Okay, so I am going to be truthful – socks for Christmas isn’t my first choice of exciting present, and let’s face it, we have all heard the moans about novelty socks. But for us outdoors types, actually, good socks are a great stocking filler (sorry) and worth spending a little more on.
This season, we have been wearing Heat Holders and Wigwam Hudson Bay socks.
Heat Holders are available just about everywhere these days, in a variety of colours. To my mind, these are perfect for home and in the caravan – they are thick and truly fluffy inside, and unless you have roomy boots, might just be a little on the hefty side for walking boots. The have a non slip grip, but really are incredible warm and comfortable, and wash really nicely as well. If you suffer with cold feet at night, these would be the perfect bed sock for chilly camping trips and winter caravan breaks. They do a thinner version for hiking which I haven’t tried yet, but if they are anywhere as good as these, they will be perfect.
The Wigwam socks are a different breed. Luxuriously soft, these are an acrylic blend with a touch of wool, and very stretchy. At mid calf height, and thinner than the Heat Holders, the Wigwam sock is ideal for inside boots, with no slippage and anti moisture / wicking properties. They also have an anti odour property, although this is slightly difficult for me to test, having happily non smelly feet, even after a days trek! These have also washed very well, as acrylic usually does and hold their shape nicely.
Last but not least are the Berghaus mid weight hiking socks, which are a staple and old favourite – again anti odour, but comfortable, warm, and not too thick for my boots. They have an ergonomic design – very technical for socks, but basically mean no slippage and less blisters, as well as extra heel cushioning to keep you comfy and avoid blisters.
For some of us, music is such an integral art of life that any holiday or trip wouldn’t be complete without a good source. We have looked at a variety of Bluetooth speakers over the years on the blog, and the run up to Christmas seems like a good time to look at some new offerings. This time, we look at 2 kits from August, manufacturers of good quality, good value equipment including headphones and speakers.
The SE20 is a tiny traditional boombox stereo style player with Bluetooth connectivity and radio with alarm clock. We have one in white, and although it is small, it packs in two 3w speakers and 7 hours worth of battery. It came fully charged, was simple to set up, and sounds pretty impressive for its size. Obviously lacking in bass, the all round sound is perfectly ample for a small space and would be perfect with the easy set up clock for a caravan bedroom system.
The MS515 is in a rather different league. What is better than a Bluetooth speaker? Why, 2 bluetooth speakers, of course. This is a sleek, matte rubber style set of two triangular speakers. The set comes with a couple of aux in, connector (which is a decent length to truly optimise the stereo) and a really handy split mini usb cable so that you can charge both speakers at the same time. Aux in as well as Bluetooth means it is compatible with a variety of formats, and in my tests, it does live up to the 15 hour advertised playback. The rubberized casing and sturdy feet minimise reverberation and movement nicely and this bit of kit feels like it ought to cost more than it does (currently on Amazon at around £35) for both speakers.
This may well be the perfect portable device for the outdoors brigade – you can use just one speaker if slinging it in your back pack, and it feels sturdy enough to carry around. Plug it in your caravan, and it provides a really rich, true sound, even on bassier tracks. At this size of course, it will never equal huge separates, but in a small space with limited storage, these are bang on. Recommended.
This years NEC Motorhome and Caravan Show is rapidly approaching – it starts on 13th October and runs through to the 18th. The UKs largest show, on in both October and February, this is an ideal spot for considering a first time purchase, upgrading your caravan, or simply window shopping some of the amazing examples of new vans, statics and fabulous RV’s.
This year sees an attempt to build the worlds largest caravan made entirely from Lego, as well as new products launches, demonstrations and much more.
As well as manufacturers, there are aways oodles of accessory dealers, packed to bursting with gadgets both simple and elaborate to make outdoor life that bit easier. A host of experts will be on hand to offer advice and ideas, and some of the retailers will be offering some serious show based discounts, so if you have a model in mind, now is the time to get down and have a chat. Tickets are available online at £7.50
It has seemed like a rather dismal school holiday this summer, with rain, damp and cold making outfoor living feature rather less heavily than usual on our agenda.
We were truly lucky the weekend before Bank Holiday on a mini camping break in pretty Hertfordshire, with a wonderful family environment, music, vodka, and the best star gazing we’ve seen in a while. The weather held right until pack up on sunday, and we even saw a shooting star (in amongst the myriad aircraft waiting to land at Luton) on the Friday.
The farm is a great location for campers – not too far from the city, but idyllic with working animals, pretty tea rooms, a well stocked famr shop and otsof kids activities. The Sleep Under the Stars weekend also boasts a bar, homemade flavoured vodka (try the tarragon if you get a chance – odd, but delicious), bonfire, and live music. Yes, portaloos, but very clean and tidy, and portable hot showers made this a really pleasant venue, and the kids loved yomping through hay bales and saying good morning to the piglets.
There is also alovely country pub opposite the entrance to the farm, The Jolly Waggoner, with excellent pub grub and traditional ales.
Coleman Double Airbed
The trip proved to be the perfect opportunity to try out our latest airbed, the Coleman Durarest Raised Double. The bed is a tough, high level double with soft velour effect top with a coil support system, and has its own wrap and carry bag attached for easy pack away.
Despite not having a built in or included pump, which actually I think is a shame for the price, this is a lovely, quality airbed. It held its shape beautifully, was very comfortable and warm, and supported an adult and child with no roll together even after several days. Ours is a fetching sea blue, and the attached carry bag makes it a cinch to pack away fast.
One of the reasons Brits have had such a longstanding love affair with the outdoor life is the ability to take your dogs on holiday.
Whether you camp or prefer to take a tourer or motorhome with you, this is a brilliant option for dog lovers everywhere. No kennel fees, no worry about leaving faithful Fido behind while you go off to enjoy your summer holidays.
It also means your hound can take advantage of long walks though the woods, sunny afternoons at the beach and a refreshing dip in the sea or a nearby lake, make doggy friends and get some exercise too.
Are dogs welcome on the site you have chosen? What restrictions are in place regarding their behaviour? Do check as turning up with several large dogs in tow only be turned away could literally ruin your holiday.
Make sure you are happy that your dog is well trained not tomes in your living quarters, and take puppy pads and plenty of disposal bags. Make sure you cklean up after your dog as religiously, or even more so, than at home. Beaches and campsites alike are usually very family friendly, so do make sure you are fastidious with this.
Take a supply of your usual food, plus a few suitable treats for bribery. Yes, there are supermarkets everywhere, but if you have a fussy pooch or one on a restricted diet, a midnight dash to the 24 hour supermarket may not yield quite the right results, and the last thing you want is a food refuser or worse, a poorly tum. Make sure water is easily available as you would at home.
If you dog is crated or sleeps in a particular basket or bed, take it with. Try to keep to her usual routine which will make it easier when you return home, but should also stop any nearby neighbours complaining about noisy pets.
Most sites will have a rule about tethering. Good pet shops should sell these, plus a stake to anchor it firmly. If in doubt, a flexi style lead tethered with the stop pushed at the correct length will work. I’d also so you can never have too many leads – if one does go astray, it will stop you being marooned with no way of taking the dog out.
Just to reiterate – a car or caravan interior can reach baking temperatures in a matter of minutes. If you take your dog, be prepared to look for pubs which allow dogs, or eat outside. Leaving your dog in the car is absolutely not advised, even for short periods.
Last but not least, take a good supply of old towels. Wet dog in a small space is not pleasant, and who knows what your mutt may decide to roll in on your long forest walks!
Enerplex Packr solar back pack
Much as I like to recommend the simple life, free of gadgets and modern communications, it’s a fact of life that it can be very annoying trying to keep phones, laptops and other devices charged while camping.
We have had our Packr for a while, but a recent trip (to Weymouth, so lovely in May) enabled us to test it out properly – it is a back pack with a difference – a built in solar panel made of thin, light and flexible material with a charging port inside.
The manufacturers suggest the panel can provide 3w of power, enough to charge a smartphone or similar within around 4 hours. The panel really is light, so the back pack is no different really to carrying around a standard pack in terms of weight, and the panel is fairly discreet, too.
Purely as a backpack, the Packr gets good marks from me. It’s comfortable, with side water bottle pockets, a myriad of internal pockets for pens, gadgets and supplies, plus a padded sleeve to take a laptop or tablet safely. The panel really is light enough to make no difference in weight to a normal pack, and the straps are wide and comfortably padded. Our version is a snazzy charcoal and orange – discreet enough on the outside but with a flash of colour to brighten it up, and the fabric seems of lovely quality, so I do think this will last.
The charger works as you would expect it to, and is quick enough on a days hiking for me – good for camping and walking holidays, but actually, if you are the type to carry a backpack on a more regular basis, I would definitely go for this – smartphones are notorious for battery use and having this to charge on the go at any time is rather comforting. Win!
Booq Taipan Shock padded back pack for 13 – 15” laptops – around £90
Although not solar powered, we have also had a nose at the Booq Taipan shock this week, and as a backpack, it does compare favourably. In a hardwearing dark grey fabric, it has covered zips, comfortable padded straps and a handy sternum strap which clips to provide extra support if you are carrying heavier loads on your trip. It is also waterproof top provide your gadgets with a bit of extra protection.
Space wise, there is a small front pocket, zippered stretchy side pockets roomy enough for a water bottle and several internal pockets in the main section including pen holders and a mesh section for smaller items. Behind this is a protective padded section perfect for holding a laptop or tablet safely, whilst keeping your back comfortable with the load. The fabric is breathable too, so on a longer or hotter trip, it isn’t too sweaty.
Booq also have a system known as Terralinq, which essentially works as a unique reference code which can be registered online, so that in case of loss, if the bag is found the finder can contact Booq who will then do their best to reunite you with your possessions. That of course assumes it will be found by someone with the conscience to follow it up and that it contains no identifying features, but it’s a nice security quirk.
It’s taken a while to get the full picture on both these products, but finally I am ready to fill you in.
Simple, and inexpensive, the Kilrock range is probably already familiar to most van owners fighting the constant worry of damp problems.
We had a look at the Damp Trap and a mould cleaner called Blast Away.
The moisture trap is a slimline tub filled with a water absorbing substance which claims to protect against mildew and damp, trapping airborne moisture straight from the air. Kilrock say the product works for 6-8 weeks – in our experience this is about right, although this clearly varies with how damp your environment as the substance has a finite capability to hold water.
It does seem odd, but a couple of these scattered around the caravan, particularly near windows where condensation is a problem really do help stop damp. They fill up, with the water absorber becoming soft and mushy over time, showing they have worked. They are pretty inexpensive too, and refills are available online in large packs, making these really quite an economical damp buster. We like.
Blast Away Mould Brush on Gel
This product is a brush on applicator gel designed to completely remove black and brown staining left by mould and mildew. Its gel formula is easy to use – you can use the brush to put it on walls, around taps or windows, and it won’t drip and stain your soft furnishings. It is bleach, so do be aware before squiring it around willy nilly, but its very easy to use on most surfaces. Squeeze on, spread with the brush, and leave for the recommended time.
Again, this is an inexpensive product, and it does work. A couple of spots needed a second application, but nothing overwhelming. I would hope that with proper ventilation and storage, plus the moisture traps, we can avoid any more major damp / mould issues, but if not I’m confident this stuff will do the trick at removing any nasty stains left behind.
No matter how much you love your motorhome or caravan, there is no getting away from the fact that space is limited, and even the most spacious models can feel a bit cramped once you have packed up all your kit for a full week’s holiday. If you are touring, it can be even worse, as you will probably need to take even more equipment away with you to last rather than using on site facilities.
Should you decide to go for a custom conversion, talk to your outfitter about smart storage and sensible layouts – most experienced conversion operators are well versed in fitting the maximum into a small space without making for uncomfortable accommodation. Slide out tables and surfaces, flip up beds, hidden seating and under bed storage are all good ideas, as are multipurpose furniture and wall mounted electronics such as televisions. Swivel chairs serve as extra seating, and overhead lockers can also help.
On the other hand, there are a whole host of nifty space saving gadgets and ideas to maximise the space that you have and smart storage ideas to keep clutter to a minimum.
Here are our top tips:
Use the inside of doors / drawers
Cupboard doors and internal doors are a great way to find extra storage space. A simple rack, either suction or permanently fixed can hold flip flops, cleaning products, books, toys or board games to great effect. Over the door hooks or racks also work well for nick nacks and bathroom items.
Pegboards with sturdy dowel can be slotted into drawers to create secure, compact storage for crockery and cooking utensils and keep things organised at the same time.
Velcro can be used for lighter objects, such as remote controls which can be tucked away on the side of TV furniture or bedside tables.
Folding luggage / appliances
There are some great examples out there of fold down suitcases and luggage which can work really well for additional storage and tuck away in the smallest nooks and crannies when not in use which make them perfect for those hiring a campervan a campervan who may need to travel with packed clothes before collecting their vehicle.
There are also some brilliant little gadgets from folding bowls to collapsible kettles available to save lots of surface space. Check out a good accessories stockist for more ideas.
Yes, there are times when you might want to dress up for a special occasion, and we all know the British weather isn’t always conducive to a bikini, so denim shorts and one pair of flip flops, but try to cut down and create a capsule wardrobe. It can be rather liberating to reduce choice of outfits in the morning, and should save oodles of storage space. Travel size toiletries are also a brilliant idea, and rather than shelling out on miniatures versions, small bottles and dispensers can be picked up cheaply in discount stores and refilled over and over from products at home. Don’t forget to label them!
Even a small awning is a brilliant way to create extra living space for most campervans and motorhomes. Get a custom fit, and you have space to stretch out, perhaps eat, or store outdoor equipment at night. A good one will be warm and dry and can make an excellent play area or ‘dining room.’
A bicycle rack is an excellent investment for cycling tourers. You can of course store bikes inside your campervan while you are out, but for space, and less mess, a good one can be fitted externally to provide secure, convenient storage.
Rear or Roof boxes
Most accessory suppliers and even high street motor stores now offer a plethora of storage boxes from sleek plastic roof boxes to specifically designed rear boxes for added external space. Do be aware that these can add both height and weight to your campervans, although modern versions tend to be made of light, durable materials to make them less cumbersome. Do check height restrictions, and it might also be worth checking your motorhome insurance policy, as some may exclude valuables stored in these boxes from theft or vandalism claims.
With the last week or 2 of Christmas shopping looming before us, here are a few ideas for caravanners and campers alike for any last minute purchases!
The Pure Pop Mini DAB digital and FM radio would be good for a camper, as its small size, excellent range and easy to use large pop up power button are both space saving and easy to use. It can be plugged into mains or run on standard AA batteries – there is also the option of a ChargePAK so that you can charge it up to use without mains or 12v supply
The alarm clock is large enough to be easily visible and also offers a dimmer function, meaning it is perfect for the bedside table without keeping you awake with too much light in a confirmed space. The DAB works perfectly, and it’s square, mini design will fit nicely into a modern or retro style ‘van.
A bit of a whimsical stocking filler this, but the Mystical Fire colour changing sachets would be a lovely idea for those who love a good old campfire sing song. These little sachets contain a ‘magical’ powdery substance which changes the colour of the flames. You simply drop the whole sachet onto the fire and watch the flames turn into blues, greens and yellows! The effect lasts around 40 minutes and is really very pretty.
How about a PowerPot? A nifty gadget which works to convert conventional heat into electrical power. Place the pot on your heat source filled with water, and plug your device into it’s USB, and voila, it charges. It can be used for conventional cooking, or boiling water for tea, and charges at the same time via a heat proof cable – genius!
Have you ever seen a Tentsile? We love a spot of camping, obviously, but if you fancy something with a difference, why not try a tensile Tent for woodland camping? Rather than the traditional method, the Tensile is strung between trees, much like a hammock, providing shelter which is also off the ground. The idea is somewhere between a traditional tent and a treehouse, keeping you away from hard and uncomfortable or lumpy ground, and providing a bit of extra distance between you and any creepy crawlies!