Campervan for Kayaking

Is it the first sign of old age? We're looking to buy a campervan.

My company car will go at the end of this year and we want a vehicle which we can use day-to-day as well as for longer kayak trips. We've only just started looking, but the Tiree conversion from Jerba Campervans looks promising. Delivery time is five months.

Jerba are part sponsors of my favourite mountain marathon, the OMM (which always clashes with the SCA Perth show!). That's where I first saw their vans.

It has a pop-up roof. When closed it'll carry 120 kilos, more than enough for two kayaks, but they have to be removed for the roof to stay up. The rack and cradles can stay on. But the fuel consumption looks severe, around 35mpg on mixed cycle compared to 57mpg for my Peugeot.

Anyone have experience of using a VW campervan to go kayaking, or using it day-to-day? Advice / comments / suggestions greatly appreciated.


Michael said...

Simon - I am also looking seriously at a small camper van for kayak/camping. There are a few choices over here including the VW. I'm heading to an RV show this weekend to talk shop and will report what I learn if it's useful... BTW, it isn't an 'age' thing! Not yet... LOL

Anonymous said...

Yes Simon, definitely old age coming on.

Campervans invariably involve accepting certain compromises. Fuel consumption is one of them, especially if you want to drive long distance with boats on the roof. If you can live with pottering along at 50-55mph though, they are not too bad.

Storage space is also an issue in a van of that size. With two of you, you will need to be very well organised, especially once you have wet kit to deal with. It's very easy to get everything mucky and wet, and not have room to move.

My own campervan is slightly (although not much) bigger than that one and I do struggle occasionally to be organised enough when I have loads of wet kit.

You might also want to look closely at the size of the bed as they can be quite narrow. Since you are hemmed in on both sides, it's not possible to spread out at all.

That said, it looks a great little van and seems very well specified. The blown air heating option would be well worth having for helping to dry clothing.

I use mine as an everyday vehicle sometimes. It's noticeably bigger than a car, but will still go pretty much anywhere a car will go. Height barriers are the only problem for me, but that van looks like it would go underneath most.

You can't beat having such a warm, dry haven to come back to when it's lashing down with rain, but it will make going back to a tent for multi day paddling trips very hard.

Hope that helps a little.


Simon said...

Thanks Michael & Andrea.

Andrea - that's all really useful stuff we'll take into account when we go look at one of these on Friday.

Michael - it's odd we're doing the same thing, on the same weekend, on opposite sides of the Atlantic! I'm keen to read how you get on.

Douglas Wilcox said...

Simon, that looks great! And 35mpg! My beemer has averaged 28 mpg since I got it! Mind you 95% of its miles are with up to 3 boats on the roof or a trailer with 4!


Anonymous said...

Simon. We've got a VW Transporter with some side windows that we use more as a big tent (throw some mats down on the rubber floor, etc)than a proper campervan. It works really well with the Karitech rack. The advantage over a campervan is that you can throw loads of stuff in the back, like bikes, windsurfing kit and wet paddling gear. We thought about a van like the one you're looking at, but the hassle of storage + having to take the boats off to put the roof up, put us off. Not sure if there is a perfect solution... Interested to see what you end up doing. Gary

Michael said...

Simon - on the pop-top camper seen on my blog it comes with a rear shower spray (hot & cold water!). The shower itself is a cloth setup which fits between the two rear doors with a zippered entrance and a rubber pan to stand in. It's also useful for hanging wet gear to dry after paddling! Otherwise it all goes into the plastic bins to be dried later...

Simon said...

A hot shower in the tail is an optional extra with the one we're looking at. The shower isn't expensive, but the hot water supply is. We're going to stick to the kettle-of-water-in-a-bowl approach.

Kira Rentals (campervan hire Scotland) said...

First - a declaration of interest, I am the owner of Kira Rentals (, we do campervan hire in Scotland. Second - I'm a sea kayaker....

We have designed and built our own version of the VW T5 campervan with my kayaking in mind - partly for selfish reasons but mainly because we could not find anything on the market that met our requirements for a robust, simple, easy maintenance campervan with a low roof that I (sorry, I mean my guests) could get kayaks onto.

Our conversion business is launching at the start of May so it's interesting to see the comments from other paddlers re whats needed in a campervan.

In summary my thoughts are:

a) Choose a good base vehicle - you're about to spend several thousand on a conversion so it would be disapointing if the van subsequently fell apart (my vote is for a VW T5 every time, expensive but they do hold their value).

b) The big upgrade from a tent is the fact that you'll be warm and dry - so put in a good heater unit (we prefer diesel powered Webastos as they work every time & take up little space), it is well worth the money.

c) Make sure you get a good rear seat / bed unit - safety is paramount as you'll doubtless have people travelling on the rear seat.

d) With the furniture, electrics, fridges and cookers - keep it simple and reliable. Most of the campervans we've used in the past have tried to put too much into too small a space. It makes maintenance a nightmare & ultimately creates a fussy, over complicated camper which costs more than is necessary. Get quality components that will just work every time with the minimum of fuss. If it's not entirely necessary leave it out & you'll find that you enjoy living in your campervan more.

e) Pop tops are probably the way to go, but dont rule out a simple low-roof van, it will save you well over £1000 & reduce road noise. Also bear in mind that pop-tops can usually be retrofitted to your camper at a later date if you want to spread the cost a bit it's an option.

f) Finally, paddlers do need to remember that even with a low roof campervan it's still quite a way up with a kayak. Plan on carrying steps or getting a kari-tek roofrack system!

... so all in all (and with only a touch of self interest) I would suggest renting one of our go-pod campervans for a few days to try it out, see what you really truely need and don't let anyone talk you into buying more 'nice-to-haves'.

(By the way, if anyone reckons they can get an article published in the press we might be able to manage a freebie trial for a few days, just give me a shout via


CamperHire Cairns said...

Your blog is so much fun! These images have brought a real smile to my tea break, and I'm loving the chic picnic supplies!

Simon Willis said...

Very kind of you to say so, thank you.