In my previous post, I discussed campervanning and in particular my first camper van “Diggy” the Mazda Bongo and “Vivi” the Vauxhall Vivaro, which came along last year to replace the aging and somewhat smaller (when your family is growing up) “Diggy”.  Like the last post, this post has very little to do with photography, save for the fact that my van enables me to get to places and stay near places that I otherwise wouldn’t visit when “doing” photography.

I am going to write mainly about the modifications that I made to our new van and the reasons why.  But first I need to talk about the call of nature…1 & 2’s (you can skip this bit if you want….)

Answering the call

Having spent two weeks mainly wild camping on the Scottish mainland and on to the Uists in the Outer Hebrides this summer, I have realised that there are some downright lazy sods out there when it comes to needing to go/answering the call/going for a dump/etc.  Without putting too fine a point on it, if you are at a camping spot or indeed a popular tourist spot like Staffin Beach on Skye, you are going to find little piles of tissue all over the place in public view – this isn’t just for #2’s, it is also women leaving tissue behind from #1’s as well (as blokes can shake, and women less so in this scenario).  The result is like the wilderness equivalent of walking down a chewing gum splattered Oxford St in London.  Venture slightly away from a popular location and head for the place that you think will be a good spot to do what bears do, and you will no doubt find that you are not the first to have had that thought – you might  (and I hope) have standards and not just leave your offering on the ground, but many out there seem to think that that is acceptable.  Its not only in wild places you see this, thanks to the closure of public loos in popular areas of the Peak District, you are seeing more frequently on popular walking routes too.

So here is Alastair’s top tips for answering your internal calling

  1. Take appropriate equipment – loo roll, trowel, and hand santiser. We use a small folding spade, which packs away quite nicely in the van.
  2. If the spot is too good to be true its probably been used before – be careful as not everyone buries their #2’s. I’d move on, and find your own spot.
  3. Be discrete – think of others – not everyone wants to see the Whole of Your Moon.
  4. Try and get far away from where you are pitched, 50m uphill is a good start. (And refer to points 2 and 3)
  5. Stay away from watercourses, as you don’t want to be contaminating them.
  6. For #2’s – dig a hole – 6 inches deep, aim well – the better your aim, the smaller the diameter of the hole you have to dig (#lifehack!). If your aim is rubbish – use a stick to aid it to its final resting place, or dig a bigger hole.
  7. Look before you poop – with your trousers down, make sure you aren’t about to deposit your efforts in your trousers
  8. Bury your used paper. Some people say burn it – but I’d die of embarrassment if I inadvertently started a fire and had to explain that one to the authorities.  From reading around, in some places in the wilderness, you have to take your paper home.
  9. Don’t use baby wipes – they tend to have plastic in them and are rarely biodegradable.  If you use toilet wipes, check them carefully to see if they can decompose.
  10. Don’t forget to fill the hole in – maybe even crown your achievement with a rock to discourage others from digging where you’ve been.

Enough of my scatological ramblings and on to talking about the van.

Vivi the Vivaro

You may remember from my previous post that I now have a long wheelbase Vauxhall Vivaro.  It was converted I think when it was about three years old, and before it came into my hands it wasn’t used that often.  Since I’ve had it,  in the past 18 months as a family and on my own, it’s been slept in for at least 12 weeks.  So I think we’re getting good value out of it.

The van came kitted out with what I’d consider a standard loadout for a campervan:-

  • Rock and roll bed – the back seat pulls out to become a bed for two. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s a double bed, but it is a lot more accommodating than the bed in the old Bongo.
  • Sink and tap – fed by a water tank slung under the van.
  • Hob – a two ring hob, originally fed by an LPG gas canister
  • Mains hook up – not all electrics work off the leisure battery, especially things that require a three pin plug.
  • Leisure battery – offering enough power to go for a day or two with the fridge and some lights
  • Fridge – a small under the worktop fridge, with adjustable temperature.
  • Stowaway table – a table that can be stored elsewhere in the van when not in use and if people can keep their elbows by their sides when eating.
  • Curtains – for your windows, save for the front of the van, where you’ll probably use stick on/suction cup type sun reflectors.
  • Pop-top/elevated roof – if there is more than two of you, as there is with us, then you’ll need to have a roof that can raise to accommodate the kids. Ours when up is designed in such a way that you can raise the ceiling of the van when the roof is up, which allows you to stand whilst cooking.  Which can save wear and tear on the back at times 😊

 

  • Grill – the van also had a grill fitted when we got it, which is a bit of an indulgence, but it is a good place to store the plates…

 

After using the van for a summer and with thoughts of an extended trip to Europe, I looked at some upgrades for the van.  Some because I thought we needed them, and others more because I could rather than them being strictly necessary.

Upgrades

  • Caravan battery – with everyone having a phone, some sort of tablet type device and a camera, the power demands of a van have increased since the kids were 4. The caravan battery we had fitted still goes underneath the back seat but takes twice the space.   Not quite sure if it gives twice the longevity, as our usage of power has gone up, but so far we haven’t run out.
  • Solar panel – linked to the above, we have had a solar panel fitted to compliment the bigger battery. This allows us to wild camp without worrying about running out of  I did have a bit of a wobble about only fitting one panel, but my friendly campervan fitter assures me it’s all we need, and so far, he has been proven right.
  • USB Charging Points – most campervans come with a 12-volt socket that you can put a plug in USB charger in to, to compliment this, I had added additional USB sockets as well, as everything these days seems to use USB.
  • Heater – I had an LPG heater fitted to the van. This makes spending those wet days in the van a bit more tolerable, but also allows me to be comfortable when heading north in the winter.  You can have a diesel heater fitted that runs off the diesel in your tank – but apparently, these are noisier than the LPG versions.
  • LPG Conversion – with getting the heater fitted, the friendly van fitter convinced me that getting an LPG tank fitted was the way to go. The underslung tank would replace the need for a gas bottle in the van (freeing up more space) and would prove to be more economical.  This provides the gas not only for the heater but also for the two-ring hob and grill as well.  On a full tank (a whole £7 to fill), this got us around Europe for 6 weeks, without the need to fill up and with some left over.
  • Rollout awning – an awning on the side of a van is in some ways that extra outside room that you need. When it’s hot, it provides shade.  When its wet, it means you can venture outside without getting wet – which is probably the most important use, being able to get out of your outside gear in the relative protection of the awning without bringing it all inside the van.Just remember to have one leg lower than the other to allow water to run off otherwise, you will end up with a big bulge of water to deal with.  I’d also recommend rolling the awing away if there is the slightest hint of wind or else you run the risk of running around your van in the dark of night battling to put it away.  Been there, done that :/

 

So far, these upgrades have proven invaluable.  I’d also recommend getting a fly screen – not only for keeping midges out, but for those nights when its actually too hot in a van, having the screen over your door (mine is fixed via  velcro on to the flock on the walls of the van), gives you a degree of privacy whilst allowing you to have the door open.

For showering, I use a shower bag.  In theory, as it black, it warms up the water.  Easier said than done when in the Highlands of Scotland and wanting a shower first thing in the morning.   I either hook the bag on to the side of the van, or venture into nearby woods and hang it from a tree.  Believe me, if its cold, you will have the quickest shower of your life and be refreshed for it 😊

Future upgrades

I’m not quite finished upgrading the van.  I need to swap out the existing power unit with something a bit more modern and efficient and I need some curtains fitted that will go across the back of the front seats, to save always having to get the big suction fitted silver screens out (more because I’m lazy than anything else).

So that’s me done kit and the van to death.  In my next Campervanning blog, I will definitely (I promise) start to talk about our trip around Europe and in particular the planning of it and travel with a dog.

As ever, if you have any questions please feel free to comment below and give us a like or a share.

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