Mike Le Caplain

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Intriguing if slightly baffling news from Hymer, has got Test Editor, Mike Le Caplain, thinking about how future motorhomes could be more gender-specific

The usual peace and professional calm of the Practical Motorhome office was shattered this morning by the arrival of a press release. On the face of it, it’s little more than an interesting little story about a possible new model. Look more closely, however, and it’s one of those missives that makes you glance instinctively at the calendar to make sure it’s not the first of April.

I’m not going to lie – hearing from the usually quietly professional, straight-down-the-middle people at Hymer that they have developed a new model called the ‘Lady Camper’ has come as a bit of a surprise. What’s more surprising, though, is that this is far from the first motorhome of its type.

As the name suggests, the Lady Camper – which is based on a HymerCar Cape Town – is designed to cater for the needs of female campers. Specifically – and I promise I’m not making this up – this apparently amounts to "more storage space for shoes, bags, jewellery and cosmetics". So says the 12-strong team of female Hymer employees who have helped to develop it, at any rate.

At this point, some readers might be tempted to go all gender-huffy. Women, for protesting that their camping needs actually extend to rather more important issues than a bit of extra storage space for their Jimmy Choos, Prada clutches and sundry Maybelline products. And men, for demanding to know when the ‘Geezer Camper’ is going to be launched. Presumably with fitted beer kegs, a pool table and a 40-inch plasma TV permanently tuned to the footie.

Actually, to digress slightly for a moment, that’s not such a far-fetched notion. A few years ago, fellow German motorhome manufacturer, Sunlight – a division of Dethleffs – wowed the crowds at Düsseldorf with its (presumably tongue-in-cheek) Men-Only motorhome. Notable features of this remarkable creation included a bar, a disco, an outdoor theatre, a rooftop sundeck, two plasma TVs, a sound system, a poker table and a barbecue. Plus (said Sunlight at the time) "no needless devices in the kitchen". Amazingly, it never went into production.

Anyway, back to the Lady Camper. It’s the brainchild of Laura Blank, an industrial clerk at Hymer who felt that "the design and furnishing of caravans and motorhomes has too little in common with females and their needs." As such, she assembled 11 of her fellow female colleagues – aged between 18 and 25 – worked out what their ideal camper might look like and presented their proposal to HymerCar’s Senior Vice President, Rainer Buck and Product Manager, Marcus Metzler. They were, the release says, "pleasantly surprised by their ideas".

From here, the release is a little sketchy on details, apart from mentioning that the group has "a pretty clear idea of what they want to do with their Lady Camper". Specifically, "shopping tours and city trips in European cities".

Intriguingly, the Lady Camper concept has been visited before – and by none other than that one-time advocate of the man-only motorhome, Sunlight. History has conspired to conceal the original concept from view, but Sunlight maintains that some of the ideas have since been incorporated into its production models.

All joking aside, there is a serious side to this story, and it’s this: do motorhome manufacturers really design their products with the specific needs of men and women in mind? Or are the motorhomes for sale that we buy today deliberately androgynous? More to the point, does it matter? And if so, how should future motorhomes be developed to take this consideration seriously?

We’d love to hear your views.

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