Alan's Blog




The Spirit of Caravanning

This Easter holiday (2018) proved to be a revelation to me when it comes to modern caravans.

Friends of ours, a family of five, had just taken delivery of a new ‘Swift’ caravan and we arranged to meet them on a site not far from their home in order to ‘show them the ropes’ as they’d never been caravanning before. We took our 18-year-old Bailey Senator Montana Millenium and pitched near to our friends.
What struck me more than anything was the complexity and sophistication of the electrical / electronic systems in our friends’ caravan. Complex electronic controls and alarms for just about everything. What happens when something goes wrong? If something breaks there is little chance they could fix it themselves in the middle of a field in a remote location. And think of the cost of getting those fancy electronic components repaired or renewed! Rather them than me.

Do we really need this level of complexity in our caravans? No, of course not. Surely the original idea of a caravan was to provide a relatively inexpensive home on wheels, not a sophisticated and expensive ‘gin palace’ that costs a fortune to buy and maintain / repair.

Of course, manufacturers are rubbing their hands with glee as the money pours in but is it them, or us caravanners, who have lost our way?

My first caravan was a 1978 ABI Ace Rallyman. No mains electricity; gas lights; a gas fire for heating; battery lights and a water pump powered by the car battery. I later fitted it with a few mains power sockets connected to a lead that was routed out of the caravan via an open window. It served me well until 1997 when I moved abroad for a few years. I used it with my (first) family, and solo, both in the UK and abroad without any sophistication or complexity at all.

With my old Bailey Senator, I can fix most things myself if anything goes wrong – and there is less to go wrong. It’s simple engineering. In fact, I lived in this caravan with my (second) family for ten months (including a new baby, born during this time in the caravan) after returning to the UK after yet another contract overseas – where we also took the caravan and used it for holidays.

The one thing that I’ve decided during this Easter holiday with our friends is to keep our Bailey Senator operational for as long as possible and not change it for a new caravan. It’s time we went ‘back to basics’ as far as our caravans are concerned. By NOT buying a new caravan, maybe manufacturers will get the message – although, judging by what has happened to car manufacturing, that seems like a faint hope.

There is nothing wrong with simple engineering – except the reduction in profits to the manufacturers.

Have we lost the ‘Spirit of Caravanning’? I certainly hope not.