Front bedroom, rear bathroom layouts are very common in the Australian caravan scene, however there are some vans, like Crusader’s Musketeer Athos, that are a little different. The designers of the 6.45m (21ft 2in) van have reversed the layout, so the bathroom is at the front and the bedroom at the rear. Nothing too radical, just a slightly different perspective.
Max Mayo is the dealer principal of Crusader Newcastle, and thought the Athos was worth a look, so I motored up the M1 freeway north of Sydney to take the van out for a spin. The Musketeer sits right in the middle of the Crusader range, at the Silver specification level.
My review van had been fitted with what Crusader call the X Country discounted upgrade bundle. It’s all factory fitted and has an extensive list that includes a DO35 coupling, an extra 120Ah battery and 170W solar panel, two door 190L compressor fridge, Tuffride 3700kg suspension and front toolbox. See below for more details.
ON THE ROAD
With an ATM of 3500kg and tare of 2561kg, the Athos has a very good load capacity. But it also means, with a bit of careful loading, the van can be towed by vehicles lighter than, say, a heavyweight LandCruiser. In this case, my tow vehicle was a Ford Ranger and it coped with the Athos without any problems.
Keeping in tune with a number of other caravan manufacturers, CAD technology and CNC routers are used to design and build Crusader caravans. Composite is the word for body construction and starting at the top, the roof is a 30mm thick one-piece fibreglass/HD polystyrene composite that extends from the top of the front checkerplate to the top of the rear checkerplate. The idea of the one-piece roof line is to minimise the risk of leaks.
Down the sides, the walls are Probond aluminium panel and the flooring is similar to the roof except it’s 42mm thick and has a ply sheet above and a protective skin of fibreglass underneath. Although a composite wall/roof structure has been used, there is still a meranti timber frame underneath.
The construction of the bodywork is a little different to usual. Rather than attaching the walls to the chassis by Z section, the walls sit on top of the floor and the roof sits on top. According to Max Mayo, “Having that arrangement means the walls and roof form a load bearing structure that moves in unison and is not affected by chassis flex. It’s also more effective in minimizing water leaks.”
As part of the build process, the hatches, solar panels, air conditioner and TV aerial are all fitted to the roof before it’s fitted to the rest of the caravan.
External storage is something of a feature in the Athos. Up front, there’s a large checkerplate storage box on the front drawbar. It’s one of the options fitted to this van and is large enough to have generator and BBQ slide-outs, as well has two jerry can holders. Additionally, there’s a taller than usual tunnel storage across the front.
To complement the front storage, there’s also a tunnel storage across the rear of the van. As noted earlier, whilst the van does have plenty of storage capacity, that does depend to some extent on the tow vehicle. When the van is fully loaded, it might be an idea to check on the tow ball mass, just to make sure it is within bounds.
Underneath the bodywork, the DuraGal box section chassis has 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) main rails and drawbar with the usual 50mm x 50mm (2in x 2in) cross members. Both alloy sheet protected 95L water tanks are fitted forward of the axles, whilst the similarly sized grey water tank is directly behind the wheels.
Generally speaking, the underfloor area looks quite clean, with most pipework and cabling strapped up out of the way. Crusader has fitted Tuffride 3700kg independent suspension with trailing arms, coil springs and dual shock absorbers per wheels, and 12in electric brakes are fitted to the 16in alloy wheels which are shod with LT26575R16 tyres.
At the business end, in addition to the aforementioned storage box and mesh stone guard, there’s two 9kg cylinders plus the usual items — jockey wheel, hand brake and Cruisemaster DO35 hitch.
A LITTLE DIFFERENT
One of the reasons I opted for the Musketeer Athos was because of the layout. It has a forward entry door and when stepping inside, the bathroom is to the left and the rest of the van to the right. Directly across from the entry door is the Dometic 185L compressor fridge. Apart from being a convenient location for the rest of the kitchen along the nearside wall, the fridge is slightly narrower than usual, meaning it can fit through the doorway easily should it need to be repaired or replaced.
Filling the rest of the van is an offside dinette and an island bed in the rear. Although the reversed layout doesn’t look much different, it does have an advantage for those who prefer their bed not near the doorway. Large windows and a somewhat monochromatic colour scheme — mostly glossy white with black cabinetry and upholstery — result in a light and bright interior. Multiple LED downlights give the same effect by night.
On the subject of lights, there aren’t any obvious light switches, mostly because all the ceiling lights are controlled remotely — I found the light switch in one of the drawers. The reading lights are switched locally but they have an additional feature — a USB charger point underneath the mounting.
In the bathroom, there’s a fairly standard layout — indeed you wouldn’t know whether it was at the back or the front of the van. From a layout plan, the bathroom looks bigger than it actually is, but the angled front wall and the tunnel storage are there as well. That said, the bathroom is quite well sized, with the shower cubicle on the offside and the Thetford cassette fitted on the opposite side. With the top loading washing machine fitted into a cabinet in the front nearside corner, elbow space on the loo is a bit marginal.
Across the rest of the front wall area is a neat vanity cabinet complete with a cupboard, three drawers and a pedestal wash basin. In the cupboard, the plumbing has all be pushed to the back or the side, maximizing the space that’s available. Overhead lockers run across the top wall with one of the doors being mirrored.
Looking a fairly standard arrangement, the Athos kitchen has the expected features — four burner cooker with grill and oven, stainless-steel sink and a microwave in the overhead locker area. It’s longer than some kitchen benches I have seen, so has a bit of bench top space on either side of the stainless-steel sink, which also allows for two overhead lockers, three drawers, two floor lockers and a shelved cupboard to be fitted in. The drawers are metal sided and the overhead locker struts are also metal fittings.
ROOM FOR TWO
One interesting feature about a club style lounge, especially a black leather one, is that it gives a touch of class to a layout, even if it has a fairly shallow depth like this one. However, it will seat two people quite comfortably and the pedestal table can be rotated or moved up and down quite easily.
Reading lights are fitted at either side and there’s a power point at the rear end. Overhead lockers above give the necessary storage space but one is dedicated to the battery management system and related electricals plus a radio/CD player. In a break with tradition amongst many manufacturers, the 12V fuses are labelled.
Sitting in pride of place at the rear of the Athos is the 1.88m x 1.53m (6ft 2in) island bed. Large windows on either side give a good crossflow ventilation, there’s a vent hatch above the bed and two Sirocco fans mounted on either wall keep the airflow going when the wind doesn’t. Mounted in the corner adjacent to the kitchen, a flat screen TV can be seen easily from the bed or the club lounge, if swivelled around.
The bedhead cabinetry looks a bit familiar with overhead lockers, side wardrobes and bedside drawers. Instead of a bedside shelf, each bed occupant gets a pillow cubby.
AL FRESCO LIVING
The Athos is certainly well equipped for living outside. In addition to the roll out awning, there are three external lights, a picnic table, entertainment unit and the BBQ facility up front. Given the location of the latter, I reckon a light on the front wall might be handy. A camp table and chairs can easily be stashed in one of the external bins and you’ll be ready to sit back and relax.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Getting back to my opening comments, I reckon the Athos qualifies as being noble and handsome, with a fair bit of practicality about it, especially when it’s had the X Country upgrade added — very handy for swashbuckling your way around Australia, in a friendly fashion of course! The front bathroom, rear bedroom layout is a touch of difference and it’s certainly a van well suited for two keen travellers.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 6.45m (21ft 2in)
Overall length 8.99m (29ft 6in)
Width (incl awn) 2.49m (8ft 2in)
Height 3.08m (10ft 1in)
Ball weight 165kg
Frame Meranti timber
Cladding Composite aluminium
Chassis DuraGal 150mm rails/drawbar
Suspension Tuffride 3.5t independent with coil springs
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes 12in electric
Wheels 16in alloy
Water 2 x 95L
Grey water 1 x 95L
Battery 2 x 120Ah
Solar 2 x 170W
Air conditioner Air Command Ibis 3
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Optional
Cooking Mobicool 4 burner, grill & oven
Fridge Dometic RUC 6408X 185L 12V compressor
Bathroom Dometic cassette toilet & separate shower cubicle
Hot water Swift 28L gas/elec
DO35 tow coupling
Recovery points at rear
Extra deep cycle battery 120AH
16in x 265 mud grabbing alloy wheels and tyres
Two door, 185L compressor refrigerator
Cover waste pipes for protection
Two tier electric step
A second 170W solar panel
Tuffride 3700kg independent suspension 12in brakes
Large toolbox with generator, BBQ slide and two jerrycan holders
Gas regulator protector
A frame tap protector
600mm checkerplate sides
Plus, Two tone cabinet colours ($350)
PRICE AS SHOWN
39 Pacific Highway
Gateshead, Newcastle 2290
Ph: 02 4081 4870