How did we choose ArchieVan?
Our choice was based on two key factors:
Where we live.
Where we live:
In the far west of Cornwall we have many tiny lanes that will get you to a great beach, or little village. Nearly all of them have houses somewhere along their length.
Nearly every house has something delivered by DPD, UPS or some other courier on a regular basis.
That meant that if a courier could get his long wheel based Sprinter to all such places then I could get the same vehicle to that secluded beach, little village or whatever I was looking for.
I’d never pretend that 7 metres of length is an easy vehicle to wield, but with care it’ll get most places, and everywhere that I’ve needed to access so far, including up some hairy Slovenian tracks.
Additional internal width. There’s an addition to some vans I’ve seen recently and that’s slightly bubbled rear side panels taking the internal width out to 190 cms. That’s enough for all but the tallest of us to sleep across the van. Sleeping across ways is more space efficient than lengthways.
The other alternative solution for getting more from a van is a slide out panel. Fantastic convenience and extra space, but you’re talking big money.
I just love the look of a good van.
From a great Transit, or Transporter to the ultimate Mercedes 508, vans look purposeful. Each has started as a highly adaptable shell that the owner has crafted to create their vision of how their home on the road should be.
Some are quirky, some positively homespun and many are pared down to the absolute essentials. Many are built around sport, carrying bikes, motor bikes, canoes or surf boards. Some even have kennels or horses on board.
There’s little beige in sight.
On that subject. Even in my 50s I can’t get over how much a motor home looks like something for someone much older than me. At 2017’s autumn show in Birmingham we noticed a distinct improvement to interior fittings on motor homes and finally better upholstery, but there was nothing that matched the joy that ArchieVan’s finish brings us.
Van Conversion versus Motor Home (or even an RV).
Let’s explore a little more. The difficult decision of what to buy.
There’s no doubt that a well designed and well built motor home is a joy to live in. Chances are it’ll offer more creature comforts than alternatives. The more home luxuries you want to take on the road with you the more you need to look towards a motor home rather than a van conversion.
There’s no doubt either that a great van conversion is a whole lot easier to drive, especially when the going gets narrow. If you need to use your road home as day to day transport as well then look towards a van.
The Motor Home:
From a micro mo to an American style RV the range of motor homes is vast.
Although the micros still exist (I’m thinking of creations like the Bedford Bambi) and they are achingly cute, they’re hardly fit for living in, so let’s put them to one side for now.
Real motorhomes start on the chassis of vans such as the long time favourite, the Fiat Ducato. Fiat build specially for the market and even offer wider and longer chassis options to cut out some of the middle men.
Often referred to as B-class, these conversions are up to 8 metres long but should always be under 3.5 tonnes – that’s important. It means you can drive it on your normal driving license.
If the B-class isn’t big enough for you then confusingly both the C-class and A-class are bigger. These are the coach built monsters of the motor home world and look distinctly different to their van based little cousins.
If this is your realm then go the whole hog and get a serious A-class with a Mercedes SLK parked inside! Let’s face it, you’ll not be getting down any lanes, so you’ll need something smaller to help you reach your destination.
How many do you want to sleep?
This is a major consideration that will make your life on the road far more comfortable when you get it right.
If there are two of you then chances are you need a van for two. Obvious? Well no, not really. It’s easy to think about all those friends you’d like to take away with you, or meet on the road.
In fact though it’s likely that friends will join you now and then, and when that’s going to happen you can be generous and take their tent for them, they don’t need to sleep in the van with you.
With children the answer will be different depending on their ages and adaptability.
The rule we applied was to sleep as few as possible meaning that those on board have the most possible space.
The list of potential facilities is extensive. We’ll consider a few of the key ones here.
Toilet and shower:
For many this is a no brainer, but we agonised over the potential for so much extra space, versus the convenience of being able to do what you need to do on board. On board with your travelling partner less than a couple of metres away…
Many people have both toilet and shower fitted and then never use them. Really!
But then many Transporter conversions have great kitchen set ups that are never used too.
ArchieVan’s toilet and shower didn’t work for the first major trip and we didn’t care – that was in summer. It did mean we spent a lot more money on camp sites. Back then I wondered whether having it fitted was a mistake.
On my second trip – deep in winter, a very cold and wet time in the Lake District and the North Yorkshire Dales the loo did work (but still not the shower). And thank heavens that it did.
If you’re going to be out in minus temperatures, or even lashing rain, then being able to nip to a loo within the van is a convenience that you’ll appreciate far more than you might think. Yes, you have to deal with the cassette and it’s dreaded contents, but I promise – it’s not that bad!
The Thetford combo above is pretty similar to the one we’ve had fitted. I’m over 6 feet tall and yet this feels fairly generous. It’s certainly enough room, although we did opt to do without a sink in the shower room.
I can’t yet vouch for the joys of the shower – after almost a year since the van first went to the conversion company the shower still isn’t useable.
A heating system is expensive. Very expensive.
And there is a confusing array of options to choose from, although pretty much everything burns either LPG or diesel.
We saw an underfloor system from a Scandinavian company