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Last updated 13 February 2020
What’s inside a campervan?
“What’s inside a campervan?”, “What are they like to drive?” and “How can you spend so much time travelling in a campervan”. These are the most common questions I’m asked.
My favourite statement would have to be “Oh, I’ve always wanted to travel in a campervan, they look like such fun”.
They are indeed a fun way to travel, but I usually always ask them, “Have you ever camped?”, or “Do you like spending a lot of time in confined spaces?”, or “What’s the relationship like with the person/s you are planning on travelling with?”
For the better part, most times the answers to the above will assist me in how I answer the question truthfully. It allows me to try and assist wherever possible in making sure that people think properly about this method of travel, before getting too romantic about the idea of being free on the road.
My husband and I always travel together in campervans and have been doing so for many years now. We’ve also taken my parents along for the ride – twice! So I think we are suitably qualified to talk on a range of campervan issues.
There are a lot of factors that can make (or break) a great trip.
Knowing what’s inside a campervan is one of the crucial first steps in deciding whether you’ll survive for a couple of weeks, or even months. this guide gives an indication of the size, space and configuration of a campervan for those who might be looking to hire one for the first time. Instead of hiring one sight unseen, take a look through this article to get an understanding of what you will be travelling in. This is really beneficial as it ensures that you hire a vehicle that will give you the best possible chance of having a fantastic holiday.
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Are they motorhomes, campervans or RVs?
The name really depends on a range of factors. It can change depending on the continent, country or region you either hail from or are visiting. It can also waiver depending on your age, your income or your gender. Confusingly, it can differ depending on the actual size of the vehicle.
For me, I start with one and vary it depending on which country I am in and who I am conversing with.
In the US they are generally known as RVs, or even sometimes by the brand name, Winnebago (a bit like how we use the term Google for an internet search). Australians and New Zealanders call them motorhomes or campervans. Campers or camping cars are the regular terms used in Europe.
But, as I said it can vary. I’ve talked to people who will call them campervans when they are small and motorhomes when they are large. RVs can be seen as being super luxurious and expensive, or articulated trailers that are hitched onto another vehicle.
Wherever you’re from, whatever you call them, they are an amazing way to travel, as long as you are clear upfront on what to expect, and you know your limitations or pressure points.
On the outside
Campervans come in all shapes and sizes. They can be small, Kombi style vehicles, with just enough space to squeeze in two people. I’ve known people to somehow find room to put a few more, but that’s more than I could cope with.
As they get larger, the number of berths (spaces for people) increases. Generally, campervans for hire range from 2 berth to 6 berth. Those that are much larger, the big RVs and the buses are usually privately owned (not hired) by families undertaking long journeys.
As a general rule, my husband and I always upsize. So, if it’s just us, we will hire a 4 berth. If there are four of us travelling in the one campervan, we’d hire a 6 berth. Ultimately it depends on how much space you require, and of course, your budget.
There are pros and cons for having smaller and larger campervans, which I am not going to discuss here.
- Length 6.61m
- Width 2.24m
- Height 2.94m
- Internal headroom 1.995m
- Maximum weight 3.5t
This makes it a pretty big vehicle to drive (and park!!) but we are well adjusted to it.
Tip: If you’ve never done this type of travel before, it might be a good idea to start a little smaller until you get the hang of it. The only sacrifice will be space.
The cabin is super spacious and what I love the most is the ability to move freely between front and back. There is plenty of leg room here and lots of storage as well. The dashboard is wide, and the front of the dash and the insides of the doors have compartments for drink bottles, snacks, books and gadgets.
There are multiple USB ports for charging as well. This is a great feature considering the number of smartphones, tablets and cameras we travel with. Being in a campervan means we don’t always have access to electricity either, so charging as we drive becomes really important.
- Fully air-conditioned and diesel heating is also available. In my opinion diesel heating is far more economical and easier to refill diesel than it is to find compatible gas bottles.
- Arm rests are moveable. This might sound uninteresting, but you would be surprised how annoying it is when they don’t, especially when you are moving from front to back.
- Storage space above the visors are within easy reach when you are sitting down.
- Access point for removable GPS.
- Easy to clean floor.
- Safety implements for breakdowns.
- Full curtain that sections off the front cabin for privacy.
The dining area
With room to seat four people around the dining table comfortably, this area is extremely spacious. Being in a larger campervan means that we always have the table set up and ready for use. If you do have a few extra people, then the table and seats can be rearranged to form a smaller bed.
The large window right beside the table means that when the weather is great, you can open it up to let the fresh air in. All windows also come with screens to keep any unwanted critters outside.
Blinds and curtains also provide full privacy when required.
Shelving and cupboards can be found above this part of the cabin, giving you ample room to store pantry items.
The seats also lift up, providing further storage. We usually store our water under here. There’s also a small sunken storage area (almost like secret storage) under the table where I kept my shoes. It’s another example of how the manufacturers of these vehicles prioritise the use of the available space.
Being able to cook and prepare foods in the campervan is one of the best parts of travelling in this way. If you are trying to save money, this is a great way to do it. For us, it affords us the opportunity to use all the local produce that we’ve bought during the day.
A two-burner cooktop is more than ample and the fridge/freezer on board is extremely spacious. Ours is always jammed full of things to eat, and of course lots of local wines and beer. The fridge operates on electricity, battery (so it charges when driving), or off the gas bottles.
All the necessary kitchen staples are included in the campervan as well. eg cutlery, crockery, wine glasses, pots and pans etc. Our lovely hosts also add a few extra touches like coffee plungers and corkscrews.
This configuration is my favourite I have to say. One double bed right down the back. We’ve had beds above the cabin, and double bunks down the back over the years. Checking the configuration is really important before you hire a campervan.
This one is super comfortable. You can bring your own bedding if you don’t want to have it included in your package. We’ve taken our own sleeping gear before but in all honesty, I couldn’t be bothered anymore. It takes up so much room, especially if you are travelling in the colder months like we do. As you can see from the photo, the bedding provided is really good.
Underneath the bed is cupboard access to the storage area under the vehicle. Here you can store luggage and any other larger items you might have brought with you.
Again, the inclusion of the windows makes such a difference. Being able to let in the light and fresh air is terrific.
This particular campervan also had a suspended bed which I thought was a cool invention. To allow for additional space over the cabin to be used for storage, this bed is kept up in the ceiling. At night, when the bed is required, a press of a button is all that is needed to bring the bed down to a point at which it can be easily accessed.
Storage is well thought out
This campervan had a huge amount of storage. With that being said, it’s still a campervan, so space is at a premium and it isn’t limitless. Because we travel for long periods of time, and also because we aren’t light packers, we always have huge suitcases.
France Motorhome Hire kindly allow us to store our luggage at their depot, as there wouldn’t be enough room on board for them. When we pick up the vehicle, we simply decant the contents into the campervan cupboards.
Now, this isn’t a place where you will want to spend too much time. Bathrooms in vehicles such as these have improved out of sight over the years, but they are still small.
But, this little space is all our own, and we are always thankful for being able to travel with a toilet onboard.
Containing a sink, toilet and separate shower (a real luxury) as well as good storage, this is one of the better bathrooms I’ve ever had. Until you’ve had a bathroom where you have to sit on the toilet to have a shower, leaving everything in the room wet, you won’t realise how truly luxurious this is.
The toilet moves sideways to accommodate different people sizes too 🙂
Add-ons for the campervan
It’s not really inside the campervan, but I couldn’t help but mention them. If you ever think you don’t need a table and chairs, I urge you to rethink your strategy. Unless you are travelling in the deep of winter, at which point, sitting outside becomes impossible, you should hire the table and chairs.
Almost every night, wherever we were camped, the table and chairs came out. Each night, we sat at them surrounded by gorgeous smallgoods, cheese and wine and recapped our day. We set them up in campgrounds, along lakes and rivers, and even vineyards.
Another must-do, even if you’re not a huge rider, is to hire the bikes. We rode these so often. They also became invaluable in towns where we knew the campervan wouldn’t be able to access smaller streets or find a park.
They are no trouble at all to have on the back, as long as you remember they are there when reversing!
So now you’ve had a sneak peek inside a campervan. Whilst the general inclusions are reasonably typical, I must point out that this can all change, even if only slightly, depending on the make and model of the campervan, the hiring company and of course the size. The smaller you go, the fewer features and space. Configuration can also vary widely, especially with the beds.
When hiring, be sure to look at the specifications that should be provided with each type of vehicle. Don’t be shy in asking the hiring company any questions you might have, or to request a specific configuration.