A new home
The Bolwell edge returns after a four year absence. does it still meet market expectations?
Is lighter better? There’s no straightforward answer to that question. After all, some people love their creature comforts in their campers and caravans. Some love their space. And, ultimately, there’s a weight penalty to be paid for every additional square foot and feature packed into the rig.
But in recent years, campers that offer a reasonable amount of living space, not to mention features, have come to the fore. Part camper trailer, part caravan and typically referred to as hybrids, in many cases they offer a sensible compromise between weight, size and inclusions.
The Bolwell Edge is one such camper. It burst on to the RV scene circa 2010, with RV types such as yours truly wondering if this was the rig of the future. Comprising inner and outer fibreglass shells which, to the casual observer, look like a one-piece concoction, with fully moulded fibreglass internal cabinetry, the Edge was a sight to behold. Frankly, there weren’t too many companies making them like that back then.
While the Edge was unquestionably a forerunner in this category, times have changed. But has the Edge kept up? We decided to hitch it up and take it for another spin.
The Edge and its stablemate, the Bolwell Air, are now being fitted out by Track Trailer, the company behind the Tvan and Topaz.
In a nutshell, the chassis, the Sure-Foot independent coil suspension, and the body, are still being built by Bolwell. But after these arrive into Track Trailer’s Outback HQ factory in Bayswater North, Vic, the experienced hands at Track will do the rest. This includes the installation of appliances, canvas, windows, wiring, and so on. Outback HQ also performs all aspects of quality control, including water deluge testing, and is responsible for distributing the van through its dealer network and handling all warranty claims.
Admittedly, our review rig was still wholly a Bolwell creation and we’re looking forward to seeing the improvements that Track Trailer will no-doubt make. Nonetheless, with its small footprint and (reverse) teardrop shape, the Edge is an eye-catching number, regardless of who built it. Fundamentally, it remains an interesting rig.
Inside, it’s a no-fuss, sensible layout, with the kitchen along the rear, where the headroom is greatest (2m with the roof up), dinette in the centre, and east-west bed at the front where
the tapering roofline is of no great concern in terms of headroom.
Attractive though it is, the Edge doesn’t have masses of storage. There are three drawers under the rearmost bench, a side nook that uses bungee cord rather than a cupboard door to keep things in place, a small wardrobe in the entrance, and a two-shelf pantry beneath the offside bench.
There’s a storage compartment under each dinette seat, though you’ll need to remove the cushions and ply bases to access them, inevitably making these spots unsuitable for storing the stuff you use every day.
It’s the same with the under-bed storage compartment: after you’ve removed the dinette table, it’s a matter of lifting up half of the mattress (which is effectively two single mattresses, zipped together in the middle so that it ‘splits’ in half) to access the space beneath. This is where you’ll find the optional Truma reverse-cycle air-conditioner, which vents to ports at the front of the camper, as well as the 105Ah AGM battery, with the CTEK charger in the space under the nearside seat.
Other features include a Fusion audio system just above the front wardrobe along with iPod docking station, both of which are paired with the Fusion speakers at the front of the van.
Lighting is, naturally, all 12V, with a strip of LEDs either side of the camper. Speaking of
12V lighting, I like the reading light setup at the head of the bed. Rather than fix reading lights permanently to the van, Bolwell has fitted 12V sockets, so you can plug in your own – Narva lights are available as an option.
Another electrical item worth mentioning is the ‘post’ that pops up out of the kitchen bench, comprising four 240V powerpoints. It looks nifty but I’m not sure how practical it is to have four powerpoints all in the one spot, especially in the kitchen. I’d prefer them to be spread out around the camper.
The Edge has an unmistakable – edgy? – presence on the road. With its low profile and a suspension setup specifically designed for the chassis and camper body, it displays excellent towing characteristics. Hitched to my old Land Cruiser Ruby by its D035 offroad coupling, the camper behaved predictably, always keeping to heel.
While it could probably withstand some offroad punishment, this rig isn’t built for those kinds of adventures. Think rough roads rather than Cape York’s Gunshot.
When it’s time to set it up, it’s just a matter of undoing two clips at the back, heading inside, and popping up the roof.
The Edge rides on a custom Bolwell galvanised steel chassis, composing 100mm main rails welded to 75mm rails that run back
to the suspension – there’s a lot of steel sitting under this rig. However, there’s also a lot of cabling underneath and while it’s not in harm’s way, it could be presented more neatly. The water tank is protected with a sheet of gal steel.
Aside from a storage bin in the rear offside corner, the main external storage compartment is the front boot which, despite housing a dedicated bin for the dual 4.5kg gas cylinders, is surprisingly large. It’s a good thing too, because the Edge’s optional awning and rear ensuite tent are both canvas numbers, so you’ll need somewhere to store them when under way. Bolwell has, sensibly, fitted a holder for all of the associated poles, though.
The biggest external feature of this camper is undoubtedly the moulded fibreglass, slide-out kitchen, with a two-burner cooktop that plumbs to a nearby gas bayonet, and hot and cold water at the sink.
Visually, the fibreglass curves with gelcoat finish of the Edge are appealing and functional. The rear-mounted spare wheel, for example, is nestled within a moulded recess, surrounded by taillights and the rear-view camera above. Meanwhile, the black urethane stone chip protection should protect the camper for years – it’s very tough.
Next to the spare wheel, the Edge gets an external shower as standard, to go with the aforementioned optional rear ensuite tent.
Now, the standard water tank capacity of 80L won’t last long if you use that shower and wash your dishes more than once in the same week. But the good news is that a second 80L tank is available as an option. Better yet, you can hook the Edge straight up to town water, so your hot shower will be limited only by the capacity of the 14L Truma hot water service.
While the Edge hasn’t changed drastically since those early days, it remains a modern tourer for two.
It tows as well as any similarly sized and weighted rigs on the market – if not better – and it has a reasonable amount of equipment on board.
Not every latest gizmo and gadget is fitted, mind you, but enough to ensure comfortable travels around Australia.
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE: The spare tyre and tail-lights are recessed from overgrowth and harm’s way; Automotive styling improves aerodynamics en-route; Drop-in bread boards conceal pot-deep storage in the compact external kitchen; Bolwell builds its own independent trailing arm suspension; The DO35 drop-on coupling delivers ease of use and ample articulation.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Carpet in the front boot stabilises gear en-route; Campsite vistas from the kitchen; 140L fridge for all your essentials; Glass covers for the internal sink and two-burner gas cooker maximise benchtop space; Extend your touring season with the optional Truma air-conditioner; Store pressed clothes for special evenings between camps; Although vented, auxiliary gas supplies are well protected against gravel.
CLOCKWISE FROM RIGHT: Formal dining or breakfast in bed, you choose; The CTEK charger protects the battery; Computeraided design is evident throughout.