Nick News, Spotlight

Nick’s News – Emergency alerts, Lithuania dreaming and the best camping chairs to buy


Nick HardingNick’s News – Nick Harding is an expert in all things motorhomes, caravans and camping. Each week, Nick explores products, locations, holiday ideas and essential community information on our behalf – It’s a Hard-ing Life for Nick, but here is what he found this week.

My Week

I’ve almost lost track of the number of friends and family who’ve bought campervans or caravans over the past year. From a beat-up Mazda Bongo needing new front panels to a Mercedes Vito ‘unfinished project’ to an awesome 1980s Gobur Carousel folding caravan to – probably the best bargain of the lot – a 2016 (originally advertised as 2014) Lunar Clubman CK.

I viewed the latter for the first time at the weekend and it was truly immaculate, just like new. It’s a reminder too of the timeless practicality of a two-berth floorplan with full-width rear washroom, centre kitchen and front lounge that’s large enough tor two almost instant single beds, or a double.

A private sale, my advice to get an initial service revealed no signs of damp and everything else in full working order. Apart from an alarm system with flashing passive infrared sensor (PIR), but otherwise seemingly non-working. Lunar may no longer be with us, but the Clubman legend will live on for quite a few years yet.

In the news

On test – emergency alerts

The UK government is running a trial which involves sending emergency alerts to mobile phones and tablets. You’ll know when you get one because of the siren-sound coming from your device, even if it’s set to silent.

Alternatively, you may get a vibrate or a read-out. The concept is that it could become a way for emergency services warning of any danger-to-life type emergencies in the future, via 4G and 5G networks.

The next stage of the trial is in the Reading area from June 15th. If you’re driving and receive an alert, the advice is to keep going until it’s safe to pull over and find out more.

Lithuania – I want to go

Lithuania is reporting “soaring” interest from motorhome owners wanting to go touring. That’s not bad for a country which, by its own admittance, takes only three hours to drive through, from top to toe. Indeed, any of us visiting from the UK can expect by my estimation to take around six times that just to drive there with a caravan in tow.

It might just be worth it, though. Its ancient pagan villages, mineral water showers, Baltic Sea resorts, historical city of Trakaj, designated camping travel routes and more sound like the recipe for the ultimate getaway.

I’m especially intrigued by the Curonian Spit – described as “a path of white sand connecting the Baltic Sea and the Curonian Lagoon”. I’m seriously tempted, especially as it would mean travelling through Poland, which is another country I’ve never visited. Next year, maybe? Meanwhile, if you’ve ever been I’d love to hear any advice

Motorhome for me?

Benivan 120 – on a value mission

£50,000 might initially look like a lot of money to spend on… well, anything really. In the world of brand new motorhomes, though, this is bargain territory. It’s also time to think again if you reckon equipment levels and build quality are cut to the core on such vehicles.

I grabbed an early look at a Benivan 120, which is a 2022 season version that’s available right now, and really was impressed. It’s a 6m-long van conversion with a Fiat Ducato at the base, a vehicle that practically defines the sector. It kicks off with the more powerful 160bhp engine as standard, because automatic transmission is still a far-too-expensive option, albeit highly desirable now.

It boasts what has established itself as a classic two-berth, end lounge layout, complete with the usual kitchen and washroom facilities mid-van. An underslung gas tank, 100-watt solar panel, Truma Combi 4E heating and hot water system, touchscreen ‘infotainment’ system with sat nav, cab air con are among the kit highlights. Budget? What budget?

Three good: Keen price with generous spec, practical two-berth layout and available now
Two bad: Auto upgrade price and that overcab sunroof doesn’t look great from some angles
Perfect for… getting the best out of a 6m van conversion for two
Also consider: Auto-Trail Expedition 67, Elddis Autoquest CV20, Roller Team Toleno L or Swift Select 122

Gadget envyHelinox chair in tie dye

Sitting easy – time to take the chair?

A saggy bottom means just one thing – time to invest in some new outdoor chairs. The choice is pretty much limitless, but there’s always something new to grab the attention.

It’s not just about comfort, of course. Ease of use, weight and sheer packability come into the equation. For those reasons, you might well want to check out the £110 Incline Festival Chair from Helinox, complete with its tie-dye fabric design, which could be considered too much by some. There’s also a black version for the more conservative caravanner. It’ll take weights of up to 145kg but it only weighs 1.36kg itself, including its handy shoulder strap for carrying.

If that sits a bit too low to the ground for your liking, how about the altogether more sensible £34 Blackpool Green Vineyard from Outwell? A traditional folding chair with armrests, again it’s light at just 3.3kg, but key is Outwell has been working hard on pack size – it folds down to just 78.5cm x 55cm x 5cm.

Vango’s Radiate range of four different designs has no trouble living up to its name. Each comes with an in-built Graphene heating element that you hook up to your own powerbank. Start with the £95 Tall – padded seat and backrest, red Heather fabric, steel frame, four heat settings – and work your way up the price range if you want more features.