Free Spirit: Review

David Gilchrist — 16 September 2015

When your heart is set on an outback adventure, what you need is a caravan that’s offroad-ready. An important feature of any offroad caravan’s design is water storage capacity and Free Spirit Caravans has an innovative solution for this problem, which has the crew crowing about its new designs. The idea is a radical departure from the usual water storage arrangements and it’s a design feature that makes traditional caravan water tanks optional extras – a fairly revolutionary proposition.

Free Spirit has patented a solution that allows you to store around 200L more water than you might have otherwise, without needing any extra water tanks. So to get a feel for this new solution, and to see how it fitted in with the use of the van, we went for a spin on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast with new Free Spirit van owners John and Annette Stevenson.

LAYOUT & DESIGN

Free Spirit’s aluminium chassis design is tough and far lighter than a similar-sized steel chassis, with the aluminium chassis rails around one-third the weight of equivalent steel rails. While the anti-corrosive nature of these rails allows for water storage, other storage options are also possible – but more on that later.



While storing water in the chassis rails solves one problem, it does raise the question about the potential effect of water sloshing along the length of the chassis rails, as the chassis storage has no baffles. On my observation, the van showed no tendency to nod or sway when towed; however, our maiden voyage didn’t provide the opportunity for solid offroading.

This Free Spirit design also boasts a couple of small but interesting features. By the entry door is a clever television mount that holds the television against the wall when travelling, allowing the bracket to swivel into place for viewing at camp. Another nice touch are the small utility pockets tucked in by the mid-offside dinette seats to hold the TV remote, one for each side, so it doesn’t matter who’s in charge of channel selection.

On first impression, the inside of the van is a well-crafted, quality design that provides good usable space to make any trip away a memorable experience. In fact, the initial feel of the interior is one of ‘coming home’ to a modern space that’s ready to make any adventure comfortable – a hideaway from the wild world.

BEDROOM & STORAGE

The front bedroom is fairly standard, but it’s hard to imagine what more any caravanner really needs other than a good-sized bed with plenty of accessible wardrobe, locker and under-bed storage and that’s what we found here.

KITCHEN

The well laid-out kitchen on the mid-nearside has a crafty slide-out pantry, with shelves and draws that slide out independently. This means you can get at your pickles without having to dodge past the jams – you just pull out the shelf you need.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This 20ft Free Spirit has all the comforts and simplicity that are the definition of good design. It has some great features, making for a highly usable and enjoyable rig, and the innovative water storage within the chassis has meant a lower weight and a stronger build for offroad adventuring.

All up, this design further enhances Free Spirit’s reputation as a skilled and innovative caravan manufacturer.

MEASURING UP

Pros…

  • Chassis water storage solution
  • Handy storage pockets in the dinette
  • Rear ladder for rooftop access
  • 12V 300Ah lithium batteries with 1800W pure sine wave inverter

Cons…

  • The rear ladder could benefit from a drop-down bottom step
  • Electronic awnings and steps have the potential for problems in hot or dusty conditions

The full test appears in Caravan World #542 October 2015.

Tags

Free Spirit offroad caravan

Photographer

Nathan Duff