There are any number of large (say over 7m/23ft) and heavy caravans travelling on the roads around Australia at the moment. There’s no doubt that these spacious and well-specced caravans offer a very stylish lifestyle, but they do come at a cost. Everything adds up, from the initial purchase price, the cost of a tow vehicle and ongoing running costs; he latter being particularly of interest, given the current price of fuel.
In Europe, relative size works the other way around; smaller caravans, think 5m/16ft 4in or less, are very common and can be towed by a wide range of vehicles. In contrast, bigger vans are relatively rare.
Wingamm’s Weekender, imported into Australia by John Burke, owner of Little Gem Caravans, is a very good example.
More compact in size, the Italian-built Weekender has an external length of just 3.75m/12ft 4in and has a tare mass of under 1000kg. It’s a very light weight caravan indeed and offers quite a few possibilities.
At first glance, the Weekender is a slightly unusual looking van. However, it isn’t really, being a trimmed-down version of a larger caravan. It certainly has a streamlined appearance when viewed from the front and the angled roof hatch gives a contemporary look.
The bodywork is all one piece, a fibreglass monocoque structure which has no joints, thereby minimising risk of water leaks and maximising body strength.
It sits on a galvanised draw-bar frame. Structurally, there’s an internal fibreglass shell that is 2mm thick, a mid-section 25mm shell of polyurethane insulation and an outer shell of 3mm external fibreglass. Out of sight, the floor has honeycomb insulation which is over 30mm thick and designed equally well to cope with cold winter nights and warm summer days.
Double glazed acrylic Dometic windows are fitted into each wall and the aircraft style door is moulded so as to fit into the body profile very neatly. An internal roller blind style screen keeps the insects at bay. Also fitting nicely into the body profile is the front boot moulding which opens up to access two 4kg gas cylinders.
What doesn’t fit quite so well into the body profile is the Fiamma F45 awning. Indeed, a special mounting has been designed to fit the sloping front of the van. That said, I’d rather have the awning than not, so for me it’s a happy compromise. On the subject of profiles, given the relatively low height of the van, the roof-mounted TV aerial and Dometic air conditioner can easily be seen.
I’ve seen quite a few larger caravans with grab handles fitted but given the weight of the vans, they are more a decoration than anything else. However, in this case grab handles front and back serve a practical purpose and the unhitched van is quite easy to move around.
Apart from the nearside wall light, the only other external fitting is the spare wheel mounted on the rear wall, not the more usual bumper bar. It does sit inconveniently high, though happily it’s a light alloy 15” wheel.
AL-KO™ is the well-respected name which underpins the Weekender: that’s the manufacturer of the hot dipped galvanised chassis with AL-KO™ C-section drawbar and main rails.
It’s also the name on the Independent Rubber Suspension (IRS) and the Octagon shock absorbers, but not the 15in alloy wheels which are fitted with 195/65R15 tyres.
Likewise, the AL-KO™ name appears at the pointy end too, with an AKS 3004 stabiliser coupling and AL-KO™ overrun brakes – no electric brake controller required.
The astute observer might note that the Weekender does sit fairly close to the ground, something to keep in mind when crossing undulating terrain, but it also means that little effort is required when winding down the corner stabilisers.
Anyone familiar with European built caravans will instantly identify with the Weekender’s interior. It has that Euro chic that’s very easy on the eye, as well as that very Euro skill of building a lot into small spaces. Of particular note is that a bathroom has been squeezed into the offside corner and comes with an angled door, so the usual bulk of a bathroom is less obvious. Across the front of the van is a two-person dinette that folds down into a double bed, leaving the mid space for a small kitchen bench on the nearside and a small cabinet opposite.
More impressive is the amount of internal storage. There are overhead lockers and open shelves on both sides and in the rear corner by the doorway is a full-height two-door cupboard which includes a wardrobe. It’s all curved, including the doors, so the bulky look that’s normally there isn’t obvious at all.
Many European-built caravans or motorhomes I’ve seen often have quite small kitchens and that’s certainly the case here. There’s just enough benchtop space for a two-burner hob and a round stainless steel sink. Underneath is a Vitrifrigo 85L 12V compressor fridge, alongside a small cupboard. Keeping with the design trend, it too has a curved door.
In a relatively small space, the lack of sharp corners makes moving around easier.
Facing the kitchen bench is another cabinet that comes with several drawers, a little benchtop space, the TV mounting bracket and also is where all the electrical controls are located, including the Truma water heater and a couple of charger points.
Front Diner and Bed
Making the most of the compact space, the front dinette is also a bed. The cafe style dinette will seat two people quite comfortably.
Even though the roofline slopes to the front, the windows on either side and the big roof hatch give a good ventilating cross flow and a view of the world. There’s a ceiling light above the table but the two reading lights are for bedtime use. Each of the reading lights has a useful USB charger point.
Both seats have storage underneath but it’s a bit limited, the nearside seat base containing the 70L water tank and the offside area is where the Truma water heater and house battery are to be found.
Making up the 1.95m x 1.35m (6ft 5in x 4ft 5in) bed is quite easy. A matter of folding down the table and using the side cushions as a bed base. After that, it’s out with the pillows, sheets and doona.
The Weekender bathroom is a surprise and a little bigger than I expected. Compact is the word though and it’s a wet bathroom.
Fitted is a Dometic cassette toilet, a flexible hose/variable height shower, small vanity cabinet with moulded wash basin, and a small cupboard below and a shaving cabinet above. The unfrosted window is a little interesting but lifting the blind partially up should ensure both privacy and ventilation.
Off the Grid
Remote camping probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind with a van this size, but a night or two won’t be a problem, given the 100Ah AGM battery and portable 200W solar panel that is supplied with the van. Being portable does give the opportunity for moving the panel and maximising the sun’s angle.
The Bottom Line
Certainly the Wingamm Weekender isn’t a long-haul caravan but it doesn’t pretend to be. The winning points on this van are in reduced tow vehicle requirements and ease of caravan storage - something that not everyone considers initially but there are many driveways where this van will fit very easily without manoeuvering difficulties.
Aptly named, the little van is certainly okay for weekends or short trips and suitable for those who are happy campers in a relatively compact area. Quo vadis?
Weights and Measures
Overall length 4.99m (16ft 4in)
Body length 3.75m (12ft 4in)
Width 2.17m (7ft 1in)
Height 2.55m (8ft 4in)
Ball weight 60kg
Frame Monocoque body, frameless
Cladding Moulded fibreglass
Suspension AL-KO™ IRS
Coupling AL-KO AKS3004
Brakes AL-KO™ Overrun
Wheels 15in alloy
Grey water 70L
Solar Portable 200W pack
Air-conditioner Dometic roof
Gas 2 x 4.0kg
Sway control AL-KO™
Cooking Dometic two burner
Fridge Vitrifrigo C85
Bathroom Dometic toilet cassette shower combo
Hot water Truma Combi 4E 10L
Space Heater Truma Combi 4E
Price as Shown $59,000.00
Little Gem Caravans
Buderim QLD 4556
M: 0437 514 945