Kimberley Kampers, Karavans and Kruisers - the Good and the Bad

OCD Overland

Explorer
There's been a lot of traffic on the forum recently about Kimberley, now that the exchange rate with the dollar has made them more competitive in the US. A couple of people have placed orders and a few more have already taken delivery. They're on my own short list, but I have this constant nagging voice in my head that's warning me against buying anything half that expensive when there isn't even a hint of a support network here in the US if anything goes wrong. This post by Dutch in another thread made me think that I need to listen more closely to that voice...

As a Kimberley Karavan owner, I can share my experience.

1.) There is no import duty. KK prices their products delivered to Los Angeles. Depending on your location, you might have to pay a local sales tax when your register the unit. I did in Georgia - 6%.
2.) There is currently no North American Service; and that is a SERIOUS problem for me. I just had a major canopy lifting cable break after 2-1/2 years of ownership, which renders it unusable. There have been numerous other issues, too; but I have been able to fix them myself. There is not only no NA service, but there is no easy access to replace the cable. At this point, I'm not sure of the future of my unit. Sad!

DUTCH
I'd actually read about a similar problem on an australian forum, but the posts were ten years old, so I'd dismissed them as being early teething problems with the design. But I guess it's more common than that, especially given Dutch's follow up post...

The lift mechanism is four galvanized steel cables, one at each corner. They go through a series of pulleys to one follower that is pulled by a small Warn winch located in the boot. There is no manual override.

The left rear cable has broken on at least six late model Kimberley Karavans in the past year. Mine and at least two of the others are as a result of rust failure of the cable due to rain water getting into the cable channel. Access for repair requires quite a bit of dismantling, drilling and cutting of the karavan - much more than the average shade tree mechanic is capable; and I'm very concerned about the remaining three cables.
As Dutch said, this is a major issue, since it renders his trailer useless. If this were to happen in the field, he'd be screwed. So the warning lights are flashing in my head, not only for this particular model, but for the others as well, only because Kimberley tends to add fairly complicated systems to all their trailers. The intent here isn't to bash them, but rather give some honest perspective to what would be a major purchase for anyone here. (Most of the other threads are extremely complimentary of the company and their products, but then most of those posts have been made during the owner's honeymoon period with their trailers.) I'd like to hear some honest criticism of what current owners don't like, would want to change, have had problems with, etc.
 

OCD Overland

Explorer
Specific to the cable issue, I wonder if now that it's something you'd know to watch for if it's an easy thing to inspect or if it's easier to replace if everything is still operable. Perhaps the cables could be replaced with synthetic line?

It's unfortunate that they didn't build in an easy way to replace the cables. Borderline incompetent, if true.
 

DUTCH

Curmudgeon
Specific to the cable issue, I wonder if now that it's something you'd know to watch for if it's an easy thing to inspect or if it's easier to replace if everything is still operable. Perhaps the cables could be replaced with synthetic line?
Synthetic lines are not possible. This has been discussed in depth on the closed owners forum in Australia. Also, stainless cable is too stiff to go around the small pulleys being used.

There are some inspection ports, but a borescope type inspection camera is needed to really see much of anything; and this has only just recently been suggested by the factory as a yearly recommended task. Even then, if you do spot something, there is NO easy access to replace the cable.

Because of the increasing number of Kimberley units in the US due to the low AU$, there has been some recent talk about establishing a US service center. However, that is not anything currently available or even in the immediate future.

DUTCH
 
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OCD Overland

Explorer
It's also been a concern of mine that the owners forum is locked up.

Simply put, the cable issue means the Karavan has to be struck off my list. It's a great design overall, but that's a major achilles heel. That's a shame because I had really started leaning that way because of how easy it would be to tow.

There's still the Kruisers, but the exchange rate would have to get down to .6 to get them in my price range. So I guess for now the Oliver is back on top.
 

DUTCH

Curmudgeon
It's also been a concern of mine that the owners forum is locked up.
It's closed for a good reason - so that owners can communicate freely without fear of reprisal and spam. There is a LOT of good sharing of ideas, tips and genuine support there, including ways to fix and improve things.

There is even a section open to questions by prospective owners.

It's a most excellent resource.
 
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OCD Overland

Explorer
I'm sure there are advantages. But it does add a layer of opaqueness that's a bit off-putting - especially when they ask for fifty bucks to join. And then there's that nagging voice again, telling me that maybe there are things said there that they don't want to be catalogued and easily available to the public via search engines.

I don't know - perhaps I'm being too negative. But the thing is that for as many trailers as they have on the road, there doesn't seem to be a lot of discussion about them that I can find.

edit - saw your PM, I didn't realize that the forum was independent from the factory.
 
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Tazman

Adventurer
I have one on order. It is the S3 Model, thus no lifting cables. Support should be a serious consideration for many, as you are on your own. I have rebuilt sail boats and have done a lot of electrical and mechanical work in my life. I am not looking forward to dealing with issues but I expect them to occur.

The Austrailian dollar at .70 makes this a doable luxury. There is nothing like the S3 in the US. Some of their other models do have US competition.
 

Romer

Adventurer
I wouldn't let that keep you from the Karavan. True I just got mine and haven't broke it in yet. It is an amazing rig. Mine is parked in my garage so I am not concerned about the cable breaking. There are a handful of owners with broken cables out of over a thousand Karavan's on the road. On the road is the outback of Australia for weeks at a time

I had a new Jayco I parked outside and in two years it started falling apart. I decided from then on I would only get a camper I could park inside. Over 5 years of owning the Kimberley Kamper I never had a single issue. If you have space indoors for a Karavan, I wouldn't worry it. I would have gone for the larger S3 if fitting in the garage wasn't a requirement for me

Dutch has had some bad luck with his unit. Brad on the other hand lives in the drier climate of Arizona and hasn't had any real issues with his cables and he has owned his for 5 years and I wish I could go camping as often as he does. He did have a wheel fall off, but don't think that was Kimberleys fault. They did supply him the parts to have it fixed good as new.

As far as having the problem in the field. I don't think you would be screwed, you would need a couple of friends to move the top up and then place supports on the lips. Some on the forum have pre cut 1x2s and carry them just in case. Once the bed is out, that would provide huge support to the roof.

I don't think you would find something of comparable quality here, but you do have to work on it yourself. Mine had a minor miswire in a US only trailer plug. I troubleshot and fixed it. I went into this knowing I would mostly be doing my own work, but then I built and work on my own cruisers. Kimberley is pretty good at sending parts and providing remote technical assistance and the forum is awesome in working through issues. Many of the Karavan's on the locked forum date back to 2006 and are still on the trail in Australia. Even with the issues Dutch and a few on the forum are having with the cable, I would make the same choice today for the Karavan

You need to do what feels comfortable for you, but the dollar conversion opportunity is huge
 

OCD Overland

Explorer
Well you guys are giving me a lot to think about. I guess I need to check into the closed forum to get a better idea.

Out trips are going to be just my wife and I, which is why I'm prioritizing reliability. I'm not sure she and I could lift the top by ourselves. When one cable breaks, does that affect the other three, or could you still raise it, maybe with a little help at just the effected corner?

You're correct that there's nothing in the US that really compares to the Karavan. VMI is close, and they tell me they can make something with the same features, but it would likely end up costing a bit more and I'm nervous about spending that much on something that's only a vague idea in someone's head at the moment.
 

DUTCH

Curmudgeon
Well you guys are giving me a lot to think about. I guess I need to check into the closed forum to get a better idea.

Out trips are going to be just my wife and I, which is why I'm prioritizing reliability. I'm not sure she and I could lift the top by ourselves. When one cable breaks, does that affect the other three, or could you still raise it, maybe with a little help at just the effected corner?

You're correct that there's nothing in the US that really compares to the Karavan. VMI is close, and they tell me they can make something with the same features, but it would likely end up costing a bit more and I'm nervous about spending that much on something that's only a vague idea in someone's head at the moment.
Only one very small part of the KKOG Forum is open to prospective buyers. You would not be able to access the general discussion forums until you can provide a chassis number that you own or have on order.

Two very strong people could raise a busted corner while the winch pulls up the other three. The canopy weight is 700-800 lbs. The big problem is to get it back down. The canopy becomes so skewed when one cable is busted that it catches on the bottom and won't go down. When I lowered mine with the busted cable, it took a floor jack, several different lengths of timber and one heckuva lot of pushing, shoving, jockeying and cursing to get it down. I do not plan to raise it again until I can try to replace the busted cable. That way - hopefully - I'll have all four corners working to get it back down. If I'm not successful in the repair, getting it back down will be a major project; and I'll be trying to find somebody, somewhere who can fix it. If not, it will probably be scrapped and parted out.

I'm getting too old for this; so, once it has been repaired, I will probably sell it at a giveaway price just to clear the deck.
 
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