Caravan Test: Dreamseeker F1

The Dreamseeker F1 is a brand new, compact rig by Aussie Adventure Caravans.

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Every so often, a van comes along that makes an eyebrow lift towards the sky. In a good way. That same van makes you smile and nod your head approvingly. Such was the case with the new Dreamseeker F1.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d seen a couple of Dreamseekers over the years but I’d been told the range was being overhauled by its owner, Aussie Adventure Caravans. The F1 was to be the first in a new line-up. Given the body length of the van was only 14ft, I expected a garden variety rig with a bed, a small kitchen and dinette, a poky layout and, if I was lucky, an external shower.

How wrong I was.

Our Dreamseeker F1 – the first one ever built – proved to be a genuine surprise. Its distinctive shape combined with composite aluminium cladding, offroad coupling and running gear, a space-efficient layout and numerous design flourishes – yes, including the decor – left me wanting (much) more time with it. A month on the road, for example.

Aussie Adventure Caravans is the same company behind Kokoda Caravans. It’s been quietly gathering steam in recent years, expanding its offerings and appealing to wider and wider markets. The F1 that we hitched up on a bitterly cold Melbourne spring day is, I think, an example of this.

LIGHT AND LOVELY

First things first. The Mazda BT50 we used for our test was considerable overkill. In fact, the Dreamseeker F1’s Tare of 1980kg opens this van to a large range of potential tow vehicles. Prado owners in particular. The ATM is 2700kg but the 2500kg/250kg-limited Prado – and other similarly rated vehicles – would be suitable. Naturally, this would mean packing the van accordingly, and not to the F1’s ATM.

Behind the BT50, though, the F1 was a beautiful thing to tow. It was unfazed by multiple types of terrain, from the open highway to sharp, undulating tracks. The 2.7-tonne-rated Tuff Ride independent coil suspension seems well matched to this little rig.

On the drawbar, you’ll find a D035 coupling and a checkerplate box that houses two 9kg gas cylinders and a slide-out tray for a small generator. The mesh stoneguard, I should point out, needs to be repositioned further back on the drawbar. In the stoneguard’s current location, it’s impossible to fit or remove the jockey wheel – you need to detach the stoneguard first. The company is aware of this, however, and it will be fixed on future models.

The Dometic electric awning fitted to the F1 would have to be one of the easiest awnings to deploy on the market right now. Provided there is charge in the batteries (two 120Ah AGM batteries are fitted inside checkerplate boxes on the chassis), it’s just a matter of pressing a button on a remote control, waiting for the awning to unfurl itself, lowering the two upright supports and pegging them down. Easy. Those batteries, by the way, are kept charged by two 150W solar panels. The 12V system is controlled by the well-regarded BMPRO 35 battery management system.

The nearside is also fitted with an entertainment hatch with a TV mounting bracket, and 12V and antenna points. There’s also a decent slide-out kitchen with an included Weber Q barbecue and a sink. In terms of storage, no front boot is provided but, frankly, one is not needed, as the tunnel boot (which sits under the bed) is one of the largest I’ve seen on a 14-footer.

The rear, meanwhile, sports a reversing camera, an LED light bar (there’s one up front, too), a spare wheel mounted to the bumper, and a couple of jerry can holders. I like the black finish to the aluminium, too. You’ll find the inlet for connecting the van to town water on the offside, behind the wheel. It’s mounted quite high and out of harm’s way. Speaking of which, bash plates have been fitted to the underside of the van, protecting all vulnerable components – a necessity for any offroad van. There’s also an external shower with hot and cold water.

THE WOW FACTOR

When you step inside the Dreamseeker F1, the wow factor hits hard. The east-west bed in the nose of the van combines with a small but sensible nearside dinette and offside kitchen, rear corner combo shower/toilet, and an attractive vanity across the back wall to create a sense of space that belies this van’s compact dimensions.

The textured wood-look benchtops throughout look great, as does the matt black finish on all cupboard and locker doors.

Because of the location of the tunnel boot and storage area for the slide-out kitchen, there isn’t any storage space available under the bed; however, there are five lockers above the bed which, by the way, has a proper pillowtop mattress – truly comfortable.

The dinette is particularly elegant, with its stitched leather upholstery, that faux-wood table and reading lights. There’s a 12V/USB charging point nearby – in fact, there are plenty such charging points throughout this van, not to mention 240V powerpoints.

The kitchen is somewhat minimalistic, with its three-burner cooktop, sink, cupboards and overhead lockers. There is no griller or oven – to be honest, I’d rather have the storage space – but there is a microwave and a Dometic 185L absorption fridge.

In a locker above the stove, you’ll also find the RV wi-fi unit. Yes, you can now stream your favourite TV shows in the bush. Smart.

Behind the black glass door (as opposed to perspex) of the combo bathroom is a variable-height shower rose and Thetford cassette toilet. The bathroom gels well with the overall layout – it’s a cohesive design. Even the vanity, which sits between the bathroom and a large wardrobe in the entrance, looks the part, with elegant tapware, that wood-look bench, and mirror splashback. Oh, have I mentioned that there’s even a top-loading washing machine under the vanity bench? Yes, it’s a 14-footer with a bathroom and a washing machine. Not bad.

There is a host of other features in the F1, including a Dometic Harrier inverter air-conditioner, an Anderson plug mounted to the rear-offside chassis to accommodate a portable set of solar panels, dual 95L water tanks, an electric entry step, a picnic table and more. To my mind, it’s not the fact that so much gear is fitted to this van, but that it’s done in such a unified way, without anything feeling like an afterthought, that’s noteworthy.

There is some room for improvement: even Aussie Adventure Caravans acknowledges that the catches for the cupboard and locker doors inside need to be upgraded to withstand offroad travelling. But on the next F1s that roll out of the factory, like the mesh stoneguard, this will be addressed.

GORV’S VERDICT

There’s a lot that I really like about this van, and very little I don’t. From its wow-factor interior to its compact size – ideal for tight bush tracks and campsites – and smart appliances, such as the wi-fi, I predict a very bright future for this little rig.

THE SCORE

FIT AND FINISH – 4 Stars

LAYOUT – 4 Stars

INNOVATION 3.5 Stars

HITS & MISSES

  • Compact size and relatively low weight
  • Cohesive design
  • Comprehensive list of features
  • Space-efficient layout with bucketloads of wow factor
  • Mesh stoneguard impedes jockey wheel access but will be fixed
  • I agree with the company: upgraded cupboard and locker door catches are needed to withstand offroad touring. This will be fixed too

COMPLETE SPECS

Overall length: 20ft 9in (6.33m)

External cabin length: 14ft 2in (4.35m)

External cabin width: 8ft 1in (2.45m)

Travel height: 9ft 10in (3m)

Internal height: 6ft 7in (2m)

Tare: 1980kg

ATM: 2700kg

Unladen ball weight: 140kg

Frame: Meranti timber

Cladding: Composite aluminium

Coupling: D035 offroad

Chassis: 6in DuraGal

Suspension: 2.7-tonne Tuff Ride

Brakes: 12in

Wheels: 16in alloy

Fresh water: 2x95L

Grey water: No

Awning: Dometic electric

Battery: 2x120Ah AGM with BMPRO 35 battery management system

Solar: 2x150W

Air-conditioner: Dometic Harrier inverter

Gas cylinders: 2x9kg

Sway control: No

Cooking: Dometic three-burner

Refrigeration: Dometic 185L three-way fridge-freezer

Microwave: Yes

Toilet: Yes

Shower: Yes

Washing machine: Top-loader

Lighting: 12V

Hot water: 22.6L Suburban gas-electric

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