I’ve Been Counterstruck

It’s right there in the title folks.  I’ve been Counterstruck.

One of the perks, as many of you readers know, of my job is that I get to take and test our caravans out in the wild.  And as much as it really is fun… it really is also work.  The purpose of my trips isn’t to sit back and relax.  Ooooh no no no.  I gotta get that ever increasingly necessary social media content that looks SO natural after the umpteenth take.  I still gotta take calls and send emails and do charts and graphs.  And more importantly, I need to test these babies out. What is great.  What isn’t.  What needs a little tweaking.  How does this product compare to the last one we used?  And always… how did I find this experience in the rain?  Because… NO MATTER WHEN I GO CAMPING… it rains. Doesn’t matter where.  Doesn’t matter what the forecast says.  It rains.  Usually for days.  Silver lining?  Low risk of sunburn.

So… back to being “Counterstruck”.  Of course, I’m referring to our Counterstrike series.  Specifically, the C196 couples van I hauled behind a Silverado to the Gippsland area.   This van is amazing.  I mean… I’m in love with an inanimate object and I’m not embarrassed to say so. Now… my previous trip I took out our 18’7” Digger 2, single axel off-road/off-grid champ of a van.  The C196 is a dual-axel, beautiful beast with a travel length similar to that of our 19’6” Platoon 2 (but with a bigger body.  Bonus!).

Finding a spot to park the Digger 2 was simple as. The single axel allowed me to pivot perfectly into position, first go, between two beautiful trees, nestled right next to a bend in the McAllister River in Glenmaggie, Vic.

The C196, well that was a wee bit of a different experience.  First spot. Buchan, Vic.  Took me about 20 minutes to back-er-up into the spot that I was in no way going to relinquish to the trees trying to prevent me from doing so. And get this, if I had been in that nimble little Digger 2, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.  “Huh” you ask?  Well, I’ll spare you the suspense and tell you why.

Arrive to this gorgeous spot in Buchan, hop out of the Chevy, walk around for a minute and map the route to that perfect site with a furrowed brow whilst thinking, “why didn’t I pack an extendable saw?”… then I had one of those internally embarrassing moments of realization that, “duh Summer, the C196 has airbags… drop the van and go for it.”

The C196 is packin level 4, self levelling airbag suspension with an onboard air compressor and tank.  Which allowed me to drop the van down enough to get under the pesky canopy of branches I didn't think would be so low in a camping area.  So, it wasn’t the width available between the trees that was giving me grief with a longer, dual axel van, it was the branches above that only allowed a zig-zagging path through the area to MY spot.

Now me being me… I don’t bother with a reverse camera. I rely solely on the adrenaline rush of “is this the day I tell Trevor I broke a van” and when I’m fortunate enough, a spotter.  That day was a fortunate day.  Dan guided me through the trees, bless his heart, and with only a tickle of a few baby branches, we landed without incident.

The first thing I noticed was how quick it was to set up camp.  Auto leveling?  Yes please. I never want to go without this again!  Electric awning.  Bang. Done with the push of a button. No more fishing for the awning leash in the wind or losing that stupid little metal piece at the end of it.  I know these are real “first world problems” but hey… the entire point of getting out and away in a caravan is to relax, decompress, chill out, fill the cup!  All that stuff… and when setting up is a breeze it makes all those lovely verbs that much more obtainable!

I sorted out the outdoor entertaining area super quick because the tunnel boot is so damn big I’m not struggling to pull out what’s usually been packed like sardines… ie: chairs, table, sand mat, drop down winder for the stabilizer legs, muck mats, hoses, leads, all the crap.  you know how it is.  (hey.. did you know “ie” stands for id est, which is Latin for “that is”).  And because the massive built in external kitchen comes with a massive pantry and a massive drop-down table, I didn’t need to bring this and that outside from inside which is a massive pain in my ass when I’m hangry after driving 7 hours straight.  Because everyyyyyyything was already in place!  (I didn’t even use my giant foldable table I was so excited about because it actually fit in the tunnel boot).  The pantry was stocked with the usual suspects for said entertaining area, id est:  BBQ utensils and sundry, sunscreen (not that we needed it), mozzie repellent (needed it), hand wipes, snacks, stubbie holders, cooking spray, olive oil… you get it. All the stuffs and the things.  And oh look! The slide out 86Ltr Evakool fridge is only a few steps away, so I don’t even need to bring the soon to be sizzling food out either.  It’s RIGHT THERE! 

Well now that outside is set up and sheltered under the huge awning from the consistent rain, let’s step inside.  Where do I start?  The C196 has so many features to love that you didn’t know you wanted until you experience it.  I relate it to the first, tiny two-bedroom home I purchased back in 2003.  It was so small.  No swinging cats in there if ya get me?  One little bathroom and a narrow spot in the hallway for an exposed stackable washer/dryer.  Not even room for a door.  My next house though… I had an ensuite.  An ensuite! My very OWN bathroom!  I never knew how amazing it was to have your own private pooping space until then and from that moment… was I ever NOT going to have my own private pooper?  Not a chance.  Not after I had experienced having one.

I’ll start with the kitchen/dining.  What did I experience first? Everything is so neat and tidy.  Everything has its place.  Most notably, the rubbish and recycling!  Why is that so exciting? Because I don’t like shit all over the place, that’s why. There’s usually a bag hanging off something or tucked somewhere full of the days’ rubbish that’s stinky, dripping or just in the way.  And my box of recycling? It takes up space in a cupboard under the sink of course.  Well… NOT in the C196!  There is a dual slide out rubbish bin that really is a game changer in a small space like a caravan.  Next in line of notables, the lack of a cook top set into the bench.  Because the C196 is all electric (I’ll dive into this awesomeness soon) we’re cooking with two portable induction cook tops that have their own dedicated drawer.  At first, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like this idea but after using it I’m a changed woman.  I love that the bench space was always tidy, usable and versatile.  The veggie sprayer on the sink got plenty of use when prepping meals and the spacious 274ltr compressor fridge means I can stock heaps of groceries for those longer trips away from everything. Couple that with the fridge outside you're winning at off-grid living.

Situated across from the kitchen are two custom upholstered recliners with a movable and removable kitchen table.  This is another item I needed to experience to celebrate.  Holy shit folks, these chairs are so comfortable.  I absolutely took advantage of the comfort aspect of these when we kicked back and watched some comedy on the 32” smart TV.  So much better than sitting straight up in a lounge setting or when you don’t really want to be in bed to watch whatever it is that you want to watch.  Also, I strategically chose the chair next to the fridge so I could just lean over and restock when my can was empty.  Savvy.

Now, if you do in fact want to watch TV from your bed, THIS is the bed to do it in.  It’s a dual electric, memory foam adjustable bed.  How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.

  1. Your memory foam is like sleeping on a fluffy cloud.
  2. Your massage feature and memory settings to my favourite position are so thoughtful.
  3. No hassle to dress the bed because your corners pull up with ease and are so light in weight.
  4.  Just above you there is access to the lighting throughout the van so I can turn off the loo light when I forget to after already tucking myself in.
  5. You have slide out hidden niches and no enclosing wardrobes which means there is loads of side table space for my books, my glasses, my water, my wine without needing to fumble about through a typical bedside, under wardrobe, “niche.”
  6. Your under bed storage is perfect for bedding or optionally, a dog bed.
  7. The step up to you doesn’t just make it easier to climb in it also gives me a footlocker to put my shoes!  This is another one I didn’t know I needed until I experienced it!  Having a dedicated space to put ones shoes is simply fabulous in a caravan.
  8. Your zero gravity position isn’t just comfortable, it’s great for lower back pain, restless leg syndrome and my personal favourite… your partners sleep apnea. That C-Pap machine may no longer be necessary which means less morning rage after your partner has kept you up all night with either snoring, snorting or the whirring of a machine all night.

Moving on from the bedroom the ensuite is next on the “be prepared to be impressed” list.  The ensuite, or as I personally call it, the ensweeeeeeet, is huge. Bigger than the bathroom in that house I couldn’t swing a cat in.  Storage everywhere.  Including a full height wardrobe (no more nudie runs from the bathroom to the bedside robes). HEAPS of bench space.  And of course, there’s the Counterstrike signature laundry chute.  No more storing my dirty threads under the bed or in the back of the car or on the floor next to the bed or in a bag in the corner or… you get it.  And the ensweeeeet never smells like doo-doo because the loo-loo has a SOG system that sucks the stink from the cassette to a carbon filter.  Brilliant. To close it off, the lightweight acrylic door makes this room feel like a swanky hotel bathroom.  Certainly not like a typical caravan ensuite. 

Well now that I’ve given you the mental tour, let’s move camp, shall we?

Next stop, The Avon Riverside free-camping reserve.  I found out about this place while visiting the Buchan Caves Hotel.  Best sweet potato fries I’ve ever had by the way.  Anyhow, Darren, the publican, suggested I try this place out for an ace place to set up totally off-grid and away from anything.  Plus, if you’re lucky you may get a spot in front of your own mooring platform and rock fire pit right on the river.  As luck would have it, I got a beautiful spot with the nearest campers being so far away I couldn’t hear them.  Perfect.

This was the day the sun finally came out which was great because after three days of rain I was left with only 44% of my battery. Gasp!  But wait… three days of camping in an all-electric van in cloudy, raining conditions and I STILL had 44% of my battery left? After using an electric BBQ, an induction cooktop, Starlink, electric beds, two big fridges, electric hot water and so on and so on? Yeah.  Crazy right?  In almost any other van I would have been dead after day one with those cloudy conditions and no access to 240 power using all that equipment.  But alas, I was not dead. Not even limping.  I was just under the halfway point of demise because the Counterstrike series is powered by a massive and insanely efficient system.  The OzX Corp DCX Power Solution is just what is sounds like. A powerful power solution for off-grid living.  To break it down for you, this system operates on a platform voltage of 51.1V. A traditional van operates on a 12V system.  That sounds like way less, because it is.  This means we can run a 5KW inverter and mount 1,650 watts of zero-degree (this means the panels are soaking the rays the moment they hit the glass) solar panels on the roof and a 14.3kw battery underneath the van.  To really make it easy to digest… essentially on a sunny day I can run my A/C, induction cook top, kettle, Starlink, fridges and electric BBQ without doing the consistent check of “where’s my battery level at?” And I’m STILL putting power into the battery whilst running all that 240v equipment SOLELY off the sun pumping into the solar panels!

That 44% was at 100% in just under 2 hours. Incredible.  The thoughtfulness of the power capabilities of this van is just one more way to enjoy those verbs I mentioned previously.  You can truly enjoy being off-grid.

Now I didn’t mind the flies that were coming in for close ups in the shade of the awning but they were driving Dan nuts, so we decided to watch a mid-day movie in zero gravity position; and one thing he noted was that, whilst the sun had come out the van didn’t heat up enough that we had to put on the A/C even though outside was quite warm.  In fact… it highlighted that we didn’t need the heat on the previous cold nights.  That’s because the Counterstrike series is constructed of insulated foam composite paneling.  Underfoot it was never cold like I had experienced before at night.  You can putter around inside sans slippers which I can’t do in our traditional range because I like my tooties toasty.  That comfort is due to the 38mm thickness of the composite panel flooring.

In the same conversation discussing the insulation he also mentioned I hadn’t given him the look of death for “using too much water” and that I had taken longer showers than I normally would.  That’s because we were hauling 330ltrs of filtered fresh water. And after four days we had only used one tank.  That bump to 110ltr tanks from our previous 95ltr tanks went further than I expected.

Once the movie finished and the sun started to dip, we cooked up a delightful feed of marinated pork ribs on the Weber Pulse 2000 BBQ and some fresh, pan seared veggies on the induction cook top. Washed it down with a few frothies and retired to the fire pit.  Lit up a heap of fire wood we had in the drop-down storage compartment of the rear bar and stoked the flames. Once the stars were out, the amber anti bug lights not only led the way back to the slide out fridge to restock the stubbie holder, the did their job and didn't attract the bugs.

It was the perfect end to that sunny day that I had been waiting for.  And an end to a trip that I wasn’t ready to finish.  The C196 was a totally different experience to that of our traditional range.

The Counterstrike series is a game changer for truly off-grid camping.  Different to anything else available out there and I profess, without ego, far superior. 

Checkout the Counterstrike Series here!

Tough Tour