We have thoroughly enjoyed the past 5 years with our T5 and T6 vans. We have been on incredible journeys and visited fabulous places and want to do much more of it while we can. However doing long trips in the past two years we came to recognise the difficulties of travelling is a small van especially in less than perfect weather. That said in fine weather a lot of the problems diminish but new ones of crowded roads and busy camp sites replace them. We came to the conclusion if we are going to carry on travelling and perhaps travel more and out of high season the only possible solution was to go bigger and be more self sufficient.
Despite the small size of our vans carrying enough provisions, clothing and equipment for long journeys has never been a problem. We used “Really Useful Boxes” for a lot of things so they were relatively easy to load and unload but there was a drawback – as we tour rather than go somewhere to pitch up for a period of time we were constantly unloading and reloading everything. That was not so bad in good weather but in inclement weather it became a real pain. Additionally access the on board storage, while there is a lot of it, was cramped and makes getting at things uncomfortable.
Then there is getting out and about in the bad weather. We don’t mind a bit of rain and cold when we are suitably dressed and we had heating if we needed it. The problem is getting both of us and a wet dog into the van in wet gear, getting it and us dry and then drying the dog. Inevitably everything stays damp.
Not having on board facilities wasn’t the end of the world, indeed I have often shunned the idea of lugging our own shit around with us, but in these days of Aires, Stellpatz and Wild Camping we found our selves driven to expensive campsites just for the sake of a wash and the loo. Having our own facilities will solve several issues such as going to the loo in the night, especially in the cold and wet, struggling to find loos while on the road and of course parking up almost wherever we like and still being able to have a wash or even a shower. And while we are both trying hard to deny the raging process it has its inevitabilities.
Not blaming the dog but he like us is used to his meal times and stopping to make dinner generally necessitated emptying out the van and putting the roof up so by that measure it became time to stop for the evening regardless. Finding camp sites is not always as easy as one might expect and often we have ended up pitching up late in less than pleasant surroundings just for the sake of stopping.
So now we are looking forward to being more self sufficient in facilities and also power that way we can stop where and when we like within reason. We will have storage space that doesn’t mean reorganising everything when we stop and we will have a larger more comfortable living space for longer periods way, to pitch up and relax for longer periods and to be warm and dry hiding from the weather.
So now read on and enjoy as we start work on the new van.
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.
Home again after a week on the road we are so grateful that Fred is a such a good traveller. A week of visiting freinds and relatives he spent 4 nights in the van and 3 at various freinds and he adapts to the changes without any problem. He behaves himself at freinds houses, although he does want to clear their gardens of blackbirds and pigeons, and seems to respect the difference to home. Once in the van it is like a second home to him and the back seat becomes his sofa and the footwell his bed.
Camp sites must always smell of bunnies but he won’t venture far from the van the as soon as he is on a lead Fred heads for the nearest hedge dragging you with him. When we are travelling for day he is fine with just regular stops to relieve himself and of course food otherwise he sits and watches the world or just relaxes. Mind if we are more than half an hour late stopping for food he starts huffing and sighing!
Always whe we get home as soon as he gets through the gate he is off down the garden to make sure all is still in its place in his world.
Watching Fred’s first year growing up and developing was a largely joyful experience. He is a handsome dog with great intelligence and character. He is also a wilful little soul and can be too clever for his own good.
This is Freddy. He is a working Cocker Spaniel and was born in February. His parents are both working dogs. He has come to live with us – this could be life changing.