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Get out and escape with up to 20% off on campervan hires

We're all about exploring the world and getting you out there! That's why we're offering a 20% discount on motorhome rentals to a range of our favourite trips. Offer is limited to 2021 road trips!

Semi-integrated vs. Camping bus vs. Compact Van

Semi-integrated

Semi-integrated vehicles are some of the fanciest motorhome rentals you can get! Also, they are currently the most popular type of motorhome on the market. In semi-integrated motorhomes, the transition from the driver's cab to the living area isn’t perfectly straight and the roof over the driver’s cab slants down. This means you won’t have as much headroom there as you would in the rest of the motorhome. Generally speaking, partially integrated motorhomes are more aerodynamic than clunkier alcove motorhomes. This shorter motorhome results in a lower centre of gravity, so the driving experience is closer to that of a car. Modern semi-integrated models often have a panoramic window where the roof starts to slant downwards, adding extra light to the motorhome. The driver's seats can usually be rotated to be part of the seating group. Four people can sit comfortably at the dining table.

However, the sleeping possibilities are limited compared to the alcove motorhome - beds are usually located in the rear or as a loft bed above the living area. A seating group may also be converted into a sleeping area. Thus, space motorhome hire is best for couples and small families. 

Advantages and disadvantages of semi-integrated motorhomes:

Suitable for 2-4 people, some can accommodate 5 

Comfort level: medium to high

Pros

  • Ideal for couples and small families
  • Pleasant driving experience
  • Lower fuel consumption

Cons

  • Poorly insulated cab
  • Only one real bed, optionally with lift bed

Camping bus

The camping bus is the original nomad campervan. Its most famous representative is the Bulli, the VW bus. Generations of nomads from families, sportsmen and hippies have spent vacations or long trips in a camping bus. Its advantage is its size. With a height of fewer than two meters, it is suitable for deep garages and its handling is usually close to that of a passenger car. With these handy all-rounders, city trips are just as possible as weekend camping trips thanks to their slim lines. But the compactness also has its limits: the space offered is rather limited and having a proper bathroom is not always feasible. Storage space is also limited, making the compact camper ideal for travelling couples but less suitable for families.

Advantages and disadvantages of camping buses:

Suitable for 2-4 people

Comfort level: low

Pros

  • Compact and manoeuvrable
  • Suitable for holiday and everyday use
  • Suitable for travelling couples

Cons

  • Limited headroom
  • Limited (stowage) space
  • Rather for summer use than winter use

Compact van

The compact van is enjoying growing popularity. Compared to the camping bus, the compact van differs in width and height, is nevertheless still more compact than most motorhomes. Above all, they are narrower and often shorter with six meters being a typical length. The second difference is the presence of a full wet area with a sink, toilet and shower. Great comfort depends on the number of passengers. Two sleeping places are common, but there are also models with four and more sleeping places. Also in this category of motorhomes, there is every degree of craftsmanship to be acquired, from the inexpensive finishers to the more luxurious manufacture. Longitudinal beds are popular because you can get in there more comfortably, but they also require more length.

Advantages and disadvantages of extended camping buses:

Suitable for 2-4 persons

Comfort level: medium

Pros

  • More storage space than in a compact camping bus
  • WC available
  • Standing height throughout

Cons

  • Limited winter camping
  • Too small for families

Built-in toilet vs Portable Chemical Toilet

Built-in toilet

The toilet is made up of two parts: a permanently fixed toilet and a waste holding tank that is located under the toilet and can be removed via an access door on the outside of the motorhome. 

Preparing For Use 

  • Remove the waste holding tank by pulling the safety catch upwards. 
  • Pull the waste holding tank outwards towards the stop. Tip it slightly and take out the tank completely. 
  • Place the tank upright and turn the emptying spout upwards. 
  • Remove the cap (which has a measuring cup inside) and pour into the tank the required quantity of toilet fluid. Add approximately 2 litres of water (enough to cover the bottom of the tank). Screw the measuring cap back onto the emptying spout and turn the spout back to its original position. 
  • Slide the holding tank back into its original position via the access door. 
  • Make sure that the waste holding tank is secured with the safety catch. Shut the access door and lock it. The toilet is now ready for use. 

In Use 

  • Rotate the toilet bowl to the desired position. 
  • The toilet may be used with the blade valve open or closed. To open the valve pull the valve handle under the bowl towards you. If the toilet is being used with the blade valve closed run some water into the bowl by pressing the ‘FLUSH’ button once. 
  • After use, open the blade valve (if it was closed) and press the ‘FLUSH’ button. Close the blade valve after flushing.

Portable Chemical toilet

Chemical camping toilets consist of two parts separated by a gate valve: (1) flush water tank in the upper part of the toilet and (2) waste tank in the lower part of the toilet. With a manual or electric flushing system, no sewage, water or drain connection is required. 

Construction of a chemical camping toilet

This is the construction of a camping toilet - not witchcraft, but a look at it will make it clear how a camping toilet works, and this will help you with the next steps:

Chemical toilet schematic

In the left part of the picture, you can see the upper part of the chemical camping toilet with a flush water tank. On the right picture, you can see the lower part of the toilet, in which the holding tank is located. These two parts can be easily put together or taken apart by the lock on the back of the toilet, which becomes especially important for emptying!

How to use a chemical camping toilet?

Prepare the freshwater tank

The freshwater tank, as the name implies, is filled with water. Unscrew the lid from the flush water tank and fill the tank with 3 L of water (or until it is full). If you prefer a less chemical smell, you can add an aroma liquid or rinse water cleaner. Special products are suitable for this, such as Aqua Rinse, but dishwashing liquid or liquid soap are also good options. You can add 50 ml to 100 ml of this rinse water cleaner.

Prepare the holding tank

The holding tank should be filled with an appropriate sanitary liquid, which is highly recommended to prevent unpleasant odours. You can use Aqua Kem Green, for example. Start by pouring the chemical toilet cleaner into the holding tank. To do this, you should lift the toilet seat, pull the sliding handle (to open the access to the lower tank) and pour the liquid directly into the toilet. You can also pour the liquid directly into the lower tank through the drain spout - to do this, put the tank on its side, turn the drain spout upwards, unscrew the lid and pour in the sanitary liquid. However, we recommend the first option, because it is a little more practical.

As a rule, you should fill 110 ml of the sanitary liquid, but the amount may vary depending on the liquid. We advise you to check the amount indicated on the package label.

To Use:

Using a chemical camping toilet is analogous to using a regular toilet and should not cause you any further trouble. Here are the steps:

  1. Open the toilet lid
  2. Toilet flush
  3. Flush (We recommend doing 3 to 4 small flushes).
  4. Pull the sliding handle

Important: The toilet paper used in chemical toilets must be water-soluble to avoid clogging.

Emptying:

Now we come to the step that no one wants to deal with. However, with a few simple steps, this task is a snap! If your chemical toilet doesn't have a waste tank level indicator, there's no exact science to knowing when to empty the tank. Just open the slider and look inside - when you think the tank is full, it's time to empty the holding tank! Depending on the capacity, outside temperature and frequency of use, the camping toilet needs to be emptied at least every three days.

Emptying a chemical toilet schematic

Empty the waste-holding tank of your toilet in these simple steps:

  1. Disconnect the waste-holding tank from the flush-water tank using the rear latch and place the waste-holding tank on its side
  2. Turn the emptying nozzle (pipe) 180º so that it points upwards and open the lid of the emptying nozzle.
  3. Hold the tank by the rear handle, press the vent button and pour out the contents.
  4. Fill the tank with water and close the lid.
  5. Now shake the tank well to remove any remaining residue
  6. Finally, pour out the contents again, close the lid and turn back the emptying nozzle and you're done!

Please note: The emptying of the camping toilet is only allowed at designated places, such as campsites, caravan parks, gas stations or public toilets, never on the street or in a green area.

Emptying Toilet - Black water tank

It is only permissible to dispose of the contents of the waste tank in approved dumping stations or through a normal household sewerage system. This can often be done at caravan parks with the permission of the park owner. Different chemical packs allow for different removal options. Make sure you read carefully the contents of the material as to where you can dispose of waste.

Built-in gas stove vs. Portable Gas Cooker

Built-in gas stove

A built-in gas stove works similarly to one you might find in your home and are more convenient for larger groups and longer trips. To use:

  1. Before you start cooking, make sure that you have gas and the gas valve is open on the gas bottle
  2. Lift up both hinged glass lids covering the hob and bowl before lighting the burners.
  3. To ignite the burner, gently push in and turn the control knob to the high flame position and maintaining the pressure also press the igniter button. 
  4. When the burner lights, maintain pressure on the knob for a few seconds for the flame failure device to deactivate. 
  5. Adjust the size of the flame as required. 
  6. To switch the burner off, rotate the knob until the dot on the knob is in line with the indicator on the hob.
  7. Whilst cooking, always leave the window open for ventilation. Be aware that the glass lid gets hot whilst cooking.
  8. Keep the gas cooker lid open after cooking until the burners are cool. 
  9. Only use pots and pans whose diameter is appropriate for the gas cooker burners.  When the flame goes out, the thermocouple automatically cuts the gas supply. 

The don'ts of a gas stove:

  • Don't use the glass gas cooker lid as a hob.
  • Don't close the gas cooker lid while the gas cooker is in operation. 
  • Don't apply pressure on the gas cooker lid when it is closed. 
  • Don't place hot cooking pans on the gas cooker lid.  

Portable gas cooker

A portable gas cooker is perfect for a smaller motorhome hire as they take up very little space and can easily be stored away. To use:

1. Place your gas stove on a flat surface.

2. Remove the pan support from the top of the stove. Turn it over so that the support is then facing upwards, ready to hold your pan.

3. Open the cartridge cover on the stove. Remove the lid from your gas canister, and gently slot the gas cartridge into the stove.

4. Hold in place straight and press the cartridge stop lever down so that the gas canister slots into place. Check that the gas canister has been slotted in place correctly before use.

5. Turn the control knob fully to the left to the ‘ignition’ position until the stove clicks and lights. If it doesn’t work, repeat until it does light.

6. Adjust the control knob to the desired height of the flame.

7. Your stove is now ready to use. Do not use pans or kettles that are too large for the stove, as this will cause the heat to be directed downwards, towards the gas cartridge. If using more than one stove, do not position them too close to each other as this can cause the stoves to overheat.

8. Once you are finished, turn the knob to the ‘off’ position and lift the cartridge lever up to the unlock position.

9. Check that the flame is extinguished, and leave to cool down completely before disconnecting the gas cartridge. Never leave the gas cartridge inside the cooker when not in use. Replace the red protective cap on the gas cartridge when finished.

Cooling box vs. Built-in fridge

Cooling box

Electric coolboxes are great for small motorhome hire and can stay cool for as long as they are plugged in. If you are not going to have access to a power source on your trip, you may need to consider a different option. Coolboxes will take considerably longer than your regular domestic refrigerator to cool down. 

The first type is the basic absorption cool box, which is the cheapest type available and the simplest type. They also all require an air gap around the cooling fan and vent area. Some models use a water cooling system, while others use a cooling fan. They are not designed to freeze, but they can if left on in particularly cold weather, meaning items can freeze inside unintentionally. Whereas compressor coolers use an electric compressor to keep the cooler running, this makes these models noisier than others. 

Most coolboxes can run from either 12v sockets or 240v mains. However, there are simpler versions of a cooler box that don’t require any electricity. These are simple insulated coolers that are ideal for days out and parties/BBQs.

Built-in fridge

Having a built-in fridge in your motorhome hire is not only incredibly convenient but also a luxury. Some may even come with a freezer. These fridges allow you to store a good amount of food at once but will also keep things fresh longer. 

The refrigerator can operate on three power modes:

  • Mains voltage (230V AC / External mains cable)
  • Direct-current voltage (12V DC / Backup battery)
  • Gas (liquid gas propane/butane) Atlas only 

You can select the desired power source by turning the energy selector switch according to the situation. To regulate the cooling temperature, rotate the knob. In 12V mode, there is no possibility to regulate temperature.

Please note: The refrigerator should only be used in 12V (Backup battery) while the vehicle’s engine is running or driving, otherwise, the backup battery would be discharged within a few hours!

At Indie Campers we have two models with built-in fridges, the Atlas and the Nomad. 

In our Atlas it can operate in Gas mode or with electricity: 

To operate the refrigerator when not driving or when you are not connected to an external mains power source, use it in Gas mode:

1. Open the gas bottle valve and appliance shut-off valve on the valve block.

2. Turn the rotary selector switch to Gas mode (flame icon)

3. Turn the temperature selector clockwise and push. Keep the controller button depressed.

4. Then, press the button of the battery igniter down and keep it depressed. The ignition process is activated automatically.

5. Once the flame ignites, the pointer of the galvanometer begins moving into the green range. The refrigerator is operational. Keep knob depressed for approx. 15 seconds

and finally, release it.

As a basic rule, gas operation is prohibited in petrol stations and when driving a motorhome hire.

Using Electricity:

To operate the refrigerator when driving the motorhome hire, turn the rotary selector switch to 12V mode (battery icon). Make sure that the motor is running when using this mode. To operate the refrigerator when parked in a camping site and with mains cable connected, turn the rotary selector switch to 230V mode (electrical plug icon).

In our Nomad

Rotate the knob selector inside the cooler and select the adequate option, depending on the case:

● Turn OFF while parked, and with no 230V cable connection - the previously selected temperature will be maintained;

● Turn ON, selecting Min, while driving - light refrigeration capacity;

● Select any position (Min to Max) according to the desired temperature while parked and connected to the campsite via charging cable.

French bed layout vs. Top bed vs. Transverse fixed bed

When hiring a motorhome, one of the most important things to consider is where will everyone sleep. We have a few options you can choose from.

French bed layout

This layout refers to a fixed double bed arranged lengthways against a sidewall of the motorhome hire. Most French beds share space in the rear with the washroom alongside. A decent bed (such as the domestic standard 4ft 6in wide) leaves only around 2ft 6in for the washroom. However good the bed is, keep in mind that the sleeper next to the wall will have to climb over their partner to get in and out of bed. 

Another, less common, variation sees the washroom arranged behind the bed and across the rear, so then there’s more space for both the bed and the reasonably palatial ablutions. The overall length of the motorhome will be greater, though – probably 7.5m or more.

Top Bed

Present in our Atlas model, a top bed allows for an extra full-size bed to be hidden away when not in use. 

To prepare the top bed:

  1. Remove the seating area headrest 
  2. Close top lid 
  3. Release straps located in the corners of the bed
  4. Pull down the bed, it will automatically lock into place
  5. Use the provided ladder to climb onto the bed
  6. For added safety, you can attach the net that is stored under the top bed mattress

Please note that when the top bed is pulled down, the living is no longer usable 

Transverse fixed bed

The longest-established of all fixed bed motorhome hire layouts, transverse fixed double beds live in the rear of all types of coachbuilts, but the bed also includes under bed storage. 

Bed length is a factor: where lengthways beds can sometimes be rather too short, these widthways berths are usually more than two metres long in motorhomes. While a transverse double is a good option if you’re tall, don’t forget that the person sleeping against the wall will have to clamber over their partner to get out at night. Beds in high-top van conversions are shorter, but usually, achieve lengths of more than six feet. Van conversions, however, have the advantage of rear doors that open wide to receive your holiday gear in their under-bed loading area.

A general guide for winter camping in your motorhome hire

If you want to enjoy the freedom of camping in winter as well, here are some tips for you:  

  • After driving on roads that have been sprayed with salt, wash the underbody and all exterior surfaces with water.  
  • Find out as much as you can about weather and driving conditions before you set out and during your journey. 
  • Fast removal of the water vapour produced by cooking, wet clothing and breathing are particularly important for camping in winter. 
  • Secure the vehicle against rolling away and then release the parking brake to prevent it from freezing. 
  • Whenever possible, place all cushions in the vehicle upright to ensure they are aired and dried.  
  • Use only 100% propane in winter, as butane will not gasify below its freezing point. Make sure you have an adequate supply of gas bottles. Keep gas bottles in the gas locker only! 
  • While heating up the vehicle, open all cupboards, flaps and storage lockers to prevent condensation from forming.  
  • Avoid storing containers (bottles, cans etc.) containing water, juice or other liquids in the unheated vehicle as they may freeze.
  • All snow and ice should be carefully removed from the roof of the vehicle and the awning; it is particularly important to ensure the flue on the sidewall is kept free at all times.
  • Never run power cables on the ground - they may freeze to the soil or be damaged by snow clearing vehicles. 
  • Keep metal taps open in an unheated vehicle at low temperatures, even if the water system has been drained. Always remember to open the mixer lever in both the "cold water” and then in the "hot water” position, and to leave it in the open position.

Finding a Motorhome Hire Community 

Motorhome hires, especially the first time, can be overwhelming. Finding a community of like-minded individuals with previous experience can help you answer any questions you may have. Here are some of the most common ways to connect online:

  • Instagram: Instagram is a great place to connect with other vanlifers. Instagram is also a great way to keep up with your friends and their travels.
  • Vanlife Facebook groups. There are several very active Facebook groups out there that cater to the nomad community. You can find everything from general #vanlife groups, to groups about RV/vanlife solar tips, to groups for “full-time families”. These groups tend to have lively discussions, and they’re great places to ask questions, learn, and connect with others.
  • Vandwellers subreddit. Like the vanlife Facebook groups, r/vandwellers is a great place to find tips and tricks, and connect with others interested in this lifestyle. r/vanlife is a smaller subreddit that’s also helpful.
  • Forums. There are several active forums that cater to various segments of the nomad community. Some of the more popular ones are:
  • The Project Vanlife Forum
  • Cheap RV Living Forum
  • Expedition Portal Forum

Camping in a campsite, everything you should know about using a motorhome hire

General tips to keep in mind:

  • Keep to roadways unless otherwise directed. 
  • Adhere to speed limits. Note that these are generally 10 mph. (Remember that the stopping distance on grass is considerably greater than on the road.) 
  • Ensure that all freshwater taps/ connections are turned off after use. 
  • Young children should be escorted around the park.
  • If the vehicle is not fitted with a wastewater tank, a suitable receptacle should be put below all wastewater pipes. Do not let these containers overflow. Dispose of all wastewater where instructed
  • Empty the tanks from chemical toilets where instructed.
  • Put all litter in containers marked for that purpose
  • Do not make excessive noise. 
  • Petrol generators, unless silenced, should be used with consideration. 
  • All dogs and other pets should be kept under control. 
  • Adhere and take note of all fire precautions, noting the whereabouts of the fire points. 
  • Unless permission has been granted, barbecues should not be used. When permission has been given, consideration should be given to the annoyance that can be caused to other users of the site. Similarly, open fires are usually not allowed. 
  • Awnings and tents should only be used when permission has been obtained. 
  • Leave the pitch clean and tidy.
  • When leaving, check out with the reception, paying any required dues. 

Campsite etiquette

At a campsite on arrival, park as close to the reception area as possible and report your arrival. Do not drive to a pitch and park unless directed by reception staff.

You must have a current valid driving licence to drive a vehicle on-site roads. Park where directed on your pitch. Where possible, you should leave approximately 6m of free space around your vehicle.

Campground pitches

When selecting a pitch, there are things to consider, such as, do not pitch in a position in which your vehicle will obstruct others coming in or going out. Try to choose a dry area, reasonably level and preferably with a hard base. It is always good practice to chock the wheels of the motorhome when parked on a slope or a slippery surface, even when the brakes are applied. In poor site conditions, try to keep engine revs as low as possible to try to avoid wheel spin and try to steer as straight as possible.

Leaving any Site:

Always tidy your pitch and make sure you do not leave bags of rubbish lying about. Check out at reception, pay your site fees, and thank them for an enjoyable stay

Motorhome hire handling 

Please remember that your motorhome is much larger than a standard car or van when driving around.

  • Allow longer times to speed up when overtaking.
  • Do not swing out suddenly.
  • Carry out all manoeuvres as smoothly as possible.
  • Use the nearside wing mirror to check the motorhome has cleared the obstacle when overtaking.
  • Do not bump the curbs with the motorhome wheels.
  • Reduce speed accordingly in strong winds, going downhill or in poor visibility.
  • Large high-speed vehicles cause air buffeting, extra care must be taken when passing or being passed by a high sided vehicle. 

Driver’s licence requirements 

When hiring a motorhome if you have a Category B Licence obtained prior to 1 January 1997 you can drive any motorhome without a trailer where the maximum weight (MAM) does not exceed 7,500 kg. 

If you have a Category B Licence obtained on or after 1 January 1997, you may drive a motorhome hire with a MAM of 3,500 kg. You must pass the LGV C1 test to qualify to drive a vehicle with a MAM of up to 7,500 kg.

Safety guidance

We want you to have a great and safe adventure! Please never obstruct the permanent ventilation openings in your motorhome hire. 

IN CASE OF FIRE 

1. Get everyone out 

2. Turn off the outside gas valve at the gas cylinder. 

3. Disconnect the mains electricity supply. 

4. Raise the alarm and call the fire brigade. 

5. Attack the fire if safe to do so. 

DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN ALONE WITH NO MEANS OF ESCAPE 

Driving abroad

Please ensure that you are familiar with the relevant laws and regulations that apply in the countries in which you choose to travel. Different European countries have different laws and regulations, and it is your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle complies with these regulations and that you drive within the law.

Insurance

The insurance is included in all our motorhome hire. You may choose from 2 protection plans: the basic and the Premium. 

The Basic protection plan is included by default with your booking, and includes one driver only, 24/7 roadside assistance (only in the EU) and coverage for the damages caused to third parties. Additionally, a €2,000.00 deposit is required at the time of pick-up. 

You can also upgrade to the Premium plan, which is exclusively available for drivers above 25 years old, and it allows you to include additional drivers and provides you with more protection. A€500.00 deposit is required at the time of pick-up.

A quick guide to environmental motorhome hires

  • Collect all operating fluids (e.g. lubricants, spent oil and detergents) in suitable containers and dispose of them properly!
  • Never dispose of wastewater of any kind or domestic refuse in the gutter or in the countryside.
  • Always empty the wastewater tank and the toilet unit at disposal facilities on the campsite or at specially designated disposal facilities. Observe town and district regulations and ask about disposal facilities.
  • For the WC, use small doses of an environmentally friendly and biodegradable WC chemical.
  • Separate domestic refuse into glass, metal tins, plastic and wet refuse.
  • Never dispose of domestic refuse in waste bins in car parks. Ask about disposal facilities in towns and districts.
  • If residing for a longer period in a town or district, look for a specially designated parking place for motorhomes. Ask about parking facilities in towns or districts.
  • Turn off the vehicle engine when parked.
Reviewed by:
Hugo Oliveira

Hugo Oliveira

CEO & Founder

Hugo Oliveira founded Indie Campers eight years ago after graduating with a double masters from NOVA Schools of Business and Economics.

Frequently Asked Questions

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