Bushmaster offer high quality offroad caravans and we take care of their Bluegum range for a test and find we are very impressed
Bushmaster Caravans owner Terry Ryan has been caravanning for most of his life. And in that time, he’s no doubt developed some opinions about how a caravan should be built and equipped.
“Since I was 24, I’ve always had a caravan – I can remember crossing the Nullarbor with a bondwood van behind a Valiant,” he said.
His manufacturing philosophy – aside from building the best vans he can – is to fit them with as much equipment as possible. He wants his potential customers to cast an eye over his vans and say, “Wow, this has got everything in it.”
The offroad Bushmaster Bluegum range has been on the market for seven years. It’s available in 16ft 10in, 17ft 10in, 18ft 10in and 20ft 6in variants. Terry reckons the 17ft 10in (internal length) model is one of the most popular Bluegums, but we wanted to check it out for ourselves.
If you’ve ever seen the all-checkerplate Bushmaster Ironbark, you’ll know that the company likes to think outside the box. But does the Bushmaster 17ft 10in Bluegum live up to Terry’s promise to build some of the best-specced vans on the market? We hitched it up to find out…
The Bluegum has a very appealing interior. Matters of decor are beyond me but the layout seems quite workable and the fit and finish is of a high standard. The front bedroom comprises overhead lockers, side wardrobes with drawers, a TV mounted on a swing-arm at the foot of the bed (complete with 12V point, of course). But my favourite aspect of the bedroom is the Swift Eco-Therm heater mounted in the storage space beneath the mattress. Better yet: the thermostat is fitted next to the bed so you can turn it on without getting up. (The Swift Eco-Therm transfers heat from the water warmed by the hot water service in order to heat the van).
The storage under the bed is somewhat compromised by the external tunnel boot; however, I think it’s a worthwhile trade-off.
The dinette is good and comfortable. The snap-up footrests on each lounge preclude drawers that open towards the opposing kitchen. Instead, Bushmaster has fitted drawers that open into the leg-well. There’s a small amount of storage beneath the trifold table, too, not to mention in the overhead lockers. A 12V and 240V powerpoint is fitted at the dinette, too.
The kitchen comes complete with a four-burner cooktop, griller, large fridge-freezer, a decent amount of storage space and a microwave. But it’s no ordinary microwave – I have no experience with these units, but apparently, the Whirlpool ‘cook and crisp’ microwave can do everything from grilling and crisping food to steaming it too. What’s more, Bushmaster fits a small sliding bolt to the top of the oven because – as anyone who’s towed a van on corrugations will tell you – microwave doors tend to fling open without permission.
Bench space in the kitchen is at a premium – but fortunately the lid of the cooktop can be used for chopping up the veggies and odds and ends will find a home on the shelf above the fridge.
To me, the bathroom in the 17ft 10in Bluegum is a winner. There’s plenty of vanity storage space and that large wardrobe behind the shower will come in very handy. I also liked how the Camec washing machine is mounted so that it faces the van’s nearside, rather than towards the front. Bushmaster did it this way because the machine’s door opens from left to right. Were it to face the front, the machine would be awkward to load; mounting it to the side overcomes this problem.
Personally, I’d like to see the switch for the Swift hot water service somewhere near the bed, rather than above the toilet, as I tend to turn the hot water off overnight (though I concede that’s not really necessary). A small hatch provides access to the water heater’s gas valve.
All in all, it’s a highly liveable interior. Frankly, I’ve only scratched the surface. There’s LED lighting throughout, an Aircommand Ibis reverse-cycle air-conditioner and much more, too.
SO MUCH STORAGE
There isn’t much that Terry Ryan hasn’t included to the outside of the Bluegum. Starting at the front, the van gets an Al-Ko offroad ball coupling and one of the most interesting drawbar-mounted storage boxes I’ve seen in quite some time.
Any offroad caravan worth its salt needs plenty of storage. After all, remote-area touring by definition requires you to bring more gear. And this caravan does not disappoint. The drawbar storage box comprises three sections: a front section with a door that lifts completely off to reveal the compartment for two 9kg gas cylinders; a top section with room for the jockey wheel and plenty of other gear; a nearside compartment; an offside compartment; and at the rear of the box a right-through tunnel. I liked the fact that the fresh water tap was mounted to the rear of the storage box, well and truly out of harm’s way, rather than to one of the drawbar rails.
Speaking of fresh water, rather than having a water filling point for each tank, there is one click-on hose connection point and three individual taps per 95L tank. Just turn on the tap of the tank you wish to fill. Inside the van are another three tanks – simply turn on the tap of the tank you wish to draw from.
And if that’s not enough external storage, there’s also another right-through tunnel boot behind the drawbar-mounted box. In this boot you’ll find a 40A multi-stage charger for the four 110Ah deep-cycle batteries. Two batteries are mounted in a protective box to each side of the chassis, which are charged when you’re off-grid by two 130W solar panels supplied with the van. Of course, you could pack a small generator, too – there would be enough room for a 2kVA unit in the van’s rear nearside compartment. There’s yet another storage locker at the rear offside, too, not to mention the box for items such as firewood, running the width of the van.
Sensibly, the Bluegum has been equipped with a reversing light and camera, as well as a front work light.
Without question, the 17ft 10in Bluegum has a lot to offer offroad tourers, from its considerable fresh water capacity and 12V system, to its seemingly endless array of storage compartments. It’s not an unduly heavy caravan, either, and its payload (more than 600kg) seems about right.
Internally, the van feels more spacious than its 17ft 10in length would suggest. Yes, it’s a little tight between the kitchen and dinette, and there’s limited bench space, but they are minor quibbles.
I can see why it’s among the most popular Bluegums.
- A very appealing interior.
- Bathroom is a real winner.
- Plenty of storage space.
- Great water capacity.
- Limited bench space.
- Tight kitchen-dinette.
Overall length: 7.9m
External cabin length: 2.4m
External cabin width: 5.5m
Travel height: 2.89m
Internal height: 1.96m
Unladen ball weight: 225kg
Frame: Meranti timber
Coupling: Al-Ko offroad ball
Chassis: 6in SupaGal
Suspension: Control Rider
Brakes: 12in offroad
Wheels: 16in alloy
Fresh water: 2x95L
Grey water: 60L
Awning: Dometic electric
Battery: 4x110Ah deep-cycle
Air-conditioner: Aircommand Ibis
Gas cylinders: 2x9kg
Sway control: Al-Ko ESC
Cooking: Swift 500 Series four-burner cooktop with griller
Refrigeration: Dometic 190L 12V fridge-freezer
Microwave: Whirpool ‘cook and crisp’
Washing machine: Camec front-loader
Hot water: Swift gas-electric
OPTIONS FITTED TO THIS VAN
PRICE AS SHOWN