Regular readers of this fine magazine might have noticed that there are quite a few rather expensive and (frequently) offroad caravans featured. However, for those on a budget, there are plenty of caravans available at the lower end of the pricing scale and with the added bonus of not requiring a large (again, read expensive) tow vehicle.
Enter the Jayco Journey 15 48-5 pop-top which is available for under $35,000 and with an ATM of 1630kg. It ticks all of the above more budget-orientated boxes. It doesn’t have a bathroom but, for those travellers who like to stay in caravan parks, that’s not a great loss. Not to mention a weight saver — that is not only in build materials but also that of an extra water tank. Quite a few travellers forget that water does have weight and it’s quite easy to figure out — one litre weighs one kilogram.
My Jayco Journey came from Watson’s Leisure Centre at Coffs Harbour. Now, Coffs Harbour isn’t on my usual ‘beat’ of Sydney, Newcastle and Brisbane but with the Ed’s approval, I think I'm going back again.
Most people I am sure are familiar with Coffs Harbour’s claim to fame, the Big Banana, but it’s much more than that and I have to say I was surprised by the number of RV dealers in town, some with very large premises to boot. And, at the end of a rather hot day, it was great to head off to a local beach (just 10 minutes away) for a nice cooling swim.
This Journey model was just 4.86m (16ft) long and that made it ideal for towing. In addition, the 2.4m (7ft 11in) travel height was a bonus too, not only for driving but also for storage if you are someone who likes to keep their caravan under cover when not being used. That is certainly a consideration for those who cannot be on the road all the time or, like me, still have a full-time job.
AROUND THE OUTSIDE
Like all Jayco caravans, the Journey is built on a hot dipped galvanised chassis, one that is designed and built by Jayco, not an outside contractor. It does have 100mm x 50mm
(4in x 2in) RHS rails for the chassis and drawbar but the cross members are a weight saving, C-section punched hole design (PSC in Jayco jargon).
Supporting the van body structure is an aluminium frame but it’s an insulated vacuum bonded arrangement, with an exterior finish of fibreglass and 3mm plywood sheeting on either side of the framing.
Across the front of the van is a small tunnel boot. It’s not oversized but does have enough space for the essentials like hoses, power lead and camping chairs. There’s probably enough space for fishing rods, too.
Some people don’t like pop-tops because there’s a bit more set-up time involved but the reality is that it is less than five minutes. Undo the four corner clips, remember to set the awning to 'open' and lift the roof from the inside. Once the gusset windows are unzipped, that’s it, just like a full caravan.
TIME TO POP INSIDE
With the pop-top raised and there being no bathroom, this Journey does have a rather spacious feel about it. That is the benefit of a pop-top, plenty of air space at head level. The only downside is the smaller profile overhead lockers but that is merely a challenge for lighter weight travel. There are two single beds up front — a bit of a space saver in itself — a mid-nearside kitchen bench, with fridge opposite and a rear L-shaped lounge.
Both the single beds measure 2.14m x 0.75m (6ft 7in x 4ft 6in), so there is plenty of room to stretch out — that is one advantage that single beds have over a double bed, which are frequently shorter. Both bed bases lift up and there’s plenty of storage space under both, also double powerpoints on both sides. I’m not sure whether that’s a convenient location for manufacture but it looked a bit odd to me.
Between both beds there’s a good-sized wardrobe which offers plenty of hanging space, as well as a single drawer and small cupboard below. What you don’t get is individual bedside shelves, instead, just the common area below the wardrobe.
In the catering department, the kitchen bench is an L shape, something that saves a bit of space and/or improves the bench top space/storage capacity. This design has the four-burner cooktop/grill with microwave oven below against the wall by the habitation door and the stainless-steel sink/drainer at right angles. I know the jury is still out on this little debate — high or low set microwave but there is sometimes less OH&S risk associated with a low-set appliance. An option on this van is the 164L Thetford three-way fridge, instead of the standard 93L, so there is plenty of space for cool drinks.
At the back of the van, the L-shaped lounge will seat two people without too much trouble at all. The table isn’t oversized but does have a chamfered corner to make it easy to get past. In the rear nearside corner, the flatscreen TV is mounted above a low cupboard. Given the lounge arrangement, at least one person should be able to get their feet up for comfortable TV viewing!
THE BOTTOM LINE
I get that this isn’t the flashiest caravan in the sales yard but for a couple who really only want a budget van and are happy staying in caravan parks, then it will tick quite a few boxes. In addition to that, its relatively light weight doesn’t require a large tow vehicle and the external length of 4.86m (16ft) makes it a very easy caravan to tow and manoeuvre around.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 6.28m (20ft 7in)
External body length 4.86m (16ft)
External body width (incl awn) 2.47m (8ft 1in)
Travel height 2.41m (7ft 11in)
Internal height 2.01m (6ft 7in)
Ball weight 162kg
Cladding Fibreglass, insulated vacuum bonded
Chassis Hot dipped galvanised
Suspension Leaf spring
Brakes 10in electric
Wheels 14in alloy
Air-conditioner Truma Aventa
Sway control No
Cooking Smev four-burner and grill
Fridge Thetford N504M.3 164L,
Hot water No
Al-KO Drop jacks, Winegard antenna, Thetford 164L three-way fridge, picnic table, gas bayonet
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan, contact Jayco Caravans
Ph: (03) 8792 2000
Watsons Leisure Centre
6 North Boambee Road
Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
Ph: 1300 518 083