Red (camper) van woman
White van man, step aside – when Sue from Muddy Somerset got behind the wheel of this snazzy red VW camper van, she was King of the Road (and the camping site).
This baby’s got everything you and three others need to be pretty much self-contained, it’s fabulous to drive (it doesn’t feel at all like a van) and when you park up you can be cooking up dinner, knocking back wine and/or be cosy in bed within minutes. And of course, you’ve got complete flexibility about where you go and when. When I returned the van to Stu at Sun Kissed Campers in Bath, he almost had to prise my hands off the steering wheel to get me out (I’m not joking).
Rewind to three days earlier, I was a bit nervous getting behind the wheel for the first time. I needn’t have been. I used to drive a Chrysler Grand Voyager and it’s about the same size, though you’d never believe it once you were inside; as one of the Muddies said, ‘It’s a Tardis!’ I loved the fact that you’re sitting very high up – you really do feel like the King of the Road – and there was masses of room in the back.
We decided to have a campsite as a base and go out for jaunts, rather than travel from place to place and we arrived late at night. This would have been a nightmare if we’d had to pitch a tent in the cold and the dark but we were all set up for the night in, I’d say, under 15 mins and once you know what you’re doing, it would be even faster.
Driver and passenger seats swivel round and move back towards the dashboard; the rear bench seat is transformed into a good-sized double bed. The roof rises electronically to create space for an even bigger double bed, with little lights set into the ‘walls’. No need to lug your own bedding – Stu can provide lovely fluffy duvets and plump pillows.
This is what we woke up to…
We slid back the bed and, hey presto, we had a ‘living room’ with a sofa.
Cooking’s easy on the stove (there are two gas rings big enough for a full-sized frying pan) with drinking water from a movable tap in the dinky sink.
Serious cooks can opt for a gourmet chef upgrade which includes Sabatier knives and cast iron cooking pans but we were happy with the standard issue. The salt, pepper, oil, tea and real coffee to brew in the stainless steel percolator are a nice touch. You’ll be pleased to hear that the fridge has room for plenty of booze. A table slides along and up for eating – or a game of dominos. Notice how I’m getting one of the Muddies to do all the work?
It’s surprisingly spacious inside, although you do have to be tidy. When you’re not using the bed in the roof (the Muddies loved using it as a den), it folds up to create an airy roof space that must be about 8 feet high, so you don’t feel at at claustrophobic.
You use the control centre (that’s it above the rear view mirror in the pic above) to turn on and regulate the temperature in the fridge, open and close the roof and operate the thermostatic controlled heating. This was a real luxury. Press a button and within seconds, warm air is pumping in and everyone’s toasty – useful for drying out wetsuits, too. Being a bit thick, I thought you had to have an electrical hook-up – you don’t. The van’s battery has enough power to keep everything, including iPads, going for three days, after which you’d need to drive around for half an hour to recharge.
Lots of drawers and cupboard hidden all over the place for stowing your stuff – there’s even a mini wardrobe. After three days in the van, we were still discovering little cubbyholes.
The two things that you won’t find in the van are a shower or a loo, although you can hire an eco portaloo in it’s own wee (sorry) tent. If having your own personal facilities is important, then you’re talking about those huge white campervans you see clogging up the A303 every summer – but you can’t drive around narrow country lanes, like you can with the VW, in those beasts.
You can go alfresco in sun or rain. Just use a gadget to roll out the awning, take the table cunningly fixed in the side of the sliding door and the folding chairs from the boot, then swig some wine and plan your next backgammon move.
The camper van comes with practically everything you need but Stu can organise a few extras at reasonable prices. Fancy a bell tent with Indian table and fairylights to chill out alongside? It’s yours. Bike rack or top rails for surf boards? Yep. BBQ? You’ll get a cool South African braii. Kids need entertaining? He’ll put together a bag of age appropriate toys (we had a kite, fishing kit, baseball set…)
Of course, what’s really cool is that when you want to move on or go on a jaunt, you press a button to put the roof down and, er that’s it, you’re ready to go. We went ten miles down the road to the beach but you can go anywhere in Europe with one of these.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to put together my camper van playlist (any suggestions?) for my next trip…
Cost: Three nights in May costs £402 (include insurance and breakdown). The van sleeps four but you can fit an additional passenger seat. Cheap on fuel: I guess we did about 250+ miles for less than £40.
Try a campervan yourself: Stu’s offering Muddy readers a special discount of 15% on published prices on any hires taken in May and June. Just quote MuddyMay when making your booking.
Sun Kissed Campers, 1-2 High Street, Weston, Bath, BA1 4BX. Tel 01225 330106. sunkissedvwcampervanhire.co.uk