What I bought at the Beeld show …
It was a brilliant experience to interact with all the outdoor enthusiasts at the Beeld Holiday Show held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand in February. But even more thrilling was seeing the latest product offerings.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in a caravan, and the closest I’ve come to a motorhome was watching Jack Nicholson beavering around the States in a Winnebago in his Oscar-nominated About Schmidt. I’ve never before had the pleasure of exploring the very latest and greatest of caravans, trailer vans, motorhomes and accessories, set out before us for our inspection. Quite frankly, it blew my mind. What I love about a motorhome is that you don’t need to worry about forgetting that you’re trailing something about four rhinos long behind you. Yes, a motorhome is still large, but at least you don’t have to solve Rubik’s cube each time you try to reverse. It’s also great that with some motorhomes, if you need to stop for a comfort break you can just pull over to the side of the road, pull up the handbrake and go to the loo, have a shower, stretch your legs or even enjoy a little lie-down without having to get out of your car to walk to the caravan and open it. Or you could make a quick cup of tea. It’s brilliant – no worry about rain, hungry lions or angry axe-murderers! Of course, the issue of safety belts for your passengers is so important, but the newer models are coming out with better-designed and more comfortable seatbelts, and with better headrests and head cushions. I’m thinking of getting an ‘I Love Motorhomes’ tattoo. Too much too soon?
Saving for a rhino day I bought four Stop Rhino Poaching wristbands at R20 each, one for myself, one for my son, Ronan, and a pink one for my wife, Gill. The fourth is for Ronan to give to a friend at school to pass the message on. I PAID: R80 for four wristbands. www.stoprhinopoaching.com
Iveco’s giant double-cab 4×4 Daily monster truck was a real show-stopper and head-turner. I felt like a real meneer behind the wheel … and that’s without even turning the engine on. It’s high off the ground, so you need to take it slow getting up or down. You also need to play really soothing, classical music while driving this puppy, cos you don’t want to be responsible for your actions if you succumb to road rage while behind the wheel. I got into this beauty about 12 times over the two days of the show, because it made me feel good. I loved the ‘shhhhhh’ of the seat as it automatically adjusted its height to my weight. The double cab makes it a great touring option, seating up to six people in air-conditioned comfort, but just make sure there’s no Def Leppard on that mix-tape. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: POA. www.travelstar.co.za
Please be seated
The big chill
Waeco fridges are always a winner, but I had to get an upgrade to the CFX- 65 fridge-freezer. Drainage holes, ergonomic control and digital display, a high-impact, weather-resistant cabinet with detachable lid, USB port for charging cellphones etc (when plugged in), a non-slip top and a five-year warranty. I had to! I PAID: R8 299 (show price). www.dometic.co.za, www.waeco.co.za (I put it on the card to pay over six months, as the show had swallowed up all my cash by this stage.)
A Classique upgrade
The Jurgens Classique has updated its interior upholstery to create a fresh new look, while the separate loo and shower just feels right. You really need that space on a long trip as it keeps those feelings of ‘I can’t stand it in this small space’ away, which lets everyone feel more relaxed. There’s really good storage as well as nice big windows to give it a more contemporary look from the outside while, from the inside, bringing in more light and more views of the great outdoors. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: POA. www.jurgens.co.za
Put a lid on it
I couldn’t pass up the toilet roll cover as a gift for a friend who really enjoys camping but likes to rough it. Toilet rolls aren’t cheap, and if any rain or damp gets on them, then a roll can be wasted quicksticks. And that stuff is almost as crucial as water on a longer trip. Also, let’s say you’re out in the wild, and your toilet roll’s just lying there, uncovered, with insects crawling around … Last thing you want is for a nasty to creep out from the hole and onto your hand while you’re making your way to the loo. I PAID: R50 for the single toilet roll holder. www.campcover.co.za
Bending the rules
Talking to Geert Jurgens was a thrill: he beamed with pride as he showed me some of Fendt’s new offerings. Caravan folk are all so passionate about what they do, and the Fendt team is no exception. They’re also among the leading lights when it comes to innovating with their products, from turning electrical wiring into something approaching an art form to jazzing up the interiors by thinking out the box. ‘Why use cheap fittings when you can add more upmarket light fittings, shower heads and light switches? You don’t have to fit the standard one from the hardware store,’ he explained, and it just made so much sense. Their New Fendt 2013 Saphir 560 SKM incorporates a host of innovations, putting it high on our family’s wish list. Great TVs pop out when needed – although the pleasures of the plasma are strictly rationed on our family holidays – and the dedicated bunk bed leaves the dining table free, although it can convert to a single bed if needed. I also love that extra touch of style lavished on the kitchen, and the fact that the toilet is separate from the ample shower. The cherry on top is that every possible nook and cranny has been masterfully converted into stylish storage space, from the bathroom through to the kitchen, the dining area and even around the master bed. Aaaah, and then there’s the safety aspect – never overlook safety! The two rear fog lamps and two reversing lights offer peace of mind in difficult driving conditions. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: R389 450 (show price). www.fendt-caravan.co.za
I was quite tickled by the TravelStar Amarok Camper’s triangular-oval table, which can be swivelled around. It’s a cute feature that especially appeals to me as a writer, and it makes it so much easier for daddylong- legs to get in and out, compared to those 1970s-style fixed square tables. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: R283 000 (show price for the camper unit conversion). www.travelstar.co.za
Conqueror of the Aussies
Conqueror’s Conquest took top honours as Winner of the Best Off-Road Camper Award in Australia, and with their track record it’s easy to see why. Compact and super hardy, it’s the sort of camper you really do want to get lost with. Of course, in terms of comfort and luxury look no further than their prized 450 and 550 Roadster caravans. Aside from the creature comforts, what’s so impressive with both models is that the water tank has been carefully designed to create a lower centre of gravity, all windows are double glazed and lock individually, there’s a blower to pressurize the cabin for minimum dust penetration… plus loads of storage. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: POA. www.conqueror. co. za
I know where I’m going
The last man to stop and ask for directions was probably a woman in drag. Men just don’t. However, we’re not averse to fiddling around with the latest GPS gadget. That’s not asking for directions: that’s teamwork! You can’t argue with Garmin’s quality and reliability. Mr GPS himself, Kevin Bolton (pictured), was at the show, and his recommendation was the Montana 600. Rugged and ready for the outdoors, it has a large, bright touchscreen, dual orientation display (with built-in mapbase), high-sensitivity GPS receiver and … and … and …! I ONLY NEED TO SAVE: R7 000. www.garmin.co.za
Throw your toys out the cot
The friendly Armadillo
I love the size of this bad boy – the Armadillo Overland. You want to explore the bush in luxury, and the Armadillo opens up to present you with 27 m2 of space in just 18 minutes. It’s also great to be high up off the ground and shielded from the elements, and the way the side walls fold down to provide a double bed, living space opposite and ‘patio’ at the back (aka a portable dance floor) allows you to enjoy a spacious and solid living space. This unit is for serious travelling and it’s been designed with great storage popping out from unexpected spaces. It’s deep on the pocket, but what a way to travel … and with a full shower. No, really – a FULL shower, with the same shower base as most home showers. Despite its rugged, trucklike exterior, the interior is surprisingly stylish and has some really great aesthetic touches: I loved the archive map decal in the invaluable. But just watch out for friends trying to cop free Toy Hauler loans for plan the next day’s route all at the same time. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: POA. (Perhaps I should reply to that email suggesting I’m the last surviving heir of mining magnate William Herbert III.) www.armadillo-overland.com
Sensation launched the Anee caravan at the Beeld Holiday Show, and we were the first to snoop around inside while the last touch-ups were still being done. Anee offers that extra bit of luxury, with high-quality finishes throughout. Top of my list are the abundance of LED lighting inside and out – the flexible reading lights look great (and work beautifully) – the opening windows (with netting and blinds) and skylights, the spacious front and rear storage spaces, the loads of cupboards and the comfortable shower and toilet. It’s a stunning unit for a couple to travel in. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: POA. www.sensationoutdoor.co.za
The comfort king
The Vista 3 motorhome configuration on display had a feature I was really taken with: the back opens up like the A-Team’s van – maybe that’s the real reason I like it! With the bed right at the back, you can literally roll out of bed and fall six feet to your morning wake-up call (if you sleep with the doors open, that is). Pushing the bed up into the back opens up the available space, and I loved being able to lie on the bed with my feet dangling out over the side … while watching TV. There’s a great feeling of openness that just felt ‘holiday’ too. There’s also brilliant attention to interior detail and comfort, and the way the driver and passenger seats swivel round is brilliant, as is the great little TV screen in the dashboard for driver and passenger. The chairs are also really comfy. I hope buyers pay enough attention to chairs when they select a motorhome – and if they do, this baby should be right at the top of their list. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: POA. www.vistamotorhomes.co.za
The big bang
I’ve always been terrified of gas, ever since I was next into the lavatory after dear old Grandpa Felix. My mom and dad sometimes used gas at home and when they took the family picnicking in Newlands Forest, but they always seemed a little awkward around it. I always closed my ears – yet couldn’t stop looking! – when Dad’s shaky hand held the match near those hissing holes. However, gas is so quick and convenient that I know I need to face this demon – and how else do you cook when it’s raining? So I took the plunge and bought a universal gas bottle holder. I also suffer a bit from obsessive compulsive … Hang on, did I turn off the hot plate after making breakfast this morning? So if I’m going to be driving a gas bomb around, I need to know it’s safe and secure at the back. I PAID: R495 (show price, recommended retail R585). www.frontrunner.co.za (Perhaps in a couple of months I might even buy some gas cylinders to store in it.) Lunar landing
Howling Moon’s new Lunar Rooftop Tent is great to keep you safe from any cheetahs that haven’t yet learned how to climb steep ladders. Easy to assemble – ten seconds and it’s up! – and with great bracket extensions, it gives you more shade as well as extra protection from the rain. It offers full height across the entire bed area, as well as a netting pouch on the ceiling which is perfectly position to hold your cellphone, book or wallet. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: R17 999 (show launch price). www.howlingmoon.co.za
It’s amazing- amazing- azing
The Echo 6 off-road trailer is simply astonishing. Developed over three years, it’s a marvel of space optimisation and ease of use, not to mention highly robust. Once you’ve set up camp it seems as if you’ve erected an entire suburb. Overlanding is so rewarding and comfortable with all the great tent coverage you get from the Echo 6, plus the brilliant popout storage and a really nice kitchen sink and washing-up space. You know you need that for a long trip. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: POA. www.echo4x4.co.za [must not be positioned near conqueror]
You can never have enough ‘torch’ on holiday, but don’t you hate having to check if the batteries are all charged or worrying about them running flat? That’s why I couldn’t resist the USB-rechargeable NiteCore Cree XM-L LED P25 flashlight, which produces 860 lumens with a 2600 mAh battery. A perfect 16 cm long, it has a peak beam intensity of 20 000 cd and a throw distance of up to 283 metres. There are a number of great, powerful torches on the market, and this is certainly one of them. I PAID: R1360 (show price, recommended retail R1650). www.nitecoresa.co.za
Dynamite on wheels
We featured the classy little Camperi in our December 2012 / January 2013 edition. It’s low-priced and with a low ceiling, but I really like the height it gives when you raise the roof. It’s also compact and an easier towing option, yet there’s still a fair feeling of space inside. Yes you’ll shower and cook outside – on opposite sides of the caravan, naturally! – but it’s worth it for the price and the size. The aluminium protective panelling is great for fighting rust and protecting against bumps and scratches, so it should make the Camperi a long-lifer! The owner of Aloe Caravans, Allan Keyzer, is a seasoned camper and a terrific chap, and these units of his are a true labour of love. Their target market is retired people keen to travel light, and possibly former campers who now want a bit more security or less hassle with putting up tents and all. Young single people might consider saving some cash for a few years by living in this unit instead of a dingy little flat, with the added benefit that they’re paying for their mobile holiday home at the same time. I STILL NEED TO SAVE: R149 989 (base price for the Camperi). www.aloecaravans.co.za
Those caravan designers are so clever! The LED strip lighting that most manufacturers are using internally and externally these days is lower on power but gives a contemporary feel. If you haven’t been inside a caravan for a couple of years, you’re really in for a pleasant surprise. The strip lighting gives a soft, warm glow over a wider area. Also very impressive is the increasing use of wallmounted, contemporary anglepoise light fittings. You’re gonna read on holiday (or keep a travel journal), so you and your better half will need good lighting on either side of the bed.
The right buttons
The pushbutton pop-out drawer and door handles everyone is using are ingenious. Not worrying about bumping a handle gives you that little extra sense of space that can make all the difference living in a confined space. The flamingo shower I’m just not that into those caravans where the shower is in the toilet, forcing you to stand on one leg, flamingo-like, while you wash. However, everything is a compromise and caravan design is all about space, so I guess having a more cramped toilet and shower will allow you more living space or an extra bed within your budget. Fortunately, there is so much choice out there, and manufacturers can also tweak designs according to your needs. And so what if you have a slightly cramped shower for a couple of days, or even a fortnight? You’re on holiday – there are bigger fish to fry out there!
Most of the caravans and motorhomes at the show used mirrors brilliantly to give the feeling of more space and, with the smaller mirrors, to create visual interest. Fantastic inspiration for DIY projects.