Zone RV Expedition Series Z-10.0
Let's start with the bad news. They didn't come back exactly in one piece and Zone RV hates us for it — but the good news is nothing the Sunshine Coast team built failed, only some bits supplied to them and these were easily repaired. Plus, we can confidently say these campers are more than up to the task that we doubt 99 per cent of us will ever attempt.
It is crazy to expect anyone to do the type of trip we did with a full-size camper, let alone a hard-body one with a travel height of nearly 2.5m (8ft 2in), width of over 2m (6ft 6in) and towed weight around 2000kg each. We were doing three-point turns on what can only be described as goat tracks, wincing at the size and closeness of trees; we got bogged more often than I want to admit and saw an immeasurable volume of rocks and stones tossed up at the two Z-10.0s.
Our review saw us drive to Innamincka, down the Strzelecki, through Adelaide and across the Great Australian Bight with the goal to not use blacktop where possible. We even returned on dirt roads where we could, partly to shorten the drive but also because we could and that's a big part of the Zone RV philosophy. With Zone, you can go further with confidence.
Zone RV pioneered frameless, composite bodies after years working in the marine sector. Not only have the team developed the best, lightweight and robust panels to use but also the technology to join the sides, roof and floor together to be weather-tight, tough and good looking.
The walls are 29mm thick, the roof the same and the floor 32mm. All panels are foam core (the floor has an added polymer infusion to give it extra strength and damage resistance) with a fibreglass skin and is made locally in Queensland. Joins are bonded together without the use of screws or bolts with a laser-cut alloy cap providing a surface to bond to and, importantly, another layer of weather protection.
But that's not all; the edges of the alloy are sealed before six layers of Raptor coating are applied around 100mm beyond the seams creating a virtually impenetrable seal. You should never see a leak in a Zone RV which isn’t really an issue as there is no wood anywhere to rot.
The chassis is 150mm x 50mm RHS with Raptor coating with a 50mm lift and gussets at the drawbar. I asked the team if it was what I thought I saw, a cut-down chassis from one of their popular offroad caravans — it is. Sure, it's over the top but I love it; and you will not break it.
Doing the hard work under the Z-10.0 is Cruisemaster XT coil springs with ATX airbag suspension (a $4850 option). It had the optional rooftop tent and Dometic slide-out kitchen seen in some of the pictures. Brakes are 12in AL-KO versions and wheels and tyres matched the LandCruisers we were towing with.
The ride in both is great, the high height of the drawbar and chassis meant no issues with hang-ups and the light body meant lurching was not an issue in high-speed corners. Throughout the trip I got the chance to tow both for days on end and would personally take the ATX airbag option — not just for the marginally smoother ride but for ease of levelling on uneven campsites and the super-useful outlet found with the switch gear in a side locker.
Being able to reinflate tyres on the camper quickly was handy and I would keep an air gun close to blow sand and dust away as opposed to using a broom — plus you could blow dry the dishes in an instant!
Without a doubt, a massive highlight and strength of the Z-10.0 is its liveability. From the luxurious queen-sized, memory-foam mattress to the Sirocco fan and strategic window placement, being inside the Z-10.0 is better than most caravans I’ve sampled. And don’t ask about regular, canvas-sided campers — they cannot compete.
The optional pop-top roof tent with inflatable queen mattress adds $4500 but also doubles the sleeping space. I spent the most time here, sleeping above with the other crew members down below. It is an excellent design that demonstrates clever thinking.
The roof is another single piece of the same composite panel as the sides of the camper which is raised with the help of gas struts guided by alloy legs. It is a simple design that can be opened and closed using a hooked rod after the side latches are opened. It uses canvas sides and high-quality mozzie screens with a bungee to keep it all inside when securing the roof down.
I did find it a bit fiddly and getting in and out wasn’t the easiest with the offset ladder but I am told future iterations will have a more centrally-mounted ladder which should make it easier.
When sleeping downstairs, the best way to spend a night in the cool late spring air was with the door fully up, micro-mesh mozzie screen zipped tight and book in hand. Positioning the door to meet the rising sun was a ritual I began to look forward to every night so I could wake to the coloured sky, and this was easy to do thanks to the long drawbar and single axle.
I never needed the door down for warmth’s sake but I did lower it one night when stopped for a power nap in a noisy truck stop. The sound insulation of the walls was impressive; again, this would give most caravans a run for their money and if you were planning on taking yours to the snow or perhaps Tassie’s deep winter, a diesel heater is an option.
GRUB ON THE GO
Outside is great, too. Well, it was until we lost the awning and shower curtain to the trees around Nuytsland, WA! The batwing-style awning would shelter the kitchen area with ease, better than a regular rectangular awning would and with the shower on the far side of the body, privacy was easy should you need a rinse.
Our photographer, Matt Williams, was responsible for cooking most of the crew meals though we all took a turn and had to handle our own morning routines.
The Dometic slide-out option used by Zone RV is a common sight in both vans and campers due to its easy installation and reliable quality. Is it better than some of the bespoke work we have seen in the likes of Patriot and BRS? No, but its simplicity, lack of annoying legs and good, workable height are great. It is not perfect though with the three burners too closely spaced to be able to be used independently with most regular sized pots and pans.
Even with the minor flaw, an external kitchen is a good option as it gives you a workable platform and massive sink to clean up, even at $4850. Zone RV also offers an option with a slide-out Weber BBQ and integrated sink that I would like to see as it saves $3300 on the Dometic slide-out and may offer as much usefulness.
A benefit of the construction method and insulating properties of the closed-cell panelling is the ability to form a fridge/freezer box into the design. Found in the standard and clever pantry-esque kitchen section (complete with small sink) that is hidden behind a false wall on the camper, an Isotherm fridge/freezer panel provides cooling to the 75L box. It's a great feature and one that can be supplemented with an additional, traditional 12V fridge in the drawbar lockers if needed. However I’d like to see a bung in the fridge to drain any spills or to allow water out when cleaning.
In the pantry, there are shelves aplenty with bungee cord used to reduce the chances of tumbling Weetbix. There is enough space for food for a couple for a week and the aforementioned sink, small as it is.
SWITCH IT UP
Near the fridge is a Fusion panel speaker that easily connects to Bluetooth and does a more than ample job pumping out tunes. You should never run out of tune-juice either with the standard 100Ah lithium-ion battery fed by either a 50A Anderson plug or 220W solar panel through an Enerdrive management system. Excluding the roof-mounted solar, all the power systems occupy a small space in the massive under-bed storage area.
The high-spec camper had options on top with an extra battery and additional 110W solar panel plus an invaluable 2000W inverter that kept our camera gear running the full trip. If you want the inverter, get the extra solar and battery.
Filling the sink, running the external shower or drawbar-mounted tap is a pair of water tanks totalling 160L with the option for another 80L on top. They are pressure-filled with a garden hose fitting, monitored with a water meter and filtered before being pumped by a 12V Shurflo which also works a creek-pull system for filling up from rivers and creeks. You can option on a gas hot water system for only $950, which I say is a bargain if you like a hot rinse.
Lighting is good although Zone RV had not yet finalised what LEDs went where but should they be an option. It won’t impact the final figure much as driveaway, the Z-10.0 is at the top end of camper prices.
VALUE FOR MONEY
All of this comfort, capability and quality comes at a price with the base Z-10.0 starting at $49,900 and a high-spec version, like the ones in this review, are closer to $73,500.
Zone RV does not hide from its prices — what is listed is what you pay — but with it comes capability from years of continuous improvement and an unwavering focus on quality and service.
We have had heated conversations on what constitutes value internally and some have suggested Zone RV’s close second placing at Caravan World’s AL-KO’s Best Aussie Vans was down to the staggering price of the caravan entered.
But I’ll settle it: Zone RV has a waiting list and a rising average sale price demonstrating there is a market for no-cost-cutting caravans. Time will tell if that translates to campers, but I'd wager it does.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Ball weight 185kg
Suspension XT Cruisemaster coil suspension with twin shocks and airbags
Brakes 10in AL-KO offroad spec electric drums
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35 with handbrake
Cladding Closed cell composite fibreglass sandwich wall, roof and floor construction with aluminium scrub rails and Raptor coating
Frame Marine NA
Chassis Steel RHS Duragal 150mm x 50mm with 50mm offroad lift and Raptor coating
Drawbar RHS Duragal 150mm x 50mm with Raptor coating
Wheels Dirty Life 16x8 Alloy
Tyres Cooper STT Pro All-Terrain 265x65
Body length (internal) 3.06m
Width (internal) 1.93m
Gas 4.5kg, 180L water, Dometic three-burner slide-out kitchen with sink, tap and cutlery drawer, 1 x 100Ah Enerdrive lithium battery with 2000W ePro inverter, 220W solar, 75L locker fridge with Isotherm fridge/freezer panel
PRICE AS TESTED
To find out more about this caravan, contact Zone RV, 41 Link Crescent, Coolum Beach, 4573 QLD
Ph: (07) 54 716 410