Wednesday, November 16, 2011

WV Camper has a google plus page

When we first started converting our van to a campervan I set up a blog and I set up a twitter account, both of the same name.  I have toyed with the idea of setting up a facebook page but thought it would look a bit sad with no page likes, so I've never bothered.  However as I can't resist gadgets and playing around with new stuff I thought I'd have a go at setting up a page on Google plus as it's now been opened up to just about everyone including businesses and organisations.

I'm impressed with it up to now, though just like facebook it's looking a little bit lonely there without a soul in it's circles, but it's brand new so there's time.  After all the campervan isn't finished, it's winter anyway, so there's plenty of time for things to take off.  

I'm thinking it's a place where I can do little mini posts and hopefully at some stage in the future interact with other camper van self builders.  There is a bit of content on already, I've been making public my support for Fair Fuel UK who have long been campaigning for a cut in fuel duty.  The extortionate price of filling up your vehicle these days must have a bearing on how far and how often people are willing to travel for holidays and weekends away.  I shouldn't imagine towing a caravan is such a cheap way to tour the country any more and this must be having some impact on UK tourism.

I will make sure that it won't all be doom and gloom, so if you stop by here at some later date just click on the red G+ symbol just to the right of the page and add us to your circle, we'd love to meet you. You could of course do it now, go on take a peak - make me happy.  Oh and I just thought I'd mention too that if you enjoy reading any particular post you can click on the little +1 button at the bottom of the post.  You don't have to be part of google plus to use this and even if you are you don't have to be signed in.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Officially a Motorhome

I have already written this on the old Posterous site, but as it's a very special thing and is an acknowledgement that our van is now officially a campervan I decided to re-post it here.

After a holiday away, a refurbish of the curtains and seat coverings and finally the addition of a table we decided our campervan ticked all the boxes required for the DVLA to consider our van as a motor caravan.  We took lots of photos of the inside and out, wrote a letter highlighting all the points for them to consider and sent off the V5 certificate to change the body type from panel van to motor caravan. We sent it off at the end of August, and finally received the new V5 mid October. They specify that it can take up to six weeks for them to consider the information you have given them before making a decision and they certainly took the whole six weeks. But we have it now and Kevin is very proud.

Camper Van Life website has an excellent run down on the requirements for changing your V5 and how to go about it. If you follow everything you're told on there to the letter you should have no problem at least for the time being, in changing your panel van into a motor caravan. There are however rumours and rumblings about a new EC Directive on the re-classification of vehicles which I think is due to come in next April (2012). It may well be worth trying to find out more about this online as it sounds like it's about to get a whole lot more difficult to be able to do a D.I.Y. conversion.

I've added Camper Van Life to the Useful Sites list to the top right of this page..  It has a very active forum and lots of information for anyone considering converting their van, but for the specific page on DVLA requirements please click here.  I've also added Campton Insurance to the list. We used Campton to insure our campervan and look forward to doing a favourable post on that at a later date.

One thing the DVLA seem to be getting more keen on is whether the conversion looks like a motor caravan from the outside too.  It must have windows fitted to the sides and should be instantly recognisable as a motor caravan when it's seen out on the road by for example the police.  We added some graphics for good measure, though I'm never too sure about the stars on the bonnet.  Everyone seems to think they look good, perhaps they're just being kind.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Kampa Travel Pod - Review

Putting it Up
So now you know how we came by our nearly new drive-away awning, it's time I said what it's like to actually use.  Personally I don't think it's that bad to put up but my husband is of a different opinion.  The first time we used it was back in June when we went on a tour around north and mid Wales.

It was me who sorted out how to put it up.  I was well impressed with myself, not usually being a practical kind of person, but I just think it's very much like a dome tent. You start out with two telescopic poles.  Spread the awning out on the floor and proceed to thread the poles through the loops on the awning, pretty much the way you do with a tent.  One thing that the person who we bought it off went on and on about was making sure we put the little cover over the mesh vent right at the top of the dome shape because he said once the awning is up it's very difficult to reach high enough to get the cover on.  Yes, he's quite right.  Most of the times we've put the awning up we have remembered but there's always a first time.  Rather than take it all down again, Kevin stood on the caravan step and used a stick to stretch the cover over and secure the hooks through the loops, not an easy feat but quicker than taking the whole thing back down again.

Once you have the poles threaded through you just kind of pop it up off the ground. This is the fun bit as it's like handling an unwieldy drunk.  It kind of lolls around in a very unstable manner and I must admit we've been very lucky in that it's never been very windy when we've used it.  I'm really not sure how it would fair in a brisk gale, I think maybe it could end up turning into a bit of a wind surfing sail type thing taking us with it. If you ever see a couple doing a spot of random hang gliding from their awning around a campsite near you, give us a wave because it will probably be us.

Once you have it in an upright position, one person needs to hold it up while the other goes round pulling the poles taught and making sure the webbing around the bottom is rigid and forms a square shape then push each pole end into the hole to anchor it down.  Then it's just a matter of positioning it so that the back end flap can be fixed on to the van guttering via "figure 8" rods.  You then have pegging points all the way around plus a couple of guy ropes to give it some more strength.  All the ropes and pegs are in fluorescent yellow so that you or your neighbouring campers don't walk into the ropes or trip over them.  When you are going out in your camper you just detach the tunnel bit from the van zip up the back door of the awning and it sits there all day looking just like a very tall dome tent keeping your chairs and anything else you don't want to take with you dry and out of the rain.

It's Up's and Down's
Here's some good advice, don't bother using it as a toilet tent.  Firstly shutting all the curtains (well rolling down the curtains) every time you need to use the loo is a pain and unless you're happy for a silhouette projection of your ablutions to be up there for the whole site to see once it's gone dark you're just going to have to have a wee without the light on.  I'm glad to say that with a minor adjustment our portaloo is now completely usable on-board the van.

Quality is pretty standard and not really any better than most run of the mill tents. Unlike a tent it lacks an inner tent or double skin.  This means that in early and late season condensation tends to be a bit of a problem.  You get up in the morning, open the roll up curtains and door and get soaking wet from the condensation that's formed on the inside, still it saves the hassle of going for a shower. It soon dries off but if you're hoping for a quick early get away to pastures new, I suggest you take the awning down the night before, otherwise you'll have a fair bit of drying off to do before you can put the awning away.  The awning fastens to the poles by way of plastic hooks that clip on to the poles.  For some reason you can guarantee that the hooks manage to line up with the thick sections where the poles slot together, if you try to push the hooks on to the thick section they snap and we now have about 3 or 4 snapped hooks in total.  With due care and attention this can be avoided but why does the damn thing always manage to line up in the wrong place.

All in all for the price we paid for it, it serves it's purpose and I do like it.  The zips and velcro fasteners are pretty sturdy and for the days when it's sunny the front zipped opening door lifts up to form a sun canopy for you to sit under and shelter from the ravages of the sun!  There was plenty of room inside for our table, two chairs and other bits and bobs that get in the way in the van and it all packs up neatly into it's own bag.  I'm not over confident of how it would stand up to stormy weather but hopefully we won't have any of that kind of nastiness and if we do, I'll be sure to let you know how it performed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Kampa Travel Pod Story.........

............or how we came by our second-hand, only used a couple of times drive away awning quite by chance.
Go back to Easter 2011.  Remember?  Lots of sunshine, unseasonally warm temperatures, probably the best weather we had all year and our van was still a van with just the side windows and a new roof.  As the weather was so nice and as we like to cycle we decided on a trip to Manchester along the Rochdale canal.  How hard could it be? It turned out to be 27 miles for the round trip and the trouble with living high above sea level is where ever we go it's always very hard work getting back.

It was a nice ride out even though the canal isn't at it's prettiest the closer you get to the city centre.  We met some spring lambs along the way and some baby geese.  We came across someone's idea of modern architecture. I took a picture because Prince Charles'  "monstrous carbuncle" speech sprung to mind when I saw it.  People have to live in these flats, houses, whatever they are.  I don't think they look good personally, Oh and if that apostrophe after Charles is wrong or in the wrong place, please don't correct me, apostrophe's are on the whole a carbuncle of an idea we could well do without in English grammar, they are so difficult to get right.
Manchester Architecture
Once we got to the end of the canal and reached Manchester City centre we found a 'Go Outdoors' shop just across the road so decided to have a nosy round there before setting off back up the canal home.  Lots of assistants were stood around the entrance  asking customers if they were looking for anything in particular.  Kevin asked them if they had any drive away awnings as they have lots of tents there.  They said not, even though apparently 'Go Outdoors' started out as a caravan accessories shop.  As we got upstairs to the sales floor some man was waiting for us at the top of the escalator.  He had overheard us asking about drive away awnings and said he just happened to have one himself that had hardly been used that he was planning to sell on ebay.  It was even used for a Ford Transit campervan so should fit ours. He gave us the name of the awning, his phone number and said he wanted £80 for it and left it at that.  We had a look on ebay when we finally arrived home a good few hours later to find it was quite a good price and even though for me, it seemed like an eternity before we would ever be able to use the thing, we bought it anyway.  Glad we did buy it as it's been invaluable for extra space.

Kampa Pod in Dolgelleau Wales

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Time to move on

This blog was originally on Posterous.  I got so sick of it never working properly, not uploading pictures, constantly changing the format of the way it works I decided to move it.  So if you want to know the story of WV Camper and how it started then visit my old blog on posterous. Read the posts on there then come back here because this is where the story will continue.