The best and worst caravan gadgets
It seems there's no end to the amount of caravan gadgets and paraphernalia that you can buy. Here's our guide to the gadgets worth getting - and the ones best left on the shelf.
The best gadgets are those that bring the essential home comforts to your caravanning break, but don't take up too much room. These include the Kindle, which delivers all the reading material you need in a small package. Many caravanners swear by under carpet electric heating. It may seem decadent but it's surprisingly cheap to install and makes getting out of bed in the morning a much more pleasant experience!
On the safety front, we'd also strongly recommend one of the cheapest and most important gadgets you can buy: a carbon monoxide detector. These take up very little space as they are usually fixed on a wall or ceiling (refer to manufacturer's instructions for the best place to fit it). This could be the best ten pounds you ever spend. Just remember to test it regularly and change the batteries as required.
If you've a generous budget, we think a reversing camera is a terrific piece of kit that could be well worth the investment if it prevents any bumps. It's particularly good if you're manoeuvring alone without someone to help guide you in as you reverse.
But our essential luxury gadget is a proper coffee maker. We think a little stovetop Italian-style espresso maker is the niftiest choice. It's a classic appliance that's low-tech and difficult to break. It's also stylish and compact and makes fantastic coffee. This gadget's been around for many decades now and sometimes the best gadgets are those that stand the test of time.
Solar showers are bags of water that claim to be heated by the sun. Unless you're going to a hot country, a so-called 'solar shower' isn't going to heat up much above tepid. There's little water in them anyway, barely enough to wet your head, and you've also got to shower standing outside your van where anyone can see you. They're just about okay for rinsing muddy dogs!
The Coolest Cooler (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ryangrepper/coolest-cooler-21st-century-cooler-thats-actually/description)
We love this amazing (and extremely pricey) outdoor gadget which has a great story behind it. The concept emerged on trendy crowd funding website Kickstarter, where it rapidly became one of the most oversubscribed projects the website had ever seen. It's a combined cooler for keeping your beers cold at a picnic, but also includes a blender for whipping up crushed ice cocktails, a waterproof bluetooth speaker and built in USB charger for all your devices. Oh and a bottle opener. It describes itself as a portable party, and though we agree it's cool we're not sure whether it's really necessary to splash out on this if you're already in a decently equipped caravan.
Wind up/solar powered charger
Although they sound like a great idea when you're fed up of running out of charge, a wind-up phone charger takes an exhausting amount of turns before it will even let you make a brief phone call. It's only worth bringing in case of real emergencies - like a 999 call. Don't expect to use it for regular phone use as it takes too long to wind up. For obvious reasons, anything solar powered will inevitably disappoint if you're on a UK trip.
When to buy a gadget
Our view is, it's only really worth buying a gadget when you've repeatedly found yourself needing one like it. As a rule of thumb, if you've had three occasions when you've regretted not having a particular feature or luxury in your van, then you can justify the investment.