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campervan summer

How To Make The Most Of Your Campervan In The Summer

It’s the height of the summer, the better weather has finally arrived, it’s time to start making the most of your campervan.

If you’re determined to enjoy the freedom and flexibility of being on the open road in the next few weeks, have a read on how to make the most of your campervan this summer before the colder weather kicks in.

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campsite dog

Our guide to choosing the ideal campsite

Welcome to Effective Campervans blog. This month we look at tips on how to choose the best campsite for your needs and for travelling with a dog.

Choosing the ideal campsite

You may have a perfect destination in mind but with so much choice out there, picking the perfect campsite can be a difficult task. Have a read through our handy tips to help you decide.

  1. Make a list

It might seem obvious but make a list of your needs. Do you enjoy sitting around a campfire? If so check that the site allows this, because some don’t. You may require a well stocked shop on site or nearby, especially if you’re staying for a long time. Check in advance to avoid disappointment.

  1. Look online

If you know where you want to go you can search within the local area, or use an online campsite finder to narrow down your search further.

  1. Ask around

Nothing beats a recommendation from a friend or family member. You can trust them to give their honest opinion to get a better idea of what to expect. So don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

  1. Keep your eyes peeled

When you’re out and about in your campervan you may spot campsites that appeal to you. Make a note for future reference.

Travelling with a dog in your campervan

When planning this year’s holiday, we know many people will be taking their dog or dogs into consideration and bringing them along too. If you haven’t taken your dog on holiday before, it can seem like a daunting prospect, but it is very much doable, particularly if you intend to spend your holiday in a campervan. As long as there is enough space for your dog in your van, and you have chosen a site where pets are allowed, the possibilities are almost limitless when it comes to campervanning with a pooch.

Here we have some simple tips to help you when travelling with a dog on board:

  • If your campervan is new or your dog has never travelled in it before, it is advisable to acclimatise them to it before undertaking a long journey. Remember to reward your dog with a short walk or treat each time you make a stop. You may want to park up overnight on your driveway prior to your holiday and spend the night in your campervan with your dog. Let your dog choose their spot within the vehicle and provide any treats there.
  • Dogs should never be left unattended in a campervan particularly when the weather is hot. Make sure fresh air is circulating through the vehicle while driving too, either from the air-con or an open window.
  • If your dog doesn’t travel well and is prone to becoming very anxious while travelling, speak to your vet about using mild sedatives. This will help to alleviate stress for all involved!
  • Make sure you’re stopping for regular toilet breaks on a long journey.
  • If your dog is old or small you may need a ramp for easy access.

Useful equipment for holidaying with dogs

Below is a selection of available equipment that you may not need, but it’s definitely worth considering.

  • Water bowls and food bowls designed to prevent spills and tipping while travelling or a travel water bottle.
  • A short length of hose for washing dogs after mucky walks or a bucket and cloth if no tap is available for a hose.
  • Microfibre travel towels, or spare old towels.
  • Removable, washable seat covers.
  • If you’re travelling in summer, it may be wise to invest in a fan.
  • Tethers to keep the dog from wandering off outside the campervan and a dog travel harness.
  • A bed or blanket to mark out your dog’s sleeping space.
  • Another thing to bear in mind is that pet passports, microchips and certain vaccinations and worming treatments are compulsory when travelling between countries with your pet.

Please feel free to add any comments in the box below if you have any of your own tips to add.

campervan awning guide

A guide to choosing the best campervan awning for you

An awning can double your living space, ultimately adding another room to your campervan so it’s important to get the right awning to suit your needs.  Here we look at what options there are when it comes to buying an awning for your campervan.

What will you use the awning for?

Think about what you will primarily be using your awning for. Will you be using your awning for extra sleeping space for people or pets, extra dining space, or just for somewhere to store your muddy clothes and footwear? What you want to use your awning for is the first thing to consider when choosing the exact style, make and model that’s right for you.

Awning Types

There are 2 types of campervan awning:

Canopy

A canopy awning can be temporarily or permanently fixed to the side of your motorhome. Permanent ones wind out like a roller blind and generally have a couple of integral poles that fold down to form legs.

At the top end of the range, you can fit fabric walls to a canopy awning to enclose the space underneath. If you want a permanent canopy, it will require specialist fitting. The downside is you can’t leave it on site when you drive off for the day.

Drive Away

A drive-away awning is self-supporting. It attaches to an awning rail, but you can slip it off and leave the tent-like structure on your pitch if you take your vehicle out for the day. It gives you a place to take off wet clothes and shoes in comfort before entering your campervan – keeping the mud outside. It will also keep the worst of the wind and rain away from the door of the living area and you can store bikes out of the rain.

Most offer enough space to sit at a table and offer privacy as well as shelter from the elements. They’re also great for dumping buckets, spades and body boards after a day at the beach. Some of the larger drive-away awnings include sleeping cabins for extra accommodation. Mark your van position with pegs to ensure you park it back in the same position when you get back to site and need to re-connect your awning.

Before you start shopping for a campervan awning remember to measure your van so you can find the best type of awning for you. Please feel free to leave awning tips and recommendations in the comment box below.

campervan with solar panel

Have you considered solar panels for your campervan?

We love the freedom that comes with owning a campervan – to be able to set off at any time to explore new places around the UK and beyond. But having to think about selecting a pitch with electric hook ups could restrict your freedom. The most remote and peaceful campsites may not come with electric hook ups. So to escape that restriction, have you thought about investing in solar panels on your van? We say invest because the initial cost will be high, but in the long run they can save you money and reduce fossil fuel usage. For some, your campervan may not be getting used over winter, so now is a great time to think about making improvements to your camper ahead of bringing it back out again in spring.

Different types of solar panels for your campervan

There are 2 main types of solar panels you can get for your campervan.  Don’t worry, you can have solar panels if you have a pop top, you will just need to get flexible panels or brackets to be able to fit them.

  • Thin film PV panels are usually less expensive and will usually last around 10 years. They are produced by spraying a thin layer of semiconductor material onto another surface. The thin panels are efficient even in cloudy low light conditions. The panels are often self adhesive meaning they can be installed onto campervans with pop tops very easily. But the thin panels generally have a lower output than traditional crystalline panels, so you may need quite a few panels that will take up more space on your van.
  • Crystalline panels come in two varieties, mono-crystalline and poly-crystalline. Mono-crystalline panels are the most effective type of solar panel, with each module formed from a single silicon crystal. However, while they are the most efficient solar panels, they are also the most costly. Most of the crystalline panels you will come across will be poly-crystalline, made from a large number of small crystals. The difference in efficiency means that you will need a larger poly-crystalline panel to generate the amount of energy you need.

Free standing solar panels

You may decide not to fit the panels to the roof of your campervan, maybe you don’t like the look of them, or you’d prefer to position them to get the most amount of sun. You need to think about storing them – is there enough room in your van to store them properly? Will you be comfortable leaving them outside the van unattended?

Choosing the right solar panel for you

Now you have an idea of what type of panels are available, it’s important to do your research. Think about how much power you would like the panel to generate? Are you just topping up your battery, or do you want to depend on solar power in your campervan? When you’re on your next trip, measure the amount of power you have used and think about what extra power you need, or what you could do with the extra power, and remember, the solar power will only charge your battery in daylight hours. The Ready Reckoner is a handy tool that will help you to estimate what size solar panel you’ll need.

Campervan solar panel top tips

  • When using a crystalline solar panel, remember that even the tiniest shadow can affect the amount of power generated. Always ensure as many cells as possible are in direct sunlight.
  • Glass or plastic will dramatically reduce the amount of power produced by a solar panel, meaning it could take up to three times as much sunlight to recharge your battery. Again, you should always make sure as much of the panel as possible is in direct sunlight.
  • Before buying a new solar panel, check with your manufacturer that it will fit to your van easily. You may need to purchase special adapters if the standard clips will not be sufficient.
  • Position your solar panel to catch as much of the midday (strongest) sunlight as possible. This is normally directly overhead during the summer, but you may need to reposition the panels at other times of year.
  • Remember that your battery needs to be kept in excellent condition to be able to produce enough energy. Maintain and replace the battery when needed to ensure optimal performance.
  • Although not much energy will be generated during the winter months, a solar panel of at least 20w should be enough to keep your stored campervan ticking over until you next need to use it if you don’t like camping in winter.
  • Replacing inefficient halogen bulbs with LEDs can make a huge difference to the amount of power you use and therefore, the amount you need your solar panel to generate.
  • Pollution, dirt, traffic dust and bird droppings can prevent sunlight from reaching your solar panel. Clean your solar panels regularly with warm water and dishwashing soap to remove grime and keep your panels as efficient as possible. If you notice a drop in the amount of power produced, cleaning the panels is one of the most common and most easily rectified problems.

 

We hope that if you are considering solar panels for your campervan, we have provided you with some useful information to help you in your own search. Please feel free to leave your views in the comments box below.

winter campervan

Are you planning a winter campervan trip?

As the temperature drops and the days become shorter, some of you will be thinking about storing your camper van safely over the winter months. While the more daring will be planning a winter campervan trip either in the UK or Europe. If you’re thinking about setting off in the campervan over winter, read our guide on winter camping.

Why would anyone want to go camping in winter?

Some people may think it’s crazy to want to go camping over winter, it’s cold and dark, usually rainy and often snowy. When you could curl up by the fire in the comfort of your own home or a warm hotel, why do people want to be out braving the elements?

The changing seasons in the UK have their own individual beauty. Winter offers snow or frost touched views that are calming and serene. The bare trees give way to landscapes that might not have been visible when the trees were in full bloom.

Top tips for winter camping

  1. Get there early.  There are fewer daylight hours in winter, so to make the most of your trip, arrive early so you can get set up and head out for your day’s activity. Remember to check campervan site opening times as many close over winter.
  2. Be prepared for snow and ice. Pack a shovel & items that can be used for grip pads, like carpet or wood if your campervan gets stuck.
  3. Make sure your vehicle is fit for purpose. Fresh and waste water can freeze in really cold weather, make sure you have antifreeze with you on your trip as well as warm high vis clothing so you’re prepared for any eventuality.
  4. Keep your campervan well ventilated. Your campervan is subject to condensation and mildew during the colder months. You could try moving upholstery away from the walls of your campervan to help prevent mildew.
  5. Bring items to provide extra warmth. To make sure you’re comfortable inside your campervan, bring extra blankets, hot water bottles, jumpers, hats scarves and gloves and even a rug for the floor.
  6. Head south! Southern England is beautiful all year round and the further south you go, the warmer it is likely to be. Or you could head out of the country altogether and travel to Europe for some winter sun!

Taking your campervan to Europe

If you’re looking to escape winter for a week or two or even the whole season, we look at what to prepare when taking your campervan out of the country. 

campervan in Europe

    1. Do your research. Depending on what you want to get out of the trip there are plenty of destinations to explore and the internet has made life really easy when researching places to go. Find out about the weather, local events and campervan sites in the places you want to visit.
    2. Avoid overnight stops on French Auto Route aires. The French roadside rest areas are great, and a wonderful place to stop during the day to break up your journey. However, there have been reports of problems from many campers who have stopped at these aires overnight. The main issue is theft, particularly on the A7 and A9.
    3. Invest in GPS and road map. This point seems like a no-brainer, but it’s important to ensure the GPS system you choose has maps for all the countries you intend to visit. Avoid relying on your phone as a map or GPS. Having a detailed road map as well as a GPS system is strongly advised.
    4. Know your vehicle’s dimensions. Measure the height and length of your vehicle and keep this information handy. It is likely that you will be presented with a narrow gap or low bridge.  Save embarrassment by knowing that you will fit through.
    5. Check your insurance and passports. Make sure your passport is up to date and with at least 6 months expiry date. If you want to take your 4 legged friend, you will need to look into getting a pet passport! Make sure your insurance will cover the vehicle abroad and all passengers you intend to travel with. Phone your insurance company to ask if you’re not sure.
    6. Know the law. The road laws in each country vary, so do your research beforehand to make sure you know what to expect. For example, in France, you’re expected to carry a fluorescent jacket for the driver which needs to be put on if you get pulled over. In France, Germany and Spain you will be expected to carry a red warning triangle and if you break down the triangle needs to be placed 30 meters away from the vehicle. In Greece, you’re expected to carry a first aid kit, which is good practice when travelling in your campervan anyway, along with spare bulbs, engine oil and screen wash.
    7. Make the most of it! Finally, make the most of your trip and enjoy yourself. Travelling in a campervan is a fantastic way to see the world. Just make sure to take a camera with you!

 

Thanks for reading our winter campervan travel tips.

campervan family holiday

Campervan Cooking Tips

Camping, we love it! The feeling of packing up and setting off in the campervan to escape our busy modern lives, even for just a day or two. There’s nothing like waking up, getting dressed and heading straight outside – ah the great outdoors! And nothing tastes better than a meal cooked outside, there’s something about cooking the old fashioned way that makes us really appreciate our food, the tricky part though is to master meal preparation when camping. Even if you have a hob inside your campervan you may want to cook outside from time to time. Here we look at some handy campervan cooking tips when planning your next campervan trip.

campervan campfireWhat to bring

Whether you are a simple cook who likes to make meals quickly and easily or someone who enjoys taking the time to create a gourmet meal, you need to think about what you might want to cook on your campervan trip. Write a list of all the ingredients you need to make each meal, this will ensure you have everything you need. For those super organised people, you could even measure out your ingredients, store them in a ziplock bag and label the bag for the appropriate meal.

Basic Essentials

  • Plates, bowls, knives and forks, spoons, mugs, cups
  • Teatowel, dish cloth, washing up liquid, washing up bowl
  • Camping stove and/or fire pit, pots and pans, camping kettle, oven mitt
  • Cool box, chopping board, swiss army knife, tin foil, matches

Quick Meal Tips

  • Before your trip, prepare a casserole, stew or soup etc. and freeze, store in your cooler and reheat for an easy meal.
  • Freeze any meat before putting in the cooler, it will last longer as well as helping to keep other items cool.
  • Bring plenty of snack foods like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts in case you get hungry in between meals.
  • Instant or dried meals are brilliant for rainy days.

Campervan Cooking tips

  • Always cover the top of a pot when cooking outdoors, to cook your food quicker, save on fuel and keep pesky bugs out of your food.
  • Keep your food stored out of sight of wildlife to avoid unwanted visits.
  • Put a hole in the centre of your burger to ensure it’s cooked evenly throughout
  • Add a little powdered sugar to your bag of marshmallows to prevent them from sticking together.

There you have it – a few useful tips to remember when you’re planning your next campervanning trip.  We’d love to hear your camping and cooking tips, or tasty camping meal ideas – please share your wisdom in the comment box below!

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