Life on the road: Ray & Pauline and their Jayco Journey Outback 16.51– 3OB

By: Jill Malcolm, Photography by: Jill Malcolm


In this monthly column, Jill Malcolm interviews the owners of RVs to learn how they made their decisions

When I met Ray and Pauline Sarjeant in the Uretiti DOC camp in Northland recently, they had not long been on the road in their new caravan. For the past seven years, they had been running a motel in Fielding, a life of 24/7 hard labour. Both in their 60s, they decided to get away from the demands of the tourism industry and do some touring of their own.

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Ray and Pauline Sarjeant and their Jayco Journey Outback

What has your camping and RV experience been so far?

We have always camped, but it was mainly tenting. It was a way of holidaying cheaply with children and Ray could get good use out of his boats. A long time ago, we did own an old caravan and another time we bought an old Toyota van. That didn’t work out as it was too small. I would say that in short hops we have already been to a lot of places in New Zealand.

How did you work out what you wanted?

The first thing to get our heads around now that we are retired was that we would have more time and, hence, would be able to be away for extended periods. Then we had to toss up between having a caravan or a motorhome.

Eventually, we decided we didn’t want to cart our home around with us everywhere we went, and a caravan would suit us best. We started looking by going to motorhome and caravan shows and keeping an eye on Trade Me.

Two years ago, we bought a second-hand Bailey Orion (2011) which was a nice little caravan, about the size we wanted but the chassis was too low. We both like going to back-country and out-of-the-way places and the Orion would sometimes bottom out.

So, we kept looking, and at the New Zealand Covi show in Auckland this year we came across the model of caravan we liked. Not only was it single axle and high off the ground but it had other features we liked.

What was the biggest challenge when choosing your RV?

It was a long process working out what we wanted before we spent the big bucks. Buying the Orion was our learning curve, and by the time we understood we needed a higher chassis, we also had a good idea of other important features.

Why did you decide on the caravan you eventually bought?

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For Pauline two of the deciding features were the room in the kitchen area and the comfort of the settee

The Jayco Journey Outback 16.51–3OB, 2019, imported from Australia, was the answer to our quest. It has high ground clearance and is on a single axle, which increases its manoeuvrability. A permanent island bed was one of the key features. 

The bed pushes up a little to increase daytime space and, opposite the kitchen, is a comfortable settee that can be used as a second bed if one of us is having a restless night.
The other important feature is the set-up of the kitchen.

Despite being a smaller size, the Outback’s kitchen has a decent-sized bench and space to move around in. It has a full fridge/freezer, a good-sized oven, a microwave and lots of cupboard storage. The lighting is also a plus. At night, the interior lights up like a fun park.

The bathroom across the back of the van is roomy with plenty of cabinet space, and the shower is separate and as big as some people have at home. There is also plenty of room in the bathroom cabinets.

The full length of the caravan, including the tow bar, is 6868mm, the outer body is 5335mm, and the interior 5100mm. We didn’t want anything bigger because of the convenience of towing. At that size, the Outback also fits in the driveway at home. 

Is there anything you would change or any extras you’ve added?

Not at this stage. We have not been in it for very long, but there is nothing that we have identified to change. We did buy extra solar panels, another battery and had a 180-litre grey-water tank fitted in addition to the two 84-litre freshwater tanks that were already installed.

How was the process of buying and the handover?

We bought it new through South Auckland Caravans in East Tāmaki. There were no second-hand Jayco vans with high clearance around in the outback series. The buying and handover went smoothly, and the dealer gave us a deal that had been on offer at the Covi show.

What advice would you give to other buyers?

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A sturdy electronically operated awning was another feature that helped sway the couple’s decision

Try before you buy, preferably in something similar to what you have in mind. Make sure if you are buying a second-hand caravan that it has anti-sway stabilisers. A sturdy awning frame is also a big plus. Also, learn how to pack a caravan properly to get the weight distribution right. That is an important safety tip.

Make sure your pulling vehicle is capable of not just towing the caravan but able to take you where you want to go. We pull the Outback with a Holden Colorado double-cab, 3-litre diesel, 4x4 ute. It has a hard-top canopy which gives us more storage for things such as the outboard motor and inflatable dingy that we take with us.

What are your travel plans?

We are intending to do our first trip by going up one side of the North Island and then back down the other. At this stage, we have no idea how long this is going to take us. It really is a matter of ‘so far so good’.It’s taken a while to learn to slow down. A first we couldn’t get over the feeling that we had to be doing something, but gradually we are learning to relax.

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