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Dark and Light

September marks the beginning of the caravan production year. Kicking off the season is a show I always look forward to; The Lawns at Hull.

Four major manufacturers were exhibiting this year: Swift, Coachman, Lunar, and Elddis. Their theme for 2013 was, in my opinion, ‘Dark and Light’.

On one hand, caravan interiors appear to be getting darker and darker as trends towards heavier colours and woodwork strengthen. On the other hand, a recurring theme is the quest to allow more and more light into the caravan, whether it is through a sunroof or deeper front windows.

The one innovation that everyone is talking about, and the biggest thing to happen to caravan construction since Bailey introduced Alu-tech, is the new SoLiD system from Elddis. Instead of using screws, Elddis now uses super-strong bonding agents (aka glue) to stick its caravans together. You could be forgiven for raising an eyebrow or two. After all, we’ve all tried to glue something together that ends up coming apart.

What we all need to remember is that bonding is nothing new in the caravan building process. That floor in your caravan? Unless it’s a vintage, the layers of the floor would have been bonded together. The sidewalls? Yup, chances are they are bonded too. Just for added reassurance, the bonding agent Elddis uses is the same one that’s used to glue the wings onto passenger aeroplanes, so it must be pretty good. So confident is Elddis in SoLiD, they’re backing each and every tourer with a 10 year ingress warranty. Nice.

Another thing struck me as I admired the new ‘vans. Not one single caravan in any range employed the ‘traditional’ Truma heater. Everything mid-range and up boasts Alde heating, while everything up to mid-range uses either the Whale or the Truma Combi blown air systems. As such, the manufacturers have been free to tweak layouts to provide better storage solutions, not to mention losing weight.

Stars of the show? There were many. My favourite range was newcomer, the Elddis Affinity. Chic styling, Alde heating, and every model coming in lighter than 1500kg. Most importantly, the Affinity struck a ‘feel-good’ sentiment with me, which is always impossible to justify or quantify.

Another ‘must-see’ for your shopping list is the Coachman Pastiche 525/4, a two-roomed single axle family tourer with the best kitchen ever.  I still rate the Pastiche, VIP, and Laser as the most strikingly handsome caravans on the market.

Although the lighter Challenger/Eccles SE models with Alde heating are big news for Swift, it was the provision of the solar panel in the top-end Conquerors and Elites that caught my eye. Sprite has been subtly rebranded the Swift Sprite, in the same way that Sterling Caravans are now ‘Sterling by Swift’. Sprite Lite has been quietly dropped, and I have to say that I am still left puzzled by the heavy, fussy, chocolate-flower colour scheme in the Sprite. Obviously people like it as it’s been carried over from last year, but a fun space for happy holidays it doesn’t make in my eyes. I’d love to see something brighter and more appealing to funky families like a Special Edition ‘Seaside Sprite’ with a colourful beach-hut inspired interior. Am I alone in wanting to see some brighter, happier colour schemes?

Quietly winning my admiration were the new generation of Lunar Lexon, Clubman, and Delta models. As competitors play the sunroof game, Lunar has simply increased the depth of the front windows. As a result, the lounge is lighter, brighter, and less fussy than most.

You would think that a gloomy economic climate would stifle innovation and ingenuity. But, as if to honour the spirit and resilience of the people who enjoy caravanning, the manufacturers have blown a raspberry at the doom mongers and come up with a fantastic portfolio for 2013. But don’t just take my word for it, go see for yourself! The only difficulty is going to be deciding which caravan you like the most.