I've owned Betsy the '96 Trophy for about a year, and like the vast majority of folk with non coach built motor caravans, she has mainly been used for picnic style day trips. I love campers and motorhomes. My mom and dad have owned dozens over the years and taken myself, my brother and friends on many memorable holidays in them. My dads love of the Commer van as a base vehicle also calibrated my expectations, such that the pace of VW T2's is not a shock and so a T4 is practically a race prepped camper.
Previous to Betsy, we owned the imaginatively named Campy, A 1990 VW T25 which took us away for a few nights here and there but again mainly day trips. Don't forget we are currently doing up Olive the 79 VW T2 as a project vehicle
so with this as a backdrop you will see that I am pretty familiar and comfortable with campers. I would not put myself in the same league as some of the off grid campers I enjoy watching on Youtube, who have literally sold up their bricks and mortar to live the van life full time.
So for me, an unusual possibility thrown up by the otherwise terrible coronavirus was actually quite interesting.
I work for myself running a small consultancy business that requires me to travel the length and breadth of our fantastic island, living out of the boot of my car but in fairness sleeping in some pretty comfortable hotels. (plus a few nights in awful hotels and a few actually in the back of my car). As work started to open back up to me, but accommodation initially did not, I was left somewhat frustrated. Then as Englands hotels started to open I won some work in Wales (Doh!😔)
A lot of pondering later I decided to book accommodation in England and cross the prince of Wales bridge into Wales each day effectively commuting from a base camp. However not every one was open for business in England and my first excursion was to a hotel that made me question my decision. Not because I am a hotel snob but because of the worries and challenges posed by Covid restrictions. The Hotel was not great, The Cleanliness was not tip top covid or otherwise, and there was very limited and poor food on offer. (plus remember that eating out, was not an option at this time).
That's when I recognised that I would be better off using my own mobile accommodation and fabulous culinary skills🤣 via the Camper.
A couple of weeks followed of camping in England whilst working in Wales, before welsh camping locations started to open up allowing me to camp a little closer to my working site, but still needing me to drive 20 minutes each morning.
So I have to say that overall I have enjoyed it. This has been helped no end by picking a couple of very decent camp sites.
One of which had a very decent pub!
The need to pack up every morning having made myself clean and smart has forced me to be better at fast setups and to be even more neat tidy and organised. After the 3rd week I had started to focus on how much peripheral kit most of the other camper vans and caravans around me seemed to have around them and under them.(and get quite judgey!) Waste buckets water tanks, roll along water tanks, toilet tents, levelling ramps, washing lines, solar arrays. Freestanding roll up reels with water hoses on. Freestanding cable reels. TV ariels on poles with associated guide lines. The list goes on,
(and makes me sound quite bitter😁)
To be fair, travelling alone helps a little in this regard but if I had been lucky enough to have my wife with me I don't think it would have resulted in any huge increase in the peripheral stuff.
The Autosleeper VW T4 Trophy really has impressed me as the near perfect solo traveler, self contained, low set up apartment. Other than the electric hook up cable which I deployed and stowed every day. The only other thing that I did externally was on a couple of occasions deploy the Fiamma canopy awning, and then without the use of tent pegs. One time was to shade me and my folding chair from the sun and another was to allow me to dry my towel hanging from its frame during a light rain shower.
The Trophys fresh water tank is sufficient without top up to look after cooking, coffee making, flushing and washing up duties for 5 days plus. That may not have been the case if you chose to use the vans shower everyday ( I mostly used camp facilities ) but after 5 days the tank was still half full! The Grey water tank meant I neither needed to put a collection tank under the van, nor insult the site by dumping my noodle infused washing up water on their pitch.
Toilet duty was dealt with by the Thetford full sized cassette which again dealt with the obvious for 5 days at a time without needing to be emptied. I could easily have gone without the electric hookup as the fridge is 3 way and the cabin heater is gas powered. As I was driving the van for a minimum of 40 minutes every day, leisure and van batteries would have easily coped with lighting and pumping. I used the hookup in order to ensure that the 'working from the van' element of my trips worked as well as possible. I was not only doing homework and holding Zoom meetings from the van using my mobile as a hotspot but also editing video and uploading to the net for the YouTube Channel. So the mains was primarily there for camera, phone and PC charging. (although it obviously also saved on propane for the fridge).
The kitchen facilities are generous with two burner hob, wide grill and a little oven, complemented by a really generous fridge. A couple of decent work tops and a choice of two tables allowed my awesome culinary skills to flourish as you will see in this picture 🤣
I found that using the van as an office was no challenge at all subject to being somewhere where you can use your phone as a hotspot. The swivel passenger seat makes a great office chair.
In the evenings the van was completely watertight despite being tested by the worst of horizontal British weather assisted by 'Storm Edward' The bed was really comfortable, and the blown air heating was put on in the morning to encourage me out of my warm bed.
The only compromise to comfort came from the very high winds (60mph) which rocked the hightop camper quite vigorously one night, and did make me envy the wind down legs on the caravans and the hydraulic jacking legs on an enormous Motorhome that I was parked between.
Over the last 5 weeks I have covered 2000 miles in Betsy and averaged 33mpg. She is a 5 cylinder non turbo diesel (the 2.4 litre AAB) with a manual box. In that time I have had no breakdowns but a few minor glitches are now on my radar to look at.
She stalled once when warm as I pulled up to some traffic lights. A restart took a few more seconds of cranking than I would have liked but I have had no repetition. I think that this may be a fuel filter or water trap issue so will take a look at that this week.
We have developed a small blow in the exhaust and that has started me pondering the merits of a fresh standard one versus a stainless system. (any experiences please let me know). The gearstick gaiter base (the hard plastic part) has come unclipped from the floor for the fourth time so I need to do something more than clip it back on.
The JVC head unit in the dash is awful. The script is too small and hard to read on the buttons and the layout completely nonsensical, plus the tuner loses the radio stations every few miles. To top it off it just feels bad to touch. Creaky and cheap. So that has to go! Betsy looks very smart but does have some cosmetic corrosion and having had time to stare at her has moved fixing that up my agenda.
I drove home last night in near monsoon conditions and the rubber trim piece on the front edge of the high top slid down the screen and I ran it over!😔
I recovered it and its none the worse for its experience, but that will need re installing with some Sikaflex or similar. Other than that we are all good.
The true measure of success is that though I can now get suitable accommodation, I will be using Betsy for my next trip in 7 days time.
I don't think it's something that I would attempt in Olive the T2. She would be fine for care free holiday camping. but not for my hotel, dressing room, office, washroom and business car. A full on coach built could bring some additional comforts, but would be less realistic as my car and a little less inconspicuous in a business setting than my standard width Trophy.
Tweaks to make, but for what I want, Betsy is proving quite the complete package.
Anyone else tried working away from home in theirs?
Want to see some video from part of the trip?