IT’S COLD outside over the next couple of months so you have to be a hearty soul to get out and tent it.
So this month we will take a look at some of the more comfortable lodgings that will see you right when it is cold and be even better when the weather warms up.
Sometimes you get a bit stretched for topics after doing the camping section for a couple of years. So I sometimes ask people what they, would like to see in the mag and, without doubt, the over-30s want to see what is out there in caravans the younger ones, well, we will tackle that another month.
On a recent holiday I was surprised at just how many vans there are getting around in the camping areas and on the road. Must be the baby-boomer thing.
Anyway, this month we will take a look at the Viscount Newport, which fits right into the touring bracket of caravans. It is not too large or too small, as Goldilocks once said – it is just right.
Checking out the middle of the range at 5.18 metres (17 feet) long and with 36 different options to choose from and four different lengths at 4.57, 4.87 5.18 and 5.63 metres (15, 16, 17 and 18.5 feet), there has to be at least one out there that will suit everyone.
Every time I have a look at the new generation of caravans they just keep getting better. These days they are travelling palaces that are impeccably finished inside and out with every mod con you can think of and more. The Viscount Newport is no exception.
The Newport looks the goods. The colour scheme and the general lines make it look far more than the old box on wheels; this is a stylish, functional accessory to your vehicle and your lifestyle.
You have to be sure when you are purchasing something of this magnitude you are getting everything you want. It is designed around your needs, not what the manufacturer thinks you should have.
The Newport 17 comes in eight different internal set-up options so there should be something to suit just about everyone. The van tested was set up as option No 2 on the brochure and would suit me down to the ground with cooking up front, bedroom at the rear and the dining and relaxing area in the middle.
It sounds large but you can realistically fit only so much into a 5.2-metre van. It is just very well set-up so everything is in its place and very manageable, making it seem larger than it really is.
Let’s step back and have a look at the vital statistics and what you get for your dollars. First and foremost, is the yard big enough to take the van when you bring it home? This one is 5.18 metres long and 2.28 metres (7’6”) wide. It weighs in empty at 1250kg so you will need a decent tow vehicle.
Let’s look at the external features. The chassis, 45mm solid axle, rear bumper and spare wheel are all hot-dip galvanised. Having the spare wheel galvanised is a great idea, prolonging its life. Even the wheel arches are galvanised.
The tyres are eight-ply truck tyres on alloy wheels so they will handle the load and travel nicely. The van also has an electric braking system. On the front there is a chequerplate stone guard and attached to each corner of the chassis are drop-down jacks for stability when you set up camp.
At the front there is an extra-large and accessible storage boot, with internal light and power point, that should swallow up all that extra gear.
There is also an external power point on the side of the van and a cold-water tap (an excellent idea) fed from the town water supply or the 61-litre on-board tank.
All walls and the roof are fully insulated and the windows are tinted and wind out, with each one having a fly screen. The door is triple-lock security and not plastic and the door handle has a light for easy key access.
The two 4kg gas cylinders with an automatic change over gas regulator are mounted on the A-frame of the van and should cover the cooking and refrigeration needs for quite a while.
There are several more external features but there is not enough space to list them all. But I must mention the A&E roll-out awning that runs the full length of the van and gives you dry access to your van in bad weather and heaps of shade from the sun – it’s just like a big verandah.
Inside there is a well set-up kitchen with an Electrolux 2350 three-way (90-litre) refrigerator, four-burner cooker and grill and a microwave oven. There is a pull-out pantry and more cupboard and drawer space than most domestic kitchens. The stainless sink has a hand pump and mains-pressure taps.
There are safety switches on the electrical circuits, a fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, water tank level indicator and gas leak alarm, so everything is covered. Lighting is both 12- and 240-volt and the lights are not those crappy mini-fluorescents, but attractive, modern, directional mini-halogens that really add to the van’s internal appeal.
There is a TV point but I couldn’t find an aerial so there must be provision for one to be attached somewhere outside, I imagine.
The double bed is hinged with gas struts so it can be lifted and all the extras stored underneath – not that you would need much more storage, as there are ample wardrobes, drawers and cupboards all through the van.
All the windows have matching curtains and the floor is one-piece vinyl for easy cleaning. The last thing you want is carpet on the floor if you are fair-dinkum camping.
Finally, there is a stereo CD and radio above the bed and even a lift-up clear skylight to let in extra light by day and you can watch the stars by night when you are tucked in bed.
All the features so far mentioned are standard; there are more optional extras like solar panels and battery packs, larger fridges, air-conditioning, shower, toilet, double-glazed windows and innerspring mattresses.
You could make your van so comfortable you will never want to go home.
Camping just got a whole lot better and with a Viscount Newport, you don’t have all that fun of leaky tents, setting up the camp, fetching water and getting the ice for the esky, you just have time for more fun and you can go anywhere your car will take you and do it in style.
Vans are not what they used to be, they tow like a dream and just keep getting better. Camping takes on a whole new meaning; I think it’s called luxury.
The Newport 17as set up in this appraisal sells for around $29,625 and is available from Illawarra Caravans at 415 Princes Highway, Corrimal, phone 02 4285 1633 for further information.
The Viscount Newport is in the mid-range van size and looks the goods from the outside.
There is a tonne of extra storage in the front boot and the stone guard gives the van protection on the road, while the gas bottles are easily accessible and the tap is a great idea.
The sink and cooker are modern and practical and check out all the drawer and cupboard space.
The van comes standard with the spoilt camper’s friend, a microwave.
The double bed gives new meaning to creature comforts when camping and there is more storage under the bed and in all those cupboards.
The dining area is only small but comfortable and there is another lounge on the opposite side – a heap of space to just sit back and relax.Reads: 2000