TESTED BY DUNCAN MCCALLUM
So you want to join the van life movement, but neither have £80k spare, or the skills, time or desire to build out your dream mobile ski chalet? Join the club.
My search for a solution led me in the direction of a ply van kit – aka removable lightweight 2 or 3 part clip/sit together “boxes” that allow you to convert your “plumbing store” day works van into a comfy weekend camper (often complete with kitchen, seats and a table) for a fraction of the cost a VW Beach or California.
Campal are one of the most well-established of the ply van kit manufacturers on the market right now and have some clever CNC ply cutters which allow them to build custom projects to test a concept or two.
With the demise of guaranteed foreign ski holidays and subsequent price hikes in winter accommodation, I contacted Campal to see if they could make an adapted unit to cope with the demands of winter living, storing skis and snowboards, and get us on the camper van road without becoming bankrupt or running the risk of losing a finger or two in a failed amateur DIY conversion attempt.
The complete Campal Ski For Two unit comes to your van door on a small pallet weighting 60kg and is in two main parts, cooker food and seating unit plus a 2 burner cooker, then the storage main bed unit along with cushions and various area dividers and lids.
In summer mode the unit is orientated so the cooker slides outside the rear of the van so the smells and steam stay outside, with the food store drawer on the right provides easy access to ingredients and spices. In this mode the two large slider drawers form the guts of two bench seats in-between, which is a small but usable kitchen table which pops up and makes the whole unit feel like a proper camper van. This is ideal for euro summer-camping and with the addition of a tail gate tent, it works for all but the coldest, windy days in the UK.
Flipping the unit around inside orientates it to become much more usable on cold wet days. Although not really marketed to be used this way, it works super well as a winter camper unit (as long as your van is well insulated). The cooker then slides out and sits on the sliders just behind the driver’s seat, giving enough space so you don’t singe the upholstery.
For the skiing winter user, the food drawer also doubles up as a ski storage space that is accessed through a hatch in the unit. Ply sliders lift to give enough space for 3 sets of skis, or a set of skis and a big split board up to 185cm long. With careful packing this ski space will also hold boots and poles.
Sitting under the extremely comfortable Velcro-linked cushions are a series of storage bins. The largest of these can hold 2 x70 duffel bags for all your wet/ dry clothing and there are an additional 4-6 bins of various sizes ranging from 30 to 50 litres, aka plenty of space if you are organised.
In our VW Transporter SWB (short wheel base) Kombi van, the two parts of the unit can be manoeuvred into the van and the entire conversion takes between 5-10 mins depending how distracted your helper is by FOMO-inducing social media posts relating to recent snowfalls.
In a short wheel base van, winter mode living does require a degree of organisation worthy of people who have spent time in small boats or a submarine, but it’s the way to go if you’re in a rush for first tracks, or flitting between fickle winter hills on a mini road trip.
Ultimately the comfort of your winter van life will be dictated by how well you van is insulated/heated and/or how hardy you are – irrespective the layout.
However, there is no doubt that the Campal Ski For Two kit is a revelation. Depending on the unit, most Campal units come in at well under £1500, which really does represent great value if you are looking for a van life solution for substantially less than the price of a small house.
RRP: From £1150 plus VAT