2018 Bailey Rangefinder Comet Review

Slide-outs have become popular in the luxury caravan segment and it’s easy to see why: at a flick of a switch the interior living area opens up significantly. Bailey’s Rangefinder Comet is big on space but not so big on weight gain normally associated with slide-outs.

If ever there was a commitment by a caravan manufacturer to an export market, it’s UK firm Bailey’s commitment to Australia. Seeing the unique requirements we Aussies need in a caravan, Bailey set up a joint venture here, adding a local tough flavour to their high-tech lightweight know-how borne of years of building caravans for the UK and Continental markets. The premium Aussie-built Bailey is the Rangerfinder Comet.

Who is it for: Couples wanting to explore Australia in a tough, lightweight luxury van with a large internal living space
What we like: Very light for a slide-out; high quality fit and finish, high payload capacity
What we don’t: Dining table not integrated, no light in tunnel boot

First Impressions

Even though it’s built locally, you can pick the Bailey’s UK origins the moment you set eyes on it. The large, panoramic front windows, the clean flat-panel body structure and the moulded rear bumper are all signature tells of a caravan from UK or Europe. Its body has a clean, aerodynamic Euro RV look.

Step inside and crack open the slide-out and the immediate impression is one of spaciousness. It’s a pleasing, well-finished and airy interior, with the bonus of a large bedroom – and a clear walk-through from front to back – thanks to the slide-out.

Main Features

Although the Bailey has many features you’d expect in a large, luxury on-road caravan, it is distinguished by several elements that are not common in the segment.

Alu-Tech construction

The Bailey’s Alu-Tech monocoque construction is a strong yet light alternative to the Meranti timer/aluminium cladding of conventional caravans.

No timber is used in the Comet’s upper body panels; it has a composite plastic internal skeleton, a high-density polystyrene and a fibreglass GRP inner wall lining, while upper body panels are covered in a single sheet impact resistant fibreglass GRP outer skin. Bailey is confident enough in its body structure that if offers a 10-year water ingress warranty.

Slide-out

The slide-out is an American unit, made by Lippert Components. The 600mm slide is maintenance-free (that is, it does not need any adjustment) and has a manual override.

The additional strengthening, cabinetry and electric motor and associated components of a slide-out add a significant amount of weight to a caravan. The Comet is much lighter than most slide-outs; its Tare is just 2207kg. You’d expect that a tandem-axle 21-foot van with this feature would weigh at least 2600kg Tare.

AusTrail chassis

The chassis is a steel AusTrail Duragal RHS that, because of the strength of the composite body, could be lightened by around 400kg compared with a conventional timber frame-on-chassis design. The Comet has a seven-leaf spring roller-rocker suspension and Dexter axles.

Interior

The Bailey has an unusual internal layout perhaps reflecting its dual British/Australian citizenship.

At the front there’s the club lounge (as you’d find in most UK caravan layouts), followed by a more Aussie configuration: a kitchen on the offside (with the fridge and storage opposite on the nearside) then the bedroom and finally the bathroom.

This living area up front has a spacious and airy feel to it thanks to the panoramic ‘skyview’ front window. These windows allow in plenty of natural light and if you angle the van right at camp, they allow an excellent view out. If you want some privacy, like all the windows and hatches in the Comet, there are concertina blinds to cover the openings (and also concertina mesh screen to keep out insects).

The lounge has no fixed table, rather it uses a fold-out table that is stored in a cupboard aft of the entry door. This is a feature you’ll either love or hate; the lounge feels much more accessible and has a relaxing lounge room feel without the table (and is a more welcoming space for entertaining), but when you want to eat you have to get the table out and unfold it. I suspect most owners will get the table out when at camp and leave it there.

Alternatively, a fixed table on a gas strut base is available as an option.

The first thing you’ll notice about the kitchen is that it is a bit light-on for bench space for a large caravan like this. Other than this, it is well conceived with a lot of thought put into storage spaces and layout of appliances. For example, the microwave is mounted below the bench, allowing you to retrieve hot liquids safely. Why most manufacturers insist on fitting the microwave just below the ceiling instead is a mystery. You can’t see what you’re removing from the microwave and so if it’s a hot liquid you risk scalding yourself.

An excellent large pot drawer sits just below the microwave and, like all the drawers and cupboards, has a soft-close design. Up on the bench you have a deep single-bowl stainless-steel sink with flick mixer and a laminated bench cover for the three plus one Thetford gas/electric cooktop (with grill and oven below).

There’s not one but two slide-out pantries, one to the right of the oven on the offside and the other on the nearside in a cupboard (that also houses the folding dining table) next to the 185-litre Thetford three-way fridge/freezer.

It’s worth mentioning at this point the cupboard space above the kitchen – and in fact dotted everywhere around the fit-out. There is more than enough storage space inside for a couple to store their gear, even if touring for months (provided you don’t go overboard).

On the ceiling at about mid-point down the van is a Dometic Harrier reverse cycle air conditioner.

With the east-west double bed moved out on the slide, the area feels spacious and welcoming. It’s worth noting that if you need to access the bathroom when pulling over on a transport stage, you’ll need to climb over the bed to do so (or open up the slide, which takes less than 30 seconds).

One of the luxury touches in this van is the standard 32-inch TV, which rises out of the cabinet at the end of the bed at the touch of a button. The TV’s mechanism – like the slide-out – is powered by caravan’s 100Ah 12volt onboard deep cycle battery so that you don’t need to be tethered to 240volts to operate it.

The spacious bedroom has a window with concertina blind and meshed screen. There are lockers above the bed and small bedside tables with inset storage nooks that each contain 240v and 12v power points.

The nearside bedroom wall not only houses the large TV but a multitude of storage cupboards and drawers. There’s also the Sphere 2.5kg top-loading washing machine enclosed on the nearside, adjacent to the ensuite.

The bathroom is quite spacious, as is the shower recess. Like most bathrooms, there’s just one small window above the cassette toilet.

The Comet has a water-saving Ecocamel showerhead, ideal for when free-camping. The Comet’s 105-litre water tank would last several days bush camping if you were frugal with water use.

[The Comet offers as standard 2 x 105-litre water tanks totalling 210-litres of water. This Comet has had one of the standard fresh water tanks converted to grey water.]

Exterior

The Comet has a full-width front tunnel boot, although it has a stricture about half way along, limiting the amount of larger items you can push though into the storage area. There are no lights within the boot.

The rest of the body is quite simple: there’s a Dometic roll-out awning, a drop-down picnic table and double-fold aluminium steps.

Final Thoughts

The Comet has a quality fit-out and the engineering that has gone into its body and chassis far exceed the typical luxury caravan. The skyview front window, while not unusual on Euro/UK caravans, is a nice touch that allows you to make the most of your view at camp.