Over almost 30-years of campervan experience, here is a light-hearted top-ten list of accessories we have found to be helpful. We are not gadget freaks, but do enjoy the simple items that have been of most value to us on long-distance, multi-day trips: What are your Top 10 campervan accessories?
No.10 – CAMP CHAIRS. Not having the later California T5/T6, with nice camp chairs slotted into the rear door, we have used camping mat chairs from Thermarest (and others). They pack down flat and can be easily stored. You can use them as tables, sun beds and BBQ windbreaks and they suffer all amounts of abuse. I found a set in the bargain bin at my local camp store some 15-years ago and they show no signs of wear.
No.9 – THERMOS FLASK. When you brew your morning cuppa, fill the kettle sufficiently to fill a flask too. It will save so much time later for lunch or a snack on the beach or in the van. I have acquired a taste for Rooibos tea, where you can leave the teabag in the flask all day, without it developing an over-stewed taste. This is also perfect for long-drives, saving time when stopping for a break.
No. 8 – FISHING GEAR. A good friend of mine taught me how to fish and now I have a basic rod and reel to catch Mackerel and perhaps Sea Bass (now complying with catch and size limits) along the coastline. When the fish are abundant, you can light the BBQ as you rig your rod and be eating the freshest cooked fish in minutes. Failing that, you will while away the hours casting a lead weight out to sea and reeling it back in again (usually covered in sea weed). Grown men find this relaxing, for some reason.
No.7 – Using PRE-PACKED SPICES in small jars make a huge difference to your cooking. These can be assembled at home beforehand. A jar of turmeric, a jar of cumin/fennel seeds, pepper, star anise, BBQ spices, dried herbs and many others (we like to cook Indian food) are organised into a number of recipes and will last for many weeks. Add bottles of olive oil, chilly sauce (hot), and Worcester sauce to cover most bases. You can adapt to your tastes to bring some home cooking with you, rather than spend money again on spices when you are away.
No.6 – Keeping a MEAL DIARY is an excellent way of helping decide what to cook. After more than 2-weeks away you are going to get bored with tuna pasta splodge each night, so we have written up recipes that have worked well and now have a surprisingly good menu for long trips – given we only have 2 gas burners and no oven (but a small Weber Smokey Joe BBQ).
No.5 – CAMPSITE GUIDE. We are not wild campers per se, preferring an established campsite with washing facilities and opportunities to meet fellow travellers. We belong to the Camping & Caravan Club, primarily now to achieve lower insurance, but also to receive their publication for UK sites each year. Nowadays I use Google Maps to find sites and find wild camp sites only when it seems acceptable to do so, in very remote areas. Many people only wild camp, but I prefer to put some money into the communities I travel through. Each to their own.
No.4 – NAVIGATION. Old school, before Google Maps and SatNav, we used the wonderful OS Tour Series of Maps in an A3 binder format. I still have that copy from 2003. No other publication comes close for planning a trip. SatNav for me will take you where you want to go; a decent map will take you somewhere you have never been – you can explore exciting new places researched the night before by pouring over the contours or coastline of a wide view map. Today, these maps (OS ROAD 1:250,000 Series) are available again in foldable format: eight copies cover the whole of the UK in sufficient detail to find isolated coves, mountain passes and beautiful driving routes. I don’t use a SatNav, but only Google Maps navigation – mostly to avoid arguments during driving. Miss “quarter of a mile” takes me through all those “take the second exit” roundabouts with ease (especially pleasing with the Australian accent enabled).
No.3 – THUNDERBIRD PACKS. You know what I mean – when Thunderbirds are go, Virgil requested a specific equipment pod for the mission. Likewise I have created boxes, ready to go, for cycling, walking, BBQs, fishing, etc – which I can load at a moments notice for the weekend trip we have planned. (See youtube for an explanation of the pods, should you have missed this excellent series from the 1960s).
No.2 – Why manufacturers do not fit SOLAR PANELS as standard is a mystery to me – they are the perfect solution for keeping the leisure battery topped up and keeping your fridge working for weeks on end, without an external charging source. They also keep you battery conditioned at times when you do not use your vehicle, extending the life of a very expensive battery (my California T4 Sonnenschein SL135 unit is £300 new and has been replaced twice now in 20-years). I was going to fit a permanent unit, but ended up wiring my own portable setup using a standard 50W panel from eBay and a MPPT controller and lengths of industry standard solar cabling and connectors. I just pop this on the roof and secure it with a few bungy cords (not whilst driving) when I need it. It is remarkably efficient. My wife cousin sells the professional kits at https://www.solarcampersolutions.co.uk/ – mostly for T5/T6’s with roof rail fitting kits, which avoid any drilling which would void warranties and suchlike.
No.1 – The SILVERSCREEN insulated cover for the front windscreen is worth every penny – it is the only surefire way to prevent condensation. Internal blinds and curtains provide privacy, but an external insulated blanket gives greater internal space and keeps the screen warm enough to avoid misting when you boil the kettle for the early morning view. Packing at the last moment, after wiping down any dew from the cover, you can depart immediately without waiting for the interior of the windscreen to de-mist. It is also the best solar shade you can imagine, for the hot summer days – keeping the cabin space cooler and giving the fridge a chance to keep those beers cool.