Sun Canopy That Converts Into A Drive Away Awning

I have a large heavy drive-away awning that works very well and I use that when we travel with the boys and they sleep in that. But, when there are just the two of us … well, it’s a bit of a palaver. So I looked for something that I could use with our roll-out canopy and without it if I want to leave a standalone awning or if it is just too windy to risk £500 worth of aluminium and pvc canvas!

I looked at the quecha base seconds – but just couldn’t get my head around using it with my existing kit.

This arrangement gives me three configurations (numbers match picture numbers below):

  1. Sun canopy attached to side channel (on rollout awning)
  2. Sun room using sun canopy and attached as above (#1)
  3. Drive away awning using #2 above plus an attached tarp and a candor strip to de-couple the awning from the bus (the attachment clips are clip on grommets).
  4. Attach the sides and front of the sun-room to the roll-out awning using velcro tapes

I think I now have all the canopy combinations and permutations I need for travelling light – and at a price that is half the price of the specific, add-on sides and front for the roll-out awning.  I’ll report back after our next trip!

Going Solar

Having researched this subject for quite a while now, I was debating whether it would be worth putting solar panels on the roof of my Vdub, buying a portable array or just using hook-ups whenever I needed to re-charge the leisure battery. In the end, I decided I wanted the ability to spend several days at a time at campsites that would not necessarily have hook-up facilities. So I opted for these panels from Baird:

Folded up – around 13kg so not so heavy and can be positioned to face the sun easily

They are not too heavy and I can store them easily in the bus when travelling. A couple of minor issues with the cables that were supplied, but otherwise seem to be very good.

Testing the panels – steady 12.9Volts

I opted for 120W panels as these should easily cover our daily electricity use. Details on how to calculate this here. Fixing then up to the bus was not difficult, but entails getting some solar cable and connectors as well as some battery connectors. Details in pictures below. My California is a 2015 Beach – the wiring layout picture might be a useful reference for other Beach owners.

Electrics under beach passenger seat
Solar connectors attached to battery terminals
Wires all neatly hidden and routed. The blue cable ties hold the routed cable securely Note solar plugs in seat side pocket – ready for attachment to the panel connectors

For security, I will padlock the panels to the bus with some cable, and to prevent any wind damage I’ll peg the units to the ground with some large tent pegs.


California Beach – New Layout in Rear

Our California Beach is configured with a 3 bench seat and we also have 2 additional back passenger seats. Most of the time we only use the bench seat or the bench plus one of the passenger seats. My wife had a brain-wave – why not remove the bench seat and just have the two cabin seats in the back. I was a little reluctant: the single cabin seats aren’t light and the bench seat is hard enough to just slide around on the runners. Anyway, I thought, why not give it a try – the result is fantastic. Much more room and a lot less weight in the back. We used an engine hoist to shift the bench seat – and it worked seamlessly. Our ‘kitchen’ units fitted in front of the multi-flex board, giving loads of space for luggage and passengers.

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Torrents of Beer – 2


Continued from Torrents of Beer – 1

From the beach there was a fairly steep climb up one of Beer’s headlands – Beer Head.


They are country folk down here – but as I climbed up Beer head, I must admit I was a tad surprised to see them ploughing deckchairs.


And the view of the fishing boats was fantastic:


Especially through the Beer Garden, and along the Beer path


The village itself was spectacular … and yes I did stop off to have a beer or two in Beer.


Before heading back to the campsite.


The view back at the campsite was spectacular.

Torrents of Beer – 1

No – not what you might at first think! 🙂

I went on a fabulous foraging course in Exeter (link here). On the way down, I decided to stop off overnight somewhere convenient in ‘Cali’ – my Vdub bus. I found a lovely little campsite about five miles from the coast and got my pitch sorted before driving on down to Beer to have a look around.


I arrived in the middle of a torrential downpour- fortunately I was well equipped with wet gear and a massive brolly – so I was able to stay dry-ish and take some photos.



The setting was marvellous despite the rain.


And a walk over to Beer head uncovered lot of beer sites! TBC

Torrents of Beer – 2


Great Step Up

My wife’s colleague showed me utility box he made for storing stuff and helping to step up into the roof bed.

This is my variation on that theme and it works brilliantly. Cost only a few £’s to make.

Components: one utility bag from Lidl, a few bits of 1 by 1 inch wood, screws  and some plywood offcuts. Box measures L33 x H28 x W17 cm.

Tools: Electric screwdriver, saw and sander:



Sanded all the components to get rid of all rough edges


Nice and smooth


Assembled with some screws – you need a power driver to do this easily.

Holes drilled in top to aid removal.



Fitted beautifully in Lidl bag.


It took about 3 hours to get this far.


Now, I  needed to make a wider platform to put between the seats and secure the box and bag with velcro.


Best with a bit of stabilization from a strap to the roof slats to stop any wobbling.


and can be stored neatly and usefully between the seats for driving.

It can hold a load of stuff when in either step or storage positions.


Enhancements to Great Step Up

VW California Mud-flaps

These mud-flaps are a great addition to my Vdub California Bus from  Veedub Transporters ( ). Stops the rear door and any bikes I’m carrying getting so messy. Instructional video very useful and dead easy to fit – 3 screws per side.

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Does her rear look good in these? Yes I think so!

Canoe Handling and Transportation for a Van

I thought these details would be worth sharing after a request for something like this on Facebook. I used a couple of glass handling suction pads bought off e-bay and a piece of plastic tubing I had hanging around. The suction pads need to fit so that the hollow handles face sideways across the vehicle roof – total cost less than £20  for 2 of these. I used quads, but doubles would also work, although the handles would be set relatively further back on the roof. The tube needs to be flexible because it has to bend slightly. This has the very useful side effect of holding itself tightly in the pad handles.


I also recommend putting some end stops onto the rear roof bar to stop the canoe sliding off sideways! Catching a falling canoe is no joke. A set of small steps is also very useful, because working at a roof height of around 2 metres is very different from working at normal car height.

This set-up works brilliantly. Not really for leaving on the van when you are driving – but I do for short journeys and just tie the pads on with some rope.

The rolling wheels on the end of the canoe are highly recommended. The first set were a bit flimsy, so I made some more substantial ones which I use all the time. These were cobbled together from some angle iron and a couple of cheap e-bay wheels (£10 for these).


I’ve included a picture of my winch system as well because it makes the whole loading and unloading process very simple. I leave the bow wheels on the canoe when I store it. So from from car port to top of van is around 10 minutes with relatively little lifting. Just as well, as the Venture Prospector feels a lot heavier than the claimed 32kgs!


Any questions – please ask in comments.



Machete Handle Replacement


Last summer we had a few great garden bonfires. On one occasion one of my son’s friends was chopping some branches for the fire and left the machete on the ground next to the branches.

When it was dark I just picked up the branches and tossed them onto the fire. The next day I was searching around for my machete and couldn’t find it anywhere. I even looked in the fire, but couldn’t see it first time. It was only when I raked through the ashes that I found my (once) lovely machete destroyed! I wanted to put a decent handle back on it – so came up with the idea of using an axe handle – which worked brilliantly.

The picture below shows the end result:


and here’s a video of what I did: