Turn up, Pop up and Cider I up

VW T25 on hill end campsite, gower peninsula, wales

Last weekend we decided we should absolutely not go away camping, as we have loads of life admin to sort out at home. But then some good friends told us that they were off to their favourite campsite on the Gower and that we should join them. With this glorious weather, we knew we’d regret it if we didn’t, so we headed down on the saturday afternoon, haggled our way into a packed site, minimal camping gear (change of clothes, sleeping bags, and a few supplies in the fridge), popped up the roof and was rewarded by an ice cold cider by our generous hosts.

A glorious weekend of socialising, handstand competitions and swimming ensued…

Charging a Nexus 4 from a Solargorilla (and proper solar set-up daydreams)

solargorilla portable solar panel

With the recent rare uk heatwave, my mind drifted back to solar panels, and I dug out my solargorilla to see if it is capable of charging my nexus 4 phone directly via USB. Conclusion – yes it does, as long as there are no clouds. During my brief experiment, the phone would switch between “charging” and “please connect your charger”, as clouds obscured the sun. This is an improvement over my old 3gs iPhone, which would always throw its toys out of the pram when the charge dropped, and then not go back to charging, so charging via the powergorilla battery pack (which can be charged from the solargorilla) was the only realistic option. Unfortunately my powergorilla has stopped working altogether now and is out of warranty, which is a shame as it was very useful.

Charging phones and other low power devices really doesn’t make much of a dent in a leisure battery, so I have less need to use a small panel like this. I could use it to top up the van battery (starter or leisure) when it isn’t being driven for long periods of time, but I font think it will be particularly effective.

I really need to stop spending money on our campervan now, but I’m really keen to get myself set up with a decent 80 Watt or bigger solar panel. It would be nice to have something that could keep our 40 watt cool box, laptop, lights, water pump, stereo etc. running long-term away from mains hookup.

Basket, bell that rings and things that make it look good

T25 with tinted windows

Over the last month or so i’ve continued to add things to Rocky – no actual basket or bells (that’s just a Pink Floyd reference), but I have had the rear windows tinted, added an insurance-approved immobiliser and wired in a reading light and a couple of fans. This is in preparation for an upcoming Europe road trip – just a short one, but hopefully the first of many.

The tinted windows are mainly for privacy, but should also help to keep it cool inside, by filtering out most of the UV light. In conjunction with an extra set of curtains across the back of the front seats, we can now transform the bus into an instant surf changing room, or private office with minimal effort. We’ll still use the thermal mats and curtains to keep the cab private, and no-doubt still use all the thermal mats for winter camping. The tint is known as “limo” – the darkest option only allowing 5% of UV through – we thought if we are going to bother at all, we might aswell make it as private as possible. You can still see out fine. We’ve also kept the original curtains, to help keep it dark inside for sleeping – I added some strong neodymium magnets into the hem, in an attempt to keep them stuck at the bottom, rather than dangling around – I often end up sleeping with my head outside the curtain! This seems to work well and is more elegant than adding a curtain wire retainer.

The immobiliser was added because it seems VW campers are a popular target for thieves, being easier to steal than modern vehicles, and there being a ready second-hand market for vehicles and spares. Hopefully it will bring my next insurance premium down too. I’ll carry on using the steering lock too, mainly as a visual deterrent – belt and braces!

immobiliser switch fitted in dash

The 12 volt LED reading light will be more efficient and provide a nicer after-dark ambience than the stark white light of the strip lights. It’s also got a flexible stem so can be positioned as a reading light or uplighter.

12 volt LED lamp fitted in our camper van

I also permanently mounted a carbon monoxide detector on the wardrobe (not pictured), seemed like a sensible thing to have somewhere where it will be effective (not much use if it’s hidden away at the back of a cupboard).

I’ve stuck a 12 volt steel retro fan in the front, wired into a 12 volt cigar lighter socket splitter, so we can also plug in phone chargers, sat nav etc. One of the things still on my list is to make sure that this 12 volt socket and the stereo is wired into the leisure battery circuit rather than the starter battery, as no doubt these will be running for long periods of time when parked up. I’ve also added another fan in the back above the passenger seat.

retro steel fan fitted on T25 dash

Lastly I added some extra magnet catches to the cupboard doors, which have a habit of flying open when we go around sharp bends and depositing the contents all over the floor (i’ve lost count of the times i’ve ended up with a jar of mixed herbs flying round the floor, threatening to smash!). I then added some handles so we can actually open the doors with the added magnets, without breaking fingernails!

Tiny Home Trailers

tiny home trailer

I somehow ended up watching this documentary on youtube: We The Tiny House People, about people building their own homes, most of which are in the form of a kind of log cabin trailer as pictured above. The documentary is well worth a watch if you are looking for ideas about building your own tiny home, or trailer.

Before we got our camper van, I was seriously looking at caravan/ trailers to tow behind our beetle – I think these might be a little large for the bug, and the U.K. roads, but they’re not really intended for touring – more “a home that happens to be mobile”. However, I was also looking into converting our shed into an office, so these little homes are full of ideas of ways to use small space.

If you’re interested in tiny homes, check out the Tiny House Blog. I’ve also found this company in the UK: Tiny House UK. Picture above is from www.tumbleweedhouses.com, where you can download plans, order trailers built to order (in the U.S.) and view more pictures.