From the pre-import buzz generated by the early PR, to the first real-time views on landing in New Zealand, Dethleffs caravans have had people talking up a storm about the lightness, quality and feeling of luxury across the range. But there is a great deal more to the brand, and – as always – I was keen to know the back story.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to be the guest of Dethleffs’ parent group, Hymer, at the Caravan Salon in Germany. While there, I attended the press briefings for all of the brands under the Hymer name, and talked to many of their top executives about the brands for which they were responsible. The experience, which neatly coincided with the launch of the Dethleffs caravan range into this country, helped me to better understand the history and integrity of the Dethleffs name.

The deep drawers in the galley slide out for easy access

The Dethleffs brand has been around since 1832 when the company started as a manufacturer of whips, before eventually manufacturing ski poles. It was not until 1931, almost 100 years later that the first recreational vehicle – a caravan – was made for Arist Dethleff as he wanted his family to accompany him on work trips. Since Arist first uttered the words “not without my family”, the Dethleffs brand name has been synonymous with being family-friendly. In fact the tagline to the brand is ‘a friend of the family’. Hence, the Dethleffs stand at the international Caravan Salon (immense as it was) really brought home the theme ‘family-friendly’.

This segues into the reason for choosing (from the many on display at the recent Covi Supershow) to review the Dethleffs Nomad 530 DR, a family-friendly four-berth caravan. As we have said elsewhere in this issue, caravans offer a lot of bang for the buck. This is one of the reasons they are a frequent choice of newbies, and in New Zealand we are currently witnessing a dramatic resurgence of caravan sales, as families closed out of the house market – and not even in their wildest dreams in the bach market – discover the joys of a bach on wheels.

From the U-shaped rear lounge to the master bedroom, this compact caravan is big on class

Caravanning in this country was once synonymous with the Kiwi summer. In recent years, however, motorhome sales have significantly outstripped the sale of caravans, with many still fearing that towing might be beyond their capacity. This is a misapprehension. Caravanning still offers the opportunity for families to turn back to a simpler time when electronic devices didn’t rule their lives. Yet technology has brought us some remarkable reasons to no longer fear towing a recreational vehicle.

Gone are the days of unstable caravans suffering speed wobbles on the motorway and overturning. Enter the AL-KO range of anti-sway mechanisms which have improved safety and stability when towing. The Dethleffs Nomad 530 DR offers a suite of them: AL-KO heavy-duty chassis and suspension for extreme payloads, AL-KO ATC Trailer Control System, AL-KO anti-sway coupling and AL-KO AA self-adjusting brakes. Having previously been a passenger in an AL-KO test vehicle travelling at high speed before deliberately braking, I can swear by the sense of security offered by all of them. The wonders of science can be witnessed right there.

Flush fronted wooden panel doors tastefully hide the central amenities

These are some of the hidden values of this clever wee caravan. Let’s take a look inside at some of the amenities the vehicle offers. Step into the light-drenched interior and you’ll be impressed by the spacious U-shaped lounge with surround windows. The subtle curve of the settee really adds to the overall feel of luxury which is enhanced by the two-tone sofas and complementary panelled locker doors. The hydraulic table drops down to assist with the easy creation of a generous guest bed. At the other end of the vehicle the rear master bedroom sports an island bed with state-of-the art temperature-regulating Swiss-made mattress.

Between the sleeping options you have a large (by European standards) kitchen/galley. By importing the models that meet Kiwi preferences for larger galleys and island beds, Central RV has developed a great reputation with the Dethleffs caravan range. This model has a hob, soft-close drawers, and plenty of cupboard storage as well as a 142L three-way tower fridge with freezer in the galley, and its central position will ensure that the cook will always be close to the action.

Soft-close cupboards offer plenty of storage throughout, but also note the clever open shelves below

The entertainment package comprises a 19-inch Avex TV and DVD with all electronics and power supply supported by a 160W solar panel and deep-cycle battery. The bathroom/toilet/shower combi opposite the galley is compact but functional and absolutely sufficient for a family on holiday, or a couple getting away from it all.

The caravan is fully self-contained with on-board water tanks. This feature of fitted tanks is not a given in all imported caravans, with many brands only offering portable roll-away tanks. How you rate the importance of this point is a matter of personal preference. This vehicle is also set up for trans-seasonal touring with Truma heating and double-glazed windows and full insulation. It has a large forward storage locker and plenty of cupboard and locker space throughout the vehicle.

I loved the strip lighting adjacent to the practical storage options which adds ambience

In summary, the Dethleffs Nomad 530 DR with its impeccable pedigree of great design and construction would make the perfect entry point for anyone who would like to have an elegant, go-anywhere bach on wheels.

Dethleffs Nomad 530 DR

Berths: 4
Length: 6.50m
Length overall: 7.88m
Width: 2.30m
Bed: 2.05m x 1.5m
Weight: 1410kg
Payload: 390kg
Total: 1800kg
14-inch alloy wheels with heavy-duty commercial tyres