REVIEW: DESERT SKY NOMAD
The latest compact offroad caravan from Desert Sky delivers a few surprises.
· Attractive and functional interior
· Compact dimensions
· Cruisemaster independent suspension
The Nomad offroad van is new for South Australian camper trailer and caravan manufacturer Desert Sky. It fits neatly between Desert Sky's existing models - the 5.4m Storm and the 4.5m Tracker. Compact by nature, the Nomad's 4.9m body still squeezes a shower and toilet within its stylish interior fitout, an achievement even more remarkable given the internal width of 2.05m is only marginally wider than a large 4WD. That's no coincidence. Desert Sky proprietor Rudi Vester is an avid 4WD enthusiast and was keen to develop a comfortable and compact offroad van to fill the void between camper trailer and caravan.
The Nomad is a good looking bit of kit, thanks to a blend of alloy checkerplate, white aluminium cladding and a subtle graphics package. To offset the significant 2.79m travel height, the front of the van is raked backwards to create less wind resistance - a practice mirrored at the rear, although to a much lesser extent. A cut-away tail aids departure from creek crossings and a substantial bumper bar protects the tail as well as supporting the spare tyre. Front and rear, the 1.6mm checkerplate runs up past the midriff to provide maximum stone protection, while the sides cop the same treatment along the lower sills. No stoneguard is offered, perhaps as a result of the generous checkerplate but, if it was mine, I'd be investing in a Stone Stomper as an insurance blanket to protect my van.
The A-frame wears the latest DO35.2 offroad hitch and handbrake on a substantial 100x50x3mm DuraGal chassis, with two jerry can holders and two 9kg gas cylinders. A quick glance beneath shows a substantial chassis constructed from laser-cut galvanised cross beams measuring 200x50mm, while Cruisemaster independent coil suspension rated to 2.6t with dual shock absorbers per wheel massage out even the biggest lumps. Speed retardation is courtesy of 12in electric drums and the whole shooting match rides on white Sunraysia rims with 235/75 R15 All Terrain tyres that complement the white body. A sealed aluminium floor will provide years of trouble-free service.
Storage is well catered for both inside and outside the van. On the external nearside, a generator cupboard sits up front with the same-sized locker on the opposite side. Internal storage between the beds stops it from being a full tunnel boot. The entertaining area is covered by a large awning that extends 3.35m from the body with an annexe option.
The interior of this van steals the show thanks to the classy-looking meranti timber in a 'cherry crush' veneer, and quality finishes throughout. The test van also scored a meranti floating floor which looks superb. Other eye-catching details are the marble-look, gloss black benchtops and café table, further complemented by optional black venetian blinds.
Twin single beds run north-south separated by a bedside table. A double bed option runs east-west and provides additional interior room, worth more than gold in a compact van such as this. Storage is plentiful with a wardrobe and mirrored door, overhead cupboards and under-bed storage. Maximising available space, a raft of drawers and overhead cupboards is prominent throughout the van, secured by offroad locks to stop your gear flying around over lumpy ground. Even the dinette chairs hide storage bins.
A 12V/240V 140L fridge/freezer and ensuite runs along the offside. The ensuite incorporates a hot and cold gas-fired shower, hand basin and a portable toilet rather than a cassette toilet. It looks a little out of place and, for my money, I'd prefer the external convenience of changing the cassette without dragging a waste container through the interior. On the upside, the ensuite interior has a marble-like beige and white tile finish which adds some glamour without the blinding white interior found in other vans.
On the nearside of the van, the kitchen flows from the bedroom to the door. There is overhead storage, cupboards and drawers to secure the kitchen crockery, utensils, pots and pans. The marble-like bench incorporates 12V water and a Smev three-burner and sink combo with glass covers that add to the overall bench space.
The entertainment package includes a 19in 12V TV with DVD player, aerial and a CD/stereo with two speakers. The TV swivels from a robust bracket on the kitchen wall, which can be viewed from the two-seater café dinette at the rear of the van or from the bedroom area.
Natural lighting is plentiful courtesy of two rectangular windows on the nearside, a small square window to the rear and front, a single rectangular window on the offside and three skylights in the roof, with the third fitted with a Fantastic fan over the ensuite. All the windows have blockout blinds and flyscreens, plus the door comes with a security screen. LED lighting is used throughout with a combination of downlights, reading lights and strip lights. Outside, a Bargman porch light is used in the grab rail and a strip light illuminates under the awning.
The 200Ah battery bank is supplemented by two 80W roof-mounted solar panels with a solar controller. The electrical management centre is conveniently located at head height featuring a Projecta 240V charger and LCD monitor, water level monitor, battery status, water heater controls and the CD/stereo head unit. An Andersen plug provides additional 12V charge when on the move.
ON/OFF THE ROAD
With a Tare of 1700kg plus options, the Nomad is best suited to medium to large 4WD tow rigs. The ATM is an impressive 2400kg, so there is plenty of payload and scope to add a few toys.
Our test loop included a long run through typical Adelaide suburbia and into the Adelaide hills. Behind the four-cylinder turbodiesel Nissan Patrol, the Nomad was well-behaved, the Cruisemaster coil suspension absorbing all the surface irregularities in the road surface with consummate ease.
We didn't venture too far offroad, but still managed to exploit the Patrol's impressive suspension flex without finding the extremities of the van's clearance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Desert Sky has done extremely well to pack so much into an offroad-capable van with a compact footprint. It's not fully loaded - it misses out on a microwave, air-conditioning and an outside shower in standard form - but the sum of the quality interior finishes provide an upmarket feel in an offroad tourer that you would be happy to call home, at least for a few months each year.
Contrary to popular belief, not all offroad vans are totally dust free. Gas regulations mandate that vans fitted with internal gas appliances be fitted with vents for the gas to escape, should a leak occur. Most often you will find these fitted in the door in offroad vans. Despite automotive sealing on doors and windows, interior pressurising units and over-zealous sales talk, some dust may still get inside the van. It shouldn't be coated thick over everything, just a hint here and there. Any exterior modifications to the shell may also impact dust ingress, so seek the manufacturer's approval before undertaking any work.
If dust ingress is an issue for you, consider a diesel cooker upgrade. At least then you can do away with the gas vent eliminating the key source of dust ingress.
· Functional and classy interior
· Cruisemaster independent suspension
· Plenty of load carrying capacity
I WOULD HAVE LIKED...
· 16in wheels for more clearance
· A cassette toilet
· Stoneguard fitted as standard
Originally published in Caravan World 508, November 2011