The Conifer caravan is as hardy as its namesake, but unlike a whomping willow won’t give you a bashing
Willow RV is one of the newest caravan manufacturers to set up shop in Pakenham in Melbourne’s outer east. Being new doesn’t mean the owners are beginners though – in fact, Eddie Wills and Ian Jow have an incredible 45 years of combined design, manufacturing and testing experience within the caravan industry.
Their focus is on building to a very high standard, using as many Aussie-made materials as they can get. This means they manufacture a smaller number of vans per month to ensure that quality standards are met.
With plans to expand in the future, Eddie explained that it’s still early days yet; slow and steady will help them reach the end goal the right way.
The X on the Conifer name represents the Adventure Pack that has been fitted. This pack includes an upgraded six-inch Duragal chassis fitted with an AL-KO Enduro Outback Suspension system.
Ten-inch electric brakes are standard while 235/75 R15 Goodyear Wrangler tyres can be upgraded to 245/70 R16 wheels for slightly increased ride height.
The A-frame sports an AL-KO off-road coupling, an AL-KO jockey wheel, breakaway system and a tap as standard. The optional stone guard features mud flaps for extra protection. The only negative I found: the wires for the Anderson plug and the seven-pin plug (while covered in their standard plastic) were rubbing on the hole in the chassis. When I pointed this out, Eddie and Ian started working on a better solution.
Twin 95-litre water tanks with stone guards are fitted underneath along with the usual stabilising legs and a drop-step.
The body is comprised of Australian-made Insulstuff panels, featuring high-density foam composite with polyurethane internal matrix framing (which is all good stuff).
These panels are used for the floor, walls and roof, and offer several benefits, including solid insulation, no internal wiring or plumbing, and great stiffness. Plus, in the event that a window leaks, the foam stops water from running through the walls.
The panels are finished in aluminium and trimmed with black chequer plate. The wheel arches and all corners of the van feature black ABS plastic trims, so if damaged they can be replaced within minutes.
At the front of the Conifer is a boot that houses twin 4.5kg gas bottles and tool storage in separate compartments. Behind that is a full-width tunnel boot that opens up into the storage space under the bed from the inside, allowing all-weather access. This space is also designed for an optional slide-out kitchen.
Around the body are plenty of Ranger windows, a one-piece Hartal security door with an optional flyscreen, a picnic table and Carefree awning, as well as twin awning lights and grab handles.
Up on the roof is a Houghton reverse-cycle unit, Finch 120W solar panel, a couple of hatches plus an Antenna Tech aerial.
The whole van was designed using CAD (computer-aided design) before being 3D modelled and cut to spec. This means everything matches, the stress points are dealt with and, of course, the van can be weight balanced specifically to the design.
Overall, the body is shaped differently to reflect Willow RV’s approach to manufacturing, and it certainly doesn’t look bad. The quality is there, the spec levels are there in standard form, and the option list is substantial.
As you step in the door at the rear of the van, you’ll notice plenty of poplar trim, gloss laminated cupboard doors, Laminex bench tops and tons of light reflecting around the place.
At the front of the van is the bedroom, complete with an island-style queen-size bed. Wardrobes either side of the bed, while featuring hanging space, also have a cut-out section for book storage and the like, directly accessible from the bed. There are cupboards under the wardrobes as well as cupboards overhead.
Lift the bed and there’s storage there too, as well as the battery, which is held in a box, and the neatly-mounted pump for the water.
There’s even more storage in the bedroom in the form of open shelves, and hidden behind two doors within this are the electricals. In the head-height cupboard is the radio, hot water switches, battery monitor, solar and water monitors.
In a lower cupboard is the easy-to-access fully-fused caravan unit. If a fuse blows, there’s no more climbing into tight spots to replace it.
Moving into the living space, you will see the café dinette on the driver’s side. A tri-fold table allows for good working and seating space. Drawers at the end of the seats slide-out and inside there are cushions you can use as comfy foot rests. There are plenty of overhead cupboards as well.
Between the dinette and the ensuite at the back of the van is a black-trimmed 186-litre Thetford two-door fridge mounted at ideal food-grabbing height.
Opposite the dinette is a well-sized kitchen with plenty of cupboards, some featuring soft-close mechanisms and even a slide-out pantry. Cleverly, Willow RV fits retaining walls in most of the cupboards to stop things falling out.
Appliances include a Swift 3&1 cooker, a Swift rangehood, an LG microwave and a deep sink with flick mixer. There’s reasonable bench space and again, the quality around the build is excellent.
Now it’s time to discuss the ensuite, which is located across the back wall of the van. In it you will find a ceramic sink, a range of cupboards and even a pull-down clothes basket just underneath the Daewoo mini-washing machine, while the Thetford swivel toilet is mounted on the passenger-side wall. Meanwhile, hot water is plumbed throughout the van via a Swift hot water system.
The fibreglass shower is unusual in that there are shelves running from front to back for shampoo and other toiletries, which, for me, made it feel a little cramped inside. Is the extra storage worth the loss of showering space? It’s up for debate.
There is an open section above the door to let steam escape through the hatch as there is no fan in the roof. It’s a practical layout, overall.