Earlier this year I had something proved to me once and for all, that I have to admit to having had doubts about before; you really can travel in a campervan all year around, even in quite deep snow, and even with a raising roof.
Of course, I have had plenty of experience of motorcaravanning in all seasons before. But over the darker months, that has generally been either in a well-insulated low-profile or even in a fully-blown A-class. Not in a pop-top.
A year ago I turned up a couple of weeks before Christmas at the Hawes Caravan and Motorhome Club Site (ready to raid the Wensleydale Creamery the next day). Along with being diverted by the huge efforts my fellow caravanners and motorcaravanners had made to put fairy lights up inside their awnings, I was also impressed at the couple who turned up late in the evening in a campervan and apparently just popped their roof up and went to sleep. No further insulation necessary. I wasn’t sure I could be as brave as them.
But this last winter I was given the chance to find out. Scottish campervan hire firm Rockin’ Vans loaned us one of their VW T6 conversions for the inside of a week, and it turned out that the only time I could realistically take it away was the last week in January. Even as I was heading north, the weather was looking wintry, and the forecasts were not exactly looking great.
A perfect opportunity, I thought, to try it out for real.
Admittedly, I was well supported. The interior of all Rockin’ Vans conversions is finished to a very high spec with comfy leather effect upholstery. Plenty of very well integrated LED lighting adds to the sense of homeliness, while a two-burner gas hob fitted so that you can easily see the flame just gives you that extra sense of warmth while you sip your Horlicks.
Best of all, there is a Webasto heater belting out hot air from under the driver’s seat.
The helpful staff at Rockin’ Vans’ head office in Kilmarnock had also suggested that, if I was really worried about keeping warm, I could always sleep ‘downstairs’, pulling the roof down. This I duly did, re-engaging the straps last thing at night once I’d pitched up at Thomaston Farm CS, in Ayrshire.
But the next morning, I woke to find myself still snug inside my duvet – so snug, in fact, that even the prospect of driving off to find a hearty Scottish breakfast with porridge wasn’t enough to make me get up. I preferred quick scrambled eggs cooked over the campervan stove, with me still snug and warm.
The next night was even more impressive. Opening the campervan’s door just as I was setting up the bed, I was surprised to find a thick bed of snow all around the van. I had had the roof up all evening, again with the heater on full blast, and hadn’t noticed anything. The next morning I was just as snug.
All right, so there were downsides. It probably wasn’t the most climate-friendly thing to keep a diesel heater going all night, wafting hot air through a canvas roof. And it was probably a good thing that the CL I was staying at had only one other occupant (our photographer). Had it been full, I am not sure my neighbours would have been best pleased with the heater gong on all night. (Whatever else you may say about them, diesel heaters are a noisier option.)
Life wasn’t all comfort and joy, either. Rockin’ Vans can supply you with a Porta Potti, but for more extensive ablutions a trip to the washroom on this CL involved traipsing though the snow to get to an unheated building tacked on to a cowshed. If you listened carefully you could hear the heifers lowing.
But that made returning to the snug interior of a campervan all the more magical. I am ready for another go now!
Opening the campervan's door just as I was setting up the bed, I was surprised to find a thick bed of snow all around the van