The Black Series V4 HQ15 Caravan (HQ15) is an 'Off-road Camper' (see definition below) described as 'Perfect for smaller families or couples who want to go off grid'. The Black Series Off-Road Caravans are designed for off-road travel and off-grid living in luxury for extended periods. A real home from home on wheels at 'the most affordable price on the market'.
This family owned business wants to encourage its product owners to be able to 'experience and explore (the outdoors) without spending big bucks'. That sounds great! But is it too good to be true?
The HQ15 has a purposeful rugged shape and livery. It looks like its ready to go anywhere your vehicle can drag it. Connected to the towing vehicle by a DO35 / Polyblock fully articulated hitch allowing 360° rotation and articulation, its ready to tackle demanding trails. Its nose cone has been designed with aerodynamics in mind to ensure less stress on the towing vehicle especially at cruising speeds on the 'black top'.
The front and lower sections are protected from stone chips and rocks by an attractive black diamond chequered plate with corner bash bars. The unmissable branded body stands on a custom designed robust independent suspension. Four shock absorbers spread the load providing a smoother ride, safer handling, longer shock life and safer towing. The HQ15 is carried on a single axle fitted with tough, all-terrain tyres.
Up top, the roof mounted solar panels help keep the two 100ah batteries charged up so the trailer is ready to go whenever you are. The walls and roof are fully insulated with an insulation value (R) of 16 which is very good. The doors and hatches are designed to keep sand and dust out when on the road. At the back beneath the two full size spare tyres mounted at the rear, 2 x rear recovery shackles are further indicators of the trailers off-road capability.
An outdoor shower with hot and cool water allows you to wash off which should reduce sand and mud being carried into the main living area. A wind out awning provides shade over the access door and slide out kitchen where two marine grade speakers provide the outdoor entertainment.
The interior of the HQ15 looks comfortable and well appointed. A queen size bed stands on a modern hard wearing wooden vinyl floor. The convertible dining table to bed feature provides a single bunk. The cabinetry has a modern look and is finished with a high gloss timber veneer. The full bathroom lies behind a slider door separator to provide privacy in a compact space.
Living / Office
The living area is pretty tight. The Pulman / dinette style seating is functional but doesn't allow you to stretch out with a good book but I guess the adjacent bed could be used for chilling out. Timber veneer cabinetry has soft close drawers with yachting style latches to keep the contents contained when the road get rough. A bluetooth Clarion entertainment system with a USB connector and Pioneer speakers mounted on the roof allow music to be played and a 24" DVD HD TV connected to a roof top aerial completes the entertainment. A Wifi extender (and a mobile cell booster) would be a good addition to enable better internet access in campsites.
The HQ15 sleeps up to 3 people. A Queen size island bed with storage on both sides lies at the back of the trailer. The bed can of course be left made up when towing. Reading lights and power sockets are available. Blinds cover the windows. The pullman seats and the adjacent adjustable table drops to form a small bunk suitable for a child (or maybe two dogs?!) Battery operated smoke and carbon monoxide detectors protect the occupants whilst they sleep.
The galley can be located inside the trailer and includes all the modern appliances you would expect to find in a home. A Dometic 65L fridge / freezer is standard; its not clear if a larger fridge freezer is possible. The stainless steel sink has a large bowl with hot and cold running water. There is a 3 burner Dometic stove. Its not clear whether this could be changed for electric but I guess a diesel cooker and oven would require an inboard diesel tank. A 23L microwave allows cooking, microwave cooking, defrost and grill / combination cooking. A lightweight slim effect multi cycle and economic Dometic air conditioning unit stands overhead to ensure the internal air temperature remains comfortable.
Shower / Toilet
The slider door separates the bathroom with a full sink serviced by a Camec instantaneous hot water system. A Thetford or Dometic Toilet is thoughtfully placed to give sufficient space for a comfortable seat! The associated cabinetry allows for privacy and comfort in a small compact space. The internal shower (remember there is an outside one too) is contained in a fibreglass fully enclosed bathroom with ventilation above and a bifold door.
Water. Storage is divided into two service tanks. 1x 190L polyurethane water tank protected by a 2mm bash cover for washing etc and a 60L lightweight, durable, polyurethane water tank with alloy bash cover for drinking water. If all water was treated prior to loading, this would give an endurance of about 8 days for two people with careful use. A Wash Tap is provided on the drawbar.
Grey Water: A 250L polyurethane water tank with aluminium 3mm bash cover is provided to catch all the grey water.
Gas. 2 x 9kg Gas cylinder Holders are provided. The challenges of gas in Europe and UK have been addressed previously and I won't revisit them again here but this would provide a respectable endurance.
Power. 2 x AGM 100ah batteries support the 12V/ 240V electrical system with a 2000watt Black Series Inverter with a peak of 4000 watts and Charger with a custom Black Series control panel. Charging can be direct from the vehicle whilst being towed, from the 2 roof mounted 150w Solar panels, or shore power where available. It is not currently known if there is a lithium option.
At 6.8m in length and standing 2.95m high, the HQ15 is too big for an ISO container. It is reasonably heavy with an ATM of 2800kgs but still well within the towing capability of most 4WD vehicles (3500kgs). RoRo shipping or a Ferry service would be required.
The Black Series HQ15 Caravan is well designed and fitted out with quality appliances. It appears to be well insulated, offers a good endurance and would certainly allow a comfortable stay in the Outdoors. Most people would agree that it does meet the 'value for money' test. Whilst the HQ15 is therefore very attractive, the layout does not provide the internal 'easy living' we enjoy so much. It would be good for short trips (a couple of weeks) but it would not provide a big enough platform to go camping with grandchildren back home. Tip Toe would therefore need to look at a bigger (longer) model; the HQ17 with additional bunk beds might work better but its the more expensive, new HQ21 with U shaped seating around the table that really inspires. However off road performance is likely to be compromised as its ATM of 3500kgs places it at the maximum permissible weight for most 4WD's.
The price for the HQ15 starts at AUD$64,900 (~GBP£36,200) and the new HQ21 costs AUD$97,900 (~GBP £54,145) but unfortunately the Black Series are not available for sale in UK or Europe so would need to be purchased locally and shipped. Without dealer support, the impact on the warranty (1 year tent and trailer warranty and a 5 year structural warranty that covers the structural components such as the chassis and draw bar on materials and workmanship) would need to be clarified.
Notes to reader:
1. The above trailer has not been physically towed or sighted by Tip Toe. The above summary is a view formed following desktop online research of websites and a number of different YouTube videos. The comments take into consideration Tip Toe's overland requirements. It will be used to assist in the choice of vehicle and camper.
2. For the purposes of these articles, I differentiate between the different types of trailer as follows:
Camper Trailer: A trailer fitted with an integrated 'trailer top tent' (with or without a hard shell), galley, water, power and associated items and storage for most or all of your clothing and equipment. For example Patriot Campers X3.
Off-Road Camper: A purpose built caravan style trailer with hard walls possibly with a soft walled 'pop up', galley, water, power and associated camping items and storage for most clothing and equipment. This 'Bruder EXP-6 Expedition Trailer' falls into this category.
Expedition Truck: A truck of 7500 kgs or greater fitted with a camper box with or without crawl through. For example the Mercedes Unimog.