Tomorrow I’ll be off on my second camper van trip. I’ll be doing a couple of days in the Lake District before returning via Manchester to pick up our daughter from uni for the Christmas holidays. The weather doesn’t look great, so I think it will be a couple of day walks rather than backpacking. I might even take some photos.
As a camper van neophyte, it was obvious after my first trip that I needed some bits and pieces to fully kit out my camper. So here’s what I’ve bought so far (with some hyperlinks to products where appropriate).
My camper has leather seats, which are rather sumptuous, but quite cold to sleep on. To give a bit of insulation, I bought some thin CCF tent underlay from Needle Sports and cut to size. To make it even more comfortable I’ve added a fleece throw from John Lewis and some cushions for when I’m lazing around. I pondered whether to have a normal pillow, but decided that a blow up pillow would be more practical, so I got a Sea to Summit Aeros Premium pillow. It also gives me some flexibility to use it if I want some extra comfort when backpacking.
I don’t need pans as I’ve got some Kovea titanium ones that I used to use for backpacking. For when I’ve got electrical hookup, I’ve got a compact 3-cup electric kettle. For when I’m not on hookup, I’ve bought an Optimus camping kettle. I decided that it was better to get disposable picnic plates, bowls, cutlery and plastic glasses from my local supermarket rather than a melamine picnic set. However, for mugs, I decided some decent Thermos insulated ones were worth getting. Finally, I wanted a washing up bowl, but thought a rigid plastic one was overkill, so I bought a collapsible Sea to Summit one. To complete the kitchen stuff, I’ve got a collection of dish cloths and scourers.
Storage, cleaning, heating and safety
For storage, Whambox 9L crates are about the right size to fit under the seats. They are large enough to get a decent amount of stuff in, but small enough to be flexible. For cleaning, besides a dustpan and brush, I bought a compact cordless vacuum cleaner. This is brilliant, not just in the van, but around the house. For rubbish, I got a compact 10L fliptop bin, which fits nicely between the front seats and is small to store away. For the main seating area, I wanted a rug, but couldn’t find any the right size. Then I came across a site selling hallway runners, which was perfect for my purposes. While the van has a heater which runs off the fuel tank, I thought it would be a good idea to have an electric fan heater for when I’m hooked up to electric. It can also be used as a fan without heating. Lastly, for safety, I purchased a small carbon monoxide detector for when I’m using the gas hob.
I found the steering wheel on the Alphard a bit sticky as it’s plastic, so I bought a cheap leather steering wheel cover. It’s a bit of a pig to get on, but feels much nicer. For my phone, I got a CD slot phone holder. I’ve used one on my other car, and it’s great to have the phone to hand and to be able to patch it into the stereo via a USB lead. Although I’ve got internal insulated screens for the windscreen and side front windows, you get a lot of condensation in cold weather, so I’ve ordered a windscreen insulated snow cover. This should help both with insulation and with not having to de-ice the windscreen. Lastly, I bought some foot well mats to save the carpet getting dirty. I bought some cheapo carpet ones from Halford’s, but they slide about too much, so I may replace them with heavier rubber ones.
I’m sure there’s some other bits and pieces I’m going to need. I’m looking forward to my next trip in mid-December where I’m combining a couple of days in the Lake District with picking up our daughter from university.
Disclaimer: I bought all of the above items with my own money and have no relationship with the companies other than as a customer.
This has been a tough year. Mum’s illness and death has really taken its toll, but we have to move on. Just after mum died, I took delivery of a camper van. This is a totally new experience for me as I’ve never owned one before. Mark of Mark’s walking blog owns a Wellhouse Leisure Toyota Alphard and recommended it.
After doing a bit of research, the Alphard looked extremely good value. It’s about half the price of similarly specced vehicles like VW T5/6’s. Although it’s a very high quality conversion, the reason it’s such good value is that Wellhouse use imported second-hand Toyota Alphard’s from Japan that are over ten years old.
Despite the age, they are in very good condition and have a high spec, although without many of the many modern fripperies like a trip computer. The actual basis of the vehicle is similar to a Lexus RX300. They are either 2WD or 4WD and have either a 2.4L or a 3.0L V6 engine. I was really lucky to pick up a 4WD 3.0L V6 with low mileage (57,000, 2002 registration).
Wellhouse Leisure were great to deal with, especially for a neophyte like me. Once I’d selected my base model, I added some extras: leather seats, Cat1 alarm & immobilser, double din stereo, lagged/heated water tanks, bike rack, cruise control and solar panel. Total cost was £24,050.
I’ve never driven a vehicle larger than a car, so driving back from Wellhouse’s premises near Huddersfield was a little nerve-wracking. However, I soon got used to the high driving position and different controls. The V6 engine is a real boon as it has plenty of power and decent acceleration for a large vehicle.
My only criticism is that it only has a four-speed automatic gearbox (Toyota didn’t fit five-speed until 2005). For motorway cruising, it revs higher than I’m used to. However, it’s nice and relaxing to drive , even at higher speeds.
So far I’ve taken it on one trip. My mum’s funeral coincided with our daughter’s reading week break from university. Instead of taking the train back to Manchester, I drove her up and then spent a couple of days in the Lake District, staying at Braithwaite camp site.
Compared with staying in a tent, it’s luxurious, especially in cold weather (it’s got a heater than runs off the petrol tank). On the middle night I camped out on the fells, but the next morning the weather turned unsettled with sleety showers so I went back to the van and spent a lazy day. The next day, I decided to go home. It was wonderful not to have a wet tent to pack.
I’m still on a learning curve and have needed to buy a few bits and pieces. For the colder months, it’s fabulous. It opens up new opportunities. I’ll be off again mid-December for a couple of days before collecting our daughter again from university. I’ll probably just do a couple of day walks this time.
Some more pictures of the Alphard from the Wellhouse website
Mark is selling his Alphard because he wants a larger vehicle. If you’re interested he’s advertised it on preloved here
Disclaimer: I have no relationship with Wellhouse Leisure and paid for my Alphard with my own money.
Patch had her stitches out this morning and everything seems to be going well. We will have to keep an eye on her in case she tries to scratch the wound but it seems to be healing nicely. We are having to manage her increased levels of anxiety but we can start to take her for short walks now. At least she’s barking at people walking down the road 🙄
I copied this idea from my Osprey rucksack raincover for my smaller Exped raincover. It only took a few minutes to do with some grosgrain, a glove hook, a side release line lok and some shock cord. It works really well to make the raincover fit better and makes it secure against flying off in a strong wind. Simples.