It’s not every day you get handed the keys to a brand new 19’6 foot long caravan and asked politely to strap behind a V8 Ram pick-up truck, all with the sole intention of giving it hell on a custom 4WD touring track. Yet, here we are with the Rough Rider from Vacationer Caravans for the 2019 AL-KO Tough Tested Challenge.
Founded back in 2010 Vacationer Caravans are proudly Australian owned and built, giving them the ability to customize their product to suit your every requirement. Plus they sport a sassy combination of stylish looks, modern features and robust dependability. Let’s see how this ultimate holiday companion fares on the vacation from hell, shall we?
AT THE DROP OF THE FLAG
If there was ever a manufacturer that oozed confidence in his product it would have to be Matt Simpson from Vacationer Caravans. He’s been in the game his whole life and when you look at his product it really shows.
As we perched on the grid waiting for the checkered flag to drop I asked him “Do you think we’ll have a caravan on the back when we reach the finish line?” The answer, “I sure hope not – I don’t feel like towing anything home” Matt joked. At least I think he was joking.
At the flick of the throttle, we were off with the Vacationer rolling over the high moguls like they were a couple of pebbles on the road. I was beginning to see where Matt’s confidence was coming from, and it was infectious! I think we hit Mac-10 down the back straight as we approached the Articulation challenge.
This is a 19’6 dual axle caravan, which is not what you would typically take to a 4WD park. So naturally, I opted to take the wombat holes nice and slow, one at a time with the hope that we’d make it through without leaving half a caravan behind. The Vacationer strolled through it like a well-seasoned model on the cat-walk! It’s funny because the tow vehicle was picking wheels up left, right and centre, but the caravan’s suspension seemed to articulate and really soak everything up just nicely. The AL-KO Enduro Outback suspension system allowed each wheel to move independently, so instead of the whole caravan riding those angles, it stays relatively level.
As we made our way through to the water crossing, Matt was explaining a few updates compared to its predecessors, most notably the addition of a full aluminium G&S Chassis with TIG-welded frame. It features a 6inch extended A-frame and a 4inch raiser for extra clearance, not to mention AL-KO’s Enduro independent suspension and electronic Stability Control system. Let me tell you; when your caravan and tow tug combination resembles an 18 carriage coal trail, any reduction in weight is welcome, especially when you’re about to take a bath in a bog hole!
We really got moving through the high-speed section with a terrific feel that this capable van could handle this section of track safely. The unit felt as stable as a mountain goat! Even throwing it into the chicane section like an F1 race car and bouncing it off the side cushion didn’t seem to faze the big Vacationer.
The soft and boggy sand undulation test was up next, and I honestly couldn’t believe how effortless it chugged its way through. I put it down to several different factors, starting with the amount of weight saved by using an aluminium frame, composite sides and a honeycomb floor. Not to mention the wide tyre footprint made possible by utilizing 10 ply mud tyres with the sidewall strength to handle running reduced tyre pressures. Those lower tyre pressures helped soak up the harsh corrugations on the way to the hill climb at the end as well, which we managed to tackle with plenty of go-pedal of course.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAIL
The Vacationer Rough Rider might be built tougher than a bullet-proof bunker, but it’s actually quite a classy little number too. Inside it’s like stepping into your own little home away from home with all the mod-cons you will ever need. There’s a washing machine and Belair 3400 roof-mounted air conditioner, while 300 watts of solar allowS you to camp off the grid. But it’s the little things like the high-quality Sirocco fan, well-positioned electrical outlets; plenty of lighting, soft close cupboards and of course, the outside entertainment system. Vacationer also opted up to a Vitrfrigo 230L compressor fridge for this true luxury off-roader.
There’s no doubt about it; to see a caravan so chock-o-block full of luxury and modern convenience absolutely breeze the Tough Tested course was nothing short of impressive. I reckon that smile on Matt’s face says it all; he’s a proud man. And going off the way his van performed when we put it in the spotlight, I’d say he bloody well should be.
MEET THE AUTHOR
We call him Bear, and no it’s not just because he’s so cute and cuddly. Bear was the sort of kid that had a model fishing boat in the bath and a Jeep in the sandpit dreaming of great adventures both at sea and on land. He has been lucky enough to follow those dreams and now shares his stories of success and failure, what works and what doesn’t, how to and how not to, and of course where to go in our great country. Bears philosophy is about the joy we get from the journey – not just the destination.
Whilst originally trained as a boat builder Bear’s life has led down many paths but always drawing back on those primary skills. He has experience in irrigation, agriculture, engineering, landscaping and even once owned a playground equipment manufacturing company along with many years in wholesale and retail boat sales and fishing charters before turning his hand to outdoor media. Bear is a skilled writer and photographer, hosted successful radio shows, and nowadays spends a good deal of time in front of the camera creating reviews and features for print, on-line, TV and custom media.