Free Spirit: Review
Unique and full of surprises, the Free Spirit caravan offers a game changing water storage solution.
Caravan manufacturers normally build vans with one or more water tanks strapped to the base of the van, typically of high-density polyethylene which is strong and non-toxic. As well as adding weight, there’s that nagging fear the bulky tanks reduce ground clearance and are susceptible to being punctured by a log or rock on an out-of-the-way bush track.
Enter Free Spirit. Some years ago, Free Spirit started a journey of innovation using aluminium to construct its chassis, which then evolved into single piece chassis rails that eliminated potentially vulnerable weld points between the drawbar and chassis rails. Free Spirit then introduced its own fibreglass walls, better dust proofing, further weight reduction, interesting modern styling and the pièce de résistance – water storage within the chassis rails.
That’s right – the water is stored inside the aluminium chassis rails. As Free Spirit uses corrosive-resistant, marine-grade aluminium and no other metals for chassis construction, it avoids corrosion without the need for a sacrificial anode of the sort you would find in your van’s hot-water system. The upshot is reduced caravan weight and increased water storage capacity without adding tanks and, at the same time, mitigating the fear of puncturing a water tank.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
The test van has a different look to previous Free Spirit models thanks to a new shape, made possible by the new patented mouldings that also form part of the structural integrity of the van walls. The moulding design is simple yet effective with each moulding piece split between a 50mm C-section to accommodate the front panelling, perpendicular to a 25mm section accommodating the side walls. The moulding width helps ensure adequate dust and weather proofing with little opportunity to allow water to penetrate the interior. A smaller moulding on the interior that lays almost flush with the ceiling and walls further enhances weather, moisture and dust protection.
Priced at the high end of the spectrum, this van boasts a collection of the usual yet worthwhile fixtures that enhance the caravanning experience, including an extra-large fridge, Panasonic microwave and a good-sized bathroom with a Thetford china toilet and a fibreglass shower that provides just enough space in which you can navigate your morning ablutions without too much trouble. While providing plenty of quality interior fittings and fixtures, I didn’t feel the van’s interior appointments were quite in line with its weighty price tag, given they are the same as offered in many lower-priced vans.
On the outside of the fully-customised van there’s a little extra protection from checkerplate that rests on the already durable walls. An accessible ladder helps you up onto the roof to inspect and clean the four 150W solar panels, and a valve within the exterior box for TV and stereo connections provides compressed air from the airbag system for inflating caravan tyres – an ideal feature after hitting the beach. For cold weather, there’s a diesel heater keeping the interior warm.
HITS & MISSES
- Chassis water storage solution
- Handy storage pockets in the dinette
- Rear ladder for rooftop access
- 12V 300Ah lithium batteries with 1800W pure sine wave inverter
- The rear ladder could benefit from a drop-down bottom step
- Electronic awnings and steps have the potential for problems in hot or dusty conditions
FREE SPIRIT 20FT SPECS
Weights and measures
- Overall length 8.34m (27ft 4in)
- External body length 6.1m (20ft)
- External body width 2.4m (7ft 10in)
- Travel height 3.1m (10ft 2in)
- Internal height 1.95m (6ft 5in)
- Tare 2580kg
- ATM 3500kg
- Ball weight 175kg
- Frame n/a
- Cladding Fibreglass
- Chassis Aluminium
- Suspension Airbag
- Brakes 12in electric drum
- Wheels 245/75 R16
- Water 200L in chassis; 95L drinking; 95L grey
- Battery 12V 300Ah lithium
- Solar 4x150W
- Air-conditioner Aircommand Ibis
- Gas 2x4.5kg
- Sway control No
- Cooking Thetford Caprice Mk III, grill and oven
- Fridge Extra-large Cruise
- Microwave Panasonic
- Toilet Thetford china
- Shower Separate fibreglass cubicle
- Lighting LED
- Hot water 12V/diesel Webasto
Price as shown
- $150,000 (on-road, Qld)
The full test appears in Caravan World #542 October 2015. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!