To the casual observer, Crusader caravans don’t really stand out from others in the mainstream crowd.
Yet on every road trip done recently in the eastern half of Australia.
I have been amazed by the number of Crusaders of all models that we’ve seen.
What’s the secret behind their popularity?
It’s not price, because while good value, the $68,990 recommended price of the 20ft Musketeer Aramis see here is not exceptional.
To be competitive in this segment today, your standard items need to include
- a 150mm diameter galvanised chassis,
- twin fresh water tanks,
- at least a 100Ah deep cycle battery,
- around 150 Watts of solar on the roof,
- big fridge,
- separate shower and toilet bathroom with a washing machine,
- entertainment system with a multi-speaker radio and a good-sized TV.
That brings us to the way Crusaders are built.
While many of the caravans in the $60,000 bracket still feature ‘stick and tin’ construction.
Crusaders for the past 18 months or so have moved on.
While you can still save a few dollars by ordering your Crusader with corrugated aluminium cladding.
industry-leading 30mm thick composite
hail and leak-resistant one-piece roof, a rigid, one-piece 42mm thick insulated floor with a unique fibreglass.
Aluminium composite smooth walls laid over insulated stud walls, with batons only 250mm apart.
This form of construction not only offers insulation and strength benefits.
But also helps keep the empty weight (Tare) of the Aramis down to 2126kg.
Which means you can legally tow it with a later model Ford Territory, a Mitsubishi Pajero, or every Toyota Prado.
For non-technical types, that means they build a strong, well-insulated modern caravan that’s designed to travel and last.
However, Crusader also offers customers variable ATMs (laden weight) and our Aramis review van with its conventional eye-to-eye tandem axle leaf spring suspension, was built with an ATM of 2900kg.
Which meant it could legally carry a payload of more than 700kg.
Albeit behind a 3000kg or higher-rated tow vehicle if you load it to its capacity.
There are some other interesting things about Crusaders.
For example, their interiors have a massive 2032cm (6ft 6in) ceiling height, so your lofty friends won’t bump their heads.
And you can also have the bed fitted with a longer 6ft 4in innerspring mattress if you wish, giving loads of leg room at the end.
Inside, all the cupboards have one-piece glazed and laser-cut doors – not MDF.
While they come with full-width piano hinges for extra rigidity they are also fitted with sturdy torsion-type hinges.
Then go through the included items and in most cases, you’ll find better-than-usual products for a caravan in this price bracket – certainly not the cheapest.
the Dometic RMDX25 fridge-freezer is a large 190 litre premium model.
A three-way 12v/240v/gas model is standard, but you can specify a compressor model at no extra cost.
Some caravans in this price bracket have a 2.5kg capacity washing machine, but the one fitted to the Aramis is a 3.0kg capacity NCE.
The TV is a 24-inch NCE unit (not the usual 22in screen that most manufacturers seem to offer).
The wiring is all 8mm diameter and includes a circuit breaker.
All small details, but overall, they add up to an impressive package.
Outside, the Crusader Musketeer Aramis is attractive, if not outstanding in any particular way.
There’s no front or rear window, something I’m comfortable with.
As they’re both potential areas for dust or water ingress.
The small things
There are handy towel rails at both ends – something that was introduced on Evernew caravans many years ago.
They’re ideal for airing beach and bathroom towels and it’s surprising that many other makers don’t fit them, saving you room inside.
There’s no front boot either, with the room it would have taken up added to the interior space.
While in its place there’s a large full tunnel boot, which is just as well, as there’s no other exterior storage.
Underneath, the Aramis’s twin 95-litre fresh water tanks are both mounted ahead of the front axle.
Ensuring that there’s still a reasonable ball weight, although at just 112kg it’s very light for a caravan of its length.
Yet despite both water tanks being empty for our test and the van‘s single 205/70-15 spare wheel hanging out the back on the twin adjustable-arm back bumper.
The Aramis towed very well behind the Land Drover Discovery 3 and felt light, agile and stable. with only minimal reaction to passing B-Doubles.
This suggests that Crusader and its chassis supplier have done their homework properly with the under 2500kg towing market primarily in mind.
The forward location of the water tanks exposes the stone-resistant fibreglass lining of the thick composite floor to stones.
But so tough is this lining that they should just bounce off.
The plastic rear waste pipe won’t be so lucky and some simple foam or carpet lagging would be ideal to ward off missiles.
Similarly, a simple stone-shield would help protect the A-frame’s exterior water tap.
Which otherwise is located in the flight path of stones thrown up by the tow car.
Inside, there’s also no surprise in the layout of the 20ft Aramis, which follows what most Australian caravanners want.
The rear entry door leads you either into the bathroom to the right, or left into the kitchen.
Opposing is the café dinette lounge, with the island north-south bed at the front.
There is a good sense of space, aided by the van’s large windows and two people should be able to get on together fine on a trip.
Counting no fewer than 23 separate cupboards and drawers in the bedroom and living area.
Plus a large divided storage area under the queen bed.
Large storage cupboards in the rear bathroom.
Plenty to store all the towels and linen you might need on the lengthy touring trip.
Judging by this 20ft couple’s van, there are a number of good reasons why so many Crusaders are plying Australia’s main travel routes.
They are built tough for touring and offer value for money in terms of their construction and included features.