If there’s anything that grabs attention in the current caravan scene — apart from the ever-growing delivery times — it’s that rough road and offroad caravans are often the dominant stock at many dealers. This was certainly the case when I had quick look around the salesyard at Fair Dinkum Caravans when I was there to collect a Network RV Terrain Tuff caravan to review. Although Network RV do build both road tourers and offroad caravans, there was an entire stable of the latter.
Along a similar line, five to six years ago, finding a family caravan required a bit of searching, but that certainly is not the case now, with many dealers stocking more than one layout. I mention that because my Terrain Tuff review van was a 6.4m (21ft) bunk van layout, and there was more than one family van in the yard. Indeed, as my van was being hooked up, a family turned up looking for a van but optimistically hoping for an early delivery!
Although the Terrain Tuff is an offroad van, it scores quite well in the department of weighty matters. With a tare of 2512kg and an ATM of 3300kg, it has a decent payload at the best part of 800kg. Whilst that might sound impressive, it’s easily usable once you get a family’s gear and food supplies on board. It’s important not to forget about the fresh water and gas, which absorbs circa 200kg before anything else.
Another way of looking at this of course is to travel as lightly as possible and reduce the wear and tear on the tow vehicle. Which in this case could certainly be one of the multiple dual cab utes with a tow ‘rating’ of 3500kg. For my test, I was using a Ford Ranger that was a few models old, but it still towed the caravan with relative ease. That might sound a bit of a lightweight (no pun intended) comment, but a tow vehicle that’s not working overly hard means the driver isn’t going to be either.
A little surprise on this van was the unladen tow ball mass of just 112kg, although, that’s going to change when the van is fully loaded because both water tanks are mounted forward of the wheels. Included in the caravan fittings is a rear-view camera and monitor for the tow vehicle.
A look under the van reveals a chassis built in the box section style, with 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) main rails and drawbar. Although painted black, it’s Permagal treated steel. Two battery boxes are attached to the front offside chassis rail.
At the rear of the van, the sub chassis area looks a bit messy, but the pipework is mostly to do with the grey water tank behind wheels and is well strapped up out of the way. Since the van is designed for offroad use, it’s fitted with 3.2T Tuffride independent suspension, having coil springs and two shock absorbers per wheel, and 10in electric brakes are fitted to the 15in alloy wheels. On the drawbars are the usual accoutrements — two gas cylinders, centre mounted jockey wheel and a DO35 hitch.
The body construction is a mixture of something old and something new. Keeping everything square is the Meranti timber frame. The walls are all composite aluminium panel, but the roof/front wall is one piece fibreglass. Overall the body shape does have a somewhat square look about it, although it’s offset by the lower areas being plated in black alloy checkerplate. As is pretty usual now, double glazed acrylic windows are fitted all around and the security door is a Camec item. A little surprisingly, there was an Aussie Traveller awning fitted — while awnings are very much standard items these days, serious supply issues often means an extended wait to get one fitted after delivery.
Warranty on caravans is always a good thing to check out. In this case, the structural warranty is for three years and five years on the chassis.
Fitted with the two 95L water tanks and one grey water tank, there’s certainly enough water capacity for remote travel. In addition to that, the two 100Ah deep cycle batteries and twin 170W solar panels do the same on the electrical side.
Stepping in through the habitation door and moving to the right, offers a seat in the L-shaped lounge. It’s an excellent way of checking out most of the van interior. Facing the lounge is the kitchen area, including the fridge. Up front is the island bed, while the rear area contains the bunks and the bathroom. White upperworks, including the glossy overhead lockers plus multiple recessed ceiling lights ensure a bright interior.
One of the benefits of the L-shaped lounge is that it gives a slightly more ‘open plan’ look and feel to the van, rather than, say, a cafe dinette. It also means an extra seat or two can be added to the table without too much problem, something essential in most family vans of this type, given the size of the table which is a tad on the small side. It does have a single pole mounting which results in an easily swivelled table.
Electrical sockets, both 240V and USB hub are fitted in the underseat area and there are reading lights at either end of the table. Overhead lockers are, as usual, fitted above the window, which, from the inside, does seem to be on the short side, but outside accommodates a fully open habitation door.
Undoubtedly, one of the compromises in this van is the kitchen bench length. It’s just long enough to fit in the essentials like the four cooktop/grill plus a square Pygranite sink. There’s a bit of bench top space at the expense of no sink drainer, but when the cooktop is not being used, it does have a flush top.
A little different to usual is the microwave oven, which is located in the cupboard under the grill, not in the overhead locker area. That’s not lost space because there are three overhead lockers, the fourth being devoted to the electrical control panel. Under the kitchen bench are three good sized drawers and a single cupboard, one partly occupied by sink plumbing.
The bed is of a standard size (1.88m x 1.5m/6ft 2in x 5ft) and there is plenty of walk around space around the bed, even on the kitchen side. Wardrobes and bedside cabinets are fitted in both sides and there’s even a pillow cubby complete with 240V power point and USB hub for each occupant. As per normal, the bed can be gas strut lifted to get access to the storage underneath. It’s mostly free space, except for the partitioned compartment containing the battery charger and 12V fuses. Fairly accessible, there’s even an LED strip light to save poking around in dark corners.
General ventilation in the bed area is assured by large windows on either side, a reasonably sized roof hatch and a Sirocco 12V van on the offside almost adjacent to where the flat screen TV is mounted. The TV can be seen from either the bed or the dining area, but sadly for the junior members, not from the bunks in the rear.
BUNKS 'N’ BATHROOMS
Speaking of the bunks in the rear, there are two of them, both measuring 1.8m x 0.7m (5ft 11in x 2ft 4in), and they sit in the conventional position along the offside wall. Each comes with its own power point, USB hub, reading light and a long but relatively narrow window, keeping younger ones safe, yet still good for ventilation. Adjacent to the bunks is a full height wardrobe, with hanging space and a bit of shelving, and filling the base area is a front loading 4kg washing machine.
Filling the nearside corner area, the bathroom isn’t big enough to fit the entire family, but it does have a separate shower cubicle, Dometic cassette toilet and a moderately sized vanity cabinet. It’s large enough to have a cupboard, pedestal wash basin and a wall mirror.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If a family van with offroad ability is desired, the Network RV’s Terrain Tuff covers all the bases. On top of that, it’s a van without an excessive weight factor, yet still having a very good load capacity.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 6.4m (21ft)
Overall length 8.2m (26ft 11in)
Width 2.46m (8ft 1in)
Height 3.15m (10ft 4in)
Ball weight 112kg
Frame Meranti timber
Cladding Aluminium composite cladding, fibreglass roof
Chassis Galvanised box section, 150mm (6in) rails and drawbar
Suspension Tuffride independent with coil springs and shock absorbers
Coupling Cruisemaster DO 35
Brakes 10in electric
Wheels 15in alloy
Water 2 x 95L
Grey water 1 x 95L
Battery 2 x 100Ah
Solar 2 x 170W
Air-conditioner Houghton Belaire 3500
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking Swift 500 4 burner & grill
Fridge Thetford N641-E
Bathroom Separate shower cubicle, Dometic cassette toilet
Hot water Swift gas/elec 28L
PRICE AS SHOWN
2/19 Gateway Boulevard
Morisset NSW 2264
Ph: 02 4002 7245