Join the compact caravan club with these tiny tourers
The search for compact caravans for sale can be a daunting one, because most of the industry's time and attention is aimed at traditional tourers.
However, there's a growing trend of compact caravans that not only offer a great upgrade option for tent owners, but look stunning and really stand out from the moment they pull up on a pitch.
The battle for 'compact caravan supremacy' is a keenly fought one, by a dozen or more manufacturers in the UK.
These tiny tourers come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from shed-built teardrops to sport-focused tourers made by the big corporations.
Each takes a slightly different approach to the compact caravan concept, but all have their benefits and unique selling points. There really is something for everyone.
Five manufacturers accepted our invitation to Woodland Waters in Ancaster, for the compact caravan review days: the Opus folding camper; the Rookie 3.5; Go-Pod; the all-new Barefoot and Knaus' Sport&Fun.
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The Going Go-Pod is the smallest, lightest compact caravan here. It looks the most aerodynamic, too, so should be simple to tow with almost any car. The Go-Pod is braked & designed not to snake or wobble while towing.
The one-piece monocoque, glass-fibre body sits on an galvanised steel chassis and features a campervan-style pop-top. This provides standing height of just over 6 foot so you can stand up straight while using the Go-Pod's kitchen.
You enter this van through the back to find storage and a fridge on your right and the kitchen on your left. Naturally, everything is cleverly compact, but there is a decent-sized lounge that converts easily into a large double bed. From here you can watch your (optional) TV on its bracket above the fridge. Cosy!
The Go-Pod has a small stainless steel basin; a two-burner hob; a Dometic free-standing, top-opening fridge, good cupboard space, a microwave in one cupboard and a porta-potti tucked away in another low cupboard. We'd consider a £129 loo tent to go with it!
Go-Pod bridges the gap between a typical teardrop camper and a standard caravan. It features many caravanning comforts but, naturally, there are some compromises given its size.
That said, it's also the cheapest tiny tourer here by some way, though you can soon bump that up when you hit the extensive options list!
Go-Pod tech spec
Price From £9,749
Ext length 4.20m
Int length Approx. 3.3m
Bed length 1.95m (6’2”)
Height 2.05m (2.14m with roof raised)
Watch our Go-Pods caravan review below!
Sport&Fun's 'lively' graphics might be a bit much for the mature brigade, but they'll certainly appeal to its target audience - younger, active caravanners who'll use the S&F to indulge their adventurous outdoor passions.
Surprisingly, the S&F concept has been around for 20 years, and version 2.0 delivers great build quality, a stylish interior and a whole raft of design ideas to make it the most versatile caravan for fans of the great outdoors I think we've ever seen.
For starters, it's got two doors, the rear one measuring a super-wide 92cm, making it simple to load bikes and other equipment on board. There's also a vast motorhome-style 'garage' beneath the bed that's accessible internally or through a large external hatch.
At the rear, you'll also find a ladder to the roof. Cool-looking roof rails will support a further 75kg of gear. Of course, you should bear in mind that you only have a 170kg payload, though you could take stuff in the car and swap it over
S&F is perfect for couples, but lounging for four might be tricky. We love the concept, the Germanic build quality, the versatility and the eye-catching interior. All at a decent price point for a compact caravan.
Watch our review here:
Knaus tech spec
Berths Up to 4
Ext length 6.25m
Int length 4.8m
Roof payload 75kg
OPUS folding camper
Opus noun: An artistic work, especially one on a large scale. Well, one out of two ain’t bad!
The Opus camper is certainly a work of engineering art, a single axle ‘folding camper’ that converts from a stylish and towable trailer into a vast living space. OK, strictly speaking it’s not a caravan, but it performs much the same function in such a clever way that we just had to include it.
Unhitch. Wind down the steadies. Undo four retaining clips. Then, simply fold out both ends of the camper, each of which contains a large double bed – kippage for four. Fit two steel spars at each end for rigidity, then pop inside to ‘tension’ the canvas roof. Depending what interior you’ve specified, the whole set-up takes about 15 minutes.
Yes, you’re still under canvas, so only hardy types will venture out from October to March, but the Opus offers easy towing, convenient storage plus masses of space in a cost-effective package.
Bikes and canoes can easily be strapped on top, which will only confirm that the Opus is, without doubt, the manliest option here.
Many men will dream of hitching it up behind a Land Rover Defender, popping on a khaki shirt and heading off to wildest… errm, Wales in search of adventure.
Oh, and once he’s there he can pull down the optional huge cine screen and ‘fire’ a movie onto it with Opus’ digital projector.
OPUS tech spec
Price From £12,995
Ext length (closed) 4.16m, (open) 5.8m
Int length (closed) 2.83m, (open) 5.8m approx
Height (towing) 1.17m, (open) 3m approx
Roof payload 75kg
If you want a version which is even easier to erect, then consider the 'Air Opus'. The trailer tent provides luxury and convenience in equal measure. Pitching couldn’t be easier. Simply park up, fold out the ends and flick a switch and in a matter of minutes you’re good to go, with zero effort on your part.
It’s not just about convenience though. The Opus Air is the height of luxury – the top of the range model boasts leatherette seating, a fridge, microwave, alloy wheels, and LED lighting as standard. And if you want to fork out for some additional luxuries, you can add a sound system, carpet and even a cinema screen!
If you've got £18,000 available, you can get an Air Opus with the Full Monty package.
Wingamm Rookie 3.5
The Italian-built Rookie packs a lot into a small package that's light enough to be towed by almost any car.
While the exterior isn't the prettiest, we love the light and bright interior which feels more spacious than most compact caravans. Inside, it boasts a stylishly curved two-burner/sink combo unit, fridge, seating and table for four, plenty of top lockers, cupboards, drawers and a front 'sunroof'.
The washroom combines shower, loo and basin in a small but usable space, while the front locker can house two gas bottles.
As you'd expect, the lounge makes up into a large double bed... guests will have to pitch a pup tent!
The Rookie runs on an AL-KO chassis with a long, 'naked' A-frame protruding 1.16m. The one-piece glass-fibre body is resistant to leaks and compatible with a range of awnings, to double your usable space.
The price above bags you a standard Rookie 3.5. You can then bump it up by dipping into an extensive list of extras, from an alarm system at £58 or a gas regulator at £52, to AL-KO ATC at £820 or a Truma Combi C4 heating system at £1900.
We think, in this company, the price seems be a bit high, but you do get all the basics in a compact, well-built, monocoque tourer.
Wingamm tech spec
Price from £14,425
Ext length 4.91m
Int length 3.75m
MTPLM Up to 1000kg
If this was a 'cool' contest, we could all go straight home... the brand new Barefoot wins that one by a country mile.
It features a single-piece, glass-fibre body, but with gel-coat finish that means its beautiful body colours (any shade you want!) are more than skin deep - put simply, it's very scratch resistant.
But there's more to the Barefoot compact caravan than a Farrow & Ball colour chart. A U-shaped lounge in the style of a 1950s diner kicks things off. Light and surprisingly spacious, it converts into a double bed that's big enough for six-foot-two-ers.
The kitchen has a hob, sink, fridge and solid wood worktops, plus decent storage. At the back is a good-sized washroom with shower, loo and basin. Genius in such a diminutive tourer.
And it's almost 100% British built, with a Roberts retro DAB radio thrown in.
Barefoot tech spec
Ext length 5.08m
Int length 3.56m
The Compact Caravan - Overall
It's almost impossible to pick a favourite from these brilliant small caravans. Each has its own unique appeal and, to a degree, unique purpose.
You wouldn't say Wingamm's Rookie is a cute caravan, but what it lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up for in practicality and weight. For those seeking a cost-effective means of pursuing their outdoor passions, the Rookie 3.5 ticks a lot of boxes with its kitchen, shower room, neat living space and optional Truma heating.
The Going Go-Pod is like a smaller version of the Rookie, with most of the usual comforts inside, though the Porta-Potti loo is kept in a lower cupboard and there's no specific place to use it. You can't beat the Go-Pod for price and light weight, and its compact layout is superbly thought out.
For those who want loads of space and an easy towing experience (outside of the winter months), Opus is a superb compact caravan choice. Remember, though, you don't get a loo and shower space. Opus also oozes testosterone and will imbue any owner with a high dose of pioneering spirit. We reckon Bear Grylls would definitely vote for this one.
Barefoot's so cute that you can't help but love it. But, behind the cutesy looks is a tough, monocoque, glass-fibre body that houses a wonderfully retro, yet practical, interior. Yes, it's pricey, but it's targeted at a discerning and affluent buyer who's prepared to pay for quality to pursue their passions.
That leaves the Sport&Fun from Knaus. This caravan does exactly what it says on the tin ... errm aluminium - providing a perfect base for a wide range of outdoor and leisure activities.
Yes, it's a big small caravan, but all three of us on the shoot voted it our favourite... and at least two of us thought we wouldn't like it before we 'met'! It's spacious, practical, beautifully made and is super cool inside - it scored top (Deutsch) marks all round! It's ideal for an active couple who, if sensible, will chuck kids in a pup tent outside.
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