Colorado Canyon Free Camp 16’6”

Free and Easy

Colorado Caravans recently introduced new Canyon models to their already extensive list of on and off road vans. With everything needed to explore the bush in style, the Canyons come in either a 16’6” Free camp or 20’ Extreme, both with distinctive graphics to let the world know you have waved the grid goodbye.

With a factory in the Melbourne suburb of Campbellfield, Colorado Caravans is a family owned business with 15 years experience in the industry.

For our review of the 16’6” Free Camp model we hooked it behind an Amarok and pointed the VW north from Melbourne for our annual mega-test to the Big Red Bash in Birdsville. By the time we returned nearly three weeks later, we had covered some 3500km across some of the best and worst the south-eastern corner of our country could throw at us.

Muddy conditions that forced the Big Red Bash away from the sand hills and into town also prevailed over much of Queensland’s border country so we encountered a variety of damp roads and rocky terrain. We also found time to tackle Little Red, drive the iconic Birdsville Track and discover the wonders of the Flinders Ranges.

Sitting high on a 150 x 50mm Dura Gal A-frame and chassis and with 50mm risers, the Canyon rode high above the Amarok but with a tare of 1920kg, it was an easy prospect for the 3000kg rated VW. Carrying capacity is a generous 500kg, so even loaded to the gills with two full 85L water tanks, another 90L grey water tank, twin 9kg gas bottles and many kilos of supplies and camera equipment we wouldn’t have gone close to maxing out the van’s 2420 ATM.

Connection to the tow vehicle is through a DO-45 hitch, and I found the metal clang as it locked into place each time we connected it to the Amarok very reassuring. Some of the country we covered stretched the van’s articulation, and it was good not to have to worry about it and the VW parting ways.

Twin 170w solar panels on the roof of the Colorado charged a pair of 105ah AGM batteries and they were enough to keep lights and the fridge running for the time away.

We carried a 3kva generator for the team on the A-frame in a large metal toolbox with a slide-out and although we only fired it up a couple of times to run inverters to charge camera batteries it was handy to know it was there as a backup to the solar.

To cope with the bone-shaking conditions on rough roads the Canyon is equipped with a robust single axle Cruisemaster trailing-arm independent suspension and dual shock absorbers each side, which were put to the test over corrugations and rocks for a faultless and very comfortable ride. 16” all-terrain tyres on alloy wheels add to the off-road capability and there are twin spares on a hefty bar at the back.

An Al-KO Electronic Sway Control System gave the van impeccable manners across every type of surface. Even in a sudden storm of extreme 55kt side winds and rain on the home run, the rig felt safe and steady at highway speeds. Road trains travelling in the opposite direction across central Queensland tar roads can have a strong rush of breeze around them, but the van never felt unsettled.

Our test van has a Meranti frame, but there is also the option of aluminium for those seeking something even more durable – stipple finish aluminium cladding cover the sides, with checkerplate protection fixed to lower levels.

A Ranger fold-down picnic table and a gas bayonet made it easy to set up an outside BBQ, while an Aussie Traveller Rollout awning protected us from the drizzle when set up in camp along the Cooper. A driver side hot water shower is a welcome feature for a quick clean up after a swim on a hot day.

Entry is via a fold down aluminium step just forward of the wheel arch to a stylish, uncluttered interior bathed in light from Euro style windows. A predominantly white colour scheme gives the relatively small space a deceptively spacious impression. Light-grey cupboards and drawers have a neat flush finish with extra storage space spread along the high walls of the van. The LED roof lights are very effective for meal preparation and such, leaving the more-subtle wall lights for relaxing once cooking duties are over.

I imagine that, like us, most people will cook outside on a fire or BBQ but for the times when needed the kitchen, while compact, is well equipped. A circular stainless steel sink is deep and a good size to wash larger pots and comes complete with a cover to enlarge the preparation space. A similar cover over the stove also helps make the best use of the space.

As well as the cooktop’s gas and electric burners and grill, a 20L microwave is installed alongside the high storage cupboards, but runs on 240v for times when booked into caravan parks.

One of the best features of the van’s free camping ability has to be the 190L Waeco Coolmatic fridge. When combined with sufficient battery power and an efficient charging system these compressor fridges have been a real boon to off-the-grid camping. The Waeco’s big freezer stored pre-prepared meals for eight nights for our party of six and the fridge kept drinks cold and vegies fresh for days, with the added benefit of not having to worry about switching between power supplies when travelling like a gas/12v/240v system requires.

The queen bed at the front of the van was extremely comfortable and slides out from the wall for an extra 125mm of length. It is surrounded by the usual arrangement of cupboards and drawers and has reading lights and 240v power points each side.

Across the back of the van an ensuite has a full height, one-piece moulded fibreglass shower with sliding shower head, extractor fan and a clear glass door. The central vanity and large mirror take up the middle section with storage shelves and a Thetford cassette toilet on the driver’s side.

Included in the Canyon’s list of standard features is a Fusion sound system with roof and external waterproof speakers, a 24” television fitted on a wall mount and connected to a Winegard aerial and an Ibis Air Command reverse cycle system.

The new style Four Seasons roof hatch is designed to leave the front section open so it can act as a pressure hatch and it eliminated all but a slight film of dust.

Our time with the Colorado Canyon proved it does all that it claims. It’s a genuine free camper with lots of water, plentiful renewable electrical power and refrigeration. With ample ground clearance and compact size, it easily negotiated narrow gnarly tracks. Off road and over miles of gibbers and dirt it travelled faultlessly behind us, while everything inside the van stayed in place.

Not everyone wants a monster van with room to throw a party at every caravan park. Some are daunted by the thought of towing a big van and there are others who prefer a compact, simpler lifestyle. The Canyon meets these needs and is a step up from a camper with the complications of erecting tents and packing up every time you want to move.

Priced at $64,990, this Colorado Canyon is packed with the features you will need for extended travel. It performed faultlessly on its maiden voyage so our experience showed it should offer years of trouble free service.


Manufacturer: Colorado

Model: Canyon Free Camp 16’6”

Overall length: (includes drawbar) 7.0m

External body length: 5.029m

Width: 2.5m

Travel height: 3.0m

Internal height: 2.1m

Tare weight: 1920kg

ATM: 2420kg

Ball weight: 240kg

Price as reviewed: $64,990

Find Out More

Colorado Caravans

34A Dennis Street, Campbellfield, Victoria, 3061, Australia.

Tel: 03 9305 2444

Back to blog