Full disclosure up front — this is my caravan. We bought it in August 2022 amid the post-COVID pandemonium around stock availability, supply issues, staff shortages, build wait times and tow vehicles that were as scarce as hen’s teeth.
Also, up front — I did not disclose my employment with Caravan World when buying the van so there has been no favours, contras, discounts, freebies, trade-offs, kickbacks or whatever you might want to label it. As far as Crusader Caravans and the dealer — Albury Wodonga RV World — were concerned, I was just a customer. Back then I was just a newbie employee of about a month or so, and I know much more now than I did then.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, some background.
We had been Jayco owners for years; first a Swan camper and then a couple of Expandas. They all served our little family well on numerous Christmases on the Murray River, Easters in Bright and school holiday adventures to all manner of interesting destinations. We even dragged an Expanda around the Mereenie Loop in the Red Centre and up and back along the Birdville Development Road from Windorah to Birdsville to attend the Big Red Bash in 2017. (Note: Read the fine print in your warranty before you take any van offroad).
But there comes a time when your children become too old to want to go camping with their parents, so we decided to take the plunge and upgrade to our first full couples’ caravan and plan our transition to retirement.
We did quite a few years of research and had a list of non-negotiables. A full caravan — no pop ups or fold outs — and island bed that we could walk around. The novelty of crawling over your partner in the middle of the night to go to the loo wears off after a few years. Sitting up in bed to read a book and enjoy a cuppa was my idea of caravanning nirvana. Rear door, front bed, compressor fridge, full oven, L shaped lounge, full ensuite, air conditioning/heating, microwave, plenty of storage, a full offroader.
Our hearts were set on a 19 to 20ft van, dual axle. We shortlisted a couple of brands and attended numerous caravan shows to check them out. Then the whole car thing happened. We had secured a low km 2018 Holden Trailblazer in the beginning of 2022, which would tow the Expanda no problems, but not a big dual axle offroad van. Big tow vehicles were suddenly in short supply — pre-owned Nissan Patrols and LandCruisers were fetching ridiculous prices. Way out of our budget.
We had to do a rethink. We have a decent tow vehicle that will pull 3T. So, why don’t we opt for a smaller van — 17 to 18ft — single axle? It was a light bulb moment and our research started anew.
So, we decided on a smaller, lighter single-axle van, but my shopping list of non-negotiables didn’t change. Some desktop research identified some makes and models and off we went to the Border Caravan and Camping Expo in Wodonga to check them out.
It’s a bit of a Goldilocks exercise shopping for a caravan — they are either too hot, too cold or just right. To be honest, Crusader wasn’t even on our list, but when we stepped into the Musketeer Warrior X Country on display, we were smitten. It ticked all our boxes. We chatted to the dealer, kept looking around, came back and asked more questions, kept looking around. By the fifth visit we had signed on the dotted line and secured the van on display which would be available to us in just a few months’ time.
All for one and one for all
There are seven models in Crusader’s Musketeer range, some named after French author Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers characters — the single axle Porthos, Warrior and Camelot and the dual axle Centaur, Aramis, Recliner (with recliner chairs), Treville and the family Palace.
Our van has a composite sandwich panel one-piece roof and floor with aluminium wall panels adhered to a meranti timber frame atop a 6in Intelligent steel chassis. This construction method has been superseded and, like many caravan manufacturers, Crusader has gone to a frameless, full composite sandwich panel construction method at its manufacturing facility in Epping, Melbourne.
Its EcoLite composite material comprises three layers: the two outer layers are fibreglass Glass Reinforced Polyester (GRP), and the inner layer is structural XPS foam. XPS stands for eXtruded, high strength, closed-cell PolyStyrene. The XPS foam has a high structural strength, will not soak up water and has better thermal/insulation properties than normal open cell foam.
Crusader’s website says that a recent CSIRO study found the thermal performance of its EcoLite composite panels to be better than other types of material commonly used — the roof 30 per cent better, floor 947 per cent better and walls 31 per cent better.
The EcoLite floor is one piece and 39mm thick providing a rigid base on which to build. The one-piece roof extends from checkerplate to checkerplate and is hail and water resistant.
Putting the composite panels together involves tongue and groove interlocking, polymer adhesive and J-mould end caps right down to the screws used to hold the panels securely while the adhesive cures. Crusader Caravans designs and makes its own screws and J-mould end caps because these products didn’t exist in the marketplace. The same polymer adhesive is used to bond CNC cut furniture and cabinetry components to the caravan. Piano hinges are used on all cupboards and metals runners on all drawers.
As part of the X Country upgrade, we got higher checkerplate, an extended A frame, stoneguard, DO35 hitch, water pipe protection, 6in sidewinder jockey wheel, double electric step and two rear recovery points and two 120Ah lithium batteries. Independent TuffRide suspension and 16in wheels are also included in the upgrade.
A front checkerplate toolbox is divided into two sections with slide-outs in both — one for a barbecue and the other for a generator. There is a large tunnel boot for chairs, table and plastic tubs full of the usual bits and bobs.
Also, outside is a picnic table and entertainment hatch which has a TV mount, antenna point, 12V point and double 240V powerpoint, however we rarely use it as it’s the home for the Starlink router.
The rear entry/front bed layout is among the most popular with couples because, in my mind, it’s the most practical (easy access to the fridge and bathroom without traipsing through the whole van) and private (no one can see you lying/sitting up in bed when the door is open).
Just inside the entry door on the right is a full height pantry — four doors, six shelves and only about 10cm deep but ideal for storing pantry staples and condiments that you regularly need outside such as sauce, salt and pepper. They are wide enough for the modular style Tupperware containers or a box of cereal. We store food in the top half while the bottom half is dedicated to flysprays, sunscreen, stubby holders, torches, pegs and the myriad of other things that are used on a daily basis. Whether you are cooking inside or outside, the pantry is accessible, and I don’t have to bend down or reach up and fish around in deep cupboards for everyday essentials.
Also, on the right of the entry door is the ensuite with its Dometic ceramic cassette toilet, separate moulded shower with ceiling vent and fan, raised ceramic basin, ample vanity bench space, big mirror and good lighting. Tucked away in the corner under a lid in the bench is the Aussie Traveller 3.2kg top loader washing machine which gets a real workout.
The kitchen is on the offside of the van. It has a Mobicool full fan-forced oven, stovetop and grill all of which are recessed under a laminated lid to provide some extra kitchen bench space, but when it’s in use there is very little bench space to play with. Taking up the remainder of the bench is the sink with drainer and mixer tap. Above the sink is the flatbed NCE microwave, a deep cupboard and a centre narrow cupboard which houses the audio system, gas hot water switch and the module for the remote-control lighting.
Under the bench next to the oven are three good sized drawers and an under-sink cupboard with a generous amount of space. We were lucky to secure a 224L Dometic compressor fridge in our van. It’s an optional extra, not part of the X Country upgrade, but it’s a game changer and I’d never go back to a three-way fridge where you have to manually switch the fridge to and from AC, DC and gas. A compressor fridge will automatically select its power source, so it’s set and forget. Opposite the kitchen is an L shaped lounge with a table that pivots to provide additional space.
Up front the queen-sized bed has an inner spring mattress. Either side is a pillow cubby hole with two USB outlets and double 240V power points, as well as generous space for books and a morning cuppa. Also, on each side of the bed is a deep drawer and wardrobe with hanging space at the front and space at the back for shoes, hats and so on. Overhead there is another cupboard each side for more clothes. After years in an Expanda, to have an island bed I can walk around is bliss. There is storage under the bed but about a third of that is taken up by the two lithium batteries.
Despite its modest length, the Warrior doesn’t feel cramped. High 6ft 8in ceilings, generous double-glazed windows with integrated blackout blinds, a skylight and a light colour palette of white and pale grey give it a sense of space.
Completing the interior are three sets of LED ceiling lights, two Sirocco fans, reverse cycle air conditioner, Wineguard TV aerial for the 12V NCE television and Dometic dust reduction system (optional extra).
With the X Country upgrade, our Warrior came with two 120Ah iTechworld lithium batteries, two 175W solar panels and BMPRO battery management system. We later added an iTech 3000W inverter for our trip north — mainly so we can run Starlink and I can work on the road.
The Warrior comes with two 95L freshwater tanks and one 95L grey water tank. As long as the sun is shining, and we are really stingy with our water use we can camp off-grid very comfortably for about a week.
We are among a growing number of travellers using Starlink to keep connected to the outside world, to allow me to work from the road and to keep in touch with family and friends. This is also a game changer.
Even with the X Country upgrade, the Warrior has a tare of 2135kg and an ATM of 3000kg giving us a massive payload and plenty to play with by the time we add barbecue, gear, water, gas, bikes and a few other bits and pieces.
The first thing we did after picking it up from Albury Wodonga RV World and packing it with the essentials was to take it to a weigh station just off the Hume Highway. The vehicle weighed in at 2.48T, the van 2.3T and the jockey wheel 320kg (which indicated that we had too much weight at the front of the van). That gave us a gross mass of 5.1T and the allowable weight for our combination is 5.7T. So, we had a generous amount of payload.
Behind our Trailblazer it tows well with no sway or movement — it sits firmly on the road and because of its length is easy to manoeuvre into tight caravan spots. We do have to be cognisant of its height at 3.5m.
The bottom line
Has it all been smooth sailing in our Warrior? For the main, yes. We had a couple of minor issues that were addressed under warranty. The BMPRO display panel was faulty — randomly going off and on and switching the whole system over to eco mode which was a bit annoying. It was a faulty batch according to Crusader’s warranty repairer and was easily replaced.
The sliding door to the ensuite continues to give us grief. First the two flimsy plastic clips to fix it to the wall broke — no surprises there — then the stopper at floor level broke. That was replaced. But on our current journey the sliding mechanism at the top keeps jumping off the rail. Another warranty job when we return.
Are we happy with our purchase? Absolutely. Our Warrior is geared up for offroad travel, but we haven’t really put it to the test yet. That will happen in coming weeks when travel the notorious gravel roads to the tip at Cape York. Let the battle begin.
We and the Warrior have returned from Cape York unscathed, and we were very pleased with how it held up on the notorious red dirt corrugations, some sections of which were so ridiculously deep that we were slowed to a crawl and/or forced to creep along in the sandy swales beside the road, if they were available.
After the first day on the gravel, we lost some electrics in the kitchen – the circuit which controls the piezo switch to the cooktop/oven, the rangehood, overhead light and ignition switch for the gas hot water were gone. That may or may not have been caused by the constant vibrations, but we are booked into a repairer in Townsville to get it fixed.
And a metal guard on the front of one of the Sirocco fans popped off. That was it. All cupboard doors stayed on thanks to the piano hinges (we saw many in other vans that didn’t). And the Domestic DRS worked a treat. A little bit of red dust made its way into the space under the fridge – perhaps the seal around a hose was not quite airtight.
HITS AND MISSES
- Easy to tow and manoeuvre
- Ample off-grid power
- Rear door/front bed layout
- Very little kitchen bench space when using the stovetop
CRUSADER MUSKETEER WARRIOR X COUNTRY RATINGS
VALUE FOR MONEY
Under $100K with most of the bells and whistles you get with more expensive vans
Easy to tow with a standard SUV or dual cab ute
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
This van is spec’d up for offroading and we will test it on the way to the Cape
One-piece sandwich panel composite roof and floor, but with aluminium panels on a meranti frame – this construction method has now been superseded
Very comfortable couple’s van with all mod cons included
We can stay off-grid as long as the sun is shining and the water holds out – about a week
Crusader offers a five-year structural warranty
The pantry is a winner for me – all those condiments and other essentials are handy whether you’re cooking inside or outside
It ticked all the boxes on our list
CRUSADER MUSKETEER WARRIOR X COUNTRY SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Body length||5.6m (18ft 4in)|
|Overall length||7.9m (26ft)|
|Width||2.5m (8ft 2in)|
|Height||3.5m (11ft 5in)|
|Internal height||2m (6ft 8in)|
|Ball weight (at tare)||280kg|
|Chassis||Intelligent 6in steel|
|Floor||One piece composite panel|
|Roof||One piece composite panel|
|Water||2 x 95L fresh, 1 x 95L grey|
|Battery||2 x iTech lithium|
|Solar||2 x 175W|
|Air-conditioner||Houghton Belaire reverse cycle|
|Gas||2 x 9kg|
|Cooking||Mobicool stovetop, grill and full oven|
|Audio||NCE multimedia audio system|
|Fridge||Dometic 190L compressor|
|Bathroom||Full width ensuite with ceramic cassette toilet, sep shower and vanity with large mirror|
|Washing machine||Aussie Traveller 3.2kg top loader|
|Hot water||Swift gas and electric|
Crusader Musketeer Warrior X Country price from $81,990
This van came with a compressor fridge but that is an optional extra, not part of the X Country package. We installed a Dometic dust reduction system and some sail track on the kitchen side. The X Country pack has been superseded by the All Terrain Bundle $12,700
Crusader Musketeer Warrior X Country price as shown $92,585
Albury Wodonga RV World
1a Watson St
Wodonga VIC 3690
P: (02) 6024 4222
THE NEXT STEP
The sellers will be happy to help and answer any inquiries you may have about the products advertised for sale.