With the rules for holidays abroad still uncertain, our columnist is setting up an online Campervan Owners Society and sharing his tips for successful camping.
“Time you spend fishing is not counted in your lifespan,” Chekhov once wrote. If so, the time you spend campervanning will extend your life. Why? Because nothing can emotionally compare to that blissful feeling of freedom when you have packed your entire life neatly into a compact vehicle in the morning and roll into the sunrise in search of new adventures.
I got hooked on that incomparable adrenaline-boosting feeling ever since I bought a used ‘grey import’ Toyota Alphard campervan (aka Alphie) last September – a retirement gift for myself designed to propel us (moi, my wife and our dog Tashi) smoothly through the periods of forced Covid-related immobility.
In my After All of September 2020, I shared my first experiences with ‘campervanning’ with 9breaking readers. Quite unexpectedly, that column (which, among other things, described how Alphie’s dead battery was brought back to life by a friendly aircraft engineer, who happened to be camping next to us), elicited a huge response from readers – a testimony to the fact that, like me , 9breaking readers did not succumb to the all-pervasive gloom and doom of the first and second lockdowns and continued to travel – if not in real life, then in their memories and imaginations.
Your emails contain multiple reminders of your own motorhome adventures. They also include some helpful tips for driving and camping. A reader pointed me to the tangled coil of cable connecting Alphie to the site’s electricity point and resting on the grass python-like one he saw in the photo near the column.
It was obviously unsafe and I’ve been trying to keep an eye on the ‘python’ ever since. So warm and helpful was your response that it reminded me of starting a campervan association for readers, rather than my virtual book club kept on this page during the lockdowns, when the only trips we could enjoy were literary and vicarious goods.
With the rules for visiting abroad from the UK (and vice versa) still uncertain, we are now finally free to roam anywhere within the UK and some other countries where 9breaking readers live. So it seems like the perfect time to start After All’s very own VVCOS – Vitali’s Virtual Campervan Owners’ Society, inviting any existing or potential reader of motorhomes, caravans or motorhomes to join.
Membership fees are irrelevant and are limited to periodically sharing (with me and other members) RV and camping related experiences and techno advice. Call it brutal, but after nearly nine months of (interrupted) camping, I feel ready to give you some of my own hardship-generated “tips”:
- Don’t obsess over weather forecasts, which tend to vary. Go for the most optimistic—usually by “BBC Weather”—which generously promises sunshine when other sites predict showers and snowstorms.
- Because space and weight of the things you take with you are crucial, you buy a small and relatively cheap toilet tent and put it next to your camper. As most campsites have adequate toilet and laundry facilities, you can use this as a storage tent where you can stack your clothes, bedding, etc. during the day; a changing tent; and even – as my wife testified – a make-up tent! It is much easier and more practical than putting up all those awful (heavy and difficult to set up) awnings first and then taking them down again.
- Don’t put your toilet/storage/dressing/makeup tent too close to your motorhome as you will keep tripping over the support (or guy ropes) in the dark, as I did repeatedly until I bought a headlamp – a handy and wrongly ignored camping gadget!
- Always carry enough batteries, lighters, flashlights and pegs, which are easy to lose. Bring a spare hammer because as my experience shows it is often one of the hardest items to find on a campsite, closely followed by salt, sugar, mustard and herrings. By lending the hammer to your camping neighbors, you not only gain the reputation of being a nice guy (or girl), but also make a quicker start of your van’s dead battery (as a return favor from the neighbor) that much more likely. a morning.
- Do not drink good wine at the campsite, which requires good glasses (not mugs) and certain temperature conditions, otherwise you will be bitterly disappointed (in the true sense of the word). Stick to simple but warming drinks – and I don’t just mean tea or coffee..
- Invest in an extra storage box on the roof of your motorhome, but don’t try to transport your pets and/or spouses in it, as you can easily lose the box when entering a low tunnel.
- Invest in a solar battery maintainer – a little gadget that allows you to recharge your dead battery when your RV is parked (and as long as the sun is out) without depending on friendly campsite neighbors (see above).
- Last but not least, do not try to repair your motorhome with superglue! Laugh all you want, but I once tried to fix Alphie’s front panel with superglue, misplaced by a particularly nasty pothole in the country road. The mechanic who later dealt with the damage, caused not so much by the pothole as by my clumsy attempt at repair, promised to divide me into quarters and not waste superglue trying to reassemble my body parts, if I ever tried. . weather!
So, long live our newly created VVCOS – Vitali’s Virtual Campervan Owners’ Society! As a founding member, I promise to report back to you regularly from the road I am about to embark on.
This summer Alphie is taking us to Northumberland, Scotland, Yorkshire, Wales and some other parts of the UK. Of course I’m also waiting for your motorhome impressions! As readers John and Eileen Hammil wrote in response to my first RV column:
“Over 30 years ago we discovered that the Caravan Club sites had centrally heated shower blocks, which is why we never stay anywhere else. We wish you and your wife many happy adventures in your van and don’t forget the salt!”