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First Vanagon Camping Trip Report
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katstan
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:09 am    Post subject: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

We've had our van for almost 2 months and finally took it out to the Ithaca area for two nights of camping.

It was just me and my six year old daughter and our dog for this trip.

The best part of the trip was the fact that we were finally going. We'd just gotten the 3 window bus depot tent installed so the only things left on my immediate to do list before the trip were to swap out the old fresh water lines and to fix the broken sink drain, both of which I did Friday morning before leaving. I also filled the water tank of course and lit and loaded the fridge.

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I'd gotten a Rola bag off Amazon to carry our chairs, roll-top table, and outdoor rug/mat so I loaded that up and strapped it down and it worked out well though getting stuff up onto the roof without a ladder or anything is a bit of a pain as I'm only 5'4".
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We'd planned on camping at the Finger Lakes National Forest as I read the campground there opened April 1 but we arrived to a locked gate and no one around so we had to move onto plan B, which was the KOA in Watkins Glen. I'm way more into state parks where there are fewer RVs and it's more about being out in nature rather than mini golf and bounce houses and playgrounds. It wasn't crowded at least. Friday night was freezing in the pop top but Saturday night was perfect. Those 3 windows are amazing when it's warm enough to have them unzipped for the views.

I have some things to learn to make the camping experience better. First of all I'm realizing I need to decide if we are primarily camping and going to be stationary for our stay or if we're using a campground as a base and planning to be mobile during the day. I set up camp like we were going to be staying in one place for the weekend - rolling out the awning and setting up the table and chairs and all that but had planned on going into Ithaca and checking out some waterfalls during the day on Saturday so really I shouldn't have bothered rolling out the awning and setting up the roll top table. Shuffling gear and our mattress topper around when we wanted to go exploring during the day on Saturday was a real pain so I need to figure out how to get better organized on that front. I've ordered the MountainSmith 4 Cube system to help.

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Overall I'd say it wasn't a great trip mostly because it was too built up to possibly live up to expectations and it was a little far for a weekend by ourselves and too early in the season. It was good for breaking us into the experience of camping in the van though.

I loved being able to fill our water bottles and the dog's bowl up from our own tap of nice fresh drinking water. I loved having the fridge, which worked great (though I did have to relight it every time we got back to the campground). And making coffee in the van in the mornings was really nice. I had brought along a Coleman stove but didn't even get it out. I don't know if we'll pack it for future trips like this... maybe if we're going camping with friends and planning on hanging out and cooking at the site for all of our meals but if we're more just making coffee and/or a light breakfast or dinner and then heading out to explore then I see no need for it.


I started a blog for our camper vanning adventures (mostly for the grandparents) so if anyone wants a more in depth report of the trip, here is the link: http://ironpotsthevanagon.wordpress.com


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Last edited by katstan on Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:17 am; edited 1 time in total
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newfisher
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:14 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

Awesome!

We have the Mt Smith bag system ( 4) and works great. Wife gets 1 bag, i get one bag, dry consumables in 1 bag and dog stuff in 1 bag.
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danfromsyr
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:18 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

Congrats, and YES there's a learning curve to your personal travel & camping wants/needs and reality.
this will become easier and more efficient with experiance..

you were literally right in my back door. in fact probably crossed paths as we returned from a southern trip VIA PA and up thru there.

our fingerlakes national forest only has a scarce few campsites you can drive to. you'll need to pay attention to tent sites at some campgrounds, make sure they aren't 'hike in' ones.. it happens and can be a pain..

you should buy a small ceramic 110v heater, it'll stow under the bench or bottom of the closet and is very handy such at KOAs. of course then you also need a extension cord..

so with everything VW westy it's a compromise of convenience and space.

I can give you location recomendations for free/cheap camping in southern VT (arlington stratton rd Kansas, VT ) or central ADKs (moose river plains area)..

travel safe and travel often

Dan in Syracuse.
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dlb154
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:43 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

Awesome Katstan!

Refinements of essential items and best practices (packing, setting up) are all part of the fun for us. I find myself doing a lot of product research and shopping this time of year for the coming camping season...

We have the Mountainsmith bags too and it works out well for our family of 4.

Looks like you were able to source some screws to attached that front table mount I sold you... Hope you find the table leg and table before your next trip!
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:47 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

danfromsyr wrote:
Congrats, and YES there's a learning curve to your personal travel & camping wants/needs and reality.
this will become easier and more efficient with experiance..



I second this. I have backpacked, bike toured, and car camped, and just as each one is a little different than the others, so too with Westy camping. It took us a few trips to get into the swing of things. Our second trip was to a SP where the campground was a good 4 mi from the trailhead we intended to hike the next morning. That's when we learned the same thing you did: you have to decide when you're moving next and adjust your awning/mat needs accordingly.

Also, someone gave me some excellent advice early on: don't buy or change anything about the van for the first several trips. Maybe even not for the first season. You'll learn what really is and is not important to you and not waste money on things that end up making no difference. So instead of an awning (which we probably wouldn't put out all that often, as we really like to move daily when we're exploring) we got a house battery setup, which allows us to have lights, music, and phone charging no matter where we end up for the evening.

And now that we have things situated the way we like them we can spend our awning budget on a new transmission. Whoops I digress! Laughing
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katstan
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:51 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

dlb154 wrote:
Awesome Katstan!

Refinements of essential items and best practices (packing, setting up) are all part of the fun for us. I find myself doing a lot of product research and shopping this time of year for the coming camping season...

We have the Mountainsmith bags too and it works out well for our family of 4.

Looks like you were able to source some screws to attached that front table mount I sold you... Hope you find the table leg and table before your next trip!


Yes! thank you. Actually Andrew Flint, our mechanic installed the mount for me when he was doing the poptop tent so I didn't have to hunt down the screws. He even jury rigged a tightening mechanism for it since it didn't have the knob so I can use the rear table there. My in-laws got us the table and leg from GoWesty for our anniversary so we should have that for our next trip. Now having camped in it I'm questioning whether or not we really do need the front table after all but I suppose if we don't I can always turn it into a closet door Smile.
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katstan
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 10:59 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

Hi Dan,

I forgot how close Syracuse is to Ithaca. I should have thought to ask you where to camp.

I'm sure we would have noticed each other if we'd crossed paths Smile
I did see one split window bus near the National Forest in someone's driveway. I should have stopped to take a picture.
It had a super hippy (though well done) paint job.

And yes, do share your tips for the Adirondacks and Sourthern Vermont.
I'm sure we'll hit both this summer.
danfromsyr wrote:
Congrats, and YES there's a learning curve to your personal travel & camping wants/needs and reality.
this will become easier and more efficient with experiance..

you were literally right in my back door. in fact probably crossed paths as we returned from a southern trip VIA PA and up thru there.

our fingerlakes national forest only has a scarce few campsites you can drive to. you'll need to pay attention to tent sites at some campgrounds, make sure they aren't 'hike in' ones.. it happens and can be a pain..

you should buy a small ceramic 110v heater, it'll stow under the bench or bottom of the closet and is very handy such at KOAs. of course then you also need a extension cord..

so with everything VW westy it's a compromise of convenience and space.

I can give you location recomendations for free/cheap camping in southern VT (arlington stratton rd Kansas, VT ) or central ADKs (moose river plains area)..

travel safe and travel often

Dan in Syracuse.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:22 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

The start of many wonderful memories for your daughter!

I still remember with vivid clarity the many camping/road trips with my father, although we slept on the ground with only a tarp in case it rained.
Was always envious of our family friends who had VW campers!
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:32 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

danfromsyr wrote:
Congrats, and YES there's a learning curve to your personal travel & camping wants/needs and reality.


Yep!

I always suggest a trip to the thrift store for a full set of cookware and 4 plates/bowls/forks/knives, that set of cookware/utensils stays in the van, so you don't have to borrow anything from your home kitchen when you hit the road.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:47 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

Well done! Love the bridge photo. Very Happy

katstan wrote:
Now having camped in it I'm questioning whether or not we really do need the front table after all but I suppose if we don't I can always turn it into a closet door Smile.


Am I the only Westy owner around here who always uses the front table? Think
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kourt
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 11:51 am    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

I use the front table all the time.

I cook a lot in my van, and often cook complex meals that require timed platings and ingredient staging. Dishes pile up. Having any extra counter space is essential. The front table is really useful for that.

And then, when I'm done cooking and enjoying my meal, and watching others enjoy their meals, I sit in the reversed front passenger chair with the front table holding my plate, silverware, and beverage. It is relaxing this way.

Front table: yes, please.

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kourt
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katstan
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 12:14 pm    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

kourt wrote:
I use the front table all the time.

I cook a lot in my van, and often cook complex meals that require timed platings and ingredient staging. Dishes pile up. Having any extra counter space is essential. The front table is really useful for that.

And then, when I'm done cooking and enjoying my meal, and watching others enjoy their meals, I sit in the reversed front passenger chair with the front table holding my plate, silverware, and beverage. It is relaxing this way.

Front table: yes, please.

[pic]

kourt


I'm half kidding. I actually do think we'll use it, especially if we are cooking more inside than out. This trip I was only making popcorn, coffee, and heating up baked beans in the kitchen so didn't require the extra table. Also the mornings were quite warm both days given the heat wave we had come through so I was content to drink my coffee outside. On chilly mornings I see myself sitting in the rotated passenger seat with coffee and deployed front table, which is why I wanted it in the first place. Glad to hear you guys use yours.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 2:45 pm    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

This will help you out. It's an expense for sure, but everyone who has one seems to agree it is worth it if they have a roof rack.
The bottom plugs into the jacking points and the top attaches to the gutter.

https://www.rockymountainwesty.com/Rocky_Mountain_Westy_Vanagon_Ladder_p/rmw-ldr01.htm

If your just loading the front cargo tray you might not need it as you have the tire and front entry to stand on.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:10 pm    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

We just did a little shake down trip too. We just re-fitted a campervan interior from another kombi into our former 8 seater van so I know what you mean when you mention having a fridge and running water, luxury! Great shots too. Woodstock, guitar, kombi.....great stuff chap.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:25 pm    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

Great pictures! Glad to see you were able to get out and camp this weekend, the weather was great.
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stonesoupvt
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 3:45 pm    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

It's awesome seeing a trip report early in the season from the northeast. I get my van out of storage this upcoming weekend and seeing photos from the area has me counting the days!
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:49 pm    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

Great pics! Looks like a fun shakedown trip.

Does your bus smell funny? I think I spotted a skunk that got in your driver's window while you were cooking.

Wink
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 6:01 pm    Post subject: Re: First Vanagon Camping Trip Report Reply with quote

People do some cool mods for a front table.

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