Toolbox
words & photos - Barry Ashenhurst
Designed for self-sufficient travellers, this Melbourne-built, solar-equipped 21ft van will get you out there and beyond

 

WE LIKED:
>> Nicely appointed interior
>> Diesel heater
>> Large water capacity

NOT SO MUCH:
>> Only 250kg payload after filling water tanks
>> Requires heavy-duty tow vehicle

Peninsula Caravans occupies an interesting place in the market in that its products are manufactured in Melbourne exclusively for the Caravan Centre in Port Lincoln and Renmark, South  Australia. No-on else sells Peninsula. It’s a ‘regional’ brand.

Apart from any other advantage this strategy might confer, its chief benefit is that it enables the Caravan Centre to design and build the type of caravans preferred by its many customers. Although it represents La Vista as well, Peninsulas are by far the biggest sellers.

As it happened, our stay in Port Lincoln was made more interesting by foul weather, forcing us to postpone photography more than once. It also made life more exciting for tuna fishermen many kilometres offshore, but that’s another story and unrelated to caravans.

Howling winds made sales manager David McKay reluctant to hoist the awning on his brand new Oz Trekka so we were forced to wait several days for the winds to abate. We finally got the van to the safe grounds of the Port Lincoln Tourist Park, thanks to managers Peter and Maree Appleton, and there discussed its various accomplishments.

GOT YOU COVERED...

This 21-footer model has several refinements which were incorporated after much on-road testing and extended free-camping.

“This is a van designed and built for those who like to be self-sufficient,” David said. “Hence the tough Gal chassis, off-road suspension, and a unique ensuite with plenty of room and bench space.”

David believes a caravan needs a minimum length of 21ft to be genuinely comfortable so this one has an external length of 21ft 6in. The suspension is Cruisemaster off-road.

Leaf springs and airbags are optional with this manufacturer (Vehicle Components), but in this instance the Caravan Centre opted for coil-springs and shock absorbers.

The chassis is full Gal, which means slightly more weight but a platform unlikely to rust when you’re enjoying extended self-reliance near an ocean.

The external colour is a pleasant silver-grey, set off by restrained maroon and white graphics. Checkerplate is used on the lower half of the body and on the large front utility boxes to protect the van from ricocheting road debris.

The appliances are heavy-duty as well. Extended touring has proven time and again that standard three-way fridges are not very efficient in hot climates so the Trekka has Waeco’s heavy-duty 215 litre RDP215C compressor fridge/freezer.

At the other end of the temperature scale, it can be too cold in the desert at night for conventional heaters so this van has a powerful diesel-powered heater with twin outlets. The unit is automatically controlled, and reputed to use as little as half a litre of diesel per hour so it’s ideal for free-camping.

The electrical system is pretty straightforward, but since this van has big expectations when it comes to electricity there’s 250W worth of solar panel on the Trekka’s roof. A ProStar 30 controller monitors the electrical system.

The van carries two AGM deep-cycle batteries and all lights, internal and external, are LEDs.

An Ibis air-conditioning unit is positioned in the kitchen area, deliberately we presume, since this is where most of a caravan’s internal heat is generated.

Natural light is invited in through two medium-size Dometic skylights – one in the centre of the van and one over the double bed, while a double-glazed Euro window is set over the food preparation area.

There is another window in the ensuite, over the bi-fold table in the lounge, and large ones either side of the bed.

ROOM FOR POTS AND PANS...

It’s difficult to see how you’d get more storage space into this kitchen. A mass of cupboards and drawers are provided above and below the benchtop and either side of the Swift oven/cooktop and stainless rangehood.

David mentioned while we were shooting this van that raising the height of the double bed to 50.8cm – 15cm higher than you’d expect – enlarged the storage space underneath it. There are lockers and cupboards around the bed itself, two of them vertical robes with mirrors. 

Cupboards in the kitchen are Winter Maple laminate and they look swish. Benchtops are full laminate, with splashbacks.

Water tank capacity is 285 litre across three tanks and one of them is filtered and has its own pump. This provides dedicated drinking water, a good fallback when the inevitable occurs and you tire of all that Coopers Ale or those ghastly ‘health’ drinks.

The ensuite is probably the most unusual feature of the Oz Trekka because it’s sealed off from the rest of the van with a large full-length door. This eliminates the common problem of tracked doors shaking loose on rough roads.

The geometry here is different too. The angled, prefab shower is unusually large – we tested it – and noticed that somehow the designers managed to fit a 3kg front-loading washing machine into the wall between the vanity and the door.

What is presently vacant space above the washing machine can be converted into a full-length cupboard if you need somewhere to put the ball gown. Then again, having a large open area like this to store bulky items like blankets and pillows can be handy in a caravan so we’d leave that alone. 

VERDICT

For a rig that boasts self-reliance, Peninsula’s Oz Trekka is a definite contender for a good, long bout of remote touring.

PENINSULA OZ TREKKA

Overall length: 8.53m (28ft)
External body length: 6.55m (21ft 6in)
External width: 2.36m (7ft 9in)
Travel height: 3.0m (9ft 10in)
Internal height: 1.98m (6ft 6in)
Nameplate tare: 2450kg
Nameplate ATM: 3000kg
Advised ball weight 220kg
Frame: Meranti
Chassis: Galvanised steel
Suspension: Cruisemaster coil-spring
Cooktop: Swift oven/electric cooktop
Fridge: Waeco 215 litre compressor fridge/freezer
Toilet: Thetford cassette
Lighting: LED
Gas: 2 x 9kg
Fresh water: 300 litre
Price $83,900 (tow-away, SA)
Supplied by: Port Lincoln Caravan Centre, Port Lincoln, South Australia


 

To comment on this article click here Published : Monday, 14 January 2013
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Total photo(s): 11 - click to enlarge