What Caravan Construction Method is better?
Caravan manufacturing techniques and technology has changed a lot over the past few decades and given the appetite Australians have for caravan and camper trailer sales, we thought it would be a good idea to look at the methods of construction and the pro’s and cons of each.
Stick And Tin
The Stick & tin method has been the traditional caravan construction method for many decades. Essentially as the name suggests it is a caravan built using a timber frame and then aluminium cladding is applied to the external of the body. The method is tried and tested but it obviously comes with its inherent risks.
One of the greatest drawbacks to the stick and tin design is that they are prone to leak water; especially after years of movement and slight gaps forming between the sheeting.
Alloy Frame & Composite Sheeting
In the late 90s and early 2000’s the emergence of the alloy frame vans started to increase and the appetite for ‘Off-Road Caravans’ was born.
As the name suggests the aluminium frame is manufactured using 20 to 30mm box section aluminium tube that is tig welded to create a frame. The frame is then assembled onto the chassis where it is clad in 5mm composite sheets.
Most manufacturers will apply a insulation between the sheets and then the entire unit is glued or bonded together. This method of caravan construction has been used globally with success.
The construction method is strong however compared to more modern manufacturing techniques it is quite heavy - in fact it is significantly heavier than the stick and tin method as well as the full composite construction method.
Full Composite Construction
Composite panels or commonly referred to as ‘sandwich panels’ have certainly revolutionised the caravan industry.
Essentially the caravan is built entirely out of 20-40mm composite sheets that are either fiberglass or aluminium layers which are filled using a lightweight expanding foam. What this means is that the entire body of the caravan is frame-less significantly reducing the overall weight and because the panels are a single piece, there is no joints or fatigue points making them stronger and more reliable than other construction methods.
Besides the lightweight properties of the composite materials, it’s also incredible at insulating the inside of the van from the ambient temperature outside.
The final verdict…
There is no doubt that the full composite construction method is the way of the future. Rising fuel costs and the consumers insatiable appetite to explore more remote areas means that lighter construction methods will always be at the pinnacle for RV owners.
Composite technology is starting to become more readily available however it is more expensive than other methods and obviously it requires an investment from manufacturers to change their tooling processes and retrain their staff.