Seeing our own country is the new travel destination for thousands of Australians. Holidays offshore seem a long way off, and the local tourism industry is set for an inevitable boom as we hitch up the van and hit the road.
The lure of the outback and lonely places off the beaten track has many of these new converts to the caravan lifestyle yearning for a setup that can handle rough roads. Whether they are young families packing up the kids, bikes, and toys, or mature couples finally breaking free from a life of work, they share a common expectation — a tough van with loads of self-sufficiency and a comfortable interior they can call home.
Eden Caravans began a decade ago back when owner, Paul Nedanis, started the family business with his sons helping out after school. The early years were spent building Meranti-framed caravans, and as the business grew they moved to a larger factory in the Melbourne RV hub in Campbellfield. In 2016, all Eden’s production turned to aluminium-framed vans. At first they were built with welded box sections and, more recently, with Henrob riveted C- section aluminium. Nedanis describes the latter as allowing more flex in the body — which he confirms is an important feature in an offroad van.
These days the business is still very much a family affair, with Paul's wife Mary running administration and three sons staffing the production line.
With a team of nine, their aim is to produce a quality product that is not mass produced. In Nedanis’s words, they make every van as if it were their own. A self-described “fussy bastard,” the proof is out there with happy many customers. Glowing feedback on their website is a testament to this.
Andrew Altschwager of Caravans Coffs Coast, the NSW dealer for Eden, explains that he took on the brand a couple of years ago to expand his dedicated range of offroad models. The dealership and factory work together on AutoCAD designs to deliver bespoke versions for customers.
Our review van is a 21ft Wildtrax version, which is the Coffs Harbour dealer’s exclusive model. It is fitted with every feature imaginable for extended travel in comfort.
A sticker on the side of the van reads Tough AF — which can certainly be deciphered one way, but actually refers to the aluminium frame that sets Eden's models apart. The aluminium frame runs around the sides of the van, and across the top is a single piece composite fibreglass/insulated XPS foam roof. The composite panel is of sturdy construction and won't rot, yet has enough of the movement on uneven surfaces the builder wanted. The roof overlaps the walls and is permanently sealed with superior-grade silicone.
All walls are insulated with 24mm foam to moderate temperature, with Probond composite cladding both riveted and glued to the frame.
Under the composite single section floor is an FP chassis from a 100mm x 50mm RHS section, laminated to a similar dimension riser and connected to an extended 150mm x 50mm A-frame. The chassis is constructed from premium Australian steel and finished with Supergal protection to ensure durability.
Suspension is a twin shock setup rated to an ATM of 3500kg — so, with a tare of 2797kg, you have around 700kg of payload leftover. Two 100L water tanks will use up 200kg of that capacity but it still leaves enough for most people.
Chunky 265x75 offroad tyres on black 16in alloy wheels and a hefty Cruisemaster XT trailing arm suspension make the Wildtrax an elevated ride, with high black checkerplate skirts and a grey exterior completing the contemporary offroad livery. Dashes of white and pinkish red tones, alongside the honeycomb Eden logo, separate its design from the rest of the pack.
Walls of flat composite aluminium and plenty of dark tinted windows breaking up the grey also contribute to the modern look of the Wildtrax.
A Cruisemaster DO35 hitch at the front is the go-to connection for offroad vans, giving safe all-round movement when the going gets tough. A stone guard protects the front of the van where an oversize aluminium toolbox slides out on the passenger side for a barbecue. In a level of attention to detail typical of Caravans Coffs Coast, the barbeque is colour-coded to the red accents on the sides. The box also includes a generator slide on the driver side of the vehicle, and provision for a couple of folded camp chairs.
LED work lights cover the barbeque and front end where a through-boot adds to the important storage capacity. Further back is a drop-down picnic table and, in the war against different keys for every opening, it’s good to see this table has simple key-less locks.
A fold-down step at the rear entrance closes up fairly high, but it looks like it could be vulnerable on protruding rocks.
The layout of the van is the popular rear entry with rear bathroom design, best loved by those who like the privacy of a front bedroom. A sliding door opens into the ensuite where a classy vanity boasts a floating circular bowl and black waterfall tap. Both the main room and the moulded shower have a good level of ventilation, and the 3.5kg top-load washing machine will be handy for muddier days.
The white interior with dark grey satin-finished cabinetry and upholstery of the living space looks inviting and contemporary, while a square designer tap and timber laminated square-edged benchtop add to the appeal.
Eden’s level of meticulousness is commendable. Both Altschwager — as a cabinetmaker by trade in a previous life — and the fussy Nedanis both agree that the hardwood-framed cabinets with lightweight poplar ply doors and drawers lend superior strength and durability. Nedanis tells me their superior ply is twice the price of cheaper products but offers a more consistent weight over cheaper versions. Cheap ply can add up to an extra 100kg across a build, and that’s wasted weight coming off your payload. All doors have piano hinges, superior struts, and hidden metal catches.
A 225L two-door compressor fridge/freezer, alongside three over-and-under pull-out pantries separate the space between the lounge and bedroom. Opposite is the well-equipped kitchen, armed with a Swift stove-top oven and grill combination and the usual cover for extra prep space.
A main advantage of the Wildtrax over a smaller model lies in plenty of extra room at the kitchen bench and the decently sized club lounge. Both of these are welcome additions, and the length of the seat really adds to the liveability of the van. Large windows are well-placed to take advantage of the views, and overhead hatches boost the flow of air and light.
A standout feature of the van is the generous amount of off-grid power available. Up top are three 170W solar panels feeding a 200Ah lithium battery stored under the club lounge. It's an impressively neat fitout and the system includes a 40Ah charger solar regulator and a 40A DC-DC charger, all from Enerdrive.
One of the overhead cupboards is home to the Enerdrive EPro battery readout as well as water tank gauges and a Bluetooth sound system. Speakers are located both in the roof and outside. Also housed in an overhead cupboard is the main fuse box, where it's easily accessible — though I would prefer to see the fuses named.
Twin 100L water tanks should last well with frugal use, and a third tank for grey water will guarantee you entry to national parks with even the strictest of grey water rules.
The Altschwager family are keen caravanners and have put a lot of time into researching and subsequently developing their range to ensure the vans function flawlessly and are armed with the right equipment. Our review had us wandering the backroads and forest trails west of Coffs Harbour over muddy ground and along steep tracks. The van never put a foot wrong behind the tricked-out 200 Series LandCruiser, which — as you would expect — had plenty of performance to handle the 2797kg of the empty van. ATM is 3500kg, so you will need a vehicle that is rated to handle the load.
The Eden has a structural warranty for three years, and one year on the rest of the van. Caravans Coffs Coast has an enviable reputation for service and warranty, and I'm convinced they will do their utmost to rectify any and all problems. That said, the written warranty refers many items to the original supplier — which is all too common among caravan manufacturers.
The major feature of the Wildtrax is that it's a drive-away prospect for couples ready to hit the road. It comes with a list of features that would be add-ons in many vans and this include the very sophisticated electronics setup. So, while the $99,890 asking price might be a step too far for some, you need to consider the complete fit-out of features that are extra on many similar premium brands.
The Wildtrax 21 will suit couples wanting to take their journey further off the main road and into territory less explored. Its solid construction and upmarket suspension will handle all the nasty corrugations and potholes along the way to the best, secluded camp spots — once there, the van has all the right stuff for staying off-grid for as long as you like. I think the marketing team hit the nail on the head — it's tough AF all right.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 9.2m (30ft)
External body length 6.4m (21ft)
External body width 2.46m (8ft) (including awning)
Travel height 3.13m (10ft)
Internal height 2m (6.5ft)
Ball weight 172kg unladen
Frame Aluminium wall frame and composite fibreglass/foam roof
Cladding Composite 3mm pro bond panel
Chassis F&P Chassis 8in — Dual 4x2in box section laminated beam
Suspension Cruisemaster XT Coil and dual shockers
Coupling s DO35
Wheels 265/75 R16
Water 2 x fresh 100L and 100L grey
Battery 200Ah Enerdrive lithium
Air conditioner Houghton Belair
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking 1 x electric stovetop and mini grill combo Swift 3
Fridge 224L dometic compressor
Bathroom Separate shower and toilet
Washing machine 3.5kg top load
Hot water 28L stainless steel Swift, gas and electric
$99,890 inclusive of 12 months' NSW registration
PRICE AS SHOWN
CARAVANS COFFS COAST
186 PACIFIC HWY
COFFS HARBOUR NSW, 2450
Ph: 02 66525523