In a first for Camping Secrets, we’d like to introduce you to guest poster (and photographer) Rob Davies – Rob has a wealth of campervan experience and in this first article will talk you through some motivational tips which he has found can help elevate and maximize enjoyment of the ‘campervan experience’ . Over to Rob…
Having owned two campervans over the last seven years – previously a VW California 4MOTION, and currently a Mercedes Marco Polo 4Matic – we’ve certainly completed our fair share of exciting trips! We’ve encountered freezing temperatures of -20ºC in the Scottish Highlands and French Alps, to a scorching 38ºC in Central Europe before being almost constantly rained on in Ireland.
Combining campervanning with our passions of Climbing, Mountaineering, Skiing and Cycling, and then additionally sharing this with a young family has sometimes been challenging, but it has always worked out well and always made us happy.
Here are our 10 Kickass Tips to keep that happy feeling and maintain the Campervan Love!
I cannot deny that we occasionally use campsites on our trips away in ‘Bruce the Bus’ – normally we book a campsite if we want to stay parked up in a fixed location for a few days or are inviting friends around to the site for a catch-up and a few beers. They’re also good for freshening up with a shower.
However, we much prefer to wild camp – this is what campervans are best at!
Wild camping involves parking up in an ‘out of the way’ location, usually when it’s getting dark outside and then sleeping in the camper van without paying for the luxury. Potential places include truck laybys, quiet lanes and isolated car parks in the countryside. It is extremely exciting and sometimes can feel quite naughty!
Aside from campervans, you can go wild camping with family or friends by using caravans or motorhomes. A caravan is a trailer towed by a vehicle, providing you with a living space and ample storage space for all camping essentials you need, so you won’t have to overload your car. On the other hand, a motorhome is a self-propelled recreational vehicle with mobile living accommodation. It usually has a bed, a kitchen, a living quarter, and a bathroom.
Whether your family prefers campervans, caravans, or motorhomes, exploring the wild is an exciting way to teach your young ones about nature and life while ensuring their safety during camping. Wild camping can be an unforgettable adventure where you’ll create many beautiful memories. It’s a major reason why I love wild camping with my family, and will continue to do so for many years to come!
If you’re interested in wild camping, there are loads of great apps that show places to stop for a night – see the next section. We will often search for a nice forest or a quiet car park off the beaten track and settle down for the night.
Useful Apps for Wild Camping
The main app we use is “Park4Night“ which is available for laptops and phones. I recommend that you do a quick bit of research before you leave on your trip, or even use the app en route to your destination – we’ve done that many times, but just make sure you’ve got a phone signal!
Another great app is Google Street View. This enables you to check out the lay of the land before getting to where you’re going. There might be a little quiet side street you can use, preferably close to a pub!
You can then pull over for the night in a gorgeous spot away from the crowds!
If you’ve only got a small campervan then we recommend bringing along your own small portable toilet if you’re going to ‘go wild’. Nature often calls and it’s one of the luxuries which a campsite definitely does better.
We also recommend keeping the pop-top down overnight. Nothing signifies wild campers like a pop-top in the raised position. Less security too!
One other tip is to give a pub a call at your destination. Many places will let you park overnight in their car park if you have a meal at their establishment. A great way of getting food, lodgings and security without breaking the bank! The Brit Stop guide gives you a list of many pubs and cafes which do this sort of deal – well worth the annual fee.
Enjoy the unlimited food, drinks, and fun during pub stops. You’ll be delighted to find a variety of dishes that are both mouthwatering and affordable. You’ll also get to meet new people who may become acquaintances or longtime friends. You can ask them for directions while travelling to the campsite or for some expert tips, such as where to get the best views while camping in the area.
Pack some Luxury!!
Whether it’s a fillet steak for the grill, or some pre-made spaghetti Bolognese with a nice glass of Red we always try to make something special for dinner.
It shouldn’t feel like roughing it – it should be more like a million-star hotel with all the trimmings!
We have a small Portable Gas stove that we use on a little camping table for more “smelly” dishes – this allows us to cook outside and really enjoy what nature has to offer. Check out some great value camping stove options in our round-up article.
We often share the cooking duties – it makes it loads more fun and feels like you’re all playing on the same team. Don’t let anyone shirk their jobs!
I might be outside searing some steaks, my partner Jindra will be inside boiling baby potatoes and tender stem broccoli, and our daughter Freya will be keeping our drinks topped up!
We make sure we pack all evidence of our cooking away and dispose of any litter. Leave nothing but footprints!
When it’s time for bed we keep a bit of luxury in reserve with down sleeping bags and soft pillows. In the morning we love freshly brewed Italian Coffee in china cups – for some reason it just taste better than from a metal or plastic mug! Check out our overview of the best camping kettles on the market today.
Embrace the outdoors
We combine the travelling with as much outdoor life as we can. This could involve climbing, skiing, hiking, biking, swimming or a dozen other pursuits.
We recently bought some electric bikes for only £1000 each which have revolutionized how far we can cycle. Admittedly they require quite a sturdy cycling rack, but it is worth it to have that power when you’re lacking energy.
Van life is outdoor life and you bring your hotel room with you on your travels. How cool is that? Embrace it!
Micro-trips still count
It doesn’t have to be a big road trip to make it worthwhile.
It might be a day trip to the beach or a quick overnighter stopping on a friend’s driveway. Every night can be a special event.
For us it is the mindset which is important. Try and make adventures happen at every opportunity. It is too easy to be weighted down by inertia and apathy. Get on your feet and get planning your next trip!
Be ready to go at the drop of a hat
Our van only ever needs water and the fridge packing. Everything else is pretty much ready to go.
This helps leverage what I consider the most amazing part of the campervan experience – spontaneity!
If I finish work early and the weather looks OK, we can head off immediately after chucking a few bags into the back. 80% of the work is already done!
Space saving is definitely an important factor though for keeping the process as pain-free as possible. We’ve written an article listing some key VW campervan accessories for your trips away. There’s also an equivalent guide for the Mercedes Marco Polo.
It’s the journey not the destination
We try not to rush when driving along and always attempt to enjoy the journey itself by stopping to check things out along the way.
For example if we see a reservoir or a big hill we might get out and walk around or up it. If it’s raining then so much the better – it’s about the exhilaration! Besides, it’s really easy to get hold of a good quality waterproof jacket, and we have one each always stored on board.
If we are exploring a new area (to us), we try to seek out the local villages and buy local produce. We will often pick up ingredients for the evening meal which we may not have been able to get prior to travelling. These little surprises are often the memories that last the longest about a trip.
Flicking the switch!
AKA Positive Suffering! Probably the tip that will get the most disagreement from readers, but we really believe that once we hit the road, we start a much simpler life!
Various things change… No TV, reduced screen time, reduced opportunities for showering etc etc.
I really don’t see the point of heading away and doing the same old things we do at home.
If one thing cracks me up it is seeing someone pulling their Caravan onto a site, immediately setting up the satellite dish and settling into the TV show they could have watched at home! Save that for when the trip finishes please!! Pour a cup of tea or a nice glass of wine and just “Talk”….
(Editor comment: you’d better get your flame suit on there Rob!)
Involve the family
When we started campervanning it was just the two of us. Now it’s four of us and things have had to change.
One thing that has not changed though is everyone’s excitement when we discuss our next trip
When we are packing, we involve the kids. We then distribute jobs when we arrive and just try to get everyone involved. It doesn’t always work but we try!
We hope we inspired you! If there is something you would like more info on or we can help with advice please get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org