THE TERM "OFFROAD" gets used all too frequently in the RV world. But some wiser folk have lately adopted terms like "rough-road" or "national-park road" in order to be more accurate.
In the case of Sunland Caravans, however, offroad is a very fitting tag. Indeed, the company's genial proprietor, Roy Wyss, positively encourages some serious offroad adventure with his vans, given their purpose-built features.
In particular, Sunland's Blue Heeler is very well suited to a bit of rugged touring.
At first glance the van has a chunky air about it, largely due to the checkerplate-covered front boot/jerry can/gas cylinder compartment. This may sound messy, especially since two side bins are included, but the design works well and leaves a very clean-looking drawbar, with just the Hitchmaster DO35 hitch and handbrake visible.
About the only issued I could see the need for is careful loading to avoid excessive ball weight.
Otherwise looking fairly conventional, apart from the chamfered rear end, the composite fibreglass-built van has a lower skirt of checkerplate all-round to match the front. It also has a Camec security door, Seitz hopper windows, external speakers and a spare wheel mounted on the rear bumper.
Additional external storage is supplied by a nearside bin door that allows access to the under-bed space - useful in our review van given the front side bins were taken by a 2kVA generator on one side and a 2.2kg top-loading washing machine on the other.
Unless you go poking around in the cupboards, or pull the body apart to see the 20mm polystyrene insulation in the walls, many of the solid construction features used inside a Sunland remain hidden.
However, that is not the case with the chassis. Sitting high off the ground as it does, it's not difficult to view the 6in and 4in-railed hot-dipped galvanised chassis and Cruisemaster independent suspension, complete with coil springs, trailing arms and two shock absorbers per wheel.
A look underneath also reveals the fibreglass composite floor glued to the chassis, and the alloy water tanks, one of which is shaped to fit the rear departure angle. All the piping and cabling is strapped up safely out of the way, leaving a very sleek-looking chassis.
The Blue Heeler's design makes use of single beds in the rear, combo bathroom cubicle in the front offside corner, with a kitchen that fits around it, and a nearside dinette. Throw in a mid-offside, waist-high cabinet, and another by the entry, and you get quite a practical design.
The whole van is finished in the stunning Sunland cabinetry, with solid timber doors, piano hinges and colour-coordinated upholstery, all of which is very easy on the eye. I should also mention the mirrors, which are not glass, but rather a polished stainless steel.
Single bed layouts aren't popular with everyone, but they are often a practical design in smaller vans. In this case, the 2.06x0.48mm (6ft 9in x 2ft 7in) beds are easy to get to, and boast windows along the side and above the bedheads, LED reading lights and a good-sized cabinet between them.
Overhead lockers all-round provide good storage, as do under-bed areas, accessed by lifting the posture slat bases. Part of the offside storage is taken by the Truma 14L water heater.
In the middle of the van, the offside cabinet offers a considerable amount of cupboard storage, as well as some extra benchtop space. This is also where the flatscreen TV can be located on a hinged bracket on the adjoining wardrobe wall, making it visible from the dinette and the rear beds.
The extra storage offered by the mid-van wardrobe is a welcome feature. Ours came with shelves, but I am sure it could easily be converted to hanging space, especially since there isn't any elsewhere in the van.
With plenty of room to stretch out, the leather and cloth dinette features a tri-fold table that can be used for either a full meal or just nibblies and wine.
LED reading lights and an overhead strip provide plenty of illumination. And if any visitors stay overnight, the dinette folds down to make a small bed.
Between the dinette and front kitchen is a small cabinet with a cupboard, plus a set of perspex shelves that rise up the wall to meet the overhead locker area. A panel at the top is used for mounting the solar panel regulator, 12V switches and radio/DVD player - the adjacent shelf is handy for any plug-and-play devices.
Catering is well-handled by the front kitchen, which is home to a Stoves four-burner cooktop/grill, plus a stainless steel sink with drainer fitted into the main bench. A Waeco 175L fridge is installed on the other side of the bathroom.
General storage space isn't too bad, with four drawers, one cupboard and a small wire slide-out pantry under the cooktop and sink. There's isn't much bench space, but the cabinet between the kitchen and dinette helps a lot. No microwave is installed, but it shouldn't a major issue to get one fitted.
This particular layout doesn't allow for an oversized bathroom, but the one fitted has all the essentials - shower, cassette toilet, corner washbasin - and isn't particularly cramped. It has a fan vent hatch and a small window for ventilation.
An ATM of 3000kg and Tare of 2380kg do allow an impressive load capacity for the Blue Heeler, but it also means a larger 4WD tow vehicle is required.
Mine was the ever-popular Toyota LandCruiser, which dealt with the van in a very fine fashion and demonstrated no towing problems.
THE BOTTOM LINE
When quality assurance procedures were being introduced to the RV industry, "fitness for purpose" was once something of a buzz phrase. Well, the sentiment is still very relevant and the Blue Heeler is certainly suitable for comfortable offroad travelling.
The added beauty of this rig is that it has been built for travelling in style, the hallmark of any caravan from Sunland.
Source: Caravan World Dec 2011.