BUYING A CAMPER: MUST HAVES & WOULD BE NICES
We bought our camper without knowing too much about what we wanted or needed. We were pretty open and didn't have a long list of requirements. After six months on the road, we're reflecting on what we think are the ‘must haves’ and ‘would be nices’ if we ever bought again. Remember this is our opinion, and campervans are homes - there is no one size fits all. Campers costing 15k+ generally come with a lot of these as standards, but with older models or DIY converts, it is not always the case. Frankie is our Peugeot Boxer Camper Conversion. Frankie is short for Frankenstein as her externals are a little bit hodge podge which give her a bit of that Frankenstein’s Monster Vibe. She was professionally converted some years ago by POSSL, which apparently is a well renowned camper conversion company. We bought her second hand in the Netherlands (you can read about this process HERE). Since then, she's had MANY DIY upgrades including quite a few done by us.
This wasn't even on our radar when we bought our camper and luckily our campervan came with them but this is a HUGE deal, especially in summer. Being able to open all the windows, and still be protected from mosquitos and flies makes life so much easier.
This one is often debated but we wouldn't give it up for anything. Maybe it's a bit of a 'you don't know what you are missing til you have it'. We weren't particularly looking for a van with a toilet but just so happens ours came with one. It’s in its own private little bathroom that has a little sink and a now defunct shower. Its super handy to just have a place where we can stick things out of sight (wet towels, swimmers, tooth brushes, toiletries, toilet paper)- all the things that don't need floating around. We are both regular wee-ers so the convenience of the the toilet just makes sense. I think the most common phrase we've used on the trip is "god i'm glad we have a toilet'. TMI: Our toilet is a number 1 only space, number 2's happen elsewhere.
A generic model vehicle
Again, we didn't think about this when buying but after we did it came as a recommendation from a friend. It's important to check what model vehicle you have and ensure it is easy to come by parts for. As much as the Vintage Roadbuster 9000 imported from United States might be beautiful - it might be a little tricky to get parts for it in the middle of the Ukraine.
Self catering facilities
This is a bit of a given but important to make sure your vehicle has fridge (not just an esky) and a gas stove for cooking.
We've seen lots of happy campers in a low roof VW California, but for us, the ability to be able to stand up completely in our van is an absolute must have, especially on rainy days when you might be confined to indoors.
Would be nices:
Frankie has a cosy double-ish sized bed at her rear. By fixed bed, we mean it always remains set up. It cannot be packed away and the design of the van suits this. In a lot of van conversions the bed packs up and often becomes part of the dining suite. While we've never been in a van that does this, we've been SO pleased to be able to turn up to a campsite (or random parking lot) late at night, and crawl straight into bed. You will be amazed at how many things need doing before departing to ensure nothing breaks or impales you while driving, so having one less thing to do (pack up a bed) has been a massive plus.
While you can get by filling up plastic bottles or having a small removable water tank, the luxury of having a sink with running water shouldn't be overlooked.
Not essential but are such a nice addition for avoiding the sun.
Bikes open up SO much potential when on the road. It’s great if the camper comes with a rear rack, so you can just pick up some cheap city bikes. Or better yet, like us, splurge on some epic RadRhino eBikes.
LOTS of storage
Never underestimate how happy storage makes you. You can technically do without much storage but honestly, being organised on the road makes everything SO much better.
Some vans, particularly those with rear fixed beds have a "garage" which is basically a storage area that is accessed from the outside of the van. Its really good for being able to jam all the things you don't want floating around the van - eg. toilet chemicals, coolant, wheel chocks, tools etc.
In summary, choosing the perfect campervan to live in full time is difficult until you've actually done it - the things you think wont matter can sometimes become lifesavers, or vice versa. We think we got lucky in picking Frankie, as she had everything we wanted to begin with, and after living in her for 10 months so far, we are grateful for many of her quirks that we never even considered looking for in a camper. Hopefully this list helps future vanlifers when choosing the mobile home that suits them!