Great Aussie Caravans is, like so many, a caravan manufacturer based in the Campbellfield region of Victoria. Having been in business for most of the last decade and building a range of caravans for a Queensland-based dealer, Great Aussie Caravans has made the switch to building caravans under its own name. They are sold through a growing dealer network on the east coast of Australia.
Great Aussie Caravans not only offer a wide range of caravans — including on-road, semi-offroad, offroad, and family — but also vans showcasing different construction techniques. First up is the Timber Series, which has a Meranti timber floor, lightweight timber furniture, aluminium wall cladding, and a fibreglass composite roof. Also available is the Aluminium Series, featuring welded aluminium framed walls with aluminium composite cladding for the walls, a fibreglass roof, and a fibreglass honeycomb floor. Moving up the technology ladder are the FibreTech vans, built using composite sandwich walls and a single-piece roof — all using an internal and external fibreglass skin with PVC inserts. Lastly, Allytech vans are built using composite sandwich walls and, inside, lightweight aluminium cabinetry.
ONE FOR THE FAMILY
The caravan on review, lent from Joe Gomes and his team at Auswide Caravans in Nowra, NSW is dubbed the Tribal Navig8or 18. Reading into this, you can glean that it denotes a family van — tribal — that is designed for semi-offroad use — navigator — with an external body length of 18ft/5.49m. The name may seem a bit of a mouthful, but unlike some other names I have encountered, it’s readily understandable.
The same can be said for the construction of the van — which, although mostly hidden, is revealed by the Aluminium Series name on the outside of the van. As aforementioned, this series has an aluminium frame and wall cladding, a fibreglass roof, and a lightweight yet strong floor. According to Joe Gomes, although the timber framed caravans are the cheapest by about $5000, most customers usually opt for an aluminium frame.
Underpinning the van is a Supagal box section chassis, which looks fairly conventional with 100mm x 50mm (4in x 2in) main rails, similarly sized raisers, and a 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) drawbar. Judging by the bonding glue along the edges of the chassis components, the chassis is well and truly fixed to the floor. As might be expected, both 95L water tanks are fitted between the chassis rails but are located behind the axle. Two battery boxes are fitted to the offside rear chassis rails but in standard form — though only one contains a battery.
Also, under the van — but not overly obvious in daylight — is a bug-free LED light strip running down both sides and across the back of the van. Interesting light effect aside, it's a handy feature when walking around the van in the evenings.
Across the front of the van is the usual tunnel storage, and there’s a second, more cubby-like bin placed between the main storage and the Swift water heater. The second bin is quite small but handy for smaller items you don't want to lose.
At the business end of the van, the drawbar is quite simply fitted out with a ball coupling, jockey wheel, and two 9kg gas cylinders. There’s also a couple of mounting brackets fitted, should one desire to fit a front toolbox — a simple but interesting addition.
ON THE ROAD
Relatively speaking, the Navig8tor 18 doesn’t have a particularly heavy towing weight with an ATM of 2700kg and tare of 2290kg. It was, consequently, well-suited to my Isuzu MU-X towing vehicle. It was a good towing combination, I have to say, but with both water tanks behind the axle, it would be prudent to check the ball weight when the van is fully loaded.
In a family caravan that is 5.49m (18ft) long, fitting bunk beds and a double bed into a van that also has a bathroom is quite tricky. It is, quite simply, done by having an east-west double bed across the front of the van, and two bunks and a separate bathroom in the rear, which leaves room for the kitchen and lounge. This is all achieved quite neatly.
I’m told that the next model of this van will be 6in (150mm) longer, which may not sound like much, but will allow space for an L-shaped lounge and slightly longer kitchen bench. In a variation on the usual colour scheme of white, black and grey, the bench top and table have a pseudo-timber look, making it a nice departure from the usual.
BUNKS FOR TWO
Given this is a van for parents and junior members of the family, the rear bedroom area is a good place to start. Each of the double bunks measures 1.88m x 0.64m (6ft x 2ft 2in) and comes with an ample window and reading light at the rear end. The upper bunk gets a basic timber cut-out ladder, and there are storage facilities under the lower bunk.
Between the bunks and the bathroom is a well-sized wardrobe with hanging space above and three drawers below. Above the bedroom area, a good-sized roof hatch lets in plenty of natural light and also comes with LED lights fitted into the frame.
Slightly compressed when compared to a bathroom of standard size, this one has an decently-sized shower cubicle, Thetford cassette toilet, and pedestal wash basin, literally sitting on a pedestal sized cupboard.
An extra feature is the 3.5kg washing machine mounted on the wall above the toilet. This is not exactly suited to family-sized loads of washing, but is a great feature for getting small loads of washing done.
Like many a van designed for more than a couple, the lounge seat is not long enough for a family, and will need at least one extra seat to accommodate everyone. The table is well sized and mounted on a Nuava Mapa adjustable height leg with a turn table and slide. This makes it not only very sturdy, but also very easily adjustable.
Three overhead lockers are fitted above the window behind the seat and below, two floor-level doors give access to the under-seat area. Reading lights are fitted at each end of the seat, and there’s a power point below seat level.
MEALS TO GO
When catering for multiple people, something like a family-sized Thetford 169L fridge/freezer is a handy item — it should be noted that future models should have a larger Dometic 225L three-way fridge fitted. There have, however, been stock shortages in recent times.
The rest of the kitchen bench is more moderately sized, although the large square sink will certainly cope with family-sized washing up. For the hungry family, the four-burner cooktop, grill and oven will certainly cope quite well, as will the Sphere microwave oven located in the overhead locker space. Storage is slightly more problematic. There is but one overhead locker, the other being for electrics. The three drawers are, however, well-sized and there are also a cupboard and two floor lockers. There is also an abundance of double power points in this area — one at the rear of the kitchen bench, and two above the adjacent bed!
Measuring 1.9m x 1.53m (6ft 3in x 5ft), the double bed sits across the van. East-west beds are always a bit problematic for the person sleeping on the inside if they have to get up in the middle of the night, but in this case it’s possible to clamber in from the foot of the bed.
Overhead lockers are fitted all round the top of the wall and there’s a single wardrobe with shelves/bedside cabinets fitted into the front offside corner. Two under-bed drawers save the effort of lifting the bed base to access the under-bed storage.
Few vans these days aren’t well-equipped electrically speaking, and the Navig8or 18 isn’t an exception.
It comes in standard form with a 100Ah AGM battery, 150W solar panel, and a BMPRO BP35HA battery management system to control all. The power points are generally well located and along with the light system, which includes the under-van LED rope, is well set up.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s interesting that a caravan manufacturer has decided to supply several options on how a van is built, rather than simply offering on the existing layout. It certainly gives a potential buyer more choice.
For a family of four, this particular van has much to offer, including the fact that it does not require an oversize tow vehicle. That does require a little compromise in the internal layout but one which I reckon most travellers can live with if they want a small to mid-sized touring caravan.
Understanding the construction of a van is always made easier when the dealer has a demonstration sample. The aluminium framing, XPS foam insulation, and honeycomb flooring can easily be seen in the pictures above. Note also the aluminium cladding.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 5.49m (18ft)
Overall length 8m (26ft 3in)
Width 2.44m (8ft)
Height (incl AC) 3.02m (9ft 11in)
Ball weight 240kg
Frame Aluminium TIG welded box
Cladding Aluminium composite walls, fibreglass roof
Chassis SupaGal box section
Suspension AL-KO IRS torsion
Brakes 12in elec
Wheels 16in alloy
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 1 x 100Ah
Solar 1 x 150W
Air-conditioner Belaire 3400
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking Swift 4 burner, grill and oven
Fridge Thetford N4175A 175L (current), Dometic 225L (future)
Microwave oven Sphere
Bathroom Thetford cassette toilet & separate shower cubicle
Hot water Swift 28L gas/elec
PRICE AS SHOWN
250 Princes Highway
Nowra, NSW 2541
Ph: (02) 4421 2055