BASECAMP AND BEYOND
Traillite’s Basecamp Kaikoura is worth aspiring to...
By Malcolm Street
Aussie motorhomers might not like it but it’s a fact that for many years, the Kiwis have had a much greater ownership of motorhomes on a percentage of population basis than those living on the “Western Island.” In fact, this writer can remember a time when about the only places where you could rent a motorhome in the Antipodes were either New Zealand or Tasmania. Not sure of the reason but I suspect it had something to do with being relatively small islands with shorter distances for fly/drive tourists.
I mention that bit of trivia as a way of saying that Kiwi motorhomers have a good heritage when it comes to motorhome building and Pukekohe-based Traillite certainly has a good claim to that, being able to track its beginnings back to 1954. The company builds a range of motorhomes to suit every budget and taste. Back in April we took a look at the upmarket Landmark Oakura and for this issue, it’s the turn of the Basecamp Kaikoura.
Underneath the Kaikoura the base vehicle is a Mercedes Benz Sprinter CDI 413. It’s powered by a 2.2-litre 120 kW turbo-diesel that drives through a six-speed auto gearbox. All up the tare weight is 3910 kg, which given the GVM of 4490 kg gives a good 580 kg load capacity – something necessary given the size of the water tanks.
The motorhome body is built using a sandwich panel construction with a foam core, ply wall lining on the inside and Alufiber on the outside – the latter being a layer of fibreglass with a thin layer of powder coated aluminium on the outside. In line with many a motorhome body, the windows are Seitz hoppers and the security screen door is a Camec item. I do like the skyview window above the driver’s cab – it’s the nearest thing in motorhome to driving around with the top down. A slight downside of the awning and entry door position is that if the rain is sheeting the wrong way then it's going to blow straight in the door!
External storage is quite simple: a full boot across the rear. I did like the hinged-down bin door that means it can be used to rest things on, not to mention as a table. Most of the boot is just empty space (great) but the offside corner is taken by two 9 kg gas cylinders, which are accessed inside the boot. Water storage is quite impressive for both fresh and grey, at 200 litres each (just be aware that’s a 400 kg total if both are full, leaving only 180 kg for passengers and all other belongings - Ed).
On the Road
With a length of 7.5 m (24 ft 7 in) and a 120 kW diesel under the bonnet, the Kaikoura rolls along without too much drama. There are a few steep hills around Pukekohe but the Sprinter didn’t hesitate when I pointed its nose uphill, neither did its slick, full-automatic gearbox. Although there was the usual accompaniment of motorhome noise, there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed with a towel in the right place. All the cab fittings are standard Mercedes Benz Sprinter, including the cab radio. About the only addition was the rear vision camera, integrated into the internal rear vision mirror.
This layout is an interesting compromise and one designed to get around the problem of the desirability of having a New Zealand Back – a club lounge surrounded by windows – but also the need to either have a Luton (over-cab) bed and/or a bed at the rear that has be made up every night. That's been achieved by having an elevating bed in the rear; a technology that has appeared over the last few years and one that works quite well. As I said it's a compromise, but one that many will be happy to live with, especially as the bed does not have to be made up every night.
By day, windows all round and three skylights give a bright level of natural light. All the Seitz windows and hatches have integrated blinds but the Roman blinds for the rear windows were a nice touch. By night the halogen and LED lights kick in. The bubble style lights, although effective, did look a little dated, given that LED technology now available. Having all the major control switches located in a panel above the entry door is definitely a major asset.
Having both bed and dinette/lounge in the rear means that the rest of the layout can be devoted to a kitchen bench along the offside and a shower cubicle and cabinet on the nearside. Up front, both cab seats swivel and I did like the little table that is slightly offset to the passenger seats for drinks and the like! Also handy are the two storage compartments above the passenger’s and driver's seats.
At the back the time honoured club lounge is a great place to put your feet up, relax and enjoy the view. The single pole-mounted table is of a reasonable size and the under-seat storage area is easily accessible thanks to three drawers and one floor locker. With the elevating bed overhead lockers are not going to be a feature, but a small shelf has been built under the offside end of the bed. There is a double power point fitted under the nearside seat which is reasonably handy to use but does mean power cords can be tripped over.
Time to Eat
Like all the rest of the cabinetry work, the kitchen is made from plywood with an external covering of high pressure laminate. Undoubtedly one of the kitchen bench features is the multiple number of good-sized drawers. It also has a reasonable amount of bench top area, whilst still having room for a three burner hob (that's NZ speak for cooktop) and grill/oven plus a stainless steel sink (sans drainer). At the forward end of the bench, a microwave oven sits atop a 3-way 190 litre Dometic fridge. The microwave oven is set back slightly, which does make it a bit awkward for shorter persons, however.
Between the fridge and driver's seat is a handy little cabinet that has hanging space above and drawers below. In a practical move, it’s set back from the fridge cabinet width, thus not blocking access to the swivelled driver's seat.
Early versions of elevating beds were often quite clunky in their operation but later models are an improvement and this one is noticeably smooth in its operation. In this case it’s partly due to Traillite fitting two 12 V drive motors to the Pro Bed Lifting system, rather than the one specified. As I said, a very smooth performer.
The bed measures 1.88 m x 1.52 m (6 ft 2 in x 5 ft) and comes with an interesting feature. Given the height of the bed above the floor a set of box steps that hinge out of the side dresser makes things much easier. There are two reading lights set along the rear wall but they are not exactly ideally placed for the person on the inside, if they happen to like reading at night. However the adjoining side dresser has a ceiling downlight and the switch is reasonably easy to reach from the bed.
The side cabinet is a busy little item! Not only does it have the bed steps, but also storage space top and bottom and a mounting place for the flat screen TV and radio/DVD player. There's even a 3.5 mm input socket and in a radical move not seen in too many RVs, a parking place for an iPod/MP3 player. In some ways this cabinet, along with the overhead lockers across the rear, goes someway to address a problem in general with elevating beds: the lack of a bedtime shelf.
To my mind the Kaikoura's bathroom size is quite practical: Large enough for a separate shower cubicle, separate vanity wash basin and Thetford cassette toilet but not taking up more space than necessary. Also fitted are a couple of cupboards, ducted heater outlet and large wall mirror. The latter being good for everything except trying to get a bathroom photograph!
What We Think
Undoubtedly the Traillite Kaikoura is quite a classy motorhome. It has a fit-out that demonstrates both the Company’s long history and the need to build a contemporary motorhome with all mod cons and technologies.
Certainly, the Kaikoura is well fitted out for long-stay remote travel, with its large water tanks, high battery and solar panel capacities, and good internal storage. Overloading might be the only temptation. As long as an island bed is not high on your priority list the elevating bed and rear club lounge combo works very well. All that fitted on a Mercedes Benz Sprinter chassis makes for a very good motorhoming combination.
- Elevating bed and club lounge in rear
- Good sized kitchen with excellent drawer space
- Bed step
- Space efficient bathroom
- Well finished interior
- Good battery/solar capacity
- Under-seat power point location
- Microwave oven location
- Awning/entry door proximity
- Can I have the keys for longer?
Comment – Gas Cylinder Location
Australia and New Zealand are both covered by the same standard on gas system installations: AS/NZ 5601. Now that might make your reasonably think it would mean gas installations on both sides of the Tasman would be similar! Not necessarily so, I’m afraid.
Take the two gas cylinders in the boot of this motorhome. That arrangement would not be legal in Australia, where the standard is interpreted as requiring an external bin door only (not internal via the boot door as is the case here). Well, almost most of Australia; in Victoria things are slightly differently and a van conversion with the gas cylinders inside the rear door would be signed off as correct, but nowhere else in Australia.
Some years ago I talked to a gas compliance person in NZ who told me he had been to Australia to see if everyone could agree on how AS/NZ560 was interpreted. He discovered there were differences of opinion amongst the Australian States and therefore getting a common agreement with NZ just wasn’t going to happen! All very confusing I have to say.
P.S. Just so as we are totally clear here, this arrangement is perfectly legal in NZ where the motorhome is sold.
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