James Stanbury

See other Advice articles filed in ‘Awnings and accessories’ written by James Stanbury
Few motorhome trips are completely hiccup-free, making a compact and comprehensive touring toolkit an absolute must-have. James Stanbury tests out ten

Many people who've never actually set foot in a tent, caravan or motorhome might baulk at the idea of taking a long drive to get to your destination, and then having to spend time setting up your holiday home when you get there.

And if you asked them, they would probably think that the idea of carrying out running repairs - while supposedly being on holiday - is sheer madness. But dealing with occasional minor kit maladies is all part of touring.

The emphasis for manufacturers of motorhomes and accessories is on items being lightweight, often foldable, and as compact as possible. Factor in that most of the kit spends much of its life being moved, and it's no surprise that bolts and screws work loose, wires become strained and break away, and things generally just wear out.

And that's why we're looking at that touring essential - a good toolkit.

Unfortunately, few companies make a dedicated camping/touring kit, so we've checked what the mainstream tool firms offer and applied our own criteria.

Some would argue that the best approach is simply to buy a box or case and purchase your own tools to fill it. There's definitely merit to this idea. But one of the big benefits of ready-made kits is that you get far more equipment for your money than buying everything separately.

Often, these kits are well presented in custom cases, too, making them much more compact and easier to use than a home-made version would be. And that's where we start our judging.

Like all accessories, a toolkit should be as compact and lightweight as possible; although obviously, this has to be weighed up against easy access to the tools inside, and the comprehensiveness of the kit.

Finding the right kit

Speaking of which, our ideal kit should cover plumbing, electrics, basic dismantling and retightening, and - ideally - slightly heavier jobs. Wheelnut levers supplied with motorhomes are notoriously poor, so it's handy if the toolkit extends to jobs of that nature, too.

Quality is another important aspect. Yes, these sets tend to be cheaper than buying all of the items separately, but that should be due to buying in bulk, rather than the contents being of questionable quality. Unfortunately, in the past, sets of the latter type have been widely available.

As always, test results and checks are factored against price - making sure you're not paying over the odds for the best kit.

Halfords 590770 - Practical Motorhome Winner

  • Price: £110.00
  • Contact: 08457 626625 
  • Web: www.halfords.com
  • Number of pieces: 114
  • Rated: 5 stars

This kit definitely needs its smart aluminium briefcase, because it's absolutely rammed to the gunwales with tools. And, yes, that makes it bigger and heavier than is ideal, but this is probably the most complete toolkit in the group. As well as the usual smattering of small sockets, screwdrivers, hex keys and screwdriver bits, there's also chunkier 1/2in drive socketry for dealing with altogether heavier-duty tasks, such as changing a wheel. An electrical tester, crimping tool, box of crimp connectors and set of precision screwdrivers will come into their own when you are chasing down those electrical bugs and gremlins.

Clarke CHT641

  • Price: £83.98
  • Contact: 01992 565 300
  • Web: www.clarkeinternational.co.uk
  • Number of pieces: 199
  • Rating: 4 stars

Don't be fooled by the smart picture: while the top two trays have inserts to arrange the spanners and sockets neatly, everything else is simply loose in its relevant tray. Not that locating anything is particularly onerous, as the clever cantilever toolbox supplied allows easy access to all areas, and the box is well sized for the quantity of kit provided. A hacksaw, plus full hex key, spanner, sockets, screwdrivers, pliers and bit sets will cover the basics brilliantly. And the circuit tester, crimping tool, spare crimp terminals and tie wraps will come into their own when banishing those electrical gremlins.

Siegen SO613

  • Price: £32.37
  • Contact: 01284 757 500
  • Web: www.sealey.co.uk
  • Number of pieces: 71
  • Rating: 4 stars

This is arguably a better set than its dearer - yet smaller - SO974 sibling (see below). And once again, the kit's best feature presents itself the second you open the case: easy access to all of the tools and a layout that essentially keeps itself tidy and in order. No fewer than 15 screwdrivers, and a full bit set, means few of those annoying loose trim screws will escape a tightening tweak, and the four micro-bladed screwdrivers are spot-on for dismantling and repairing small electrical components. Again, a circuit tester and a roll of electrical tape will help to make electrical fault finding, and temporary remedying, possible.

Draper 68503

  • Price: £53.28
  • Contact: 0238 049 4333
  • Web: www.drapertools.com
  • Number of pieces: 105
  • Rating: 3 stars

Draper's 68503 is a much more serious piece of kit than its other offering (see below) in the group, despite costing less than a fiver more. Granted, there's not much here to help you with common touring maladies of the gas, electrical or plumbing variety. But there is, at least, a sound selection of good-quality essential hand tools. Two hex key sets cover popular metric and imperial sizes, as do a selection of 1/4in and 3/8in drive sockets. Two screwdrivers are complemented by a bit driver and no less than 33 bits - catering for all popular screw sizes and screw head configurations.

Halfords 199227

  • Price: £25.00
  • Contact: 08457 626 625
  • Web: www.halfords.com
  • Number of pieces: 95
  • Rating: 3 stars

As part of Halfords' budget Phaze range, there's a noticeable quality drop between this and its siblings here. But the tools are usable, even if they lack luxuries like padded handles or tend to be smaller - such as the spanners and pliers. Only the rather notchy ratchet feels a little too delicate. That aside, there's plenty to like, such as the full socket set, imperial and metric hex key sets, and even a small precision screwdriver set. Like Screwfix's 7045G (see below), the padded bag is compact and lightweight, but makes finding the right tool more challenging.

Halfords 590796

  • Price: £40.00
  • Contact: 08457 626 625
  • Web: www.halfords.com
  • Number of pieces: 52
  • Rating: 3 stars

Much as we love the smart aluminium briefcase, fold-out worktop protector and overall appearance, this presentation does make it heftier to store, and heavier, than similar kits from Siegen, Draper and Screwfix. Especially, as, ultimately, this set focuses on basics, rather than anything leisure-related, such as electrics or plumbing. But good-quality 1/4in drive sockets and ratchets, screwdrivers, bits, hex keys and a smattering of spanners - including an adjustable - means the set certainly achieves its back-to-basics objective.

Screwfix 7045G

  • Price: £29.99
  • Contact: 03330 112 112
  • Web: www.screwfix.com
  • Number of pieces: 55
  • Rating: 3 stars

One of this kit's strengths is also its main weakness: the 41 x 25cm bag is compact and helps keep the entire set's weight down to 3kg. But it also makes finding the right tool something of a lucky dip! Overall, the quality of tools is pleasingly high, even if there are some serious gaps - such as nothing electrical at all. But the basics are well catered for, with five screwdrivers, a 24-piece bit set, two pliers, hex keys and an adjustable wrench. The compact spirit level, craft knife and 5m tape measure are practical additions.

Siegen SO612

  • Price: £27.37
  • Contact: 01284 757 500
  • Web: www.sealey.co.uk
  • Number of pieces: 45
  • Rating: 3 stars

This is a toolkit in the loosest sense - it's little more than a screwdriver set with a few sockets and a couple of pliers thrown in. Then again, if you've cobbled together a kit over the years and simply want a smart collection of all those basic essentials, this set might be worth considering. As with all the Siegen toolkits here, the quality is impressive and the case is well laid out and solidly made. The ratcheting driver tool - which is used with the sockets and the screwdriver bits - is a bonus, too.

Draper 68967

  • Price: £49.46
  • Contact: 0238 049 4333
  • Web: www.drapertools.com
  • Number of pieces: 46
  • Rating: 2 stars

It's not often Draper falls down on price, but that's the case here. Costing almost £50, it's surprising to find the basic essentials are barely even covered. There are no spanners, sockets or even standalone screwdrivers - apart from three precision tools. Granted, 20 bits and a driver tool are supplied. But this is true of most other kits here, which also sport standalone tools. Tool quality is plenty pleasing enough, though, and one of the advantages of such a sparse kit - plus a bag rather than a case - is low weight and easy storage.

Siegen SO974

  • Price: £38.21
  • Contact: 01284 757 500
  • Web: www.sealey.co.uk
  • Number of pieces: 26
  • Rating: 2 stars

This is one of the smaller kits in the group, but there's plenty here that could help you sort out touring troubles. And the kit is a doddle to use, thanks to the blow-moulded case's well laid out interior. Electrical tape and a basic circuit tester enable a degree of electrical fault-finding and temporary repairs. And the three pairs of pliers, plus an adjustable wrench, cater well for grabbing and holding duties. If there's a weakness, it's the screwdrivers - or lack of them. Just four sizes, and no bit set, rather limits what can be tackled.