Anecdotally, most Australians like their caravans around 6.1-6.7m (20-22ft) long, with a north-south island bed up front and a central lounge and galley. And there are good reasons for this. This size is the market sweet spot, as it’s a comfortable length for long-distance touring and large enough to live in once you get there.
Despite this, many people love the large ‘entertainer’ front club lounge with scenic windows that you find in many British and European caravans, such as Bailey’s Pamplona which, until now, has been its best-selling imported model. Yet, while the layout certainly appeals, some Aussies look at its ‘Swiss cheese’ chassis and rubber torsion suspension and irrationally doubt its ability to deal with local conditions, long-term.
Based on all that, the new Australian-designed and built Bailey Rangefinder Nebula is a real game-changer. Putting a popular Euro layout into a tough, Australian-designed, built and thoroughly tested full-sized van has the potential to change the way we buy caravans.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
In line with its sturdy underpinnings, the Nebula’s interior fit-out leans more towards the utilitarian. Local Warwick fabrics, optional leather, marble-look benchtops and large-doored matt or gloss-finished cupboards and drawers create an immediate impression of hard-wearing, practical elegance when you enter the Nebula via its front side door.
The five large windows surrounding the U-shaped front lounge add to this, creating a welcoming ambiance of light and space. You can sit six people comfortably around the removable rectangular table that slides into the centre of the lounge and I guarantee your Nebula will become the meeting point for new van park friends on chilly nights.
The very large-doored cupboards that line the upper walls of the lounge and the galley are also an interesting design. Rising on strong, Blum hinges, they reveal cleverly-partitioned interiors that hold things in place when travelling. A particularly nice touch is the perimeter LED strip lighting, located out of sight above them, that bathes the Nebula’s interior with a welcoming, warm glow at night, but also allows light into the cupboards when they are opened.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
The large double bed tucks in below two big overhead cupboards and is flanked by two half-length robes, with handy bedside nooks equipped with both 240V and twin USB ports. Again, as in the living area, the lighting is via indirect LED strips. As is the norm these days, the bed is hinged to provide storage below, although, being at the tail of this quite long caravan, nothing too heavy should be placed here or in the rear tunnel boot.
The kitchen, with its Thetford Minigrill MK3 cooktop, grill below and adjacent under-bench Sphere microwave, is not huge but is well-planned. The Thetford fridge opposite the kitchen is a stylish three-way model that offers ample storage space for everything that a couple might want to take. Next to that and closest to the door is the van’s Sphere top-loading 2.5kg washing machine, which sits unseen in a cupboard.
Towards the back of the Nebula is where Bailey again scrambles the notion of what constitutes an ‘Aussie’ van, with its separate shower and toilet on either side of the corridor leading to the rear bedroom. This is a clever arrangement, as the doors can be arranged so the ensuite becomes connected to the bedroom like a private suite, or made accessible to visitors when you have a lounge room-full – as you will! The good news is the fibreglass shower cubicle is very large, while the ceramic-bowled toilet and its matching ceramic vanity sink opposite are ideal for visitors.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Rangefinder Nebula is appealing in so many ways that it could become a reference point for how we judge Australian touring caravans. Its combination of size, weight, strength, genuine touring capability and features address the aspirational needs of many Australian caravanners, while the ‘wow’ factor of its huge front lounge will win many hearts.
The fact that the prototype we tested on our mammoth 8300km dash across Australia came through with so few issues speaks volumes about its ability to survive our uniquely demanding caravanning requirements and makes it deserving of success.
So, could the Bailey Rangefinder Nebula be a real game-changer that makes Australians think differently about the design of their caravans? You betcha!
- Huge front ‘entertainer’ lounge
- Clever layout
- Proven build strength
- Lightweight construction
- Larger than usual payload
- Only one AGM battery as standard
- No roof-mounted solar panel
- Fixing for lower cupboard hinges didn’t last the journey
The full test appears in Caravan World #544 December 2015.