Tips for Campervan Traveling

Towing the Zook on the A frame

First test drive with the Zook in tow

When we started our year long campervan trip around South Africa, we were absolute novices. Neither of us had ever slept in a campervan, let alone driven one, until we spent a sum total of two nights in our van on a test run to Stellenbosch. So we had to rely on our years of camping to prepare us for what lay ahead.

As they say, there is nothing better than hindsight. We stumbled and staggered our way along, learning from our many novice mistakes. I decided to share some of the little things we have learned.

  1. Make sure that you unplug your electrical cable before you head off to your next destination. In fact, it’s a good idea to take a walk around the van before you get into the drivers seat. And don’t forget to check under the van for the stuff you may have stashed out of the rain.
  2. Try and remember how you maneuvered the campervan into a great spot under the trees as low hanging branches can rip a skylight fitting off the roof in seconds. Even better, have a spotter checking your blind spots as you move the van.
  3. If you are parking under trees in the summer time, check that they are not fruit bearing and heavily laden with stuff that is just waiting to drop onto your roof. Carry a length of shade cloth in your stowage that you can spread over the roof. This will catch both fruit and leaves that inevitably find campervans irresistible.
  4. If your van has a long overhang at the rear like ours, about 1.2 meters, take care not to sideswipe objects whilst maneuvering to your campsite, especially little Nissan sedans. What would be an un-noticeable nudge to you could be a sledgehammer blow to a little vehicle.
  5. IMG_0676Nobody likes a leaking roof, especially when it’s directly above your bed. If your van is new like ours was when we started, take the time to flood test your roof and then make sure that the drainage is clearing the water off the roof. After a heavy downpour, we discovered that the skylight was not well sealed resulting in a nocturnal bed shower. Not fun at any time. Pack a tube of industrial type sealer or silicone as a last resort.
  6. Pack a well-stocked toolkit. There is always something that’s bound to break/leak/creak/rattle/come loose or generally irritate you to destruction(or re-construction). The bare essentials as follows; assorted screwdrivers, pliers, scissors, duck tape, cutting knife, side cutters, gas pliers, hack saw, hammer, hose clamps, shifting spanner, soldering iron with solder, electrical tape, spare electrical plugs and most importantly, a sense of humor.
  7. Getting water into your motor home tank can be as simple as attaching your hose pipe to the nearby tap. What hosepipe? Are you kidding? Nobody told me about a hose pipe! Yup, check that you have a decent length hosepipe, at least 30m, and an assortment of fittings to attach the pipe to the tap. A universal clamp on type fitting will often save the day as some campsites’ taps do not have a threaded spout. I have now purchased a 30m extension hose with joining fittings as it’s no fun having to move your van every 5-6 days to fill up the tank.
  8. Before you select a site, park your campervan in a convenient space, get your traveling partner/s and have a little leg stretch around the campsite. When you have chosen your site, start by inspecting it for low overhanging branches or other obstructions. Pace out the extent of your regular living space including the van. Make sure that the ground is reasonably level and firm underfoot. Campervans can weigh a couple of tons and will quickly sink into soft ground over a period of time. Measure out the distance to the power outlet and water point to ensure you can reach these. Now that you have chosen your site and have all agreed that it is the best site for you, get out your mobile phone and make a voice recording of the conversation. You will need this just after you have spent three hours setting up camp, as your travelling partner will find an even better site just around the corner.
  9. Avoid parking your van in a depression. Always site your van on the high ground or you may wake up to find that you are literally the island in the stream after an overnight downpour.
  10. IMG_0576The bare minimum standard for coffee is freshly ground beans in a boudum(plunger pot). We have packed a small espresso maker and a good supply of beans donated by Dario’s, our local coffee shop in Hout Bay. There can be nothing better than a freshly made cappuccino after a morning walk.
  11. Never, never argue with the lady from your GPS giving you directions. You will avoid some very tricky situations, especially if like us,  you are pulling a fifth wheel that is awkward to turn in tight places and definitely cannot be backed up. Chances are, she will always be right, but is far too polite to say “told you so…”


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