Snowchaser: December 2017 – Choosing a van

Choosing your van | Snowchaser
Choosing a van | Snowchaser
Choosing your van (Photo | James Tunstall)

Choosing a van for our road trip has caused much brain-ache.

Fall-Line Digital Editor Hannah James has a van, a man and no plan.

There are hundreds of options out there and unless you’re used to living in a Tokyo coffin apartment, there are some serious lifestyle decisions to make. Just how many pairs of knickers do I need? Joking aside, you’re going to experience some enforced minimalism and choosing a van will help dictate how much that’s going to hurt.

There are two ways to do this. If you’re considering a motorhome adventure for your annual week-to-10 day trip as an alternative to planes, trains or automobiles, rent it. You can have your pick of the fleet and costs are low in the motorhome off-season (4 berth, 7 nights from £450 including European cover over UK half term). Compared to your all-in package, this is a sweet deal. It’ll also come loaded with everything you need – kitchen equipment to gas bottles.

If you’re running away from home for a longer stint, buy it – you’ve got a bit more flexibility and an asset you can flog at the end of it. The downside of this is you’ll need to fully furnish your living quarters.

That’s the first step but whether you’re buying or renting, there are certain things you need, and some things that are ‘nice to have’. Here’s what we’ve learned. NB: If you wrote a wish list of all the features and toys you wanted on a custom-built snow-madding mega-van, you’d end up with a £200,000 bill and you’d still have to empty your own loo. The sooner anyone wanting to road trip around the mountains comes to terms with this inalienable truth, the better.

  • Your van needs to have the manufacturer’s winter pack as a basic requirement. It protects the pipes, heating system and tanks. All essential for an event free trip. Unless you’re an automotive plumber – we suggest you don’t try to do this yourself.
  • Thermal screen covers – not very sexy but they’ll eliminate condensation (which keeps your soggy gear soggy) and stop you haemorrhaging heat from the van at night.
  • Weight should be 3.5 tonnes. Critical for two reasons – anything bigger is an arse to drive and will limit the passes and switchbacks you can negotiate. Secondly, anyone who passed their test after 1st January 1997 will have to complete an expensive course and upgrade their licence to drive a bigger one.

The greatest ‘nice to have’ is a heated locker with external access (‘a garage’ as it’s known by the motorhome mafia) to lob all your kit in at the end of the day. However, your trade-off is internal space and as seasonaires, this is one compromise we were happy to make.

Our Van

An Elddis Autoquest. Wipe clean with a huge bathroom, swivel captain’s seats and the fanciest heating system on the market. But we still have to empty our own loo.