18 August, day 14 of our sun and wildflowers trip – a day of reflecting on our change of rig.
We sold our 25’ Travelhome fifth wheeler along with it’s Hi-lux tow vehicle back in 2017. We also sold our little Toyota Yaris to become a one motor vehicle household. A 2016 Prado was our choice of tow vehicle. We like Toyota, the prado is up to the job of towing a good, small sized caravan, and it’s not a vehicle that feels to big for me to drive. We decided on a New Age Caravan.
We didn’t want any weight issues, so rather than looking at the full range of New Age, we asked which models would suit our tow vehicle. The 16’ Manta Ray was recommended – 9’ less in length than our fifth wheeler. It was delivered mid 2018. So after three years, how are we finding it……
The first thing we found out is that some caravan manufacturers take their measurements internally for the van length, and others measure the external length. The Travelhome was an external 25’ length, the New Age 16’ was an internal measurement. Our 16’ new van is in actual fact 18’ by comparison, which is only 7’ shorter. 7’ is quite a lot – right! Well, no, there’s a lot more to consider than just the length. The fifth wheeler sits in the tray of the tow ute, so there’s no storage in the tray for other things. Additionally, our fifth wheeler was shaped so as the bed was directly on the floor of the nose, and that’s the part that attaches into the tow vehicle tray, so as well as no storage in the back of the ute, there’s none of the under bed storage that traditional caravans have either. Anyone with a normal caravan will tell you how vital the under-bed storage is. Extra bedding and clothes for the colder seasons, cookware that’s only used occasionally, boxes of wine and booze, and all sorts of other things. These were all things we had to find space for in the fifth wheeler, and that wasn’t easy.
Our fifth wheeler had a dedicated pantry which we thought we’d miss. We don’t. The overhead cupboards in our caravan are more than adequate for our food storage. We thought we’d miss the two door fridge, we don’t miss that either. The fridge in our Manta Ray is more than adequate. We used an Engel for our drinks fridge previously, and we still use our Engel as our drinks fridge. Only difference is, our Engel can now travel in the rear of the Prado, it used to have to travel inside the fifth wheeler which was always cumbersome when staying at an over nighter.
Comparing the two, I think there is really only two main things we do miss, and that’s the fuel economy, and the glossy white interior. The Travelhome towed by the Hi-lux was very aerodynamic by design, and used 13 litres of diesel per 100 kms. The Prado towing the Manta Ray uses 17 litres per 100. On a return trip to Broome that equates to approximately 200 litres of extra fuel. We loved the glossy white interior of our Fifth wheeler. It was easy to clean, and always looked bright, and modern. So we ordered a white interior for our new van, unfortunately though, we didn’t specify glossy white, and Matt white by comparison looks rather dull and flat. Never mind, We’ll live with that.
The additional storage room in a caravan the same size as a fifth wheeler must be phenomenal. I think we have more storage in our van that’s 7’ shorter, and that makes van life a whole lot easier. Of course the big American rigs with their huge boxy front and multiple slide outs are no doubt completely different too, but I’ve never had first hand experience with them to compare.
There are two things I repeatedly hear from caravanner’s. The first is that the bed is hard to make, and the second is that the seating isn’t comfortable. Both of our rigs haven’t proved to be any exception to this. The queen island bed in our Manta Ray is marginally easier to make than making the bed in the fifth wheeler, but the seating is considerably more uncomfortable than the seating in the fifth wheeler. We had a big cream leather club lounge before, it looked gorgeous, but it still wasn’t particularly comfortable. Now we have a small cafe setting. The seats are overstuffed, and too close to the table. The table is over the wheel arch, so although the seats are big enough for two people on either side of the table, there’s only enough leg space for one. Realistically only two people can sit at the table, and that’s with knees almost touching.
If we were choosing again, I’d still buy the 16’ Manta Ray. It’s a very good van, and is big enough for the two of us. I would specify glossy white for the interior, and I think I’d choose single beds. I think the singles would be easier to make, and as caravan mattresses don’t tend to be made with pocket springs, I think we’d probably get a better nights sleep on our own single mattress without feeling each other’s movements throughout the night, as we do now sleeping on the normal queen innerspring mattress. Plus, single beds give a much better feeling of space in the van. The salesman we bought the van from did actually recommend single beds for smaller vans. We didn’t listen!
The two main choices for the seating in small vans seems to be either cafe style, or L-shaped. I think the L-shape would have been a better choice.
We’re happy with the bathroom. The washbasin and bathroom storage is adequate, and the shower a good size. We’ve removed the shower door though and replaced it with a shower curtain. It just works better, plus the door weighs 20 Kgs. That’s a good weight saving. The wall mounted front loader washing machine is ok. It tends to cause quite a lot of vibration, and it won’t take anything as heavy as jeans. However, I can wash two towels at once, or one queen sized sheet. We’ve found the bed easier to make by using two single doonas instead of a queen, so the machine will take one single doona cover at a time. That’s a lot of money saved by not using the parks washing machines.
So that’s the inside of the van. The outside of both vans is much the same. We did have an annex for the fifth wheeler, although we rarely used it. We use privacy shades on our roll out awning now, and they’re great. As well as privacy they also provide shade. Our ground sheet though is getting old, and is to small. When we get home after this trip we’re going to replace it with one that’s considerably bigger. The shade screens can be extended to create a much bigger roof space over our outdoor area, but we find the area we actually use, regardless of roof space, is governed by the size of our caravan ground sheet. We’ll let you know how that works out.
So, have we regretted switching our 25’ foot travel home for the 16’ Manta Ray. Surprisingly, no, not even a little bit, and that’s mainly because storage is so important when you’re on the road, and storage space was something badly lacking in the fifth wheeler. We’re still living the Life of Riley in our little Manta Ray. It’s always a pleasure to get away.