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Thread: Camper van advice

  1. #1
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    Camper van advice

    Hi all,

    Just looking for some advice on buying a camper van to travel around in to run in the mountains. Iíve got a limited budget and donít mind doing a lot of work myself to it. Have any of you got any tips for a first time buyer? Thanks

  2. #2
    Master PeteS's Avatar
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    Hire or borrow a van for a week and see how you get on. You'll get an idea of what you do and don't need and what is important to make it work for you. Can save you a lot of money in the long run.

    Are you looking to buy a van and convert it yourself or get something already converted? New or second hand?
    Going downhill fast

  3. #3
    Master molehill's Avatar
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    Camper van choice is something of a minefield, an expensive minefield if you get it wrong.
    Time spent hiring or borrowing one, looking at vans, researching, testing is not time wasted. I would seriously "make a list" of exactly what you want it for and what you actually need in it.
    Are you looking at weekends away, fortnight holidays, alone or with partner (pets?), UK or Europe, summer only or year round use, on sites or in the wild?
    You may be fine buying a small model white van and fitting it out with basics and using as little more than an eating and sleeping unit, or you might want much more?
    Be very truthful with yourself to what you want and budget and take it from there. I would expect fitted up vans may be hitting premium prices this year with "stay in uk holidays", but maybe white vans will be cheaper as businesses shut down?
    My camper has been SORN for 6 of the last 12 months - definitely not getting my money worth!
    Don't roll with a pig in poo. You get covered in poo and the pig likes it.

  4. #4
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    As a full on camper vanner for the last few years Iíd say crucial components are:

    A good leisure battery set up

    In van heating utilising the leisure batteries

    Lots of well thought out storage options

    You can never have enough power points and internal lights, again running directly from the leisure batteries

    Weíve actually got a VW off the shelf Ocean California which we love to bits and it, as youíd expect, has multiple bells and whistles (and is sometimes perhaps a bit too clever for its own good). Now a bit more in the know, things like an in built fridge and even a cooking hob and sink, while great if you have them, are easily done without, just using a bog standard cool box and camping stove instead. They are great to have but easily done without

  5. #5
    Master Mossdog's Avatar
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    Whatever you do, don't get distracted by the superficial bits, like beds, fridges, sinks, inner decor, lighting systems and all the 'living space' thrills. First and foremost this is a vehicle. Much more important are things like chassis condition, engine condition, braking system, etc..

    If the fundamentals of the vehicle are not sound and reliable, walk away. I don't know how mechanically minded you are, but if you're not, I'd urge you to get some independent assessment that you trust regarding the condition of the vehicle, just like you would for any car.
    Eat more cake because life is shorter than you thi...

  6. #6
    Master PeteS's Avatar
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    Some good advice so far but it also illustrates what is important to some may not be for others...

    A sound vehicle is an absolute must if you are buying second hand.

    I have a VW T6 which was bought from a professional converter. I got it at a good price as it was their ex- demo model. There are things in it I can live without:

    Heater (which runs off diesel). Get a good sleeping bag instead.
    Grill -waste of good storage space.
    Activity shower. Only ever used for hosing the dog down. Has now developed a leak so disconnected and throw dog in river instead!

    Good things I wouldn't want to be without.
    Good leisure battery. Lasts about 4 days supporting minimal load but a long road trip will have it fully charged in no time.
    Fridge with freezer compartment. Essential for wild camping unless you like tins or are Ray Mears.
    Plenty of well thought out storage. Make use of every available space you can.
    A comfy bed.
    Good curtains/blinds. Not the stick on kind - they fall off.
    Porta-potty
    2 burner hob and sink combo.
    Lighting.
    Pop up roof with extra bed.

  7. #7
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    Wild Camping?

    I always thought that Wild Camping was an overnight stop in the sticks, getting there under one's own steam with whatever you or your bike, or horse, could carry.

    I was obviously wrong.

    Now it seems to include spending a night, anywhere other than a formal campsite, with as many mod cons and home comforts that can fit into your choice of vehicle!
    Visibility good except in Hill Fog

  8. #8
    Master molehill's Avatar
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    I think the correct term used by campers is "Off grid", but I couldn't think of it at the time. Basically anything that isn't a campsite with all mod-cons that you pay for, like laybys or car parks.
    Maybe a 4x4 camper is the answer, drive it to the top of Snowdon for the night!
    Don't roll with a pig in poo. You get covered in poo and the pig likes it.

  9. #9
    Master Hank's Avatar
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    Steam? Bike? Horse!? When I were a lad we'd mek do wi a suck o' watter from t'bog. And a bike!? We'd be lucky if we 'ad two 'alf decent legs what wi t'rickets an' all that. Sleep wi' a rock for a pillar and we'd be glad of it. On a good night wid mebbe find a few leaves to shelter under. We'd 'ave loved a fire, but we dint have two bits o' stone to rub together never mind two ha'pennies! Course wid be up for work at t'mill by 5. But we were happy. Folk these days wi' their fancy vans...

    For what it's worth, I'd second the porta-potty. Pure luxury not to have to leave the van for a waz in the night. If the van's going to be a dedicated camper I'd go for fixed fridge, hob and sink, but obviously it's a more flexible space if they're removable.
    Geoff Clarke
    Lancaster Runners

  10. #10
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    I’ll third the porta potti recommendation. Last summer with many campsites not offering facilities due to covid, our porta potti had to deal with the full works and really earned its keep. We even have a little toilet tent for it which just about stood up to the full force of storm Denis for two or three days on the ‘trot’

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