Monday, August 18, 2014

Motorhome RV Learning Points

One of Marcus and Agata's near term objectives is to buy a motor home and to some extent play catch up in exploring our local environments.

The country may vary, but we make plans to change our lifestyles to live longer term in a Motor Home or RV  (Recreational Vehicle) as we might term it in the USA.

On our recent holiday in the UK we hired a van from JustGo and now we present a list of some of our learning experiences

Size of Motorhome
Not this!  2004 Holiday Rambler

We absolutely want the very smallest, lightest  (and fastest) Motorhome that ticks all of our boxes.   We don't need a tall van, since as short people  that just raises the centre of gravity needlessly.   We don't need an excessively long van since it is difficult to park or manoeuvre and a wide Motorhome is a liability on this and windy roads.

Van or Coachbuild

In the trade I understand that Coachbuilds are generally regarded as the serious choice.  However whilst a van conversion (e.g. Mercedes Sprinter) limits you to using the original van sides and does not allow for a completely customer (plastic) body as per Coachbuild it is going to be more rigid and stiffer.

My understanding is that a Coachbuild comprises a Van Base only i.e subframe of say a Fiat Ducato, onto which a bespoke plastic body is constructed.  This is ultimately more flexible but weaker.  Also Coachbuilds tend to be wider  (see below).

The 3500Kg limitation
In Europe this is the weight limit on which you can use a standard motor car driving license.   We definitely want to stick to this weight.  In fact the lightest and hence fastest vehicle that we can spec out the better

The Width
We found that on small British roads our hired Coachbuld Motorohome which was 2.30 metres wide, was uncomfortable.  We researched and have found widths:

Van conversions 2.05 metres
Thin Coachbuilds 2.20 metres
Regular Coachbuilds 2.30 metres
Wide Coachbuilds 2.35 metres

Here I am talking about the main body width. Many Coachbuild Motorhomes have a thinner cab with mirrors that extend to just greater than the width of the main, wider body.

The Overhang
Unlike a car if there is a significant overhand over the rear wheel then when turning   the back edge of your van will stick out.   This can be a significant issue on smaller roads or whilst in towns

Driving on Small Roads
Driving small roads even with a 2.3 metre wide van is quite easy if you dont have a hard wall on the passenger side and if there is nothing coming in the other direction.

Conversely with a hard wall on the passenger side and if you van is over the white centreline due to width, then if any large object is coming in the reverse direction, you WILL have a collision.


The Garage
On a small Motorhome this is a space normally at the back into which you can put small non internal items like for example some bicycles  (essential for Triathlon races and just getting around).  Bicycles of course can be mounted on an external rear rack, but with more /faf/ and less security.  So an internal garage housing at least 2 road race bicycles, Wetsuits and a Stand Up Paddle (SUP) would be preferable.

Campsite Booking in Advance
For us, this summer of 2014, which I presume is pretty much peak season we had no difficulty finding campsites for our motorhome, on the day of booking, with hardstanding pitches and electric hookup.

This is significant because it means that equipped with just an Internet connection and a phone you can leave the campsite choice to the last minute, based on where you actually are, allowing you quite literally the freedom to roam without being homeless or illegally parked over a night.

Gas is Cheap
Our camper used Gas for either the fridge/freezer,  heating water and also for the Gas kitchen hobs.  We did not use it sparingly.

After one week the recharge cost was 3 GBP!!  Unbelievably low.

Shower and Toilet Essential
We plan to live in the Motorhome for more than just a weekend or week, plus we would use it for running/ athletic events.  As such you need an internal fixed shower and toilet.

You cannot rely on a campsite having these facilities and whilst normally you would be at a campsite, there will be times when you need these faciliteis.

This requirements rules out smaller e.g. VW Campvan conversions

Large enough to stand
To be comfortable longer term you need to be able to stand up inside the vehicle.

Again this rules out VW Campervan conversions which at best have a raised roof which even when up does not totally alleviate the problem.

Two Accommodation Areas
We thought that for a couple, i.e. two people it would be best to have 2 living spaces that each person can make their own.  At a pinch it could be a fixed bed area and a lounge area, but better to be 2 seated areas.

Living full time 
There are many Youtube channels devoted to full time RV living, from mainly US citizens. 

Slide Outs
A slide out is what it sounds like.  It's a motorhome with part of the wall that electrically /slides out/ on command when the vehicle is stopped to provide more interior space.  In Europe they are a rarity.

Other Desirable Features

  • SatNav - means something built into the dash not an add on
  • Winterisation - Insulated tanks and a heating system for cold conditions
  • 4 Wheel drive - More even power delivery, makes for more confident driving
  • BHP - A larger engine, but not a whopping great /Amercian/ gas guzzler
  • Lots of Storage - Means our basics: Space for Sports clothes and Equipment, Casual Clothes, Food, Toiletries, Gadget Paraphenalia. And nothing more
  • No Shower Curtain - Shower yes, but the curtain that sticks to you , no thanks!
  • Kitchen needs are a Large Fridge and a Microwave.  In other words the smallest Hob possible!

Some Example Sooper Dooper Motor Homes

Coachbuild Contenders
Hymer Compact 478

Burstner Brevio t 645

These are the same vehicle and has the advantage of 

  • 210cm width and 638 cm length and 275cm high
  • 130 - 177 BHP and 2865Kg
  • 2 living areas
  • Drop down bed at back  (does not need converting)
  • -No microwave

Burstner Brevio T 645

Adria Compact SPX  YouTube

  • 212cm width 661cm length 
  • 135 BHP and 2844Kg
  • Huge 145 litre fridge
  • -No microwave
  • Large garage
  • - 1 living area

Hymer ML-T 560  Pictures

  • 222cm wide, 698cm length, 290cm height
  • 190 BHP Engine Available
  • DSG 7 speed Gearbox possible
  • Based on a Mercedes Sprinter Chassis
  • - No Microwave
  • Large Garage easily takes 2 bicycles
  • - 1 living area only
  • Winter Proofed and Double Glazing
  • Many storage spaces
  • 4WD available option
  • Numerous options available, nice but expensive

Van Conversion Contender

Which Motorhome Van survey 2013

Adria Twin 640 SPX YouTube

  • 205cm wide and 636cm length and 260cm high
  • 130BHP and 3042 Kg
  • Shower in corridor design
  • Large fridge 145L
  • 1 living area
  • Assembly bed

Currently Fallen choices

Autosleeper Kingham  YouTube
Novel rear fixed bed, but 226cm wide with mirrors folded

Next step: Motorhome Show and another Motorhome hire!