At first glance, the top-of-the-range 2016 Kimberley Karavan Eco Suite looks small for a caravan – in fact it’s so compact that you don’t need towing mirrors. We often equate caravan size to the number of creature comforts – forgetting that computers and other technological gadgets get smaller, but also more powerful each year. Kimberley is obviously following suit. Instead of increasing size and weight it increased capability and performance, proving that bigger does not always mean better.
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Kimberley specifically designs its compact caravans to include a travel height of only 2.2m when closed; and to achieve optimal off-road ability, they are no wider than the average 4X4 (1.9m). The units are constructed of lightweight, low-drag fibreglass and retract for a low travelling profile. The benefits are twofold: Fuel savings; but also a greater driving range (and your caravan won’t take out every single low-lying branch on the track). When parked, you simply flick a switch to literally ‘raise the roof’ and then retract it when you have to hit the road again.
The electronic and water systems are specifically designed to keep you off the grid for as long as possible. By using a combination of solar, diesel and water filters, you can camp beside a creek and have unlimited access to filtered drinking water, while using the 550 watts of solar on the roof to keep your unit powered up. The diesel consumption by the heater, hot water and interior cooktop is so low, Kimberley claims that a 12L tank can last for up to three months.
BELOW THE BELT
Every Kimberley caravan is manufactured with a hot dipped, galvanised, flexible, laser-locked chassis with an independent trailing arm suspension (the chassis comes with a five-year transferable warranty).
The Eco Suite rides on air bags with a wide range of adjustable heights and a ‘limp home’ ability for emergencies. It uses electronic disc brakes, and features an anti-sway bar and mono-tube shock absorbers. The Eco Suite comes with a TREG off-road coupling and one-touch parking brake, with an extended drawbar for easy reverse turning. The wheel size can be matched to your tow vehicle and each unit comes with a $1,500 wheel and tyre allowance. There are also rear recovery points rated up to 6,000kg.
STORAGE AND ELECTRONICS
Two over-centre catches at the front pop open a 300L multi-toolbox that carries the 240Ah lithium batteries and a DC-DC 22 amp booster. There is also an Anderson plug power point, a spot for a generator, and on-board compressor and airbag suspension controls. There are two lock-off valves and two paddle latches to level the caravan. The split system air-con condenser is also stored here (instead of on the roof) to cut down on drag and reduce internal noise significantly.
On the driver’s side of the toolbox are two jerry can holders for 20L jerry cans; and a 12L diesel tank. On the passenger side, two 4kg gas bottles connect to all gas fittings. On top there is a firewood (or luggage) carrier.
In the rear storage area there is a water pump and a shower pack for outdoor bathing, as well as the electronics for the solar regulator. There are 550 watts delivered from 10 flat ultra-light polycarbonate solar panels on the roof, and there’s a 3G aerial with a 200km range for Wi-Fi internet reception.
The water situation is certainly well covered in the Eco Suite. It easily carries the two water tanks: 120L of everyday water, 70L of drinking water and also an additional 60L grey water catch.
INDOOR AND OUTDOOR KITCHENS
Open up the outdoor kitchen and there is a two-burner stove and large wok burner. The kitchen comes with plenty of pantry space that can also be accessed from inside. There are storage drawers along the pull-out bench, and a fridge slide. The outside sink has hot and cold water (the cold water tap is filtered). An outside aerial jack, with two other points inside, can be used to set up a TV.
On the inside, a stainless steel sink with hot and cold water and a two-burner ceramic diesel powered cooktop rest on a solid benchtop. A stainless steel 133L upright fridge-freezer and a microwave are nested under the bench, along with soft-close drawers (each lit with LED lights). The cooktop runs on diesel, removing the worries about gas, but there is still gas cooking available outside. Also, even when the caravan is parked and closed, you can easily access the fridge through the doorway to put away your groceries.
Spring-loaded manual stairs fold down easily to access the main door. Inside, it’s cosy; but bright and well ventilated. There are two hatches over the kitchen with fans for bringing fresh air in, or an extractor fan for blowing hot air out. There is an automatic fan over the bed area and if it does rain, it automatically closes. New for 2016 is the positive pressure vent – two 90mm fans that create positive pressure at a low speed to help prevent dust ingress while driving.
There are dimming LED lights throughout which all have their own switches; and a smart touch screen that displays water tank levels, solar input information and battery capacity. The microwave in the kitchen runs off the inverter, but the Eco Suite runs everything off the batteries except the air-con. The air-con requires a generator or an upgrade to a 3,000 watt inverter and 480 amp lithium batteries – which can keep the air-con running for three to four hours.
Beside the kitchen is a media hub that is Bluetooth connected with a 4G super modem aerial. A 22in LED TV with DVD player is installed, and you can run satellite systems as either an auto roof-mounted satellite or a portable satellite system to keep things easier. There are two interior speakers as well as two exterior speakers.
Built into the bed step is a diesel space heater and reverse cycle heating and cooling system. The diesel space heater, diesel cooktop and diesel hot water all run off the one 12L diesel tank on the front of the caravan – and Kimberley claims one litre of diesel can heat for six hours.
In the dining area, the table retracts into the area below the bed and the seat flips over to access the outdoor pantry. This seat also serves as a single bed and can be upgraded and converted to a bunk bed. An innerspring queen-size mattress with an under-bed electric heating blanket occupies the main sleeping space. His and hers under-bed drawers sit above the heater.
In the bathroom, there is a shower, a sink and an electric flush chemical toilet (with an external hatch to access a cassette for emptying). There is an option for a composting, waterless toilet as well. The caravan comes with a shower screen to provide privacy, midge mesh on all the windows, and magnetic curtains.
Kimberley Karavan Eco Suite Signature
|Chassis||Hot dipped galvanised, flexible, laser-locked chassis|
|Coupling||TREG off-road coupling|
|Rims and Tyres||17in rims with BFG All Terrain tyres|
|Suspension||Independent trailing arm suspension with air bag springs and monotube shock absorbers|
|Brakes||Electric disc brakes and one-touch parking brake|
|Living Area||Bathroom, kitchen, table and queen size bed: Liveable size when open – Length 4,950mm (16.25ft), and 1,750mm Wide|
|Water Tank||120L of everyday water, 70L drinking water, 60L grey catch|
|Weight||Dry weight 1,650kg; Wet weight 2,200kg|
|Canvas||Awnings only, Dynaproof|
|Price as tested||$109,990|
Words and Pics by Christina Cannes