A Taste of Vanlife at Camp Quirky
Since Rebecca and I met, we have wanted to convert our own van and tour round the UK and Europe. The idea of vanlife is slowly becoming a reality for us and after experiencing a taste of vanlife at Camp Quirky (a festival for self-build campervans), we are closer than ever.
Before we convert our own van, we want to do as much research as we can. With #vanlife seeming to become a trend among millennials, we wanted to make sure we know what we are getting ourselves into. We have spent countless hours online, watching videos on van tours (mostly Bee and Theo of The Indie Projects – thank you), looking at van layouts and picturing the look and feel we want in our van.
Our Next Step
Visiting the Motorhome and Caravan Show at the NEC and Camp Quirky 2017 helped us get a feel for space inside many vans, but we wanted to spend some time living in a van ourselves. There was no better way to do this than surrounded by other van enthusiasts at Camp Quirky 2018.
Quirky Campers were offering a ticket to their festival if we hired a van through them. Rebecca and I sat down and looked through their list of available vans to hire. We based our decision on what we are looking for in a van when we hit the road ourselves. It’s a list that seems to be ever-changing but includes: being able to stand up when cooking, somewhere to work on our laptops, a comfortable seating area and somewhere that feels homely (mostly look and feel). We narrowed it down to a few and then settled on MacIntyre.
Collecting the van
Camp Quirky was up in Newark this time, but the van we chose was based in Bristol (maybe we should have looked at this before deciding on which van to choose!), but off to Bristol we went to collect the van.
Collecting the van from its owner Phil was a simple and straightforward process. Most of the details and checks are done before the collection date (allow yourself a couple of weeks if you can to arrange deposits and send documents). We went through some final bits of paperwork with Phil, had a whistle-stop tour of the van and the keys were ours (for the weekend anyway).
Heading for Camp Quirky
It had been a while since I’d driven a van, but many years of driving have taught me to take it easy. I have to admit, it was nice to slow down and take it a little easier on the roads. I honestly never thought I’d say that, as I do like a bit of speed. But driving along, I played the game of seeing how high I could get the MPG in a van (33.9 was about average but much lower than I’m used to in my car). The roads were kind to us and we even had time to stop off and get supplies on the way. As keen cooks, we wanted to fully test out living and cooking in a van.
After a few hours of driving, we arrived at Camp Quirky in Newark and were blown away by how many people were there. Last year there were about 30 vans, but this year there were a good 200-300 vans, with some being on display to look around, we were keen to park up and explore.
Cooking in a van for the first time
The van we hired was equipped with a 2-ring gas burner hob, so we opened up the back doors and Rebecca set to work cooking a chilli. A few minutes in we were trying to figure out why things were not cooking, but soon realised our gas bottle had run out. A quick change and we were again cooking on gas.
As it was a lovely warm evening, we set up the table at the back of the van and ate our chilli looking out at the moon rising over the camp and listening to the distant sound of music in the big tent. You can see more of this on our Vlog on our YouTube channel.
Sleeping in a quirky campervan
Our hired van had a pull out sofa that converted into our bed in the evening. We are still deciding on a fixed bed versus a pull out bed, and it is a decision we still haven’t fully made (unless you are reading this in the future and we have converted our van).
We like the idea of the comfy sofa seating area and the extra space you get with your bed being tidied away during the day, but I’m certainly leaning towards the comfort and convenience of a fixed bed for
longer term vanlife. A pull out bed isn’t as comfortable as a normal mattress and I kept falling down in the gap. If we can find a solution to these two options though, we might go for the collapsible bed. But then again, having to make up our bed every night seems a bit of a task.
Toilet and shower
We chose not to have a toilet in the van we hired as we had the use of toilets at the festival. We also don’t mind a few days without showering, as long as we can have a good wash.
Having to get up in the middle of the night and trundle over to the campsite toilets wasn’t too much of an issue as we were parked only a few minutes away, but what we did learn is that we would need an option for emergency peeing when wild camping (something we did on our final night before handing back the van.)
I don’t think a shower is vital to have in the van, but we did find a nifty solution in one of the vans we saw. Head on over to our YouTube channel and find out more.
What we learnt from hiring a van from Quirky Campers
Hiring a self-converted van is a great idea, and before you plough hard-earned money and time into your own conversion, spend some time getting to know other vans. This might be by visiting shows to see design ideas you like, or hiring one from Quirky Campers. You will be surprised how many little finishing touches you will come across in each of their 50 unique vans.
If you are thinking of converting, or buying your own converted van, we can strongly recommend hiring one from Quirky Campers. All the vans are unique in design and will give you a good idea of what you might like to have in your own van.
We have learnt that a good space for cooking is important to us, as we like to cook together and mealtimes are an opportunity to relax and enjoy time in each other’s company. Having a comfortable work area big enough for two is also key, as we are both freelance and work on the road and don’t want to be hunched over sat in the cabin seats. And last but by no means least, having a toilet onboard (porta potty) is important for us when wild camping (more on this in another blog).
So where to next?
We are picking up a brand new motorhome in Italy for Just Go and driving back to the UK over 22 days. When we get back, we will be hiring another van from Quirky Campers and then we start our own build. We will be blogging and vlogging our journey, so do check out our social media to follow along. We would love to hear from you and what plans you have for vanlife.
7 things to consider when hiring a van
- What does your licence allow you to drive?
- You may have some limitation on the weight and size of van you can drive.
- Are you looking for a small compact van or a larger van for space?
- If you are looking for a weekend getaway a short wheel base might be enough room, but a longer wheel base will give you more space or facilities.
- How do you want to cook while in the van?
- Is a gas hob enough or do you want an oven?
- How many of you will be staying in the van?
- How many 3-point seatbelts are there in the van for when you are driving? This might be different to the number of sleeping berths in the van.
- Where will you want to stay in the van? (No point picking one up in Devon to drive to Scotland, unless that’s what you want to do.)
- You might have to pay additional fees if you travel over a certain number of miles each day (normally averaged out over your hire period).
- What does the van look like?
- This might seem like a silly one, but if you are wild camping in the van, you might not want it to stand out too much.
- How long will you want to hire the van for?
- If, like us, you want to have a taste of vanlife, it’s probably best to hire for 3-4 nights as a minimum.
You can read more about the Camp Quirky festival on our blog post Camp Quirky 2018
Camp Quirky 2018 Vlog