Test: Jayco Outback caravan

By: Bill Savidan, Photography by: Bill Savidan


Jayco Outback caravan The light-filled interior has a sleek look with contemporary appeal Jayco Outback caravan
Jayco Outback caravan The double bed and settee make good use of the slide-out Jayco Outback caravan
Jayco Outback caravan Jayco Outback caravan
Jayco Outback caravan The bathroom offers all you could want and more Jayco Outback caravan
Jayco Outback caravan Jayco Outback caravan
Jayco Outback caravan Jayco Outback caravan
Jayco Outback caravan Jayco Outback caravan
Jayco Outback caravan Jayco Outback caravan

Bill Savidan checks out Jayco’s Sterling Outback – ready to roll off the beaten track in comfort

Test: Jayco Outback caravan
Relaxing in the outback

At the Auckland Covi RV Show Mark Rhodes of Jayco-appointed dealer South Auckland Caravans showed me its newest caravan, the Outback.

It is clearly a Jayco caravan, and although different from the standard models it is these differences that appeal to caravan owners who like heading off the beaten track.

The Sterling Outback is based on the Sterling 21.65-4 model, 6.7-metres long with a tare weight of 2342kg, but 90kg heavier than the standard Sterling model. This is due to the Outback features that make the Sterling suitably robust for off-road work.

What is the difference?

Most noticeable are the Outback's larger chassis members, the caravan skirt and the extra ground clearance. The main chassis has been upgraded with 150mm x 50mm galvanised rolled hollow section (RHS) chassis members and the front A-frame upgraded with 125mm x 50mm RHS beams. Protective aluminium checkerplate, painted matt black, is used to form the sidewall skirts below waist level on both sides of the Outback. Across the front the lower section of panel is protected with a coating of Flexcoat pebble guard. Jayco has also replaced the standard leaf springs and corner jacks with Alko heavy-duty fittings. While the heavy-duty springs make the 'van sit higher the extra ground clearance has been achieved by placing the twin axles on top of the leaf springs instead of below, raising the travel height by 155mm compared with the standard Sterling 21.65-4. In place of the regular galvanised steel tube, the rear bumper bar is galvanised RHS and incorporates the spare wheel bracket. All these items contribute extra weight as well as making the Outback more durable. Acknowledging that Outback caravans tend to attract outdoors types, Jayco has fitted the Outback with an external 12-volt power point, an external gas bayonet, and an external shower.

Outback philosophy

With this in mind, I walked around the caravan and could see many of the standard Sterling features already fitted in with that concept. The curved corners of the front GRP moulding add strength and deflect threatening branches, a solid drop-down cover protects the front window, the weather-tight front boot keeps its contents safe, clean and dry and the outside tap on the front A-frame is very handy when freedom camping. The kerbside 4.5-metre long Carefree awning offers refuge from sun and rain. Easy and safe to deploy and retrieve, I have found these roller-blind-style awnings are more stable in a breeze and quicker to retrieve than awnings that roll into a box mounted onto the side of the caravan. The entry step is heavy-duty galvanised steel, manually operated and idiot-proof. On the side of the 'van under the awning is a fold-down table big enough to handle happy-hour hospitality or as a BBQ workstation, preparing the meal that follows. The RHS section rear bumper protects the rear moulding from indiscrete manoeuvring mishaps. On the driver's side, the three-metre long slide-out has an awning that deploys over the slide-out roof when the slide-out is opened. Its job is to keep debris from falling onto the slide-out roof. Debris on the roof can jamb in the slide-out's weather-tight seal when the slide-out is closed, causing the seal to leak, flooding the interior. The fridge/freezer vents visible ahead of the slide-out are large and well positioned (the bottom of the top vent is above the top of the fridge) and should allow the fridge to operate efficiently in the hottest weather. While all of these features are important no matter where the caravan is used, they gain added significance when freedom camping in remote places where help is not readily at hand.

Interior comforts

Inside, the Outback is pure Sterling, pure Jayco. The styling is contemporary, with medium-to-light hued timber veneer finish on all cabinetry surfaces, off-white walls and ceilings, and timber-patterned linoleum on the floor. As is standard in the Sterling range, the settee and dining seats are upholstered in leather — in this case dark cream in colour. Jayco's construction standards continue to improve. In areas of constant use like the beds, the settee and the dinette, the frames are constructed from aluminium that holds its shape and stays together almost forever. Cabinet fronts are screwed to the carcase, not stapled. Some things occur that reflect the reality they're factory built in large numbers: wiring that should have been tucked out of sight and the slide-out switches, solar panel meter and regulator, 12 volt and 240 volt power points and a TV aerial point all tucked away in a corner of the kitchen making them difficult to get at and read.

Meal time

The kitchen bench extends across the front wall of the Outback, providing ample working space. Cooking options abound: a grill/oven; four hobs, one electric; and a microwave. The Dometic RM2555 three-way fridge/freezer is on the sidewall with the microwave above. This creates a handy backwater for the cook to stand in and prepare meals with minimum disruption from passers-by. I liked the wide kitchen drawers with their curved fronts. I seem to find what I'm looking for much quicker when I have fewer drawers to open. The kitchen is also available in an 'alpine white' finish, offering a nice alternative to the all-timber interior of the caravan reviewed.

The dinette seats three comfortably. Although the seats are a little upright they offer good support at dinnertime and I liked having a separate settee opposite. It is too far away from the dinette to provide meal time seating — the slide-out moves it a further 555mm away — but it does mean there are places for both occupants to put their feet up for a snooze or comfy read. It is also a lazyboy settee that offers the footrest support option.

Zzzzz time

The slide-out takes the double bed (as well as the settee) out with it. This certainly creates more room to walk past the foot of the bed, but not as much as you might think. To gain the full length of the bed it has to be pulled away from the wall and a filler piece inserted under the pillows, which tends to negate some of the slide-out benefit in the bedroom. The bed is comfortable and offers acres of storage underneath once you lift the gas-strut-assisted bed base. Opposite the foot of the bed is a large window with a very handy bank of shelves and drawers beneath it. All round, there is plenty of storage for clothing and personal effects.

Personal pampering

The bathroom has everything you need and more. As long as you have water coming in, and a good water disposal arrangement, you won't need to use the holiday park facilities. Oops, forgot! We are outback, so how much use it gets depends on the water management, and that will determine how much use you get out of the Sphere clothes washing machine discretely tucked away in the cabinet next to the toilet. But it is all there should the opportunity arise to use it.

Wrap up

Not many Kiwi caravanners venture into places requiring more than a conventional caravan has to offer, but for those that do the Sterling Outback offers a robust option worth considering. Outback versions are available in the Jayco Series 18, 19, 20, and 21 models. The model reviewed is a newer model than shown in the layout and has a single three-metre long by 555mmm slide-out in place of the two shorter slide-outs of previous models. Jayco is the largest RV manufacturer in Australia and it has an active dealer network in New Zealand. South Auckland Caravans supplied the caravan reviewed. It retails the Outback as reviewed for $74,000 inc GST.

For more information contact Mark Rhodes at South Auckland Caravans on (09) 298 7873 or 021 138 6162 or visit jayco.com.au to find your nearest Jayco dealer.

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