With fuel quickly heading towards $2 or more a litre and our large cars needing upgrades to tow the ever-increasing weight of vans when is the consumer about to say enough. The construction materials, chassis design, aerodynamics of vans can be looked at by our manufactures. A lighter van means not as heavy and expensive tow vehicle as well as the daily saving on fuel. Lightweight materials do not mean a compromise in strength and in fact some are stronger than those currently used.
Those who have been caravanning long enough will remember their old Viscount or Millard that weighed no more than 1000 – 1200 kg. We see them today still travelling down to the seaside parks where they have been going for 50 years.
As we get older a light van with a smaller tow vehicle all coming with cost savings may be desirable but will our Australian manufactures change? Only if there is a need, a change of buying habit by the consumers.
Traditional Aussie caravans are all much the same.
You need the big fridge, spacious ensuite, washing machine, enough lead-acid batteries to stay off the grid for two years and water to fill a swimming pool, you’ve got a heavy van. These days, you’ve got the other ‘basic’ necessities like a slide-out and a tough off-road chassis and suspension, add a longer A- frame to carry a nice big tool box stuffed with heavy "come in handy one day" stuff, space to carry your firewood, a bracket to carry your outboard motor, a fuel tank for your diesel heater etc, and your luxury van will hit the scales at 3500kg-plus.
Why must the typical Aussie caravan be so heavy? The love affair with a strong chassis and relatively weak timber frame and thin plywood floor might have something to do with it or maybe those who build lightweight, composite interlocking frames are too nervous about market perception if they don’t whack 6in-deep rails of BHP’s finest under it.
So there you have it: with a few exceptions, is there a need for a heavy caravan for Australian conditions or have we just talked ourselves into it?
A lightweight caravan is a wise money saving decision (i.e. under 2000 kg ATM, which includes most imported European caravans and some shorter Australian ones including pop tops) towed by a suitable environmentally responsible low fuel use tow vehicle. In fact, Lionel Mussell was wondering when and who will be our first member with an electric tow vehicle.
Learn more in our forum area.
Ben Somerville has taken a keen interest in Lightweight Caravanning for the past 6 years and wants to share his experience and research with members. Ben will be writing articles for the Nomad as well as submitting information on our Lightweight Caravanning Forum which is open to all members. Please take up the opportunity to read about this subject and if you have any questions or information to add, please post on the forum as Ben will be only too happy to respond