At some point in life there comes the time when you say, a car is not enough. Man and woman cannot live in a car alone. There is not enough space. So we worked our behinds off for a month and went on the hunt for a Van. To quote Louisa Omielan, "Upgrade, bitches!"
This post follows our conversion process from start to, if not finish, our current, liveable state. It all took far longer than we thought it would, and was more complicated than we believed possible. Doing everything ourselves allowed us to stay on budget, as well as to identify the bits we'd pay someone else to do next time! Our ethos was to reuse/recycle everything that we could, but buy new when we needed to. For example, the idea of using recycled carpet is now laughable, however the insulation, most of the wood and various other bits and bobs were gained from various second hand sources.
Our main goals with the conversion were to have plenty of storage space, so that everything would have a place, as well as to retain some degree of spaciousness - whatever you can gain from a 8' x 5' box. In addition, we also wanted the transition from day to night to be relatively painless. After two years we were totally fed up with the colossal faff of trying to fit two people and all their stuff into a car and then move it all around between driving and sleeping.
So please read on for a couple of rookies' account of how to convert a van from scratch.
We all know the answer to that. Yes. As do hikers, picnickers, cyclists, trail runners... The remote and wild nature of many climbing sites usually means that there are no toilets. Nature calls, shit happens... Crappy puns aside (ahem) I suppose the real question is, ‘does a climber shit responsibly in the woods?’
My partner and I have spent a fair bit of the last two years on the road, wandering from crag to crag around Europe. We have done this living in a VW, Golf estate not Transporter, and so a little on the small side (although it’s a tidy upgrade from the Renault Clio). It definitely doesn’t have a toilet. It actually was quite a while before we had to face up to the interesting realities of taking a wild poo, and my first time was pretty funny, but resoundingly, surprisingly, pleasant. There was the odd clencher triggered by noisy wildlife, but on the whole it was a nicer experience than the majority of every day toilet experiences; at one with nature you might say.
A few months ago, our nearest training venue shut down...abruptly. Following this, we were back to the square we were on one year previous. It wouldn't be fair to refer to it as square one as one of the closer of the climbing walls is a cracker - Simon Young's MagicWood is well worth the visit if you happen to be in the mid-north Cornwall area, fantastical shapes and a very high standard of route setting. If we happened to be based 45 minutes closer then this whole project wouldn't have any function. So, maybe square 1.2.
The obvious choice was a garden set-up, all envisioned and undertaken during bouts of beautiful weather where the very idea of rain was inconceivable.
This was a rookie mistake, it's Cornwall after all...
The internet forms a strong platform for people to attempt change, bombarding the user with campaigns and petitions. Some are articulate, informed pleas for support for globally massive issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, others could be considered of less widespread impact; one of the biggest recent campaigns was a petition to reinstate Mr Clarkson to the BBC that received over a million signatories to date... Apparently, more people on Change.org are motivated to protest about their television schedule than about food waste, protecting the high seas or the Yazidi women kidnapped by ISIS, for example .
A climbing rope is a key piece of equipment when one is climbing high routes and doesn't entirely appreciate the freedom of soloing. They should be treated approximately as carefully as a six month old baby (checked routinely, not left in the damp, near engine oils etc.), and not, as my mother suggested, kept in the shed. When the time came to check over our hardware, we somehow felt under-roped. To be fair, one of our ropes is a fairly knackered 60m of dubious history. The other is 50m and actually in pretty good nick. However, it is important to have a back up rope if you are on a trip, and the brevity of this rope was clearly the factor holding back our sport climbing. So, despite only having the mental and physical endurance to climb up to about 4.5m off the deck, we somehow got it into our heads that a 70m rope would be a worthwhile purchase.
Lately, we decided to upgrade our old stove, which whilst having performed admirably, was not ours and was also rather difficult to source the correct sized gas can. Little did we know quite how many options we had... it makes choosing tomatoes look like child's play, and that is hard enough. One large web based company lists 4,197 different products under camping stove. A quick task quickly spiralled into a gargantuan one. Hours were devoted to research into boil time and efficiency; boil time we decided to be unimportant, however the gas efficiency was only listed on a few. Size was important too, the last stove could not be rightly called compact.
Following a fraught process, after which the stove we finally whittled our choices down to was unavailable within a 250 mile radius, we were back to square one. Then suddenly we fast-tracked; we discovered multi-fuel burners, which sounded interesting, but we weren't sure if our fledgling camping skills were savvy enough. Or if you can fill up a small stove canister with petrol at the pump. Or if that was not possible whether we wanted to sleep with a jerry can of petrol as bedfellow. It all seemed a bit closer to the Everest experience than we wanted.
But then...we came across the wood burner stove, not a half tonne iron job but super light, portable camping stoves that you can fuel for free. There was also only a choice of a dozen or so, indicating much better odds of not picking the dud option. After toying with a clever design which charges your phone as you cook dinner, we figured that an extra £70 was probably not worth it, especially as we don't use much gadgetry when we're on the road. So we bought the Solo Stove Titan, that is not too expensive and not too cheap, looks neat and has mostly positive reviews. Thus follows our adventures in wood fire wizardry, duh-duh-duuuuuuhhh...
So genuinely, the SST is a really cool idea. We don't have to carry fuel or throw away empties, just pick up literally a handful of tiny sticks. It fits our coffee press on it (if only by a sparse millimetre or two). It cooks pretty efficiently, certainly enough for our standards. It cools down fairly quickly, and doesn't even slightly burn the ground. All good really...
Oh yeah, but it turns ALL our shit black.
I recently came across an article by Alistair McGowan (who writes engagingly: Earth Hour: An Opportunity for All of Us to Demonstrate That We Care About Our Planet) encouraging people to participate in Earth Hour – to give up electricity for just one hour in the entire year. Fair enough. However, what surprised me was a number of fairly vicious responses in the comments section; some that accuse McGowan of treating the subject of the environment too lightly, whilst others felt that he championed what boils down to an inconvenience to their enjoyment of life.
Some people had clearly shown interest in the article but found it to be a personal insult to their way of life, such as the gentlemen who commented: “I cannot stand articles that try to make you feel guilty for things you have no control over.” He explained how the absence of high-functioning electric cars meant he HAD to drive a petrol car to work. The replacement of independent food shops by charity and betting shops meant he HAD to shop at a supermarket. This made me think about how much control we do have. I disagree that he has no choice; most people, certainly in the UK, are fortunate enough to have choices with these every day decisions.
On the other hand, some changes such as ditching your car can make a massive impact on your life. We have a 25 minute drive to work on pretty hectic main roads, which would make a daunting cycle ride, and don’t have two bikes even if we did want to dice with the traffic gods. A bus would take somewhere in the region of an hour and a half each way and cost about £10. So we continue to drive, despite being reasonably well-informed and a bit ‘green’.
So is there any point even bothering to be green if you, say, use a car?
Yes. If every person...
There are tonnes more ideas like these, small actions that, when done by lots of people, can make a difference – and the more we all do, the more difference we can be make!
 Aldred, J., 2008. Tread Lightly: Keep Your Kettle in Check. The Guardian, 7 Mar. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ethicallivingblog/2008/mar/07/keepyourkettleincheck (Accessed 24 March 2015).
 Elmore, D., 2014. Myth Busted: Idling Wastes Fuel. Green Action Centre, 6 Jan. Available at: http://greenactioncentre.ca/living-green-living-well/myth-2-its-better-to-idle-your-car-than-shut-it-off/#comment-132302 (Accessed 24 March 2015).
 Schwartz, J. D., 2009. Buying Local: How it Boosts the Economy. Time, 11 Jun. Available at: http://content.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1903632,00.html (Accessed 24 March 2015).
 Barnard, S., 2014. Could You Give Up Meat For Just One Day a Week? Independent, 8 Sep. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/could-you-give-up-meat-for-just-one-day-a-week-9717758.html (Accessed 24 March 2015).
 Love Food, Hate Waste. UK Food Waste Facts. LFHW. Available at: http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/node/2472 (Accessed 26 March 2015).