Caravans come in all shapes and sizes – and they don’t have to be white. Touring Magazine helps you to decide on your purchase of a cool caravan
When niche-market caravans are winning awards otherwise reserved for the mainstream traditional all-white tourer, you know they’re being taken seriously, however fun they might be to look at. But style isn’t everything. Caravans that appear fun on the outside have to be functional on the inside if buyers are going to be able to use them for a great weekend away, rather than simply sit and admire their looks. Here’s our pick of the best cool caravans.
Handmade in Herefordshire, the Dub Box is a two-berth retro camper-caravan, with an option of a four-berth if a pop-top roof is added. As many original and reproduced retro parts as possible are fitted, such as door handles, door catches, window seals, pop out windows, hinges, bumpers, road and number plate lights. And with every ‘Dub’ designed by customers and made to order, whatever you want, the team will build.
With a glass-fibre body that doesn’t rust, you can pick any colour you like – modern or retro – and compliment with internal fixtures and fabrics. The range of choice in flooring, blinds, upholstery, cupboards and even worktops ensures each Dub Box is as individual as its owners. Choose from the Standard Dub Box, the flagship model that’s feature-packed including a cooker, sink, retro fridge, audio system – and anything else that you fancy! Or for more compact living, the Shortie is just 270cm long, making these cool caravans incredibly lightweight to tow.
If you really wish to make a statement when you turn up at a campsite, Tripbuddy will do it. The vehicle is described as an ‘enabler’ rather than a caravan; the UK-designer and manufacturer stripped back the manufacturing process of a traditional caravan and completely redesigned it. The monocoque shell is a one-piece moulding with a 25 year water ingress warranty. And there are no skinny doors – open up the rear clam-shell or 60/40-split door and you can slide in your mountain bikes or jet boards.
There’s a huge choice of options for interior furnishings and specifications. And the privacy glass windows, while adding to the cool design on the outside, help to keep peering eyes from seeing what’s inside. Add the purpose-designed awning to the rear and it creates additional living and sleeping space.
Select from two ultra-lightweight models in any one of 1,600 colours. The Tripbuddy Anyone Lite is ultra-lightweight with a MiRO of 650kg and MTPLM of 750kg, which makes these cool caravans suitable to be towed by small cars as well as hybrids and the increasing number of electric vehicles, and by anyone with a full driving licence.
Its larger stablemate, the Anywhere Lite, the original Tripbuddy model, has recently been subtly enhanced. Despite its larger size, it is still lightweight with a MiRO of 1,150kg and now has a lower standard MTPLM of 1,500kg to help any owners without B+E driving licence entitlement. This still gives a generous payload of 350kg, but this can be doubled to 700kg by choosing to upgrade the MTPLM to its maximum of 1,850kg.
Who says that caravans have to be box shaped? T@B teardrop trailers, are not only stylish, they’re great for towing with their aerodynamic profile. Eye-catching both inside and out, the key feature of the T@B is its ultra-light weight, with the T@B 400 weighing in at less than 1000kgs; the smaller 320 is even lighter.
Internally, the two T@B models have features that look similar to those of a traditional caravan; T@B is a brand under the well-known Knaus household. In the 3-berth 400 you’ll find a dinette, a well-equipped kitchen with hot water and fridge, and a practical washroom and toilet. A rear bed lifts up to provide a huge storage area.
Options include a flat screen Avtex TV/DVD, a service hatch, rear aluminium strips to take a bike carrier and alloy wheels. A full made-to-measure Isabella sun canopy is available to more than double the 400’s interior space. If you fancy exploring further afield, then the smaller ‘jacked up’ T@B320 Off-Road enables you to get off the beaten track in cool caravan style.
The Bailey Discovery is very much targeted at first-timers; those who may have never thought to even contemplate caravanning, let alone owning a caravan.
For all three models – a two-, three- and four-berth – the exterior is the same, with a unique wrap-around rear profile and duo-tone GRP bodyshell panels of slate grey with classy black windows. And there are graphite alloy wheels, too, just to add a further touch of ‘cool’ and a chassis that allows bikes to be stored on the A-frame while travelling.
The Discovery also has its own, distinctive wraparound (side and back) inflatable awning, with optional sleeping pod, extending – indeed, almost doubling – the living and sleeping space.
All three models of this cool caravan utilise the same stylish soft furnishings with fashionably boxy base and backrest cushions for the seating in soft grey chenille with mustard yellow piping and matching scatter cushions. There are coordinating yellow chenille panels with storage pockets either side of the main window, too. Simply decide which size of Discovery you need.
Swift Group are the UK’s largest leisure vehicle manufacturer and when the company launched its Basecamp, against its line-up of traditional caravans, it caused quite a stir.
In fact, Swift don’t even describe the Basecamp as a caravan, rather a Crossover Camping Vehicle with the aim of attracting those that don’t see themselves as caravanners but, nonetheless, enjoy the camping lifestyle.
Designed for action with its funky and modern appearance and customisable graphics, Basecamp has been an inspiration for many in their pursuit of new outdoor experiences away from the crowd. Its popularity has been forged through its distinctive shape, lighter weight, utilitarian materials and design including anchor points for stowing bulky kit.
Tardis like, the compact nature of Basecamp belies its spacious and airy interior. At night, the lounge converts easily into a relaxing sleeping space with supersize double bed. For refuelling, the kitchen provides all that’s needed to rustle up a delicious meal, and after the day’s adventure, there’s a dedicated washroom to enjoy a refreshing shower.
For the 2020 season, all Basecamps (two- or four-berth) including a new Special Edition launched in February, will benefit from Swift’s SMART 3 construction system, totally timber-less with a revolutionary composite floor comprising dual density foam core that is made from recycled plastic bottles.
Like Swift, Slovenian manufacturer Adria is best-known for its more traditional designed and shaped caravans, albeit with often zingy and fresh continental interiors. But Adria is not shy of innovation and, in 2014, developed the colourful and unconventional Altea 4Four to celebrate the company’s 50th birthday.
Adria’s current offering for cool caravanning is the lightweight Action, a two-berth caravan with an iconic curvy exterior shape. At the front is a huge panoramic window – the sort of window you’d like to have a beach view through or to stare up at the stars at night. Specialist awning manufacturer Isabella also produces an awning specific to the Action’s shape.
Inside you’ll find contemporary furnishings with charcoal black seating and vibrant contrasting cushions. It’s also feature packed with a full kitchen, shower/washroom and all the techno kit you could want.
Knaus Sport & Fun
Designed for energetic exploits, this towing caravan provides a stylish yet practical base for sports enthusiasts. There’s easy access through a large rear door for loading activity equipment, in addition to an entry side door. It also has a longer A-frame than most caravans to mount bicycles and, unusually, roof rails with a 75kg roof load.
We love the modern, minimalist look of the interior. It’s designed as a large garage with an easy-to-wash-down floor; the kind of space you could tinker with your bike at night. But, it’s also comfortable with lively furnishings.
For 2021, there’s also a classy Black Edition, retaining the same interior layout but with a change to furnishings and the exterior. And, with a new, lighter weight chassis from Al-Ko, the Vario X, this cool caravan is up to 30% lighter than previously.
Chic without the shabby, curved and unique Barefoot Caravans turn heads with their innovative design and beautifully crafted finish. Turn up to a music festival in one of these and don’t be surprised to attract more of a crowd than the guitarist on stage. These retro caravans are very popular with newcomers to caravanning and campers that don’t traditionally associate themselves as a caravanner.
Barefoots are lightweight, aerodynamic and easy to tow. And, despite being compact on the outside, this cool caravan is light and spacious inside – with luxury seating that converts into a huge bed plus a kitchen, full shower room and lots of storage.
Designed and hand built in the Cotswolds, this fibreglass caravan comes in a range of colours (cream, duck egg blue, grey and pink) and many other options to customise, too including soft furnishings using a range of contemporary-design Scion fabrics – or your own fabric supply. Fully fitted with your bespoke choices, the price is £27,500.
We round up with, arguably, the most globally recognised brand of caravan ever made – the ‘trailer’ that everyone dreams of owning. The iconic metal-riveted Airstream caravan remains the pinnacle of long-held dreams of outdoor living and if you are driven by style – and have a reasonably healthy bank balance – this is the cool caravan for you.
All three models offer a fixed double bed and large, sumptuous seating area. The Yukon is two/three-berth, but opt for the four-berth Colorado for the greatest amount of space. The Missouri is also a four-berth unit but, at 6.81m long, is 1.5m shorter than the Colorado.
There’s also a choice of interior furnishings and, as you would expect, the specification is second to none.
Lowdhams, with bases in Nottingham and Huddersfield, are the sole official UK dealer for Airstream.