After living in a campervan for over 18 months now and having worked thought many of the problems and issues that you can encounter during this process, including your bed splitting cleanly down the middle leaving you wedged and on the floor! We feel we have plenty of experience to create this article, explaining how to live nomadically in a campervan. The basis for the content of this article are the common questions we get asked whenever we tell anyone how we live.
So most people probably expect that we have a massive motorhome with all the modcons. Well, that is not the case and nor would we want it to be. One of the most important things to consider is the size of your vehicle. If you are planning on travelling alot in your motorhome and wild camping you do not want a massive van. You need to consider the small side roads you will be travelling down to that secret beach, the small country villages you will be driving through and more basically, parking it in the local supermarket to do your weekly shop and fill your fuel tank. For that reason we would recommend a vehicle under 6m in length, ours for example is a peugoet boxer van which before being professionally converted was a mini bus.
We try to avoid using campsites so our money goes as far a possible, for us to be able to do this we have to take every opportunity available and here are our tips to stretch your budget like we do.
Water– Now water can be one of our biggest problems, when you only have storage for 70L like we do, you have to use it efficiently. After staying at a camp site, always leave with as much water as possible. Now using this water for drinking, bathing and cooking/cleaning isn’t going to last long, so other than being careful you will need find a way to refill if your going to minimise camp site stays. Our biggest source for water is church yards. Most church yards with an active cemetery will have a tap, now some people may read this and think how dare they use water from the church? Ask yourself this, do you think Jesus would want us to go thirsty? Another source is fresh water rivers and lochs especially in Scotland, thanks to our Big Berkey water filter (Read our review here) we are able to filter this water for drinking to a much cleaner standard than you will be drinking from your taps at home. (To buy your own on amazon click here)
Now bathing is obviously limited when you are having to be careful with your water volume and everyone wants a good long soak in the shower sometimes. The ways we have got around this previously in by going swimming, having a shower at a location that has a small charge for this facility, such as some National trust locations or service stations. We have also used showers for canal/loch workers and showed our gratitude with a couple of beers. Another less legitimate way, which I am not recommending is simply walking onto a campsite as if you were a guest and having a shower, if you are going to do this then I would advise to avoid the small sites go for a large busy site where you dont have to walk in past reception.
Parking- Another question frequently asked is ‘where do you stay?’ well its really not that complicated, wherever we can/want. Okay so we abide by a few basic rules when parking up for the night. Firstly we don’t stay anywhere that says ‘no overnight parking’. We have spoken to other campers who will ignore this rule if it doesnt state any repercussion such as a fine or clamping, but we prefer to avoid when possible. We also wont park somewhere that might upset people, for example outside someone’s house, inconvenient locations along the road such as corners or opposite junctions, or anywhere that we just don’t like to look of.
Now for the places we do park, we like quiet, out of the way locations with an amazing view to look out onto. If your going to Scotland your be driving past an awesome location every mile you drive. When choosing a location try to find somewhere quiet, enough off the road so you don’t get rocked by passing traffic, somewhere flat/ish if you are going to be on a slope always insure your head is higher than your feet if you want a good nights sleep. To help you find parking locations access websites such as www.searchforsites.co.uk or apps like park4night before you go.
Home comforts- Everyone needs some home comforts, to be honest with you we have more home comforts now than when we lived in a house. For those dark nights, or the times you just want to chill its nice to have options. All campervans and caravans come with a leisure battery, if you have bought a second hand vehicle it may be worth replacing the battery if it’s old. This will power the basic electrics such as kitchen lights, extractor fan and water pump but if you buy an inverter you will be able to run your TV and charge phones/laptops, etc. We bought a 120AH battery off amazon over a year ago and can watch 20+ hrs of TV on it or 10-12hrs watching DVD’s.If you don’t want to rely on a campsite to recharge your leisure battery we would recommend you purchase an inverter generator. We have a 1kw generator which on one tank of fuel will recharge our battery, run the fridge, TV and xbox for approximately 6-7hrs, a lot cheaper than a campsite. A new addition to our leisure time is the internet, you can get a small portable modem which will provide internet access for all your wifi devices. Known as MIFI it is avalable through any mobile phone provider, ours costs us £17 month for 20GB of data and allows us to use it with no extra charge across 40 other countrys.
Heating- We have recently purchased a gas heater which produces 1.2kw heat, which for our size van works really well. We use to have a halogen heater but this ment running the generator and we found it was very ineffective, as you could only run 1 bar as otherwise it would overheat the generator. Once you have heated the place you want to keep it in for as long as possible, most campervans will already be insulated but the cab isn’t. I would highly recommend buying some good quality insulator blinds to keep the heat in when its cold and out when its hot.
Laundry- Although there are still some traditional laundrettes out there we have managed too keep our washing needs to campsite laundrettes, which at a cost of approx £4 a time is an expensive but necessary expenditure. Saying this, we do end up abusing the washing machines when we are staying with relatives. One thing we would highly recommend is the lifeventure washing line, two lines of twisted elasticated cordage, very compact and very effective with no requirement for pegs.
How to live in a small space- Ok, this one you cant learn from reading a guide. If you live together in a campervan like we do, it can at times be a very stressful situation. There’s no real escaping, therefore you HAVE to be close and accustomed to living in each others pockets. You will get in each others way, that cant be helped but you understand how difficult it is and eventually it becomes normal. Although sometimes you just need to get out, don’t be too hard on yourself go down to the pub and escape for a few hours, it does the world of good, trust me! Space is a rare commodity so you have to plan and maximise every inch you have. For example, can you fit an extra shelf in that cupboard? We ended up putting in 5 extra shelves throughout the van. At first you end up taking a lot of stuff which you just don’t need or use, in time you will learn what’s needed and what’s not.
Cooking- So this will depend on whether your planning to eat out pretty much every day, or if your budget doesn’t allow this and you need to cook most days. If this is the case, it doesn’t have to be tinned meals every night. Our van has 4 gas hobs and a small gas grill. Some motorhomes do come with ovens and microwaves but as ours doesnt so we have to be creative otherwise it can get boring and repetitive.
Please read our article on stuff you will need, a list of our recommended must have’s when living or travelling in your campervan.