Mountains of fun
If most couples were to write a list of everything they might need in their ideal touring caravan, I bet the list would be extensive – and pretty expensive. But, if they really thought about it, and were to remove those things that they could do without, the result would be pretty close to the fitout of this Snowy River SR17 on test. It’s a compact van with all the essentials, and it will suit couples keen to keep things simple.
Stylish? Tick. Easy to tow with a medium size vehicle? Tick. Ensuite? Tick. Functional kitchen, comfortable seating, easily accessible and comfortable bed? Tick, tick, tick.
As a subsidiary of the same company that owns the well-established Regent brand, all Snowy River vans have been developed over the last couple of years for manufacture in China through a mix of Australian and Chinese technology. Clever use of light composite panels in the body shell means weight is minimised while insulation and strength are maximised.
The 32mm walls, 40mm floor and 42mm roof, are formed from single sheets comprising tough fibreglass outer panels bonded to a high-density XPS foam insert, strengthened with an integrated box aluminium sub-frame. Stress areas and mounting points for furniture are reinforced with timber brackets, and the walls and roof are joined at the edges with a permanent waterproof join that is then covered with a sturdy edge moulding.
Under the van is a 4” Duragal chassis supported by an Al-Ko independent rubber torsion arm suspension riding on 15” black alloy wheels and 235×75 tyres. Some readers may not be familiar with this style of undercarriage, but it has been around for many years and has been used by manufacturers like Airstream in the USA for generations. It’s a proven system that should offer years of reliable service under local conditions, including stretches of corrugated dirt tracks.
Up front are a 50mm ball connection on a 6” A-frame, an Anderson plug for charging the battery on the go, a tap, twin 9kg gas cylinders, a storage tray and a jockey wheel. A covering of checkerplate runs high over the front end, and an aluminium stone shield protects the window. The full-width tunnel storage hatch running across the front of the van has a lino floor, and a bright LED light and has space for a Kojak wheel jack as well as your camping chairs and so on.
A single 100ah battery sits in a box welded to the frame, and twin 95L water tanks run between the chassis rails either side of the axle, while down the back, a spare is located on a twin-arm bumper. All tracking lights are bright LEDs, and a reverse camera is standard.
Along the kerbside are an Aussie Traveller awning, a picnic table, external power points, a set of weatherproof speakers and overhead lighting. A foldout galvanised step leads inside through an Aussie Traveller three-way security door.
The trick in building a compact van like the Snowy River 17 is incorporating the essentials without compromising on liveability. It has to have an ensuite to meet today’s standards, and it has to be comfortable and roomy. Stepping aboard, I couldn’t help but be impressed how Snowy River has achieved this and produced a bright, modern interior and welcome feeling of space.
Nicely finished furniture, cut from lightweight ply, showcases a modern flush mount look, and the CNC cutting process means the finish is perfectly executed, while curved doors on the overhead cupboards add a pleasing touch. There is a big range of colours from which to choose, and something like the understated timber and grey-brown panels and light stone benchtops in the test van should be fashionable for years to come.
The queen size bed lifts on gas struts, and even though the storage space below is shared by the Suburban gas/electric hot water system, there’s a good deal of room for spare clothes and such.
An overhead hatch and windows alongside the bed and at the bedhead provide a good supply of fresh air, while block out blinds control privacy.
The living space has an off-side kitchen and a decent size café dinette adjacent to a window that’s positioned to make the most of the views.
The downside of a compact van is the limited bench space for food preparation. The recessed Thetford mini-grill style cooktop helps make some space, and there’s a stainless steel draining board around the sink, so unless you want to prepare very elaborate dishes, most cooks will cope. The sizeable Thetford 184L fridge is a bonus, and there’s a microwave for when you are hooked up to 240v power.
Down the back, there’s no compromise on room to move in the ensuite, where you can enjoy a full-size shower and a vanity with large mirror and a contemporary style floating sink and mixer. Lots of cupboard space will be a welcome addition to what is already excellent storage for a compact van.
Decked out in its trendy and glossy flat panel walls, the van looked attractive and well-balanced behind the company Mazda BT-50 and towing the van to our destination was enjoyable through busy suburban roads and the dirt access to our location. With a tare weight of only 1998kg and an ATM of 2500kg, there are plenty of smaller vehicles capable of delivering the van to your favourite holiday destination without a worry.
A single 120w solar panel charges a 100ah battery through a BM Pro controller, for a degree of off-grid capability for lights and music. So along with a gas stove and water heater, you can enjoy cheaper non-powered sites or easily head into some of the more accessible national parks for a week or so.
The Snowy River SR 17 is part of a revolution in Australian caravanning. It’s built overseas by a large enterprise with firm holdings in Australia. It adopts a construction ethic that embraces the trend towards lightweight composite materials and in so doing, meets the demand amongst many pundits to move away from timber frames. Snowy River has delivered what the marketplace has sought. They have done it without compromising on the quality of electrical components, all of which are well-known brands. The quality of finish is high, and a growing online forum of happy owners attests to the commitment to solve any warranty issues. With a price of $53,990, the SR 17 would seem good value for a van that includes the essentials without breaking the bank or the tow vehicle.
- Stylish design and quality fitments
- Timber free frame
- Compact and easy to tow
- Like a lot of current vans, insect screens seem a bit flimsy.
Find Out More
Manufacturer: Snowy River
Overall length: 7.48m
Travel height: 3.07m
Tare weight: 1998kg
Ball weight: 195kg
Water tanks: 2x 95kg
Payload remaining with full fluids: 394kg
Price as reviewed: $53,990
Contact: Snowy River Caravans
250 Princes Highway, South Nowra NSW 2540
Phone: 02 4421 2055
Springvale Caravan Centre
723-731 Springvale Road, Keysborough VIC 3173
Phone: 03 9798 3954
1 Pinn Street St. Marys SA 5042
Phone: 08 8277 2959