Thursday, 12 May 2016

BIG QUESTIONS: How can you be a camping eco hero?


It isn't easy being green.

But, as campers, campervanners, motorhomers and lovers of the great outdoors, it is our duty to take care of that which gives us so much pleasure. So, I'd like to propose (again) for 2016, the mantra for all camping trips. This is simple. It's also easy. And it's a recurring theme for me.

LEAVE IT NICER.

What I mean by this is that we should leave anywhere we stay – a camp site, wild spot, wherever, nicer than it was when we arrived. This can work on many levels but on a basic one it means making sure your spot is immaculate when you depart. How can you do this?


PICK UP LITTER


I don’t really care if it isn’t your litter, just pick it up. It really won’t kill you and you’ll feel great for doing your bit. If it’s on your patch you should pick it up and dispose of it properly, irrespective of the source. Anyone who sees you camping and then sees litter will put two and two together and make a number that marks you as the culprit.
If you leave somewhere and there is a mess (even if it isn’t yours) we will all get the blame for it. And the consequences of that are that there will be fewer and fewer places where we are welcome. Height barriers will go up, rocks will appear on laybys and the dreaded ‘No Camping or Overnight Parking’ signs will breed. The active way of reversing this trend and making local councils wake up to us as a feasible 'market' (and therefore make it easier for us to overnight) is to be a shining example of green practice.


FORGET SINGLE USE PLASTICS


Everything comes in plastic these days. Salad, bananas, cucumbers, water, hummus, potato salad. It’s, frankly, ridiculous the amount of packaging that our supermarkets and food stores force on us. Even when we don’t need it. It’s almost as if bananas, cucumbers and apples didn’t have a protective outer casing on them anyway. Plastics don’t biodegrade and will eventually end up in rivers, watercourse, storm drains and sewers where they will enter the sea, become toxic and kill. There is no nice way of putting it.

So if you can, please forget the single use plastics. The problem with them is that they don’t biodegrade, turn toxic in water and break down into microplastics that will, in time, hurt us all. So, take your tin mug into Costa, refill a water bottle instead of buying bottled (Europe’s tap water is the best in the world), refuse plastic forks and knives and only take on plastics that can be recycled (if at all). Do this and you’ll be doing the shopping equivalent of leaving it better because you’ll create less waste and less demand for plastics. If we all did it things would change.


BUY LOCAL


Buying local makes so much sense. Why? Because you are putting your money directly into the local economy instead of into a supermarket that cares for nothing but profit. If you give you money to local shops you generally get local produce that hasn’t been half way around the world (and therefore has fewer food miles) and have a chance to enrich the entire local economy. You might also meet some nice people too. People are nice, in general, and it’s great to meet them. You might also discover something unusual or very special; when you buy local. And it’s a darn sight better than a soulless supermarket experience.


EAT WITH THE HARVEST


There is a green leafy cabbage-like plant called ‘hunger gap’. It’s a really tasty green and I love eating it when it’s in season, which is during the ‘hunger gap’ between winter greens and spring vegetables. It’s a wonderfully evocative and quite humbling vegetable simply because it has a job to do and it does it well. It’s available when nothing else is. You can buy it locally when it’s just been picked so it’ll be as good as any green. It’s the same throughout the year with other foods. If you can eat with the seasons then you’ll save lots of carbon (the old footprint issue) and will eat food that is local, fresh and about as good as it gets.


HOW TO BE AN AMATEUR ECO HERO IN TEN EASY STEPS:


You might think you can’t make a difference but you can. Voting with your feet, inspiring others and rolling up your sleeves is the most effective way of making change – for the better - happen. And if you just don’t care, well, whatevs.

Anyone who camps cannot fail to be an environmentalist too, by default. Why destroy the thing which you camp to enjoy? It doesn’t make sense.

1.      Leave it nicer. Clean up when you arrive and before you leave.
2.      Take your own bag shopping.
3.      Don’t damage the environment in which you camp.
4.      If you need a coffee, take your tin mug with you to get one. Refuse single use coffee cups.
5.      Eat locally as much as possible.
6.      Eat seasonally as much as possible.
7.      Recycle EVERYTHING. If it can’t be recycled, refuse it.
8.      Reuse water bottles or packaging if you can.
9.      Buy staples in bulk to save packaging and decant as you need it.
10.    Buy once, buy well. Well made kit will last more than 5 minutes and won't need replacing. Man made fabrics don't biodegrade so once they have gone to landfill they will persist. Take a look at ventile cotton...

Thanks for listening.

The Camper Van Bible is out on June 2nd.

Monday, 9 May 2016

BIG QUESTIONS: if you had all day, what would you cook at camp?



This is  a recipe from my new book, The Camper Van Bible. While the book isn't exclusively about food it does contain a section about food. The section lists some of my favourite and go to recipes. There are some classics in there as well as a few new bits and pieces and even some thoughts on smoking oysters... wooo!

But, given the big question of what I would cook if I had all day to cook at camp, it'd be this, without a doubt. It's one for those days when all you want to do is chug a few beers and cook over an open fire. It's perfect for a Roadii fire grill or a Kotlich and is flipping delicious.

It’s easy to prep but does take some cooking time. It’ll all be well worth the effort though, once your guests tuck in. The rich flavours will remind you of Thai and Asian dishes. Serve with sticky Thai rice for an extra authentic touch.

If you can’t light a fire, then you can always cook this over a very low heat, just make sure you have enough gas.

SLOW COOKED SHIN OF BEEF WITH CORIANDER & STAR ANISE

For 4
4 beef shin joints
An inch of fresh root ginger, chopped
1 large onion chopped
2 fresh red chillies, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
A large bunch of coriander
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mirin
600 mls (about a pint) beef stock
2 whole star anise
Vegetable oil
A few baby carrots (or carrot batons) and mange tout

Heat the Dutch oven over the fire until water sizzles in it. Then add a few drizzles of vegetable oil and seal the beef shin pieces. Remove and put aside. Then remove the oven from the heat a little (raise it up on its tripod) and add the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger. Allow it to soften for a couple of minutes before adding the star anise, stock, soy sauce, mirin and the chopped coriander. Bring to a simmer and then add the beef, making sure it is covered with the stock. Simmer for 2 hours. About five or six minutes before serving check for seasoning then add the carrots, then the mange tout about three minutes later.

Serve to delighted and - by now flipping ravenous - guests.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

BIG QUESTIONS: what's that under your arse? FOAM!


What is that under your arse? It's foam, of course. But it is the right type of foam? And did you ever imagine there could be a right and a wrong type of foam? Well, there is. I will go into the whole shebang in quite a bit more detail (but not too much detail, honestly) in my new book, The Camper Van Bible, so this is just a taster of the delights to come...

Let's begin with the day you decide to get some more foam for the cushions in your van. It's easy, right? You buy some foam, have it cut to size, sew some new covers and Bob is your uncle...wrong! 

Firstly, you need to think about what your cushions are to be used for predominantly. Are they to be used as seating or are they to be used as bedding? This is relevant as some foam is better suited to sleeping than sitting, while other foam is better for sitting...

Foam comes in grades with a load of numbers like 3 INCH V 38 / 200 or 4 INCH R 40 / 180.

What these mean to you and how they will affect your comfort depends on how far you read on and whether or not you have glazed over yet. But stick with it... it gets better...

Foam is graded by FOAM TYPE, DENSITY, HARDNESS and VOLUME. In the first set of numbers above it is graded thus:

VOLUME (3 INCH), FOAM TYPE (R), DENSITY (38), HARDNESS (200)

FOAM TYPE is the basic name for any particular type of foam. It is the bit that comes after INCH in the ratings above. The grades are:

V is for foam that is ‘heavy domestic and contract quality’. A quality foam that is best suited for sitting and seat cushions and will last well. Generally 30% cheaper than REFLEX and better suited to sitting than sleeping.

R is for Reflex, a brand name. This is a very high quality latex foam that will retain its properties over time. The best quality for sleeping.

Other grades of foam are:

CMHR is for ‘Combustion Modified High Resilience Foam’ that includes a lot of melamine for flame retardancy. It can tend to powder over time and can retain moisture so not recommended for camper vans.

RECON is reconditioned foam. It is made up from all the off cuts. It is generally poor wearing, very heavy and not much use to anyone, although it is cheap. Avoid.

Still with us? Okay, moving on.

FOAM DENSITY is the weight of the foam in KILOGRAMMES PER CUBIC METRE. In the foam ratings it comes after the TYPE of foam. The higher the number the higher the density.  A high density foam will last longer and be of better quality. Expect to see Density of around 38 – 40 for a decent foam. This is the part of the rating that comes after the R or V. 

HARDNESS is measured in NEWTONS. It’s all about the science here so I shall skip that and say that the hardness is all about the comfort. Typical foams for campers come in at any where between 135-200 Newtons, depending on the comfort required, with the lower number being less firm than higher numbers.

VOLUME is basically the thickness of the foam, with increased volume offering you more support. 

However, after a certain point volume is pointless, as a dense foam can have the same support at 3 inches thick as at 4 inches thick, depending on how you use it.

THE RULE FOR CHOOSING FOAM:

If you are sitting more than sleeping, use a high density V grade foam. If it’s less firm, go for extra thickness. V40 / 200 at 3 inches is a good bet for camper van cushions.

If you are sleeping more than sitting, use a thicker, but less firm REFLEX foam. Try something like a R38 / 150 at 5 inches for a cosy night.

Too much detail? Until the time comes to look for a mattress, maybe.

The Camper Van Bible goes on sale on June 2nd, with signed copies available from martindorey.com

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

BIG QUESTIONS: is a camper van better than a tent?

The simple answer, if you must know, is yes. Every time. I have camped all my life and have seen it all, from high winds and baking heat to torrential downpours and snowy deposits. It's why I choose camper van over tent almost every time. Unless of course I am visiting Lundy island or somewhere equally inaccessible by road....

Anyway, in my new book, The Camper Van Bible, I set out my stall very clearly with the following:

"My personal love of campers comes down to portability, which might seem odd in the face of the fact that a tent is the ultimate pop up home. But bear with me. The fact remains that a camper van is a home that can be driven. That means you don’t always have to make major alterations to move it.
If you’ve got it right then you should be able to drive your camper away from your camping spot without having to do too much. Yes, so you might have to de-pop a pop top roof, pull the bed down and pack away a few clothes, but at least you don’t have to dismantle it entirely to make a swift getaway."
  • Campervans are better than tents because they offer a level of protection a tent never could. They don’t blow down in the night. They don’t flap and flail and keep you awake. Rarely will you wake to the sound of ripping nylon or humming guy ropes – the sounds that disaster is close at hand.
  • Campervans are better than tents because you can drive them. So, when the weather gets really bad, there is a threat of a flood or snow, wind and rain you can always drive out of there. 
  • Camper vans are better than tents because a few inches of flood water won’t bother you in the least. In a tent it spells disaster.
  • Camper vans are better than tens because they don’t leak if you touch the sides or allow the fly sheet to touch the inner part of the tent. Some do leak, yes, but not necessarily as part of their makeup. A well made camper is a waterproof camper.
  • Camper vans are better than tents because you don’t sleep on the ground. You are on wheels above it. That means you won’t get that creeping chill in the small of your back that you get when you sleep on the ground, even with a half decent insulated mattress.
  • Camper vans are better than tents because you can have them ready to go at a moment’s notice. Sleeping bags, spare toothbrush, pots and pans and a few clothes – they can all be stored neatly in a camper ready for the off.
  • Camper vans are better than tents because they do not have to be dried out after you use them (unless it’s really bad). They also don’t have to be stuffed back into a bag that never fits at the end of a trip.
  • Camper vans are better than tents because they have their own power source for running electrical items, radios and fridges. They can also be plugged in to mains electrics easily for charging mobiles, running DVD players etc. 
  • Camper vans are better than tents because the perfect camper has everything you need, right there, where you need it.
  • Camper vans are better than tents because you can still get a good night’s sleep, even if you have to park on a slope. With clever use of a couple of levelling chocks you can sleep on the level. Who ever heard of a self levelling tent?
  • Camper vans are better than tents because, if absolutely necessary, you can sleep in a camper almost anywhere. Try pitching a tent outside the Dog and Duck and see what happens.
  • Campervans are better than tents because creepy crawlies find it hard to find their way in to a camper, unless they are of the flying variety.
  • Campervans are better than tents because you can lock them from the inside, so keeping you safe from the threat of bears, lions, snakes, mad axe men and evil doggers.
I rest my case your honour.

The Camper Van Bible goes on sale on June 2nd, with signed copies available from martindorey.com

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The adventure continues.... The Camper Van Bible, out June 2nd


I received four advance copies of my new book "The Camper Van Bible" this week. I have to say that I was astounded by it. It's thick, full, fun and brimming with interesting info about camper vans and motorhomes (although I would say that, wouldn't I?). Did you know, for example, how to tell one bedding or seating foam from another? Or what type of fridge works best? Or what size solar panels you need for the gadgets you have?

Even if you already knew that there's loads more stuff in it. And, like my previous books, it's written in a jaunty, happy go lucky style that will bring a smile to your face on a dull day and make you want to turn the key one more time and hit the road.

I asked lots of  camper van owning people to tell me what their camper van means to them, with some interesting and heartfelt results from Chris Packham, Barney Harwood and David Eccles, among many others. I thought that everyone would be similar but they aren't. Everyone has a different reason for loving their vans and motorhomes.

As usual there are a bunch of easy to cook recipes, although the food takes a bit more of a back seat for this book. Even so, the recipes are some of my faves, like my version of Coq Au Van, a Camper Van Korma (with home made pittas) and a devilishly delicious Seafood Chowder with no bake soda bread. And, of course there's the world's best Spag Bol. Why? because we all love Spag Bol and I have been perfecting it for over 30 years.

For those who like to drool over pictures there's some fine van porn too. In September last year we invited a bunch of van owners into a studio to shoot their vans. So there's Buzz Burrell's 54 Split (with a Westy Camping Box interior) and T5 Retro Tourer to drool over as well as the last surviving VW Hearse, The Camper Coffee Company's fabulous 1964 Split Screen container van and the cutest little Daihatsu Hijetta, along with a beautiful (pink) Danbury T2, a Bedford CF called Margot and a T5 Surf. And, of course, as usual there are a few pictures from my camper van adventures too.

One of the best things about writing the book was being able to head off to the beach for a cookout with friends and call it work. I consider myself really lucky that I can. It's a great thing to be able to spend an evening with people you like, cooking, slugging fine Cornish ales and watching the sun go down. I hope it inspires you to do the same. Life is good.

All in all it's a great little big book with lots of info and it's been a real pleasure to be able to put it together, gather information from some of the most knowledgeable people in the business and chat to some old and new friends about what makes them and their vans tick. In many ways it's a dream project.

So, I hope that when it comes out on June 2nd you'll take a look and will give me a big thumbs up for the love that's gone into it. As usual they will be for sale on my website (along with a bunch of other great camping books) as well as at all good bookshops and on the interweb at Amazon.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

20 Reasons why dating a surfer is a stinking pile of pish.


21. Almost forgot. Your children will be indoctrinated too.

Right then. Let’s get straight down to business. I have read a few silly things recently. One of them was an article with the headline  “20 Reasons Dating a Surfer is Like Winning the Lottery”. I posted it to facebook and got an immediate comment from Mrs D that perhaps there were some important details missing. She’s right. Dating a surfer in Hawaii might well be like winning the lottery if he’s loaded and gorgeous and you don’t have to work and he’s got his own personal make up artist and photographer to make him look ‘kewl’ every time he sits in the line up. However, boys and girls, we don’t live in Hawaii. We live in northern Europe.

And what follows, my friends, is the absolute fucking god’s honest truth.

  1. There is a stinking pile of pish in the bathroom. It’s not him after a night out at Caesar’s in Bideford. It’s the wetsuit, your rival for his affections. He pisses in it, even though he says he doesn’t. And it stinks up your bathroom, shower, hallway, car. Everything. It’s a stinking pile of pish and he puts it on.
  2. There is a headless man in the bathroom every time you go to the loo in the middle of the night. It’s that stinking pile of pish again, only this time it is on a hanger hanging from the shower cubicle and it scares the shit out of you every time you go into the bathroom.
  3.  You will never see the Greek Islands. If you don’t know that by now you are seriously deluded.  Ok, you might just score a weekend of snorkelling, but only when all the other holidays – sorry, surf trips - have been had. This will never happen btw.
  4. If you do ever get to Greece he will annoy the shit out of you. Why? Because beaches without waves are boring and he’s bored and there’s nothing to do why the fuck are we here? Christ already, didn’t you realise that when you booked that weekend snorkelling trip to Lesbos? He only came because the name sounded interesting. Get over it.
  5. You will get wetsuits. Yes, you will get wetsuits. You might not get a pair of Uggs for your birthday (which you really wanted) but you will never be short of a wetsuit. That way he feels less guilty about buying his. And you’ll get to share his dream… (really sorry Joanne)
  6. You will have no money. This is either because you move to the coast where there is no work or because it’s all spent on travel and weekends at the coast. When you do get money it will go on wetsuits for you.
  7. You will have a shit car that is full of shit. You will share your vehicle with beach litter (‘saving the planet’ he calls it), wax on the headrests (from stashing boards wax side down), sand, stinking piles of pish, leashes, decomposing shorts, scratched sunnies and an old tape of the Hoodoo Gurus that he can’t bear to throw away.
  8. If you ever get enough money to buy a car that isn’t shit, you will get a 4x4. Because it’ll be great for ragging down to Spekes. You lot know who you are. In 3 months it’ll be dirty and full of shit just like the last one and you’ll have no money anyway.
  9. He will become an environmentalist. Oh for fuck’s sake. Yep. You’ll get a garden full of shit from the beach and will have to attend lots of beach cleans. You will never have a romantic stroll on the beach again because he’ll be looking for sodding Lego all the time (or is it just me?).
  10. You will have to learn to ignore rashes that look like love bites. They are from wetsuits rubbing, not any other kind of rubbing. Who would want a stinking pile of pish like him in their lives anyway? More fool you. He ain’t having an affair with anybody but the ocean.
  11. You will get woken at dawn. But it’s not what you think. He’s pissing about loading up the shitty car with his boards and can’t be quiet about it. It’s almost like he wants a medal for being such a warrior. All you want to do is go back to sleep. And by 7.30 that night - when you're all awake - he’ll be asleep on the sofa.
  12. He’s a flipping misery unless it’s going off. Then you won’t see him. This is one positive aspect of the whole situation I suppose:  he’s fucked off again to go surfing. Then again, if it’s not that it’s that he’s fucked off again ‘cos there’s no surf.
  13. Movie night is crap. You’ll have to learn to love Big Wednesday. “I swear, and don’t know who it was if it wasn’t me, but I never pissed in your steam iron.” It’s the height of culture donchaknow. Get to know the quotes or you won’t have any idea what he’s on about. “I hear you’re having a party Jack.”
  14. You’ll see a lot of shitty waves and inside of lots of tubes (which is more than he will). You’ll watch endless tubes from a GoPro in Namibia or from George Greenough in the 70s. He’ll dream of the simple life. You’ll dream of some other life. From time to time you’ll be made to watch his awesome GoPro footage of him on his log doing his merry dance on a wave that looks about 2 feet tall. I swear Garret’s Mrs says the same about his Nazare footage. Go Pro footage makes it all look like slop. Sorry Garret.
  15. He’ll think nothing of buying a new board, even when there’s no cash. Fact. Boards are friends for life. And you really don’t need to go into the garage to count them. There’s no point. Like an alcoholic with stashes of vodka in the waste bin, there are boards you don’t even know about.
  16. You will only have to go with him once or twice. You’ll soon find out that going surfing with him, unless it’s a beautiful sunny summer’s day is a bit cack. It’ll be cold and raining and if you go off for a walk with the keys you’ll find him shivering and furious waiting for you to return so he can get out of his pissy wetsuit. It’s the sure fire way to get uninvited. Believe me, you’re better off doing your own thing. He'll get over it.
  17. If you were shagging someone else he’d probably never notice - unless it was one of his surfing mates. But only when they go missing from the lineup. He’s so flipping blinkered he’ll miss everything – even if it was hiding under the bed.
  18. If you want news, don’t rely on him to tell you. They sit out the back yabbering for hours on end. But they never find out anything useful about the lives of their surfing buddies. So if you want to know stuff about the girlfriend, mum’s illness, the kids, school, work etc., don’t ask him what’s going on when he gets home from a surf. All they do is talk crap about wetsuits, crowds and far flung trips.
  19. He’s hot in a wetsuit…but when it comes off…yew. Wetsuit tans. Pasty white with brown hands and a sunburned face. Spindly legs. White bod. I dunno. Cosmo would make you believe it’s hot…whatevs.
  20. You’re off to A and E again. Get used to those calls from the hospital. Only it’s never anything as cool as being bitten by a shark or being beaten up for not being local. No. It’s broken toes falling over on the beach. It’s a broken nose from going over the falls. It’s reef rash. It’s staph infections from surfing Pipe (the other Pipe). The shits. The works. But never anything interesting.

And that, my dear friends is the truth. You knew it would be this way didn’t you? Yep.

P.S. Despite the shits, the wetsuits and the pish in the bathroom, it’s actually a good, decent life chasing waves.  It’s a good reason for getting up in the morning and a good reason for loving the ocean, the earth and all of nature. I make no apologies for the fun we’ve had.

You had fun, didn’t you? 

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The new ride. A Transit in a posh frock.


We finally took possession of our new ride last week. It’s been an interesting time searching for a camper that’s just right for us – and it coincided perfectly with the work I have been doing for ‘The Camper Van Bible’, my new book. So a lot of the questions we asked ourselves about 'what is right for us' will be in there if you're ever facing the difficult decision to buy a camper.

This is about our thought process but there's a lot more to it than what I have written here (it IS in the book)...

Buying a camper van isn’t like buying a car. There are lots of extra considerations to take into account such as the type of roof to go for, the type of kitchen and the number of people you need to sleep. And that’s once you have decided what kind of a van you’re going to fit it all in.
One of the chapters in ‘The Camper Van bible’ deals with exactly the issues I faced when selling our old Type 2 and moving on to our new van, which, incidentally, is a VW T5 California Beach. This is the California without the kitchen and cupboards, although it has camping electrics and two doubles. It is the 140 BHP Bluemotion version with an automatic gearbox, 7 seats and mostly all of the knobs and whistles. That's it above.

Motorhome or campervan

Brilliant for travelling, but no daily driver














This year we’ve been fortunate enough to try out a series of motorhomes and van derived campers for a series of articles for Motorhome and Motorcaravan Monthly. We loved the space of the coach built motorhomes but decided they just aren’t right for us after I had to do a 3 point turn in a Cornish lane on a dark and foggy night on the Lizard Peninsula. Mind you, when we took a 4 berth motorhome to the lakes in February we were very glad of the heating and the space. Of all of them I liked the Peugeot Boxer derived Auto-sleeper Warwick Duo the best, but still wouldn’t want to drive it every day.

Daily driver or show piece

Our T2 was a beautiful van. It still is and we miss it terribly. But, living by the sea meant we had to garage it most of the time. So it became an extra, almost a trailer queen, being driven only on sunny days. I had a golf for every day. But two sets of tax and MOT and insurance are too much to wear. So whatever we went for had to be my daily drive. That meant a Boxer, Sprinter or Crafter – or even a coach built - would be out of the question.

Old or new

The Danbury T5 Surf in the studio




















We’ve had 3 T25s and one T2 so we’ve been there and done that with the old vans. This time, since we were looking for a daily driver, it would have to be able to rattle up the A30 to the station (in the middle of winter) as much as it would to the South West of France and Northern Spain. We’ve also got ambitions to go to Norway and to go further than ever before, so we need heat, reliability, comfort and a bit of grunt. An old camper just wouldn’t cut it, gorgeous as they are.

Long or short wheelbase

One of the first issues we had to work out was all about space. We lived in our T2 for 10 weeks over the summer of 2013 so we found out all about the need for space. Four people who surf, cycle, swim, snorkel, eat and sleep need a fair bit of space, even though they operate a strict wash-one-wear-one policy at all times (with the exception of the women among us). Our T2 had no roof rack and the bike rack only takes 2 bikes so we had to travel with all that inside the van. Never again!
We pondered the need for a long wheel base van for the extra space it would give us. The only issue was the fact that the rear bench seat (rock and roll bed) on a long wheelbase van is right at the back. That means you need long arms to eat at the table and that the kids would be miles away when we travelled – unless we had a sliding seat system.

Rock and roll safety

The rock and roll bed is vital to the van. It’s a serious consideration because it’s all about the safety of my nearest and dearest. We wanted something that would be ‘crash tested’ and wouldn’t come flying out of the back of the van at us if we were in an accident. There are lots of great makes out there, including Ribb Altair beds, Bebb beds, Bedrock beds and those on sliding rails like the Reimo Variotech beds or those installed by VW in the Cally. In the end it was a toss up between a Reimo Variotech on rails so we could have the kids closer to us or a Cally, which does the same thing.

Everything and the kitchen sink

The Slidepod in a Kombi
A major decision in the buying process is what to have for your camping equipment. Our T2 had a full width bed with a kitchen pod at the front end so we didn’t feel the need to go back to a full kitchen with wardrobes etc. The size of the bed was more important than the size of the kitchen. I went to Danbury to take pictures for ‘The Camper Van Bible’, which gave me a chance to nose around their ‘Surf’ model. This has a 3 seat bench seat and a narrow kitchen and is a great van.

Then we discovered Slidepods, an option which gave us a good amount of versatility because it means you can turn a standard van into a camper without having to have a full time kitchen. It would also be useful for demos too as it’s outside of the van rather than inside. And it’s removable. We took pictures of the Slidepod for ‘The Camper Van Bible’ and it looks great. We’ll be ordering one in the new year.

Finally… the van arrives.

As someone who has driven old and silly vehicles for all of my life (apart from the Golfs) it’s a revelation having something so modern. Not only do I feel like a grown up (and therefore a fraud) but I also feel like I don’t deserve it, like it’s for someone else. I like the heated seats and the heating and the fact that you can clear the windscreen. I like the fact that it feels safe, that I can hear the stereo and that I can go over 50 miles per hour.
And ok, so it’s not got the charm or the style and no one waves or bats an eyelid when we drive past. And we know we’re going to arrive when we set off. And we’ll be able to go far without taking a week to get up to 55. And we’ll be able to carry our surfboards on the roof and all our bikes on the back.
And OK, so the T5 has been described as a ‘Transit in a frock’.
But so what? The most important thing is that we’re going to be camping more than ever. 

I could get used to that.

"The Camper Van Bible" is due out next spring.