Archive | November, 2015

What’s needed in a Self Build campervan? continued from post below

30 Nov


Keeping warm matters. If you intend to camp out early and late in the year or you are an all year round “vanner” then some form of heating is needed in my opinion. Most DIY and self build Bloggers fit insulation in the cavities of the van walls to retain costly warmth and help reduce condensation. Fitting insulation can be a time consuming and hit and miss procedure. You don’t want to create “cold spots” of uninsulated zones which will focus formation of damp areas but it’s not going to be easy.

If you use campsites with electric hook ups, then by far the easiest route is a small electric heater of one type or another. LPG heating starts to become expensive very quickly. Starting with flued standing heaters like this Trumatic:

trumatic gas heater

Blown air heaters consume electricity for the fan but give a nice all encompassing warmth through th habitation area and cab. Ours is all 12v and brilliant. If you are spending that much (several hundred ££££s) do you go that bit further and include hot water in the package? We didn’t and have no regrets. A kettle heats quickly on the gas hob.

Diesel blown air heating is very convenient (we have used this before) but can be expensive for long winter evenings and if you worry about draining your vehicle tank too low. I have heard comments about them being noisy but ours was not. Just a lovely tiny jet engine noise on initial startup.

propex heatersmev gas hob and basin

Quite a large number of viewers want their campervan to have a stealth appearance so as not to attract attention when wild camping. Building in flues, vents and exhausts detracts from this low key appearance. In a “stealth” campervan, you may want to fit a waste grey water CAK tank or similar so that draining waste from any washbasin or sink does not give away occupation. It’s beginning to sound like a stakeout or military operation, but to some people it is important.

Lots to think about and we have not even discussed the different types, brands and suppliers of any equipment.

Aspirations, real needs and best wishes. What does a campervan provide?

30 Nov


Please have a look at Ryans’ comments in the post below this one. He is a very experienced campervan user, estimating  a whopping 1500 nights done! I have nowhere near this figure including both caravans and campervans, only achieving about one third of that time kipping in a “tin box” of one type or another. It’s going to be interesting to see what his forthcoming self build NV200 will be like. For the newer Blog readers, I am having a look back at that “bare van” moment when you have to plan what it is that you want from your campervan. Here, above is our base vehicle. You don’t need those alloy wheels, so straightaway we spent money on aspirational things not actually required. (Still love ’em though !)

Some essentials (?) :

  • A bed.
  • Something to wash in.
  • Something to provide privacy.
  • Light for night time.
  • A means to keep warm.
  • A method for heating food and drink (?)
  • A CO monitor.

Please comment below with your ideas.


perceptionsYou have to start somewhere. We made a rough sketch to scale to see if we could fit  our needs into an NV200. You can. One of my mates initially did not think there was space to lay down in the back of the base vehicle!

We also made paper and card cutouts of the things we wanted to fit in and a few “jigsaw” puzzles later we had re-invented the wheel with a “VW” side cupboard type layout.

But you may desire, say, a log burner, in a much bigger space, but the planning process will be the same. Your decisions will affect your costs. For example, we decided that in such a compact space, use of the cab seats would help in using the available space. So, we went for both seats to swivel. Many contributors, however, have been more than happy to have just the passenger seat to swivel and some, no swivelling at all!

capital seating universal swivel baseKDR seat rails for for and aft adjustment

On Guy Martin’s TV program  last night, he showed a heavily engineered bottle to pee in ,which was good enough for the iconicVulcan bomber. On ebay you can find both “he” and “she” pee bottles for next to nothing. An old sweetie jar is even cheaper. Just don’t fall down on it! We had the desire, space and funds for one of these:

porta potti

Do you need a fridge? What about a chiller?

coolboxelyboatchandler waeco cr-50

A retrospective review of the NV200 campervan

27 Nov

lunar loungelunar bed

Having recently spoken to people in the very competitive van conversion trade and heard their opinions on some of the NV200 conversions available, my views have changed a little.

For us, although we had the capability to create our own DIY campervan, we lacked the workshop/garage space that we once had, so we bought a new van and had Drivelodge convert it for us. We are still glad of that decision.

From what we have heard, however, the Lunar Vacanza, for example, has not been a runaway success.That’s it above. Despite a name change, an accompanying trailer intro and a price cut, the Vacanza has not sold in huge numbers. The revolutionary inflatable bed may have put many potential buyers off. From what I can judge, you would have to have the doors open to put the mattress in place. What about rain, darkness, wind or hostile location? Over £30k originally, I believe.

The Nissan NV200 IS a feasible, one vehicle, alternative to a car. We have now done over 30,000 miles and found total practicality, ease of usage, economy and instant availability of the habitable features of our campervan. I am somewhat surprised that the NV200 has not become much more , THE choice for a compact campervan. Now here’s the rub…

From the feedback which I have received on the Blog, most people do not want to spend £26k to £32k on an all new, ready converted package. The popular interest appears to be in self conversions.

Pre-used NV200 vans with full service history are available at value for money prices. A pop top roof (IF you want one.) is available at reasonable price, especially if you shop around on the internet. I am not totally convinced that you even  HAVE to have a pop top!!! If you have some DIY skills, some tools and lots of creativity, you can put together a campervan for minimum money and have the pleasure of saying, ” we made that ourselves.”

To all those who have been in touch with their self build queries , I say, more power to your elbow! Please let us know how you are progressing. Do you know where to source those hard to find materials and what have you? Please share the info on here via the comments boxes on the Blog. If I can get enough information, I will try to collate it on the Blog for use as a reference point for NV200 owners.

Winter road dirt and some musings

26 Nov

ruddymuddy transit pic

The Kampa is extremely grubby at present. It’s done quite a few miles since it was last cleaned. Got to wash it soon as I hate the salty road dirt which adheres all around the inner door panels. This pic , above, is from 

Cat wheelarch catster

cow warm engine

With the cold weather , some animals take refuge near to a warm engine. So check that you don’t have a cat under the hood. Or a cow hiding on your bonnet!

We have all seen those messages written on the back of dirty white vans. Such as: “Your skid stops here”, “Clean me” and “Also available in White”. Well, if you are broad minded and not easily offended there is a substantial number of these to be read on this website. BUT BE WARNED THE LANGUAGE IS FOUL

Checking for frost report tonight, then get the wash bucket out!

That’s not our cat by the way. It’s a warm hearted warning on Twitter from the Catster, I believe.


Another milestone reached. This is our 400th post on this Blog.

22 Nov

400 homer

We awoke on Saturday to the first proper frost of 2015. I needed to make a quick getaway to help with my son’s home move. The Kampa was totally iced over. I flicked on the gas blown heating and the 2kW unit made short work of the de-frosting.

GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 15: The winter sun begins to rise over mist and fog that has formed over fields on the Somerset Levels on November 15, 2010 in Glastonbury, England. After being battered by strong winds and heavy rain last week, parts of the UK are enjoying cold, fine winter weather. However more wind and rain is forecast to hit later in this week. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

warm van GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

I do like a warm ‘van but this may be going too far:  Sadly this VW caught fire on the A30 in 2013. Not funny for them.

Currently , on average, somebody is viewing a posting on the Blog every 5 minutes of the day. I am pleased with that. I would like to see much more commenting from readers though. If you have an NV200, a campervan or caravan or an interest in anything that you have read, please contribute with a comment.

We are going to be very busy on the run up to Christmas. We are being treated to our first ever, family Thanksgiving  by our future  American daughter in law. Getting to celebrate Christmas with relatives who are jetting off on Christmas Eve and then of course, Christmas itself. We shall definately be cramming in the odd day away in the Kampa. The ideal way to relax. Watch out for that black ice on the roads!

Starter conversion ideal for further self builders

21 Nov

sj campers nv200

Although it has been available since the end of 2014, I have only just spotted this NV200 conversion from SJ Campers of Kendal. I would say that the majority of followers of this Blog are self builders, aspiring to create their own version of this compact camper. Full conversion is not cheap , running close to £25,000 to over £30,000 which opens up a large choice of alternatives . This SJ Campers version is shown without pop top and could be a good starting point for someone to slowly build upon as their needs become apparent. Possibly worth a look if you are considering self buld on a pre-used (or new) NV200.


Our Friends convert to towing.

20 Nov

freedom sunseekerfreedom sunseeker one

Our friends and frequent contributors, Martin and Libby have very recently purchased a Freedom Sunseeker 3 berth caravan. Having sold their Drivelodge Joey, thay have returned to towing, having previously owned a Freedom Microlite.

They have been very busy updating this classic and removed the logos to give a clean, fresh, all white look. I am still having problems processing  some imported  images and so , sadly, I cannot presently show you their actual caravan. It looks so smart!

Very bad weather reports for Argyl, The Trossachs and Loch Lomond have so far thwarted their holiday plans. Freedom caravans are all fibreglass and are totally water tight. You will not find any damp in a Sunseeker. There is no “Microlite” pop top in a Sunseeker. You don’t need one. You get more storage cupboards high up and plenty of headroom.

We wish Martin and Libby best wishes for their new camping adventures and hope that the weather picks up enough for them to get out and about!


A new travelling companion

15 Nov

tigga asleep cute

In January, this year, we lost our pet cat, prematurely, aged just 6 years. As mentioned in the post below, we spotted a local advert for a kitten which fitted our requirements to a “Tee” , so we dashed out and bought him. He is 11 weeks old and we had to buy all sorts of items from our local pet shop on our way home with him. He took the trip home in the campervan in his stride. His first trip of 10 miles in heavy rush hour traffic, no problem. Shortly after getting home we were packing our bags for a trip of 200 miles to help nurse a sick relative. How would the kitten cope?

tigga in london

So what has this got to do with the campervan? Well, some time ago we asked if others had taken cats along with them in their vans. There were scores of dogs but only a few cats. We have seen only 2 or 3 in years of camping. The kitten coped well beyond our hopes. He slept, drank, ate and used the litter tray. Eating little, 6 times a day ensured 2 stops on the way down to London. As if by clockwork, he awoke and did what was required of him. I kept the radio off apart from traffic reports but we made good progress cruising at the legal limit all the way. Three days later with family member on the mend, he repeated his good bahaviour on the 200 mile trip back home. He even wore a body harness for several hours with minimum  fuss, in preparation for using a lead. For security when the ‘van door is opened and closed we want to make sure that he does not do a runner. Hope to print more of his adventures as we go on.

A very dark Friday

14 Nov
Balloons in the colors of the French flag in front of the Eiffel Tower

On Wednesday we made an impulse purchase. We now have a beautifully marked Ginger and White Kitten. About  15 minutes after we got him home we had a call from London. A family emergency. We have all had them. We hurredly packed and set off immediately for the 200 mile trek.

cat close to steering wheel

This post was going to be light hearted. All about our new found friend who travels well in the campervan and how we are going to train him to accompany us as we move around the country. That  will come but events in one of our favourite holiday destinantions overtook us and I feel compelled to comment on the tragic , murderous horror in France. Again.


This man, is of course, John Lennon. He met a violent end himself and I wonder what comments he would have made about the current violence if he had lived. I visualise him on a Saturday night “chat show”, annoying all the politicians and telling some truths. I think that he would have the bravery to put into words what so many of us feel. Please watch the following on You Tube and listen and try to understand the lyrics. I think of all my friends from Chantilly and Senlis at just one of my previous employers. A family run, French oil company. I just hope none of them was in Paris last night.

please click here

(I shall post again shortly. We have a well behaved Kampa buddy to introduce.)

Campervanning in Autumn

9 Nov

autumn sheringham parkWhat changes when caravanning or campervanning in Autumn? Older and/or more experienced “campers” will know the answers but for any newcomers to this , some common sense thinking may be of help.

The daylight hours are much shorter. If you settle down in your ‘van at dusk you may have a significant 7 hours or so to kill before beddy byes. Some sites, even now, require extra-long hook up cables, especially if you are looking to definately get a satellite TV signal in wooded areas. We have been caught out by this in the past.

We are far more likely in Autumn and Winter to take our satellite TV kit with us. In summer we often do not even take the TV with us. A camping sat TV kit can be bought for around £80 or less. Ours works really well. Just remember when pitching to obtain a clear view of the sky to the South east in order to get a good signal. With practice , it takes little time to get set up and locate a signal.

We fit our sat dish to a small pole attached to the jockey wheel. the suction cup fittings with most kits, in my opinion are not really up to the job.

To fill those long hours of darkness, we , being old and old fashioned, also take a tiny DVD player. Our laptop can also show films from digital sources. A radio is nice for news updates, pre breakfast etc.

For maximum return on site fees, a small electrical heater (ours is 900w max) is ideal, keeping the microlite caravan very cosy. Gas blown air heating on the Kampa van is cheap to run with refillable LPG and at 2 kW, easily keeps us warm, even with the pop top erected.

On longer breaks, we cut down the time in the ‘van by eating out at a pub. A leisurely dinner date can easily erode a couple of hours. Also with 24 hour shopping, we shop at supermarkets after dark which also shortens a Wintery night. Keep the daylight hours for more fun activities.

It’s sensible to “service” your water bottle(s), porta potty and grey water waste before it gets dark. We brighten up the interior camping experience with small , low wattage but attractive lamps and shades. Much more relaxing than a flourescent strip light. (Our caravan is 1996 vintage remember)

The kampa van is all LED plus spotlights and has much better factory fit lighting.

One last thing, don’t forget that golden oldie, a hot water bottle. Cold tootsies are a thing of the past!

It goes without saying that to run out of alcohol and snacks whilst camping is a total sin……….