Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Fancy a BBQ this summer? Win a bucket Barby and forget the disposables.

As you may or may not know,  I am a tyrant when it comes to being responsible on the campsite. In my books and on the t'internet I bang on about keeping the place tidy and I always make sure that any pitch is left tidier than it was when we arrived. I also like to cook with fresh and local ingredients if I can, not just because of the taste, but also because of the impact of some supermarket practices.

I feel the same way about the way I barbecue. I absolutely detest disposables because of their negative environmental impact and also because they encourage wastefulness. I made a film about it for the #2minutebeachclean project recently. Here it is:



Win a bucket Barby Portable BBQ set from Trespass

Of course it would be wrong of me to tell you not to do something without telling you what I think is the right thing to do, would it? And that, in the case of a summer barbecue, is to use charcoal from managed forests (many disposables do not) in a reusable BBQ. And if you need portability so you can BBQ on a campsite or in a field then a bucket BBQ is the answer.

As if by magic I was contacted recently by Trespass, the outdoor clothing people. They wanted to know if I was willing to work with them on some PR stuff for their cooking and eating ranges. I said yes and it was decided that we do a little competition to give away some summer camping gear. Their bucket Barby Portable BBQ Set is the perfect solution to this disposables issue. It comes in a bag so you can zip it up afterwards and take it home to use again on another sunny day. It has legs so it won't burn the grass and it has two levels for cooking. Perfect.

How to win? Just retweet!!!


I've got 2 of these little devils to give away. To be in with a chance, all you have to do is share this article on Twitter or Facebook. But just don't forget to tag me @campervanliving and @trespass in your tweet, along with the link to this blog post.

Something to cook on your new BBQ?


I'll also chuck in a copy of my new book The Camper Van Bible so you have something to cook on your new BBQ. It contains a few great BBQ recipes, including one for my 'Just a Minute Spicy Bean Burgers'. Look good? They taste even better...

You can buy copies of some great camping and cooking books at martindorey.com.

Check out the Trespass cooking and eating range HERE.




Some small print...

It's not much but here it is:

  • Competition closes on 1st August 2016.
  • Winners will be chosen at random from those who retweet on Twitter and include the tags @campervanliving and @trespass in their RT. 
  • I choose the winner.
  • My decision is final.
  • Winners will be contacted by DM on Twitter then via email after 1st August 2016.
  • The BBQ will be sent out by Trespass. The books by me.
  • Open to UK residents aged 18 and over only. 
  • No cash alternative is available to the prize. 
  • The final prize is dependent on the stock, sizing and colours available once the winner has been drawn (an equivalent prize may be offered in the unlikely scenario that the size is not in stock).


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

What will Brexit mean for your Euro camping adventure?

Whether you are an innie or an outie, there’s no doubt that this Brexit nonsense will have some kind of effect on your camping plans at some point. In reality it may not affect this summer that much but, depending on what our government (whatever or wherever that is right now) negotiates in the months and years to come it may have some long term resonance.

This week we are concerned about the exchange rate for our forthcoming trip to Spain (we leave on Sunday) but that’s just about it. We still have to conform to the rules of the road, we still can enjoy the benefits of our reciprocal agreements with the EU and, hopefully, we will still be able to enjoy French and Spanish hospitality.

So, in case you decide to head over to continental Europe (or Europe as it should probably henceforth be known), here are a few things to think about.

What’s your pound worth?

I checked the exchange rate on Thursday ahead of the referendum results. For my £500 of holiday money I would have got about €670. Now it’s down to about €600 (according to XE Currency), so there’s been some serious devaluation there. What you ultimately get for your sorry English pounds will depend on where you exchange them and what rates they offer at the time. My advice? Hold tight until you go… it could all change.

But really it’s not going to be that different unless you are buying big purchases. A pint, according to pintprice.com will now cost you about £4.45 in France but £1.66 in Spain. So that’s not too bad. It’s the first Euro trip we’ve had in  four years so we’re not going to let a few pence on a pint put us off, are we?

Why you should still carry your EHIC card.


When I caught myself in the face fishing in Spain a few years ago, my EHIC card got me great service at a public hospital in Spain. I showed my papers, signed some forms and was treated brilliantly by lovely doctors. Well done Spain.

For the time being the EHIC card is still valid. What it does is guarantee the person holding it the same treatment in a public hospital as someone from that country would receive. It comes from an agreement between EU states. Until it is renegotiated things should remain the same, but it will have to be renegotiated nonetheless. However, the UK also has reciprocal agreements with lots of other nations including Australia and Barbados, so there’s no reason it can’t be renegotiated.

A word of warning though: the EHIC is not valid in private clinics or hospitals so do not forget to get travel insurance too. That is vital.

Your European Union passport.

For now you’re stuck with your European Union passport, whether you feel like you have your country back or not. Borders are still open states and, for the time being, we can still enjoy freedom of movement, the freedom to study, live and travel. But watch this space as it will all change as time develops. We may find it more difficult to cross borders in years to come. Our kids may not be able to work or study abroad so easily either. And all for the right to take control of the curliness of our cucumbers… 

Don’t forget the usual motoring essentials.































We might be free from Europe and all that claptrap but we still have to abide by their rules when over there. That means you’ll still have to sort out your Euro travel kit before you leave. Here are the basics:


  • Red and white hazard squares are a requirement in Spain if you carry rear loads.
  • In France you must carry two breathalyser kits.
  • In most European countries you must have a reflective vest and warning triangle in the van.
  • You must have your registration and V5 log book document.
  • You must adjust your headlamps.
  • In some countries you must carry a first aid kit.
  • You will need a GB sticker
  • For goodness' sake, take out European breakdown cover.

Some other useful items…






































Of course you’ll need a recipe book or two to take with you… and perhaps a guide book of wild swimming spots… or maybe a You can buy a few on martindorey.com but, just in case you see through the thin veneer of my terrible salesmanship, here are a few other suggestions:


  • Stay on aires de camping car. Directories are available at vicariousbooks.co.uk. These vary in size, quality and price but choose carefully and you could well enjoy a lovely cheap stay in a great place.
  • France Passion (and other country equivalents) are also available from Vicarious Books. These are places you can stay for free overnight on the understanding that you say hello to your hosts. Places to stay include vineyards, farms and auberges. Highly recommended.
  • If you go out of season get an ASCI card. This will give you out of season discounts at 3142 campsites across Europe. Again, available from Vicarious.

Finally, don’t let this Brexit thingummy ruin your trip. People are people wherever you go and it is up to us to be kind, patient and smiling humans. Our neighbours will always be our friends and we should embrace them as such. I, for one, will head across the Bay of Biscay with a big smile on my face next week. Cannot wait.

Hola!

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Wash one, wear one. The art of packing light.


It’s that time again. I’m flapping like an old fishwife, trying to work out what to pack for our three week adventure in Northern Spain. We’re off in less than a fortnight so we’re getting close to the off. And that means we are getting close to packing time. This year I have given each of my family a box to fill with whatever they like. They can take millions of pairs of pants and no hats if they like or they can take 10 pairs of trousers and no socks. It’s up to them really.

The reason for this is that I know my family like to overpack. They produce new outfits each day while I bum around in the same old pair of shorts for weeks on end. It’s happened before. They are crazed packers, fitting in as much as they could get away with. Until now there was no way of knowing if it would all fit in.

The only way I’d know was when we’d get to the packing the van stage and we’d suddenly find that we’d run out of room very quickly and everyone would have to reconsider what they take. The last time we headed off I sacrificed my space for dresses and tinkles and sprinkles that ensured every night was dress up for dinner night. Meanwhile, I stewed, literally.

The thing about the boxes is that I know they fit in the van. They sit on the back shelf above the Slidepod side by side in a heavenly line of neatness. If you want something you go into your box and you get it, then you close up your box again, stick it back in place and the status quo is maintained. Boom!

Am I anal? Maybe. But when it comes to packing camper vans, space is everything. In packing you must never forget that there will come a time when everything needs to be moved and stashed away so you can go to sleep. It’s kind of important. And for someone who has previously done that 65 nights on the trot, it’s safe to say it can get tedious if you take too much crap with you.

It seems that no matter how much storage you have, you’ll never have enough. For that reason I have compiled my art of packing light top ten list of campervan packing dodges.

1                     Give everyone a set amount of space to fill and don’t let them go over. Make sure they don’t over pack useless items, like millions of pairs of shoes they’ll never wear. Be draconian. Be strict.
2                     Roll up clothes as they are easier to pack and get less crumpled. But don’t be tempted to over pack and stuff your allocated space to the brim. Allow a little room for laziness.
3                     Take CDs out of their cases and put them in a wallet to save carrying loads of extra stuff. Or, better still, take an iPod (don’t forget the charger!).
4                     Decant spices and herbs and oil into smaller tins or bags to save space in your kitchen cupboard. Put butter in a kilner jar so it doesn’t go everywhere. Don’t get hung up on kitchen gadgets. A sharp knife will suffice.
5                     Invest in square plates and bowls. It’s amazing how much space they can save. Consider taking a plancha for frying as it’s cupboard shaped and doesn’t have awkward handles.
6                     Don’t waste cupboard space with duvets and pillows. You’ll need them every night anyway. Cupboards should be for clothes and kitchen stuff.
7                     Don’t overpack or it’ll be a nightmare to get it all back in. Kitchen cupboards that are over packed are a pain as you need to take everything out to get the useful stuff at the back.
8                     Take a pup tent to stash all the unnecessary stuff you don’t need day to day.
9                     Find a place for everything – agree it with the rest of them – and everything will be found in its place.
10                 Have a practice with everything in its place. Then see how it is when you put the bed out and stash it all away. Then halve it and start all over again.

Good luck!

Signed copies of The Camper Van Bible are available - along with a lot of other great camping and outdoor books - at martindorey.com


Friday, 17 June 2016

What does a camper van mean to you?


What does a camper van mean to you? 

Good times? Camping? The open road? breaking down? A love affair? It was a simple question that I asked as many people as I could get hold of (including the good and great of the camper van scene as well as a few van owning 'slebs) when I was writing my new book 'The Camper Van Bible'. I wanted to find out what people thought of their vehicles and to look into the kind of relationships people have with them. I wondered if I'd get a load of hippy drippy stuff or something more pragmatic. In the end we got some sensible stuff but also some really emotional musings. Some people's connections with their vans run deep. Mostly though, the feeling was the same: camper vans make us feel free for a while. My favourite line, from Sarah Riley of Inspired Camping was this: "And just as we found we often had to fix it... it also ended up fixing us."

So true.

So let's hit the road. The quotes appear in full in The Camper Van Bible.

"When my daughter was a baby she was seriously ill with leukaemia. We spent six months by her side in hospital. During that period Jo and I hatched a plan to buy another camper and take off on a big adventure. We needed a dream to chase. It was the very best antidote to the horror of the childhood cancer we were facing every day and became, for us, a symbol of a hopeful future." 

Martin Dorey, writer and surfer.

"I love the smiles Nan the Van generates as we drive through towns and villages, but best of all I love the sound of the solid 'clunk' as I slide the side door closed. It always marks the beginning of another adventure."

Josh Sutton, AKA The Guyrope Gourmet

"For me it’s not a lifestyle, it’s a machine, an organism as old as me and just as finicky, we’ve got some dents, we’ve got some rust, we need a new gearbox but remarkably we are both still puttering along."  

Chris Packham, Springwatch presenter

"Custard carried us from the church on our wedding day and the precious cargo of our babies on their first camping trips.  I created a new career using the van as the focus for a column I write in a camping magazine. Custard remains the embodiment of happiness, freedom and family fun.  Just inhaling that familiar, evocative smell of my van every time I climb behind the wheel is enough to remind me what really matters in life." 

Ali Ray, author of Pitch Up Eat Local

"Put simply, my van is my escape. Escape from the world, escape from the set, escape from the executive producer who wants me to say it 'with more feeling'. But, most importantly it makes me feel like that 8 year old boy from Blackpool who used his duvet and mum’s dining chairs to make his den. Like most Vdubbers, I’m hooked." 

Barney Harwood, Blue Peter presenter

"A camper van to me means freedom and impromptu adventures. It's more than just my daily transport, it's a realisation of my dreams. We often jump in our Danbury for unscheduled day trips to explore the great British countryside. If we like where we've ended up, we stay the night because we can. If we don't - we turn the key and move on..."

Jason Jones, Danbury Motor Caravans

"We discovered motorhomes when we had twins. No airport stress, no being forced to follow someone else’s agenda and timetable and no need to spend the earth to have quality time as a family. Load up, drive, pitch-up, enjoy."

Daniel Attwood, Editor Motorhome and Motorcaravan Monthly Magazine

"Bernie was such a bargain! He was so unreliable every turn of the key felt like a step into the unknown. But that sense of adventure, the smell of the 80s upholstery and all the associated happy memories turned Bernie into a powerful time machine, somewhere I could hide with a guitar and be transported to wherever I chose." 

Brian Briggs, the singer with Stornoway

"From the moment I was handed the keys for the 1974 Type 2 VW Campervan, I felt like the queen of the road. Winning Visit England's 'Fan in a Van' competition and being given the opportunity to explore our green and pleasant land in such an iconic vehicle was a dream come true." 

Rachel Kershaw, the Fan in a Van for the Olympic torch tour 2012

"We bought our first VW Camper, a 1967 Canterbury Pitt, to travel overland to India via Iran and Afghanistan and back in 1976. We covered 30,000 trouble free miles on some of the worst “roads” imaginable yet only had one puncture! Though we had to sell her on returning to the UK, in 1978 we bought a 1966 Devon Camper; the family’s children cried as we drove off in her." 

David Eccles, Editor VW Camper and Commercial Magazine

"As we were travelling back home ELO Mr Blue Skies came on the radio & the name was born, Mr Blue. Working for ourselves, being able to escape was always a challenge but once we had Mr Blue all we had to do was climb inside and as soon as we had turned out of the drive we felt like we were already on holiday. He is the ultimate escape, whether for fish & chips near our local beach, a day trip on the ferry to the Isle of Wight, winding round the lanes or a full touring and camping trip." 

Lucy Jayne Grout, Lucy Jayne Caravans and Caravanner of the Year judge

"Our camper became a place of recovery, a safe haven and an escape from difficult times. Our family took on the life of a tortoise: slowing things down, carrying our home wherever we went and allowing the squishy suspension to comfort and rock us to sleep. That camper may have been an old metal box on wheels, but it felt like so much more than that. And just as we found we often had to fix it... it also ended up fixing us."

Sarah Riley, Founder of InspiredCamping.com


You can buy The Camper Van Bible on Amazon or signed copies at martindorey.com

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

The best books to take camping this summer.

We are off on a big adventure to northern Spain this summer. It’s been 4 years since we ventured across the channel to mainland Europe and I, for one, can’t wait. It’s the promise of getting away from the PC and the DIY and the mortgage and all the everyday trappings that excites me most. We’ll have three weeks to meander around Spain and France doing the things that make us happy. We’ll camp, of course, but we’re also searching for good walking, surfing, wild swimming and snorkeling.
We have a number of great books to guide us on our way, including one of the Wild Swim books and the latest guides to the aires of France and Spain from Vicarious book. Some of these are available on my website at martindorey.com, where you’ll find a hand-picked selection of camping and campervan books. These are books that inspire me, make me want to pull on my walking boots of strip off and dive into a rock pool.

The Guyrope Gourmet



 Let Josh Sutton transport you to a place where the fire never goes out, the banjos are strumming all evening and the food fill your nostirls with heavenly aromas. That’s the world of the Guyrope Gourmet, my mate from up north who drives a very cool Viking Camper and who makes great nosh. His book is full of wonderful images, great recipes and beautiful illustrations. Flick through it ona sunny afternoon and you’ll soon be dashing off to the farm shop….


Wild Swimming





















If you like exploring and swimming then you need this book in your life. It’s full of fantastic places to swim, dive, jump and float away your summer. Pack a copy and take it wherever you wander this summer so you’ll be able to look up Daniel Start’s favourite places to take a wild swim. There are 300 of them around the UK and they will inspire you to roll up your swimmers in the old beach towel and head for the hidden pools, rivers, waterways, ponds, waterfalls, rockpools and lakes  of Britain.


Camping by the Waterside





















One thing you’ll need to sort out is where to pitch your tent this summer. And my friend Steven Neale has the perfect criteria for guaranteeing a perfect pitch. And that is to only go to places where he can (or at least very nearly) cast his line of launch his kayak directly from the campsite. Better still, from his pitch. This book was a labour of love for Stephen and it shows. There are 120 sites all over Britain, clear regional maps and top ten lists for every type of by the water camping.


The Essential Guide to Beachcombing and the Strandline





















If you like strolling along the shoreline and like to know what treasure you might find there, this is the definitive guide to it. This is a book that took years of experience and lots of time spent wandering to write. It lists pretty much everything you might find on the beach, from fisherman’s buoys to lobster tags, shell and seed pods. It’s one for the cuious stroller, the beach wandered and the inquisitive beachcomber. But just remember, once you start finding beach treasure you’ll never walk along the beach in the same way again.


All the Aires France and Spain



If you are heading for the continent then the place to get your guide books is Vicarious Books. They publish the well-loved guides to the Aires of Europe and are agents for France Passion, the scheme that allows campervan and motorhome owners the opportunity to stay as guests of producers, bars and restaurants all over France. The Aires books are really useful on any trip to France and Spain as they list free (or cheap) stopovers all over the place. We have visited a few of them ourselves and can say that the listings and reporting is fantastic. We will not be leaving home without them.



The Camper Van Coast





















So you’re taking off for the coast this summer? My second book is full of great ideas for a fantastic campervan trip to the coast, as well as lots of fantastic cook-in-a-camper recipes based on the sort of stuff you might find at the coast (and more). There’s also lots of coastal information , some easy (and safe) foraging and a whole gamut of advice and ideas for the best trip ever… so slip the old girl into first and hit the road. The coast isn’t too far.


There are lots of inspiring camping and campervan books on martindorey.com and I am adding more all the time. It’s the only place you can get signed copies of my books too.






Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Vango Air Hub: a weekend on a cliff top


We’re off to Spain in a few weeks’ time. It’ll be the first time we’ve headed to Europe since our big 10 week tour of France and Spain in 2012. Our kids are that bit older and will be up for as much fun as they can get their hands on, while Jo and I are that bit older and wiser, but still want to have as much fun as possible. We’ve also got some new kit on board – and that includes our new VW T5 California beach and our Slidepod. So it’s all change with the Dorey camping machine.

We’ve also got a new Vango awning, an Air Hub, on loan for the trip, which we hope will complete our new set up.

The trouble with awnings


We’ve had awnings before, so we’re quite used to the way they work – or don’t. While they can add an extra room to your van they can also make it feel a little enclosed at times. When you attach the awning to the sliding door of the van it cuts off that lovely outside-in view that you get from the slider. In a hot location it feels counter-productive.
Awnings, we know, can also be bulky, heavy and a right royal pain in the behind. On our big adventure in 2012 we actually abandoned ours at a friend's house because we were camping wild some of the time and it spent more time under the van than attached to it. We also stayed in some places for just a night or two, making it impractical to put up and peg out an awning every other day. In the end, a lot of the time we used a pop-up pup tent to stash stuff we didn’t need.

The vango Air Hub

The Slidepod kitchen (as you may well know) is a removable rear kitchen that pulls out from beneath the California’s multi board back parcel shelf. So you cook under the tailgate. It can also be removed, making it possible to set up a camp kitchen in an awning. There are a few freestanding tailgate awnings on the market and they come in at anywhere between £280 and £340. There are also a number of non-freestanding tailgate awnings – including those from VW and Just Kampers  – that hang off the tailgate, but for what we need it defeats the object. We need an awning for extra space when the van is in use. 
So we looked at getting an event shelter… it seemed like a good compromise as it would provide a closable room that we could back the van up to and cook out of. We could even take the Slidepod out and turn the awning into a kitchen… so saving space in the van.
And, waddayaknow, I got approached by Vango a little while ago to see if I wanted to try out some of their new range of Airbeam awnings. I explained about our Slidepod and said that I’d seen the Hogan Hub at a show and considered it to be a good option. A few days later a Vango Air Hub arrived for us to try out with the van.

How easy is it to put up an Airbeam tent?


I’m a luddite by choice at times so I was keen to see how airbeam technology might compare to the traditional poles of a standard awning. Is it easier to put up? Is it robust enough to last a summer with the Doreys? Is it lightweight enough? Does it pack away easily? Will it work for what we want it to do? Can it cope with high winds?
Firstly, the Air Hub uses air to hold itself up. That’s right. Actual air. Okay, so I’m late to the airbeam party but it was a novelty to me to be able to pump up an awning. In fact, to show just how easy (or difficult) the Air Hub is to put up I set Charlie to work on the pump. We pegged the awning out, connected the pump to the single valve (it only has one) and then I left her to it. I can safely say that it took about a minute for her to pump up the Hub to a shape that roughly resembled a tent shape, with me adding the final few puffs to bring it up to pressure when she got 'tired' (bored). Handily for us the pump has a gauge to see the pressure and avoid over inflation. We then guyed it out, finished pegging the bottom and hey presto! One rigid hub that was up in about one tenth the time it would have taken me to put up our old awning. And with none of the ‘that goes there, that there, this pole goes here and that one there, then you hold it’ that it came with. You just peg and pump.

I have to say I was impressed. And it's got an RRP of just £260 so it's cheaper than most awnings.

Air versus poles?

I have to say I was a bit non-plussed by the Airbeam. I wanted to be anti airbean because it's sort of new and I know where I am with a pole. But I could immediately get why people love them so much. However I do worry about punctures and explosions  and going down in the night (well, you have to ask, don’t you?). But, much to my relief, the Air Hub stayed put for 24 hours, didn’t disappear off like a deflated balloon in the wind and didn’t puncture… so far so good.

Living with the hub

It was a natural thing for the action to focus on the Hub for our daytime activities. It provided shelter from wind and sun on a glorious weekend and then safe haven for boards and gadgets overnight. I chopped and cooked in it and it was great – just like an awning should be. So it did what we asked of it.

Letting the side down?

What about when it came to going home? How would that fare? The truth is that I wasn’t quite so keen on the way the airbeam dropped. It was easy enough, but not quite as easy as putting it up. The process was straight forward enough – you reverse the pump so it sucks and then pump away until the beams are empty. Then you wrap and roll as normal. Of course, as with all awnings we couldn’t get it to fold up smaller that it was when it arrived and this was partly because we couldn’t get all of the air out of the beams. A bit like deflating an airbed and not quite being able to squeeze out the last puffs. But at least it did go back in the bag. And that’s a start.

The proof of the pudding is in the long-term testing

So this was a fine weekend in May. “So what?”, you may ask, it’s hardly testing times. And you’d be right. Things can be very different under the sometimes trying conditions of a Euro camping adventure. And we shall soon find out when we hit the road in July. But until then, let’s give it some marks….

Puttie up-iness: 10/10
Puttie down-iness 8/10
Cookingin-iness: 10/10
Storingsurfboard-iness: 10/10





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?