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Out in mountain winter cold A'van comes through as a comfortable and easy to manage camper

June 08, 2007
Out in mountain winter cold A'van comes through as a comfortable and easy to manage camper

The A'van Aliner 2B upgraded to Cruiseliner features plus the Alko stabiliser coupling, annex, microwave and stereo system is a comfortable, easy to manage camper.

To try its cold weather abilities A'van owners Ros and Errol Croll were our guests on a winter A'van camping evaluation in Victoria's Yarra Valley high country.

The winter walkabout extended over five days from sawmilling Millgrove, near Warburton through Yarra Junction and on through the mighty mountain rainforest around Powelltown.

<!--mo1####mo2-->A solid push stands the roof peak up. It helps to be tall. Note solar collector<!--mo3-->
A solid push stands the roof peak up. It helps to be tall. Note solar collector

This includes ancient rainforest with trees among the biggest of their breed in the world. In Myrtle Beech forest is the Ada Tree a 76m giant Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans), one of the biggest in the world and one of the largest known flowering trees.

DSE officers in Powelltown will help walkers with information on other walks in the area. Phone Dept of Sustainability and the Environment officers at Powelltown (03) 5966 7203.

The A'van was used with and without mains power. It is a clever design with only minutes required to stand its folding roof and walls up and down.

Nothing needs to be juggled. It helps if you are taller but a strong heave gets the roof up. The Dutch door folds in two sections. Standing inside the top door it is an easy reach to the twin walls which simply pull up. 

Once erected with simple locks holding the walls the camper is a solid, well insulated base which avoids the flap which goes with soft wall designs in strong winds. 

It also completely avoids dealing with wet canvas. In mountain rainforest country damp is normal in all seasons so this is a distinct advantage.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Good morning Ros Jolliwinds<!--mo3-->
Good morning Ros Jolliwinds

Its quirky peaked shape shakes of rain and would be an advantage to keep the weight off the roof if camping in snow. The steep angle of the bright, light roof window vents also helps maintain ventilation as they can be left slightly open even in wet weather.

There is a useful small solar collector on the roof which feeds a dribble charge to the A'van battery. A rectifier stops the charge when the battery hits topped up.

We estimate that its economical fridge will run for about 18 hours off the "House" battery in the camper. 

It is of course important not to open it any more than is essential and to close it quickly once food and drinks have been accessed.

The 2B is an east-west double bed design. There are a variety of layout options. The disadvantage of the east-west double is that whoever draws the camper wall side disturbs their partner getting out of bed.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Double east-west comfort in the Avan<!--mo3-->
Double east-west comfort in the A'van

On the other hand cuddling under two quality doonas is definitely a heat source. Talking of heat a small fan heater with a thermostat is effective in small, well insulated spaces like the A'van.

Sink and food preparation space is limited in designs of this type, but with thought and a long training background in yacht galleys it is manageable.

The kitchen unit includes stove, sink, microwave storage cupboard and the fridge. Like a yacht storage space is well thought out and surprisingly good. Twin lockers go right across the A'van with access from inside and outside.

There is an annex and it rides with its poles in a tube container across the back of the camper. The camper also has a good boot at the front of the camper which has been amatuer built. It looks like a professional result but needs a little more work to completely waterproof it.

We found the A'van was particularly easy to manoeuvre. The 4x4 and the Limit Slip diff of the Rodeo certainly helped on the thick fallen leaves and slippery mountain soil of the Jolliwinds campsite at Millgrove . (It's no place in the wet for a front-wheel-drive). But Errol had no trouble putting the A'van in a prime creek-side spot.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Annex poles go in the tube. The swing is  an extra<!--mo3-->
Annex poles go in the tube. The swing is an extra

The sloping result was levelled by building a small wood-chocked ramp in front of the campers right-hand wheel and then easing the light A'van onto it using the strong low rpm torque of the Rodeo V6. We always include a few solid chocks in our handy camping stuff.

Ros and Errol tow the 869kg A'van with a useful manual Rodeo V6 Isuzu Crew Cab. It is the TF Series from 1998 the V6 24 valve, DOHC EFI motor running at 8.6 to 1.

It is 3165cc and develops max torque of 265Nm at about 2500rpm.

Errol was a GM Executive before retirement and says that Isuzu was very proud of the Rodeo V6 which was cutting edge for its time and took Isuzu into advanced petrol engines and away from their diesel truck heritage.

Errol's Rodeo is 4x4 with the LS (Limit Slip Diff). Gross Vehicle Mass is 2740kg with four people aboard and the smaller 63 litre tank full.

The ute had a bigger tank at 75 litres. The owners manual says 1800kg on the drawbar. The A'van (about 869Kg) was a snack for the Rodeo through some steep long hauls on route to Warburton.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Some handy chocks and Rodeo torque raise the Avan to level<!--mo3-->
Some handy chocks and Rodeo torque raise the A'van to level

It is winding running and the good bitumen roads can be wet and slippery so we towed at about 80kmh with a few short burst to 90kmh on straight sections where posted speeds allowed. The many town speed restrictions on the run keep travelling speeds down.

Errol keeps statistics:

The numbers are - Towing the A'van in hwy running at variable speeds around 2500 rpm = 15 litres a 100km.

Towing in hwy running at steady 100kmh = 16 litres a 100km.

Overall fuel used in 30 percent mountain towing = 16.5 litres a 100km.

Best fuel figure ever towing = 14.3 litres with strong tail wind in hwy running.

Worst fuel figure = 21 litre a 100km in heavy mountain towing with steep, long climbs.

Average fuel consumption over 1100km = 15.6 litres a 100km.

Fuel consumption for the short A'van winter run = 15.4litres over 350km cruising at 80kmh.

A-Van statistics:

Aliner 2B upgraded to Cruiseliner features plus the Alko stabiliser coupling, annex, microwave and stereo system.

Mass is probably +10% over the 790KG.

Dealers say the Cruiseliner unit is 900kg (Tare weight) with 100kg on the towball.

With its options, including a CD player the Cruiseliner is $24,800 on road with everything.

Prices start (standard) at $21,900. An electric hotwater service and outdoor shower is now available in the latest models.

More details  -

<!--mo1####mo2-->Fridge on mains power<!--mo3-->
Fridge on mains power

Errol says:  "The A-van is cosy without heating other than bodies and two dogs Mandy and Roy".

"We found a few good and free campsites along the Powelltown road and around Noojee. Very quiet and peaceful", he said.

"Poplars Reserve 9km from Noojee on Loch River Road is maintained by Gippsland 4WD Club. It has deep-pit toilets and large flat campsites with tall timber close to river. Good water is available".

 "It is close to the road and fallen dead wood can be picked up for a campfire.There were several other easy access campsites in the same area".

"Latrobe River Campsite on a side-road about 10km east Of Powelltown has a picnic area and pit toilets. There is a large clearings amongst tall timber and thick bush well off the road".

"The river is about 200m away but access is difficult through heavy bush".

"There are some tracks but it is easy to get lost". "There is fallen dry firewood along the road".

"Further up the side road crosses the river with good bush camping near the bridge. The track to right at bridge looks worth exploring". "It could rejoin the river".

<!--mo1####mo2-->Western Rosellas put on a show at Jolliwinds feeders<!--mo3-->
Western Rosellas put on a show at Jolliwinds feeders

Editor's Note: Dogs are allowed in Victorian State Forest, but must be kept under direct control at all times and on a lead in picnic and camping areas and when near other visitors.

How to help look after the forest:

When in Victoria's State Forests, do the right thing. Help to protect the forests by following some basic rules:

Keep to the track.

Protect water quality - wash-up at least 50 metres away from streams and avoid using soap (use gritty sand and a scourer instead).

Where there is a toilet, please use it. Where toilets are not available, choose a spot at least 100 metres from campsites, streams and tracks, dig a 15cm hole and bury your faecal waste and toilet paper.

Leave campsites tidy.

Keep your party small. Ideally, less than eight people.

Go off-peak.

Camp at least 20 metres from any stream, lake or reservoir.

All native plants and animals are protected. Do not cut down or damage standing trees or vegetation.

Take your rubbish home.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Lisa David Ros and Errol take a Warburton walk with (l to r) Goldie  Mandy and Roy<!--mo3-->
Lisa David Ros and Errol take a Warburton walk with (l to r) Goldie Mandy and Roy

Campfires and barbeques:

Campfires are part of the outdoor experience. However, sparks from campfires can easily start the bush burning. Restrictions apply to ensure that fires do not escape and that our bushland is protected.

Campfires are not permitted in some areas, or may only be allowed in fireplaces provided. Check before you go

National and State Parks:

Campfires are only allowed in permitted areas in properly constructed fireplaces to reduce damage to the environment. Try using fuel stoves as they are cleaner, cook faster and don't scar the landscape.

State Forests:

Use a constructed fireplace where provided or use a fuel stove.

Otherwise light your campfire in a trench 30 cm deep, to prevent embers flying out. Take care as some tree roots can burn. Rocks can be used to construct a fireplace in state forests. Select rocks carefully as they provide homes for small reptiles and insects.

Clear the ground and air space of any flammable material (eg leaves, twigs, tree stumps) within 3 metres of your campfire.

Be a Caring Camper:

Use only the amount of wood needed for cooking and warmth.

Wood provides homes for small animals even though you may not see them.

Use only fallen dead wood. Standing trees, even dead ones, are home for wildlife. Never cut down trees or damage vegetation.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Blazing Bush camping near Powelltown<!--mo3-->
Blazing Bush camping near Powelltown

Using Liquid or Gas Appliances

Portable barbecues and camp cookers may be used. Check you have the appropriate fuel designed for your appliance before you leave home.

In the Open:

Clear the ground and air space of flammable (eg leaves, twigs) material within 1.5 metres around the appliance. Make sure it is in a stable position when alight.

In a Tent or Annexe

A 3 metre clearance around the tent / annexe is necessary to reduce fire spreading if your appliance is accidentally knocked or blown in strong winds. Use it outside if possible.

Camping Equipment and Engines:

<!--mo1####mo2-->Hostess Lisa  checks the Avan power hook-up<!--mo3-->
Hostess Lisa checks the A'van power hook-up

Most parks and reserves do not allow portable motors to be used - check with the local ranger. When using them in State forests:

Stationary engines must be fitted with spark arresters on exhausts before leaving home.

The engine must be clear of all flammable material within 1.5 metres on the ground and the surrounding air space.

Keep a supply of water near by in case of emergency - especially in dry, windy weather. Alternatively you may chose to carry a knapsack with 9 litres of water or a dry chemical extinguisher with you.

Total Fire Ban Days:

Total Fire Ban days are declared when conditions are hot, windy, and the bush is dry.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Mountain morning in the Yarra Valley forest near Powelltown<!--mo3-->
Mountain morning in the Yarra Valley forest near Powelltown

There are five fire ban districts in Victoria - it is up to you to find out when a fire ban is on. Listen to the radio, contact your local DSE, Parks Victoria or CFA office before lighting up. If in doubt, keep your campfire out.

On Summer Total Fire Ban days:

No campfires or open flame barbecues. This includes kettle/webber style barbecues and solid fuel camp ovens

No liquid fuel or gas appliance - in the open, in a tent, annexe or tent like trailer.

Some parks provide built in electric or gas barbecues. These can be used provided a water supply is within 10 metres, the barbecue is clear of all flammable material three metres around it and an adult is present.


<!--mo1####mo2-->Warm winter camping. First get your wood.<!--mo3-->
Warm winter camping. First get your wood.
Don't let your campfire go bush!

Most campfires escape when they are left unattended. An adult must be present at all times.

Keep your campfire just big enough for cooking and keeping warm.

Put your fire out with water not soil, even if going for a short walk or swim.

Take care on dry, windy days (It is your responsibility to check it is not a Total Fire Ban day).

Remember, if your campfire is cool to touch it is safe to leave, and it can't go bush!


<!--mo1####mo2-->Artist Sioux Dollman at Warburton<!--mo3-->
Artist Sioux Dollman at Warburton
<!--mo1####mo2-->Avan Breakfast for two with awning up<!--mo3-->
A'van Breakfast for two with awning up
<!--mo1####mo2-->Chocks  level the Avan on the sloping campsite<!--mo3-->
Chocks level the A'van on the sloping campsite
<!--mo1####mo2-->On route to Powelltown<!--mo3-->
On route to Powelltown
<!--mo1####mo2-->Solid hitch system. Avan has electric brakes<!--mo3-->
Solid hitch system. Avan has electric brakes
<!--mo1####mo2-->Room for a bubbling creek-side brew<!--mo3-->
Room for a bubbling creek-side brew
<!--mo1####mo2-->The front  boot was amateur-built and needs more work<!--mo3-->
The front boot was amateur-built and needs more work
<!--mo1####mo2-->Walkers Creek splashes through the towering  bush at Jolliwinds<!--mo3-->
Walkers Creek splashes through the towering bush at Jolliwinds