Best Aussie Vans 2019: From Sea to RV

John Ford — 9 January 2020
Best Aussie Vans 2019's sponsor may seem odd, but this nautically focussed company is making a tree change

Sponsoring rights to this year’s Best Aussie Van went to BLA CZone, a move which may have mystified readers not familiar with boating. While the company is a go-to destination for all things marine, but until recently their presence in the RV market has been rather understated.

BLA is a huge Australian company, established in 1974 as a backyard operation by Bob Littler and wife Denise and now owned by the Brunswick Corporation. They gave their name to Bob Littler Agencies or BLA, which over time became the country’s largest supplier of internationally recognised Boating, Lifestyle and Adventure products. Their range includes over 60 brands and 24,000 individual items and the company prides itself on providing the products you want, the knowledge you need and the service you rely on. 

Sales are across boat building and repair, fishing and tourism ventures, the commercial passenger industry and even catering to naval and defense needs through 4000 local accounts and retail outlets. You can’t buy direct from BLA but there is sure to be a retailer somewhere close that stocks or can secure the products. More than 500 international trade customers across South East Asia also rely on BLA for equipment.



Products are delivered through distribution centers in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Auckland, New Zealand, with staff totaling more than 120. As well as the overwhelming product range, one of BLA’s chief advantages is their ability, through their competitive freight options, to ship products quickly and cheaply to customers.

The size of the product range can be appreciated when you see their catalogue — a 3kg tome of 1590 pages with every conceivable boating and RV accessory included. The catalogue is also available online, so for hours of fun go to the website.

With such a wide range of products, the potential reach to the RV industry is enormous. A van might not need an anchor, but they need lighting, electronics, sound systems, pumps, hatches, trailer accessories, refrigeration and electric motors.  And their users need canoes and kayaks as well as bags, sunnies and outdoor seating. It’s all there in the catalogue and with more to come the possibilities are enormous.

There’s no understating the depth of the RV market. Tens of thousands of caravans, campers and motorhomes endlessly cross the country and around 20,000 are added to the mix each year. Owners seek ever more luxuries and features in both new vans and when upgrading or restoring a classic.

Making life simpler often involves complicated electronics and in a moving structure like a van, that requires equipment that is robust and reliable. A $25 wireless rear view camera from eBay or Wish isn’t going to cut it in the real world, as I can verify from wasted hours trying to get one to work. Quality lasts.

Our leisure time is precious, so if we are listening to music, then let’s make it as enjoyable as possible with a descent sound system. Same with a battery charger. If it doesn’t charge the battery so you can watch the cricket when you want to, then it’s just a waste of space.

BLA’s list for RV applications solves lots of problems I didn’t even know I had, with quality products designed to last from name brand suppliers. Let’s look at some of them.

CZone 

Because we kit our modern recreational vehicles with as much onboard power and charging facility as we can, the requirements become more sophisticated. In our example above, watching the cricket on holiday in a remote location is now possible, but we need to maximise, monitor and control our power use.

CZone simplifies electrical installation by replacing complex wiring. A quick look under the skin of your van will show how unwieldy the wiring can be, and that’s not being critical of the builder, many of whom do their best to keep things neat and simple.

With CZone, you control all onboard electrical systems with a sleek networked digital interface that replaces old school switches and fuse panels. The intelligent management controller simplifies operation by combining all the circuits into one unit where you can scroll through various modes for immediate monitoring and operation of each circuit.

Additionally, CZone manages the various charging inputs to the onboard battery bank. It can balance demand against the charging input and automatically reduce load by switching off non-essential appliances to extend the battery capacity until the next charging cycle.

The CZone system is designed for easy operation and is fully customisable. Non-essential circuits can be quickly selected for power saving mode and easily changed as circumstances change.

Bluetooth allows control from an iPad anywhere in range, so you don’t even have to leave your hammock to check on the voltage or turn on the lights.

MASTERVOLT

It could be argued that lithium batteries have been one of the most significant advances in RV technology in the recent past. Being independent is important for anyone wanting to explore off grid. You can’t have too much battery power.

Lithium saves significant weight, being up to half the mass of a similar capacity wet cell, thus allowing more to be carried in a van without going over your payload. They are smaller — again, they can take up half the volume of their old-tech counterpart, and they are up to 80% more efficient, being able to use much more of their capacity. A lithium battery can run to 20% charge and will still giving full voltage. A wet cell will only discharge to 40% before it stops working.

By offering a complete system, Mastervolt provides a solution to power in remote locations. Their product range includes the battery as well as all the associated electronics including chargers, inverters and monitors.

The Mastervolt inverter/chargers combine both operations into one compact unit. High frequency switching technology means lower noise levels from the inverter than other brand’s similar output versions.

JBL

Turning up the noise when I’m out there under an open sky is one of my simple pleasures. You can keep your peace and quiet; if there’s no one else around then Blue Sky Mine with the volume on 11 will do me.

JBL’s range of marine sound systems is just the shot for use in vans and campers. Compact Bluetooth head units match to outside speakers that are dust and weatherproof. They offer superior sound from their one-piece cast polymer basket, sealed magnet and rubber surrounds rated to IPx5 weather rating. For more sound and bling, choose a set of 8” multi element speakers with lights and multi element 10” subwoofers to match.

The new range of marine amplifiers is designed for tough environments. They have 4 and 5 channel outputs for extra bass and include all high or all low crossovers with variable electronic frequency adjustment for precise system tuning. That translates to high quality sound at big volume.

BEP

BEP offers a range of high-quality electrical solutions designed for the harsh marine and RV environments. Every product meets exacting performance specification and is designed to withstand extreme conditions. BEP’s innovative culture and engineering excellence is focused on simplifying the installation and optimising the user experience with thoroughly tested products. Within the range falls the Pro Installer series, which are modular designed for fast, flexible installation in tight spaces to cover all battery fusing, switching and distribution requirements.

The New Zealand-based BEP also encapsulates a more traditional range of battery management, metering, switching and circuit protection solutions to cover all bases, whether the van’s in storage or on an adventure.  

Weather resistant busbars have superior connectors and covers for a long life on the road. High quality hydraulic magnetic and thermal circuit breakers are designed to reliably protect your RV.

Blue Seas

Finally, in our abbreviated rundown of BLA products for the RV market we should mention American company Blue Seas with another alternative for your caravan and motorhome electronics solution.

Their range of over 1000 marine grade electrical products including power distribution and switching, busbars, fuse boxes, power monitoring, dozens of different types of circuit breakers, a big choice of DC and AC panels, and a whole lot more.

The Wrap

So there you have it. When it comes to components for your RV, especially electronics, then it’s likely that BLA will have them all in one place. The choice is huge and the brands are all high quality. Happily, there’s no need to carry around the monster catalogue, because it’s easy to search their website at bla.com.au/czone.

With a range first developed for the demanding marine environment, now being expanded with ever more offerings tailor-made for caravanners’ unique needs, we’re excited to see everything what BLA CZone have in store.

Tags

Best Aussie Vans 2019 BLA Sponsor Review Feature

External Links

https://https://bla.com.au/czone