FROM THE ARCHIVE: Camping It Up

5 Mar

First published in SmartLife International volume 11 issue 3(also known to fans of the printed word as ‘The Last One’), as thoughts turn to summer holidays here’s a helpful little piece on extreme camping. No, not ‘glamping’, because that’s a term that belongs to piss-poor chick lit, the kind of magazines that encourage you to ‘steal their look’ and makes me so unrationally angry I could kick the face off a baby seal. But I’m getting sidetracked. So, updated and now with some new bits and words I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to print in the magazine, don’t book that UK break until you’ve read it…

CAMPING IT UP

Looking for a more thrifty alternative to expensive foreign travel and pricey hotels this year? STUART PRITCHARD has just the answer: get back to the great outdoors and go camping instead…

Sometimes people that I like to refer to as ‘idiots’ criticise the things we do and feature in this magazine as being unrealistic, over the top and far, far too expensive. “Luxury lifestyle magazine!” I say, pointing to the qualifier on the cover, “If you bought a magazine called Photos of Pigs with the qualifier ‘The Pig Photo Bible’ you wouldn’t expect it to be full of drawings of microwaves, would you?” But it never seems to help and they tend to go on, asking if we know there’s a recession and why we don’t do articles for everyday people such as on budget holidays and the like. “Luxury lifestyle magazine!” I say again, although with slightly less patience and more incredulity, “Pig magazine? Microwaves? No?” Of course at this stage I would normally walk away or hang up the phone, but recently one of these ‘idiots’ asked me why we’d never done a travel piece on caravanning as an alternative to always jetting around the world destroying the environment and that gave me an idea… Travelling from Big Fat Gypsy Wedding to Big Fat Gypsy Wedding in a tin box in which the lavatory is always too close can’t be the only way to indulge in caravanning can it? No, it ruddy isn’t! As always, if there’s a way to do something, there’s also an expensive, over-blown, excessive and extreme way to do it too. Even caravanning…

Post-apocalyptic holiday fun to be had! See that fire? That used to be a person.

Airstream International 684

Probably the most iconic and eye-catching of all the mobile-home options, the Airstream is akin to towing around a 50s American diner but without all the flashing neon and “actress” waitresses. Most normally found in the US due to their colossal, Brit road-blocking dimensions, the International 684 is actually European road-approved. And if you think that was obvious given the name ‘International’, I point you towards the baseball World Series. Hand-riveted aluminium bodywork gives the 28ft, four-berth Airstream its distinct, expensive look on the outside, but it’s up the automatic electric steps that you’ll find the perfect haven in which to view the great outdoors, for inside you’ll find a polished aluminium can of dreams, complete with a fully equipped galley kitchen, fixed double bed, bathroom with shower, leather u-shaped sofa, built in TV and radio antennas plus speakers and MP3-player input, and even optional air conditioning.

Like being Tron. On holiday. In a 90s iMac.

So in an aluminium nutshell what the Airstream offers the outward bound is all the comforts of a small, shiny home that isn’t a white plastic eyesore and which might actually be admired by fellow drivers rather than loathed for being in the way. Now the only question is what car should you use to tow it? Well if you carry on down the stainless steel finish route it would have to be the DeLorean DMC-12, wouldn’t it? If you can find one that has the power to actually pull a caravan. And which hasn’t been turned into a time machine.

Price: from £55,400

Insert Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries here...

Futuria sport+spa

Gott im Himmel! Yes from our friends over in Germany comes what has to be the pinnacle of camping excess, the Futuria sports+spa truck – over 36ft of absolute opulence on the go. Okay from the outside it looks like a truck, but that’s only because it is. But it’s also so much more! Pulled by a straight four-engine, common rail, 16-valve DOHC, variable turbocharger with intercooling toting cab, the Futuria still falls into our caravan category because unlike other trucks that are merely used to transport goods, hide illegal immigrants and help get prostitutes off the streets, the Futuria is also a high-end home! Pop inside and you’ll find all you could ever need including two single beds, a leather seating area with table for up to 10, dimmable remote control LED lighting, full electrics, sideboard, cabinets, wardrobes, sink with faucet and boiler, air conditioning, 2x DVD/CD-players, iPod dock, SAT receiver, invisible flat panel loudspeakers, LED/LCD screens, Miele coffee machine and microwave, and a refrigerator. The best you’d get in any other truck is a cold dark room and a Yorkie bar.

Don't just 'stay' at a campsite, 'occupy' it.

Then, just when you think it couldn’t get any better, oh God look at that – it just gave birth to a Gumpert! Obviously, the supercar doesn’t actually come with the Futuria, but if you have one, that’s where it’ll go until you fancy whipping it out and causing an outbreak of slack-jaw amongst onlookers.

She doesn't come with it. Or maybe she does. I'll check.

Then, just when you think it couldn’t get any better again you pop upstairs from the lounge and what do you find? A sun deck complete with its own spa bath! Its own spa bath! Just imagine how popular that will make you at the campsite. It may cost a little more than your average Coachman Pastiche and it may be slightly more difficult to get down narrow, winding country roads, but what’s a bit of expense and a few dry stone walls when it comes to looking this damn awesome?

Price: €379,130

High camp at its very best.

Design Q ABJ Explorer One & Explorer Four

Probably the absolute ultimate in camping kit, the Explorer One and Explorer Four are, yes, private jets. But, but, before you start claiming that private jets don’t really fall under the camping remit, wait. Still at the concept stage, these jets are the product of a union between BAE Systems and UK design consultancy Design Q and, yes, they do belong here because they’re not just private jets, they’re private jets with proper lounges, beds, dining rooms, staff quarters and even balconies from which to sneer at fellow campers in their land-shackled caravans. So, yes, this is a mobile home.

Top tip: Air Deck does not function at all well whilst inflight.

The first of five concept jets, the addition of the balcony, or ‘Air Deck’ is a first in aviation history and are to be aimed at – wait for it – “the high net worth individual who wants the freedom to travel and explore remote locations in a stylish and comfortable way”. In other words: no riff-raff. As you can see this one has brought its happy high net worth campers to the wilds of Africa, and what better a platform to view the savage beauty of nature from than the Air Deck of your own luxury jet, sitting with a glass of something bubbly in your hand while watching a lion putting a wildebeest inside itself? Sounds ideal doesn’t it? Just warn your pilot not to hit any elephants during takeoff or landing and you’re laughing. But even though this lot have chosen Africa there’s nothing to stop you landing and setting up camp at any one of the UK’s countless caravan parks. Well other than the management of said caravan parks, other caravaners and air traffic control that is, otherwise nothing.

Price: give over!

Dethleffs Megaron 950 TK

The final word in caravans. Now blocking every lane of every road in the UK simultaneously.

And the prize for most ludicrous caravan goes to… the Megaron 950 TK! Yes, for those that really just want to drive their house around a bit, the Megaron from German über van makers Dethleffs is a staggering 38ft (11.51m) of home from home luxury. Sleeping six and sounding like some hideously destructive creature from Godzilla or a robot that transforms into a caravan, the concept of which could

More capacious than an elephant's scrotum, better furnished.

inspire countless god-awful movies, what you get for your Euro is ample dining/sleeping/living/Greco-Roman wrestling space, all the comforts of a real house such as full-sized flatscreen TV, washing machine, fridge, dishwasher, oven, shower and lavatory, and an exceptional opportunity to push other road users to the brink of apoplectic rage as you try and edge the behemoth round winding country lanes.

Tow job.

Actually, come to that, I’m not entirely sure the Megaron is road legal in the UK and, if it is, I’m equally in the dark as to what you’d need to tow it, but I’m imaging you’d want to stick with the German theme and get something heavy with a lot of pulling power, perhaps special treads to help crossing the grass pitches of caravan sites. Oh and some kind of big, pointy deterrent to stop furious motorists from considering assaulting you. Now what fits the bill?

Price: €55,000

The Gypsy Beater 3000.

UNICAT Special

Of course one of the main problems with staying on campsites is that they’ll inevitably be a certain number of undesirables around. Charming Romany folk or bastard thieving pikeys – whatever your view of the drive-tarmacking, lucky heather-selling, slave-taking traveller folk, wherever there are caravans, they’ll be nearby. So why take chances leaving your valuables inside a flimsy MDF box on wheels when you can keep them safe and sound inside your very own nimble tank?

This is the Special from UNICAT, stylish mobile living inside a vehicle that boasts all-wheel drive, diff locks for front and rear axles, hydropneumatic independent suspension, fibreglass composite plates, double sealed doors with seal-compression heavy duty locks, stainless steel hinges throughout, additional door dead-lock bolts, and pikey-be-gone burglar-proof top hinged sidelights and skylights. And that’s just security and escape.

Go on holiday, never leave the van.

So, safe in the knowledge that some pre-teen traveller girl is not going to break in wearing next to nothing and do a deeply disconcerting sex-dance while being spurred on by her toothless, chain-smoking ma, you can relax on your double bed, utilise the office space, set the air conditioning to ‘Not Britain’, make toilet upon a proper porcelain throne, entertain yourself with the built-in Audio Visual system, keep your clothes clean with the Miele washer and dryer, or just sit and stare out of the double insulated windows as the O’Fuck family from Donegal parked next door take bets on which of them can knock out a horse with one punch.

Now we’ve no wish to pander to stereotypes here and we’re sure that the bulk of traveller types are perfectly law-abiding, decent people who just want to move peacefully from country fair to country fair, selling horses, putting curses on people and stealing children. But why take that chance this summer?

Price: what price safety?

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