New Zealand architectural and interior design firm W2 has never designed a caravan before – and it shows. The Romotow fold-out luxury caravan is unlike anything we've come across before.
And that's a deliberate distinction – W2 Director Stuart Winterbourn told Gizmag he's never found caravans all that interesting: "To a lot of people, they're not desirable … including us. Generally, you're using it in summer, and it's stinking hot, and you don't really want to be inside a caravan. And if you don't want to be inside, you've got maybe some sort of screen you can pull out, and a rickety chair and table … it's not that nice.
"We thought why don't we come up with something that integrates a house and a deck. Generally you've got a good view when you're out in the wilderness, and you want to take advantage of it. That was the inspiration, just to create a connection with the outdoors."
The Romotow looks a bit like a high-tech horse float when it's folded for travel. But when you find a place to set up camp, the center folds out, floating the living quarters out to the side and revealing a very attractive covered deck area. Steps lead up onto the deck, which can be weatherproofed with pull-down screens, and the whole thing looks like a very quick setup.
Winterbourn says the design team were playing with a folding knife when the idea came to them: "Yeah, the Swiss army knife was a bit of an inspiration there. We were fiddling around with one of them, and thought 'why don't we have a floor structure which rotates out… Or why not have a roof which does as well… Or why don't we just join them up.' It seemed like the obvious way to do it, without being overly complex."
Opening the sleeping area out expands the Romotow's floor area by some 70 percent – a nice option. But it also looks very possible to leave it folded up if you're dealing with a smaller campground or a cramped area.
Does a large moving living area present any particular engineering challenges? "We know it'll work – we design houses, that's what our firm does. The key was just the bearing, which needs to rotate with a bit of force on it. That sort of technology is available in excavators and that sort of thing, it's not too far removed from that. We're pretty confident it's not actually that complicated."
Likewise, Winterbourn doesn't believe the weight penalty on the flip-out caravan design will be too onerous, provided the Romotow is manufactured using lightweight materials. And you may not pay a weight penalty at all, if you consider the 70 percent extra floor space into your calculations.
It's a pretty nifty idea. The Romotow looks like it would be quick and fun to set up, pleasant to stay in, and it'd turn every head at the campsite – it's like a little luxury outdoor cabin on wheels – or of course it could be equally well suited to being a mobile cafe, first aid center or any number of other uses.
Will it make it to production, or even prototype stage? Well, that depends on interest. W2 is preparing to shop the concept around to manufacturers and design companies if enough interest is shown. It's certainly a cool idea – here's hoping they get to build it!