Cruising through caravan sales yards might give buyers the impression that much of the Australian caravan industry is devoted to building large, ‘offroad’ (an overused term if ever I’ve heard one) caravans. But that’s not true – there are plenty of caravans of different sizes and prices available.
The Jurgens Jindabyne pop-top definitely falls into this category. It’s a single-axle van that has an external body length of 5.53m (18ft 2in) and a Tare weight of just 1450kg. As a manufacturer, Jurgens has carved out a unique niche in the Australian industry with its lightweight vans with Euro-inspired interiors.
Pop-top caravans are an interesting niche, too. Created decades ago in the midst of an RV industry coming to terms with the 1970s fuel crisis, pop-tops have moved up and down in the popularity stakes. However, they consistently offer something for travellers who prefer caravans with a lower towing height and/or more air space at head height.
My Jindabyne pop-top came from Alan Graham’s Caravans on the central coast of NSW. Since it was school holiday time, I decided to head inland along the Wisemans Ferry Road to the Mangrove Mountain area, rather than try the busy coastal strip.
Many locally-built caravans have a box section chassis with RHS steel main rails and cross members, which is the strong point upon which everything else rests. Jurgens takes a different approach using 150mm (6in) main rails and considerably fewer cross members.
The 80L water tank is mounted forward of the wheels and the spare wheel is mounted between the chassis rails at the rear. There’s no need to crawl under the van to lower the spare wheel out; it can be lowered from the rear by using the crank handle.
AL-KO Independent Rubber Suspension (IRS) is fitted to the single axle, and that’s complete with 14in alloy wheels and shock absorbers. This does reduce the ground clearance compared to conventional independent suspension but, given this is van is built mainly for road (bitumen and dirt) use it’s not a major issue.
Given the slightly lighter weight of the chassis, part of the van’s strength is built into the body work. The Duratherm walls are a 23mm thick composite construction that consists of an aluminium outer skin, 20mm high density foam that includes a structural matrix for strength and a plywood inner skin. Moulded fibreglass is used for the front and rear panels, as well as the pop-top roof, which is one piece, designed to minimise the possibility of leaks.
There are two external storage compartments, a conventional front boot which also contains the gas cylinders.
POP-TOP CARAVAN SETUP
Unlike most pop-top caravans, the Jindabyne does not have external roof clips. Consequently, the only thing you have to do once the van is level and the corner stabilisers wound down, is to set the awning to the ‘open’ position and to raise the roof at both ends from the inside using the pop-top lifters. Once that is done, the awning can be fully wound out and the doors and the Ranger windows opened.
With the roof raised, there’s an internal height of 2.03m (6ft 8in).
Not all pop-top caravans have a bathroom but this one does, and it’s across the rear of the van. The van comes with a front island bed, nearside lounge and an offside kitchen.
One of the benefits of a pop-top roof is that it reduces the impression of a cramped interior quite well. There are no overhead lockers and there are screened windows on all four pop-top gusset walls. In a 5.53m van (18ft 2in), there will always be a little bit of compromise with the layout but it’s more than liveable.
Across the way, the kitchen bench is a bit small with a 93L three-way fridge and some drawer storage. Because of the lower walls, the microwave oven is at a very user-friendly height and there’s a bit of benchtop space above the fridge.
Taller people might have to bend over a bit to get to the recessed control/water gauge panel between the fridge and microwave oven, but all the essentials are there including 240V/12V power and TV antenna connections.
The front island bed measures 1.93x1.4m (6ft 4in x 4ft 7in) and, as a bonus, the nearside bed occupant gets a wall mirror instead of a window, along with a set of shelves. The lack of a window might be something of a negative but the compensation is a larger than usual front window.
Under the posture slat bed base, part of the storage space is taken by the Finch air conditioning unit.
One of the benefits of the Jindabyne is that it’s a snack of a van to tow. Fully loaded, it’s only 1730kg and the Ford Ranger I towed with dealt with the van like it wasn’t there. In fact, this is an ideal van for something like the Ranger. Its alleged maximum tow rating of 3500kg does come in for some criticism as being unrealistic, but a van like the Jurgens will not give it any trouble at all.
Another benefit of the pop-top is that its maximum tow height is only 2.33m (7ft 8in), making it not only better for general wind resistance but also tracks where there are low hanging trees.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In the world of caravans, where larger rigs often dominate, the Jurgens Jindabyne is a good demonstration of how it’s possible to downsize but still retain all the essentials.
Sure the front bedroom/full-width bathroom are a little squeezy, but it does not lack for anything essential and, instead, offers benefits like a small tow vehicle and a lighter towing combination.
HITS AND MISSES
- Easy to tow and manoeuvre
- Set up is not difficult nor
- time consuming
- Given the size of the van, it has relatively good storage
- Microwave oven height
- Roof lift mechanism is a challenge
- Bathroom is on the small size
- Small fridge
Weights and measures
- Overall length 6.57m (21ft 6in)
- External body length 5.53m (18ft 2in)
- External body width 2.35m (7ft 9in)
- Travel height 2.33m (7ft 8in)
- Internal height 2.03m (6ft 8in)
- Tare 1450kg
- ATM 1730kg
- Payload 280kg
- Ball weight 132kg
Price as shown
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #565. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!