small LPG cylinder for cooking (at other times the cylinder lives in a sealed and vented compartment under the bed). You can just use the cooker and sink like that, or pull out a wider drawer unit alongside, which has a reversible tray that cleverly doubles as benchtop when flipped. It also has storage underneath for the dining table, cab and window blinds and quite a bit else. It’s worth noting the cooker can easily be removed if you want to use it under the wind-out awning or away from the vehicle. It would be worth carrying a ‘lunchbox’ cooker for use on the benchtop above the fridge if the weather was rubbish. While there’s no hot water system there is a cold water shower that uses a simple plug-in connector and an on-off toggle switch. Ingeniously, the connector is accessed by swinging open a hinged corner of the VW’s plastic bumper, on the driver’s-side. Equally clever is a German Reimo-brand suction shower head mount, which clamps just about anywhere with the strength of a parched Bavarian on his first Octoberfest beer.

The black bag is in a tray that when flipped over becomes your kitchen work bench. The big drawer it sits in has multiple locking positions so you can have all the cooking room you need

31


Now that’s a kitchen view

TESTED

A Reimo-brand suction mount lets you put the shower head almost anywhere

Cold water shower simply plugs in and is toggle operated

32


TESTED

"We first saw beds with adjustable ends last year, but the Splash takes the concept further" Party Piece!

A

ll that aside, I’ve saved the bed ’til last because it really is the Splash’s most impressive feature. Available in just one configuration – an ‘almost queen’ measuring 1.95 m x 1.25 m – it’s not just that it’s properly big enough for two people, it’s that the both ends tilts up, sun-lounge style. We first saw beds with adjustable ends last year, but the Splash takes the concept further, allowing you to adjust either end (or both at once if you’re feeling crazy). It means you can semi-recline with the tailgate open at the beach, for instance, and watch the waves roll in, or hunker down on a wet night, facing forwards, watching a movie on your iPad. Either way, it’s ingeniously simple and transforms what would normally be just a sleeping area into a comfortable and practical multi-use living space. 33


TESTED

Tilting the bed end also access the gas cylinder storage box, battery chager and removable drawer set. The (blue) water tank will go under the chassis on production vans, freeing up even more space.

Both ends tilt to quite upright positions and use sturdy, German-made hinges on each side, so there should be no issues with strength or durability. And to lower them you just push all the way up and then release – simple! I spent a lazy little while looking out the back, over Moreton Bay, and decided it’s the most practical and comfortable campervan bed arrangement I’ve come across in a long time.

Yep, as relaxing as it looks. Being able to sit up and watch the world go by is a tonic for the soul... 34


TESTED

What I Think

F

or solos or couples looking for a light campervan-cum-daily-driver that’s practical and affordable, the Splash from Southern Spirit Campervans is hard to beat. It’s ingeniously designed, comfortable and would also make a brilliant day vehicle for people attending sporting events or just wanting to escape with a picnic to their favourite spot. At just under $77,000 on the road in Queensland at the time of writing it’s also great value for a brand new VW-based camper. It seems SSC really has made quite a splash with this one and it’s ripples will likely be noticeable for quite some time to come...

The Splash actually redefines what a campervan needs to be

35


SPECS GENERAL Make

Southern Spirit Campervans

Model

Splash

Type

Campervan

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE

Pros...

Make/Model

VW Transporter T6 LWB Mid Roof

Engine

2.0-litre TDi340 turbo-diesel

Power

103 kW @ 4000 rpm

Torque

340 Nm @ 1750-2500 rpm

Gearbox

7-speed DSG Auto

Safety

ABS, ESP, driver and passenger air bags

Fuel

80 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

2000 kg (est)

Gross Vehicle Mass

3000 kg

Max Payload

1000 kg (est)

Braked Towing Capacity

2500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.29 m (17' 4")

Overall Width

1.90 m (6' 3")

Overall Height

2.20 m (7' 3")

Internal Height

TBA

Main bed

1.95 m x 1.25 m (6' 5" x 4'1")

Cons...

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Dometic 3 m wind-out

Entry Steps

N/A

Hob

2 burner

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE As Tested Warranty – Vehicle Warranty – House

No Square stainless steel w folding tap 80 L Waeco compressor No 12 V LED Yes Cab only Optional Optional Optional (Porta Potti) External cold water

Simplicity Innovation Practicality Unobtrusive Value Drivability Economy

Too ‘lite’ for some Limited water capacity Not self-contained Favours fair weather Contact

Southern Spirit Campervans 103 Delta St Geebung. Qld. 4034. T: 0401 797 179 E: contact@sscampervans.com W: www.sscampervans.com

1 x 120 AH AGM deep cycle Prewired 1 x 2 kg 40 L No N/A N/A $76,885 5 years/Unlimited Km 2 years

36


NEWS

37


TESTED: BRITZ eVOLVE

Electric

Dreams The dream of electric motorhoming is now a reality, at least in NZ...

by Malcolm Street 38


TESTED

P

icture this for a second: Clambering into your motorhome, turning the ignition key, putting the vehicle in gear and driving off in near silence. Further down the road, whilst stopping to take in a scenic view, there’s enough time to plug into a power point and charge-up the vehicle’s battery before driving off again. An electric motorhome sounds very much like a pipe dream – well, in Australia – but in New Zealand it’s possible to pick up a Britz eVolve rental motorhome and take a tour around the Coromandel via Thames and Whitianga, and get as far as Waitomo Caves on a nine day tour. Alternatively, leaving from Queenstown, a similar length tour will take in the sights of Dunedin, Waitaki, Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook, Wanaka and Arrowtown. Unlike Tesla for example, Action Manufacturing – builders of the Britz eVolve – isn’t the first name that comes to mind with electrically powered vehicles, but the manufacturer has taken an LDV EV80 cabchassis and built a motorhome on it. LDV is a Chinese manufacturer that was once known as Leyland DAF Vehicles. Action Manufacturing isn’t doing something totally new, they have experience with the 2.5-litre turbo-diesel powered LDV cab-chassis at least, which is what its NZ-only KEA Breeze motorhome is based on. 39


TESTED

Most unusually for an electric vehicle, the LDV’s EV 80 still drives through a conventional gearbox

Power Plant

L

DV’s EV 80 cab-chassis comes with a 100 kW/320 Nm permanent-magnet synchronous motor, powered by a 56 kWh Lithium Ion Phosphate battery system. The six speed automated manual gearbox that’s bolted to it feels and drives like any such unit on a diesel engine. The vehicle also comes with the expected safety features, like anti-lock disc brakes (ABS) all ‘round, plus driver and passenger air bags. Driving range is about 120 km. Under the bonnet things are a little different as you might expect, but there are still fluid levels to be checked. In the front bumper grill are clues that something is different about this vehicle: It provides different sockets for charging the vehicle battery depending on the available charger type, and there’s a power lead in the vehicle for that purpose. 40


TESTED

The central speedo takes a bit of getting used to and is poorly marked. Battery gauges dominate the dashboard

On the Road

S

itting in the driver’s seat, this looks for the most part like a conventional vehicle. Being an internationally marketed vehicle, LDV partially solves the problem of right or left hand drive by having a centre mounted dashboard. Conventionally there’s a speedo, but marked slightly irritatingly with km/h inside and mph on the outer edge of the dial. There is also battery percent gauge, kW used gauge and a distance remaining gauge. Since driving conditions can vary, the battery percent gauge is going to be more reliable than the distance remaining.

Fiat. Slightly odd though is the almost total lack of engine noise, making conversation at a normal volume very easy.

For those used to using engine braking on downhill runs, the electric motor doesn’t operate quite the Starting is a matter of turning the ignition key, same way. The vehicle has some sort of regenerating putting the auto in Drive and operating the system, judging by the kW gauge, but going handbrake switch on the dashboard. Gentle downhill, it was like the brake pedal was touched acceleration is good for battery economy, but the intermittently. The lack of engine noise also meant eVolve keeps up with general traffic flow without that all the squeaks and rattles that a motorhome much trouble. The LDV is really just like driving a normal light commercial vehicle, if a little more basic can produces are more obvious – not that there were than say the Euro sophistication or Mercedes/Iveco/ too many I should point out! 41


TESTED

The eVolve is short enough to fit in a standard car space. But given its modest range and weight constraints, we wonder if a van conversion would be more suitable?

Size Matters

U

nsurprisingly, the eVolve isn’t a large motorhome and has an external length of just 5.82-metres (19’ 1"). Anyone familiar with the THL/Britz/KEA style will recognise the fibreglass composite panel body shape, not to mention the tinted glass windows all around the rear and with just the lower half of both the side windows having an opening. Something very common on just about all NZ rental motorhomes years ago was a small tunnel boot across the rear and there’s one of those here, which is good for fishing rods, poles and snow skis. Giving a contemporary look, the door is the current European style

42


TESTED

The famed NZ Back’s wraparound windows are a great idea, unlike making up the bed every night

Back to the Future

T

hinking retro again, anyone looking in a Kiwibuilt motorhome of a decade ago would have seen what I call an NZ Back: A U-shaped lounge with all ‘round windows, popular because it was handy when viewing the scenery in any weather. So it’s no surprise, given the length of the eVolve, that it has one too. It’s conventional, except the driver’s-side lounge has a backrest angled 45 degrees against the kitchen bench, which is great for admiring the aforementioned scenery. Excellent if you are on your own, as there’s only one I guess partners will have to toss a coin... Like most NZ Backs, this one doubles as the dining area and featuring a removable pole mounted table. It’s also the bed, which measures 2.1 m x 1.45 m (6’ 11" x 4’ 9") and unfortunately has to be made up every night. 43


TESTED

Pots n’ Pans

G

iven the diminutive size of the motorhome, the kitchen bench behind the driver’s seat is surprisingly large, even with the 45 degree seat back carved out of it. The hob is a Philips 100-2100-watt induction unit, which, like the microwave, only runs on mains power (pack a butane Lunchbox cooker if you want to freedom camp – Ed). The fridge, at least, is an Isotherm CRD85 12-volt compressor job and runs off the vehicle. An overhead locker, two good sized drawers and a double cupboard make up the storage space. Above the hob is an exhaust fan, while a large sliding window also provides plenty of ventilation.

44


TESTED

Staying Clean

C

ompact is the word for the bathroom, which sits between the side entry door and front passenger seat. Inside the cubicle is a combo ‘wet’ set up, meaning a Thetford cassette toilet, flexible hose shower and a small corner-mounted washbasin. However, you won’t be showering unless plugged into mains power, because the hot water system, like to hob and microwave, is 240-volt mains powered (boil some water on that Lunchbox cooker for a quick wash – Ed)

45


TESTED

Britz has special itineraries to suit the eVolve’s limited range, and you don’t have to worry about the price of diesel...

All Electric

T

here’s no LPG system in the eVolve, which as already mentioned seriously limits its freedom camping ability. The fridge, water pump and LED lighting are all 12-volt, but in addition to the hob and microwave, the other items on board that use 240-volts are the house battery charger and the water heater. A rethink in this department would be a good idea. On the charging front, you have several options: Firstly, 50 kW DC Fast Charging Stations are located in a variety of places and while some are pay-as-you-go, some are free! To get an 80% charge they will take between 5 and 45 mins and can be regarded as a between-destinations charge. A full charge takes about 90 minutes. Alternatively, AC Fast Charging is a medium-speed charging option that can take up to nine hours and is best for overnight stops. It can be found at certain Holiday Parks in the form of an EV Friendly site, which should be reserved ahead of arrival. Still, this system allows a faster top-up charge than a normal power outlet at a caravan park, which take longer because the power is shared with the rest of the vehicle’s ‘house’ facilities. 46


TESTED

What I Think

C

learly, the limitation on the Britz eVolve is the driving range of 120 km. That said, Britz has demonstrated that it’s possible to do a decent tour without too much difficultly.

I get that not everyone does this, but there are times when I’ve used a motorhome for work purpose just around either Auckland or Christchurch and given the short distances, the eVolve would work well, as long as I had my charging arrangements in place. If the ownership idea appeals you can even buy an ex-rental if you like, all yours for NZ$130,000 from the RV Super Centre. Action Manufacturing and Britz get top marks for this little enterprise, which really is just a taste of things to come and still a bit of a dream... 47


SPECS GENERAL

Britz

Model

eVolve

Type

B Class motorhome

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

Pros...

VEHICLE Make/Model

LDV EV80

Engine

EV-80 electric

Power

100 kW

Torque

320 Nm

Gearbox

6 speed AMT

Safety

Driver & passengers air bags, ABS with EBD

Fuel

56 kWh Lithium Ion Phosphate Battery

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3085 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

3600 kg

Max Payload

515 kg

Gross Combined Mass

4250 kg

Cons...

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.82 m (19' 1")

Overall Width

2.20 m (7' 3")

Overall Height

2.80 m (9' 2")

Internal Height

2.10 m (6' 11")

Main Bed

N/A

Luton Bed

N/A

Dinette Bed

2.10 m x 1.45 m (6' 11" x 4' 9")

Innovative step forward Ideal for shorter trips Easy driving Good sized kitchen NZ Back Good for environment No (fossil) fuel bills!

120 km range Limited freedom camping No LPG system Mains power dependent

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

No

Entry Steps

Elecrric

Cooker Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - NZ As Tested

Philips 100W-2100W induction Yes Stainless steel 85 L Isotherm CRD85 12 V Camec 12 V LED 2 No No 240 V instantaneous Thetford Flex hose, combo cubicle

Contact

Britz Rentals T: 0800 081 032 W: britz.co.nz

RV Super Centre 169 Bush Rd Rosedale, Auckland. 0632 T: 0800 520 055 W: rvsupercentre.co.nz

1 x 100 AH 1 x 135 W N/A 90 L 90 L Instantaneous 19 L NZ$130,000 (used)

48


H A B I TAT TESTED

GO FURTHER. STAY LONGER

EXPLORE ONE TODAY AT YOUR LOCAL SUNLINER DEALER.

www.sunliner.com.au RANGER

SWITCH

PINTO

OLANTAS

49

HABITAT

NAVIAN

MONTE CARLO


TESTED TESTED: SMIDGE TEARDROP CAMPER

Just a

SMIDGE What started out as a pet project has taken on a life of its own... by Richard Robertson 50


TESTED

T

eardrop campers have been around since the earliest days of caravanning. Simple, light and easy to tow, they’re really the first rung above camping on the RV ladder. Yet in recent years they’ve seen a real resurgence, perhaps spurred on as much by nostalgia for simpler times. Whatever the reason, teardrops are now in vogue and there’s no denying their attraction. When Suncamper’s young GM, Cameron Harrison, wanted a weekend escape machine he didn’t decide on a custom motorhome. Instead, a teardrop beckoned and gradually took shape in a corner of the factory. Interest from visitors was surprisingly high and by the time it was finished, so too were plans for production and smidgeteardopcampers.com was born. "All I wanted was something to hook up behind my ute on a Friday afternoon and head away for a night or two," Cameron explained. "We love camping and so something as simple as a teardrop seemed like the perfect answer." The Smidge is easy to tow, sets up in less than a minute and provides secure, weatherproof sleeping without flapping canvas that might also need drying out afterwards." Given those criteria it’s easy to see the attraction. However, tiny as the Smidge might be, Cameron still wanted many of the comfort and convenience items of home. The result is a surprisingly appealing and practical package that’s well worth investigating. 51


TESTED

The Smidge melds retro style and rustic charm in a way that’s as functional as it is cool

Good Foundation

I

n an age when many competitors are imported from China, it’s worth remembering the Smidge is designed and built in Australia. It’s also worth noting the decades of motorhome design and construction experience behind it. As Mrs iM put it, "It’s great to see a machine built by the designer behind it. You just know it’s going to be well thought out, rather than just another project for a factory employee ticking a list of must-haves, but with little regard or experience for how the thing actually works". If I were a religious man I’d say amen to that. The Smidge’s walls and one-piece roof are fibreglass and fully insulated. Inside, contemporary/rustic/ retro (insert choice here) European birch plywood with an organic hard wax oil coating is used, with the same (un-oiled) wood carrying over to the kitchen. 52


TESTED

As a light duty camper the Smidge should easily handle dirt roads and the odd bush track

The whole thing rides on a fully welded 50 mm x 50 mm steel chassis, complete with a pair of wind-down stabiliser legs, and uses a simple beam axle with leaf springs that support 16 inch wheels with 10 inch brakes. The wheels sit outside the body width and so have individual mudguards, which adds to the retro look. Definitely not retro is the use of LED lights all around. Internal access is via a pair of aluminium framed doors that are basically big windows and come complete with screened, opening lower halves. Combined with a big Heki roof hatch, fresh air inside isn’t going to be an issue.

53


TESTED Weight wise, the ATM is 900 kg, tare weight 550 kg and the ball weight is 50 kg, leaving an GTM of 850 kg and max payload of 350 kg. Although a mechanical override braking system would legally suffice, it’s good to see electric brakes fitted, plus a breakaway controller. That might all seem a bit of overkill, but it highlights the ‘seriousness’ of the engineering thought behind everything. Fitted to the draw bar is a fold-up jockey wheel, 4 kg gas cylinder, the spare wheel and pressurised tap, with water being drawn from an 80-litre freshwater tank via a pump powered by a 120 AH AGM deep-cycle battery. Battery charging is either from the 100-watt solar panel, with MPPT regulator, or from the tow vehicle through an Anderson plug. On the road the Smidge sat squat and secure behind Cameron’s 4x4 ute and tracked true without any indication of sway, even at freeway speeds. And although not built or marketed for off-road work, it’s more than capable of following you down dirt roads or the odd bush track without drama. My only criticism is the short draw bar, which not only made reversing more challenging, it allows contact with the van/gas cylinder/spare wheel at extreme angles if you’re not careful. A little more length would certainly help in both situations. A slightly longer draw bar would not only make reversing easier, it would reduce the chance of hitting the LPG cylinder or spare

54


TESTED

Camp cooking doesn’t get mush flasher than this! Note the teardrop-shaped side table...

Living Areas

T

eardrop campers are basically divided into two ‘living’ areas: kitchen and bedroom. Setting up the Smidge proved to be the proverbial cinch; just lift what looks like a car’s boot lid at the back to access the outdoor kitchen, or open a side door to hop inside. There’s something wonderful about standing outside to cook, and the Smidge’s kitchen is well thought out and equipped. The door lifts on gas struts to reveal a deep, full-width workbench with a central stainless steel sink and modern, black mixer tap. There are two large cupboards at the back that have a full-width shelf above, while on the back wall is a digital readout of the battery’s condition, a 12 V socket and USB chargers, plus an electrical master switch with a big, red, removable key. Like the interior, the kitchen cabinetry is finished in birch ply, apart from the benchtop and side walls. There is a dimmable LED strip light and a pair of weatherproof speakers on the underside of the raised door, plus a full-length towel rail that makes a useful handle when closing everything up. 55


TESTED

The kitchen is practical and well equipped, while the fridge even comes with an app for remote temperature control

Speaking of the benchtop, below it is where the real action is. Beneath the sink is a cutlery drawer with central cut-out to fit around the plumbing, while below that is a deep cupboard that could store a ton of supplies. Two heavy-duty drawer slides are fitted: a small one on the right for the two-burner gas cooker and a much larger one on the left for the 60-litre Waco 12-volt chest fridge/freezer. This latter unit can easily be removed and run off mains power, and even comes with an app for remote temperature checking and control! A small, removable external table is also provided and thoughtfully, it’s cut into the shape the teardrop camper. Nice... The only setting up required to have the kitchen fully operational is plug the cooker into the gas supply. That’s done by opening a cassette toilet-style hatch in the rear corner of the wall, pulling out the braided gas line and plugging it into an external bayonet fitting; gas coming from the drawbar-mounted cylinder. It’s a neat solution to a potentially complex gas plumbing problem and takes all of 30 seconds to set up or pack away. 56


TESTED

Day or night bed, the choice is yours – just fold the custom hi-density foam mattress

Sleeping Area

um, ‘unforgiving’. Once inside there’s plenty of sit-up headroom, while the bed itself is just on queen size hile any teardrop is essentially a bed on wheels, long but seems king-size wide. It feels a little Tardislike inside and to make the prospect of passing time Cameron has put a lot of thought into the on a wet day more enticing, the high density foam Smidge’s internal design and it’s more versatile/ mattress is of a clever tri-fold design that allows practical than you might imagine. the head-end to be folded-up a couple of times so it becomes a day bed. Between the big side windows Access is easy because of doors on both sides that and roof hatch there’s plenty of light and fresh air, are surprisingly large. Just be careful of the base but when privacy is desired there are block-out of the aluminium frame when sitting right on the edge. Although rounded, it sticks up a little and is,

W

57


TESTED

Inside, it’s cosy but it’s well thought out and private when required. The iPad holder is a great idea too curtains and, of course, a blind in the hatch. Internal storage is taken care of by a full-width bedhead cupboard with lift-up doors, plus a run of cupboards above the foot of the bed – one with a nifty feature. Twin cupboards at either end provide his-and-hers storage, but the central cupboard has a bottom-hinged door that folds down to about a 45 degree angle to become a mount for your iPad! In the test Smidge, Cameron had put a small, aftermarket evaporative cooler in that cupboard that would supply a welcome breeze on an airless night. Another option would be a folding 12-volt fan, which should be easy to fit without being intrusive. Finishing this section off, in a small fascia piece below the folddown door there’s a Bluetooth sound system for the external speakers or your own portable unit. Interior lighting is handled by a full width LED strip, like the one under the kitchen door, which is also touch operated and dimmable. The pair of long, flexible LED reading lights are perhaps the best I’ve seen, because the slimline base of each has a pair of USB charging outlets in it. In fact it’s obvious Cameron is from the Connected Generation, because the Smidge features no fewer than six USB charging outlets, so there’s no chance your mobile devices will ever run flat. 58


TESTED

The Smidge is so small you can set it up just about anywhere! Note the side-table stows with the fridge...

What I Think

I

t’s difficult not to like the Smidge. For a start, it looks cute enough that you want to take it home and make it part of the family – just because. And wherever you go it attracts attention. It’s also well thought out, well made and probably over engineered. Like all teardrops you have to remember it’s best for fair weather, but if camping is your thing the Smidge has the comfort and convenience features to make your experience closer to glamping. I have to admit I’m slightly smitten. So much so that when the weather warms, Mrs iM and I will be

heading off for a few days to see what it’s really like to live with. Watch this space... In the mean time, Cameron & Co will be getting on with a three-model Smidge range, of which this one is actually midrange and called The Drop. Coming soon will be The Dash and The Dram. I’m thinking I can imagine what they were drinking when they came up with the names, but to me any Smidge will just be a Smidge.

59


SPECS

GENERAL Make

Smidge Teardrop Campers

Model

The Drop

Type

Teardrop Camper

Berths

2

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

550 kg

Ball Weight

30 kg

Gross Trailer Mass

970 kg

Aggregate Trailer Mass

1000 kg

Max Payload

450 kg

Pros... Design Quality Towability Features Versatility Practicality

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

3.66 m (12’)

Body Length

2.80 m (9’ 2”

Overall Width

2.20 m (7' 3")

Body Width

1.70 m (5’ 7”)

Height

1.75 m (5' 9")

Bed

1.86 m x 1.59 m (6' 1" x 5’ 3")

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

No

Entry Steps

No

Cooker

2 burner

Rangehood

No

Sink

Square stainless steel

Fridge

60 L Waeco 12V chest – removable

Microwave

No

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

Yes

Air Conditioner

No

Space Heater

No

Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE As Tested – NSW Warranty – Vehicle Warranty – Appliances

No No No

Cons... Drawbar length Door edging Contact

Smidge Teardrop Campers 3/9 Sefton Rd Thornleigh. NSW. 2120 T: (02) 9481 9222 E: smidgeteardropcampers@gmail.com W: smidgeteardropcampers.com

1 x 120 AH AGM deep cycle 100 W 1 x 4 kg 80 L No N/A N/A $28,990 2 years As per manufacturer

60


TESTED


PRODUCT

TOW-PRO

ELITE

Allan Whiting of OutbackTravelAustralia.com.au reports on Redarc’s latest generation brake controller... edarc Electronics released the next generation of its award-winning electric trailer brake controller, Tow-Pro Elite, in early 2019.

R

suitable for 12V and 24V electrical systems and for electric-brake and electric/hydraulic brakes, with no user input required to select the mode.

This is the third generation of Redarc’s Tow-Pro brake controller, featuring a smaller remote head that allows quicker and easier installation. The new model needs only one hole drilled into the dash and it has improved illumination, providing better clarity of the braking force selected. Software upgrades have also been included in the third-generation Tow-Pro Elite that are said to provide smoother braking when towing heavy trailers and caravans. The controller is rated for trailers up to 4.5 tonnes GTM.

Redarc has produced a range of vehicle-specific wiring kits that simplify installation via ‘plug and play’ connectivity and switch inserts that allow the installer to create a seamless-appearance remote head mount. This new installation system is said to be more user-friendly than that for the V2 unit that was the subject of a recall in January 2019. Some V2 units produced between September 2018 and January 2019 could develop no-braking issues if not installed exactly as specified in the manual.

The third-generation Tow-Pro Elite maintains the simple operation it’s renowned for and selectable modes of braking: ’Proportional’ for highways and sealed roads and ‘User-controlled’ for off-road driving. Like previous generation Tow-Pros, the Elite provides proportional braking technology via a patented algorithm. Tow-Pro Elite V3 continues to be

The Tow-Pro Elite V3 LED display shows the selected brake operating mode, but also displays fault code lights in a pattern that indicates what the wiring problem is. Like all Redarc products, Tow-Pro Elite V3 comes with nationwide support, including a two-year warranty, technical support and after-sales service. 62


PRODUCT

Testing

W

e fitted a V3 unit to our LandCruiser HJZ 75 Series that is a non-electronic vehicle and we also asked JLRA to fit one to a new Range Rover Sport P400e Hybrid-electric machine that’s about as electronic as you can get. Both installations were seamlessly fitted, with the small brake control knob emerging from the dashboard, beside the steering column, on old Harry HJ and on the column shroud on the Rangie. In both cases the small knob didn’t intrude into the cabin ambience: not a problem with the ancient 75 Series, but a potential issue with the very stylish Range Rover. We towed a part-loaded Track Trailer Mate behind the 75 Series and a part-loaded BRS Sherpa crossover camper trailer behind the Sport Hybrid. Both

brakes will apply at the level set by the control knob, regardless of foot brake pressure. We reckon this feature can be used at low speed in off-road conditions to prevent the trailer from ‘pushing’ the tow vehicle, but needs to be employed with great care, by people experienced with electric trailer brake use. There’s also a manual override function that can operate in Proportional and User Controlled Modes, by simply pushing the knob inwards. This action applies the trailer brakes only, to a ‘light braking’ level in Proportional Mode and to the knob-preset level in User Controlled Mode. As with the User Controlled Mode, we reckon this feature should be used by experienced towers only. The reason we urge caution in playing around with trailer brakes is that the inexperienced can

Tow-Pro Elite installed equally well on Harry, our trusty 75 Series, as the latest Range Rover Hybrid. Note the small control knob just to the left of Harry’s steering column. Self-calibration is a great feature that still allows driver fine tuning

installations self-calibrated as described in the fitting instructions and confirmed status with a soft blue LED illumination of the knob bezel. That calibration also set the brake action in Proportional Mode, meaning that the controller applied the trailer brakes in proportion with the driver’s brake pedal pressure and the level was driver-adjustable, by turning the control knob between one and ten. Importantly, it was possible for the driver to dial trailer brake pressure up and down while driving, without needing to look at the knob setting. On both vehicles, the right amount of trailer brake ‘feel’ was with the knob around its middle setting.

easily misjudge the ideal brake balance between tow vehicle and trailer. Just because there’s a feature fitted doesn’t mean it’s there for every user. Proportional Mode is the optimum on-road towing program for most situations and we found it very easy to select the correct balance for different load conditions. For more information click HERE.

The Redarc Tow-Pro Elite V3 can also be set in User Controlled Mode and in this mode the trailer 63


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What Can Possibly Go Wrong? Phil McLeod’s concluding installment about a quick trip to Tassie that didn’t quite work out as planned...

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Next Phase

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fter resuming our heavily amended Tasmanian itinerary I began to think of the next phase of the new engine saga. It’s what I do – I’m an engineer, remember. I had wondered how the new engine would be recognised on the motorhome’s registration records due to the replacement engine’s number. The workshop had pointed out to me that the new motor had a number stamped on the back of the block, just above the gearbox, and on the cylinder head above that. Because of its difficult location once the engine was installed, the workshop guys had photographed the engine from every angle, including a close-up of the engine number, before they installed it. What could possible go wrong? Over-zealous as I tend to be, I rang the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) from Tasmania,

explained my situation and enquired what I needed to do to have the vehicle’s engine number records amended. I was told it was simple: I had a signed letter from the engine installer quoting the old and new engine numbers, a tax invoice and a receipt showing the old and new engine numbers, and a technical summary and details from the engine supplier in Melbourne. I also had all the photos. I was told I may have to get a Blue Slip inspection station to issue a Change of Records certificate and it was even suggested that if I wrote to the relevant branch (based in Parkes NSW), with all my documentation, I may not even need the Blue Slip certification. They would simply check my documents and adjust the records. It sounded good, sounded logical, sounded easy! In fact didn’t sound like a government bureaucracy! 66


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Bureaucracy Found

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n return to Newcastle, however, a visit to Service NSW revealed that any previous optimism was completely unfounded! The vehicle would have to be presented to an authorised Blue Slip station, where the new engine number would have to be sighted. Can anyone see a problem looming? The Blue Slip mechanic I chose was a lovely bloke and wanted to be helpful, but the oversight and audit regime these people are under from the RMS renders them robotic and unable to use any discretion or professional judgment: He couldn’t see the engine number and so he couldn’t sign the form. He rang someone in the vehicle identification branch. The suggestion? Easy – the motor will have to be removed to enable the number to be sighted! We also learned that for each make and model of vehicle, there is a unique alpha-numeric format that engine numbers have to conform to. Guess what? The numbers on my brand-new engine didn’t conform. This might mean a new engine number would be issued by the RMS Inspector, which would have to be stamped on the side of the engine. Anyone who’s ever looked down into the engine bay of a modern vehicle would foresee a certain difficulty in swinging a hammer to do such a job. No problem – take the motor out to do it! At this point I was narrowing down the options: point the motorhome towards the highest cliff I could find with a brick on the accelerator, or buy a can of fuel and a box of matches! I was definitely not going to remove the engine...

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Desperation

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n desperation and at the suggestion of the Blue Slip mechanic, I paid another visit to Service NSW. After repeating my story no less than three times to three different people, eventually I was told an inspector from the vehicle identification branch would ring me with a view to sending someone from Sydney to check the engine number. I didn’t see how such a person would be better placed to get a result where the Blue Slip mechanic had failed, but I was forgetting he was from Sydney!

was able to see the new engine number stamped where it ought to be, on the side of the block! It was the same number we’d seen on the rear end of the motor, so it still didn’t conform. By this time the RMS Inspector, my Blue Slip mechanic and I had spent some time together: the two of them on their backs under the motorhome in their overalls, with me dutifully passing them tools, cameras, lights, torches, WD40, etc. We were getting to know each other too well!

I’m unsure whether he was overly influenced by the sight of me standing there with my Stanley knife poised over my left wrist, but he suddenly announced that he would accept the non-conforming engine Swallowing down my cynicism, I made an number, because he could see that the motor was appointment to take Sunny out of its storage yard not stolen(!), but legitimately purchased, and he (for the third time) and meet the Sydney inspector at had sighted the number stamped into the correct the mechanic’s workshop. position on the block! He even sent an email that To my infinite surprise and grovelling gratitude, we afternoon, confirming his decision and advising did get a result! Once the motorhome was jacked up the RMS records for Sunny had been amended. and supported on chassis stands, the Sydney man Hallelujah! 68


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Good People

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hese two men, plus the mechanic’s wife in his office, were like the Arthur River people, the guys from Brianna Towing, and Heath and his staff from Burnie Fuel Injection: good people trying to help me out. Undoubtedly, in this case their efforts were largely hamstrung by overly prescriptive processes set down by government authorities, which I’ve come to realise is a major problem in our over-governed country that is slowly but surely being strangled to death by regulation. So, what have I learned from this experience that might assist anyone who needs to replace the engine in their vehicle? 1: If you opt for a reconditioned motor, it should already have a complying engine number in the correct location, so the administration should be straightforward. 2: If you opt for a brand-new motor, make sure it has an engine number stamped where it can be sighted. 3: Ensure, if possible, that the number will be accepted by the relevant authorities in your state, although this might be complicated if you’re in another state at the time. 4: If it has no number, go through all the steps with your state authority to have a new complying number issued and stamped on the motor before it is installed – again, more complicated if interstate. 5: Get as much documentation as possible to prove the provenance of the new motor 6: Always carry a brick, a can of fuel, a box of matches and a Stanley knife in your motorhome! Oh, and check the insurance... I can see that the whole story was punctuated by bad decisions or bad advice by people I turned to for expert help at crucial stages. On the other hand, and more importantly, I had my faith in people restored, thanks to the number of people in Tasmania (and subsequently NSW) who went out of their way to assist us, once the proverbial had hit the fan. By the way, Tasmania was lovely, but that’s another story. It’s a terrific place to go motorhoming – where nothing need go wrong at all!

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Counting the costs “In round figures, and speaking from memory, the basics were that the new motor, supplied new out of Melbourne and installed in Burnie, was going to be about $12,000. By the time we added a new clutch and flywheel, plus new water pump, the final bill was about $15,500. I really felt vulnerable as our choices were obviously limited, but I did trust the repairer in Burnie and talking to a few contacts here since coming home, it seems that it wasn’t over the top. The costs to do the same work in Sydney or Melbourne might be lower due to more competition, or if one had the luxury of time to run around getting quotes etc. Who knows? It was a lot of money to write off when we decided to upgrade, but probably cheap compared to spending the rest of my life rocking in the corner in some asylum somewhere - that’s where my state of mind was heading! No other associated costs come to mind other than the costs of continuing our holiday sans motorhome and the admin costs of getting the engine number changed back in NSW – the latter only ran to $100 as it turned out, if I value all my running around at zero! Interestingly, it has been pointed out to me that the un-matching number would never become a problem unless the vehicle’s rego was allowed to go more than 3 months overdue, requiring a blue slip inspection. Otherwise it’s never sighted for the annual pink slip. Probably true, but that’s not a legacy I would be happy leaving to a new owner.”

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#SHEDRIVES SHEDRIVES

DOMESTICATED

“You’re gonna pull over in an endless field and not let me run!?”

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Adjusting to life off the road... by Marsha Hovey @someginger

by Marsha Hovey @someginger 31

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#SHEDRIVES SHEDRIVES

"I grew up on a PMU ranch, and if you don’t know what that is, well, I’ll tell ya." And so he stood there on that stage, in the middle of his set, and explained to us what it meant to grow up on a Pregnant Mare Urine ranch, and how they harvested and sold the urine of pregnant female horses to Canadian pharmaceutical companies for the production of birth control, and how it sparked a bit of controversy in their very catholic and very small town, but that everyone has to make a living somehow, ya know? The drunk cowboys in the crowd continued on with their conversations, unimpressed by the opening act and his story. Apparently everyone in Iowa had heard of a PMU ranch, except for me.

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igning a lease felt like giving up. I was abandoning the dream of making my own way and falling back into the routine of a ‘standard’ schedule.: Clocking in and out for the 40 hour work week, signing up for automatic bill pay with the electric company and accumulating stuff just because I have the space to do so. As horrible as all of those things sound to me I need them, for a while at least. It’s funny how something so normal can seem so strange to someone who yearns for change and adventure. As of today I am living in Minneapolis, driving my wonderful van to and from the office, parking it in the driveway of my lackluster duplex, living life inside much bigger yet somehow smaller walls and letting out sighs of acceptance that every chapter has a reason.

At the end of the day, it came down to finances. Yes, other things came into play like growing a new relationship and standing still for a moment, but mostly it’s about the damn money. For three years I jumped from job to job and place to place, footing the bill for expensive health insurance, and saying yes to big international trips for the hell of it, all while making well below the standard ‘poverty’ line. My savings account has run dry and don’t get me wrong, it was worth every penny, but ultimately, my lack of funds has forced me back to that same old Monday to Friday life, for now. Can I say "For now" enough?

Scenes from a domesticated existence Scenes from a domesticated existence.

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Above: The van dressed up for Halloween as a common moving Above: The van dressed up for Halloween as a common moving device, hauling device, hauling materials to and fro. Right: Iowa, a real life dreamland materials to and fro. Right: Iowa, a real life dreamland of thrift store denim. of thrift store denim. Since I am living the full blown domestic life, it seemed like the right time to add a dog to my parade of misfits, to begin prepping her for life as a transient being. Insert Biz, a four year old border collie mix who needed a second chance after being tossed aside by a newly incarcerated, meth-addicted owner. The big scars around her neck are unwanted tattoos from a former life not worth remembering. I gave her a home filled with love and she gave me a purpose outside of work. Symbiosis at it’s finest. After becoming fast friends, Biz and I both decided we had to get out of town. A 22 year old fellow by the name of Colter Wall was playing a show down in Des Moines, just 4 hours south, and I thought that driving 4 hours for a concert sounded like the perfect idea. A little mini weekend trip to get our feet wet and explore our new pilot/copilot relationship. I kissed my honey on the cheek, said the dog and I would be staying at a Walmart in Iowa if he needed us, and set sail. 34

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Copilots are supposed to help you stay awake, right? Copilots are supposed to help you stay awake, right?

There’s something very therapeutic to me about driving. I’m alone. I’m focused. Thoughts trickle in and out. Radio stations switch as I cross county lines. The landscape changes around me. It can be dreamlike. Some people use their time on the road to make phone calls, catch up with friends and family, but I enjoy my silence. I cherish it. From what I can tell, Biz enjoys it too. I guess we’re a good match, me and her. Iowa was everything I needed. I don’t know how often you’ll hear that one, but it was! A short burst, a quick escape and a reminder that I’m not trapped by my new life. We walked miles and miles around that town, with no real destination. Exploring thrift stores and eating fried food along the river. We slept in the van after a country and western concert, under the lights of a Walmart parking lot, and all felt right with the world.

I’m coming to terms with the fact that road life can be intermittent. Maybe it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. That idea has brought me a lot of peace in the face of feeling like a quitter. I can still go on spontaneous trips and leave my responsibilities behind. The only difference now is that those trips have end dates and that will take some getting used to. At the end of the day, I’m happy, healthy, and have a van ready and waiting for my next adventure, big or small. As animals we can learn to adapt and I have, and I will continue to with each new chapter. We can even become domesticated, but we all know that certain animals just feel more at home in the wild – and I think I’m one of them. I’ll get back there someday.

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home to Minnesota with an impromptu pit stop down Arriving home to Minnesota with an impromptu stop down aArriving winding road, helplessly following signs for hard cider a winding road, helplessly following signs for hard cider.

"There’ssomething something therapeutic to me "There’s very very therapeutic to me about driving. I’m alone. I’m focused. Thoughts trickle in and out. about driving. I’m alone. I’m focused. Thoughts Radio stations switch I crossstations county lines. trickle in and out.as Radio switch as The landscape changes around me. I cross county lines. The landscape changes It can be dreamlike..." around me. It can be dreamlike..."…

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RV FRIENDLY TOWNS

CMCA

RV Friendly Towns image by Jeremy Bishop

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he RV Friendly program is a Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia Limited (CMCA) initiative aimed at assisting RV travellers as they journey throughout this wonderful country. An RV Friendly Town (RVFT) is one that provides a certain number of amenities and a certain level of services for these travellers. When RV travellers enter a town displaying the RVFT sign they know they will be welcome. Certain services will be provided for them that may not be available in other centres, and they will have access to a safe place to stay overnight and possibly for a longer period. On the following pages are this issue’s featured RV Friendly towns. If possible please include them in your travels and support the communities going out of their way to welcome those of us fortunate enough to be travelling. Enjoy!

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Windorah, QLD

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indorah in Central West Queensland is 35 kilometres downstream from where the Thomson and Barcoo Rivers join. The town was established in the 1880s by the Whitman brothers and has a population of just 115. Windorah’s main industry is sheep and cattle grazing, which is due largely to the abundance of Mitchell Grass and other available herbage. Those visiting the region are encouraged to explore the red sand hills of Windorah,

a sight that will truly welcome you to the great Australian Outback. The perfect time to visit the sand hills is at sunset, with a glass of wine in hand, then taking in the panorama of the starlit sky. Windorah Caravan Park offers unpowered sites at a rate of $10 per-vehicle per-night and powered sites at $16 per-vehicle per-night. Visitors can negotiate their length of stay with management, and access to toilets and showers is included. Both a dump point and potable water can be found at Quilpie Windorah Rd, Windorah. 

Tourist/Visitor Information Centre

Windorah Visitor Information Centre 7 Maryborough St, Windorah. Qld. Ph: 07 4656 3063 windorahinfo@barcoo.qld.gov.au www.barcoo.qld.gov.au

Casual Parking (near retail centre)

Albert St & Maryborough St

Short Term Parking

Windorah Caravan Park, Albert St Ph: 07 4656 3063 $10 pvpn unpowered, $16 pvpn powered. Negotiable stay limit, pets on lead, Telstra phone coverage, showers, bins, toilets, covered seating, BBQ, water.

Dump Point

Quilpie Windorah Rd, Windorah Lat: -25.417679 Long: 142.659655

Potable Water

Windorah Caravan Park, Albert St and at dump point site

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RV FRIENDLY TOWNS

Jundah, QLD

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For those passing through and looking for a convenient place to stop for a night or two, parking can be found at Jundah Caravan Park. This friendly caravan park offers non-powered sites for a rate of $10.25 per-vehicle per-night, and lengths of stays can be negotiated. Powered sites are also available Visitors can take a stroll down to the scenic for $15.35 per-vehicle per-night. Sites are small in Thompson River, where many enjoy an afternoon size and only suited for vehicles less than 11 metres. of fishing and recreational activities. A must do for anyone passing through is a visit to Welford National However, showers, bins, toilets and barbecues are all Park, 124,000 hectares of nature’s diverse landscape. accessible on site. The park is approximately 45 kilometres south-east of town; however, the drive is one you won’t forget. undah is a small outback town in Central West Queensland, situated above the floodplains of the Thomson River but close enough to view the local fauna or to try your hand at fishing. 

Tourist/Visitor Information Centre

Jundah Information Centre11 Dickson St, Jundah. Qld. Ph: 07 4658 6930 www.barcoo.qld.gov.au

Casual Parking (near retail centre)

Dickson St, Jundah

Short Term Parking

Jundah Caravan Park, 4-6 Dickson St Jundah. Negotiable stay limit, pets on lead, Telstra phone coverage, showers, bins, toilets, covered seating, BBQ, water. $10.25 pvpn non-powered. $15.35 pvpn powered site. Vehicles <11m

Dump Point

Thomson Development Rd, 3 km from Jundah.

Potable Water

War Memorial Park, Dickson St Jundah.

Lat: -24.822109. Long: 143.063077

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Collarenebri NSW

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is said to be the best inland fishing location in Australia, with many fantastic fishing spots located along the Barwon River.

There are still many historical buildings in town, with many dating back to 1910. Cutler’s Store was originally opened in 1937 and now operates as a café and takeaway food store, with locals claiming it to be the best fresh cooked food in town. Collarenebri

There are plenty of parking options in town, with short term stays available at the Collarenebri Primitive Camping Ground, located within the Collarenebri Sportsground. Parking is available free of charge, while a dump point and potable water are also available at the grounds. For longer stays, the spacious Collarenebri Showground allows parking for up to seven days for a small fee of $11 per-vehicle per-night.

ollarenebri is a quiet country town with a population of approximately 650 in Northern New South Wales. Some 707 kilometers north-west of Sydney, the town came into being in 1860 when William Earl established a pub called The Squatter’s Arms on the Barwon River.

Tourist/Visitor Information Centre

Tourist/Visitor Centre Collarenebri Agency, 37 Wilson St, Collarenebri. NSW. Ph: 02 6756 2104

Casual Parking (near retail centre)

Collarenebri Lions Park, Wilson St, Collarenebri

Short Term Parking

Collarenebri Primitive Camping Ground, Collarenebri Sportsground, (48hr), nil cost, toilets, showers, bins, water, pets ok

Dump Point

Collarenebri Primitive Camping Ground,

Potable Water

Collarenebri Primitive Camping Ground,

Collarenebri Sportsground

Collarenebri Sportsground

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Little by little, one travels far... J.R.R. Tolkien

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Profile for iMotorhome Magazine

iMotorhome + Caravan – Jul 2019  

Inside the first issue of iMotorhome + Caravan: Editorials • Letters • News • Tested – Southern Spirit Campers’ Splash • Tested – Britz eVol...

iMotorhome + Caravan – Jul 2019  

Inside the first issue of iMotorhome + Caravan: Editorials • Letters • News • Tested – Southern Spirit Campers’ Splash • Tested – Britz eVol...

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