As a writer on Practical Caravan, I’m lucky enough to have over 40 years of monthly issues to leaf through should I need help with anything from weights to wheel clamps. Watching the big model names from Lunar, Swift, Elddis and Swift evolve over the years on the pages of the magazine is not only interesting, but an invaluable source of information.
Has it moved on?
However, there’s a van which to my eyes, from the outside at least, doesn’t seem to have evolved much at all. And as far as I can see, the last time we featured one was way back in February 2004, when past editor Rob McCabe towed the cheeky Polish lightweight all the way to Shropshire.
I am of course talking about the cheap and cheerful Freedom. Polish-built, the vans first made an appearance in the UK in 1974 named ‘Predom’. Since 1984, Freedom Caravans Ltd of Stafford have been selling them as Freedoms, and while the exterior has changed little, I’m curious to see whether this tourer still offers everything you need inside for today’s market.
In search of the answer, I’ll be hitching up the latest Freedom Jetstream Twin Sport and towing it to Loch Lomond in a couple of weeks. There’s no getting away from the fact that this is a very small van. It doesn’t bother me too much, though, as I’ve always been motivated by what outdoor activities are on offer beyond the front lounge. Running and cycling in such beautiful surroundings has got me pretty excited, but with these activities comes plenty of kit, so the Freedom’s storage is going to be thoroughly tested.
Small washroom, no problem
As two of us will be travelling up to Scotland, it will be interesting to see how we get on with the cooking and washroom facilities, too. Rob McCabe made it clear in his piece seven years ago that the Freedom Sunseeker he took away offered a rather minimalist washroom. Therefore finding a site with good facilities was top of his list. I’ve made sure our pitch, on the banks of Loch Lomond at the Forest Holiday’s Cashel site, will be a stone’s throw from full toilet and shower facilities.
And the towcar? With a van weighing just 650kg empty and sporting a 750kg MTPLM, almost anything with a towbar was a possibility. But with so much outdoor kit going with us, I wanted to make sure the journey was a stress-free as possible. Also, with various awards already under its belt from car advice giants such as WhatCar? I’m interested to see for myself why Skoda’s 4×4 Yeti had been so well received. The 2.0-litre 140bhp diesel version I’ll be using weighs in at 1455kg, will tow up to 2000kg and has an 85% match of 1237kg, some 487kg higher than my fully-laden Jetstream Twin Sport. The Skoda’s towball limit of 80kg won’t be tested either.
We tested the Yeti 1.6 TDI CR Greenline II in this year’s Towcar Awards and awarded it four stars. That particular model had 50kg less than the 4×4 version and was described by our towcar editor David Motton as ‘unflappable’, so I’m confident we’re in for a smooth ride up the M6.
Follow the journey
I’ll be updating my progress right here on the Practical Caravan website. Expect pictures and blogs right from our departure, from picking up the van in Stafford to setting-up on the shores of the Loch. Ultimately I’ll found out whether the Freedom, one of the cheapest and therefore most acessible caravans on the market, really is everything you need to go caravanning. Look out for the full Great Escape write up, which will appear in the magazine shortly after.