I'm not too sure if it's appropriate to start a review with a mild expletive, but I'm going to anyway. “Damn!” See, told you it was mild.
The good thing is it was said in a good way. Sort of like when the kids of today say “sick” when they really mean it's pretty darn good. Actually, do kids still even say that, I wonder as I sit here typing this review just days out from my 44th birthday?
But I digress. Just what was my good, “Damn!” moment when checking out this newly built, full custom 20ft offering from Sunshine Coast manufacturers, Bushtracker?
ROLLING AROUND ON THE GROUND
Getting up close and personal with what's going on underneath a van is one of my favourite things on a field test. It's why I carry my own tarp, so I can check even if the ground is wet or muddy.
Underneath a van can reveal the true character of a company. While it's great to have the flashy stuff up top, if what's underneath isn't up to task, you're bound to end up in trouble sooner or later. Especially when the van is built for offroad use — check out Bushtracker's catchphrase and you'll see where these vans are designed to be used.
When it comes to what's going on underneath, I like it to be boring. That doesn't mean that what is under there is boring, it just means that I like it to be as uncomplicated as possible.
All the floor penetrations well sealed, the wiring neat and tidy, and the plumbing and gas lines the same, bundled together, run along chassis rails or following cross members, nice, high and protected. If a fitting does have to hang a little lower, there is a shroud to protect it, just like on the water tanks under this van.
SIMPLE IS BEST
When it comes to suspension, the proven fully independent Simplicity load sharing suspension system is used. Bushtracker have been providing this system as standard equipment for the past 20-plus years, and it features on more than 90 per cent of their builds. Used by the Australian Defence Force, it's designed for the worst outback roads can throw at you.
Simplicity coil sprung variants are available and can be fitted at the request of the customer.
CHASSIS AND CONSTRUCTION
Riding on that is a solid hot-dipped galvanised steel platform that is also sprayed with a body deadener for extra sealing and protection. The laminated chassis provides the backbone for the fully welded sub-frame that incorporates full van width cross members. The one-piece, resin infused composite floor is then bonded to the sub-frame providing edge to edge support. Apart from its strength, the floor also has excellent thermal properties.
Speaking of strength, these Bushtracker vans have it in spades, and it all comes from to the construction methods used. Not only does the full-width sub-frame fully support the composite floor, but the aluminium external wall frames bolt through to the sub-frame below.
Maximising strength and structural integrity, all corners are then bolted and welded together. The aluminium frame has been clad with 2mm fibreglass, with checkerplate around the bottom section of the van for added protection and durability. Between the external fibreglass sheet and the interior lining is a flame-retardant insulation sheeting. For the walls, 25mm sheets are used, and 75mm on the roof.
The roof on all Bushtracker Caravans are a single piece, running from the very the tail lights to the tight radius of the front nose cone. The roof panel is left in a custom jig for 72 hours to ensure it has bonded and cured fully prior to being released.
All Bushtracker vans share a familiar and distinctive shape with the heavily truncated rear corner and the curved front nose cone, so scraping the rear of your Bushtracker when entering or exiting a steep creek crossing is barely given a second thought. If you did manage to exceed the departure angle, a full-width steel skid plate with extra reinforcing provides more than adequate protection.
Whether you are helping out a mate, or getting helped out yourself, there are two chassis mounted recovery points at the rear.
Unlike many other vans on the market these days, Bushtracker have opted to mount their spare tyres on the A-frame beneath the front nose cone. Our test van had only been optioned with a single spare to reduce weight. Bushtracker use a clever design, where the spare sits inside a cradle with a simple side loading system. The second cradle has been optioned with mesh, providing the ideal spot for a fire pit to be stored during transit.
The diesel tank for the Webasto heater sits in front of the cradle and the two 9kg gas bottles are mounted between. These are all protected from errant stones by the adjustable full-width deflector.
Absent from the extended A-frame is the ubiquitous tool box. Usually home for a generator, the toolbox has been removed to reduce ball weight and provide more space on the draw bar. If the extra space isn’t required, the draw bar can revert back to standard, in turn reducing your overall length.
Found right at the very front is the Hitch-Ezy 5T fully articulating hitch, the Fastway Zip breakaway cable system, the Bulldog 12V trailer jack and HD hand brake. There are also taps for both the potable and non-potable water.
OFF GRID LIVING
Power and water are going to be the two things that will make you cut your adventures short.
Starting with power, this van will keep you away from a power point for quite some time. When parked up, the three 180W solar panels will keep the 300Ah Enerdrive lithium batteries topped up via the battery management system. The van is also fitted with a 30A DC/DC charger for when you're driving between campsites.
For ensuring everything is charged before leaving home, this Bushtracker comes equipped with a 60A 240V charging system as well. Monitoring of your available power is taken care of a Simarine head unit located in an overhead cupboard above the cafe dinette. So, power shouldn't be an issue, but what about water?
This van comes outback ready with three roto-moulded water tanks hanging underneath, one 95L for drinking water, as well as two 95L tanks for non-potable water. Due to the custom design of the tanks and the van sub-frame, extra tanks, like a grey water tank, can easily be added. In total, the van could have up to four tanks fitted in front of the axles, and three to the rear.
With the gas bottles on board to look after cooking duties and make sure your shower is hot, the need to refill shouldn't come around all that often.
External storage comes by way of the rather large tunnel boot at the front. It's been lined with marine carpet, so probably best to not store any wet and dirty items in here. Save them for the rack on the draw bar, or perhaps the new, fully sealed storage box located towards the rear on the off side.
Designed to take a generator, this fibreglass lined storage area won't let the smell of fuel or oil penetrate the living space. If a generator isn't on your list when heading away, this space is ideal for sullage hoses or similar.
Running virtually along the entire length of the near side of the van is an Dometic electric roll out awning. A simple flick of a switch, located just inside the doorway, will provide you with a heap of shade.
When night rolls around, bi-colour LED lights will stop you fumbling around in the dark. An external AV locker complete with TV mount, 240V and 12V power outlets as well as a control panel for the Bluetooth stereo is tucked neatly behind a fold-down door. An Enerdrive battery monitor is also located inside the locker.
For those of you who like to cook on the barbie, a gas bayonet fitting can be found on the front corner of the van, alongside the tunnel boot.
Entry to the van is by way of a Thule electric step through the forward positioned door. The layout has been seen before but hang in there for the twist at the end.
Up front is the island queen bed, but typical of Bushtracker vans, it sits high to take advantage of that rounded nose cone.
If you have a peek at the specs, you'll notice something that doesn't quite add up. The external length of the van is 20 feet, but the internal length is 21 feet. Well, that extra foot of internal space is because of that nose cone — well played Bushtracker.
With the bed sitting high, you get masses of storage underneath. There's four big drawers at the foot of the bed for all of your clothes. All drawers are solid timber and feature dovetailed corners for maximum strength. As a former cabinet maker, my heart warms seeing this level of detail in a caravan. The bed lifts up to give access to the electrical hub of the van as well as the tunnel boot. Storage for the dining table and support leg is also under the bed.
Alongside the bed are concealed storage hatches in the floor which serve two purposes. Firstly, they act as a step to help you get into the higher bed, and secondly, they provide the ideal spot to store your shoes.
Hanging space can be found on either side of the bed as well as individual LED reading lights and corner nooks. QI charging points are located on each of the bedside tables, as well as traditional USB charging points.
One nifty feature is the low-level courtesy lights. Each side of the bed gets a switch for the lights for those late-night visits to the far end of the van.
Taking pride of place mid-ship is the modern kitchen, featuring a Staron Solid Surface bench top and acrylic splashback. Samsung, normally known for their electronics and mobile phones, have turned their hand to creating an acrylic bench top that offers the visual appeal of stone without the seams. It's also slightly flexible, which is perfect for rough bush tracks.
Featured on the kitchen cabinets as well as throughout the van are matte finished drawer and door fronts. First up, anything matte has to be pretty good. Secondly, it looks great, and lastly, the matte finish hides fingerprints and is easy to keep clean — #Winning.
Cooking duties are taken care of by a Thetford Topline Hybrid gas and induction cooktop and a Thetford Duplex MK3 oven, plus a 20L microwave from Whirlpool. Food storage is looked after by the Dometic 190L 12V compressor fridge/freezer, the pull-out pantry and three large overhead lockers. Under the Staron benchtop and large stainless-steel sink are three large drawers and a pull-out double rubbish bin. No more kicking or tripping over the bin in this van.
Occupying the opposite wall to the kitchen is the two-seater cafe dinette finished in automotive leather. For day use, there's a little coffee table with storage drawer under. If dining indoors, you'll need to get the table from underneath the bed for a quick and easy set up.
BEAUTY OF A BATHROOM
For those of you who have stuck with me and read this whole review, thanks. That “Damn” moment is not far away.
Apparently I'm not the only one who, when they have opened the door to the ensuite has said, “Damn!” For the record, it's a common response.
Why this response, you ask?
Well, it's because the rear bathroom is massive. Never mind swinging a cat in here, there's room to swing at least three, all at the same time! (Please note: no cats were harmed during the review of this van!)
If you've ever had problems with your ensuite not being big enough to get changed in or move around, then you need to take a look here. Not only is there plenty of floor area, but there's a heap of storage and bench space too. Some of this extra floor space is thanks to the external generator box, which, on the inside, creates a great bench and an extra storage drawer in the corner.
The 4kg front load washing machine is conveniently placed below the linen cupboard and above a large drawer which can be used for your dirty clothes.
In the near side rear corner, the one-piece fibreglass shower stall can be made to your custom requirements. The unit on test had two drain holes, as well as a raked floor to make life a little easier, as well as a small bench seat.
I particularly liked the sealed locker built into the mould, perfect for your shampoo and conditioner while travelling.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In over 25 years of building caravans, Bushtracker have never built the same van twice. That's the benefit you get from dealing with a truly bespoke manufacturer. While you may pay a little bit more for it, you know you are getting exactly what you want and that it has been built well.
The van on test was built as a ‘show van’, to be dragged all over the country to highlight just what is capable with a Bushtracker build. But thanks to our old mate COVID-19, you'll just have to take my word for it.
WARRANTY 2 Year (General), 10 year (chassis & frame)
RVMAP Accredited No
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.23m (27ft)
External body length 6.1m (20ft)
Internal length 6.4m (21ft)
External body width 2.4m (8ft)
Travel height 3.1m (10ft 2in)
Internal height 2.04m (6ft 8in)
ATM 3500kg/3850kg tow vehicle dependent
Payload 620kg/970kg depending on ATM
Ball weight 150kg at tare
Bed Size Queen (north/south)
Frame Aluminium Frame (welded & bolted)
Cladding 2mm fibreglass sheet
Chassis Hot dipped galvanised steel drawbar and laminated chassis
Suspension Simplicity Load Sharing (military grade w/ 60T stub axles)
Coupling Hitch-Ezy 5T
Brakes 12in electric drum
Wheels 16in Speedy alloy rims w/ Bridgestone A/T tyres
Water 1 x 95L potable, 2 x 95L non-potable
Battery 300Ah Enerdrive pro series Lithium (external BMS and cell balancing)
Solar 3 x 180W
Air conditioner Truma Aventa
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Optional upgrade (tow vehicle dependent)
Cooking Thetford Topline Hybrid gas & induction cooktop and Thetford Duplex MK3 oven
Fridge Dometic 190L 12V compressor fridge/freezer
Bathroom Massive Ensuite w/ separate shower, toilet, vanity with laundry
Hot water Swift gas/240V HWS
Microwave Whirlpool 20L
Washing Machine Camec 4kg front loader
– 12V roof hatch in shower recess
– 3 x 90L water tanks (1 potable, – 2 non-potable) (270L capacity)
– 190L 2 door Dometic Compressor fridge (Tropical rating)
– Dometic electric roll out awning
– Air conditioning (Truma Aventa)
– 2 x Caframo fans installed
– Webasto diesel heater with 2 outlets
– Camec 4kg front load washing machine
– 300Ah Enerdrive Lithium battery system (external BMS)
– 3 x 180W high quality solar panels (540W total)
– 60A mains battery charging system
– Anderson plug connected to 30A DCDC charger
– Pre-wire for future inverter
– Microwave fully installed
– 300mm extended drawbar
– Independent load sharing suspension (60T axle stubs)
– Upgrade to side loading tyre carriers (one with mesh)
– Baby buzzard spotlights on front of van
– Gas bayonet outlet with 3m lead
– Upgrade to electric step
– Sealed generator locker on off side
– Wireless QI phone chargers on bedside tables
Price AS SHOWN
85 Enterprise St, Kunda Park QLD 4556
P: (07) 5476 5833