Perfectly parked up. Discreet and private. For short stops and stealth urban camping in cities like Dublin, it’s curtains for me.
I have watched the discussions/debates toing and froing on the forums around the pros and cons of wild camping versus campsites and it’s certainly a fraught topic. I’m not even sure that there is agreement on what is the definition of ‘wild camping’? But that’s one for another day.
I have seen motorhomes occasionally parked up around the city but they require space and do stick out like a sore thumb, potentially making them a target for unwelcome attention.
Eighteen months and 26 thousand kilometres on I’m so delighted with our campervan and the conversion carried out by Vanderlust in Co. Clare. Compact and convenient lines make for discretion and with a bit of cop-on opens up a lot of urban parking/camping options which might not otherwise be possible.
A lot of good calls were made at the outset around design, features, fittings, fixtures and fit-out and only two items have had to be retro-fitted, both down to ourselves and not the Vanderlust team.
Firstly, for some convenience and shelter we added a Fiamma (F45S) wind-out awning to the drive-away awning (Outwell Daytona Tall) already on board. That has worked out well, even though it required an adaptor kit to mount the awning to the roof racks as the best option. (It cost €679 all in).
The second retro fit was for cabin curtains to block off the living area from the front driving section. I can’t believe we didn’t think of it in the first place but it turns out to be the best €94 we ever spent. Vanderlust again to the rescue for a good fabric and tidy rail fitting which matches the original décor and colour scheme of the van. It’s worked a treat.
A tasty cabin curtain retro-fitted by Vanderlust.
Yes for full privacy, insulation, heat reflection and some sound proofing, the silver lined and padded units that stick on to the windscreen and side-windows are grand, although the suction pads can leave marks. They are a little unwieldy and take a bit of time to put in place and remove and that’s fine if you are not planning to drive and are in situ for a while.
However, for short stops and urban camping in cities like Dublin, it’s curtains for me.
They are perfect, offering full privacy and yet really discreet all the while and not attracting any unnecessary attention from thieves or traffic wardens or just plain old nosey parkers.
So along with the campervan, the curtains are a perfect fit for urban parking and camping options, where quite simply there are no camp site option available, one way or the other.
It might seem a strange one for camping but Dublin is great craic and has so much to offer when it’s firing on all cylinders. And a campervan sleepover is the perfect way to enjoy a night on the town, a concert, cocktails or some arthouse cinema in the Lighthouse in Smithfield or The Stella in Rathmines (where you can always treat yourself to breakfast in the American Diner or Elephant & Castle across the road).
Now here’s the dilemma. Dublin requires some astute stealth parking. This is where the Ford Transit Vanhalla conversion comes in to its own. It’s discreet and unobtrusive and fits nicely into a standard parking space. Simple but effective black-out curtains are a crucial component for city stopovers, affording both privacy and a low-key look so as not to attract unwanted attention.
But secret spots are called secret spots for a reason and that’s the way they should stay.
A few years back this French motorhome forum recommended a place suitable for overnight parking in a leafy south county Dublin suburb. Disaster. The following week the neighbourhood woke up to a parking lot of motorhomes and consternation.
With that salutary lesson in mind it’s suffice to say that a bit of reconnaissance and cop on go a long way. I have eyed out a few great overnight spots in the city centre, Dún Laoghaire direction and in around Rathmines.
Keep in mind that parking meters kick in from 7am and it’s best to avoid residential areas.
A room with a view. Urban camping is possible with a bit of discretion and cop on.
John Whelan is a vastly experienced midlands based journalist and editor who has contributed extensively to the country's leading national and regional titles, as well as broadcast outlets. He runs the media services company, Communicate Ireland www.communicateireland.ie.
John is a keen camping and campervan enthusiast with an interest in music, culture, heritage and outdoor pursuits. He has written for the Sunday Times, Sunday Independent and the Woman's Way on these topics.
He is also an author, and his latest book, The Last Beekeeper, reflects his love of nature, the landscape and our shared responsibility to protect the environment. The Last Beekeeper is available to preview and purchase at www.thelastbeekeeper.ie.