Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Wild Campervan camping. The essential site tools.

Wild Camping in the Radnorshire Hills.Hats off to OS Maps and Google Earth!
About 9 months ago, after a gap of several years, I reacquainted myself with the joys of V Dub van life. After previously owning several classic old Type 2 ‘Bay’ VW Campervans I acquired a 15 year old Type 4 Turbo Diesel camper which given the current inflated market, cost less than I would have paid for an average warts and all Bay. I love the old aircooled V Dubs with a passion but there is no getting away from the fact that they are expensive to run and as reliable as a Nigerian Internet scam! Delivering no more than around 26mpg, the underpowered 1600 engine is not renowned for a long, trouble free, high mileage life. I remember a trip down to Cornwall a few years ago when I saw about three old buses laid up on the side of the road, engine door up and owners scratching their heads! Been there, done that and bought the T shirt!

Anyway...it doesn’t matter whether what mode of camper you are in, what appeals to most owners is the freedom it delivers to go away on a whim and take advantage of a clement weather window and head for a destination which is perhaps unfamiliar. Having a van is a flexible way of having this option although whether or not you could describe it as a ‘low cost’ option is debatable given the cost of buying, taxing, insuring and maintaining a camper. Of course, saving accommodation charges will save you a lot of dosh if you are away regularly and if you own a decent VW with low depreciation costs there is a chance you will be able to sell your vehicle for virtually what you paid for it. However, to really make it pay and to exploit its potential you really need to ‘Wild Camp’. That is avoid camp sites at all costs. Those hideous private sites where you may pay up to £30 a night for the privilege of parking up in a field full of caravans, tents and vans.The heady aroma of barbequing Asda burgers and minging cider, the sound of Radio 1 and screaming children your soundtrack for the evening. Sheesh !!!

No siree...To experience real freedom while saving yourself a fortune, you really need to use your nous and find yourself a quiet place far from the madding crowds, where you can park up for the night and relax after a days climbing, hillwalking or just bumming around as a regular tourist. I write this having just returned from the Radnorshire Hills on the Wales/England border. Its an area that I’m not familiar with but I was determined to combine some walking- taking in some 2000‘ peaks- with some wild camping, and this is where the old and the new mapping elements mesh perfectly for what the American’s call ‘Stealth camping’.

One of the best ways to find a wild camping spot is to use a good old fashioned Ordnance Survey map with Google Earth. You can easily scan the area you intend to visit for potential sites and then use Google Earth to do an aeriel recce and switch to street view if possible. Using this method, in the last couple of months, I’ve found a wonderful remote spot on the Northumbria coast just a short stroll through the sand dunes to an empty beach of golden sands. And a couple of days ago I was high up amongst those Radnorshire Hills, close to some great little peaks and as peaceful and undisturbed as you could wish for.

Wild Campervan Camping.Meet the neighbours!
True, wild camping in a camper is not for those who seek those home from home comforts. Going to the toilet involves a spade; having a shower usually involves either one of those plastic solar showers or a bag of baby wipes, and if you are of a nervous disposition and with every creak of a branch or snap of a twig, you imagine that an axe murderer is creeping ever closer- then stick to the sites. However, statistically, you are more likely to have a weirdo holed up next to you on a camping site than wandering around in the back of beyond.But if you really want to exploit wild campervan camping's potential, then you really need to combine the traditional navigational properties of the Ordnance Survey map with the amazing features within Google Earth's global mapping framework.

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