So far, we've looked at the 'hard' specifications of a camper. Now it's time to consider the more aesthetic qualities! i.e. layout. Motorhome/RV layouts are varied; many are bespoke designs. But the ingredients of each are much the same... cab, seating area, bedroom(s), galley/kitchen, bathroom. Let's have a look at our 'Goldilocks' choices and rationale.
The cab is not a paid ride to the shopping centre, but the foremost area where the driving and navigating happens. Exciting, eh?
[ed: this can only get better]
Yeah, okay. You know what the cab is. Why is it important? Because seeing both where you're going on the road and more generally around the surrounding area are key elements of road-tripping. Especially if, like us, it's more about the journey than the destination; then having a good panorama window is crucial. Not entirely surprisingly, the higher you sit, the better the view of the countryside - at least for the passenger - as well as the road ahead (including obstacles!) for the driver.
In terms of motorhome choice, it's mostly a question of height; taking into account the issues expressed earlier. However, sometimes having too good a view of the 1500 foot drop (no barriers) just a few feet off to one side of your suddenly-fragile-looking-tyre can be a bit disconcerting. At those moments you'd rather be crawling on your belly, digging your toenails into the tarmac.
At other times the world can just open up, and you can't stop everywhere for a selfie/group shot (no euphemism intended that time), but you wouldn't want to miss it.
Talking about group shot, now that I am apparently doing so, the best road trip views are better when shared with all passengers. 99.99% (roughly) of motorhomes and RVs have two seats up front in the cab, whilst the other inhabitants have to make do with a side window as the brush hurries past.
"Wow, would you look at that!"
"Where, I can't see it! What is it?"
"What? Where for Christ's sake?"
"Just up ahead... oh sorry," driver/passenger trying not to sound too smug, "coming up on your left in a minute. It's incredible. Just incredible."
"On your left. No, the other left!"
"Shit. Missed it."
And so back to their book, whilst trying not to give in to motion sickness.
Perhaps the old car designs of bench seats still have something going for them. Except for the lack of seat belts. And airbags. And a glut of sweaty armpits.
Many modern coach-built campers have what the marketeers call 'panorama windows' i.e. the bloody huge front windscreen. Lovely, wonderful, but what happens when the thing breaks?
Those panoramic windows are great at attracting stones and birds! Still, my greatest bugbear is the habit of makers of many larger motorhomes to design two metres of dashboard curving down from the seating position to the bottom of your lovely panoramic windscreen. The crap that gets lost over the edge to flutter around somewhere in the depths near (or inside) the air vents is astonishing. Once a week we used to mount an expedition to recover some of it.
Really, somebody tell me. What is that valuable real estate supposed to be for? And don't tell me the engine needs to go somewhere - I'm sure that they put the engine in sideways just so that they can build in some more dashboard and a bigger panoramic window.
And our preference, for two adults? A good sized windscreen, without being bloody 'panoramic', and one for which a replacement stands a good chance of being available somewhere locally when the thing inevitably breaks. Plus a 'square' seating position - meaning pretty much car-like rather than throne-like.
[ed: well that's clear]
I sometimes become genuinely scared when I wander around campers/RVs. Do you wanna know why?
[ed: oh, please tell us, Robin, this sounds really really exciting]
All right then, I shall tell you. It's not the carpets or the curtains (although they do often create a wave of nausea as your brain desperately tries to convince your eyes that they really can't be that colour, and there really can't be that many types of swirly Paisley). It's not even the indistinct yet distinctive curling aromas of rarely emptied black tanks and mildew. No, it's not that. Rather it's the seating area that does it. Acres of seating - the 'lounge area', the marketeers would insist. Miles and miles of desert-like cushions and a table that opens (kamasutra like) in sixty different ways, each position designed to match the number of guests gathered around like the Last Supper (Christians: please don't be offended; I am not implying that the Last Supper was pre-empted or completed with an orgy.
Although there's probably some reason Judas left early, no?)
And speaking of the kamasutra, this is the bit that scares me. The only reason I can think of to have an RV/motorhome seating area with room for 13 plus the Holy Spirit plus dog, is if the underlying design rationale was to support the RV owners' Swinger proclivities.
Reminds me of the 'Christmas Pot Luck'.
Don't think about me being unnecessarily prudish here, either. I'm not talking about some kind of fantasy hot-tub party; I'm imagining a bunch of octogenarian snowbirds trying to emulate Marilyn Monroe without the Channel No.5 and wearing nothing but cold sweat. On the origami table are two glasses for each guest. One for the glass of cheap plonk, the other for the false teeth.
You probably understand what I mean, without a hope of understanding why I harbour this '-ism'. No matter - the end result for us is a specification for a camper that includes 2 to 4 seating places. Only.
Not so complicated, since there are just the two of us, and taking into account the above seating requirements:
- A double bed
- A bathroom with toilet
- A kitchen
- A seating area
The bed must be permanent. We're not keen on turning the lounge area into a bed every night. We need to keep the sofa clear for our semi-naked guests.
The bathroom must include a proper toilet, not a bucket - either a black tank or cassette system. Preferably, the bathroom includes a shower too.
The kitchen must have a sink and at least two burners, plus a fridge (compressor, not absorption type) and enough storage for food and culinary kit. Ideally, we'd also like an oven. Being a 'veggie' kitchen means we need all the cooking options, if possible.
The seating area - well - perhaps enough said? Space to work at for writing and art work, photography etc.
A storage area is a tricky one; too much and you waste space in the overall design with implications for camper size; too little and you spend a month at a time trying to make one pair of brogs go the distance. Trust me, it doesn't work. A garage is valuable too: it gives you somewhere to store bicycles etc. Mobility from the base camper is important if you want to get out and about in the cities.
In summary, you might not be able to swing a cat in your campervan, but a small squirrel would do as a minimum.
A difficult one to define - but most people have an idea in their head how their dream camper is going to 'look and feel'. It could be a design theme in terms of colours. It could be about the finishing and soft furnishings. Perhaps it's more about suiting the goals of the road trips planned - global overlanding? True off-road? Weekends at the local lake with the kids? Swingers' club?
[ed: stop it]
One large RV we saw on a campsite in the US had a large lounge with a huge desk and several wrap-around monitors. The owner was 'something in oil', and he used the RV as his mobile office.
Others we've seen have been designs on the classic VW camper again - painted with flowers and adorned with surf boards. You know the look. Cool 'n' hip. It's a case of: whatever rocks your boat.