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Camper up hill

Martin Dorey, author of ‘The Camper Van Cookbook’ and presenter of a new BBC2 show called ‘One Man and his Camper Van’ which is due to be transmitted from 7th February, on camper van living and the merits of a go-anywhere holiday.


If you can’t make up your mind where to go for your summer holidays this year, then I can highly recommend opting for a life of indecision. And by that I mean staying flexible with a holiday in a classic camper. Not only will a beautiful set of retro wheels make you the coolest kids at the camp site but you’ll also be able to go anywhere you want, safe in the knowledge that you’ve got everything you need right there with you.

Taking off in a classic camper van is nothing new. It’s a fine tradition that goes all the way back to the hippy trail and the idealistic days of freedom, peace and love on the road. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Today you don’t even have to own one to enjoy a taste of the outdoor life. There are now hundreds of companies all across the UK who are prepared to entrust you with their vintage wheels so that you too can enjoy the freedom of the open road.

Of course everyone expects a disaster when they set off in a vintage camper which is why, for people like Pete O’Connor, who runs one of the UK’s oldest hire companies, O’Connor’s Campers in South Devon, taking care of the vehicles is a priority. He says “Every one of our 15 vehicles gets serviced at the beginning of the season so we only send them out in tip top condition. They also have AA cover and an emergency kit of spares. But if the AA can’t fix it then I’m always on call to either replace the van or fix it myself. Surprisingly it doesn’t happen that often!” When you consider that the youngest of Pete’s vans is 32 years old it’s pretty amazing. The oldest, in case you were wondering, is nearly 50. Think of the places that could take you, if only it could talk.

O’Connor’s Campers will arrange a taxi to pick you up from the airport or station or can store your car for you for the duration of your rental so you won’t even have to drive hours and hours to get to where you want to go. Others, like Highland Campers, in Scotland, will let you see the highlands in 4wd weather proofed modern VWs, whilst Passage Unwritten in Hereford offer a classic camper’s looks with the reliability of a new Brazilian import. And if you want to head for the sun without risking the vagaries of the UK’s temperate climes, you can always jump on a plane and pick up a camper when you get there with people like Pura Vida Surfari near Bordeaux.

Renting a classic camper is by no means cheap. In fact, in some cases it may even be comparable to the cost of renting a small cottage for a week. But the thing about a camper van is that you can move it. So, if you don’t like the neighbours or the surroundings, you can just go somewhere else to enjoy a different view. Then there’s the excitement of waking up on a beach, up a mountain or in the countryside. That’s something you could never get from a pokey apartment in Tenby is it? No sir!

Getting out and about in a camper also means that you don’t have to live off beans on toast all week. With a two ring cooker, fridge and sink you’ve got all you need to make something fresh, local and special every night (if you fancy it). There’s a lot more you can make than you might think. There are plenty of good ideas in The Camper Van Cookbook. And none of them involve baked beans. But if all else fails, at least make sure you’ve got pesto and pasta on board. It could well save your life.

Of course there is another essential you should never travel without – proper travel insurance – especially if you travel in Europe. World First can cover all kinds of adventures with single trip travel insurance policies or cheap annual multi trip policies if you intend to take off regularly. They might not be able to prevent a mechanical disaster but they’ll take care of everything else.

Happy Camper Vanning!

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