The Australians really do RVing differently. Sure, there’s a lot of the same style RVs we get Down Under, but when it comes to heavy-duty, off-road capable RVs, they take the cake. One fine example is the Kimberly Karavan. The Karavan is new to the United States, and RV Magazine was lucky enough to be given full access to the only one, at that time, in the states.

Construction

The quality and design of the Karavan is second to none. Everywhere we looked we were amazed. The frame is laser cut, hot dip galvanized and assembled with an interlocking design to maximize strength. All joints are pop-riveted versus bolting to reduce loosening of said bolts due to vibrations. Kimberly says this all but eliminates those squeaks and rattles most RV’s develop over time. Now it is a pop-up type trailer but you will not find any canvas or vinyl windows on this rig.Utilizing a clam shell design allows for a sturdier superstructure, better insulation and in the end makes for a much more comfortable cabin on those rainy, windy days.

The systems on-board are equally impressive. The propane system is small and exclusive to the outside kitchen. This was done for two reasons: By keeping the propane outside Kimberly was able to keep the cabin completely sealed reducing dust and helping with insulation. Also they have found that diesel power is more efficient and easier to fill than propane. The hydronic heating system as well as the stove and BBQ are all powered by diesel. While it sounds odd to cook with diesel, when shooting the Karavan for this review we had a meal prepared with this diesel stove top. There’s no black smoke like you may think and the food tasted great!

Water is handled by multiple means. There are three ways of getting and storing it. The Karavan has two completely separate tanks for fresh water. One is a 32-gallon tank and the other is a smaller 19 gallon. Both are mounted as low as possible to lower the center of gravity. The idea behind the dual tanks came from the Billabong’s in Australia. These small bodies of water are fairly common and usually contain fairly fresh, rain water. Kimberly added a pump and hose with a small stainless filter to tap into these Aussie lakes. The captured water can then be pumped into either tank (although Kimberly recommends keeping the larger tank for potable water only) or used on-demand for showers, heating purposes or for flushing the toilet.

Electrical power is achieved without the help of a generator. It doesn’t need one. With six 12-volt absorbed glass mat batteries, a 1800-watt pure sine inverter, 415 watts of solar panels and appliances designed to be extremely efficient, owners have reported running the air conditioning sporadically plus the radio all day with power left over to run the heater fan at night. Although Kimberly does recommend bringing along a small generator for longer trips and when camping in shaded areas as the solar panels will not have the chance to charge the batteries fully without the help of the sun.

The suspension Kimberly designed for this trailer is outstanding. Independent and coil sprung with King off-road racing shocks allows for gobs of wheel travel keeping the tires firmly planted on the road, no matter the terrain. The special Tregg style hitch coupling eliminates any play and allows for more articulation than you’ll ever need.

Interior

The Karavan’s interior is compact but amazingly well laid out. Again, the engineers at Kimberly really knew what they were doing as everything has been thought of and remedied. The walls are white, powder coated alloy and the headliner is fully upholstered. Self-closing cabinets with marine grade hardware guarantee you’ll never have to clean up a mess caused by faulty latches and windy roads again.

The bathroom is a standard wet-bath type but features a super high end vacuum toilet. An item not usually offered in any RV. The smaller interior kitchen (as opposed to the full exterior kitchen) consists of a diesel catalyst powered ceramic top stove, 800-watt microwave and high efficiency 12-volt refrigerator.The dinette consists of a retractable composite table flanked by seating for three upholstered to the buyers liking. When it’s time for bed the Karavan features a queen size mattress with a light heating element built into the base to keep you cozy on those cold winter nights.

Road Test

For the road test we headed out to a popular camping destination outside Tucson Arizona called Chimney Rock to put the Kimberly Karavan through its paces. The trip to Chimney Rock includes some street towing, but is mostly dirt trails. The Karavan towed great and was extremely quiet on the street but when we hit the dirt the Karavan really showed us what it was all about. Chimney Rock is a popular four wheeling destination and we saw many high dollar, purpose built 4x4 rigs on the trail…as we passed them.

Kimberly takes pride in building RVs that can handle anything. They build these rigs to be no taller, wider, or longer than most popular SUVs. They do this to be sure the Karavan will follow you, effortlessly through whatever obstacle you may come upon. As we passed literally every vehicle on the trail this fact became more and more evident. Through deep ruts, muddy holes and off camber road transitions the Karavan was smooth, quiet and definitely capable of more.

Specifications:

MSRP: $74,950
Height with AC: 6 feet 5 inches
Width: 6 feet 5 inches
Closed Length (including tongue): 17 feet
Opened Enclosure Length: 16 feet
Opened Enclosure Height (internal): 6 feet 5 inches
Opened Enclosure Width: 5 feet 10 inches
Dry Weight: 3197 pounds
Brakes: Disc electric over hydraulic with parking brake
Coupler: Tregg style
Suspension: Independent swing arm, coil sprung with King Shocks, limit strapped with bump stops
Heater: Hydronic heat system with Webasto burners
Air Conditioning: High efficiency 12 volt unit
Fresh Water Capacity: 32-gallon main, 19-gallon back-up with billabong pump
Grey Water Capacity: 16 gallons
Electrical: 6 AGM batteries, 415 watt solar with 1800-watt pure sine inverter

SOURCE
Kimberly Group
http://www.kimberlykaravans.com
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