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Advice for someone new to camping.. but desperate for (idea of) a Cali?

cazmatt

cazmatt

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Hi,
I'm new to this forum, but for a while now my wife and I have been toying with the idea of getting a VW California. We have two medium dogs, and mainly like the idea that we can go away with them at any time without having to arrange dog-sitting, etc and go and visit parts of the country we've never been able to get to before. A friend of ours had an old T25 camper for years, and still goes on about how amazing it was. Following many people's very good advice on this forum, we have decided to hire one for 3 nights in a few weeks time first...

The one slight issue is that neither of us have ever even gone camping before... so the whole idea of it is a complete unknown! (OK: I went when I was 14!)

So my question is simply: What advice does anyone have, in order to best enjoy & experience the 3 day camping trip, for someone new to camping (let alone in a campervan?). Anything we should take / do? (I'll be honest: I'm more worried about the wife's reaction than mine..!)

The practicalities of dog ownership I anticipate being a challenge (they are well behaved so don't expect them to be a pest at camp sites, but they are needy, excitable, muddy.. and many other joys of dog ownership) but also the realities of camping are an unknown for us (night time toilet trips?).

There is so much else I want to ask... about choosing a California and everything else.. but I am trying not to get too caught up in it unless we've had our hire trip in case it doesn't work out.

I have looked around for similar posts but most people seem to have at least some idea of what they are getting themselves into! This is a really informative and useful forum by the way and so glad that I have found it - thank you.
 
Meoncoast

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Welcome, Take a bucket. Eat local buy local
I think you need to decided or know what level of comfort you need or know you can do without.
Basic wild camping with no toilet block to a full site with good toilet shower block and washing machines. If paying for a site we must have a loo. Some of our best stops have been on 5 unit sites with 1 loo and 1 shower. We tend to tour and after a few basic stop overs look for a full site to get the washing done. On a wet trip I think you can dry off better in a van over just a tent. I also find you get a better night's sleep on the van's bed rather than on the ground in a tent. (we do not have dogs) I think I would use a awning if we did.
 
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Amarillo

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Hi,
I'm new to this forum, but for a while now my wife and I have been toying with the idea of getting a VW California. We have two medium dogs, and mainly like the idea that we can go away with them at any time without having to arrange dog-sitting, etc and go and visit parts of the country we've never been able to get to before. A friend of ours had an old T25 camper for years, and still goes on about how amazing it was. Following many people's very good advice on this forum, we have decided to hire one for 3 nights in a few weeks time first...

The one slight issue is that neither of us have ever even gone camping before... so the whole idea of it is a complete unknown! (OK: I went when I was 14!)

So my question is simply: What advice does anyone have, in order to best enjoy & experience the 3 day camping trip, for someone new to camping (let alone in a campervan?). Anything we should take / do? (I'll be honest: I'm more worried about the wife's reaction than mine..!)

The practicalities of dog ownership I anticipate being a challenge (they are well behaved so don't expect them to be a pest at camp sites, but they are needy, excitable, muddy.. and many other joys of dog ownership) but also the realities of camping are an unknown for us (night time toilet trips?).

There is so much else I want to ask... about choosing a California and everything else.. but I am trying not to get too caught up in it unless we've had our hire trip in case it doesn't work out.

I have looked around for similar posts but most people seem to have at least some idea of what they are getting themselves into! This is a really informative and useful forum by the way and so glad that I have found it - thank you.

Make life as easy for yourselves as possible. Go to a site with a good sanitary block, and when you make the booking explain it is your first camping trip. Stay on the same site for all three nights.

Get the meals right and everything else will fall into place. Eat out the evening you arrive. Have a simple breakfast - save the full English for when you are more experienced, but perhaps bacon sandwiches are irresistible. Again simple lunches, bread, cheese, cured meats, pickles, salad. Cook simple but tasty food the second night, remember you have just two burners. Pasta works well. You could even pre-prepare the pasta sauce. Wine - even the cheap stuff - tastes good when camping. Don't forget a pudding! Eat out the third night.

Don't overdo the packing, you are camping, and not on a fashion parade. No one will judge you if you turn up at the pub on your final night wearing muddy boots, jeans and a sweater.

Check where the nearest swimming pool is. If it is raining it's an excellent place to go for exercise, warmth, to get clean and change into clean clothes.

Don't forget that if you lock your dogs in the car to press the B pillar button to deactivate the alarm, and take the normal pet-in-car precautions if it is sunny.

Relax and enjoy. Camping should be about doing as little as possible and watching the world go by.

Post a report on here of your first ever camping experience (since age 14!)


Follow my blog: www.au-revoir.eu
 
Last edited:
Bellcrew

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Try and use the roof bed, keep the "ground floor" in the sitting room set up. A folding step is useful to place on the seat for access. If you use a mattress topper at home bring it with you, makes a difference on the VW mattresses. Don't get cold, ensure the heater is used even if on a lower setting at this time of year.
How you manage your dogs is beyond my experience.
 
Amarillo

Amarillo

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How you manage your dogs is beyond my experience.
Dogs must be tethered on a site. It really is not a problem. Most of the time they will just be passively lying down.

If wet you will need plenty of towels to rub them down before they go into your van and a place inside that is theirs.

Try to toilet your dog off site. If an accident occurs you need to be extra meticulous about clearing up after your dog. After clearing what you can of a sloppy one, wash any remains with plenty of water. Young children will be running about bare footed - if not while you are there, later in the season.

Dogs love camping - they appreciate being with their owners nearly 24 hours per day, so don't worry about leaving them in the car to do your own thing.


Follow my blog: www.au-revoir.eu
 
superchoward

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I was in the same position as you at the start of last spring/summer! I hadn't been camping before but wanted to start going with my wife and 2 kids to get away and spend some quality time together. We didn't hire a Cali but went out in a tent for a few times and the things I picked up were:
  • Book a site with good toilet/shower facilities (especially true for your better half I suspect). We went to a site in the Lake District and the lights in the shower/toilet area was broken, toilet seat broken on the only toilet they had there, floor tiles broken and it really did put us off, especially with the kids.
  • Make things work for you. Like @Amarillo has suggested, make things easy for yourself especially the first few times you go by eating at a local pub or similar or making simple meals
  • Have plans for different types of weather, invariably in the UK it will be raining when you go camping
  • Take lots of carrier bags to put things in - on a campsite, EVERYTHING gets muddy and I imagine this will be compounded by the dogs!
Enjoy and let us know how you get on
 
MattBW

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The first thing is first, dont go buying lots of new stuff, best thing is to try it and see what you feel is missing before you buy. I am sure a lot of us have items we purchased that we've never used but they seemed such a good idea at the time.

Our dogs love the van and going away, when the packing starts they get very excited.

With regards to dogs, here are a few must have's for us, many you probably already have

  1. We have a box that can be put in and out, has bowls, food, leads, light up collars, car harnesses, towels etc all in one. When we go away we just wash the bowls and go. We also measure out their dry food in advance in a dry bag and only need a small tin of meat in the fridge to add a little to each meal.
  2. Covers for the seats (I use Inka ones) but if you are hiring then blankets to stop the seats getting wet or muddy. You will want to sit on them too.
  3. Dun Elm muddle mats absorb a lot of water for the floor and cheap (maybe not one for a hire weekend though).
  4. Microfibre dog towels, they dry fast and absorb a lot.
  5. Smallest dog beds they can fit in.
  6. Ground spike for leads
 
sapto

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A lot of great ideas, may I add:
1.) Choose a site close to your home (if everything goes)
2.) As you choose a site close to you, you have plenty of time to arrive, make yourself comfy and relax.
3.) Choose a site with good internet connection: If you‘ve got a questions, ask it here
4.) Try to enjoy your trip, be honest to yourself (maybe camping or VW California isn‘t your thing).
5.) If possible hire some other Campers: bigger ones and other brands

Cheers
 
I

itguy

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I can offer an alternative view / approach for you, based on some of the best experiences we have had.

We like to explore places we haven't been before and we were absolutely amazed just how many pubs will let you camp overnight in their carparks, usually for free when you have a meal with them.

We bought a pack of bath wipes (so didn't need to have a shower) and a porta potti (toilet).

These allow us the freedom to pick an area to explore, then at about 5 or 6pm just have a look at www.searchforsites.co.uk around where we are for a pub to call in to, have a few pints, a meal and then crash for the night in the van.

The great thing about the Cali is that the heater works fine without being plugged in, the hob, water, fridge etc are all fine too without hookup for at least 2 nights (without driving anywhere) so plenty of freedom.

It's a real sense of freedom that we've found with ours and you'll love it. Take plenty of comfy bedding as we're all different in terms of what we like, so don't skimp on that!
 
cazmatt

cazmatt

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Thank you all so much! @Amarillo I had seen some of your European travel blog and very inspirational - if things all worked out the plan would definitely be to use this as a way to see some of Europe off the beaten track!

For this first hire, we are actually heading down to the west country see a family member who has camped, owned a caravan, campervan, and motorhome, over the years so hopefully will give us some tips too!

One of our big dog practicality questions was whether to use the back parcel shelf for the dogs, or the back seats with car harnesses; I think we'll go for back seats to leave more storage space and more practical for getting dogs in / out (they are only spaniel sized so a bit of an ask to jump up to the boot..!)

This is a little off topic for the thread but we're hiring a 2017 California Ocean 150 Manual, in terms of what we may be able to get, I see a lot about the "refinement" of the T6 over the T5 SE - but I assume when parked up, the experience is relatively similar? No inbuilt windscreen blind seems to be the biggest practical difference unless I am missing something!
 
sapto

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This is a little off topic for the thread but we're hiring a 2017 California Ocean 150 Manual, in terms of what we may be able to get, I see a lot about the "refinement" of the T6 over the T5 SE - but I assume when parked up, the experience is relatively similar? No inbuilt windscreen blind seems to be the biggest practical difference unless I am missing something!

As far as I know both have internal blinds however with a different system to keep them in place. IMO I am very happy with my external blind for the front, that said I rarely use the internal front blinds.
 
I

itguy

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Ditto that - the internal blinds aren’t that helpful to be honest as you get a good deal of condensation if you use them.

A decent thermal external windscreen and front door window cover makes a big difference.
 
Amarillo

Amarillo

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This is a little off topic for the thread but we're hiring a 2017 California Ocean 150 Manual, in terms of what we may be able to get, I see a lot about the "refinement" of the T6 over the T5 SE - but I assume when parked up, the experience is relatively similar? No inbuilt windscreen blind seems to be the biggest practical difference unless I am missing something!
The Ocean has built in blinds.

We have vents for the front side windows. It is unlikely that your hire van will have these, so I recommend you leave the two front windows slightly open. This reduces condensation and allows air to circulate.


Follow my blog: www.au-revoir.eu
 
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campdavid

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As Amarillo said, don't pack more than you need. When we first hired a Cali we took way too much stuff and packed badly (giant holdalls that were always in the way). Now we take the bare minimum and use zip up "ebags" from Amazon which are colour coded and work well with the Cali's wardrobe and underwear drawer.

Good luck!
 
VWDrooper

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All good advise, only thing I would add is perhaps consider a dog dry bag, if its wet and muddy its nice and easy to pop them in the bag and straight into the Cali to dry off, the bag keeps all the mess at bay, might be an expense you could do without for your hire experience but might be worth bearing in mind if you do decide to take the plunge
 
Velma's Dad

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One of our big dog practicality questions was whether to use the back parcel shelf for the dogs, or the back seats with car harnesses; I think we'll go for back seats to leave more storage space and more practical for getting dogs in / out (they are only spaniel sized so a bit of an ask to jump up to the boot..!)

Whatever you do first time, work on the basis that you're in experimental mode and you can (and I guarantee you will) chop and change things over several trips before you arrive at what works best for you and your pooches.

Our spaniel greatly prefers to travel on the back seat (with a harness that plugs into a seat belt) but when she is completely gopping - she's a spaniel after all - she's relegated to the 'parcel shelf' in a fold-up crate (we may switch to a dry bag now she's a little older/calmer). We keep a grotty towel at hand to grab her with to lift her up there. But depending on how much other kit you need to stow there alongside the dogs, you might end up contriving some kind of 'wet-and-hairy space' using cheapo tarpaulins, gaffer tape, whatever. Inventing stuff that really works for you is part of Cali fun.

We find we have several different ways of occupying/stowing the van depending on the weather, type of trip, staying on a campsite with facilities or not, how much wine we want (/need) to bring back over the Channel, etc etc, and I'm sure we'll continue to adapt to new situations as we find them. So flexibility is the watchword.

Probably the biggest question is "awning or not". We are definitely in the latter category, we don't want the faff of putting one up, but others swear by (or occasionally at) them, especially with mutts. But that's a big expense so you'd be well advised to try without before spending money on one as you might not end up using it much.

We wanna hear how you get on with your first outing. Trip report mandatory! :D
 
bvddobb

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A lot of great ideas, may I add:
Choose a site with good internet connection: If you‘ve got a questions, ask it here
Ha, ha, we love this tip! We consider ourselves experienced campers/Calinists, but we have had help from this forum when we needed it on a trip, too! :thumb
 
sapto

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Ha, ha, we love this tip! We consider ourselves experienced campers/Calinists, but we have had help from this forum when we needed it on a trip, too! :thumb

So did wesearch machines are nice but this forum or the German Caliboard is always great source for help
 
Amarillo

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you might end up contriving some kind of 'wet-and-hairy space' using cheapo tarpaulins, gaffer tape, whatever.
Perfect size, dog loves it, multiple uses, easy to clean, good value.
41e44a7fd644b118355ca71229949556.jpg




Follow my blog: www.au-revoir.eu
 
WelshGas

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As has been said. KISS - Keep it Simple - Don't really mean this next bit ".
For your 1st trip - You need to Eat, Sleep and walk/entertain the dogs.
Check the Hire Van has cutlery and Pans/Kettle and crockery.
You have a fridge, so Tea/Coffee Milk Sugar etc: Cup a Soups.
Cereal/Porridge Pots for Breakfast , Evening Meal - Pub , Lunch Picnic bits.

Sleeping, Pillows, Sleeping bag or Duvet/Sheet, Mattress Topper or 2nd Duvet on Mattress.
Sleep upstairs or Down doesn't matter but Dogs will get in the way if sleeping downstairs maybe.

Dog Leads/toys/bowls/food and plenty of Towels to dry them. These can be dried outside possibly.

DO NOT use the Awning unless properly pegged out on your first trip unless confident. Your friend can show you how.

Ventilation is paramount with 2 adults and 2 dogs, so open the front windows a cm and turn up the heater if necessary.

Just enjoy.
You have the freedom, no hotel or B&B rules etc:.
Next time you can be more adventurous.
 

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