Travelling in a VW Camper with a lively dog sometimes presents its challenges
Travelling in a VW Camper with a lively dog sometimes presents its challenges not least of which is getting him to go to bed and stay there until we want to get up. We have long since given up the notion of a lie in but it would at least be nice not to be woken or get up with the sunrise.
Fred has gone through several sleeping travelling arrangements since we got him. Like all dogs he likes an enclosed sleeping space overnight and indeed at home he has an indoor kennel built in to a utility cupboard. He also has a nice folding travel kennel that still comes with us if we go to stay in other peoples houses. At one time we did try travelling with him in this but it wasn’t popular so now he travels on the back seat with a view out of the window and he is happy to do that all day long. At first we had a large drive away awning with a bedroom section so we put his travel kennel in there but it could be cold and we fretted about him being outside the van. Then, because we hadn’t put the awning we tried using it in the van but it left zero space for us to get in and out of bed. Anyway we got rid of the large awning because it simply didn’t suit our style of travelling.
So for the past couple of years we have tried various versions of sleeping Fred in the passenger footwell with a soft basket and blankets. At first we had to restrain him to persuade him to say in there. Then we tried a mesh curtain to divide the cab area but he found his way through that. However for the last year or more he has pretty good and simply gone to bed there and stayed until 6 or 7 in the morning. That is until Le Mans this year when he took fright at the noise of campsite revelry outside and slept on our bed! We have sort of decided that it is OK if he goes to bed and stays there until 06:00 and then he can get on our bed but not into our sleeping bags. Something else we had to do with his bed arrangements was to drape blankets over his bed area as draughts or light will wake him.
Before we set of for 5 weeks in Norway we are determined to have a good go at making a secure bed area in the footwell that he will look upon as his own and stay in. We decided to make a foam base to make the most of the space, iron out the irregularities and provide some insulation with a tent like top that would provide the draft and light protection. And finally that would fold flat for travel and not require too much effort to put up.
We started with some 20mm dense foam floor mat cut into a main base with 2 pieces that would take up the shape of the seat base. On to this we stuck some foil backed form van insulation. This provides a stable base without lumps and bumps and that will retain warmth. Sue covered this with some of the left over material from the seat back and door cards and also made some sides with a bit of stiffening to form the base basket.
We had thought to make a tent frame structure but in the end we opted for a much simpler upside down bag supported by a tent frame rod that clips to the head rest. It means the the tend isn’t held rigid but it leaves plenty of room for Fred to move around, stand up and have a shake. Once he is in the tent his weight holds it down fine and tends to push the side out to maintain the space.
The whole thing folds flat into a 600mm2 bag along with his mat that goes on the seat when we are parked up and in his bed overnight. It will take a matter of seconds to put up and take down and takes no more space than his soft basket did once it is packed for travelling.
So here is hoping he makes a lot of use of it.
Having specified everything we could think of when we ordered the van from VW our first trip away highlighted a glaring omission.
I don’t know why this hadn’t bothered us more with our T5.1 but almost the first evening we realised that shutting the sliding door from inside needed a big shove that resulted in things falling about. Bad enough when we are up and about but a real pain if one of us has to go out in the middle of the night!
Power latching is available as an option to the sliding doors and the tailgate on Transporters but it is only the sliding door that gives us a problem. It would have been a no brainier at £95 + VAT had we thought about it. I got in touch with Paul who owns the T6 forum because I had seen him offering a kit, it came to £430 for the motor, control module and wiring loom which sounds like a lot but the parts alone come to about £350 and then there is the loom and plugs. So a deal was done and Paul met us at Vanwest with the parts.
Now I had thought about waiting until July when we got back from our 6 week trip but I knew that having the parts back home heaving the door closed would annoy the hell out of us so I waded in. Removing the lower rear quarter panel was not easy because Andy @ Coastal Cussions had used military grade trim panel fixings but I got it off and only broke 2 of them. Perhaps the worst thing was that we had got Andy to cover the access panel in the C post over – we wouldn’t need to get in there again would we – with the vinyl trim. I started by cutting a half panel for the top half and then marking and cutting out the vinyl slightly smaller and then breaking out and cleaning away the ply panel I had bonded over the access. With that done I could fit the control module and I had intended to make a hole to pass the wiring loom out of the bottom of the C post behind the step to the connections under the passenger seat. The problem was that the C post is closed at the bottom and does not go right down. In the end we decided to take out the whole access panel and feed the loom behind the trim all of which worked fine.
Fitting the motor is a bit fiddly as it needs feeding into the space but to be honest that was about the easiest part of the whole job. Once connected and everything back in place the power latch works great. Just slide the door across into the lock and the motor powers it home the last bit – lovely. Replacing the 2 broken trim fixings was easy enough and we made a new ply access panel for the C post but covered in our frantic rather than vinyl which actually looks a bit smarter than the original vinyl.
The whole job took a couple of days and was a bit of a “mission”as Mirko would say but the end result definitely seems worth it.
We have been considering either updating our current van or starting a new one while we can. A key criteria for Sue is the ease of which we can get the roof up and down as we get older. There is no after market option for this and a VW California does not float our boat. However it is possible to retrofit a California roof. Earlier ing the month we had a trip to Cornwall and paid a visit to Kernow Transporters and Premium Camper who buy in salvaged California roofs and fit them to vans. We have given this option a lot of thought and have decided we are happy to go with it.
So to get the ball rolling and to beat a 1st June VW price hike we have placed an order for a new T6. It is a SWB T30 Kombi in white (as if it could be anything else) and the spec is much the same as our current van except that it will come as a Euro 6 Blue Motion so 150PS DSG with LED lights,
A first week away in our van to celebrate a special birthday.
We booked a week in a nice rental property in Christchurch celebrating a special birthday and enjoying driving the new van.
We have our bikes on the towbar carrier – they ride very well and I discovered that disconnecting the tow electrics with the alarm set will set it off so I am going to make an extension to wrap around the bikes before plugging it in.
On Wednesday we visited Jason at Absolute Audio in Amesbury to have our Knewood ICE / Sat Nav fitted with upgrade speakers. The sound is spectacular and Jason’s service is great.
We made the most of the opportunities to cycle around the area with a ride to Sandbanks for lunch one day and the other direction on the last day. Sue’s birthday we celebrated with a nice meal in a popular restaurant by Christchurch harbour followed by cocktails at the posh hotel next to our rented accomodation.