Snowy River Caravans is a little different to the average Australian caravan manufacturer. That’s because the Snowy River caravans, or at least the body and chassis components, are fully built offshore in China. They are then shipped to Australia for the necessary fitting of all the appliances and components, as well as the plumbing and wiring. Despite this process, no steps are missed along the way — and Snowy River produces well-appointed caravans that cleverly integrate all of the essentials.
An initial look over a Snowy River caravan might suggest it’s fully built here in Australia, and there's good reason for that. The same company that owns Snowy River caravans also owns Regent Caravans, and there’s clearly plenty of influence from the locally based manufacturer, especially since the finished product is released from the same factory in Australia.
The Snowy River Caravan I took out to review — an SRC Seventeen — was picked up from Auswide Caravans in Nowra, on the south coast of NSW. Anybody familiar with Nowra will know that there are quite a few caravan dealers on the Princes Highway, both north and south of the town. If one is travelling south from Nowra, Auswide is one of the last dealers along the Princes Highway.
Some caravan manufacturers can cause confusion with their nomenclature — that is, a 16ft van may not always have an external length of 16ft. Aside from not being metric, this figure can often refer to an internal measurement.
This cannot be said for Snowy River Caravans, where a 17ft van does indeed have an external length of 17ft — or, in metric, 5.18m.
With a van this length, the fact it is a single axle van is not surprising. The SRC Seventeen has an ATM of 2500kg and a tare of 1902kg, giving a substantial payload of 598kg. With a reduced payload — something easily achievable — this caravan is one that can be towed easily by some smaller vehicles. This makes it a good option for those starting out who may not have made an investment in a vehicle with the ability to tow caravans of any weight.
The Isuzu MU-X I was driving handled the van without any difficulties. The SRC Seventeen’s ATM fitted very comfortably under the 3000kg towing capacity of the MU-X, and the latter is equipped with a very good rear view camera, which made hitching up to the SRC Seventeen a breeze.
According to Snowy River Caravans, welded box section aluminium is used for the walls, roof, and floor frames. An XPS foam insulation core is then fitted between the frame sections, which is all sandwiched between 2mm thick fibreglass. These walls are bonded and fixed to a single-piece 40mm floor and 32mm roof to form a strong body structure that is bolted to its chassis.
Being a relatively small van, there is just one external storage space in the form of a tunnel boot across the front. This tunnel boot is quite spacious, even factoring in the Swift hot water heater occupying part of the offside space. Black fibreglass protects the floor in a familiar checkerplate pattern..
The DuraGal chassis is a mixture of 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) RHS for the drawbar rails, 100mm x 50mm (4in x 2in) for the main rails, and 50mm x 50mm (2in x 2in) for the raisers. Fitted with AL-KO Independent Rubber Suspension (IRS), the wheels are 15in alloys and have 12in electric brakes. The two 95L water tanks are fitted fore and aft of the axle. For the most part, all the cable and pipework, if a little untidy looking, is strapped up well out of the way. The most vulnerable item to damage is the drainpipe for the optional grey water tank that has been fitted.
Two battery boxes are fitted to the front offside chassis rail. Only a single 100Ah deep cycle battery is included in the SRC Seventeen as a standard, however fitting a second battery is a simple process.
Inside the forward door entry SRC Seventeen, the layout and décor have a distinctly contemporary look. Glossy whites and greys — both plain and mottled — comprise most of the colour scheme.
The front bed and rear bathroom layout has a distinctly familiar look about it.
Although the SRC Seventeen is a relatively small caravan, one thing that works very much in its favour is the spacious feel of the interior. Poorly designed caravans can feel cramped, however this van combats this effect with understated yet clever design features including curved overhead lockers, large windows, and light interior.
ROOM FOR TWO
L-shaped lounges aren’t for everyone, but the lounge in the SRC Seventeen fits snugly into the side wall corner of the van. It's not a large lounge by any means, and it may be easier if both diners sit facing sideways, especially as the partition that holds in the seat cushion is quite high and may be awkward to scramble over for the less nimble.
A power point and 12V socket are located below seat level. Night-time readers will notice the absence of reading lights.
Accessing the under-seat storage is a little tricky as the seat cushions need to be removed — and this is due to a lack of floor-level doors.
OUT OF THE FRYING PAN
Across the way, the kitchen looks a bit bigger than might be expected thanks to a 90L fridge installed under the bench. This frees up space normally occupied by a full height 150L or 175L fridge. A compromise for sure, but it does mean more benchtop and cupboard space than usual.
Standard items, including a four-burner stovetop/grill and stainless steel sink/drainer, are fitted into the bench-top, and a microwave oven lives in the overhead locker above. Power points are fitted at both ends of the bench, which makes plugging cooking accessories in easy. A rangehood is located above the stovetop, as is a radio/CD player — an essential item for nightly cooking sessions.
AROUND THE BEND
Caravan designers generally seem to be able to pare down full-sized bathrooms to minimum-sized ones while retaining all the essentials, and Snowy River Caravans is no exception here.
The bathroom in the SRC Seventeen has a nearside shower cubicle, offset Dometic cassette toilet, and a vanity cabinet filling the rear wall areas. The vanity cabinet is quite well-appointed with a pedestal wash basin, two-door cupboard, compartmented shelves, and two overhead lockers.
Although the bathroom is of reasonable size, the elbow room around the toilet is a bit limited.
A number of caravan manufacturers install large windows in the bedroom space, but Snowy River has opted for smaller windows in order to offer more privacy and security — smaller windows being, of course, more difficult to climb into.
The SRC Seventeen also has an added bonus in its front window above the bed, something few caravans include. This front window ensures a good level of air cross-flowing above the bed, a subtle feature that can make all the difference to the airiness of the space. The mattress is of standard size, measuring 1.85m x 1.53m (6ft 1in x 5ft). Each bed occupant gets the usual wardrobe, overhead locker, and a larger-than-usual bedside shelf. In addition, the power point includes a couple of USB charger points, which is much neater than having separate hubs.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The SRC Seventeen is a well-designed caravan that is a great size for those starting out, or those who do not want a massive tourer. Although only 5.18m (17ft) long, the interior layout is relatively spacious thanks to several well-thought-out features, and easily integrates all of the expected fittings and accessories.
Overall — and factoring in its towability — Snowy River Caravans have produced a neat little van that has everything you will need.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 5.18m (17ft)
Overall length 7.36m (24ft 2in)
Width 2.38m (7ft 10in)
Height 3.07m (10ft 1in)
Ball weight 192kg
Frame Aluminium frame
Cladding Vacuum bonded, fibreglass composite
Suspension AL-KO IRS
Brakes AL-KO 12in
Wheels 15in alloy
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 1 x 100Ah
Solar 1 x 120W
Air conditioner Belair 3500
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking Mobicool 4 burner, grill & oven
Fridge Dometic RM2350 90L three way
Microwave oven NCE
Bathroom Dometic cassette toilet and separate shower cubicle
Hot water Swift 28L
PRICE AS SHOWN
Snowy River Caravans
2/24–32 Stanley Dr, Somerton VIC 3062
Ph: (03) 9303 6100