Geist design shows its breakthrough strengths in 'ideal' winter storm blasted camping evaluation

July 09, 2008
Geist design shows its breakthrough strengths in 'ideal' winter storm blasted camping evaluation

GoSee is now confident of the stability built into the European suspension and innovative anti-sway towing design of the Geist Activ AK 495 family caravan.

Storm wind with gusts to 50 knots put the issue beyond dispute for us as they shifted their testing blast about in a three-day evaluation. The Geist’s unfazed performance ends for GoSee any suggestions the European build is too light for normal Australasian caravanning conditions.

We left on a gale driven ride with winds of about 20 to 35knots behind and then across our highway run. The forecast which was for much worse to come was spot-on.

We went because we think practical knowledge should be the best we can provide for the thousands of daily visitors to the GoSee websites. GoSee does not recommend using a Recreational Vehicle in such extreme weather as something to try for fun and enjoyment.

It is far better to wait for better weather. But for the GoSee evaluation of the Geist the weather was 'ideal'. If there were shortfalls in design, both on the road and in interior comfort the extreme winter weather would find them we thought.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Park Lane is a  four  and a half star leader among caravan parks<!--mo3-->
Park Lane is a four and a half star leader among caravan parks

So we harnessed the GoSee bullet-proof 1985 Sahara Toyota diesel manual 'bullock' to the long stabilising drawbar of the Geist Activ AK495 at Melbourne & European RV’s, Frankston and hit the road. 

ContACT, that’s the retro Sahara’s registration, is always loaded for the road with full camping kit, Waeco frig, food, Dreampot thermal cooking pot, Cobb cooker, tools, wood splitter, tow ropes, card table, camp chairs, clothes, towels, sleeping bags, water, cooking stove, kitchen gear and Hayman Reese Weight Distribution Hitch.

So the truck is about 3000kg on a weighbridge fueled up in that trim.

In completely restoring the 4 litre six-cylinder diesel 4WD truck a Toyota 6lb factory issue turbo was added with big breathing extractors and custom exhaust.

ContACT has a Fitch Fuel Catalyst fitted before the fuel pump which GoSee is now evaluating. Yes campers we have more fuel and engine efficiency features on the fire.

ARB has reworked the suspension and the 5-speed gearbox is upgraded for heavy pulling. So while ContACT is an old Tojo warrior it is not under-gunned when the weight comes on.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Geist Ativ AK 495 is a good as it looks<!--mo3-->
Geist Ativ AK 495 is a good as it looks

The Geist Activ AK 495 family caravan is a beautifully presented modern design inside and out – a real Porsche among caravans and it makes the square cut veteran Toyota truck look like Shrek.

At about 1250kg dry weight the Geist Activ AK 495 is an easy towing pleasure to have on the Toyota’s Hayman Reese 2500kg rated drawbar.

ContACT has big, old effective bolt-on towing mirrors across the wide bonnet, but with the wind howling the Geist’s see-through view via the caravans front and back windows was a big added benefit. It is, of course, essential to have the Geist’s curtains open to enjoy this advantage.

The really interesting bit was the ability to see right through the caravan to the traffic astern from the driver’s seat. The full-length rear view revealed remarkable steady progress by the Geist via ContACT’s rear-vision mirror as the gale thumped the caravan’s starboard stern quarter.

Sorry landlubbers a push through storm winds brings out the sailor in your correspondent. Make that the back right hand side of the Geist.

Despite the solid, reliable performance from the Geist and Toyota we drove with due deference to the extreme weather conditions.

The Geist Activ AK 495 is a towing design breakthrough. A Weight Distribution Hitch is not recommended nor needed in this case. So we left our Hayman Reese WDH in its carry box in the back of the truck and fitted the Geist custom towball and lock plate to the drawbar.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Check the mounting plates. The ball base is shaped to fit in the retaining plate<!--mo3-->
Check the mounting plates. The ball base is shaped to fit in the retaining plate

Locked on to the towball with its anti-sway friction coupling the Geist followed everything we did with the truck as if on rails but speed was kept down to around 90 kmh particularly downhill running in front of the gale.

Full use was made of the Toyota’s manual gearbox at between 2000 and 2600rpm to produce steady progress and maximum traction. Engine braking backed up the truck’s brake pedal pressures when needed and supported the excellent mechanical brakes of the Geist.

The big wind was so strong it would have been all too easy when it pushed from right behind to have the rig bolt to speeds above 100kmh with the truck flying in 5th overdrive.

Towing is never about speed. In extreme weather conditions no rig is completely safe in all circumstances. Downhill in the wet with gale gusts compounded by buffeting from big passing trucks is dangerous stuff. So we slowed down and stopped for a break after an hour and a half.

Some were not so controlled. The view we got on local TV news that night of an unfortunate caravan and tow vehicle upside down in a roadside ditch was not a good look.

The single-axle Geist’s tare is 1250kg (dry weight).This puts it in a similar category to the Coromal Excel tandem on which the Toyota Sahara’s best towing figure of 16 litres per 100km in ideal flat, windless conditions is based.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Wind gusts to 50 knots hammer the Geist<!--mo3-->
Wind gusts to 50 knots hammer the Geist

Three days later we topped up the Sahara’s 90 litre diesel tank and towed the Geist home into head winds around 10 to15knots.The fuel consumption result was 15 litres per 100km. 18.84mpg. That is 6.67 km per litre.

The manual Toyota was deliberately pushed to the limits of its towing abilities in sustained hilly going and varying wind strengths.

Our new GoSee common rail turbo Captiva diesel was also pushed hard to keep up with a Windsor Rapid RA 471 in tow. Yes campers that feature is coming up too.

So the fuel consumption result is notable when compared with the ideal going which produced the Toyota’s previous best towing figures of 16 litres per 100km.

Full use was made of the rev range and no attempt was made to drive for economy. GoSee cruised at 2500 to 2600 rpm in 4th. The road speed was about 90 - 95kmh with a few burst to 100kmh.

Third gear was used at the end of three long steep pinches and taken out to 3000rpm. (80kmh). Third pulls so well your correspondent backed off to keep the revs just under 3000rpm at the top of the three climbs.

The 1985 Toyota turbo diesel is a real 'bullock' so it is a matter of find max torque and ignore road speed. The relaxed diesel runs sweeter that way. To give that context - petrol engines are  sleek racehorses. LPG is a game pony. Diesel is a heavy bullock. Australia's favorite lyric poet Banjo Paterson understood horses and bullocks and their hauling powers.

His words about a bullock team under hauling pressure capture the difference - "The steady, stubborn bullock pull that breaks a horses  heart". In the  tough under-stressed old Toyota diesel road warrior the manual gears mate with the dog clutch and drop their massive shoulders to the big flywheel and just hang on.

Fifth gear (overdrive) was used only three times on the few easy downhill sections of the run back.

There were long sustained pulls which put trucks into the lower section of their split gear ranges. Most of the run back into the wind was covered in 4th in both the Toyota and the Captiva.

<!--mo1####mo2-->The Geist Activ AK 495 has space to spare<!--mo3-->
The Geist Activ AK 495 has space to spare

Living in the Activ AK 495 is a particularly comfortable experience in all weather. Once on our camp site the first interior impression was warm and welcoming with plenty of natural light. The warmth by the way was without any heating running.

Insulation is Swedish at its best so winter cold or summer heat personal comfort has a big head start. 

Add a heater and we found the Geist as warm as we wanted regardless of the storm outside with gusts to 50 knots throughout the night.

Rain showered the windows but again double glazed works wonders. Geist caravans have air venting in key areas so condensation was not an issue either.

There is extra width and headroom (6’ 4”) in the Activ and a thoughtful range of layouts. The version we used had a separate twin bunk children’s bedroom option.

<!--mo1####mo2-->GoSee on-the-road office<!--mo3-->
GoSee on-the-road office

The area included dinette and seats so we made this our GoSee office as it had one of a number  of  well placed power points for the laptop and a lot of storage space.

Geist caravans for Australia are designed here and engineered and built in Germany. This is a double benefit which shows in the finish and attention to detail. There is even a security spy hole in the door.

The Geist Activ range of four to six berth caravans is aimed at family accommodation.

Their Xklusiv range is about prestige and luxury options. In the Activ XK range the fully bonded construction, is enhanced with double thickness GRP front panel and extra strength aluminium.

The Geist’s are built on the BPW V-Tech swing chassis which is specifically designed for Australia and unique to Geist.

Winterhoff stabiliser hitches are standard on all caravans and as GoSee found add safety and reduce swaying as they work with the suspension dampers fitted to all models.

The lounge bed forward is cleverly managed with a roll-out linked slats central base. The backrest cushions drop in and the result is a big, comfortable double bed. Despite being east-west layout the usually attendant disadvantages of one partner disturbing the other to get in an out of bed are offset by its generous 6' 11" size.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Big double bed coming up just . . .<!--mo3-->
Big double bed coming up just . . .

In fact generous describes the overall design approach in the Geist to beds, storage space, the clever combined Thetford toilet, washroom and shower, bench space, sink, frig, stove, electrical fittings and 76 litre water tank.

GoSee cannot comment on the roll-out awning. Setting it would have acted like a spinnaker and sent the Geist sailing.

But we can say that the four Heavy Duty Corner Steadies do a heavy duty job when lowered on a campsite.

Your correspondent has been around yachts too long the Geist rocking in the storm gusts did not register until visitors said they thought we were about to cast off. That led me (sorry I forgot) to wind down the Geist Heavy Duty Corner Steadies with the easy to use crank handle from the back wall of the big Geist boot.

Overnight the wind built to storm force but the four Steadies stopped the wobbles as the Geist stood firm on the excellent concrete ensuite drive-through caravan park site.

<!--mo1####mo2-->Pull out the roller slat base . . .<!--mo3-->
Pull out the roller slat base . . .

With the Geist cassette blinds down on all windows and tucked up warm on the big double bed the storm peak was only a vague dreamland memory.

The Geist has a one-key fits all and it was in this apparently simple area we found frustration. The locks on the exterior locker access lid to the 15amp power plug connection would not co-operate and we used careful force on the lid to get our  power cord on.

The boot lock had a mind of its own too, but again careful force got us in. Nothing too serious, just a detail needed really.

The three options listed for the Aktiv AK 495 are padded stone shield, microwave and Omni Step.

GoSee believes the step is a must have to allow easy access over the high angle of the door sill.

Activ AK 495 specifications:

Price: $49,990 (Incl GST).

Berths 5. Interior length 5376mm (17’ 8’’). Overall length 7216mm (23’ 8”) Interior width 2140mm (7’and a quarter inch). Overall width 2292mm (7’ 6”). Maximum headroom 1950mm (6’ 4 and three quarter in). Overall height 2750mm (9’ and a quarter in). Tyre size 185 R14. Wheel size 5 and a half J 14 5L. GTM 1600kg (estimated). Tare weight 1250kg (estimated). Maximum ball weight 100kg. Optimal ball height 395mm to 465mm. Bed sizes Two single bunks 1890mm x 812mm (6’2’’x 2’8”0. plus one single 1754mm x 700mm (5’9” x 2’4”). Plus one double 1550mm x 2100mm (5’1” x 6’11”.

The Activ AK 495 GoSee used was provided courtesy of Melbourne & European RV’s from their new location on the corner of Frankston-Dandenong Rd and Klauer St. Frankston.

Editor's Note: Also See -

Geist comes through with Australasian caravan innovation in brake debate

International touring wishes come true as major NZ dealer Barrons lifts bar at home, Australia and UK

Start from scratch and find the caravan most like your dreams

Europe's biggest builder sends competitive RV range into Big Backyard of caravanning in Australia

New Adria targets niche easy touring caravan market

Hymer's Nova is not caravan camping its all home comforts

GoSee quick-click TravelSmart Club nails need for pro-based caravan and camping info online

Ross, Jo and Friends head their caravans into Tasmania's Wild West

Around Australia caravans get into Western Australia's Kimberley Camping

An end to the Top End with great experiences, great food, great people as Around Australia caravans head for Western Australia

At Yulara via Outback Australia Ross, Jo, Carol and Bill walk around Uluru and head for Kata Tjuta

Strahan to Hobart - Ross & Jo, Bill & Carol, Dave & Rose tow their caravans the Scenic Tasmanian route

By Spirit to Devonport, Launceston, North-East and East Coast

<!--mo1####mo2-->And add cushions for real comfort<!--mo3-->
And add cushions for real comfort
<!--mo1####mo2-->48litre bins  hold stove gas cannisters cooking and  kitchen gear<!--mo3-->
48litre bins hold stove gas cannisters cooking and kitchen gear
<!--mo1####mo2-->A little bit closer now<!--mo3-->
A little bit closer now
<!--mo1####mo2-->Easy does it<!--mo3-->
Easy does it
<!--mo1####mo2-->Precision parking at Park Lane Top Tourist Park Traralgon<!--mo3-->
Precision parking at Park Lane Top Tourist Park Traralgon
<!--mo1####mo2-->Running - almost - on the rail<!--mo3-->
Running - almost - on the rail
<!--mo1####mo2-->Big sink Geist Activ AK 495<!--mo3-->
Big sink Geist Activ AK 495
<!--mo1####mo2-->Dreampot cooks dinner on top of the Geist stove and oven<!--mo3-->
Dreampot cooks dinner on top of the Geist stove and oven
<!--mo1####mo2-->Dreampot cooks soup, silverside and vegetables for dinner<!--mo3-->
Dreampot cooks soup, silverside and vegetables for dinner
<!--mo1####mo2-->Good sized frig Geist Activ AK 495<!--mo3-->
Good sized frig Geist Activ AK 495
<!--mo1####mo2-->The Geist Activ AK495 has a long hand-held shower<!--mo3-->
The Geist Activ AK495 has a long hand-held shower
<!--mo1####mo2-->Geist Activ AK 495 shower tap hand basin  and toilet<!--mo3-->
Geist Activ AK 495 shower tap hand basin and toilet
<!--mo1####mo2-->Child space behind the privacy curtain Geist Activ AK 495<!--mo3-->
Child space behind the privacy curtain Geist Activ AK 495
<!--mo1####mo2-->Corner storage locker door must be juggled<!--mo3-->
Corner storage locker door must be juggled
<!--mo1####mo2-->Ensuite Geist and GoSee truck all on site<!--mo3-->
Ensuite Geist and GoSee truck all on site
<!--mo1####mo2-->Space and light Geist Activ AK 495<!--mo3-->
Space and light Geist Activ AK 495
<!--mo1####mo2-->The wide track Geist fills the Park Lane site<!--mo3-->
The wide track Geist fills the Park Lane site
<!--mo1####mo2-->Right on the Park lane site concrete slab<!--mo3-->
Right on the Park lane site concrete slab

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