Swift Basecamp: the Adventure Caravan
Written by John Sootheran
As Mr (or Mrs) Average Caravanner heads towards 60 years of age, all of the UK’s caravan manufacturers are seeking ways to attract youthful newcomers to our wonderful hobby.
To this end, Swift Group has spent five years developing a lightweight, compact and relatively low-cost ‘crossover camping vehicle’ called Basecamp, designed to attract ‘active, young folk’ into caravanning.
The industry rumour mill was in full flow, but I first spotted Basecamp, by accident, at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire, where the bijou tourer was undergoing a full month of secret and dastardly, life-threatening trials. Millbrook performs the sort of vehicle torture that would make lesser vans poop their pants, then fall apart at the seams: despicable Belgian cobbles, accelerated-erosion testing with salt water, Arctic and Sahara temperature testing, high-speed towing and extreme braking… no mercy is shown.
Cameras are not allowed on site, as major motor manufacturers use the facility to test their next-generation vehicles, so we rang Swift on our return, and, much to our surprise, they spilt the beans. Of course, this was on the understanding that if we blabbed before launch, we’d get an unwanted visit in the dark of night!
|Technical Stuff||BaseCamp||Basecamp Plus|
Price: £15,395 + £545 delivery (£15,940 total)
Basecamp Plus options pack £595 (see panel below) Graphics £795 (fitted) Awning (from dealer) £795
|BASECAMP PLUS PACK (£595) INCLUDES:|
|Solar panel||TV aerial||TV bracket|
|Door flyscreen||External 230V mains socket||BBQ point|
|Shower point||Separate oven|
The Caravan for Outdoor People
Basecamp is designed to be the acceptable face of caravanning for those outdoorsy types who just can’t embrace the standard ‘white-box-on-wheels philosophy.
For starters, Basecamp looks kind of cool, with its compact and dramatic profile, eye-catching graphite ‘bumpers’, Scorpion alloy wheels and optional graphics packs.
Basecamp is also short (5.1m long), and light (879kg), which means it’s an absolute doddle to tow. We pulled it for about 400 miles with a Fiat 500X mini SUV. This capable 4x4 only boasts a 1.4-litre engine, but not once were there any issues regarding stability or power. If anything, it would be easy to forget that you’re towing a caravan, sorry – crossover camping vehicle. It’s that effortless.
The Centre of Campsite Attention
Once on site, Basecamp is simple to manoeuvre onto your pitch, either with your towcar or by hand. People will stop and stare at you, but don’t take it personally – it’s just that they’ve never seen anything quite like this baby Swift before. Everyone we met loved our ground-breaking tourer and were full of questions. Which, of course, we couldn’t answer, for fear of a visit from a midnight Ninja!
Basecamp can only be entered by the back door which is wider than a typical caravan entrance, allowing mountain-bike access, or perhaps a paddleboard, or astronomical telescope. Once inside, the twin sofas can be folded up and said valuables secured to tie-down points in the wood-effect floor – which is grippy, hardwearing and washable.
Plenty of Space
The interior is surprisingly spacious and never feels claustrophobic, especially as it has six-feet-five-inches of headroom. Put simply, unless you play in the NBA, you’re unlikely bang your head on Basecamp’s ceiling.
A large front window arcs into the ceiling and fills the interior with light. All the windows feature cassette blinds and flyscreens.
The interior is appropriately minimalist, until you get to the well-appointed kitchen. Here you’ll find a Dometic 85-litre fridge, with removable freezer compartment, a Thetford three-burner gas hob and a combined Thetford grill/oven unit, ensuring you can create great meals wherever you are.
This kitchen has decent worktop space, made of hardwearing Fenix NTM material, and a full-sized sink with mixer tap.
An innovative docking station pops up out of the worktop and houses three 230v plug sockets.
Large head-height lockers, plus a cutlery drawer and under-sink cupboard offer plenty of storage for kitchenalia and provisions, while a roof vent and window can be opened to provide excellent ventilation in the kitchen area.
Basecamp features a large lounge area with twin-parallel sofas that transform into a vast double bed in about a minute. The furniture fabric is a hardwearing, hessian-type material in inoffensive dark grey, designed to take all the abuse an outdoor lifestyle can throw at it.
A small fold-up coffee table is ideal for drinks or snacking, while a full-sized, fold-away dining table provides space for four to dine.
Low-current LED lights illuminate the interior at night, with a reading spotlight on each side.
Ideal for Two, Good for More
Basecamp is designed to house two in total comfort – more if you add the very cool-looking optional Vango air awning. In reality, for our trip, Basecamp (sans awning) was home to three men (L, M and S). Our diminutive videographer volunteered to sleep on the floor between the firm, yet comfy, beds!
Swift’s award-winning SMART Plus construction with tough, GRP body shell, offers great impact resistance and keeps things pleasingly warm inside. On hook-up at Gwern Gof Isaf campsite in Snowdonia, we cranked up the heating from Whale’s dual-fuel system via the state-of-the-art control panel above the door. Of course, we could have done this from outside the van, the top of Snowdon or anywhere in the world, using Swift Command remote control and the app on our smartphones.
A few hours later, it got so warm, we had to open the windows – clear testament to Basecamp’s heating and its Grade 3 insulation. Swift Command also links to an (optional) Thatcham level 6 tracker.
Move up from Tents
Despite its compact proportions, Basecamp contains a full shower cubicle and loo. It’s a combined set-up in a reasonably-sized ‘room’ along with a basin. Yes, it’s not the most spacious washroom, but after a hard day’s activity, or when you need the loo in the night, this one facet raises the Basecamp’s status way above that of any ‘tenting’ alternative.
You get an Ecocamel shower head, Thetford C402 electric-flush toilet, large mirror, mixer tap, LED light and a large roof light. Right next to the washroom is a well-sized cupboard for hanging clothes.
Over the course of our week away, we noticed some of Basecamp’s more innovative touches. Removable canvas storage bags are used instead of lockers. Cleverly, you can load these in the home and carry them out and tuck them into their custom slots. For those who favour muddy or salt-water-based pastimes, there’s an external shower. This can also be used to wash down equipment… or dogs.
The Perfect Outdoor Base
Finally, there is Basecamp’s stylish and contemporary graphics options. You can express your personality with various vinyl designs including MOD target, Union Flag and tessellating hexagons.
So, Basecamp is exactly ‘what it says on the tin’ – the perfect place to base yourself for all sorts of outdoor activities, from photography to fishing and surfing to cycling.
All the ‘good-stuff’ that goes into Swift’s ‘big’ caravans is somehow squeezed into this titchy tourer. It’s tough, stylish and practical, but will it be acceptable to the caravan naysayers? We think it will, especially when dressed in cool graphics and towed behind a neat little SUV. Buy one and you’ll certainly be the centre of attention wherever you go.