Bushtracker 16ft

Malcolm Street — 28 May 2019
Bush legend

Foundations. Anything that is built to last, is built on a solid foundation. Whether that be a house, a skyscraper, a relationship or a caravan. If it's built on a solid foundation, you know you're off to a good start.

Bushtracker Caravans is certainly no exception to this rule, and this is one company which sticks to its ethos: Real caravans for the outback! It's not about cutting corners and cutting costs in the Bushtracker stable. It's about building the best van for its customers who like nothing more than getting away to the far-flung reaches of this harsh continent, and staying there for quite some time.

Our visit to Bushtracker HQ at Kunda Park on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, started with a full factory tour (something that is available to all potential customers and is highly recommended: FYI, I love factory tours!). This was a great introduction to the brand and gave us a fantastic insight into exactly what goes into making its offroad vans. From the ground up, there's quality in everything that the crew at Bushtracker do, and further reinforces their desire to build the best offroad caravan on the Australian market. 

That's the other thing about Bushtracker; they only build offroad vans so they have plenty of experience in that department. Speaking of experience, next year marks its 25th anniversary. 

You don't get to reach that milestone in this industry by producing substandard caravans! The Bushtracker R&D team spend a lot of time off the road, testing not only their own vans, but also making sure that supplied equipment can stand up to the rigours of extended offroad travel.

DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION

If you spend enough time checking out the different caravans on the market, you'll soon come to realise that the Bushtracker models all share the same profile. From the 14-footer all the way up to the 24-footers and beyond, you can tell a Bushtracker from a mile away. The only difference with this 16ft model is the overall width. This is what Bushtracker calls its “compact” model, measuring in at only 2.17m wide. Personally, pulling a 'skinnier' van through a tight bush track and not having to worry (as much) about scraping the sides or tearing off an awning would be a huge plus for me. But that's where the differences end. All Bushtracker vans are built the same way, and have been since the company started. These vans are built along a similar principle to your house with a slab/floor and stud wall construction. This might have something to do with the fact that the owners of the company used to be builders! Just goes to show that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. 

Bushtracker vans don't have fancy names; each van is simply referred back to their imperial length. There are, however, a range of different layouts to choose from as well as eager ears willing to listen to your custom requirements meaning no two Bushtrackers leave the Sunshine Coast factory the same.

Riding on Simplicity independent coil suspension, this single-axle model has a heavy-duty, hot-dipped galvanised and laminated double chassis and fully welded sub-frame with full-width cross members. What did I say earlier about foundations? The chassis is also sprayed with a body deadener, which helps to further protect the underbody, and provide water and dust sealing. Bonded to the sub-frame is the one-piece, resin-infused composite floor, which is crush-resistant and will not de-laminate. 

It's got thermal insulating properties as an added bonus for those hot days and cold nights. Prior to using this flooring in all of their vans, the team put it through nine months of rigorous testing just to make sure it was fit for purpose. 

Harking back to conventional house design, the aluminium external wall frames (minimum 2mm thick — 5mm on the joints) are then bolted through the composite floor to the sub-frame below. Completing the structural integrity, all corners are then bolted, and welded together for maximum strength. This aluminium frame is then clad with a choice of fibreglass or aluminium, with checkerplate around the bottom metre of the van for added protection and durability. As a new option, the aluminium checkerplate, as seen on this model, can be sprayed with a black or coloured Raptor coating for even more protection.

Sandwiched between the aluminium framing and structural marine grade ply in every conceivable nook and cranny is a flame-retardant insulation sheeting — 25mm-thick for the walls, and 75mm-thick on the ceiling.

Typical of the Bushtracker design is the 45-degree departure at the rear of the van. In the early days, this angle was 30 degrees, but a change in design means that a scraped bum is rarely an option when exiting those steep creek crossings. A full-width steel skid plate and rear chassis provide a mounting location for your MAXTRAX as well as providing additional protection for the Narva LED tail-lights. Up the back is where you will also find the two chassis-mounted recovery points if you do manage to bite off a bit more than you can chew!

Due to the fact that there is nothing hanging off the back of the van, there is plenty going on at the pointy end. The A-frame is fully incorporated into the chassis, providing maximum strength to mount spare wheel carriers, firewood racks, twin gas cylinders and the stone guard. There's the Fastway Zip breakaway cable system, Hitch-Ezy 5T fully articulating hitch, HD handbrake and 2T slide stand also found up the front, along with both potable and non-potable water taps.

Pretty much everything that is under the composite floor is tucked up nice and high and out of the way. Electrical cabling, gas lines, hot and cold water lines, are all run along the chassis as high as possible, and very neatly too might I say. Where water lines or connections are more exposed, galvanised steel plates are employed to deflect and keep wayward rocks at bay.

Maximising the off-grid capabilities of this van is the amount of water it can carry. Three 75L tanks (one potable, two non-potable) gives you 225L of water, while an additional 75L tank takes care of your grey water requirements when in delicate environments. 

The grey water tank incorporates its own internal cleaning system to minimise unwanted odours wafting back inside the van.

Taking pride of place in the large front storage locker is a Dometic pull-out kitchen, complete with a three-burner gas cooktop and a plumbed sink. Just perfect for an evening out under the awning after a little bit of al fresco dining. And just so you don't have to keep walking back inside the van to grab another bottle of pinot gris (well, it is a long way!), a Dometic fridge drawer sits neatly above the kitchen. 

When the sun dips below the horizon, external LED lights (in both white and yellow to keep the insects at bay) are mounted along the outside of the van. Built-in marine grade speakers and an external AV locker with TV mount complete the outdoor entertainment package.

Paying homage to its true offroad roots, an external watertight door allows this Bushtracker van to have a wading depth of 1.2m. As an added bonus, this feature also has the benefit of making the van dust-proof as well. Hidden in the watertight door is a fold-down table, which is a perfect place for those cheese and crackers to sit while waiting to be devoured at Happy Hour.

WHAT'S GOING ON IN THERE?

So, we've finished with the outside so now it's time to head inside via the electric steps and forward door to see what this compact van has got to offer. 

Bushtracker offers two types of interior finishes: Modern Choices or Timeless Timber. Once again, this decision is up to you, and there are endless different combinations to choose from with regards to benchtops, upholstery and floor finish to name a few.

This van has been fitted out in the Modern Choices theme, which works really well in this compact-sized van. 

With its bright and contrasting colour palette, the van does a great job of disguising its narrower body width.

No doubt, the first thing that you notice will be the elevated island bed. Due to the reduced width of the van, a double bed is all that you can fit in here. That's actually not such a bad thing on those cold winter nights! 

The bed is accessed via raised platforms on either side, which makes getting in and out a simple task. The raised platforms also make for excellent underfloor storage compartments — the ideal spot to squirrel away a couple of pairs of shoes.

Access to the front storage locker is under the bed, which can easily be lifted with the assistance of gas struts. Just be careful when you're lowering it down. If like me, you'll only slam it down once.

The height of the bed has an added benefit, as it allows for a 2.5kg mini washer/dryer to be fitted, next to a set of three deep drawers at the foot of the bed. Cupboards with hanging space can be found either side of the bed, along with USB charging ports and LED bed lights. Two Sirocco fans are also fitted for those nights when it's just not quite hot enough to crank the Truma air-conditioner into top gear. A large skylight directly above the bed will have you stargazing for hours under those clear outback skies. 

Being a 16ft van, it's obvious that you aren't going to have a kitchen with a massive amount of room and bench space. But what Bushtracker has done is make use of every little bit of real estate available to make your cooking experience as enjoyable as possible. 

A large stainless steel sink sits in the middle of the bench, and a fold-up splashback over the four-burner gas cooktop/oven provides additional bench preparation space. A larger pot drawer resides under the oven. 

There's a large under-sink cupboard and a bank of four drawers next to it, to go perfectly with the three overhead cupboards, which also house the rangehood. 

Mounted to an adjustable swing arm above the kitchen bench, and secured in a custom wall bracket with a pair of quick release straps, is a 24in flatscreen TV. For added convenience, the TV can be also mounted externally. An easy-to-keep-clean glass splashback completes the look of this very functional little kitchen.

On the opposite side to the galley-style kitchen is the bench-style dining area. Consisting of a double bench seat and an island table, the dining area makes the most of the available space while providing a comfortable area for dinner for two. More cupboard space is located above the dining area, and these house the control panel for the hot water system, stereo, 12V monitoring and circuit breakers. Next to the dining area is the 220L Isotherm compressor two-door fridge-freezer. 

At the very back of the van, hiding behind a frosted perspex door, is the ensuite with separate toilet, shower and vanity. Storage capacity is maximised once again with a large cabinet behind the vanity mirror, small drawers and cupboards below the basin and a watertight storage locker in the shower, which is just perfect for your soaps, shampoos and conditioners. Or maybe even your fishing tackle box!

POWER TO THE PEOPLE

When you've organised those couple of weeks of annual leave, the last thing you want to have to worry about is having to get back to civilisation to recharge your batteries. Never fear, with the electrical setup in this van, the only thing that'll have you heading back to town will be for a visit to the grocery store.

Hidden behind the pull-out kitchen, and underneath the bed in the front storage locker, is the brains of the operation. Well, at least the brains of the power management operation. There's 300Ah of lithium batteries, backed up by 450W of solar panels on the roof. If that isn't enough, a 30A DC/DC charger will keep the power topped up while driving via an Anderson plug connection. To make sure you're leaving home with fully charged batteries, a 60A 240V charger is mounted under the bed, too. Getting access to all of this power is very convenient, with powerpoints, 12V sockets and USB charging ports scattered throughout the van. LED lighting keeps power consumption to a minimum.

THE BOTTOM LINE

In Bushtracker's own words, the team don't set out to be the biggest, just the best. They stick to their design principles and build a van that is designed to go offroad, and stay there for as long as possible. This 16-footer lives up to the reputation that precedes it. Packed with features that would keep even a seasoned offroad couple happy, while not causing too much stress towing it across the countryside, this Bushtracker ticks all the boxes. 

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

Overall length 4.88m (16ft)            External body length 7.01m (23ft)

External body width 2.17m (7ft 1in)

Travel height 2.95m (9ft 8in)

Internal height 1.97m (6ft 6in) 

Tare 2140kg 

ATM 2950kg

Payload 810kg

Ball weight 120kg    


EXTERNAL

Frame Aluminium (2mm and 3mm structural box section)

Cladding Silver aluminium cladding with tough, scratch-resistant powdercoat finish

Chassis Hot-dipped, fully galvanised laminated double chassis

Suspension Single axle, fully independent progressive coil suspension with 60T stub axles

Coupling Hitch-Ezy 5T fully articulating 4X4 hitch

Brakes 12in electric

Wheels 265/76 R16 Bridgestone D697 all-terrain tyres on alloy rims (six-stud)

Water 3x75L (1x potable, 2x non-potable); 1x75L grey water 

Battery 300Ah lithium

Solar 3x150W, with 60A Morningstar solar regulator

Air-conditioner Truma Aventa 2.4kW

Gas 1x9kg

Sway control N/A


INTERNAL

Cooking Swift stove (four-burner), oven and grill with automatic ignition

Fridge Isotherm upright compressor fridge 220L

Microwave N/A

Bathroom Ensuite with separate shower/toilet/vanity

Washing machine Daewoo top-load mini washer/dryer 2.5kg

Hot water Suburban gas/electric 15L


OPTIONS FITTED

300mm extended drawbar; pre-wired for future inverter; alloy rim upgrade; side loading tyre carriers/firewood rack; electric step; extra-large front cargo doors


PRICE AS SHOWN

$144,010


MORE INFORMATION

To enquire about this caravan, please phone (07) 5476 5833

Tags

review caravan bushtracker tested

Photographer

Malcolm Street