Test all limits in the Nissan Navara
Test all limits in the Nissan Navara

Breaking the mould

Taking risks, breaking the rules and being a maverick have always been important, but these days they are more crucial than ever to be successful in the overlanding and camping industries.

ANTON WILLEMSE finds out whether the Freeline Campers Maverick has what it takes. Back in the early 2000’s buying a caravan in South Africa was a pretty simple exercise, with only a few manufacturers around. Choices were limited and if you were in the market for an off-road caravan, there were only a handful of options to pick from. Jump to the present and the choices are almost endless, with something for just about every taste, need and preference.

Nowadays most manufacturers focus on gravel and overlanding caravans, and yes, I refer to them as overlanding caravans as I doubt that we have any proper 4×4 caravans available in this country. We have tested a number of caravans over the past couple of years and most of them where very suitable for overlanding… which is what the majority of our readers will do with their caravans anyway! In my opinion we basically have three types of caravans in South Africa: on-road, gravel-road and overlanding caravans.

On-road caravans are mostly for those people who do grass camping at your typical Forever Resorts or ATKV Resorts. These guys stick to the black stuff, set up camp and simply relax while the kids spend their days in the pool… nothing wrong with that, but you certainly don’t have to pay too much attention to ground clearance, tyre options, suspension and such things. 

Gravel-road caravans are for those guys who tend to still stick to the main roads but do some gravel driving on their way to campsites that are a bit more rustic. Lastly, we have overlanding caravans, for adventurers who tend to wander off the beaten track. They engage 4L on their vehicles pretty often and, as such, need a caravan with higher ground clearance, better approach and departure angles, all-terrain tyres and a decent suspension to be able to handle the bumps, rocks and sometimes even dunes when towing. These are my type of caravans.

So, when we met the guys from Freeline Campers at at the OppiPanne Music Festival in Botswana last year, I was immediately impressed by their Maverick caravan, featuring a side slide-out bed and a shower and toilet – inside nogals! It boasts features such as air-conditioning and a battery system as standard, which means that you don’t have to spend extra money to kit it out.

The Maverick from Freeline Campers is rather large, weighing in at 1 250kg, and has a GVM of 1 750kg. It can still be towed by most SUVs and double cabs, though, which is exactly what we did during our December break. We hitched it to a Toyota Hilux 2.4 double cab and headed to Nooitgedacht Trout Lodge on the banks of the Spekboom River in the Mount Anderson Catchment Reserve, about 25km outside Lydenburg.

We decided to use the R36 instead of tackling the pothole-strewn road past Dullstroom, only to find a 20km gravel road stretch that was badly corrugated and littered with coal trucks. However, the Maverick’s suspension and 265/70R17 General Grabbers handled the road surface extremely well.

The GVM allowed us to add 500kg of load to the caravan, but we were still able to average a fuel consumption figure of about 11.5 litres/100km (up from the normal 9.5 litres/100km).

A comfortable and relaxing interior

The interior design of the Maverick smacks of practicality and convenience. The slide-out room expands to give you more living space, with the cleverly conceived room layout allowing for an easily accessible double bed, fitted with an oh-so-comfortable bamboo mattress that guarantees a good night’s sleep.

Sliding out the bed is a quick and easy task, which my 16-yearold daughter managed to do by herself. Once you’ve unclipped the latches and slid out the bed, you simply drop the support poles to the ground and secure them. Just be sure that the caravan is level before attempting it, though.

A panoramic tinted sliding window means you can experience the splendor of nature from the comfort of your bed, while continuous LED lights provide a warm and homey feeling. And speaking of relaxing, the 9000 BTU air-conditioning unit ensures comfort in all weather conditions, while the insulated ceiling with its 30mm PU skin provides cool comfort, no matter where your adventure takes you.

The electricals of the caravan – a 200A lithium battery, MPPT and 3000W inverter – are cleverly hidden underneath the bed. The system provides ample power to run most electrical equipment, except for the air-conditioning unit (an inverter upgrade is available), off-grid. It powered the upright fridge/ freezer for the entire weekend though.

The Maverick offers 1 200 litres of storage space in six deep drawers, a hanging closet and top corner cargo bin. These are all purpose-designed and hand crafted, with an attractive and modern finish. In the nose of the Maverick is a compact bathroom with a toilet, basin and shower that runs from a gas geyser on the outside. The geyser also provides hot water to the outside back of the caravan where the dish washing station is located. The latter unclips and is placed in a storage area when in transit.

Outside and living area

The Maverick offers numerous great features, and the 270- degree awning is a definite highlight, offering protection against the elements. This open-sided shelter can quickly and conveniently be converted into a private and enclosed one by simply adding side panels, which are attached to the original awning with zippers and Velcro strips. Genuis!

A word to the wise though… the Maverick is 2.5m high, which makes it challenging to reach the awning. I’m 1.94m tall so it wasn’t too much of a challenge for me, but I would recommend that you have a small ladder on hand to get the job done. The awning offers large shade covering the full side of the caravan and also extends around the rear, where the dish washing station is located. When we test off-road trailers and caravans, we normally get a crash course when we collect them. Honestly, most of this is forgotten by the time we reach the campsite, so we usually figure out the setup through trial and error. That often means that it can take up to an hour to complete the first pitch, but with the Maverick it was so straight-forward that we got it right on the first try… and without too much arguing with the missus!

The outdoor kitchen and pantry of the Maverick are located next to the entrance. Once flipped open it creates a convenient working surface and provides easy access to the on-hand cooking accessories. These are fitted in Freeline’s smart storage solution that is custom profiled and cut from ultra-high-density foam to keep all items protected over even the roughest terrain. A Cadac double-burner gas stove makes camp cooking super easy.

A second fold-down door offers a flat prep area and more space for packing, with a combination of drawers and shelves which – much to our surprise – even contained an air fryer! A third door opens to a huge storage compartment that is big enough to store firewood in and is also where you will find the washing station. The latter fits on the rear, along with the spare wheel and two jerry cans.

There is an additional storage area in the nose of the Maverick, providing ample space for tent poles and loose items such as recovery gear. This is also where the gas bottle is situated. Three exterior LED lights with multifunction settings illuminate the area around the caravan on those dark camping nights in the bundu.

The verdict

The Maverick was a joy to use, and I would love to take it on a longer trip into the bush. Priced at around R595 000, it’s more affordable than some of its rivals with slide-out beds, and everything in and around it is conveniently placed and easily accessible. We did some off-roading on the way to our destination and back and never experienced any problems with a departure angle or the break-over angle between the bakkie and the caravan.

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