It would be safe to say, after living in a van full-time for the past four years, when it came time for the crew from Trip in a Van to find a new one they would have a fair idea of what they wanted.
Well, that is definitely the case and they have now customised an already well specced out Desert Storm family van from Sunseeker just how they want it. It’s all ready to tackle remote and off-grid adventures around Aus.
When reviewing this van, I was looking at it slightly differently than I would normally. Where other vans I have reviewed have been off the showroom floor, this van has been built specifically for a customer. And that customer had very specific needs.
This van has been built to suit a family of five for their endless adventure. That's right. I did say endless. Back when they first hit the road in December of 2015, the plan was for a 12-month lap of the map. Oh how things change!
Now in their fifth year on the road Bec and Justin Lorrimer, along with their kids Jack (7), Billy (6) and Charli (5), show no signs of slowing down. This family still have plenty of places in Australia to tick off their list, with no end in sight.
So, the priority of this new build was to allow for remote, off-grid adventures for the whole family and to do it in comfort. And with a bit of style as well.
After looking at the Sunseeker brand previously when wanting to upgrade their van, Justin and Bec hit a hurdle due to the GVM and GCM limitations of their old BT50. When it came time to upgrade their entire touring package, which involved opting for a 200 Series LandCruiser as their chosen chariot, the Sunseeker brand was back on the table.
The 200 Series has seen its fair share of mods, including upgrading the towing capacity to 4500kg. This allowed the new Desert Storm build to be compliant with a 4500kg ATM. These guys have now got a whopping 1472kg (calculated) of payload to play with! I think even a family of five will have trouble maxing that out.
With that amount of payload, you could expect that there is also going to be a serious amount of storage options found in this van. There are also a lot of clever storage solutions.
Whereas most caravanners might do one, maybe two big trips a year in their vans, the Lorrimers live in theirs full-time. These guys don't have a house that they return to after each leg of their journey. That means that there must be a place for everything, and everything must be in its place.
Outside, it's pretty standard fare as far as storage goes, with a full-width tunnel boot up the front, which has been lined with aluminium checkerplate and comes complete with LED lights.
Up on the drawbar, a massive checkerplate tool box provides ample storage and is flanked by a pair of 20L jerry can holders. The standard twin 9kg gas bottles that are normally found behind the stone shield have been replaced by a pair of 4.5kg bottles on this build to save weight. Bec also added that they have never run out of gas before either.
On the rear of the van, a Fiamma three-bike bike rack has been mounted up high. This allows for the customised rear bumper and single tyre carrier to take the foldable boat trailer for Justin's new tinny while in transit.
On the inside every conceivable piece of real estate has been utilised for extra storage opportunities.
Magazine pouches have been added to just about every available vertical surface throughout the van. There's one at the end of each of the kids bunks, while Mum and Dad each get one of their own, located on the side of the main bedroom robes.
The wall of the lounge/dinette doesn't miss out either, with the large pouch housing all the kids’ schoolwork for the week. Not to be forgotten, even that little space above the entry door has one.
An additional drawer (hidden behind the mirrored door) has been added to the robe between the bunks and the bathroom for the kids’ clothes, and the family’s shoes get stuffed in a custom drawer under the dinette seat.
Knowing that the kids aren't getting any smaller and that the amount they eat will keep increasing, extra shelves have been installed in the dinette overhead, with cupboards to maximise storage of pantry items.
Stepping inside the 21ft 6in Desert Storm is a pretty familiar feeling to other van layouts on the market. The front door, queen sized island bed to the left, kitchen and dinette midships, bunks and bathroom down the back is a fairly standard layout.
However, Bec has taken full advantage of the customisation to the interior finishings offered by Sunseeker. Laminates, leathers and vinyl flooring were all given personal consideration and the result is a clean and modern interior that feels open and spacious.
It's light, bright and airy as well, thanks largely to the big double-glazed windows and a pair of skylights. LED bulkhead lighting and LED ceiling lights complete the fresh look.
IN THE KITCHEN
Living the nomadic lifestyle allows this family to 'chase the sun' and follow the warm weather around the country.
On the day that I caught up with them in mid-May in Noosa they were already longing for the warmth of a Weipa winter (yes, from Noosa in Queensland, where we don't really get winter anyway).
This means that the majority of their cooking is done outside on the barbecue, so the kitchen hasn't missed out on a few practical design tweaks either.
With no need for an oven, that space has been replaced by a large drawer for pots, pans and bulky appliances like the kettle. A pull-out bin has also been added underneath the benchtop and rumour has it that this is Bec's favourite part of the new build. No more kicking a bin over for these guys!
There's also been a few aesthetic tweaks to the kitchen as well, with a waterfall benchtop looking very chic. The standard silver tapware and cabinetry handles have been replaced by their very 'in vogue' matte black equivalents.
BUNKS AND BATHROOM
If you thought that the humble bunk beds and bathroom down the back of the van would escape being personalised, then think again.
As mentioned previously, each bunk gets its own magazine pouch. On top of that, they also get their own Sirocco 12V fan if the big windows aren't providing enough ventilation.
Each bunk also gets its own 240V, 12V and USB charging points as well as an LED reading light.
The other factory modification to the bunks is that they have had an extra 50mm added to their width, and the standard white laminate bunk sides have been matched to the charcoal laminate used throughout the rest of the van.
Adding their own touches, Justin and Bec have also fitted aluminium bike water bottle holders to the end of each bunk.
Across the way from the bunks is the bathroom, which comprises of a Dometic toilet, small ceramic basin with storage above and below, a shower cubicle and a wall-mounted 2kg front-loader washing machine.
Now, it's all pretty tight in here but a big mirror gives the impression of the space being larger than it really is.
The Trip in a Van crew have opted to forego a swinging door that separates off the bathroom in favour of adding another 200mm of storage into the kitchen. In time, a curtain divider will be added.
As Bec said to me, “On a previous van, we had a sliding door which was perfect, but Sunseeker weren't able to accommodate this feature due to other design changes we had made. We've been living in a tiny space for four and a half years — we're not one for privacy anyway!”
And that's just the thing; for most people, having the privacy of a door to the bathroom would be a must, but when you're living this type of lifestyle, compromises have to be made.
ROLLING ON AIR
You would expect from a full offroad-ready caravan that there would be some pretty solid underpinnings to support it on its treks from Cape York to Cape Leveque.
That is definitely the case with the Desert Storm. And then some.
Remembering back to the start of the article, I mentioned that this Desert Storm build is compliant with an ATM of 4500kg.
Well, you can't just stamp it to 4500kg without some extra modifications and upgrades.
First up was at the pointy end, where the standard DO35 hitch needed to be replaced by the heavier duty DO45 hitch. Next, the 150 x 50 x 4mm DuraGal drawbar has been reinforced with an additional 50 x 50mm gusset to allow the ATM to go from 3500kg to 4500kg.
Elsewhere, the chassis remains unchanged, with two 100 x 50 x 3mm DuraGal RHS members being laminated together to form a 200 x 50mm chassis rail.
Keeping the chassis rails apart are 100 x 50mm DuraGal RHS cross-members. A 50 x 50mm RHS frame provides additional strength and support for the upgraded single-piece fibreglass composite floor (standard fitment is waterproof formply). With the standard suspension of the Desert Storm rated at 3500kg, an alternative needed to be sourced to handle the maximum 4500kg now required.
Enter stage left the ATX Stage 3 Remote Airbag system from Cruisemaster. Rated at 4500kg, this system offers the ultimate in ride quality and enables the ability to easily level the van at camp.
So much so, that Justin has already thrown away his levelling blocks and rates the suspension his favourite modification on the new build. He can't wait to give it a good run along the corrugated roads of the Northern Territory.
With this extra weight you're going to need some extra stopping power. So, in favour of the standard 12in electric drum brakes, they have been upgraded to a disc brake set-up with a Hydrastar actuator.
That stopping power is put down to the ground via 285/70R17 Cooper ST Maxx tyres which are wrapped around matte black 17in King alloy rims. The rims have been matched to the same stud pattern as the 200 Series Cruiser, giving peace of mind in the event of multiple punctures.
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
With the focus on more off-grid and remote travel being on the agenda for this family, there was a real need to make sure this new van had everything to allow for longer sojourns away from society.
With what they have achieved, there's a higher chance of them starving to death (unless of course Justin ups his fishing game!) than running out of power and water.
For fresh water storage, the standard three 85L poly tanks have had an extra tank added to the fold, giving the family 340L of water. A single 85L grey water tank rounds out the water storage on board.
Getting special attention in the build process was the van's electrical system and little expense has been spared to get just what they wanted.
Upgrading the electrical system was a no-brainer for the Lorrimers. Considering how much time they spend in remote areas and free camps without access to power, they need as much as they can get.
Interestingly, Justin and Bec told me that during their first year on the road back in 2016, they spent over $14,000 on caravan park and camping fees due to them not being as self-sufficient as they are now.
With the investment they have made in their current electrical system, they'll be well in front within 12 months, while not having to stay at van parks. And, they can still even run their Harrier A/C unit without needing to plug into mains power.
At the heart of the system is an Enerdrive power board that has been shoehorned nicely under the dinette seat and is easily accessed. These boards come pre-assembled and pre-wired from Enerdrive with a 240V inverter, solar controller and a DC/DC charger amongst other things.
In the case of the Trip in a Van crew, it controls charge to 400 amps of lithium battery goodness whilst in transit, or by the 720 watts (four 180W panels) of solar when parked up beside a beach on the Dampier Peninsula.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Sunseeker has built its reputation by producing well built and well thought out caravans at a very good price point. Add to this the ability for the customer to tailor-design a package to suit their own needs and wants, and you have yourself a company that is willing to go the extra mile and back it up with a full offroad warranty.
I'm sure this van will see more of Australia than a lot of us put together, and do it just how the Lorrimers want it.
TRIPPIN' IN THE VAN
What do you do when you're stuck in a bit of a rut and you're just going through the motions?
For me, I like to get out into the bush. Even if it is for only a day. Better still if I can roll the swag out and have a couple of nights away from the real world.
Well, the Lorrimers, Justin and Bec, took it quite a few steps further back at the end of 2015.
They sold the house, bought a caravan, and packed their three kids up and hit the road. When they left Newcastle, Jack was three, Billy was two and Charli was only six months old.
When they headed off, the original plan was for a 12-month lap of the map. A gap year to reconnect with themselves and their kids.
Little did they know, that when Bec started posting pics of their travels on Facebook, that their gap year was about to get a whole lot longer. They were in the “right place at the right time” and their hints, tips and tricks for travelling with a young family struck a chord with the Aussie public.
When that first 12 months was up, the Lorrimers realised that their social media presence through Instagram, YouTube and Facebook would enable them to continue to fund their travels.
Over the years their travelling style has changed, with their first van being a full on-road model. This was replaced by a semi offroad van and now to the full offroad spec. Trips to more remote locations are calling, with the Gibb River Road and Cape York slated for 2021.
With no fixed address and no fixed end date on their travels, the Lorrimers will continue to live their dream of chasing the sun and creating precious family memories along the way.
Sunseeker Desert Storm 21ft 6in Triple Bunk Family Van
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 6.55m (21 ft 6in)
Overall length 9.1m (29ft 10in)
Width 2.48m (8ft 2in)
Overall height 3.1m (10ft 2in) including A/C unit
Internal height 2.0m (6 ft7in)
Payload (calculated) 1472kg
Ball weight 162kg
Frame Aluminium wall frames
Cladding Aluminium composite panels. One-piece sandwich panel fibreglass composite roof. Fibreglass composite floor.
Chassis 150 x 50 x 4mm DuraGal Australian RHS steel drawbar with additional 50 x 50mm gusset for 4500kg rating. Heavy-duty twin 100 x 50 x 3mm DuraGal Australian RHS steel chassis
Suspension Cruisemaster ATX Stage 3 Remote Airbag 4500kg
Coupling Cruisemaster DO45 hitch
Brakes Disc brakes and Hydrastar actuator
Wheels/tyres 200 Series LandCruiser 17in alloy rims with 285/70R17 Cooper ST Maxx tyres
Water 4 x 85L (potable), 1 x 85L grey
Battery Enerdrive 400Ah lithium
Solar 4 x 180W
Air conditioner Harrier A/C unit
Gas 2 x 4.5kg
Sway control No
Cooking Cooktop (3 x gas, 1 x electric) with grill
Fridge 224L Dometic compressor (12V and 240V)
Bathroom Ensuite with separate shower
Hot water Swift 28L gas/240V HWS
Microwave 20L Westinghouse microwave
Washing machine 2kg Daewoo front loader
Bed size Queen (island north/south), 6ft 4in long
- Additional 85L freshwater tank (3 x 85L standard)
- Cruisemaster ATX Stage 3 Remote Airbag 4500kg (Cruisemaster XT Independent Coil Spring Suspension with twin shocks standard)
- Disc brakes and Hydrastar actuator (Dmax Ventilated Disc Brakes with AL-KO IQ7 standard)
- 200 Series LandCruiser 17in alloy rims with 285/70R17 Cooper STs (16in alloy rims with 285/75 R16 MTs standard)
- Upgraded safety chains
- Cruisemaster DO45 Hitch (DO35 standard)
- Three-bike Fiamma bike rack
- CaraFan positive pressure anti-dust system
- Fibreglass composite floor (formply standard)
- Harrier air conditioner (IBIS 4 standard)
- Four drawers to bunk robe (three standard)
- Wider bunks (+50mm)
- Telescopic dining table leg
- Upgraded queen mattress (pillowtop innerspring standard)
- Enerdrive 400Ah lithium off-grid pack with inverter and Simarine display board
- 4 x 180W solar panels (3 x 170W standard)
- Barbecue light over tunnel boot
- 4 x Sirocco 12V fans (1 x standard)
- Matte black tapware (silver standard)
- Grey water bypass
- Waterfall benchtop
- Magazine pouches on main bed robes, for each bunk bed, and over main door
- WiTi anti-theft system
Five year structural, two year, 100 per cent full offroad warranty
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan, visit sunseekercaravans.com.au, call (07) 5491 1888, or visit the showroom at 290 Nicklin Way, Warana, QLD 4575.