How many times have I been walking back from the amenities with a wet towel draped over my shoulder, when a warm scene framed through a Cruiseliner window grabs my attention? The slap of my flip-flops halts just shy of the camper’s ring of light, and momentarily I’m transported inside, wearing woolly socks and a bobble beanie, with a faint rain drizzling on the roof and a hearty soup coming to life on an interior two-burner.
So, on review day, I was keen to finally be in one for real, along with the team from Avan Adelaide. We set out with Avan’s Cruiseliner model with the 1D layout (one of seven choices) and Adventure Plus Package fitted. This package transforms the on-road base to a much more capable adventurer, adding — among other things — a larger chassis, greater clearance, more capable suspension, all-terrain tyres, and upgraded hinges and drawer runners.
Our drive to the setup location saw us pass the Inglewood Inn, Gumeracha’s Big Rocking Horse, and Birdwood’s National Motor Museum to arrive at Alexander Estate Farm Stay, a private property on the outskirts of Birdwood. For $20 a night, self-sufficient campers can pull up on a huge flat paddock fringed by hills and the Torrens River. Check it out in the setup shots and find them on Facebook or Wikicamps. They’re installing some upgrades right now but will be open for business again in spring!
IT DOESN’T TRAVEL TRIANGULAR
Craig from Avan told me that customers occasionally come in and assume the camper travels in triangular mode. He jests that, “Before you go anywhere, you have to call the road authorities and have them put up the bridges.”
In reality, these campers travel packed down with a flat top, low profile and moulded front end that reduces wind drag. Everything rides high, with the retractable step and stowed stabiliser legs well above where the trailing arms connect with the wheels.
The walls are made of composite panels with an aluminium outer and a protruded foam core, and are to thank for the breezy 1110kg tare and 1410kg ATM. With numbers more conservative than rust belt America, you don’t need a LandCruiser, as pictured, and could hack it with a CX-5 or Sportage, or even a Forester or a RAV4. Alas, the payload as seen (with the air-con) is 300kg, which goes down to 174kg after you fill the tanks, so you’ll need to pack modest or be willing to put a bit more in your car — there’ll be plenty of allowance for this given the ball weight of around 100 to 110kg.
A saunter around the front reveals an AL-KO 3500kg-rated swivel hitch, an AL-KO jockey wheel, two 4.5kg gas bottles held in rings, and the drawbar running back underneath and out of sight. As Craig explained, this chassis is 1.5m (5ft) tall and is made in Australia by Rollcraft. It is double hot dip galvanised after drilling and construction. Goodbye to corrosion-vulnerable points at cold-dipped joins and hello to better strength with the raw, not recycled, steel.
The front side is coated, low down, with a stone-proof protective paint applied to the moulded shape. I do wonder if the introduction of a more solid material, or an actual stoneguard, would be best here. Above this you lift a water-resistant front cabinet, which is the width of the body and deep, and would suit dry bags or duffel bags, chairs, and/or a bag of firewood.
Against its back wall the tyre iron and winders clip in, and there’s a jack compatible with jacking points on the chassis — more than can be said of many campers.
A checkerplate skirt protects the bottom portion of the sides. Either side at the front, doors lower to reveal the capacious underseat storage either side of the dinette. At the back on the passenger side, a door reveals a third of the underbed storage. On the driver's side opposite this, we find a little shower locker near the gas electric HWS vent. You can clean off as nature intended or in a pop-up shower tent.
Underneath, you’ll see four AL-KO stabilisers and AL-KO Enduro suspension with one big shock absorber each side (and the option of adding a second). This pairs well with the Goodride Radial 235/75R15 A/T light truck tyres (with one spare on the rear bar) for a firm grip on the turf and further suspension when aired down. Pipes and wiring are generally well protected, or run internally, with the one vulnerable point being the plastic drainage valve tap behind the tyre on the drivers’ side.
Dropping a knee, you’ll also see the water tanks, one in front and one behind the axle, protected by galvanised steel shrouds. It was a little disappointing to see the handbrake wire pressing on the shroud on one side, and — within the externally accessed cabinets — untidy holes in cabinet dividers to allow the passage of wires and hidden wood edges that could do with a quick sand.
Elsewhere there’s a gas bayonet point for an external cooktop or barbecue (you could fit a two-burner GasMate in one of the side-hatches) and 12V cig power near the door. You can have the multi-media player booming through external waterproof speakers if you want to chill outside.
FROM FLAT TO THAT
OK, now for the bit everyone is curious about — the setup. The two panels forming the roof are permanently attached with a runner system, so you don’t have to balance them on top like a tee-pee. Firstly, you undo one hasp on both sides, then you lift the left ceiling panel using the handle. Once it’s part way up, you push the righthand-side panel upwards, which will lift them both in unison. As you progress, shuffle closer to the rear hinge so you don’t have to reach as high.
It’s a job best left to the tallest in your party as you do need to apply some force up high — I am 6ft, so I found it very easy. A final push at the end clips the two panels together at the top, at which point you have the triangular roof in place but the sidewalls still sitting down, folded over the living area.
Next, you expand and stand on the two-tiered metal step, unclip the top part of the door (which at this point is horizontal) and open it upwards, step into the space that has been created, put your hand under the door jamb, and swivel it upright on its hinge over your head until it is standing vertical in the frame. Then, you clip it in on one side with a swivelling latch, and on the other with a spring-loaded bolt. As a final touch, connect the top half of the door to the bottom half using a clip, so they swing as one. Finally, repeat on the other side, sans the door.
That’ll take you about 30 seconds to a minute, max. With that done, you’re out of any rain, or ready for an instant nap. It’s a lot quicker, and easier on the arms, than the winding mechanisms you sometimes find on similar pop-up campers, and you haven’t had to handle an ounce of canvas. Plus, your campsite footprint hasn’t expanded at all, so if you can pull in to a tight campsite, you can be sure you’ll fit.
The presence of joins on the ceiling is worth investigating, but they were covered by overhang everywhere I could see and besides, the gabled roof has great run-off. As Craig says, it’s a question of physics; to spring a leak “water would have to run upwards”. A more relevant caveat is that you need to be careful with the position of the swivelling latch on the sidewall and the angle of the door when lifting the sidewalls, so as not to scrape the triangular ceiling.
Packing down is much the same and, so long as you’ve got everything off the benchtops and the cooktop and sink lids are down, you shouldn’t have to clear anything out of the way. As a welcome bonus you can use the floorspace for a bit of additional storage or for longer items.
THE CRASH PAD
Inside, the layout consists of a dinette to the front/left, a galley kitchen and drawer system through the centre, and an east-west bed at the rear/right. The interior design is pretty schmick thanks to the wood-grain laminate on the front of the Thetford fridge, the LED strip light in the ceiling, the faux-marble table, and the discreet press-locks on the cabinetry.
The dinette has seating comfortable for two, or three if needed, and a big table with a cut-off edge on the far side to allow the person sitting there to comfortably enter. You’ll be able to sit bolt upright unless you’re tight up against the angled ceiling. There’s a light with an in-built switch above, mirroring the one over the bed, to go with the LED strip in the ceiling as well as outside lighting, including a handle light.
To the side of the table, east to west across the front below the low ceiling there, is a benchtop with three hinged lids revealing storage underneath: two caverns to the sides, and a wider, taller cavern centrally with a short bar for hanging clothes. It’d be better again if the lids were rigged to hold themselves up. The storage is rounded out by underseat space through liftable panels and a side door (the same storage compartments accessible externally), and by two side-swinging doors revealing an additional space low down under the table.
This dinette can be converted into a single bed if you have a youngster along or are taking a trip with a mate. You lift the table out of its horizontal support on the wall and off of the upright metal pole it slots onto, then remove this pole and rest the table lower down on overhanging lips to bridge the two sides of the dinette. Then, take the backing cushions and cover the table. The table does have a cut-out edge and the end cushions are slightly curved but being able to do this at all adds versatility and makes it less likely you’ll outgrow this camper.
On the right as you enter, there’s a shelf and fire extinguisher on the side of a dresser featuring two upper drawers which open onto the central hallway, and a lowering bottom door revealing a storage space. Opposite this is the wider kitchen bench, with a Dometic two-burner and Dometic sink with a hot/cold mixer fed by the Shurflo pump. Both have black glass lids that cover them when not in use, which can be used to increase flat working space (that or chop veggies on the dinette table). As default, the grey water will drain out the non-living side, but you can option on a grey water tank.
Servicing this kitchen is a Thetford upright fridge/freezer and a Camec microwave, plus another storage cavern below the microwave. Perishable food will obviously go in the fridge, while your non-perishables, like canned goods, muesli bars, and scroggin, would be most convenient in the two moderately proportioned drawers on the opposite side. There’s good internal ventilation for the cooktop and a spot to clip in a battery-powered smoke alarm, too.
Before we move on, a note on a few concerns people may have about the layout. Somewhat surprisingly, the angled roof didn’t pose an issue when moving about inside. Turns out, under its peak there’s 2440mm and you don’t really have to be aware of it when moving in the floor area. In terms of the fact that all permanent fixtures must be low, that is true, but importantly the cooktop and sink are at reasonable heights. Bottom line, Avan has made the layout work exceptionally well.
DREAMS OF POWER
At the rear resides the east-west bed. On the kitchen side, there’s a small gap between the cabinets and the bed at the head and toe, ideal for storage of your phone, Kindle or other accessories. On one side are two USB points and powerpoints to charge said items. The innerspring bed itself measures 1900mm by about 1300mm, is made by Crown Posture Bedding in Melbourne and is pleasantly comfortable — the only caveat being your toes may touch the end when you fully stretch out if you’re 1.8m (6ft 2in) tall or above.
On a hot night you can wind out the long horizontal roof vents for airflow or slide back various windows to allow a breeze through the mesh. One better, you can — if at a powered site — plug in and operate the Finch ducted air-con. These windows are covered with curtains, which is non-conventional nowadays and reflects, I’m guessing, the fact there is no general part made for this rare window shape. But, if anything, it adds to the cosy log cabin vibes.
The bed lifts up on gas struts, pivoting on a hinge on the far side — it’s nice to see the rare inclusion of a handle, so the motion can remain controlled. Underneath there’s three divided storage areas. The one on the right is freely available and accessible from outside too; the central one (also accessible through a door that lowers into the hallway) is taken up by the air-con unit at the rear but is free at the front; and the third contains your chargers (DC/DC and 240V), foam-protected hot water system, and continuous use high-cycle battery by ACDelco.
There’s a bit of a tangle of cables in this last one, something of a trade-off for the conveniently included power cord stored here, which pulls out of the camper for connection to power boxes at powered sites, granting life to the internal powerpoints. You can also hook up to mains pressure for your water while at a BIG4. With these features, plus the microwave and air-con, lack of inverter as standard, and no included porta-potti storage space, there’s little argument the Cruiseliner is geared up for stays at powered sites, but there’s no reason you can’t make week-long forays out bush as long as you’re conservative. To sustain you, you’ll have 9kg of gas, 126L of water (across two tanks) and 100Ah of power (topped up via a Projecta Intelli-charge seven-stage charger using the alternator and the 80W roof-mounted solar panel).
If you wanted to keep a better eye on the health of the battery and fullness of the water tanks you could option on Projecta’s PM200 system. Other popular options or changes include a compressor fridge, increased solar and a higher quality battery.
THE LAST HURRAH
The price for this RVMAP-accredited camper will be slightly dealer dependent but the amped up model we saw was for $40,490 at Avan Adelaide. Avan offers a two year-warranty and, with its huge dealer network, you’ll be well supported if you run into grief on your travels. Craig said that these campers hold their resale value particularly well, so if you do outgrow yours, you’ll be able to sell it off and have effectively paid the difference between purchase and sale price for a photobook full of memories.
Avan’s Cruiseliner range has a distinct appeal — a cosy, cute interior space, quickly summoned at day’s end; a good dose of comfort to keep you in high spirits; and, with the Adventure Plus package, improved offroad capability. If, after reading this, you're appreciating that appeal, have a look in person and see what you think.
Tare 1110kg (as seen)
ATM 1410kg (as seen)
Payload 300kg (calculated)
Ball weight 100kg
Suspension AL-KO Enduro Outback independent trailing arm with King Springs and single shock absorbers
Coupling AL-KO Swivel 3500kg-rated
Chassis/drawbar Rollcraft-made RHS steel, double hot dipped-galvanised
Body Frameless aluminium composite walls with polyurethane base
Wheel/tyre 15in wheels with Goodride Radial SL369 235/75R15 A/T light truck tyres
Style Pop-up camper
External body length 4440mm
Interior body length 3615mm
Total garage length 5765mm
Travel height 1720mm
Interior height at centre 2440mm
Water 2 x 63L tanks with galvanised steel shrouds, gas electric HWS, Shurflo pump, external shower
Kitchen Dometic two-burner and Dometic sink, Camec microwave, Thetford upright fridge
Battery 1 x 100Ah ALDelco charged via Projecta Intelli-charge seven-stage DC/DC charger and Projecta 240V charger, 80W rooftop solar panel
Gas 2 x 4.5kg bottles, one plumbed, external bayonet point
PRICE $40,490 at Avan Adelaide
OPTIONS FITTED AS PART OF ADVENTURE PLUS PACKAGE
Upgraded 5ft chassis; independent AL-KO Enduro Outback suspension; AL-KO 50mm offroad hitch; 15in wheels with A/T tyres; extra internal framing; upgraded wall / cupboard hinges; upgraded drawer runners; 2 x large winding domes; ducted air-con; roof-mounted solar panel; entry grab handle; radio/CD player; internal and external speakers; microwave; awning track; 2 x 63L water tanks; external gas bayonet; 2/3 external baggage doors (depending on layout); innerspring mattress on some layouts; gas/electric HWS; external shower with hot/cold water; external 12V and TV antenna point; 12V DC/DC charger
Address 494 North East Road, Windsor Gardens, SA 5087
Phone (08) 8261 8442
Web avanadelaide.com.au or avan.com.au