The Eriba was named after its creator Erich Bacham, a former aircraft designer who established his caravan credentials with the Eriba Puck, a lightweight model weighing 230 kilogram. With its welded tubular steel frame and aerodynamic body form, it handled impeccably and was easy and economical to tow. This was critical when cars were small and fuel expensive. In the following years, cars such as the VW Beetle towed them in their hundreds, right around Europe.
Recently, I visited SmartRV to review a newly imported Eriba caravan. Shining and sparkling in the sun, the 2017 edition Eriba Triton Touring 420 retains the original compact, slim figure and retro caravan look from yesteryear.
With the GT upgrade—alloy wheels in place of steel and the regular dimpled white panelling replaced with smooth Crystal Silver exterior cladding on the nose, sides, and rear panels—this version looks smart.
Samantha Kidson, SmartRV’s sales leader, showed me around the 420. “Quite a lot of the Eriba is still hand-built as it was in the old days,” she says.
“The nature of the build—the welded tubular steel frame, installing the insulation, fastening the inner lining and outer aluminium skin, bolting the furniture to the frame—is all done by hand. This makes the whole structure very strong.”
Out and about
Mounted on an Al-Ko chassis, with independent suspension and shock absorbers, Al-Ko anti-sway hitch, and the old-fashioned over-run braking drawbar with auto reversing lockup, the Eriba is the essence of simplicity.
A full-sized spare wheel is mounted at the rear of the chassis. An alloy tread-plate and plastic covers over the drawbar frame are standard.
At the front, the LPG bottle locker has a ‘vertical lift’ door. This allows room for mounting a purpose-built Eriba bike rack that tilts forward just enough to allow access to the locker while the bikes remain on the rack. The hatch on the right-hand side, accessing storage under the settee, is non-standard; it’s part of the GT upgrade.
All services, such as the 230-volt inlet, freshwater inlet, and toilet cassette are handily located Kiwi kerbside. An outside mount for the inside table is located above the driver’s side wheel arch. The awning light has two switches—one with a normal on/off function, and another that activates a movement sensitive mode so that after dark, whether you are leaving or returning, the awning light turns on automatically. There are alloy awning tracks on both sides of the caravan and a pull-out entry step which is handy because, for a small caravan, the 420 floor is surprisingly high off the ground.
Should I raise the roof?
When entering, you don’t have to raise the 420 pop-top unless you are over 1740mm tall. But on a hot day, you’ll want it up because, even though the pop-top is insulated, the interior gets quite warm with it down.
It’s easy to do. Release the four spring-loaded corner catches holding the pop-top down and push it up as far as it will go. Having it up gives another 210mm of headroom. The scissor-lift hinges, one front and one back, hold the raised pop-top firmly in place. To lower it, pull it down, being careful not to damage the wall fabric, and secure the corner clips. Job done. The pop-top fabric sides have zipped vents that help ventilate the 420 interior. They are very effective.
Just as the exterior has a retro look, the interior too, has a style reminiscent of days gone by. The decor, Maraldi red and grey upholstery fabric (treated with Hymer stain guard) and Trentino Pearwood cabinetry, is subdued but suits the purpose.
Up front, two full-length settees (1970/1900mm long) face one another creating a practical, comfortable space for dining and entertaining. Most of the timber cabinetry is at the front of the caravan, so the overhead lockers, all seven of them, carry the timber decor theme into the lounge at the rear.
They are a good size and shape, ideal for clothes and personal items.
On the inside face of the entry door are a couple of shelves for small items such as keys and torches or even kitchen condiments, a detachable waste bin, and a solid full-width handle.
All the awning-style windows are double-glazed and fitted with insect screens and blinds. The lounge windows have privacy curtains and ‘decor’ drapes as well, so day or night, you can have as much or as little as little privacy as you choose. Lighting is adequate and simple. The stylish light bar that separates the corner lockers is Eriba’s small concession to current lighting trends that have LED lights placed everywhere.
At bedtime, the settees can be made up as generous-sized twin singles or converted into an 1880mm wide double. It’s a simple conversion.
A pair of alloy tube frames at the foot of the bed and an alloy rod at the other end bridge the gap between the settees. The settee back cushions have rigid plywood back panels. Resting on the alloy tubes, they create a super king-sized bed. When not in use, the alloy tubes clip to the front of the settees. The thick cold-foam mattresses with removable, washable drill covers are on hinged, sprung, Ergo slat bases, and hold a promise of a comfortable night’s sleep.
It is quite a surprise when you open the bathroom door to find a stylishly designed and comprehensively equipped small bathroom.
The timber theme carries through with a storage cabinet beneath the handbasin and shelves below the opaque opening window. The moulded plastic floor is the shower tray with the handbasin faucet doubling up as the showerhead.
A shower curtain should keep most of the cubicle dry from shower overspray. A Thetford C402 bench-style toilet faces the handbasin. The vanity mirror has a neat trick up its sleeve. It slides up in a track and clips into place at a more user-friendly height.
With the pop-top raised, there is a gap between the top of the toilet walls and door, so there are fabric curtains that cover the gap for total privacy. Although small, it contains the three important ingredients: handbasin, toilet, and shower, even though the shower may be a refuge of last resort.
Like the bathroom, the kitchen is quite small but has everything needed for meal prep. The benchtop is van-width with a 230-volt socket (one of three in the caravan) behind the bathroom cabinet.
This corner is handy for items on standby such as jugs and kettles. Between the benchtop and the front wall is a useful lower level shelf. Side by side on the benchtop are a circular sink and two-burner LPG hob (option for a three-burner is available). The sink cover has a cutting board on its reverse side.
A dedicated cutlery drawer and two cupboards take up the space below the bench. A 70-litre under-bench fridge sits against the wall between the entry and the settee. Altogether, with the benchtop over the fridge, there is plenty of workspace for meal preparation.
Thanks to some skilful design work, the 420 has heaps of storage: under the side and front settees, a hanging locker, nine overhead lockers, and the cupboards below the kitchen sink and bathroom vanity.
Eribas have proved to be long-lasting. Some European owners have kept one for life.
New Eribas are not cheap but European experience shows they hold their value well, depreciating a lot less than most other brands. And there are not many for sale second-hand either, as an online check of the UK/Euro market revealed.
As its name says, the Eriba Touring Triton 420 is a touring caravan. Lightweight, easy to tow and manoeuvre, and light enough to move by hand should the need arise. So it’s easy to position and set up when overnighting in a campground. Sufficiently well equipped to freedom camp, the Eriba has a useful 360kg payload—enough for both the necessities and the finer things of life.
For further information about the Eriba Touring Triton 420, visit smartrv.co.nz or call the SmartRV sales team on 0800 007 627 (Auckland) or 0800 007 628 (Christchurch).