Wednesday 1 May 2024

April 2024 - Days out in the camper van

We've slept in the camper van for the first time. In fact we've had two weekends away now. We've reached the stage where the weather is warm enough now and the hotel prices are more expensive than the camps sites. The first night was on my cousins drive in Seaford in Sussex after dropping my mum off to stay with her brother and sister in law for the week, as it's a 4+ hour drive from where we live and driving down on a Friday night after work, meant a late arrival, but we were able to plug in and use their facilities. My aunt and uncle always had camper vans when I was a child and I've always dreamed of owning one, so it felt right to spend our first night on their drive.

For the second night we headed off in the direction of home along the coast and booked onto a camp site in Selsey. It didn't take long to set up the electricity and fill the water tank and Peter had spent some time reading the manual so it was quick to locate all the switches to turn pumps on and set the timer for the heater.

We realised we had too much stuff 'just in case' in the van, so there was a lot of moving things around to use different parts of the van. We rotated both the front seats, set the table up and left the bedding under the bench seat until it was needed and once we'd popped the roof, left the bed hooked up to give us full height space so we could walk around freely.

This arm rest does get in the way, regardless of whether it's up or down, we'll just have to get used to it and the odd bruise or three.

We do have a portable toilet in the van, but have made the decision not to use it and book camp sites with toilet and shower facilities. Thankfully the camp site was quiet so there was plenty of hot water and it was all very clean. Just need to remember to shower before the evenings get too cold.

By removing the portable toilet and purchasing a cable tidy we've free'd up more storage space and Peter purchased a food grade hose pipe to fill the water tank on site, rather than driving with the extra weight. We just need to purchase a container to drain the waste water into, although some camp sites do have 'drive over pits' to empty into.

We can wash up in the van, but chose to use the washing up facilities. We have a foldable crate to use to carry the washing up in and it can also be used for the shower to keep items off the floor and use it to keep the floor dry from wet boots.

We had enough bedding with us, but it did get a little chilly during the night so we packed warmer clothing to sleep in for the second weekend. We can raise the bed and clip it in place with the bedding in if we stay for more than one night, but we can't fold the roof flat with it there. 

There's a safety net to fix when we're sleeping to stop us falling out the bed, but it meant we couldn't reach the shelf where we had put our phones and car keys etc. For our second weekend I packed some S hooks and a handbag tidy to hang to drop items in, for ease to reach and save smaller items falling down the sides.

I keep a mirror in the cupboard and with the side lights I've created a little corner to do my hair and make up. We've got power points so I could use a hair dryer and we do have a solar panel so we can run off grid. Non slip mats mean we don't have to keep packing things away. We won't necessarily camp in the van every weekend, but we do use it a lot for brewing up a cup of tea, we can make proper coffee and have lunch in and use we do set up the table a lot on days out.

We've used the boot liner from our old car and cut it to size to line the cupboards and shelves and bought a couple of door mats for the main doors.

Our second trip was back to Sussex to collect mum this weekend. We travelled down Friday after work and stayed at Bicester about 90 mins drive from home, arriving around 6pm. It took 15 mins to set up as we've got into a routine of who does what. I pop the roof, rotate the seat, set up the table, unpack the pjs and wash bags and put our bags under the sink, turn the water and gas on and put the water heater on once Peter has filled the water tank up and plugged the electricity in. Curtains are drawn and shades go up at front windows.

It does get a bit messy as we move from day to night and night to day, but everything falls back into place quickly as we each have our own jobs to do.

When we wake up in the morning we remove the bags from under the sink and put the bedding in their place, we raise the bed into the roof space and fix it in place.

When we travel the bedding lives under the bench seat.

Packing up in the morning, takes around 15 mins. After breakfast has been eaten, Peter does the washing up and has a shower. I put the table away and rotate the chairs, window shades are taken down and put away, bedding goes under the bench seat, pillows on top. I wash, brush my teeth, dress and do my hair and make up. We then put the washing up away. Peter unplugs the electricity. The gas and water get switched off, bags get packed away, bed lowered and pulled flat, straps connected, roof pulled down as sides pulled in. Peter checks the outside to ensure all the canvas is tucked away and roof locked into place. Electric cable and hose put away and we're off.

Second night in Brighton and repeat the above.

The more time we spend in the van, the more time we want to spend in it.

A few other tips we've learnt are:

Fire extinguisher is a must. It gets unpacked every time we stop and park up.

Felt pads on the pots to stop them rattling and cloth under the bowl to stop it moving around.

Plant pot holder as a bin

Getting into a sleeping bag in the roof space is tricky so it's best to stand on the top rung of the ladder, slide over feet, pull it up and swing into bed.

An S hook and small bag to hold glasses, book, phone and charger in over night.

We've joined the Caravan and Campers Club and also found a website called Pitchup. Quite a few sites want a minimum of two nights stay, there are more grass pitches than hardstanding available and of course electric hook up sites are in more demand, so in future if we're only doing a night or two we can use the solar battery.


  1. Ihave always liked the idea of going away in a camper van to Scotland to visit my grandchildren, but as I'm a wheelchair user I don't think it would be practicalpocolo

    1. we've seen plenty of vans on YouTube that are adapted for electric wheelchairs that you can rent

  2. Life in the van looks like an amazing adventure! Safe travels!

  3. What a great camper van. I've never seen one with a pop up roof. Sounds like you guys have your routines down pat.

    1. I've only known them with a pop top, my aunt and uncle had them 40 years ago

  4. It all sounds a lot easier than putting up a tent that's for sure, I bet it's cosier too. I used to go camping a lot when I was younger, but my Mum, Nan and Aunt & Uncles camped well into their later years. I'm glad you are making so much use of your van.

    1. oh it's so quick and easy to set up and pack away