Kimberley’s flagship camper, a true hybrid, offers the best of both worlds. I never thought I’d be reviewing a camper trailer worth over $70,000. Sounds like a lot of money, right? I mean, it’s camping, after all, and you can do that in a $7,000 trailer just fine.
But if you’re willing to spend $70k on a car, why wouldn’t you spend it on something with similar engineering, built by hand in Oz, that sets a new standard for camping in the bush with a bit of lifestyle and more than a modicum of decorum?
The Kimberley Karavan is a true hybrid. It combines real apartment living with the same attention to offroad ability, touring profile and outback living that Kimberley affords its better known camper trailer range – in the same places that those camper trailers go.
At this point, some disclosure. I’m a bit of a socialist when it comes to 4WDing and camping in general. I own a 1985 LandCruiser that’s in good nick, with a bit of work done to it, most of it with my own bloody knuckles. It owes me about $10k, including every dime I’ve spent on rego, etc. My camper trailer is an old Tambo I picked up for $6k. I believe everyone should get out there regardless of their budget.
But it’s hard not to fall in love with something like the Kimberley Karavan. The list of inclusions and little things that make life easier is ridiculously long, and you can tell a lot of thought has gone into every small aspect. How else do you explain that residual guilt you feel when you pick up one of these things from the showroom? Not because of all money spent, but because you feel like you’re getting more than your $70k’s worth.
At just over 5m long, the Karavan isn’t any longer than walk-in design camper trailers. It sits at 2275mm tall when travelling, which is almost exactly as high as the top of the roof rack on a LandCruiser, and it is actually 20mm narrower than a LandCruiser. Despite the ostentatious living space when set up, it travels well.
Empty, the Karavan weighs 1580kg, with an ATM of 2t. The towball weight is 160-180kg, according to Kimberley.
The laser-cut, hot-dipped galvanised chassis sits on a Kimberley Kamper independent suspension system. You get a three year warranty on the chassis and suspension. Over-ride disc brakes are standard, as are Fox shocks. There is no timber used structurally in the Karavan. The floor is a one piece marine high-density plastic panel, with internal alloy frames and furniture throughout.
Everything runs on 15in steel rims with an $850 allowance for Goodyear Wrangler tyres to match your vehicle. Up front on the A-frame is a Gullwing toolbox, Rhino-coated to protect it from stone chips, plus twin gas bottle storage and twin jerry can holders. Our review unit had an outdoor hot/ cold shower on the back of the trailer – these are great for quick rinses in the bush, or if you just like to get a little closer to nature.
Next to the door is the outside kitchen, on the nearside. Our review trailer had the stainless steel BBQ, stainless sink and a massive wok burner. There could be a bit more pantry storage here, but you can get in and out via the dinette.
The 12V system on the Karavan is impressive. Our trailer had great solar, with 160W worth of panels mounted on the roof. Even lower-specified models get a 20W panel for trickle charging the battery system, which is comprised of 210Ah AGM deep cycles with an intelligent 20A charger. You can jack that right up to more than 300Ah of onboard batteries, though.
All lighting is LED, with lights everywhere, utilising Kimberley’s eco range of high-powered, high-efficiency LEDs.
Setting up the Karavan takes a few minutes, and we packed one up on the beach in about five minutes. That was after a wet and woolly night, but we didn’t have to worry about sand in the bed or wet canvas.
Climbing up the cantilevered moon-lander steps, a space-age feeling flows through everything. There’s a perfect blend here of sense and sensibility, design and function. The Dutch doors keep out the weather and mozzies, and you can roll down a flyscreen window here too.
To your right is a dinette and table leading up to the queen size bed. The dinette seats up to five, and the table extends to three optional lengths – for drinks, lunch and dinner, respectively. New for 2011, the table and benchtops are solid acrylic, which means they’ll wear better and are reparable. There’s even extra storage under the seats.
The mattress is Kimberley’s Platinum innerspring nine-layer design with 100% cotton out layers. The springs are individual pocket springs, so when you drop a bowling ball on one side, the stack of wine glasses on the other side doesn’t fall over.
Under the mattress are two storage drawers perfect for clothing. This is also where the (optional) Webasto ducted heating outlet lives, alongside a couple of 240V outlets and some 12V outlets.
Directly ahead of the nearside door is the inside kitchen. Plenty of room here to spread out on the bench tops, a 12V hot/ cold stainless sink and the 133L Vitrifrigo refrigerator, which has a remote fan-cooled compressor.
There are three water tanks onboard: 120L rear tank, 70L front tank and 60L grey water.
Hot water is provided via the Webasto system, and there is a separate Webasto diesel cooktop for inside. This way, you don’t have to worry about fumes in the trailer while cooking.
A plethora of storage is built into the kitchen, with drawers and cupboards for everything, most of which you can get to even when the Karavan is stowed for travel.
Under the bench is where you’ll find the control panel and again that NASA feel comes through. You can monitor your water tanks and batteries via the awesome Victron meter which gives everything from amps out to percentages of use, toilet cassette, hot water system and diesel cooktop. There are also switches and fuses for the entire 12V system here.
The remote control DVD/ radio is also up front, with speakers in the ceiling. The optional 22in LCD TV is weatherproof so you can leave it out in the dew after the big game.
The optional inside toilet and shower next to the door is really handy. The vacuum cassette toilet ensures no weird smells emanate when guests pop around for happy hour, and having a shower inside is great when you’re camping at the beach and want to clean off before bed, or if you’re staying somewhere crowded.
With four skylights and five windows around the ‘apartment’, it is definitely bright and airflow is good. You don’t need a wall-length flyscreen when the walls and ceiling are insulated.
If I had the money for one of these things, I’d be in it right now, instead of reviewing someone else’s. It’s a really cool machine that takes what is traditionally done in camper trailers and does it that little bit better on almost every front.
When you compare it to most of the touring campers on the road, it doesn’t slip on performance, style or liveability. And when you compare it to most of the offroad caravans on the road, it is not only cheaper, but better built and heaps lighter.
For more information visit www.kimberleykaravan.com
Suspension: Kimberley independent
Brakes: Over-ride disc brakes
Price: $87,490 as tested (starting $74,950)
A Working Holiday
When Michael Bock and Beate Haunstrup Thomsen were looking for a way to travel and still look after their software business, far away from home in the south of France, they quickly settled on the Karavan as the perfect solution.
Their Karavan is equipped with all the fixings for camping, but they have added a 3G mobile broadband modem and wireless router, so that they can use their Macbooks anywhere around the camper when there is phone signal.
That’s why the van has all those stickers on it. RapidiOnline provides data integration solutions to mid-to-large companies.
They were working for Kimberley when they discovered the brand, and the lifestyle they could have on the road.
“We were thinking about travelling around Australia in a 4WD, but we wanted to be able to work at the same time, to have a travelling office,” Michael says on the beach, his tan belying any work being done lately!
“When Kimberley sent through information on the Karavan, we thought, that is perfect for what we want to do. it is a great mobile office/ apartment that can follow us anywhere in Australia.”
Check out RapidiOnline at www.rapidionline.com
Pictures: Carlisle Rogers