The History Of The Camper Van – How Did Vanlife Start?

If you’re a regular reader on our site, then I think it’s safe to say that you’re a bonafide camper van enthusiast. We spend a lot of time scrolling through our favourite Van Life Instagram feeds and our top portable Tiny House YouTube Channels in a bid to learn more about how the van life culture is evolving and spreading across the globe. When I first started my journey to build a campervan, the vanlife hashtag had around 400’000 users. Yesterday’s count put it on a whopping 6million users; that’s a heck of a lot of growth in just two years.

But what do we know about the history of the camper van before social media threw vandwellers into the spotlight? Sure, we know that the Volkswagen Bus Camper played a big part in getting free spirits out of the city and into the wilderness, but the trail goes a lot further back than that. We’re going to take you on a ‘time-team’ style journey to the early 1800s and check out where the camper van first began. Think of it as the dawn of the vanlifer, the start of a movement that would go on to change the way people live, work, and travel for the rest of time (I should really go into advertising movies with lines like that!).

The History Of The Camper Van – Check Out Where It All Began!

The first ever horse drawn caravan

Photo by Caravan Club

A lot of experts will tell you that we owe the invention of the camper van to the 1950s, but that just didn’t seem like a very long time ago to us. We couldn’t just sit with the idea that the camper van appeared one day or that the concept just suddenly popped into someone’s head without any prior thought. We’ve been digging through the internet to try and find out where the notion first came about, and you might be surprised to know that our alternative living roots go a lot further back than the 50s.

We’ve taken a trip back as far as 1855 to try and find out some information about where the idea of the camper van first came about. It seems that there had been a lot of general talk about the idea of a recreational vehicle that could be used to get about on weekends, though no one really nailed the idea of converting a Ford Transit Camper back then (it hadn’t been invented for a start!). Dr William Stables, a Scottish medic with a serious case of wanderlust, commissioned the very first touring caravan.

Named ‘The Wanderer’, this travelling home was pulled around by two horses and spent most of its time having to be dragged out of ditches by Dr. Stables friends and associates. The internal combustion engine was still causing people to run for cover at this point in history, so horsepower was the only option. But with the absence of the TomTom Go Camper sat nav and heavy-duty MaxxTraxx, the Wanderer couldn’t get too far off-grid without finding itself in trouble.

Fast Forward To The 1900s

In 1919, after countless bizarre drawings and crazy ideas, the very first caravan was put into production. The Eccles Motorised Caravan from Birmingham based motor company Eccles was a huge success, so much so that they couldn’t keep up with demand in the early stages

history of the camper van - the first motorised caravan

Picture by Period and Classic Caravan Club

The idea of the car pulled Caravan was firmly taking shape and allowed people all over England to get around cheaply while experiencing a different way of life. Gone were the days where you had to spend your holiday saying hello to strangers that you would never meet again; now you could enjoy some good old-fashioned quality time with your loved ones or experience some blissful peace and quiet on your own.

Now I know what you’re thinking; we haven’t covered any RVs in this list so far, but it’s important to know where the ideas started from. We now know that people were trying to think of ways to get off the grid and away from the usual B&B routine that had been the norm before, and we also know that people were looking into the possibility of using an internal combustion engine to make caravans go by themselves. Unfortunately, there was the small problem of World War 1 at this point, so the idea of putting time and effort into changing the caravan faded. But it didn’t disappear entirely.

Britain’s First Ever Motorhome

Captain Dunn's self built camper van

Picture by Bonhams

It turns out that the notion of creating a motorised camper van hadn’t quite left the minds of all of the population. This is the first example that we have found of a self converted camper van, and it dates back to 1935. It’s a unique, one-of-a-kind vehicle that was commissioned by a naval aristocrat by the name of Captain Dunn. He had the ingenious idea of shipping over the empty chassis of a Pontiac Six from the United States and put together a team of local coachbuilders to set about making his rolling home dreams come true.

This vehicle is truly spectacular and considered to be the motorhome that kick-started the camper van industry. Captain Dunn’s ideas and the coachbuilders that put it together were truly ahead of their time, so much so that the engine work and construction still astounds mechanics who look over the work today. Dunn died in the 1940s but enjoyed many trips out in the vehicle which were documented through family photographs and included alongside the camper van itself at auction. His wife turned the engine over every few days until she passed away in the early 1990s, so miraculously this thing still drives like a dream over 80 years later.

The inside of Captain Dunn's amazing hand built motorhome

Picture by Bonhams

The inside of the camper van itself is like a quintessentially English version of Back To The Future twinned with an episode of Downton Abbey. The handcrafted cupboards and tables inside are all still in perfect condition, and even though this thing was built before many of us were even born, there are still all of the mod-cons that we use in our own camper vans on a daily basis. Dunn included a little kitchenette in his design, along with a gas oven, a stove, and a water filter. You can see the very first example of a rock-and-roll bed in the back of the van, and there’s a simple toilet included in the build too (no plumbing, just a long-drop onto the ground below).

The 1950s

the original microbus

Picture by FavCars

With two World Wars out of the way, people began to look towards having a little bit more enjoyment in their lives once more. The steel industry began to boom, and we saw the very first examples of a little nippy bus that you and I know all too well. A German company by the name of Westfalia who had proven their worth in the caravan market began to create custom kits for converting these little busses, and so the very first VW Transporter Campers were born. The kits could slide in and out of the campers at will, but their creation marked a new age of recreational vehicle making and gave other motor companies ideas on how to tap into the market.

Bedford CA Camper Van with extending roof

Notice how the design still looks a little bit like a car? That’s all about to change in the 60s!

If you’re into your camper van history, then you might already know that the mighty Dormobile entered the fray around about this time. The Dormobile was originally designed as a sleep-only campervan, but it provided you with everything that you needed for getting away from the house and sleeping comfortably out in the wilderness. Sure, it might have been a little cold, but you just had to make sure that you had someone to snuggle with to keep warm or a good set of blankets if you didn’t. When the Bedford CA arrived on the scene, Dormobile added extra luxuries such as a kitchen setup and the all-famous pop-up roof. It’s not clear whether this could have been the inspiration for pop-top roofs worldwide, but we’re going to go ahead and say that it was.

The Swinging Sixties

Ford Thames 400e

Two camper brands dominated the world of camper van design in the sixties; the Ford Thames 400e (pictured above), and the Morris J4 (pictured below). Now we start to see the shape of the camper van evolving and moving more from a car to a van, creating space for all of the parts, furniture, and accessories that we still use and rely on today (and that Captain Dunn included in his own camper 25 years before). With more room to play around with, conversion companies sprang into business and threw their own spin on these vehicles. Dormobile rose to the top of the ranks and had to look for bigger premises for their work with the VW Microbus and the VW Kombi, creating camper vans that many of you still own today.

Morris camper van

At this point, if you owned a camper van, then you were restricted to the same speeds as vans are on the road today. If it wasn’t for Peter Pitt of Pitt Conversions arguing the fact that campers were in fact private vehicles and not used for commercial purposes, then we would all still be plodding along at 60mph and being overtaken by Ford Kas on the motorway. This is why it’s so important to classify your converted camper as a motorhome with the DVLA; failing to do so may lead to speeding fines if you’re caught driving over the speed limit of a commercial van.

The 1960s also saw the birth of the Ford Transit, a van that has gone on to produce some of best Ford Campers on the roads today. Companies, including Dormobile, rushed to begin converting this new addition to the camper van arsenal, helping to cement the Transit as one of the most important vehicles in camper van history. With much more cubic space in the back of the van, converters could really go to town with the kits that they produced to turn these gear hauliers into mobile homes. The thing I like best about the mid-sized transits is that they have very few curves; cladding the roof on my Vauxhall Movano Maxi Roof was an absolute nightmare, but the Transit provides far fewer headaches.

Camper Vans In The News

T3 in the Keighley Dales

A classic VW T2 in my hometown of Keighley, West Yorkshire. And yes, it always looks that grey and dismal around there.

I don’t often tell people that I grew up near Keighley, West Yorkshire. It’s not that I’m ashamed of where I grew up, it’s just that the neighbouring town of Skipton is much nicer, so I usually write that on forms instead. Keighley doesn’t have many amazing accolades apart from the fact that the guy that played Chewbacca came from there, but this next bit of news that we found while scouring the internet has changed my view of old ‘K-Town’ forever.

in 1969, a Camper Van endurance race from Keighley to Lands-End and back again helped to put camper vans on the national news. The journey of around 1’800 miles put many campervan conversions through their paces, and also tested their comfort in both the cab and the living area. Nowadays we make do with watching Vettel and Hamilton fly around a track at breakneck speeds, but I would love to see camper van endurance races make a comeback on the BBC, wouldn’t you?

The 1970s – 1980s

Vintage Fiat 236 Camper Van

Vintage Fiat 236 Camper Van

Fiat entered the market with a brand new vehicle that got the converters thinking about new ideas for the future. Toyota also brought out the Hiace, a fact that Dormobile quickly got to grips with for their new designs. The Caravan Club added motorhomes to their repertoire, and the camper van was now becoming a sturdy alternative to the tried-and-tested caravan of yesteryear. The rise of the vandwellers had begun.

Unfortunately, the camper van hype took a little bit of a knock during the second half of the 70s and the early 80s, with many conversion companies falling by the wayside throughout the decade. Even the untouchable Dormobile took a couple of hits along the way as the UK economy faltered. The VW T3 sorted things right out when it appeared on the block, however, reigniting the camper conversion fires and bringing back some of the companies that had gone under during the 70s dry spell.

The Long-Wheelbase Van

Mercedes Camper

Picture by MyVan

As many of you who have been living in a van or travelling in a van know, the long-wheelbase van provides arguably the best blank canvas for making a tiny home on wheels. It’s much easier to create the feeling of separate rooms, and you can cram so much more in without making the space feel over cramped. The higher roofs on some of the Mercedes Sprinter Conversions and Citroen Camper Van models make standing up much easier and eradicate the need for a pop-top or expanding roof of any kind. They have become the go-to vehicles for many modern-day conversion companies, but the idea first came to fruition in the mid-1980s.

Long wheelbase vans from Peugeot, Renault, Mercedes, and Talbot changed the way that conversion companies thought about their designs forever. Just imagine you’re an artist that has always had to draw on A5 paper, and then suddenly somebody gives you a sheet of A1 and says ‘go crazy!’. Now apply that feeling from a microbus to a Sprinter Camper Van and you should start to get where I’m going with this.

After long-wheelbase vans arrived on the scene, companies such as Eldis and Swift began to craft some of the best motorhomes that are still on our roads and taking over wild-camping spots in the Algarve today. In the early 2000s, the notion of the smaller camper van came into play, with Ford, Citroen and Fiat creating some of the early ‘weekend warrior’ day van models. These campers are still as popular as ever and prove to be a great choice for home-grown conversion companies the world over.

Present Day

Image result for Mercedes Sprinter camper

The camper van has come a long way from Dr Stables’ touring caravan and Captain Dunn’s hand-built motorhome, but the ideas that they implemented into their respective builds have gone on to shape a multi-million-pound industry that sees Britains alone spending 50-million nights off the grid collectively each year. New camper vans are coming out all the time with incredible features that are designed to make living off grid more comfortable and to give the driver more scope for going where the Bedford CAs of this world could only ever dream of going.

From the luxury Carado Axion to off-grid behemoths like the EarthRoamer Camper and the EarthCruiser, off grid living has never been more exciting. Technological advancements in portable solar charging allow us to stay away from campsites and out of the city for longer, and new designs and concepts like this VW Electric Campervan dropping over the next couple of years are constantly keeping us guessing as to what new developments might be just around the corner. We’ve also seen a rise in the number of stealth campers and micro campers on the road in recent years too, proving that tiny house living is at an all–time high!

Picture by @vincentvanlife

Over the past few years, the self converted camper van has become increasingly popular with the younger campers and members of the digital nomad movement. With social media apps such as Instagram and Pinterest holding an absolute goldmine of self-build inspiration pics, and YouTube videos teaching you how to build a campervan at the touch of a button, it’s never been easier to turn your self-built conversion dreams into a reality. Converting a van yourself is much cheaper than paying a conversion company to do it for you, and you can customise your interior to your exact specification while you’re at it. It worked for Captain Dunn back in 1935, so I’m pretty confident that you can make it work too.


Best Places To Visit In A Campervan UK – The Ultimate Guide

Owning a camper van gives you the freedom to head out onto the open road at a moments notice, travelling to wherever your heart desires whenever the feeling takes you. Many of our British readers spend a lot of time scrolling through their favourite Van Life Instagram accounts while looking at pictures of vanlifers in hot and sunny climates overseas; wanderlust can do that to a person. But the truth is that an off grid adventure to Morocco or racing off road trucks to Sardinia isn’t always a viable option. Work and family commitments mean that sometimes you have to stay a little closer to home, but that’s where we’re here to help. We’ve made a list of the best places to visit in a campervan UK, and it’s going to change your holiday plans forever.

spots to your journey plans. From stunning castles to epic coastal roads, we’ve found 10 of the best places to visit in a campervan UK on your next road trip. Now all you need to do is fill up with fuel and get out onto the road!

The 10 Best Places To Visit In A Campervan UK

1. North York Moors National Park, Yorkshire

Best Places To Visit In A Campervan UK - North York Moors

Photo by

I’m going to start off with a place that is pretty close to my heart. I was born and raised in the heart of Yorkshire, commonly known to the people who live here as ‘God’s County’. Traditionally a farming people whose closest relatives are hobbits, Yorkshire folk spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, and looking at the photo above it’s not hard to see why. I’ve spent many weekends here when I was living in a van full time in the UK, finding hiliving in a vandden park up spots and spending the day hiking through the heather and strolling underneath leafy boughs while listening to the birds. It’s a tranquil and above all else relaxing place to take a break away. Check out Park4Night and other apps to check out some of the choice spots that people have stayed in.

2. North Coast 500, Scotland

Related image

Photo by The Green Cruachan

Route 66 isn’t the only road top that is appearing on peoples bucket lists these days. The North Coast 500 is putting Scotland on the van life map for all of the right reasons. 516 miles of free-camping bliss, taking in some of the most incredible sights that Scotland has to offer. Pass through ‘Black Isle’ (which isn’t black or an isle but looks amazing); take a romantic trip to Easter Ross, and spend time exploring ‘Sutherland’, Europe’s last great wilderness (and not to be confused with the boat-building town of Sunderland, which while nice is undoubtedly not as scenic).

The fact that wild camping is 100% legal in Scotland means that you can enjoy this 5-7 day route relatively cheaply. Take in some of the fantastic beaches along the route, and maybe crank out your StandOut Sport paddle board gear and take a trip out into the ocean too. The possibilities are endless, and we guarantee that this is one road trip that you’ll come back to time and time again.

3. Keswick, The Lake District

Related image

Photo by Sallys Cottages

Speaking of spending time out on the water, what better place to inflate up your Bluefin Paddleboards than in the Lake District. Keswick is home to some of the most scenic walks and mountain hikes in Britain, and it’s also the home of Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter. Spend time cruising up and down Derwentwater, or maybe take a drive to nearby Helvellyn and test your skills against one of the most famous climbs in the Lakes.

I love spending time in the Lake District because there is so much to see and do there. If you’re in a camper, then you can either choose to make one place your base and go out on day trips or take a drive around the many different lakes and find a different park up spot every night. Boon-docking is a little bit harder up in Keswick, but I’m sure that with a little bit of careful digging you’ll be able to find somewhere suitable for a good nights kip. It’s one of the best places to visit in a campervan UK and a place of culture, food, and wonder (and don’t forget the rabbit in the blue jacket)!

4. The Cornish Riviera, Cornwall

Best Places To Visit In A Campervan UK - Cornwall

Photo by

Ok, so this is an affectionate title given to Cornwall by the people that live or love going there, but when the UK gets a heat wave and the Celtic Sea starts to feel more like the Mediterranean, then you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve teleported straight to mainland Europe! Cornwall is a British surfing paradise and a hot spot for water-sports lovers all year round. It’s coastal sandy beaches and cliffside parking spots make it the perfect place to take your family or a loved one out for a special trip that you will remember for a lifetime (providing it doesn’t rain of course).

So what is there to do in Cornwall? Apart from trying your hand at surfing, paddle boarding and body boarding, you can take a trip to St. Ives, Falmouth, and Newquay, and even try your hand as a pirate in Penzance (just don’t go to far end end up coming home with a hook; it’ll be pretty hard to use your steering wheel if you do!).

5. Forest Of Dean, The Cotswolds

The forest of dean - wizards beware

Photo by Forestry England

The UK’s very own Schwarzwald can be found in the heart of the Cotswolds, home to Britains oldest pub dating back to 947AD and a former headquarters of Charles I. The Forest Of Dean is a stunning place teeming with wildlife and also a couple of wandering wizards if you’re a Harry Potter fan. Take a trip into the mysterious Puzzle Wood, a place that’s supposed to be for kids but is way more enjoyable for nerdy adults, and spend hours getting lost in the beauty of nature.

If you’re inspired by art and love to be creative, then you could spend a day exploring the Forest Of Dean Sculpture Trail, and if adventurous expeditions are more your bag, then the Clearwell Caves are ready and waiting for you to strap on a GoPro and start your search for hidden wonders. This is definitely a good spot if you have younger campers that you want to keep occupied and it’s also in close proximity to lots of other quaint towns and villages that you can go and get a cream scone and a cup of tea when you’re feeling peckish.

6. Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff Castle - one of the best places to visit in a campervan UK

Photo by @visitwales

There’s something about visiting castles that I just can’t get enough off, and if your planning a trip to the best places to visit in a campervan UK, then the chances are that you’ll see a heck of a lot of them while driving around. Some of the oldest and best can be found in Wales, and Cardiff Castle has to be my favourite out of all of them. There’s just something about this place that makes me think of battles in bygone-eras and massive feasts in the dining hall. I’m basically just thinking about Game Of Thrones as I write this; it’s got that vibe, right?

Cardif is also one of the most bustling cities in Wales, though I guess that you would expect as much from a country’s capital city! Take a trip to Cardiff Bay and watch the boats come in or zip up your wetsuit and take a dip into the sea. There’s plenty to do and see and some amazing attractions that you can sign up to experience. Just don’t get yourself locked up in a Castle Dungeon like poor old Ned Stark; we wouldn’t be able to forgive ourselves.

7. Tollymore Forest, Northern Ireland

Explore the world of Game Of Thrones in Northern Ireland

Speaking of Game Of Thrones, if you’re a super fan but don’t fancy trekking out to Dubrovnik to see Kings Landing, then head over to Northern Ireland and check out many of the places that featured in this iconic series. Tollymore Forest was used in the very first episode of Game Of Thrones. Remember that foreboding part where the Dire Wolf and the Stag are found dead on the road and the Stark children each receive one of the Dire Wolf pups as a pet? That was filmed here! It features on part of the official Game Of Thrones tour where you can go and see other filming locations around Northern Ireland, and you even get to wear a cape too!

Apart from it’s connections to Game Of Thrones, Tollymore Forest and indeed Northern Ireland itself are jam-packed full of secluded park-ups, riverside walks and stunning locations to sit down and eat your packed lunch while watching the world go by. From the Giant’s Causeway to the dramatic Dunluce Castle, you’re sure to find something exciting to do while staying in this beautiful part of the world. Boredom doesn’t exist in Northern Ireland, which is why it has made out list of the best places to visit in a campervan UK!

8. The Lizard National Reserve, Devon

There might not be many lizards, but Lizard Peninsula has some of the rarest plants in Britain

Photo by National Trust

Anywhere with a name like The Lizard Peninsula deserves a spot on our list of the best places to visit in a campervan UK! It’s the largest nature reserve in the South-West and probably the best location in the entire country for spotting wildlife in a natural environment. If you’re a bit of a nature-nerd like I am, then you’ll be amazed by the sheer numbers of rare plants and invertebrates that you can find here. It’s a biology goldmine and a great place for budding nature enthusiasts to hone their searching skills out in the wild.

The Lizard Peninsula takes in breathtaking views of the ocean from cliffside walks through rare coastal fauna, and there might even be a chance of spotting a few cheeky lizards along the way. With mini coves and miles and miles of woodland to explore, you’re sure to see something completely new every time you take a trip down here. Lizard has lots of parking spots for you to stay overnight in your campervan, so consider taking a trip to a much tamer, smaller, and friendlier version of Jurrasic Park on your next road trip.

9. Brecon Beacons, Wales

Brecon beacons - one of the best places to visit in a campervan uk

Photo by Countryfile

We’re heading back to wales for our ninth spot on our best places to visit in a campervan UK. The Brecon Beacons has provided a home from home to holidaymakers for decades, delighting people with its many waterfalls, forest walks, and country jaunts (I don’t get to use the word ‘jaunt’ that often, but it’s quintessentially Brittish, so I thought I would stick it in). Home to the famous ‘Black Mountains, the Brecon Beacons is a cavers dream destination and has plenty of inviting plunge pools that you can take a dip in after a long hike through the wilderness.

I think the thing that I love the most about the Brecon Beacons is the sheer vastness of the landscape and the fact that you’re truly away from the hustle and bustle of the city or any modern-day distractions. Its a great way of getting back to basics and a good excuse to relax back with a good book while forgetting that those files and invoices on your desk even exist. Take it from me, this is one place that is worth visiting (mostly because Brandon can’t get hold of me or Rose to talk about articles as there’s limited phone signal!)

10. The Isle Of Wight

isle of wight during sunset

Photo by The Independent

If you’re looking for sunnier climates and don’t mind hopping aboard a ferry, then the Isle Of Wight would be a great choice for your next motorhome road trip. Shanklin Beach and Ventnor Beach are some of the most beautiful bits of coastline that I’ve ever visited while holidaying in and around the UK, and with the added pull of possibly finding a piece of a fossilised dinosaur over in Compton Bay, you’ve got a full recipe for adventure that will keep you and your inner child happy for days on end.

The Isle Of Wight has lots of stunning coastal footpaths, so if you’re a fan of walking, then this would be the place to go. Travelling in a van is all about getting out there and exploring the outdoors, and what better place to breath in that fresh sea air while walking barefoot across the sand than the Isle Of Wight. And if you’re hard up on cash and looking for something to do for free, then you can always go and visit the donkey sanctuary. Who doesn’t like donkeys!


10 Camper Life Tips Before Hitting The Road Full Time

Travelling in a van is a great way to see the world on a shoestring budget, so it’s no wonder that living the van life has taken off and become such a popular lifestyle choice. The booming number of vandwellers has been helped along the way by many vanlife blogs and van life influencers. However, living in a compact camper van isn’t always going to be as straightforward or as perfect as it looks on Instagram, so we’re here to give you ten camper life tips to help you on your way before hitting the road full time in your tiny home. 

Van life travel is a fantastic experience; it’s incredible to be able to take your tiny house with you wherever you go and wake up in a new place every day but living in a van can be an adjustment. Living in small campers takes practise, but there are things that make travel in a van easier and more enjoyable, so read on if you want to get the best experience possible when you embark on your off grid adventure.  

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1. Fully Service Your Van

Camper life- wooden interior of campervan


First up on our list of ten camper tips to consider before hitting the road is to give your van a full service. A comprehensive service is something we did not do, and we wish we had, after all, we might not have needed to shell out for two different repairs if we had gone for a full service before leaving the UK. When I say full service, I don’t just mean a compulsory MOT (or equivalent engine servicing) as this checks that your camper works at the time of service. Pay the extra to have a mechanic change the oil and filters and to check that everything looks good for a long journey; it’ll be worth it in the long run. 

Looking after your vehicle can be one of the most expensive van life costs, but it is essential not to let vehicle care fall by the wayside. After all, when your van doubles as your off grid home, it’s worth looking after. If you have an older, more affordable camper, then I would expect to pay a little bit more on repairs and servicing than someone who owns a brand new sprinter camper conversion. However, this doesn’t mean that your vehicle won’t take you around the world, just that it might need a little more love to do so. 

2. Pack For All Weathers

Camper life- woman working inside van


Second, on our list of camper life tips is to remember to pack for all weather conditions. The joy of vanlife travel is that you have complete freedom of movement. You can wake up one morning and decide to travel to a different country, without needing to look for the best flights or train tickets. For a lot of people, this means they live an eternal summer, always driving to where the sun is. I mean, who doesn’t want to spend all year living in shorts and a T-shirt? 

However, it is a good idea to pack for all weathers, setting off on your adventure with only shorts and T-shirts would be a mistake. The weather can change without a moments notice, especially when you’re moving from place to place all the time and, when you live in a van, you notice the weather much more than you would in a house. You don’t want to have to stay inside just because you didn’t pack enough jumpers or a waterproof jacket, especially if you are an outdoorsy person. After all, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. 

3. Remember To Pack The Fun Stuff 

camper life - woman jumping oiut of van and into water


At number three on our list of camper life tips, we have: remember to pack the fun stuff! When people pack for a long trip in their camper van, many people will pack the van life essentials– clothes, cooking utensils, a solar shower etc. However, it is important to remember to pack things that will make your trip even more fun. Most people remember the big stuff such as surfboards, paddleboards, climbing equipment, hiking gear, but often people leave other hobbies that they would have usually done at home. 

Here, I’m talking about board games, a deck of cards, your sketchbook, guitar or knitting. Anything you would have done on the weekend at home, then bring it with you because there are some days when you’re going to want to tone the adventure down and chill out. There will also be times when the weather won’t allow you to get outside or that you’re ill and need some more relaxing entertainment than a surf session. Then you would wish you hadn’t left everything at home. 

4. Check The Law In Different Countries

man sitting on van step stroking dog


Next up on or list of camper life tips we have: check the law in each country you will be travelling to. As van life travel becomes more popular and common many countries are implementing new requirements for campers to follow. It’s a good idea to educate yourself on these laws so that you know what is allowed and what isn’t. For example, in Norway, it is entirely legal to camp anywhere you like for the night, as long as it is 150metres away from the nearest house or cabin. Whereas in Switzerland, wild camping is illegal. 

As well as learning parking and camping laws for each country you plan on visiting it is also a good idea to find out what each countries toll system is. Many countries choose to charge tolls to drive on the motorway but how this is charged is not the same everywhere. Some countries, such as France and Italy, have toll booths, where you can pay as you drive. For these, it is a good idea to carry cash as we have found that many toll booths do not accept foreign bank cards. However, to drive on the motorway in other countries, such as Slovenia and Austria, a vignette is required which you must purchase before entering the country in question. 

5. Talk To Other Vanlifers 

outdoor Harry Potter film night, camper life


We’re halfway through our list of camper life tips to consider before hitting the road and up next we have: talk to other vanlifers. This is a tip that applies both before you set off and while you are on your journey. Meeting new people who are also travelling in their tiny homes is one of the most fantastic parts of van life. People travelling a similar path to you are usually easy to get on with, and it is great to spend a few days hanging out with new people- never be afraid to knock on a door and say hi, you never know who you might meet!

Equally, if you have questions that you want to ask before you set off on your camper life journey, then don’t hesitate to reach out to other travellers online. Instagram is a great way to find people with more experience in life on the road who you can learn from. You can also join our new Facebook Group to meet other like-minded people!

6. Choose Good Insurance And Breakdown Cover

couple sat on top of camper looking at ocean


Next up on our list of camper life tips to consider before hitting the road is a serious one: insurance and breakdown cover. It is very important to find suitable insurance and breakdown cover for your road trip. No matter how much you plan, something might go wrong, but having good coverage for your van and belongings can help a stressful situation feel a little bit easier. 

Being broken down is not fun but knowing you have help on your side is a comforting feeling. Breakdown cover will not only come out to do minor repairs at the roadside but can also tow you to a garage if needs be. Good camper van insurance will tow you home if the repair proves to be a big job or if you are nearing the end of your trip. The best insurance will even cover the cost of accommodation and onward travel expenses while your campervan is being fixed, which is a massive weight off your shoulders if you have a long wait time for your repair. 

Insurance on your van is not only a legal requirement to cover yourself if you are involved in an accident but also great peace of mind in the case of a break-in. You may also want to consider insurance for your gadgets as these may not be covered in your motorhome insurance. This means you can seek compensation or a replacement if any of your devices are lost, stolen or broken while on the road. 

7. Carry A Tool Kit

van parked infront of hot air baloons taking off


Next up on our list of camper life tips to consider before hitting the road is to carry a tool kit. Having a tool kit on board is not only helpful if you get into vehicle trouble- there is no point in carrying a spare wheel if you don’t have the tools to change it- but also for the inside of your camper van. This especially applies if your van is one of the beautiful DIY campervan conversions out there.  It’s good to have a basic tool kit on board just in case you need to fix anything or want to alter anything in your tiny home while you’re on the road. 

If you have a roof vent or skylight in the van, whether it’s a DIY conversion or not, it’s a good idea to carry a tube of sealant in your tool kit. There is nothing more annoying than a drip through the roof of your tiny home, especially if you have a skylight over your bed. It’s not the end of the world if this happens as the sealant can crack and flex as the weather and temperature fluctuate, but it is great to know you can quickly fix it if it does happen. 

8. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone 

camper parked in front of mountains


The next tip we have for those just starting on their camper life journey is not to be afraid to live outside your comfort zone. Even while living an alternative lifestyle, it can be easy to fall into a comfortable pattern or routine. Choosing a campsite over wild camping or taking the motorway instead of the scenic route. But the best nights will be those where you’ve stepped away from your routine and tried something a little bit different. 

Go for that wild camping spot and enjoy the views that come with it. Or take that dirt road, as you never know what will be at the end of it. Don’t forget why you set out on your adventure, sometimes the best experiences and memories are born when you step outside of your comfort zone. After all, what can go wrong when you have your home on your back?

9. Think About How You Will Charge On The Go 

White VW pop top parked on beach with surf board


Before you set up on your camper life adventure, it is important to consider how you are going to charge your gadgets while you’re on the road. For example, there is no point in packing a drone if you are unable to charge its batteries from your campervan. There are two main ways to charge your campervan batteries while on the go: solar panels, often paired with a split charge relay to charge while you drive, and by plugging into the mains electricity source. From here you need to think about what inverter would suit you best.

An inverter converts 12v electricity, that is stored in your vans leisure batteries, into 240v power.  You need to make sure you choose an inverter that has a high enough watt rating to deal with the products you will be plugging into it. If this is something you’re concerned about, then there’s more information on how to choose the right electrical system for you in our how to build a campervan E-book. 

10. Live Life To The Full For Less 

Woman stood in front of camper


Last up on our list of camper life tips to consider before hitting the road is that you can live life to the full for less. Yes, budgeting while on the ultimate road trip may seem tedious, but is it boring if it means you can travel for longer? No, I didn’t think so. Just because you’re travelling, it doesn’t mean that you have to go out for a meal every night. Choose to spend your money on things you will remember not just any old tourist trap. Avoid those toll roads and find a free camping area instead of paying for a campsite if you can. 

By choosing to save on some of these unnecessary expenses, you can have more money to extend your travel or to fill it with more adventures. By saving on campsites and meals out, you could go canyoning, scuba diving or give sky diving a go instead. Save your pennies and fill your life with adventure!


Is Living In A Van Legal – Everything You Need To Know

We all love living the van life and travelling in a van, but is living in a van legal in the eyes of the law? Thanks to our favourite Van Life Influencers and the wanderlust-inducing mouth-wateringly addictive content on our Van Life Instagram feeds, more and more people are throwing away the rulebook and giving alternative living a try.

The signs might be hard to spot for some, but now that I have spent a year away from the UK and travelling around Europe with other vandwellers, I’m amazed by how many vanlifers I have seen in and around Yorkshire. When I get into my van at night, it’s nice to know that there are other people in their tiny homes around about, smoke wafting lazily from their chimneys and a glint of light peeping from underneath their curtains.

is van life legal - Seb from Vincent Vanlife stood in his full time home - a Vauxhall Movano Camper

But as much as I love living in a van and recommend the experience to anyone and everyone whenever I get the chance, the question still remains – is living in a van legal? From travelling around over the past two years, I know that it is certainly viewed differently by different authorities in their respective countries, but the topic of sleeping in a vehicle has always been a little bit of a grey area. Do people care? Well, that depends how tidy you are and if you’re annoying the occupants of the surrounding houses (or if they wake up on the wrong side of the bed). I lived in my vehicle for 13 months in one city while working in a previous job and no-one batted an eyelid. People even said hello and came round for cups of tea!

Anyway, you didn’t come here for an early glimpse at my autobiography. Here are the cold-hard facts about van life in the UK and across the world. It’s important to say at this point that; a) this is just a guide and that we don’t speak on behalf of the government or the police, and b) don’t bother suing us because the boss pays us all in chocolate money

Van Life Facts – Is Living In A Van Legal?

Parked up on the side of the road with Autumn leaves scattered about

If you’re reading this from the UK, then the short answer is ‘Yes’. There is no law stating that you cannot live in a motorhome, camper, or converted van full time. My personal opinion still remains that most people don’t believe that anyone would want to live in a van, and that the ones that do either love it or pretend that us vanlifers don’t exist. That’s fine by me; it’s fewer people for the Christmas card list after all.

Answering the question of is living in a van legal is one thing, but there are a whole host of things that you need to take time to consider if you’re going to give Full Time Van Life a try. As long as your vehicle has a valid MOT and is road taxed, then you’re good to go, but that doesn’t mean that you can just park anywhere that you like. There might be certain restrictions that you need to research before going off-grid in your own city or in a new area, and it’s important to try and blend in with the crowd rather than publically advertising your new, bold lifestyle to the masses.

Some will argue that you can ‘park where the bloody-hell you like’, but I would adopt a different stance. Parking near nice open spaces and away from terraced streets is both easier and more pleasant for all parties involved. It feels more private and you avoid any chances of being blocked in by neighbours. Likewise, you can’t suddenly decide that you want to park in the middle of a racetrack or in a local park – choose your spots wisely and look to apps like Park4Night for assistance.

Vincent Vanlife in their van in Italy

Sleeping In A Van After A Night Out

While the initial question of ‘is living in a van legal’ can, on the whole, be answered quite easily, there are other factors that you need to consider if you’re seriously considering this way of life. It is illegal to be in a charge of a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, so technically you would be breaking the law while sleeping in your camper when returning after a night out unless there is another designated driver in the vehicle who is under the legal limit and safe to drive.

We’ve heard lots of stories of people free-wheeling their van over their keys to prevent them from being able to move their campers once inebriated, but knowing us, we’d end up losing them down a nearby drain. That’s not something that we would advise, by the way; if you’re thinking of having a few drinks, then spend the night at a friends house or make sure someone is there in the van who hasn’t been consuming alcohol. The same goes for drugs too, not that any of our readers do those (this is a family magazine after all!).

is van life legal - if it looks like a home, then it's a home!

What About In Different Countries?

If you’re wondering about van life in the U.S, then believe me when I say that you’ll have no problems. Campervans can be seen everywhere you look while driving around America and the vanlife movement, as a whole, is far bigger than what it is in the U.K. National Forest and BLM land is free for anyone to park on, and that accounts for a lot of America’s beautiful wilderness.

My experience of travelling around Europe has shown me that different countries on the continent have different opinions about van life and wild camping. Generally speaking, the Europeans love travelling in vans and we stayed at lots of places with permanent van-dwelling residents who have formed little communities of their own. France, Portugal, Spain, and Italy are incredibly geared up for vandwellers and even provide free areas to empty your waste and fill up with fresh water.

living the van life with a Paddleboards in Austria

The question of ‘is living in a van legal’ gets a little more complicated in countries such as Greece, Slovenia, and Austria, where wild camping is strictly prohibited. You will often be moved on by the police and in some cases fined, but there are certain free spaces that you can use as overnight bases when you want to plan day-trip-drives into your adventure the following day. We stayed at one spot in Slovenia near a swimming pool for 4 days and journeyed to-and-from our parking-lot-home to see the sights. That’s all well and good in a small country like Slovenia, but you might need to look into paying for a campsite in larger countries that don’t like overnight on-street parking.

Our Advice

Now that you know it’s legal, you just need to keep your wits about you to make sure you are one step ahead of the game. I don’t mean anything sinister like Varys and Little Finger plotting over the Iron Throne (that sentence may have passed straight over your head if you’re not a massive nerd like me), but it is important to make sure that you always have the correct and up-to-date documentation on you to prove that your vehicle is roadworthy. Don’t push your luck with local councils or the local authorities, and try to remain conscious of the people who live around you. Don’t make a mess either; leave no trace! Public defecation is wrong no matter whether you live in a marquee or a mansion, so make sure you have a safe and sanitary means of disposing of your waste

The bit I love the most about living in a van is having a different front garden every day. The scenery is always the same from inside a house, but when your home is on wheels, the whole world is your oyster (unless you’re allergic to shellfish, then it could be your parsnip or your ratatouille instead).

Whether you’re living in a van because you like the adventure or just because you’re trying to avoid ridiculous rent prices, the main thing you should remember is to enjoy the experience. As long as you play by the unwritten rules and respect noise policies and people’s space, you should have a very stress-free alternative living journey. Good luck!


Lake Tahoe’s Least Crowded and Most Photogenic Campsite

With great hiking, few fellow campers, and amazing campsites next to the lakes, Loch Leven should be on your Tahoe bucket list.

Tahoe's Backpacking and Photography Secret: Loch Leven

During a Tahoe summer, nothing is better than a campsite by a lake, with sunset campfires and plenty of rocks for epic swan-diving.

However, Tahoe gets pretty crowded in the summer. Many campsites, like the popular Desolation Wilderness sites, fill up well in advance and even backpacking passes disappear a month out. So if you’re planning a last-minute trip and need a spot in Tahoe that’s accessible, beautiful, and doesn’t require any planning, I’ve got one for you: Loch Leven.

This hike starts off Highway 80, at the Rainbow Road exit. Park at the pullover parking spot, or on the side of the road. If you’re backpacking, like we were, try to be in the parking lot if at all possible so you aren't leaving your car on the street overnight. 

This trail is a total of 3.5 miles up to the top lake, but you can get to the middle lake in just under 3 miles, which actually has better campsites.

The trail is a mix of exposed rock face, lush green forest, and gravel and dirt paths. It’s also about 1,800 feet elevation gain, so while it's not a stroll in the park, it shouldn't be too challenging for even the novice backpacker.  With 35 lb packs, it took us about 2.5 hours to get up.

There are three lakes. Creatively, they’re named lower, middle, and upper Loch Leven. In my opinion, and in terms of the prettiest sites, the middle Loch Leven is the place to be. When you hit the lake, head to the left for sites literally right on the shore, or head all the way to the other side of the lake for a spot on the rocks with plenty of cliff-jumping opportunities. Keep in mind that if you set up on the rock, you’ll want a tent that doesn’t stake in.

There are plenty of little day hikes up here, too, like the pretty (and easy) Salmon Lake hike, which is about a three mile round trip from the middle lake.

Campfires are allowed here (you just need to register for a permit online) and there’s no “reserving” spots, so just show up and find one you like. We camped at the top lake on the first night, and got up early the next morning to stake out a sweet spot for the second night before the other backpackers arrived.

The middle lake has plenty of small islands and area to swim out to and is, in my opinion, one of the most photogenic spots to camp in the Tahoe area, desolation wilderness included. Plus, since you can build campfires, you can skip on bringing a jacket and stay warm from the fire.

It’s also super dog friendly – we saw so many dogs and if your four-legged pal likes swimming, you’ll never be able to get them out! Our four-legged friend loves hiking, but he also loves snoozers on the sleeping bags. 

Loch Leven Photography Tips:

- Bring a wide angle lens, if you have one. All of these photos were shot on a 10-35 mm lens

- Figure out what photos you want and site yourself accordingly: if you want sunset photos, you want to be across from the lake from the sunset. Use a compass app on your phone to figure out where you'll get the best views. 

- Get there early. In order to get exactly the campsite we wanted, we actually camped higher up the night before and came down early in the morning to snag the site in the photos above before more backpackers arrived. You could also just ask nicely if you can leave your stuff at the campsite of someone who is leaving later in the day.

- Use warm filters/camera settings: especially when sun is just starting to set, you'll pick up more light and color if you warm things up a bit. 

- Shoot water in the morning: the lakes up here are still in the morning, as the wind doesn't usually pick up until afternoon. It's a great time to get reflection shots. 

Suzie is a freelance writer and content creator living in Lake Tahoe, CA. You can read more about amazing outdoor destinations and adventure travel at


7 Reasons the Tour du Mont Blanc Needs to Be on Your Bucket List

Circumnavigate the peak that launched modern mountaineering in this 105 mile trek.

Mont Blanc, the tallest peak in the Alps, is iconic. Rising an impressive 15,774 feet above sea level, Mont Blanc's first ascent in 1786 marked the birth of modern mountaineering.

Today, the ascent is still challenging...but there's a less technical adventure nearby that is one of the world's best trekking routes -- the 105 mile Tour du Mont Blanc, which circumnavigates the Mt Blanc massif.

To learn more about a trek around this iconic mountain, we checked in with our friends at MT Sobek. MT Sobek has been leading adventurous trips around the globe for 50 years, so they know a thing or two about an unforgettable journey in the Alps. Here's what they love about trekking to Mont Blanc. 

Ease of Travel

The Tour du Mont Blanc isn't an easy hike, don't get us wrong, but there are things about the trek that simply make travel, well, easier.

The trail itself is exceptionally well-marked, making it easy to follow and decreasing the risk of getting lost. Because the trek is traveled by thousands of people each year — most in the high season of summer — there are always people and spots to rest nearby. You aren't going to be stuck alone for days on end in you need assistance.

You can tent camp on your trek, or book yourself into one of the refuges at night. Sleep under the stars or under a roof...the choice is yours. 

No Climbing Required

The Tour du Mont Blanc isn't a technical undertaking. You don't need any climbing equipment, and rock climbing skills are not required. It's a walk, but not necessarily a walk in the park. You'll travel up many high alpine ridges, down difficult descents, and have over 35,000 feet of elevation gain (and loss). 

Training before your trek is a must because you'll be hiking for 7-8 hours per day for up to ten days. Even though the climbing isn't technical, consider this: you'll ultimately ascend more vertical feet than Mount Everest when completing the whole tour.

It's a Country-Hop

The Tour du Mont Blanc takes you through three different countries on foot. While Italy and France split the ownership of the summit, you'll also travel through Switzerland as you make your way along the trail around the mountain.

You'll get to experience a slice of three different cultures while you're on your trek. Spend the morning saying "bonjour!" to fellow travelers at breakfast, and then eat handmade pasta in Italy by dinner. Where else do you have the chance to experience a slice of three different countries on a summit trek?

Language Lessons Not Needed

When you're pushing your body and mind to complete a trek of this magnitude, you may not have a lot of brainpower left at the end of the day to navigate multiple different languages. Good news! The European countries you'll explore on the Tour du Mont Blanc are very accommodating to English language speakers. 

You should have no problem communicating with the majority of the people you meet along this trek through the Alps.

Oh, the People You'll Meet

Speaking of people, you're going to meet some great ones on this journey. The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most popular hiking destinations on the planet, so in addition to the locals you meet in Italy, France, and Switzerland, you'll share the trail with other avid hikers from around the globe.

It's not uncommon to meet folks from all different ethnic and cultural backgrounds while you hike. If you choose to stay in the refuges along the trail, chances are you'll be spending some nights with other people who love hiking and the outdoors as much as you do.

The Villages and the Culture

When you are making your way around Mont Blanc, there's more to the experience than just the trek. Take Chamonix, France, for example. Chamonix is the traditional start and end to the Tour du Mont Blanc, and this lively mountain town is both charming and full of amenities like shopping options and local restaurants.

Halfway through your trek, you'll land in Courmayeur, Italy, where you can grab great food and take some time to relax in a cafe or hotel. In addition to Chamonix and Courmayeur, there is Champex, Switzerland, a sleepy lakeside village with the friendly Belvedere Hotel. 

The Views

MT Sobek saved the best for last...the views. The views throughout the entire trek are spectacular. You'll hike through peaks and valleys and catch sight of glaciers and unique rock formations. While you travel, Mont Blanc will always be there, looming in the distance, just waiting for you to arrive.

The Tour du Mont Blanc is full of incredible people and culture, amazing views, and best of all, it's within reach for many people. 

Are you ready to put the Tour du Mont Blanc on your bucket list? Any of MT Sobek's Alps adventures for 2020 can take care of logistics so you can focus on enjoying your trip.

All photos, including the cover image, courtesy of MT Sobek


Two Great Locations to Watch the Solar Eclipse in Lake Tahoe

If you're short on time but want a great view that won't be super crowded for the August 21st eclipse, check out one of these two great spots.

Lake Tahoe - or the big blue pill, as they call it - is the gem of the west and an amazing sight to behold from a bird’s eye view. However, if you don’t have time for miles of hiking, or if you’re not quite in shape for summiting peaks, it can be hard to know where to go for a great view. So here are two great locations that are easy to reach and offer amazing lake views.

These two spots would be great for viewing the upcoming solar eclipse on Monday, August 21.

Location One: The Tahoe Rim Trail 

The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 112-mile trail that circles the Tahoe basin’s valleys and peaks. Fortunately, there are plenty of access points that are ideal for day hikes. A great one with an amazing view is off the Brockway Summit/highway 267 access point.

As you can see, Doolie made it up here with his short little legs, so you can, too.

If you’re coming from Truckee, turn right just after the actual Brockway summit (just past the elevation sign.) For those of you familiar with the area, this is where Tahoe Snowmobile Tours operates in the winter.  Follow Mt. Watson road almost to the end and park where the rim trail (the dotted line) crosses the road marked “109.”

The grey line is the drive, then follow the dotted trail to the red circle, which is where the lookout is.

Then, hike up (like, literally up; don’t go downhill) for about a mile. You’ll go past a few switchbacks and cross a dirt road (you can see the trail cross the road on the map.) After that, you’re only steps away from the viewpoint. It’s up on the left and features big rocks you can climb out on. The view here is exceptional, looking out on the north shore and down towards Carnelian Bay. There’s hardly ever anyone up here, except for a few mountain bikers here and there.

The Tahoe Rim Trail takes you through beautiful mountain terrain.

From the viewpoint, head back the way you came, or keep going about another 1.5 miles to reach Watson Lake and the rest of the Tahoe Rim Trail.

This is an easy place to find and offer a unique vantage point of both Tahoe and Truckee all the way out to Sardine Valley, up by Sierraville. The hike is only about .5 miles, and it’s on a flat, well maintained dirt road. Unless you'd rather get a good hike in, try this 7.5 mile route.

To get here, coming from Truckee, make a left on Martis Peak Road before Brockway Summit. 

Martis Peak Road twists and turns, but if you follow the paved portion of it, you’ll be on the right track. Watch out for mountain bikers and go slow as the road is two-way but narrow in places.  Follow the road, winding your way up, until you see a locked gate. You can park here or, if you can’t find space, just back up and park anywhere on the side of the road below it.

I’ve highlighted the route and the parking point on the map above.

Walk past the gate and up the dirt road until you reach the fire lookout station. You’re welcome to walk up on the deck. If you’re lucky, a fire lookout ranger will be there to show you the tools they use to find and report fires, which are actually pretty interesting. From here, you can see the entire California side of the lake, plus the three reservoirs in Truckee (Stampede, Boca, and Prosser.) On a clear day, you can see up to the Sardine Valley, about an hour north of Truckee.

This tool has been used since the 1930's to help pinpoint and measure the distance to smoke, which indicate wildfires.

From here, if you want an even better view, continue up to the dirt trail above the lookout station. It leads to several rock piles with stunning views. The first rock pile is actually not the viewpoint - you need to walk around it to a second rock pile to see the views. It’s probably another ⅓ - ½ of a mile past the fire lookout station.


Suzie is a freelance writer and content creator living in north Lake Tahoe. Explore more great Tahoe destinations and adventure travel suggestions at, or follow her on Instagram at @hikeupyourskirt