“Honey, lets take the camper out for the weekend and go hiking!” I ask my girlfriend as we lie in my overly comfortable bed, swaying slightly from left to right in the wind, the log burner still glowing from last nights fire. At this point I should probably mention I live on a 1931 WW2 boat on the river Severn and not a hammock, and in case you were questioning it, yes, I do have a fireplace in my bedroom, it's amazing!
Also when I say camper what I really mean is my most recent adventure purchase, an old Land Rover Defender, called Mana, which I’ve turned into a camper. I’ve always taken a tent when going away hiking so was keen to campare (like compare but for camping stuff – I just made that up and quite proud of it. I must get that in the dictionary) the two. Also don’t get me wrong. I’d prefer to wild camp too but this is virtually impossible down in the South West, apart from obviously Dartmoor, the only place you can legally camp wild in England and Wales.
So we take Monday off work and set off late Friday night for a long weekend in Cornwall. We arrive late and it’s obviously pouring with rain, standard, but that doesn’t bother us as we can just climb through the back and get into bed - 1 point for camper vans. It’s a bit of a squeeze but no different from a two man tent. I have a rule that if you can stand up in your tent then you’re not camping, your’e just staying in a fabric house. After seeing some of the monstrosity campers next to us I think I may enforce that same rule for campers too. I like the awkwardness of being in a small sleeping space. It’s a lot more adventurous and significantly cosier.
The next morning we wake up and the sun is out. I begin setting up a table and chairs and pull out the small awning that attaches to the roof-rack giving us some shelter from rain or sun - 1 point for camper. We cook breakfast and then spend the day doing The Sun crossword (The Guardian one is too hard for us), attempting, and failing miserably, to learn how to surf, which is a yearly event for me, and then ending the day with a nice long hike along the cliffs.
We then retire back to the camper and make friends with some hippy-sters. (Another word I just made up and it’s a beach hipster who has a beard and VW camper) That evening we cook dinner and then after a few too many Rattler Ciders we retire. Night two wasn’t as smooth though. The wind picked up and because Mana is so damn tall even the smallest gust knocks us from side to side – 1 point for low lying tent. If the wind picked up significantly then I guess a tent wouldn’t be good either but for now the camper is the lesser choice. Also in the middle of the night it got really hot. It was raining outside so I couldn’t open the window so just had to stew inside – 1 point to tent for better ventilation.
The next morning my girlfriend said she wanted to go to St Ives, which was a good hours drive away. I figured we might as well find another campsite there. Within 10 minutes we were packed up and on the road – 1 point for camper for packing up time. That afternoon we explored a bit more before retiring for the night. Monday came around and again we packed up early to explore another beach before finally heading back to reality. (Although living on a WW2 boat is often very surreal)
It had been a great relaxing long weekend and now I had the long drive home to think about all the pros and cons of a camper vs tent as a base for your weekend's activities. On paper the camper was the better choice. Easier to set up, better for moving locations, slightly more comfortable and quieter to sleep in. That was on paper but I have to be honest, I missed my tent. I loved the camper because it way MY Landy and I have become quite attached to her, as most Defender drivers will tell you. I think if I had been in someone else’s camper I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I think next time I’ll still take Mana but sleep in a tent, it just feels like the better way to go camping, like I did when I was a kid. My girlfriend disagrees, she loves the camper. Guess I’ll have the tent to myself next time.