Those just starting their homework may ask what is the difference between a camper and a hybrid — and a caravan for that matter? Campers are trailers with a tent section in the top half that packs down very low for easy towing. Campers lean strongly towards outdoor living and are often designed to cope with extreme, tight, offroad conditions. At the other end of the spectrum, caravans have fixed, full height walls and a much greater emphasis on internal living due to the space available. Being taller and heavier, caravans are less suited to extreme offroad conditions. Hybrids sit between the two.
As a general rule, hybrids have solid walls to about three quarter height, with the last quarter achieved with a pop top roof. They often (but not always) have sleeping quarters that pop out in some shape or form. They also feature slide out kitchen and storage facilities. Hybrids are a blend of utilitarian function and surprising luxury. They really are the Swiss army knife of the RV market.
My wife and I had a couple of days to get acquainted with the smallest version in the Opus hybrid range, the OP13.
SETTING UP CAMP
I would like to think my wife, Karen, did the set-up because I'm the gun photographer, but the real reason is she is faster at figuring out spatial relationships stuff than I am. With a bit of brains over brawn, it proved to be a very doable ‘one woman’ job. After completing the set-up and pack up, Karen’s observations were:
“Lowering the two big spare wheels looked like it is going to be a battle, but it is very easy with the gas struts to help lower it. At 172cm, I could just reach everything, so if you are vertically challenged, you will need some sort of prop to hold the roof up or a step to stand on. The same goes for the external latches that lock the pop-top roof down.
“The roof and wall foldout panels are very light, which made them simple to handle, but if it was a windy day, you would want two people to make sure the panels didn’t get away from you. From the outside, I could only just pull up the rear wall with the window. I found it easier to push it up from the inside.
“Once you latch all the lightweight panels together, it forms a very strong feeling ‘box’. You can get the whole thing done in under five minutes including repositioning the mattress.
“If you pull up to a campsite late and the weather is battling against you, you could sleep inside without opening up the sleeping quarters or even popping the roof. You would certainly have to be on friendly terms, but it is very doable.
Set-up is doable with one person
“I really like the wind-out awning for two reasons. Firstly, it is more intuitive and safer for novice and even experienced operators. Alternate retractable style awnings can ‘go off like a mouse trap’, jamming fingers — only through operator error I must point out. Secondly, the awning is fully mounted to the wall only, not the wall and roof. When an awning is mounted to the wall and roof you need to be careful to release the awning to roll out for the roof to be raised. Again, with operator error, I have seen awnings partially ripped off the roof from this.
“Not only is the Cruisemaster DO35 coupling great for offroading, it makes unhooking easier when setting up camp on uneven ground. A standard ball coupling will often bind on a slope but the DO35 with multi direction articulation releases more easily under load.
“The ARK XO750 jockey wheel is so much nicer than a standard removable jockey wheel. It just swings up and stays attached to the A-frame when not in use for faster camp set up, plus you don’t need to take up precious space stowing it. It also has multi height adjustment, providing more scope for getting on and off taller vehicles with suspension lift kits.
“The drop down stabilisers are all good, but you might reach for the cordless driver with a socket. The manual winding handle has a T-piece rather than a crank handle that was slightly irritating to use — but by irritating I mean it took 15 seconds instead of five seconds.
“When the bedroom is set up, the jerry can holders swing out of the way on hinges, but they can’t be locked into position. Even though they have little rubber bumpers, I could imagine the wall panel copping a dent from the weight of full jerry cans if they swung in the breeze or a kid decided to give one a shove. It shouldn’t be hard to rig up something yourself to lock them in position.
“Some users are going to find the pop-top roof hard to lift as a one person job. An air-conditioner and four solar panels mounted on the roof are fantastic features but contribute to the weight that needs to be pushed up. (As a result of this review, Opus committed to a design change to make roof lifting easier.)
“Pack up is easy. The pop-top roof is simple to lower, and ‘folding up’ the sleeping quarters is a straightforward reversal of the set up process. Something to note, the rear window wall is exposed to the elements when the van is set-up but then folds in next to the mattress when packed up. It just means you have to give the surface a quick wipe before packing up to remove dust or moisture.”
Once you open the sleeping quarters up, the mattress is huge. I don’t know whether to call it an east-west or north-south bed as it is more or less the same dimensions either way. It’s definitely luxurious for a couple, and you could chuck in a toddler or two until they were ready for a swag (if that’s not your style there is another layout featuring bunks). Having some space on either side of the mattress makes it handy to tuck in the sheets.
It’s impressive to see a bathroom in this little van. It’s a combination unit with shower, toilet and wash basin all working well in the space. A zippable compartment above the toilet/basin offers welcome storage space. The storage available in the basin cabinet could be improved with neater routing of the plumbing running up through there, something Opus agreed with.
It feels very open inside the van despite squeezing in a king size mattress and a bathroom. This is achieved with ample windows at a height that you can see out of, but this means you run out of room for any overhead storage. I have seen other small hybrids with more overhead storage, but you pay for that with a much more cramped feel. A couple of duffel bags to stow light personal items that you can throw on the bed will go a long way to sorting this out.
There is an internal table, but personally, I wouldn’t bother with it most of the time in order to gain more living space. The sink inside makes it easy to make a cuppa without having to slide out the external kitchen. The storage cupboard and drawers nearby are a good spot for the kettle, toaster and some pantry items. A pop up 240V outlet (powered by the inverter) on the bench beside the sink works well. It is worth noting that other points in the van are not powered by the inverter and rely on connecting up to 240V input.
Have a good nights' sleep on the king mattress
More storage comes in the form of a tall cupboard beside the bathroom, complete with a safe. This space could easily be customised to your needs with the addition of shelves or a hanging rail.
The Truma Aventa roof mounted air conditioner might make the roof a bit heavier to lift but you will certainly appreciate it when things get warm. The diesel heater unit is tucked under one of the seats with it’s storage tank mounted on the front of the van, well protected with a stone guard. A pair of optional Sirocco fans help with off-grid cooling and could improve circulating warm air when the diesel heater is in operation.
I have saved the best till last. I love the control panel with analogue gauges and no menus to work through. I don’t care how much someone with a phone app tells me otherwise, the ‘see at a glance’ readout of the tank levels and battery status is a winner. The same goes for the bank of power switches that put a smile on my face by virtue of their tactile feedback and simplicity.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Hybrids, by their very nature, are about outdoor living because your appliances and much of your storage are accessed externally. To access appliances, you have to open hatches. To open hatches, you have to operate latches. Some latches can be exasperating to open but all worked flawlessly with a real positive feel — it is something you take for granted until you have experienced ones that don’t work so well.
The external kitchen looks like a quality piece of kit with a decent sink and a nice little storage rack, and two useful drawers built into the side. Beside the sink is a four burner gas stove, complete with windshields, and past that is a little slide out meal prep area that is supported with a detachable leg.
Next to the kitchen is a compact but reasonably deep pantry drawer. Across the way is the slide-out fridge compartment. The fridge is not supplied as standard, as Opus find that many of their customers already have one. The compartment easily housed the optional 96L Evakool supplied with some room to spare in front for a few bits and pieces.
Above the fridge compartment is a tunnel boot which plays a critical role in the overall storage capacity of this van. Around the other side of the van is a compartment dedicated to the storage of gas bottles (not supplied). I like that the gas bottles are stored out of harm’s way, and I noted the drain port in the base of the compartment in the event of a leak. Also, on the off side of the van is an external shower complete with a sail track to mount an optional shower tent
The thing that struck me most about the OP13 is the six discreet mudflaps. You may say ‘what about the trailing arm suspension’, ‘what about the big mud tyres’, ‘what about the checkerplate’, but nope, those mudflaps tell us a lot about what this van is intended for.
The flaps are strategically placed to protect the front stabilisers, the entry step and the otherwise vulnerable grey water drain tap. This tells me you are supposed to take the OP13 on iconic destinations like the Gibb River Road, the Birdsville Track, and countless lesser known but equally rewarding roads.
These same flaps tell me it wouldn’t be smart to go dragging the OP13 through deep ruts or over rocks. The first thing these obstacles would do is rip off the flaps, quickly followed by the components behind them.
There is plenty of other offroad hardware to talk about. While not sporting a big brand name, the trailing arm suspension has become the system of choice for offroad applications and looks robust. The shock absorbers are a recognised brand in Ironman foam cell units specifically rated for the OP13.
The big names don’t stop there. We noted the Cruisemaster DO35 coupling for ease of setting up camp, but it is worthy of another mention as it inspires confidence with more articulation than you could ever use. I have never done it myself, but apparently in tricky recovery situations it is possible to uncouple the van, hitch recovery straps to the A-frame and rely on the ARK XO750 jockey wheel to hold the van while you winch out of trouble.
The hybrid tows well in a variety of conditions
Recovery is hopefully something you won’t have to think about too often. The short overall length, good departure angle and low height should keep you out of trouble most of the time.
The stone shield mounted to the front of the van, the metal guards protecting the water tanks and the black coating on the chassis are further indicators of the rough road nature of this vehicle. And everyone is a sucker for the rugged good looks of mud tyres including the pair of spares on the back.
You are not going to have any shortage of power. I have already mentioned the four solar panels giving you 400W at your disposal, and the dual lithium battery (105Ah each) set-up will enable you to save that power for a rainy day, while the Imperium 3000W inverter gives you the ability to deploy it for your favourite 240V appliances.
Two 120L freshwater tanks, two jerry can holders for another 40L of fresh water and one 67L grey water tank see you well covered for a two berth van. The provision for two 4.5kg gas bottles does the job considering the style of fridge in this van won’t run off gas, but it would be no big deal to switch to two 9kg gas bottles if you felt the urge.
The construction looks and feels good. Starting at the bottom, the chassis main beams are a substantial 150mm tall. A 12mm marine grade ply floor is glued and screwed to the chassis, and the wall frame is constructed with 25mm aluminium RHS and clad with composite aluminium panels externally. The walls, floor and roof surround are bonded and sealed with polyurethane to create the shell. The walls are insulated with expanded polystyrene. The internal wall lining is a nicely finished fibreglass which will be very easy to clean.
The pop-top roof features an aluminium skinned 40mm sandwich construction which appears very robust to support the air-conditioner and solar panels mounted on it. The vinyl pop-top soffit was nicely welded and stitched. Cabinets are ply, apart from the bathroom which is fibreglass.
Opus had a modern, shiny Ford Ranger, but they were keen to see the van mated up to my much more modest early model Navara to show prospective owners you don’t need the latest and greatest tow vehicle. The old girl performed fine. Importantly, the ATM and ball weight fell within the parameters of my tow vehicle.
In our couple of days with the van, we managed to explore some dirt roads including a few corrugations, some reasonably deep potholes and a fair dip with a little creek. With the above mentioned offroad spec, the OP13 handled it all easily. The higher speed cruising to and from the Opus factory was no problem either.
Opus have a five-year structural and suspension warranty. Warranty periods stipulated by third party appliance and component suppliers apply and Opus liaise with the respective companies on behalf of the owner. Opus utilise their selling dealers as the first point of contact for consumers in the after sales service process, and use an informal service agent network to resolve issues further afield.
THIS SWISS ARMY KNIFE MAKES THE CUT
I described hybrids as the Swiss army knife of the RV industry and the Opus OP13 is a very fine example of the features you can pack into quite a small offroad oriented vehicle. A huge king size bed and functional bathroom are welcome luxuries in a van so small. The offroad hardware will inspire the confidence to tackle Australia’s toughest roads and the off-grid capability is more than adequate to keep you out there for the long haul.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length external closed 4.6m (15ft 1in)
Body length external open 5.4m (17ft 9in)
Body length internal open 4.4m (14ft 5in)
Overall length 6.15m (20ft 2in)
Width 2.2m (7ft 3in)
Height Roof Closed 2.69m (8ft 10in)
Height Roof Open 3.09m (10ft 2in)
Payload (calculated) 464kg
Ball weight at tare 185kg (not marked on plate, information supplied by Opus)
Cladding Aluminium composite panel
Chassis 150mm hot dip galvanised
Suspension Trailing arm independent suspension with Ironman foam cell shock absorbers
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35 3.5t articulated hitch
Brakes 12in electric brakes (drum)
Wheels 16in alloy wheels with 265/75R16 mud tyres (and 2 x spares)
Water 2 x 120L fresh, 1 x 67L grey
Battery 2 x Imperium 105Ah lithium
Solar 4 x 100W solar panels
Air-conditioner Truma Aventa
Gas 2 x 4.5kg holders, bottles not supplied
Sway control No
Awning Manual wind out
Cooking External slide out kitchen with 4 burner stove
Fridge External access fridge slide — external and internal fridge optional
Bathroom Combination shower and toilet
Hot water Truma Ultra Rapid, gas/electric combi
Entertainment TV and B/T stereo
PRICE FROM $54,990 + delivery and on-road cost
OPTIONS INCLUDED IN LIMITED EDITION
- 2 x 12V Sirocco fans
- Imperium 3000W Inverter and associated pop up power point board
- Imperium 40A DC-DC (dual input with MPPT) charger
- Diesel heater
- 96L Evakool external fridge
- Saracen Hitch lock for coupling
PRICE AS SHOWN $59,699 + delivery and on road cost
13 Indian Dr, Keysborough VIC 3173
Ph: (03) 9588 2959