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Caravan Salon Exhibition Dusseldorf 2017

Achtung Camper reporting on the latest and greatest from the campervan world internationally.  We recently attended our second Caravan Saalon Exhibition in Dusseldorf, Germany and got to see what the biggest and best companies from Europe and the UK are doing campervan and motorhome wise.

The first thing that hits you when you attend a caravan and camping exhibition overseas is the sheer size.  We are used to (what we feel are!) very large exhibitions with lots of sheds and km’s to cover in Australia.  Arrive at an exhibition in Europe and you’ll see just how small the market is here.  The vast array of (often extremely similar) campervans on offer is baffling.  How can any of these companies compete with each other when they all look so similar!  That question is answered by walking through the streets in any German town – where you will spot at least one new T6 campervan or old Westfalia parked on pretty much every street corner.  Campervanning is BIG here!  And with THEIR climate, you’d wonder how so many people find the cash to finance a camping mobile they probably won’t be using for 50% of the year due to the hard winters.

And the differences in travelling style that the climate and landscape bring are reflected in the features included in the campervans built for travel in the UK and Europe.  Densely populated areas and no long dry spells of unrelenting heat mean it is always easy to fill up water and food no matter where you are on your travels.  Unlike Australia where you might drive for days without a clean water source or food store, it is not necessary here to be as self-sufficient as it is during an Australian road trip.  We considered the harshness of the Australian when looking the features in 90% of the campervans on offer in Europe and the UK:

  • One small draw fridge as opposed to our ‘large’ 50, 65 or 80 litre upright fridges.
  • One 10 litre water tank as opposed to our 40-litre tank.
  • Minimal cabinetry/storage as opposed to our full cabinetry. The majority of trips here are taken over the weekend not months at a time.

We were disappointed and proud all at once, on one hand there was little to learn from companies who have LESS features and usability than an Achtung Camper.  Conversely, we were proud when it sunk in that these guys actually have it a lot easier than the folk building campervans for the Australian public.  Sure, it’s easy to build a van with minimal cabinetry, water and food storage.  But Achtung Camper (and the handful of other Australia suppliers) had managed to fit so much more into that small space, and still make it liveable.

Our disappointment continued when we finished our third enormous hall of campervans on show.  Westfalia (the original VW campervan converter and still the most prominent) and 90% of the other companies all had the same modern grey interior.  Yes, it looks slick and inoffensive, but to us? It’s just plain boring!   Where were the crazy fashionable boundary pushing interiors?   (In Geelong, apparently!)

Then we came to a very small setup with only two vans on show and two young men talking to the press.  The German company called Kampagnia was opened only 2 years earlier and offers about 20 different film faced formply colours to choose from for your cabinetry.  Colours we could only dream about were available here.  After chatting to our new friends for a while we found many similarities between their company and ours, two young people with a drive to do something different and let clients personalise the look of their vans, a drive to do something colourful and cutting edge.

Another company worth mentioning – Dogs Campers (crazy considering having a dog as a pet is not nearly as popular in Germany as it is in Australia).  That’s right, campervans designed specifically for the camping dog owner.  We loved some of their features such as the integrated dog cage but didn’t really like the brash dog-related branding on the outside of the vans.

That’s not to say we didn’t get some great new ideas from the exhibition  and European market offerings.  Quite the contrary, Achtung Camper are now working harder than ever to integrate some awesome new features to our range.  Here are some of the ideas we are currently working on for our vans:

  • Diesel heater with hot water.
  • LED exterior light as a feature for the Nature Lover conversion.
  • LED light strips for the interior.
  • Power control system/phone app to view water tank level, leisure battery power level, temperature inside and outside.
  • Better quality plug and play cold shower.

The real highlight of the exhibition (besides the free champagne and finger food at 10am on Trade Day!) – being able to step inside a 1.5-million-euro motorhome.  Yes, something this crazy and ridiculous exists.  Check out the pics below and dream away…!

Campervan accessories – websites and shops to check out when shopping for your campervan

You’ve got your campervan but now you need the accessories! Where to start?

We’ve put together a list of the best value shops and websites to check out before you start your journey.

Justkampers.com.au

This is a UK based VW campervan accessory online shop that has EVERYTHING you need and more. Now with an Australian online shop based in Sydney, they have van hardware to electrical items to the kitchen sink. Literally.

Ikea

Yes that’s right, Ikea. They have great storage solutions for small spaces plus amazingly cheap bathroom and kitchen accessories, in plastic and other travel safe materials. We’ve picked up amazingly compact clothes racks, magnetic spice rack containers and tiny portable LED alarm clock/temperature gauges just to name a few.

Ikea storage

Ikea storage

BCF, Rays Outdoors and Aussie Disposals

Although Aussies seem to win on price, they just don’t have the range that you’ll find in the other two stores.

BCF is handy when looking for outdoor shelters/tent style marquees to attach to either the side or back of your van.

Rays has a great selection of camping chairs, kitchen necessities and lighting options.

Jaycar

If you pass a Jaycar pop in and check out their range of camping accessories, most being electric. They have some great lighting options and power solutions and can usually help you with any advice you’ll need on getting the right product for you.

To pop top or not to pop top? That is the question…

So you’ve decided on a campervan conversion and now need to make the decision of whether you want the added pop top roof. The answer depends on many different factors, all important when you are considering whether to fork out $8000 for an extending roof…

Your camping style – Do you plan on travelling or spending any time staying in cooler weather? If you actively avoid the cold weather and have an aversion to cooking inside your van then you need to have a think about how much time you will spend standing up inside your campervan. If your cooker is portable and you can sit down to prepare/cook food inside the van or don’t plan on cooking or washing dishes inside the van then you may have no need for the additional height a pop top will give you.

Your age – Without being ageist, I am going to make the assumption that the older you are, the more issues you may have with your back and the more likely you are to require the ability to stand up completely straight while moving around inside your campervan. Similarly, someone young might not mind walking the few feet from the bed to the door with their stooped slightly.

Your health – As per the above, if you have issues with your back you will most likely need a pop top roof.

Your height – Although this doesn’t have to be a deciding factor, if you’re over 6 foot you might decide the additional height is a must.

Your budget/alternate options.- If the additional $8000 for a pop top roof is going to break the budget but you’d like a bit of additional height consider the alternatives.

Re-sale – How long are you planning on keeping your van? Vans without a pop top roof are harder to re-sell as the majority of people assume they require one (even though they may not!).

The VW Transporter is also available in a mid roof. Although you’ll need to check on the internal height of your garage if you plan on keeping it inside, this is often a good option if you don’t want to pay for a pop top. Keep in mind that you can’t stand up completely upright in one of these unless you are quite short. They will however, give you that extra bit of height which will make the van feel more roomy inside and also give you additional storage space inside the roof above the front seats.

VW mid roof and low roof

VW mid roof and low roof

VW Campervan with pop top roof.

VW Campervan with pop top roof.

A motorhome/larger size van such as a Mercedes Sprinter or Fiat Ducato (think ambulance sized!) are larger sized vans both in height, length and width. This means you can stand up inside and also have more room for campervan features. On the downside they may be that tiny bit too big for those living in cities and built up areas or who aren’t the best parallel parkers…