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

BikerGran

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Back to the topic - I think Amarillo covered most of what I would say in his first couple of posts.

Just to add that some if not all Camping and Caravanning club sites have a special area for toileting dogs.

Sleeping upstairs is a good idea as long as the dogs will settle downstairs in an unfamiliar environment, maybe you have a travelling cage or similar that they will feel happier in?

As to the wind-out awning - it's very useful to wind it out a foot or two if it's rainy, it acts like a porch roof and keeps the rain out when you open the side door. But if it's at all windy it definitely needs to be pegged down with tie-down straps - ask if they are provided. And even if it's only out a foot or two, DO drop one end first and make sure it's let all the collected water out before winding it in, it's amazing how much collects even in a partially opened awning - I discovered the hard way, wet from top to toe! o_O

Most importantly, have fun - and if it isn't fun, as someone else said, try a bigger van before giving up on the idea.
 
Quentin SF

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Haha - this is fun - I'm writing this from a Cali that we've rented for four nights from the awfully nice people at LTH near Leicester, and we're sitting by a harbour on the Norfolk coast with our spaniel, having just had lunch in the van.

We have campervanned before, but in a friend’s rather larger van, so this is to see whether we might possibly purchase a California or something similar (also rather taken with Bilbo's vans). We had a dramatic start because our first night was in heavy rain, and the awning collapsed at 4am because of the size of the lake on top of it - I went out and shortened the poles so it had a much better slope on it, and all was then well!

So far, the biggest surprise was the bed - we had just assumed we would sleep upstairs because it seemed comfortable, was more spacious, and would allow us to leave everything set up downstairs and more room for the dog. But by 4am we both admitted that neither of us had got much sleep at all, and it had turned out to be remarkably uncomfortable, to the extent I was even wondering if the whole small-Campervan thing was a mistake, But then we moved downstairs, which I thought would be too cramped, and it turned out to be exceedingly comfortable, and several hours of sleep rescued the night from being a disaster :) The dog slept happily in the front footwell, the rain stopped at breakfast time, and we've had a great day so far in the van.

I'm tremendously impressed with the heating system, which does its job brilliantly.

And if you're anywhere near Norfolk, I strongly recommend the Sandringham camping & caravan club site - this is our third visit and it's always been great. There's a Caravan Club one which is just around the corner, and also nice, but less spacious.

Enjoy the experiment - we're enjoying ours!
 
Quentin SF

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P.S. Two things it took me a while to discover last night and this morning in our van:

1. The upstairs reading lights, which seemed too dim to be useful, change brightness if you press and hold the switch.

2. There are cup holders which pull out below the centre of the dashboard!
 
LisaKent

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Agree about the upstairs bed, we have just pre ordered the new Zonesleep ultra and hope it's as good as they say it is.
 
flying banana

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back to the topic that's more interesting. so when's your next camp out pink banana? might make a flying visit.! see what I did there
 
flying banana

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why? are you a bloke?if I was gay I would have a caravan
 
I

itguy

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Haha - this is fun - I'm writing this from a Cali that we've rented for four nights from the awfully nice people at LTH near Leicester, and we're sitting by a harbour on the Norfolk coast with our spaniel, having just had lunch in the van.

We have campervanned before, but in a friend’s rather larger van, so this is to see whether we might possibly purchase a California or something similar (also rather taken with Bilbo's vans). We had a dramatic start because our first night was in heavy rain, and the awning collapsed at 4am because of the size of the lake on top of it - I went out and shortened the poles so it had a much better slope on it, and all was then well!

So far, the biggest surprise was the bed - we had just assumed we would sleep upstairs because it seemed comfortable, was more spacious, and would allow us to leave everything set up downstairs and more room for the dog. But by 4am we both admitted that neither of us had got much sleep at all, and it had turned out to be remarkably uncomfortable, to the extent I was even wondering if the whole small-Campervan thing was a mistake, But then we moved downstairs, which I thought would be too cramped, and it turned out to be exceedingly comfortable, and several hours of sleep rescued the night from being a disaster :) The dog slept happily in the front footwell, the rain stopped at breakfast time, and we've had a great day so far in the van.

I'm tremendously impressed with the heating system, which does its job brilliantly.

And if you're anywhere near Norfolk, I strongly recommend the Sandringham camping & caravan club site - this is our third visit and it's always been great. There's a Caravan Club one which is just around the corner, and also nice, but less spacious.

Enjoy the experiment - we're enjoying ours!

Ahhh you must be in Vanieri then, we hired the LTH Red T6 before we bought ours. If they’ve lent you the 5cm memory foam topper for the downstairs then yes, it is quite comfy. We dragged it upstairs too to try it out up there.

It’s funny, on our first night with it we didn’t dare put the roof up as there were 60mph winds and driving rain. Didn’t get a wink of sleep but still loved every minute.

Have fun !
 
cazmatt

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Interesting to hear upstairs uncomfortable @Quentin SF - sleeping upstairs and letting dogs have downstairs was entirely our plan - and hire company (O'Connors in Dartmoor) doesn't do mattress topper so will have to wait and see how good/bad we find it!

Everyone's comments are very useful ... I have distilled
  • Pick a site with good facilities for the first trial trips,
  • Pick easy meals or eat out,
  • Pack in small, squishy bags
  • Plenty of Dog towels and dog bag (yes we do have one of those already – they look hilarious)
  • Check whether there are straps for the awning if planning on using it otherwise, be very careful
  • Have fun (I file the Beer & BBQ under this one :))
Out of interest... I wonder is there a peak season for demand for buying California's? I assume around now i.e. just before summer when everyone is thinking like we are of getting on to enjoy the season..!
 
Amarillo

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Sleeping in the upper berth is like sleeping in a tent - you hear everything. The temperature fluctuates wildly - unbearably hot when the sun is on it; cold on frosty nights if no topper is used. However, I find it far more comfortable to the lower berth which is warm, quiet and snug but lumpy and restricted headroom.

For your first trip out, I suggest cooking just one main meal, and planning all your other meals in detail. That way everything else will just fall into place.

One of the delights of California camping is cooking and eating local produce - but that delight can wait for subsequent trips away.


Follow my blog: www.au-revoir.eu
 
5i1ver8ack

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We quite often pre-cook meals and freeze them. They keep in the fridge very well. Heating them is easy and quick. We're camping now for the weekend and brought two frozen meals for Friday and Saturday night. We have a cooked ham for lunch today. Cooked breakfasts are made in the RidgeMonkey.

After a lifetime of camping and eight months and 7,000 miles of Cali travels, we are still making adjustments to what we bring and where we store it. Less is more.
 
Quentin SF

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Ahhh you must be in Vanieri then,...

Yes, that's the one! I did wonder about taking the mattress-topper upstairs; we might try that tonight.

Other things we've learned in the last day or two:

* The footwell is a good sleeping space for a medium-sized cocker spaniel. After we've turned the seats round, we put her bed there and slide the seats back to give her a bit more space. She’s fast asleep in front of the passenger seat now and seems very happy, but if you have two dogs and they’re not too big you could use the driver's side as well.

* The outdoor table, stored in the sliding door, is also arguably a better and more useful one for the inside than the fold-up one, and can allow easier access to the cupboards.
 
5i1ver8ack

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Mrs 5i1ver8ack and I slept upstairs for the first time over the last weekend (we didn't have the girls with us). We didn't use the heater at night, but we did use sleeping bags. We don't have a topper. We weren't cold. Actually, we slept rather well.
 
James Parkin

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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.

Hey man.

We were toying with the idea of a Cali too for a while.
We were going to rent one but ended up biting the bullet and buying one. However we do wild camp often, so knew we’d like it - so you’re best doing what you’re doing.

No regrets so far, currently in Dunkirk coming towards the end of our first week break.
What you bring will be different to what other people may bring, people prioritise different things. You may, like us, overpack the first trip - but like a lot of things, you learn as you go along; what you need and what you miss - best not to overthink it.

If you’re travelling with a female best buy a Thetfort Porta Potti for sure. We always travel on a budget as we’re a young couple, so we don’t and won’t stay on campsites everyday. We downloaded an app called ‘CamperContact’ which shows you a lot of the camping stops, even ones which are free and provide toilets and electricity! Also ones which you pay for, which provide more facilities.

May be best getting a cage for the dogs, either for the cab area or boot (and remove the shelf/mattress to the downstairs) because the van can and will get messy quick, especially with dogs. If you’re sleeping upstairs, best to get a mattress topper as the VW original foam mattress is awfully uncomfortable.

Wet wipes and disinfectant wipes are a must. I’m a bit of a clean freak and also have a small portable vacuum which I charge when plugged in.

Obvious utensils, plates, black bin bags, small sandwich bags (for baby wipes, disposable lens cases etc), water bottles, washing up liquid etc.
If you’re wanting to impress the Mrs and she isn’t a massive fan of/novice to camping, best to go somewhere warmer i.e. down South, perhaps not Scotland in March.

Also, both remember, patience is key!
It’s a small space and you have to work around each other, it takes some getting used to.
You can’t beat the freedom though.

James
 
T6 CFO

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Hey man.

We were toying with the idea of a Cali too for a while.
We were going to rent one but ended up biting the bullet and buying one. However we do wild camp often, so knew we’d like it - so you’re best doing what you’re doing.

No regrets so far, currently in Dunkirk coming towards the end of our first week break.
What you bring will be different to what other people may bring, people prioritise different things. You may, like us, overpack the first trip - but like a lot of things, you learn as you go along; what you need and what you miss - best not to overthink it.

If you’re travelling with a female best buy a Thetfort Porta Potti for sure. We always travel on a budget as we’re a young couple, so we don’t and won’t stay on campsites everyday. We downloaded an app called ‘CamperContact’ which shows you a lot of the camping stops, even ones which are free and provide toilets and electricity! Also ones which you pay for, which provide more facilities.

May be best getting a cage for the dogs, either for the cab area or boot (and remove the shelf/mattress to the downstairs) because the van can and will get messy quick, especially with dogs. If you’re sleeping upstairs, best to get a mattress topper as the VW original foam mattress is awfully uncomfortable.

Wet wipes and disinfectant wipes are a must. I’m a bit of a clean freak and also have a small portable vacuum which I charge when plugged in.

Obvious utensils, plates, black bin bags, small sandwich bags (for baby wipes, disposable lens cases etc), water bottles, washing up liquid etc.
If you’re wanting to impress the Mrs and she isn’t a massive fan of/novice to camping, best to go somewhere warmer i.e. down South, perhaps not Scotland in March.

Also, both remember, patience is key!
It’s a small space and you have to work around each other, it takes some getting used to.
You can’t beat the freedom though.

James

I’ve found Park4night is pretty good app as well James.

Mike




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motacyclist

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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
I’d like to see a pic of one of those being used! :thumb
 
VWDrooper

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8C611678-5938-4FB2-AF40-96764AC3E018.jpeg D6C9422D-A953-4A06-8E7E-23F3BC251CFA.jpeg

Don’t have any pictures of ours but these give you an idea
 
Quentin SF

Quentin SF

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Hello All -

Some thoughts a week after our 4-night trial in the LTH T6 Cali... and it was a bit of a trial, because it rained every single night and quite a few of the days too! Drying things was a bit of a challenge. At the end we agreed that if we'd known about the weather, a VW campervan isn't the accommodation we'd have chosen! On the other hand, the fact that we lived in something not much larger than a car for four days in that weather, and were still married at the end of it, says something for the California :)

Overall, it performed excellently, but there were a couple of things that didn’t work so well for us.

Firstly, my wife wasn’t too keen on having to do all the cooking sitting down. Yes, you can stand up, but the worktop is really a bit low for that - it needs to be, to give you the view out of the windows (and I really did like the almost-360-degree view when we were having lunch on the quay at Brancaster Staithe).

More seriously, the beds weren’t all that we’d hoped. The top one we found uncomfortable, and the bottom one, though with a much better mattress and topper, was rather cramped for us. Rose, who has a few back problems to contend with, got about one good night’s sleep out of the four. I got about two and a half. I think we could make it work if we carried around a good mattress-topper for upstairs, and probably if we slept one-up and one-down. (Anyone ever tried an inflatable mattress upstairs...?) And of course, just getting more used to the environment would also help. But we do feel that if we’re going to buy a van, then looking forward to getting into bed at the end of a long day is important!

Lastly, everything was a bit cramped inside for two of us plus wet coats plus dog plus moist towels for all three of us, when we were unable to do very much *outside*. The Cali was great for day trips or weekends with a night or two in good weather, we felt, and that is, after all, mostly what we're looking for, but it made us consider alternatives again.

So on Saturday we went down and spent most of the day taking a much more careful look at Bilbo’s offerings, and we liked what we saw. Having searched this site for all references to them, I do understand the pros and cons compared to Calis - they are probably as expensive, some things like the heating are not as well integrated, some people don’t like their unusual roof (though I think we prefer it - it’s certainly extraordinarily quick to raise and lower), the trim isn’t quite as plush, it doesn’t have the flexibility of a big and expandable boot space and yes, you can’t take it to any VW van dealer for habitation stuff. I get all of that.

Against all of that, however, is a kitchen that works a bit better for us, a much greater ability to customise things to our needs, a firm with a very good and long-lived reputation, and beds that are more spacious and quite a bit more comfortable than the Cali's, even without toppers.

The Celex has a bed which is slightly shorter but noticeably wider than the Cali’s and (as a result of also losing the chair storage in the tailgate) leaves a comparatively huge amount of available floor space when the bed is down, including lots of room *under* the foot of the bed itself. Particularly handy for dog sleeping space! We found the cupboards and sliding doors worked better than the Cali’s timbre ones, and were easier to open and close when in bed.



We’re mostly tempted, though, by the Nexa, which has two RIB single seats that turn into single beds, leaving a gap down the middle so you can still walk up and down the van while both beds are down. During the day you can have one of them down and put cushions along the wall giving a bench seat with a view out of the sliding door. And there’s also an option where the seats will slide together, with a fill-in at the side, to make a double bed that, at 5’2”, is even wider than our one at home! The kitchen (at the back) is great for our needs. There is a loo, which we probably wouldn’t even carry because if you take it out there’s a good side cupboard, but if you did want one, it’s more discretely tucked away at the back. And if you want more space in any of their vans, you can just order a LWB version. Because of the Nexa’s layout, you can even have sliding doors on both sides if you want!

I think the key things I’d miss from a Cali are the large boot space - there’s probably just as much storage in the Nexa but it’s distributed in smaller chunks - under seats, in cupboards, etc. This would be an issue if we wanted a more general and flexible load-carrier. And I would miss the Cali’s neat table-and-chair storage - we’d have to work out an alternative to that (we have some ideas, but any recommendations for good compact packages welcome!).

Anyway, we haven’t yet made a decision, but I thought others might be interested in our feedback so far. I realise, too, that I’m posting in a Cali forum - I don’t think there’s a Bilbo’s equivalent where I might get the other point of view! - but you guys seem pretty good for balanced and constructive suggestions! Thanks for your help so far!
 

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