Not so long ago I was trying to arrange a review with a camper trailer dealer up near Newcastle, NSW, and it kept being put off by wet weather. Our chosen location was a nearby state forest and I must admit to thinking at the time that the forest roads shouldn’t be too much of a problem… should they?
We eventually completed the review and several weeks later I found myself in the same area, this time with a Retreat Hamilton offroad caravan. Some way down one of the tracks I discovered there’s nothing quite like local knowledge and experience. Although the track was mostly dry, it became clear that my camper trailer dealer knew what he was talking about. Fortunately for me, the Hamilton has very good ground clearance, not to mention well set-up independent suspension and nicely protected water tanks that sit high off the ground.
In addition to all that, Retreat dealer Michael Edwards of Parravans Newcastle didn’t seem too concerned when his very new Jeep Grand Cherokee was returned somewhat muddier than when it went out.
I mention the Jeep because, at a Tare weight of 2735kg, the Hamilton is no lightweight and so having a tow vehicle with plenty of capability in both the engine and maximum tow capacity departments added greatly to my confidence in handling the van along the forest tracks.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
Inside this Hamilton is what Retreat calls its ‘cafe-angle-kitchen’ layout. Translated, this means a forward entry door, front island bed, full-width rear bathroom, offside cafe-style dinette and nearside, angled kitchen bench.
It’s a purchaser choice but I found the black and white interior to be a little on the stark side. It’s interesting, though, what adding a splash of colour, like the red bed throw, will do. Large windows and roof hatches aid the natural light considerably.
A key feature of this van is the load capacity – at 765kg it is considerable and there’s a good reason for that. In this layout there is plenty of storage capacity, particularly in the kitchen (on both sides) and the bathroom. Features like the angled kitchen and the under-seat drawers all add to it.
Another item of note is that all the cupboard doors have piano hinges, with struts for the overhead lockers.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
Comfort was clearly a concern for the purchaser. The innerspring mattress measures 1.88x1.53m (6ft 2in x 5ft), there are handy bedside compartments, the dinette seats have well-padded seat backs and hinged footrests, a gas-fired heater is fitted under the bed, the kitchen sink has a filtered drinking water supply, and the very spacious bathroom includes a top-loading washing machine.
Still on the comfort theme, the high-spec entertainment system comes with a touchscreen radio/CD player that includes the necessary Bluetooth feature, and the flatscreen TV, which can be used inside or out and can be supplied from both the aerial and the satellite dish. Observant readers might note there isn’t a TV to be seen, but it just wasn’t fitted into its bedroom corner location, where it can be viewed from either the bed or the dinette. Portable 12V/5V chargers are fitted by the dinette.
If you are someone who likes to exercise their cooking skills while travelling, then it’s well-equipped with all the usual facilities, including a generous amount of benchtop space and drawer capacity. Part of the overhead locker space is taken by the microwave, which may not get too much use if living without mains power, and the adjoining locker houses the electrical controls, including a neatly labelled 12V fuse panel.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Want a van for Australian outback travel? With all its inclusions, this Hamilton has to be on your list.
Two 120Ah deep-cycle batteries are backed up by the two 150W solar panels, as well as the conventional mains charge and an Anderson plug. In addition, there’s a very generous storage capacity for carrying just about everything desired, including plenty of fuel, water, food and drink supplies.
Finally, of course, it’s a van built with some serious rough-road travel in mind. In short, there’s no doubt that this Hamilton van is seriously kitted-out for long-term and remote travel.
HITS & MISSES
- Comfortable dinette
- Decent-sized kitchen
- Generous storage inside and out
- Bedside storage compartments
- Battery and solar panel capacity
- Large load capacity
- Requires a large tow vehicle
- Temptation to carry too much gear
- Rear bins are a little awkward to use effectively