Last week we went off on our longest outing yet in The Van With No Name: a week in St Ives.
I will blog further about our visit once I have sorted out my photos (which as usual may take a while), but for now suffice to say that we had a great time: the weather was mostly kind and the van worked beautifully as our lodging for the week.
Living with the van for a week also meant that we learnt some more lessons, especially as it was the first time that we tried using an awning.
I may have mentioned that I was reluctant to become a camper van owner, but I was won around by a number of benefits.
One of these turns out to be apparently untrue; the other is largely negated by the awning.
The first of these benefits is the fond belief that with a camper van you have everything that you need already packed and ready to go: you can set off into the wilds at the drop of a hat whenever the whim takes you.
This is patently not true.
Yes, you can leave a certain amount packed away, but not everything.
The bedding clearly doesn’t stay out in the van getting damp, it is lying around cluttering up the house. It has to be gathered up, quilt cases and pillow cases have to be found and put together, the mattress topper has to be sorted out.
Then there’s food to be stocked, clothes to be gathered up (for all conceivable weathers at this time of year in the UK), and much else.
I can’t tell you what else because I can’t remember: we need to put together a list. Much like the one we had to put together for our rare camping trips.
It took hours to get ourselves ready. Hopefully this will become much slicker and quicker with practice and once the van is better kitted out for or needs, but I can’t ever see it being the drop of a hat.
And then we come to the second benefit.
When you go camping you have to pitch a tent: that’s a hassle that you don’t have with a van.
At the end of the trip you then have to take the tent down – often in a wet and messy state – transport it home and dry it out. There are wet bits of tent all over the place.
I hate that. Good riddance to that.
Then you buy an awning.
An awning is just like a tent, except it is much, much bigger than any tent I have ever owned.
I have only ever owned what are optimistically described as three man tents.
These tend to be small and relatively lightweight. The camper van already provides more space than I have ever had in a tent.
So why are we now attaching an awning – which, although about the smallest you can buy, is also bigger than any tent that I have ever owned – to the side of the van to provide more space.
An awning which makes no concession to being small and lightweight.
It is one of those inflatable jobs and it comes packed with a stirrup pump bigger than the one I use to inflate the car tyres. It has a full size rubber mallet in the bag.
When packed down it is about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
And when you get to the campsite it has to be pitched very much like a tent.
And at the end of the trip you have to take it down – often in a wet and messy state – transport it home and dry it out. There are wet bits of tent all over the place, but they are much bigger wet bits.
I’m not saying it wasn’t useful: it’s great being able to dump a load of stuff in it to de-clutter the van. And we bought a drive-away kit, so we can leave a lot of stuff behind when we go out for the day. But is it worth it?
I was always sceptical about the need for an awning, but enthusiastic camper van-ists seem to swear by them. What am I missing?
I’m sure putting it up and down will get easier with practice, but I can’t see us using it unless we are staying for more than three or four days in the same place – which with a van you often won’t be.
I can see it coming into its own when the weather is warmer and you are more inclined to sit around the campsite – especially if you are with a group of people it will make it a more sociable experience.
But is it worth it?
If you are an enthusiastic supporter of the awning let me know why – we’ve spent a lot of money on it and I’d love to be won around.
Anyway, all this whinging notwithstanding, I have to say that I am still enjoying the van: one of the benefits over camping that is true is that it is definitely warmer and more comfortable than a tent.
I am looking forward to our next adventure.