The Rockwood brand of fifth-wheeler caravans are some of the biggest around. Bill Savidan takes a look at one of their more compact models, the Ultra Light 2608BS.
American caravans are not a common sight around New Zealand. But one brand, Rockwood, has bucked the trend. Ken Jackson, proprietor of Sun Marketing Ltd, introduced Rockwood to New Zealand in 2008 and has steadily grown the brand’s presence so that today he sells around 200 per year.
Currently Sun Marketing offers three ranges of caravans (29 floorplans) as well as a range of five, fifth-wheel floor plans. The Ultra Light 2608BS is one of the smaller caravan models on offer.
The Ultra Light is high off the ground, with flat vertical side and rear panels, a near flat roof and a slightly curved front ‘cap’. When boarding there are steps to two entry doors to choose from: right or left? Wide, deep and robustly made of aluminium, they have easy to use ‘steadies’ on the bottom step that brace the steps on uneven ground. A hidden pair of gas struts make it a doddle raising and lowering the steps; these are excellent steps for those not so steady on their feet.
Into the light
I chose the door on the left and stepped straight into the bedroom, in its own separate space with a residential-style door for total privacy. Here, I was greeted with another surprise. Past American RVs I have seen have been fitted out with dark brown furniture and fittings. The Ultra Light is quite the opposite, with an attractive light blond timber fit out. Cheerful and welcoming.
A masterful bedroom
Mounted in the rear kerbside slide-out is an east-west bed (1970x1500mm). With the slide-out extended there is enough room each side to get in and out of bed without disturbing your partner. Adequate headroom beneath the overhead lockers allows for sitting up in bed and the small ‘cuppa tea’ shelf on both sides gets a tick from me. With three opening windows plus the external door, ventilation should not be a problem. Opposite the foot of the bed is a wardrobe with mirror doors. Below that are two drawers and a cupboard and there are two more drawers under the foot of the bed. Gas struts assist with lifting the mattress to access all the storage space below the bed. Altogether an excellent bedroom with good storage and privacy.
Wash in style
Leaving the bedroom offers another choice of doors. Left goes through to the lounge and kitchen. I chose the right, a sliding door through to the washroom. To the left is a foot flush Dometic toilet, positioned directly over the blackwater holding tank. To the right is a hand basin, with storage below and a wall-mounted medicine cabinet above. Straight ahead, a narrow floor to ceiling cupboard. Alongside that, behind curved acrylic doors is a large shower stall. A spacious bathroom for one, with room for two when needed. The ceiling mounted MaxxAir fan vent should clear the air very effectively.
Party in the front
In the front half of the caravan are the kitchen, dining and lounge areas. Adopting an open plan layout has maximised the bonus floor area the slide-out creates. With the sofa and dinette housed in the front kerbside slide-out and the kitchen occupying the front wall and opposite sidewall there is plenty of room to party in the middle.
A twin sink unit is angled across the front corner. To the left of the sink is a bench-high cabinet of drawers and cupboards. Behind the bench is a fixed window with four cupboards above that. To the right are the oven, cooktop and fridge/freezer (12volt, 311 litre). Over the cooktop is a microwave with a range hood mounted underneath. It is a user-friendly, space-efficient layout with a heap of benchtop space for food preparation and serving, and as a backup the dinette table is just a step or two away.
Each side of the table has a bench seat; comfortable seating for two, snug seating for four. If needed, lowering the table and rearranging the cushions converts the dinette into a bed. Occupying the other half of the slide-out and facing the wall mounted TV is a sumptuous sofa that morphs into two ‘lazyboy’ style chairs separated by a snack table. Definitely ‘kick back and put your feet up’ territory. I found the interior and the front space in particular, warmly inviting and comfortably familiar: it felt like a family room at home.
Note that the oven, cooktop, and microwave are fitted in New Zealand. The fridge/freezer is a 12 volt compressor driven model supplied by the RV manufacturer. The New Zealand compliant 230 volt wiring is fitted by the RV manufacturer; the 230 volt sockets are fitted here. The Ultra Light has a New Zealand Electrical WOF and is New Zealand LPG compliant.
Life on the outside
In the rear panel on the right side is a hose connection for mains pressure water. Alongside are connections for satellite and cable TV. A ladder is provided for access to the walkable roof.
On the driver’s side rear is an external shower (hot and cold), a fresh water inlet pipe and a control switch for the stabiliser jack. Each corner of the caravan has a stabiliser jack and switch. Amidships is a wall mounted TV bracket to which the interior TV can be relocated. Up front are the exhaust vents for the LPG-fuelled central heater and Suburban water heater, plus the access panel for water heater servicing. There is also an external connection for a free-standing solar panel. Overhead is a 7m-long, electrically operated awning; underneath are two all-weather speakers and a range hood vent.
Mounted on the front towbar’s A-frame are the house battery(s) in a box, the two 9kg LPG bottles (in a bigger box), and a jack that facilitates hitching/unhitching from the tow vehicle. No jockey wheel is supplied. On a caravan with a GVW3500, that is a wise move.
Just behind the rear axle are the grey- and blackwater discharge connection points (the toilet discharges to a ‘black tank’, not a canister). A hatch in the adjacent slide-out provides access to the space under the bed. This can also be accessed from inside by lifting the bed.
Under and over
Underneath are the tanks; fresh water, black water and grey water. On the roof a Maxxair roof vent (bathroom), two small roof hatches, and a terrestrial TV aerial. Extras up here include a satellite TV aerial, an aircon unit, and a solar panel.
Rockwood uses traditional construction methods. Walls and roof cladding is fibreglass sheet, vacuum bonded to plywood over an alloy frame containing 25mm thick polystyrene insulation. Aluminium roof truss bracing means the roof is fully walkable. The roof cladding is laminated in one piece. Flooring is 16mm tongue and groove ply over aluminium floor joists. Both the caravan and slide-out floors are insulated with 75mm thick polyester batts and a layer of Radiant Foil. The front wall is a painted fibreglass cap with a clear-coat finish and the front window is automotive glass.
Powder-coated steel chassis are the norm for the US market, but only fully galvanised chassis are sold by Sun Marketing here in New Zealand. A Dexter Torsion Axle suspension is fitted to a steel box frame and mounted under the chassis, making the caravan sit higher off the road than the average Kiwi caravan. Nevertheless it is a very robust unit; Ken told me he has taken his down Te Paki Stream to 90 Mile beach with no problem at all.
A tyre pressure monitoring system is included to provide real time monitoring of the tyre condition while on the move, giving the driver a heads-up on tyre issues before they become a serious problem. Nitrogen filled Goodyear Endurance tyres offer further benefits of long-life and cool running temperatures.
While many ‘extras’ are standard on Rockwoods, some things are left open for the drivers’ choice like the TV set, reversing camera and solar panel/inverter preferences.
American caravan manufacturers appear to be driven by function rather than form. If it is bling you are after then look elsewhere. But if you seek floor and storage space, a full range of residential-size fixtures, fittings and appliances then this Rockwood Ultra Light should be on your ‘must see’ list. It offers excellent value for money.
Rockwood warranties include a 12 year vinyl roof warranty, a two year fibreglass warranty, a 10 year Torflex axle warranty and a one year bumper-to-bumper warranty.
Rockwood Ultra Light 2608BS Specifications
|Make & Model
Rockwood Ultra Light 2608BS
203L / 2 x 167L / 167L
Price as reviewed: From $114,000
Find out more at sunmarketing.co.nz
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