After searching for about a month, we finally picked up our new (well, used) VW T5 Campervan at the end of April this year and immediately planned a camping trip for the following weekend.
We are relatively new to the campervan (in fact camping) scene so we didn’t really have a basis for comparison but given our new found freedom of being able to just rock up in the van and then disappear the next morning, we decided we would try out two different campsites over that weekend.
With the van packed with the bare essentials we set off for campsite number 1 on Saturday afernoon and, via a short visit to a forest for a walk and to meet up with family, arrived at about tea time. Upon our arrival the weather was ok, dry but windy and therefore a little bit cold. We immediately set about cooking some food on a portable gas stove outside, using the box the stove is stored in as a make shift wind break. Adults and kids fed, dog fed – all good.
A short while later, one of the boys announced that he needed the loo so Jenny did the motherly thing and escorted said boy to the toilet block. About 10 minutes went by and it was at this point, when they returned that it started to dawn on me that there may be a problem. You see, throughout the evening and also at various points during the night, various members of our party of 5 (including the dog) needed to get out of the van to answer the call of nature, or whatever, and in getting back in were dragging a little bit of the outside into the van – grass, mud etc. Our nice shiny van was soon getting pretty grubby and neither the kids nor the dog are particularly careful when it comes to where they put their muddy paws. This is ok though, it’s only mud, we can clean it up in the morning.
I’m not sure about Jenny but I had a pretty good first nights sleep in the van but we woke up predictably early. Naturally for our inaugural camping trip we had bought bacon to have for breakfast and I was hungry so got up to get the frying pan on the go. I had every intention of using the gas job inside the van, however, with the five of us still inside, plus all our stuff, it was obvious that even getting to the stove was going to be tricky let alone cooking on it. So, I decided to try my luck outside again on the camping table with the portable gas stove. Breakfast was successful but by the time it was cooked I was cold and wet so we ate it quickly and then left the camp site and set off for the adventure we had planned for Sunday (which happened to be the Cannon Ball Run UK).
The weather didn’t let up for the whole day and we debated abandoning our trip and heading home but the excitement of having the van hadn’t worn off so we decided to press on with our plans and headed to campsite number 2. With the rain still beating down we partially accepted defeat and had dinner in a near by pub before going back to the campsite and bedding down for the night.
There is a lot to be said for the flexibility that something like a VW Transporter Campervan gives you and I’m sure that if you are perhaps a couple, travelling light, moving from place to place often, that an awning would not be high on your wish list.
For a family though, it’s a different kettle of fish.
The truth is, despite all the flexability a T5 gives you, they are just not very big. If you are a family, even with the “stuff” that you have to bring for just a few days away, there isn’t a lot of space. Almost everything you do requires moving stuff from one place in the van to another place. Want to cook? Got to clear everything from the cooker lid. Want to put the bed down? Got to move everything off the seat – but where? Kids are on the front seats.
This would be true even in good weather but at least you could put your stuff outside. If it’s raining you don’t have that option and it becomes very difficult to do, well, anything.
I may have come across a little on the negative side in this post and we actually LOVED our first trip in the van but, as I’m sure you’ll have already guessed, we decided that we needed an awning. In fact, nothing has ever become so immediately apparent as the fact that we needed an awning.
After a LOT of research and visiting several retailers to look at them in the flesh, we decided on the Vango Galli drive away awning. I may do a write up of this awning and why we chose it separately but for now here is a photo…
At the time of writing this we have only used the awning once but I can say for sure that purchasing it was the right thing to do. You do give up some of the flexibility and the feeling of being more mobile but the ability to unload all your “stuff” when you get set up at the campsite and leave it safely outside the van in any weather makes a huge difference and means that you can be more comfortable when you’re inside the van. It also means that if the weather is bad, as it often is here in the U.K, you’re not going to drag nature inside your lovely clean van. These are significant benefits and I haven’t even touched on the other benefits an awning provides like extra sleeping space, extra cooking spacing, extra living space… extra SPACE.
So, do you need an awning on your campervan? Well, we do.