how to campervan – the complete guide to living life on the road
Do you dream of the open road, nights camping by a whispering ocean, waking to the sunrise and a kettle boiling merrily on the stove? Here’s how you can make your campervan fantasies come true…
the romance of the road
Why do people love campervans so? Well, they’re quirky, nostalgic, often beautiful and somehow very romantic. But perhaps the appeal can really be summed up in one word: freedom.
No other form of transport offers you so much scope for spontaneity, adventure and self-reliance. You have your own mobile accommodation and portable roadside café… Imagine waking with the dawn, sliding open the door and running across golden sand for a dip in the freezing ocean, followed by hot tea and breakfast in the camper.
You can stick your bikes on the back and your surfboards on the roof and plan an expedition; or do no planning at all and simply see where the road takes you. There’s no hassle of putting up a tent and if you get bored of the view you can simply move on.
In other words, you’ve got the keys to your own drivable pocket adventure always at hand. What’s not to love? And if that sounds like your sort of thing, then here’s our complete guide to starting the campervan way of life…
choosing a van
Let’s face it, you probably want one that looks like this…
It’s a 1973 ‘Westfalia’ version of the classic VW Type 2 transporter, and looks like the campervan of most people’s dreams, with the sleeping area, the sink, the snazzy curtains and all the necessaries for an adventure.
Volkswagen began producing its iconic T2 in 1950 and it evolved through the next few decades – manufactured in Germany and then Brazil – from the instantly-recognisable split windshield model (‘Splittie’ to fans) to the more transit-style T5s complete with all the mod cons.
These days you can buy vintage models with souped-up engines and beautifully refurbished and modernized interiors.
Volkswagen inspired competitors which are also icons in their own rights – like the Bedford Dormobile and Dodge Motor Home.
Tip: Try before you buy. The days when you could pick up a vintage campervan for a song are long gone – they represent a serious investment. So why not hire one for a weekend? That will give you a good idea of what kind of spec you’ll need when you come to buy. There are lots of independent campervan hire companies around – just Google ‘campervan hire’ to find your nearest.
hitting the road – how to get the most from your campervan
We’ve compiled a list of the top tips shared by campervan lovers for newbies…
1. Travel light – Space is at a premium in campervans, and when you’re on an adventure the last thing you want is to be continually having to shuffle tons of stuff around. Lots of experienced campervanners say they’ve learned that minimal is best. Take a few days’ worth of clothes and use launderettes, and hire things like sports equipment rather than packing your own.
2. Accessorise – these days there are absolutely loads of handy electric appliances that you can run in a vehicle. A lot of campervan cooks swear by a pressure cooker: there’s nothing like a hot meal being all ready with minimum effort at the end of a long day’s outdoor fun.
3. Get a bike rack – if you’re staying somewhere popular, then once you’ve found a perfect pitch to park you won’t want to lose it. Having a second form of transport allowing you to have days away without losing your spot can be very handy.
4. Invest in air-conditioning – if you’re using the van in high summer or taking it somewhere hot, most vanners say it’s well worth the extra fuel consumption.
5. Go wild… – one of the unique things about vans is the ability to easily go ‘wild’ camping, in places where you can just pull over and park for the night by some spectacular view.
6….but don’t be afraid to make use of campsites – it’s not cheating to have a few days in a place with hot showers and flushing toilets, especially if you have kids (plus they’ll make friends).
7. Enjoy the rain – Campers really come into their own compared to tents when it rains. Sitting in your own cosy room with a mini-kitchen beats the faffing around you have to do in a wet tent hands down, so count your blessings when the weather disappoints.
8. Take the slow lane – on your first campervan holiday the temptation can be to rush around from one spot to another. But a joy of the van way of life is that you can really, properly chill out. Keeping driving days to a minimum is especially recommended for families with young kids, to prevent ‘are we nearly there yet?’ syndrome.
9. Forget the time – normal bedtimes are a write-off on a campervan adventure, even if you’ve got the kids with you. With all the adjusting needed for sleeping arrangements, the most practical way of doing things is for the whole family to go to bed when it’s dark and get up when it’s light… so you might as well embrace it.
10. Think big – if you find the campervan life is for you, then the world really is your oyster. There’s the Scottish Highlands, the south of France, even Australia and New Zealand… Be warned though – it can get very addictive – some vanners hardly ever visit their own houses!