Is there a natural progression when it comes to living the outdoor life? Is there an order, a checklist that we follow when we leave the city lights behind and start to explore further afield?
Young and single? Swag. Young and a couple? Tent. A little bit older with an offspring or two? Camper trailer. A bit older with an appreciation of the finer things in life? Caravan. A bit older with an appreciation of the finer things in life, but still feeling adventurous? A Wonderland Adventus!
Yep, the Adventus is what the crew from Wonderland call their ‘Cross-Country Series’. It's a little bit city, a little bit country. A little bit blacktop, a little bit offroad.
This van has been designed for stress-free touring. For those weekends away, or extended travel, the Adventus is ideal for couples and families who don't mind taking a few luxuries with them on the road.
Our model of choice for a beautiful day exploring the Glasshouse Mountains was the 6m (19ft 6in) model. Apart from the picturesque scenery that the region provides, there's also a great range of varied terrain to test the van’s capabilities.
From highway speeds along the mighty Bruce Highway, fast graded dirt tracks and even a bit of mild offroad action, our day was looking promising.
On hitching the van up at the Queensland Wonderland Dealer, Aussie Escape Caravans, the first thing I noticed was the use of a standard 50mm ball coupling. Now, I realise that this van is only designed for light offroading, so I actually think that this is a good idea. If a Cruisemaster DO35, or similar offroad hitch was fitted, it would give a false indication of the van's credentials.
The other thing I noticed was the small wheel and tyre combination, especially when comparing it to those of the 200 series LandCruiser that was to be our tow vehicle for the day: 235/75R15 versions. Really? In 2019, I would have at least thought 16in rims and tyres would be the bare minimum standard, not an optional upgrade.
In terms of overall aesthetics though, I must say that the light grey, gloss exterior with black ‘X’ plate looked pretty sweet behind the graphite ‘Cruiser. The Adventus sat nice and level too, even without the need for a weight distribution hitch.
RIDIN' ON A HIGHWAY
After the bitumen run up the Bruce, we took a left turn at Albuquerque and somehow ended up in the pine plantations to the west of Beerburrum. Gravel tracks wind their way through the trees and across undulating countryside, while the extinct volcanoes of Mounts Beerwah, Coonowrin and Tibrogargan provide the stunning backdrop.
It's not long before the maintained tracks deteriorate, and signs of recent rains in the area make their presence felt. It's also at this point that we find one of the offroad limits of the Adventus.
While making our way along a section of track that contained numerous puddles, one of which happened to be a little bit deeper, with a sharper entry and exit than previously encountered. With the caravan pitching sharply to the left, the fold-out entry step took the initial impact, followed by the rear left stabiliser, causing damage to both. Now, both of these injuries were only superficial, and if we had a big enough hammer, I'm sure we could have fixed the step.
However, it just reinforced the fact that we were only dealing with a light duty offroad van, and it isn't meant to tackle gnarly 4WD tracks. It also made me wonder if any damage would have occurred if a larger wheel and tyre combination had been used? Or at least to a lesser extent?
READ MY LIPS
Before going into the finer details of the Adventus, I just want to make one thing clear. I have said previously in this article that this van is designed for 'light' offroad duties. By no means am I suggesting that the construction methods or materials used in the manufacture of this van are by any way sub-standard, or of an inferior quality.
The team at Wonderland know what the desired end use of their product is, and design their vans accordingly. It's also why Wonderland produces a range of caravans, everything from dedicated on-road models all the way up to the XTR Series for extreme offroad use.
One thing's for sure: with a Wonderland, you know that the underpinnings of your van are solid. For starters, there's the chassis. Built by Roadking, the Adventus sits on top of a 4in heavy-duty, hot-dipped galvanised chassis, with a 3in raiser. Welded to the top of the chassis, and supporting the structural grade marine ply base is a 2in x 2in galvanised frame. This is matched to a 6in extended A-frame that provides a mounting point for a powder-coated front toolbox/storage trunk, a pair of 9kg gas bottles and water tap.
However, no stone guard leaves these items exposed to the elements. Finding a home near the 50mm ball coupling is the Breaksafe trailer breakaway unit, AL-KO handbrake, reverse camera connection, Anderson plug and safety chains.
Now to the running gear. I've already touched on the tyre size of 235/75R15. In old school terms, that equates to a smidge under a 29in tyre. That's pretty small by modern day standards, with the majority of standard vehicles sporting tyres around the 32in size. And that's before aftermarket upgrades!
Trying to keep those four black donuts in contact with the ground has been left under the control of AL-KO Enduro Cross Country independent coil spring, trailing arm suspension with single shocks, while 10in AL-KO electric drum brakes look after the stopping duties.
For those off-grid adventures, two underslung tanks, protected by galvanised shrouds, give you 190L of fresh water capacity. Each tank has its own filler located on the driver’s side above the wheel arch. A 100L grey water tank is an option.
Generally speaking, all services have been run quite high and out of the way, however some of the cabling needs another eye run over it. This could also be said for the rough-cut plywood strips used as packers for the water tanks, as well as the excessive and messy use of Sikaflex where services have penetrated the floor.
Another thing that caught my eye is the location and exposure of the gas line and external gas fitting (for a barbecue or external kitchen) on the front nearside of the van. Even as a light offroader, it wouldn't take a lot of trying for a stray rock or branch to inflict some damage to this fitting.
TOP OF THE POPS
Up to this point, everything we have seen on the Adventus has been rather traditional in its approach to caravan manufacture. Gal chassis, tandem axle and independent suspension. But sometimes, it's what you don't see that makes the most difference.
Case in point, the frame construction method utilised by the team at Wonderland. Hidden beneath that glossy Dibond aluminium composite panel exterior (which is also kind of a big deal in its own right) is what sets the Wonderland brand apart.
It's out with the 'stick and tin' traditional construction, and in with CAD designed, CNC router-cut, jigsaw interlocking structural plywood panels that piece together to create a frame with increased strength, but not weight. Cutting and fitting foam inserts snugly to fill all cavities ensures a fully insulated panel.
That Dibond composite panel I mentioned previously provides a tough outer skin, whilst also being extremely lightweight. It also provides the perfect surface for the application of any of the Wonderland colour choices. Aluminium ‘X’ plate provides the lower portion of the van with additional protection from bangs and bruises.
As far as I'm concerned, it's no use carting a big van around behind you, if at the end of the day you're not indulging yourself in just a little bit of luxury. So, it should come as no surprise to you that the Adventus has got that part of the equation all sewn up.
As you step inside, you are met with a bright and modern interior. Bedroom to the left and kitchen, dining and ensuite to the right. But it doesn't have to be this way in your van. Wonderland is a full custom builder, and has more than 20 floorplans to choose from, but you have the final say. You want an all black interior with black highlights (or should that be lowlights)? You get it. From the colour of the laminate benchtops to the toilet roll holder, you get to choose.
This 6m (19ft 6in) Adventus model has been designed more for the travelling couple in mind, with a north-south queen-sized island bed at the front of the van. It's one of those fancy pillow-top models, so there is definitely a little bit of luxury when you hit the sack.
Hanging space comes in the way of mirrored robes either side of the bed, with overhead cupboards and bedside tables providing additional, and ample storage.
Bookworms aren't forgotten with individual LED reading lights and little hidey holes in the bottom of the robes. If books aren't your thing, a 24in LED TV hooked up to a Winegard digital antenna will keep you up to speed with all of your favourite shows, or maybe a bit of Friday night footy. Keeping your devices charged and ready to go the next day, USB outlets and 240V sockets are conveniently located above each bedside unit.
Bulky item storage is accommodated by the lift-up bed, which is hinged and assisted by gas struts. A fold-down door at the foot of the bed means you don't always have to lift the bed up to gain access to stored goods.
Natural light and ventilation is plentiful throughout thanks to large, double glazed windows. On a balmy evening, leave those windows open to catch a gentle breeze without fear of being eaten alive by nasty sand flies or mozzies. Or you can always fire up the Ibis 3 air-con unit to keep cool.
SING FOR YOUR SUPPER
The kitchen and L-shaped lounge/dinette occupy the middle of the van, with the kitchen running along the nearside, making it easy to pass snacks out through the window to those kicking back under the awning.
For a compact kitchen, it packs a lot in with adequate bench/preparation space, cutlery and pot drawers, and a pair of pull-out under-bench pantries. As for appliances, you're not left wanting in that department, either. The four-burner cooktop (three gas, one electric) will have those steaks sizzling for dinner, while the grill can take care of your toasted ham, cheese and tomato sangas for lunch.
I'm not much of a microwave chef, so I can't give you an example of what to prepare in the Sphere 25L model that's located in the overhead cupboards, but I'm sure you'll work something out. Keeping everything cold is a Dometic 190L fridge/freezer.
The lounge area seats four and, as an optional extra, a bed conversion kit can be added to the mix for an extra sleeping space. Under-seat storage provides a home for the single 120Ah battery. If you plan on spending more nights away from caravan parks than in them, doubling this capacity would be one of my first ports of call. Solar backup is provided by a pair of 150W panels, while an overhead locker houses all your switches, fuses and battery monitoring. Also hiding below the cushions to keep everything charged and powered up is a double 240V GPO, twin USB and 12V socket, as well as an LPG gas detector.
Running across the full width of the van at the rear is the ensuite bathroom with separate shower, Thetford swivel cassette toilet and vanity unit. Impressively, the shower cubicle doesn't require you to be double jointed to get in to, or out of. There's a heap of storage in the ensuite, with overhead lockers and a linen cupboard. A lift-up section of the laminated bench reveals a 2.5kg top-loading washing machine, keeping your clothes fresh.
For those who prefer to relax outside rather than in, the Adventus won't let you down. Whether it's the sun beating down hard, or a sudden downpour, you're covered by the large (and by large, I mean pretty much full length) rollout awning. There's more than enough space out for you and a couple of friends to enjoy a sundowner after a taxing day.
If the peace and quiet of a lovely bush camp gets too much for you, you can always hook up the TV to the external AV hatch, or crank up the stereo matched to a pair of external waterproof speakers for a rocking weekend.
External storage is limited to a full width galvanised tunnel boot at the front (which is great for storing your camp chairs or even a set or two of golf clubs), and a small hatch at the very rear on the offside. Another hatch at the offside rear provides access to the Thetford toilet cassette.
At the back of the van, a four-arm rear bar provides the mount for the single spare wheel and jerry can holder.
THE BOTTOM LINE
For those of you who are about to, or are going through that inevitable upgrade process from the on-road van to something with a bit of offroad cred, then the Wonderland Adventus will no doubt be on your radar.
Aussie-made and custom built are just two ticks in the plus column. A quick look at the Wonderland RV Facebook group gives a good insight into the company as well. Not only are the Wonderland team producing high quality vans, but they back it up with high quality after-sales and customer service. That's a couple more ticks right there.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Length (caravan) 6m (19ft 6in Length (overall) 8.3m 27ft 3in)
Width 2.43m (8ft)
Travel height 3m (9ft 10in)
Internal height 1.98m (6ft 6in)
Ball weight 155kg
Bed size 1.905m x 1.524m (6ft 3in x 5ft)
Frame CNC router-cut jigsaw interlocking marine grade ply
Cladding Dibond composite aluminium panelling
Chassis Hot-dipped fully galvanised
Suspension Tandem axle, AL-KO Enduro Cross Country independent coil spring, trailing arm suspension with single shocks
Coupling 50mm ball
Brakes 10in AL-KO electric drum
Wheels 235/75R15 all terrain tyres on 15in alloy rims (six-stud) with one spare
Water 2 x 95L
Battery 120Ah lead crystal
Solar 2 x 150W panels
Air-conditioner Ibis 3
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control N/A
Kitchen Modern CNC cut double laminated ply with laminate benchtops and high gloss acrylic splashback
Cooking Swift stove (3 x gas burner, 1 x electric hotplate), oven and grill with automatic ignition Fridge 190L upright Dometic
Microwave Sphere 25L
Bathroom Ensuite with separate shower/toilet/vanity
Washing machine 2.5kg NCE top-loader Hot water 28L gas and electric
1 x 150W solar panel
PRICE AS SHOWN
$78, 990 (including ORC)
To enquire about this caravan, please phone (03) 8692 0032, or Queensland dealer Aussie Escape Caravans, phone (07) 3465 0933.