With its spacious modern interior, long list of extras as standard, and a kids’ bunk room with space for friends, the Retreat Aotea 260B caravan from InsideOut RV is an attractive offering for Kiwi families keen on extended holidays. Claire Smith takes a closer look.
Arguably the most unusual and innovative camper trailer at this year’s Motorhome show at Hamilton in March was the Leisure POD. Recently, I talked to one of its creators, Allan Croad, to find out how it came about. Allan, now in his early 50s, started his working life as a school teacher. The past 15 years he has spent in manufacturing, design and export – his most successful product being the mountain buggy stroller business from which he retired two-and-a-half years ago. His business partner in Leisure POD is Harm Coenen, who lives in the Netherlands and works in product design. He and Allan have been friends since Harm stayed with Allan and his family in New Zealand some years ago. The Leisure POD project grew out of their common interest in product design and outdoor pursuits, camping in particular. After researching the market in New Zealand, Australia and Europe by visiting many campervan shows and camping grounds, they determined there was a potential niche in the market for a small camping trailer. It should offer comfortable overnight freedom camping or longer stays in camping grounds where there are toilet and other facilities. It needed to be light, easy to manage, provide small luxuries and have innovative features so as to distinguish it from other products. Aimed to appeal to couples in their 20s and 30s, it was to be a “step-up” from a small tent. In Allan’s words, “appeal more to camping people than to caravanning people”. Allan decided to proceed with the project and Harm agreed to become involved. They refined their design and Allan set about building the prototype. At its first show outing in Hamilton, with its prominent distinguishing feature – the umbrella awning – on display, it was a significant attraction. Sitting on its comfortable sofa seat (created by folding the double bed), gazing out under the umbrella fringe watching the show go by, it was easy to imagine a very pleasurable time to be had at a remote scenic location in the Leisure POD, with a bottle of wine and a charming companion. Leisure POD is surprisingly well-equipped: a table on one side and a two-burner gas hob on the other, both on rotating pedestals; folding double sofa bed; optional TV on folding arm; 12v lights; 130-amp hour battery and smart charger, are just some of the comforts of this remarkably compact camper. Allan had the Leisure POD stored behind his 4WD, parked across the carpark so it only took up 1.4m of the carpark length. He swung it out to show me how easy it was to set up. After releasing two hold-down clips, the rear hinged pop-top elevated itself with the aid of two gas struts. Two poles secured the open end, and side curtains provide privacy and weather protection. The umbrella’s six awning poles, which are hollow, spun-carbon fibre, are very strong. Once the awning is inserted into the slots on the body of the Leisure POD and stretched out to the ends of the poles, the setup is complete and takes less than five minutes. Capable of being fitted with a bike rack for two bikes, and a roof rack for two kayaks, the Leisure POD would certainly satisfy the needs of those who love an active, outdoor lifestyle. The Leisure POD is particularly well-engineered and its features indicate the thought that has gone into its design from two very creative minds. Where to from here? The prototype is based on a “shuttle bus” trailer, but production models would ideally have a purpose-designed trailer unit. Allan says they can further refine and simplify details of the design to reduce manufacturing costs and so reduce the retail price by up to a third of the price estimate based on the prototype costs. Asked if he would be putting it into production soon, he responded: “I am a designer rather than a manufacturer so it is likely to be manufactured by others under licence”. Let’s hope it comes onto the market soon. It is a very appealing product.