Now one of the largest caravan builders in Australia, Avan owes its existence to an innovative camper trailer introduced over twenty years ago. And while the company is now probably better known for its fleet of charmingly named caravans and pop-tops the original camper is still in production. It is still a strong seller gaining cult status amongst passionate owners who have their own club with annual gatherings all around the country now in their 16th year and attracting up to 263 Avans.
Taking its name from the A-frame roof shape when erected, the camper remains popular because of its ease of use and light weight, making it suitable for towing behind many smaller vehicles.
Over time the number of these distinctively shaped campers has grown with demands for families for extra space to a range of five models but our test model is the Aliner, the genuine original camper concept. Within the model range the Aliners are offered in six different layouts with our test camper closest to the original in its simple 1D format. It is eminently suited to couples who like their camping simple but with style and convenience.
The range of Avan campers and vans is built in the company’s new facility at Pakenham east of Melbourne so for our review we took it into the forests north of Melbourne where a combination of dirt roads and rough tracks gave a positive impression of how easy it is to tow.
One of the advantages of a small camper showed when we became lost down a fire tail searching for a likely place to set up the camper. We were able to easily manoeuvre our way out of trouble but I think we would be still there if we had a big van.
With tare and ball weights of only 885kg and 65kg respectively, the camper is easily towed by many small vehicles so it was an easy task for our Isuzu D-Max, which barely raised a sweat on the steeper inclines.
Despite the low weight the chassis is well constructed from 75x50mm hot dipped galvanised box section steel supported by a 1200kg leaf spring suspension with shock absorbers. The camper was optioned up to Adventure Pack specs adding in extra ground clearance, 15” alloy wheels with 205×70 off road tyres and a fold out step to cope with the extra height.
Twin 4kg gas bottles sit on the draw bar and the unit is light enough to be able to take advantage of a fold-down jack, which is fast and easy to operate.
On the road the Aliner has the shape of a normal camper and it’s not until the two arches of the A-frame are erected that it shows its true nature – and one of the big bonus features of the design.
Rather than the canvas enclosure that most campers offer when erected the Avan has solid walls offering a higher degree of security as well as better weather protection and insulation. I’d also guess it would have better sound insulation, which can be an issue in some caravan parks and it would be quieter in a strong breeze when canvas can flap annoyingly at times.
These walls are built in the factory from 23mm Thermobond panels comprising an external aluminium sheet fixed under heat to 3mm ply panels protecting a foam insulation core. The smooth panels giver the camper a modern look that is supported by the optional silver paint scheme.
Setting up the camper is child’s play. Latches on the side that are secured for travelling are released and the top cover lifts easily taking the rear wall with it to form the familiar arch. You then hop inside the van and the two sides are then lifted and secured into place for a rigid triangulated structure. The door is a two-section unit similar to those on poptop campers but with the solid walls it was easy and quick to configure, felt sturdy to open and gave a reassuring clunk when closing.
All up even on our first attempt it took less than a minute to get it ready for occupation and that’s a great advantage when stopping for a quick lunch on the road or if the weather turns sour when you are ready to camp.
Stepping aboard gives a surprising impression of space. The high ceiling creates a new dimension and windows all round bring the bush up close for a real feeling of place.
Squared edges of the furnishings are finished in a warm mid-toned timber with mid-grey granite laminate on the benchtops for a modern take on a classic wooden fitout.
The open layout is necessarily simple given the compact design. A café dinette at the front is a roomy place for a couple to sit facing each other around a fold down table while the central section houses the driver side kitchen with a storage cupboard that adds extra food preparation space opposite.
There is storage under the seats of course and you can drop the dining table to make a single bed for an occasional visitor or the kids. All windows have dark tinting and curtains for privacy and with the end ones opening wide and the side ones sliding there are loads of fresh air circulating. However, if it is hotter than you like there’s also ducted air conditioning when hooked up to 240v.
Both the sink and Smev two-burner gas cooktop have dark acrylic covers but you will have to juggle space for food preparation. I’d imagine most folk cook main meals outside anyway so the kitchen is probably going to serve to make a quick cuppa and a light lunch.
Gas hot water is supplied to the deep stainless steel sink from a 62L water tank slung under the chassis and an external shower is available as an option while a three-way Thetford 90L fridge and a Panasonic 240v microwave under the bench round out the appliances in the compact but comprehensive kitchen.
I liked the way the bed at the back of the camper takes advantage of the high skylights for views of the night sky for a real feeling of being out in the bush. It’s an east-west configuration, which means care needs to be taken not to disturb your partner when climbing out of bed in the middle of the night but that seems a small price for the benefit of extra space the layout affords.
Avan has evolved into an organisation that now builds a huge range of campers, caravans and motorhomes but the original camper has prospered because of its simple and lightweight nature. Passionate owners report years of service and they have traversed the continent numerous times, even over the remote roads they never intended to traverse.
The Aliner might be the basic version these days but at $27,780 as tested it offers plenty of value for couples or small families looking for a vehicle with lots of features that is easy to tow and set up.
Model: Aliner 1D
Overall length: 4.85m
Travel height: 1.65m
Tare weight: 885kg
ATM weight: 1185kg
Ball weight: 65kg
Price as reviewed: $27,780
Find Out More
AVan RV Sales
11 Webster Way Pakenham Vic 3810
Ph: 03 5945 4545