Peter BaberSee other caravan reviews written by Peter Baber
Blending funky looks and a functional-yet-stylish interior, the Swift Basecamp is aimed at sporty buyers ready to move up from tent camping – does it work?
You can say it’s a radical departure for an otherwise mainstream brand. You can say it’s really all aimed at outdoor types.
You can say it’s a crossover vehicle. You can even say that, at £16,785, it looks a bit pricey.
Swift is certainly not the only manufacturer to offer tourers designed for people who want to take bulky sporting equipment away with them, of course. Many Continental manufacturers would claim to do the same.
The idea of having a caravan built to go with a specific awning is also not original – and in Swift’s case the Vango Airbeam awning that is designed to fit at the back of the Basecamp is a £795 optional extra.
But the Basecamp is a British take on this idea. So we thought it would be most appropriate to test it over four days of activity in wintry Britain (the North York Moors, to be precise).
Our model was a Basecamp Plus. This means it includes external mains, gas barbecue and shower points, a solar panel, a TV aerial and bracket, a door flyscreen and a Thetford oven and grill – all for an extra £595.
That increases both the MiRO and MTPLM by 25kg to keep the same 111kg payload allowance.
Swift has a whole selection of graphics packages to choose from. Ours featured a very mod-like target symbol. The red colour perfectly matched the Jeep Renegade we brought along to tow it, but you can also go for a union flag, a honeycomb, or all manner of swishes and stripes.
As for the shape, one fellow caravanner we met at the Vale of Pickering Caravan Park said it made the van look half-finished.
We don’t agree: it lends the van a distinctive appearance on the road, and means that when you arrive you get a huge panoramic window through which you can truly let the outside in.
Purists note: you are always going to have branding on the outside, so at least the vertical ‘Swift’ decals look distinctive. The sci-fi ‘Basecamp’ logo you see inside and out also matches the sense of adventure this van is meant to inspire.
And to see other Swift caravans for sale, click here.
Pitching and setting up
The steadies are all easy to reach, and feature pivoting bases to account for the rough ground you may encounter when out adventuring. But don’t forget your step when you do: that back door is relatively high off the ground, so even the tallest of us found it took a couple of big bounds to get into the van or out again with bikes.
The rear door and awning channel means that services can be on either side without getting in the way, although the external 230V socket is covered by the awning once inflated – so Vango has added a neat access flap.
The curved awning fits in with the curved van, although it does make initial assembly a tad trickier. Once inflated, and pegged out, though, the bespoke ‘Swift RVR-1’ doubles the available floor space.
Swift says that it deliberately designed the Basecamp to be lightweight so that campers looking to move up to caravans will not be put off by the cost of having to buy a new tow car.
The MTPLMs of both the standard model (990kg) and the Plus (1015kg) are well within the capabilities of our compact tow car. In 2.0 Multijet 4WD form the Jeep Renegade has a kerbweight of 1502kg, making it a 68% match.
As you might expect, it pulled the Basecamp with ease and felt secure, despite the lack of a hitch stabiliser or stability control. The latter is a £325 factory option, but unlikely to be needed unless you are nervous or new to towing.
At 2.28m, the van is marginally wider than even the mightiest of Swift’s more conventional caravans. But much of that extra width is taken up by the slightly protruding wheelarches, and the Basecamp certainly doesn’t feel that wide on the road.
That curved front end means that you have a wider view of the van in its entirety – useful when driving down a road with large overhanging trees – and the prominent wheelarches make it easy to position the van when reversing onto a pitch.
You don’t get a carpet – some people may think that a godsend – and in any case we were surprised to discover that the floor is lino because it is such good quality.
However, you do get two comfortable settees that look stylish in charcoal grey, and each comes with a pair of funky scatter cushions. And even without the carpet we didn’t get cold feet, because there is a well-positioned heating vent.
There are two sets of legs for both settees to hold up the bed when you slide it out. This could look cluttered, but it proved very useful to have panel-free under-seat storage.
The lounge is very well lit during the daytime, thanks to that enormous front window. There is no central ceiling light, but there are two dimmable hidden ambient lights on both sides of the lounge, plus two directional spotlights. So night-time lighting also proves more than satisfactory.
A pop-up table between the two settees at the front provides a useful resting place for snacks or mugs of tea. In contrast, the fold-away table is heavy, a bit on the small side, and we found that it makes the relatively narrow wardrobe that it is stowed in narrower still.
There is a useful cubbyhole under the worktop by the edge of the nearside settee, where we could store mobile phones and tablets while they were charging so they didn’t get in the way.
Because these settees are both long, and have padded areas near the front, after a hard day’s mountain-biking, two of you could easily sit back and watch a bit of TV. What a shame we didn’t bring one, because a bracket (fitted as part of the Plus pack) is usefully positioned at the foot of the offside sofa.
The extensive black Fenix worktop is partly taken up by a socket tower, but there is a large round stainless-steel sink, and along with the separate oven and grill you get an 85-litre Dometic fridge, with a removable freezer should you need to store more beers to kick back with.
Unfortunately there isn’t an extractor fan, and we found that, even with the window open (and a rooflight), you need to take care if you’re to avoid setting off the smoke alarm. But the workspace is well lit at night with ambient lighting and one LED strip-light.
There are large cupboards on either side of the fridge, one of which is partly obstructed by a wheelarch, with a pan locker under the oven, a cutlery drawer above the fridge and a utensil drawer next to that.
Up above there are two overhead lockers, one of which has a crockery rack and mug storage inside it. We found that this provided more than enough storage space for our short break.
If you were away for a longer period, and because this kitchen is right by the door, you could easily include further storage units and possibly another table out in the awning, provided that you had enough room in the boot of your tow car to store them.
That said, there is a washbasin that could almost pass for the trendy ‘salad bowl’ variety, with a chunky tap and a good-sized mirror above. You get a towel rail and a toilet-roll holder, a rooflight, a mirror and strip-lighting. This little room is also possibly the warmest place in the van, thanks to the well-placed vent.
There’s a second, taller mirror just outside the bathroom as well, should you need to check yourself on the way out.
The awning curves around from the back as it attaches to the van, but fortunately the cassette hatch for the bench-style loo is located beyond this, so you can empty it discreetly.
The only trouble with that arrangement would be that the spotlights are halfway down the bed, while the switch for the dimmer lights and that useful little cubbyhole are both at the opposite end.
Because our tester was well over 6ft tall, we opted to make up the double. The pull-out slatted bases on our test van were a little stiff, and had to be held from the middle – not easy when you are pulling two platforms together to meet in the middle.
You also have to ensure that both sets of legs are fully extended if you want to prevent a sudden, and not very flattering, collapse. But this was a minor inconvenience in return for a large and very comfortable bed. Just what you need after a bracing day on the moors.
Swift has cleverly included removable canvas bags in place of overhead lockers. In fact, because they also have zipped openings at the front, they act like overhead lockers anyway. These made packing easy and we used one of them as a laundry basket en route.
Forward of these on both sides are two small open shelves. There is also a useful cubbyhole by the door where you can leave keys and other knick-knacks.
The wardrobe is narrow, due to the table storage and consumer unit, and the pole comes off too easily. But it is full-height, which would be useful if your outdoor activities involve wetsuits.
Finally, we found that the chunky gas-bottle locker can hold more than just bottles and the spare wheel. In fact, only the lowish 111kg payload prevented a five-star rating here, though the MTPLM can be uprated to 1100kg (giving an extra 85kg).
Kit-wise, this caravan is good, too. The Swift Basecamp is littered with sockets, including five mains, one 12V, two USBs and the TV point. It would make a great HQ for an adventure race, giving competitors somewhere to recharge their sat-navs, store their bikes and stop for a cuppa.
The external shower on our Basecamp Plus would mean they could have a quick wash, too. And you could use the barbecue point for final celebrations.
Here we should also mention the awning, because it is such an integral part of the Basecamp package. It certainly looks good, if unconventional, and its design incorporates useful canopy areas where we could dry boots.
The Swift’s £15,395 headline price is tempting, but buyers should be aware that a few key options plus delivery will soon bump that up to over £18,000.
The Swift Basecamp lives up to its name as somewhere you can use as a base for your outdoor adventures. It’s perhaps not surprising that, in America, Airstream has used the same name for its compact tourer aimed at a similar market.
But the Swift is more than that, too – it’s somewhere that’s comfy and cosy enough for you to want to return to.
Swift has pulled off the tricky feat of including a good level of spec without weighing down the van, and on the outside there are so many variations on the decal choices that it’s unlikely you would ever feel you were buying just another white box.
As long as you really are active – which will enable you to master things like the large step out at the back – the Swift Basecamp is a definite contender.
- You don't need a massive tow car
- It's practical and stylish, yet still a comfortable, well-specced caravan
- We like the bags which also function as overhead lockers
- The wide choice of decals makes it customisable
- There's a big step out the back
- It won't take too many options to make it much less affordable
- The wardrobe is quite narrow