The evolution of the caravan

[SPONSORED CONTENT] From horse and timber to fibreglass composite – we dissect the world’s oldest caravan and compare it to innovation leaders Zone RV, to discover just how far the caravan industry has evolved.


V 2The Wanderer _Dr Stables

Can you imagine towing your caravan with horses? Well, 132 years ago, this was a reality, when the world’s first leisure caravan was built in the UK. The 30ft, custom-built touring caravan, made of mahogany and maple wood, was designed and built in 1884 by Dr William Gordon Stables. Dr Stables – a Scotsman who aspired to live the gypsy life after retiring – named his gypsy wagon The Wanderer.

The Wanderer, in its glory days, offered absolute luxury, travelling with a bookcase, piano and china cabinet inside, while a valet cyclist travelled ahead to clear its path and alert people it was en-route. Weighing two tonnes, the mobile home was towed by two horses named Captain Corn-flower and Polly Pea-blossom.

Inside The Wanderer

Fast forward to 2016 and luxury living on the road has a whole new meaning. Let’s compare The Wanderer to Zone RV; the Queensland-based luxury caravan company best known for its innovation. Captain Corn-flower and Polly Pea-blossom are better known today as the Toyota LandCruiser and Land Rover Discovery (or any other towing vehicle, for that matter), the bookcase has been replaced with a digital TV, the piano with a Fusion stereo system, and the timber china cabinet with Zone RV’s unique custom-built 100 per cent timberless cabinetry system. It comes as no surprise that The Wanderer doesn’t share much in common with Zone RV, given these modern day vans have more in common with a luxury yacht than a timber structure on wagon wheels.



The demand for lighter caravans has never been more prominent than it is today, forcing manufacturers like Zone RV to find innovative ways to reduce the Tare weight of its caravans, while managing to enrich the technical complexity of what’s inside. There certainly weren’t washing machines, microwaves, gas cooktops and air-conditioning contributing to The Wanderer’s two tonne weight, but all are necessities in today’s caravans.

Inside The Wanderer (Washer Room)

The average caravan buyer wants a lightweight van for economical and safety reasons, yet they expect to have the same luxuries inside the van as they do at home. When asked how Zone RV manages to build some of the industry’s lightest caravans, while keeping the interior compact with advanced technological needs, Zone RV director David Biggar explained it’s all in the materials and processes.


"We’ve removed the use of any timber in our caravans, a key shift away from traditional caravans like The Wanderer," Biggar said. "Instead, we’ve engineered the product to be more consistent in strength and density with an overall true composite and frameless body. This monocoque construction method, found in the marine, aviation and transport industries, enables us to significantly reduce the amount of steel in the chassis, again minimising weight."

Inside ZONE RV


But while the building materials and processes have advanced significantly since 1884, the true purpose that caravans serve remains the same – to travel in comfort and style with the freedom to roam wherever you please.