This tale is about a mode of camping that I developed with my first two small, Citroën Berlingo-based motorhomes, and how I have tried to stick to it, despite being tempted by bigger vehicles and trying to return to the basics.
On the road in a Romahome
Some years ago (Practical Motorhome May 2017), I related how I started out with a 2003 Romahome Duo Outlook. When I fist saw the ‘van, it looked a bit sad, with a cracked windscreen, but dealership magic made it presentable.
I had some memorable tours in the Romahome, which convinced me of the versatility and utility of the smaller motorhome. This is a very sensible second vehicle and you can tour almost anywhere in it, because it is about the size of a large SUV.
A year later, I took the Romahome in for servicing, and while in the showroom, came upon a 2009 Nu Venture Surf, on a Berlingo chassis like the Romahome, but with a 1.9 turbodiesel. The interior was resplendent in light wood and tasteful upholstery, and it had a proper toilet. I loved it so much, I failed to enquire whether it had a heater for chilly nights. After I signed up, I found it hadn’t! No matter – that was solved by a fan heater with a thermostat.
For the next three years, I developed my theory of minimal motorcaravanning. Some of this was inspired by a chat with a caravan camper on a campsite in Oxfordshire. He confessed: “Nobody ever tells you the amount of work involved in this lark!” Although I had much less work to do, our hobby was supposed to be all about rest and relaxation, and I decided to do my best to make it so.
Simplify your systems
Some of my tours were solo, so from the catering point of view, I made some simple decisions. For example, I took UHT milk, so I didn’t have to load the fridge until that was opened, after I pitched and hooked up to the grid. This allowed an earlier get-away from home.
It also seemed a bit illogical to take a whole lot for just one person, so I substituted crisp breads – with jam or marmalade, they were really quite acceptable without butter (another saving in cost and weight).
This basic approach was a great help when the Surf’s fridge gave up on me during a heatwave, while I was staying at Bagwell Farm Touring Park, in Weymouth, Dorset.
I hadn’t yet learned, don’t turn your fridge to full power when the weather gets hotter! I solved that particular problem by using powdered milk and buying what food I needed each day.
My cooking skills are, to say the least, pretty limited. So when I was camping solo, it became very important to find a reasonable pub nearby, or a good on-site restaurant.
Failing that, though, my meals came out of tins, heated up on the hob (there was no oven then, of course!). It’s quite amazing what you can get in a tin these days!
Gas, electricity, water
I must admit I’ve never understood why anyone would want to park their prized ‘van on a muddy field without hook-up or any other facilities.
I tried it twice and that was enough. I know it’s cheaper, but have they calculated the cost of gas for cooking and the fridge? I felt it wasn’t worthwhile. When I traded in the Surf, I passed on the same, still usable, half-sized gas bottle that had been supplied with the Romahome.
In my first five years of touring and camping, I didn’t use the water tanks in the Duo or the Surf. Arriving on site, I would fill up two or three two-litre water bottles from the tap and use the campsite facilities for almost anything else.
Bedtime was also easy: a good-quality sleeping bag and pillows brought from home, stored in the Luton during the day and put on the upholstered benches at night.
Using these simple methods, my camping for the first four years was relatively easy and did not involve too much work. The only downside was lowering and raising the rear steadies, which both Berlingo ‘vans had. A 70-plus arthritic is not best equipped for this task. I notice rear steadies now seem rare on modern motorhomes, even some that have a very large rear overhang.
After those four years of simple camping, I visited a local dealer for a repair on the Surf, and while waiting, was tempted by another motorhome: this time, a special, end-of-season offer on a new Elddis Accordo 140.
This was probably also prompted by the fact that my wife had often said it would be nice to have a washroom on board our motorhome.
We didi enjoy some excellent tours in that ‘van, but after a year, I had to admit that I had finally overreached myself.
I’m just 5ft 2in, with short arms, and by then, I was 77 years old. I could drive the ‘van, but couldn’t reach the offside handbrake without feeling like I was disappearing below the dash!
Thinking about all this and realising that I had departed from my core principle of ‘keep it simple, stupid’, I decided to cut my losses and buy something a little bit more compact. I fondly remembered my Nu Venture Surf and the high standard of fit and finish in its interior, so I decided to search online for a nearly new Nu Venture. I quickly located a one-year-old Nu Rio at MDG in Hampshire.
Flying down to Rio
The deal was quickly put together and I drove the Elddis there for a pleasant, helpful handover. I’m delighted with the Nu Rio on a Citroën Dispatch – it’s bigger than the Surf, and it has a washroom. It feels more manageable for me, and it’s very well finished inside. We can get into it more easily and it drives beautifully.
Part of my philosophy of keeping things simple was breached when the separate flush tank for the toilet, an eminently sensible arrangement, appeared to have been phased out. We now carry hoses and watering cans to fill the tank to provide a toilet flush, even if we are on tour and stopping for just one night.
In terms of entertainment, I won’t buy or take a TV – the idea is to get away from it all, not take it with us! I do take a radio/CD player, books and a small DVD player.
But what do we do with all of our kit when we want to go out for the day? On site, I store most of it in the cab, except for the hoses, which are kept underneath the vehicle.
I also have a small pup tent (much to the delight of my youngest grandson, who just loves it) and we occasionally take the tent to use as a store for non-valuable odds and ends when we are going to drive away for the day.
My philosophy has always been to decrease the work and increase the leisure time – the rest and relaxation. Although it has become more and more difficult to keep to this since the heady days of the Romahome and the Surf, I’m still trying!
Even though the weather since we got our latest ‘van has been rather changeable, we’ve had some very good outings with the nu Rio.
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I had some memorable tours, which convinced me of the versatility and utility of the smaller motorhome