If you’re not happy pitching a tent or you’ve not been in a campervan before – where do you start? Autoselect Campervan Hire may just be able to help.
In April last year Autoselect took delivery of a brand new VW T6 California Ocean, so not just any camper but the classic VW camper with all the connotations of freedom, love and harmony… but it’s not a tired old 60’s model, it’s the very latest top of the range model with all the comfort, power and reliability that today’s camper demands. So, if the image you have of the camper life-style is to be sat on the hard shoulder waiting to be recovered, you’ll be sadly disappointed! Hire charges start from £295 for a long weekend (2pm Friday to 10am Monday).
When I was a young child, I used to make and paint plastic kits, Airfix models, remember them? One of my favourites was a VW split screen van, I painted it red, put a veneer floor in, lowered it and made various changes to make it look cool… and I’ve had a hankering for a camper ever since.
Autoselect hire out for a fraction of the cost of owning your own and you can get that outdoor upmarket camping experience whenever you like, well, provided you book it early enough!
Rob Bartle, from Autoselect, enabled me to feel like a child again, when he offered to let me sample the van for a few nights. To say I was quite excited to pick up the van from Autoselect’s swish new home on Pottery Lane off Sheffield Road, is putting it lightly. I hired the T6 ocean for two nights in August and took it to Beech Croft Farm on the other side of the Peak District to see if the legendary campervan could live up to my expectations.
I cycled down and was shown around the meticulously clean van, how to elevate the electric roof at the push of a button, how to set up the side awning, how to fold down the bed, swivel the driver and passenger chairs, set up the water, gas and electric hook up etc and was impressed by how easy everything seemed, even the rear cycle carrier for four bikes was a doddle to use.
It wasn’t long before the van was on the drive at home with the kids testing out the roof bed! We packed our things and set off.
On the road the VW drives superbly, with 140bhp on tap it’s strong enough to haul around the extra weight of the interior, your gear and four people. It’s no sports car though, the suspension is quite soft, and it rolls through the bends and keeps everyone comfortable.
The two rear seats have Isofix so can take child seats and it was noticeably quieter than my Hyundai combi-van that I drive daily – you do have to make sure everything in the cupboards is well secured!
When we arrived on site and pulled up to our pitch, our neighbours were openly admiring the shiny new camper, and admitted later when they came across for a chat that they’d been wondering ’what does he do for a living?’
The VW sleeps four people. Two sleep in a bed in the elavating roof with a wooden slatted base complete with a comfortable mattress, you access this through a sliding cover above the front seats. The other two sleep downstairs, the bed made up by simply sliding the two rear seats, flipping the headrests over and folding things flat to form a double bed, the night is shut out by window blinds that provide privacy and warmth. Once the bed was made up downstairs my son commented “that looks like a posh hotel!” not bad for a van with a bed I thought.
If it’s a cold night the van is equipped with a dedicated heating system for use when the van is hooked up to the mains or it can run off the engine, so whatever the weather, you can stay warm and cosy.
During the day with the roof lifted, the rear seats slid back, the bed pushed up into the roof space and two front seats rotated round you’ve got a comfortable space, in which to sit and relax.
Inside, the van is fitted with what seem like hundreds of compartments in which to store stuff, a cupboard with a hanging rail to keep the Sunday best looking sharp, if you’re that way inclined. There is a two-burner hob, a small fridge/cool box and a sink so you can cook a meal, brew a cuppa and clean up the pots once done.
Don’t get me wrong space is tight, you do need to be organised. We took a tent with us and pitched that close enough so that when the awning was rolled out it allowed us to get to the tent under cover if needed, not that we did, but the awning is excellent at keeping rain out of the cab when the door is slid open. There is quite a large load space behind the seats so the van swallows things like tents, food boxes, chairs, tables, sleeping bags etc with ease. At night, once the bed is made up things can be easily stored beneath the bed.
A rather neat touch is kept behind a zipped panel in the tailgate, unzip and you’ll find two chairs for use outside which can be coupled with the table that’s stored almost unnoticed in the inner panel of the side door.
One thing in particular that struck me was the speed at which you can be set up. I reckon if you travelled with water on board you could have the kettle on and be sat relaxing within two minutes of arriving at your site.
We all slept well in the van, the blinds do an excellent job of keeping out the early morning sun, something that many tent campers suffer from, even with the new blackout sections. We were lucky to have the heatwave still with us so breakfast all’aperto, (not ‘al fresco’ note – this expression usually refers to spending time in jail!) was enjoyed before packing up, dropping kit back home and returning the van to Autoselect.
I felt a little sad to be returning the campervan. I drive a van daily and I could easily live with the T6 as my daily transport. It drives well, carries a family of four in comfort, is big enough for the loads I need but is small enough that it can slot into a busy supermarket car park with ease.
The campervan makes an ideal choice for a couple wanting to travel and camp, moving frequently, opening up new options for a break. It makes a great family base for a camping holiday without the cost of owning and running one yourself or, if you are looking to buy, it’s an opportunity to try it and live life as a ‘vdubber’.
Get in touch with Autoselect on 01246 205529 if you fancy hiring the campervan, from £295 for a long weekend.
Also, don’t forget, Autoselect have a fantastic range of used cars, from family hatches to the world’s most exotic supercars … and lots in between.