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We're all about exploring the world and getting you out there! That's why we're offering a 20% discount on RV rentals to a range of our favorite trips. Offer is limited to 2021 road trips!

Pros and Cons of a Semi-integrated RV, a Camping bus, and a Compact van

Semi-integrated: The fanciest RV rental you can get! They are as of now the most famous sort of RV rental available. In semi-integrated RVs, the transition from the driver's taxi to the living region isn't entirely straight and the rooftop over the driver's taxi inclines down. This implies you will not have as much headroom there as you would in the remainder of the RV. This more limited RV rental brings about a lower focus of gravity, so the driving experience is nearer to that of a vehicle. Current semi-integrated models regularly have an all-encompassing window where the rooftop begins to incline downwards, adding additional light to the RV rental. Four individuals can sit serenely at the eating table. No different from the camping buses, the driver's seats can as a rule be turned and are additionally essential for the seating bunch. Though, the sleeping possibilities are limited compared to the alcove RV - beds are usually located in the rear or as a loft bed above the living area. Sometimes, a seating group can also be converted into a sleeping area. Space is available for couples or smaller families.

Pros and Cons of a semi-integrated RV rental:

Suitable for 2-4 people

Comfort level: medium to high

Pros:

  • Ideal for couples and small families
  • Pleasant driving experience
  • Lower fuel consumption

Cons:

  • Poorly insulated cab
  • Only one real bed, optionally with lift bed

The camping bus: The original form of the caravan. Its most famous representative is the Bulli, the VW campervan. From families to sportsmen and hippies, all have spent vacations or long trips on a camping bus. Its most remarkable advantage is its size. 

Pros and Cons of camping buses:

Suitable for 2-4 people

Comfort level: low

Pros:

  • Compact and maneuverable
  •  Suitable for vacation and everyday use
  • Suitable for traveling couples

Cons:

  • Limited headroom
  • Limited (stowage) space
  • Rather for summer use than winter use

The compact van: Growing in popularity. The manufacturers can hardly handle the demand. Compared to the camping bus, the compact van differentiates in width and height and is still more compact than most RVs. Above all, they are narrower and often shorter. Six meters is a typical length. The second difference is the presence of a full wet cell with a sink, toilet, and shower, which is rather rare to find in camping buses. Great comfort may not be expected, but that also depends on the number of passengers. Two sleeping places are common, but there are also models with four and more sleeping places. 

Pros and Cons of extended camping buses:

Suitable for 2-4 persons

Comfort level: medium

Pros:

  • More storage space than in a compact camping bus
  • WC available
  • Standing height throughout

Cons:

  • Limited winter camping
  • Too small for families

Built-in toilet compared to Portable Chemical toilet

A Built-in toilet is made up of two parts: a permanently fixed toilet and a waste holding tank that is accessible from the outside of the RV rental. 

Preparing For Use: 

  • Remove the waste holding tank by pulling the safety catch upwards. 
  • Pull the waste holding tank outwards towards the stop. Tip it and take it out.
  • Place the tank upright and turn the emptying spout upwards. 
  • Remove the cap (which has a measuring cup inside) and pour into the tank the required quantity of toilet fluid. Add approximately 2 liters of water (enough to cover the bottom of the tank). Screw the measuring cap back onto the emptying spout and turn the spout back to its original position. 
  • Slide the holding tank back into its original position via the access door. 
  • Make sure that the waste holding tank is secured with the safety catch. Shut the access door and lock it. The toilet is now ready for use. 

In Use: 

  • Rotate the toilet bowl to the desired position. 
  • The toilet may be used with the blade valve open or closed. To open the valve, pull the valve handle under the bowl towards you. If the toilet is being used with the blade valve closed, run some water into the bowl by pressing the ‘FLUSH’ button once. 
  • After use, open the blade valve (if it was closed) and press the ‘FLUSH’ button. Close the blade valve after flushing.

A chemical camping toilet also consists of two parts, but they’re separated by a gate valve: (1) flush water tank in the upper part of the toilet and (2) fecal tank in the lower part of the toilet. With a manual or electric flushing system, no sewage, water, or drain connection is required. The feces are decomposed by a sanitary liquid. 

Construction of a chemical camping toilet

This is the construction of a camping toilet - not witchcraft, but a look at it will make it clear how a camping toilet works, and this will help you with the next steps:

Chemical toilet schematic

In the left part of the picture, you can see the upper part of the chemical camping toilet with a flush water tank. On the right picture, you can see the lower part of the toilet, in which the holding tank is located. These two parts can be easily put together or taken apart by the lock on the back of the toilet, which becomes especially important for emptying!

Steps to properly use a chemical camping toilet when you rent a RV:

1. Preparing the freshwater tank

The freshwater tank, as the name implies, is filled with water. Unscrew the lid from the flush water tank and fill the tank with 3 L of water (or until it is full). If you prefer a less chemical smell, you can add an aroma liquid or rinse water cleaner. Special products are suitable for this, such as Aqua Rinse, but dishwashing liquid or liquid soap are also good options. You can add 50 ml to 100 ml of this rinse water cleaner.

2. Preparing the holding tank

The holding tank should be filled with an appropriate sanitary liquid, which is highly recommended, preventing unpleasant odors. You can use Aqua Kem Green, for example. Begin by putting the chemical toilet cleaner into the holding tank. To do this, you should lift the toilet seat, pull the sliding handle (to open the access to the lower tank), and pour the liquid directly into the toilet. You can also pour the liquid directly into the lower tank through the drain spout - to do this, put the tank on its side, turn the drain spout upwards, unscrew the lid, and pour in the sanitary liquid. However, we recommend the first option, because it is a little more practical.

As a rule, you should fill 110 ml of the sanitary liquid, but the amount may vary depending on the liquid. We advise you to check the amount indicated on the package label.

Tip: Always try to choose biodegradable and more environmentally friendly dissolving liquids.

3. Using the chemical camping toilet

  • Open the toilet lid
  • Flush the toilet (We recommend doing 3 to 4 small flushes).
  • Pull the sliding handle

Important: The toilet paper used in chemical toilets must be water-soluble to avoid clogging.

4. Emptying

Please note: The emptying of the camping toilet is only allowed at designated places, like campsites, caravan parks, gas stations, or public toilets, never on the street or in a green area.

If your chemical toilet doesn't have a waste tank level indicator, there's no exact science to knowing when to empty the tank. You will have to open the slider and look inside - when you think the tank is full, it's time to empty the holding tank. Depending on the capacity, outside temperature, and frequency of use, the camping toilet needs to be emptied at least every three days.

Emptying a chemical toilet schematic

Emptying the waste-holding tank of your toilet in these simple steps:

  1. Disconnect the waste-holding tank from the flush-water tank using the rear latch and place the waste-holding tank on its side.
  2. Turn the emptying nozzle (pipe) 180º so that it points upwards and open the lid of the emptying nozzle.
  3. Hold the tank by the rear handle, press the vent button and pour out the contents.
  4. Fill the tank with water and close the lid.
  5. Now shake the tank well to remove any remaining residue
  6. Finally, put out the contents again, close the lid and turn back the emptying nozzle, and you're all done!

Emptying Toilet - Black water tank

It is only permissible to dispose of the contents of the waste tank in approved dumping stations or through a normal household sewerage system. This can often be done at caravan parks with the permission of the park owner. Different chemical packs allow for different removal options. Make sure you read carefully the contents of the material as to where you can dispose of waste.

Built-in gas stove compared to Portable gas cooker

Built-in gas stove:

For larger groups and longer trips, a built-in gas stove is more convenient. It works similarly to the one you might find in your home. Steps to use it:

  1. Before you start, make sure that you have gas and the gas valve is open on the gas bottle
  2. Lift both hinged glass lids covering the hob and bowl before lighting the burners.
  3. To light the burner, gently push in and turn the control knob to the high flame position and maintaining the pressure also press the igniter button. 
  4. When the burner lights, maintain pressure on the knob for a few seconds for the flame failure device to deactivate. 
  5. Adjust the size of the flame as required. 
  6. To switch the burner off, rotate the knob until the dot on the knob is in line with the indicator on the hob.
  7. While you are cooking, always leave the window open for ventilation. Be aware that the glass lid gets hot whilst cooking.
  8. Keep the gas cooker lid open after cooking until the burners are cool. 
  9. Only use pots and pans whose diameter is appropriate for the gas cooker burners.  When the flame goes out, the thermocouple automatically cuts the gas supply. 

The don'ts of a gas stove:

  • Don't use the glass gas cooker lid as a hob.
  • Don't close the gas cooker lid while the gas cooker is in operation. 
  • Don't apply pressure on the gas cooker lid when it is closed. 
  • Don't place hot cooking pans on the gas cooker lid.  

Portable gas cooker:

The portable gas cooker can easily be stored away. It works perfectly for a smaller or mini RV, as they take up very little space. Steps on how to use it:

1. Place your gas stove on a flat surface.

2. Remove the pan support from the top of the stove. Turn it over so that the support is then facing up, ready to hold your pan.

3. Open the cartridge cover on the stove. Remove the lid from your gas canister, and gently slot the gas cartridge into the stove.

4. Hold in place straight and press the cartridge stop lever down so that the gas canister slots into place. Check that the gas canister has been slotted in place correctly before use.

5. Turn the control knob fully to the left to the ‘ignition’ position until the stove clicks and lights. If it doesn’t work, repeat until it does light.

6. Adjust the control knob to the desired height of the flame.

7. Your stove is now ready to use. If using more than one stove, do not position them too close to each other, as this can cause the stoves to overheat.

8. Once you are finished, turn the knob to the ‘off’ position and lift the cartridge lever up to the unlock position.

9. Check that the flame is extinguished, and leave to cool down completely before disconnecting the gas cartridge. 

The don'ts of a portable gas cooker:

  • Do not use pans or kettles that are too large for the stove, as this will cause the heat to be directed downwards, towards the gas cartridge.
  • Never leave the gas cartridge inside the cooker when not in use. Replace the red protective cap on the gas cartridge when finished.

Cooling box compared to Built-in fridge

Cooling box

Coolboxes will take considerably longer than your regular domestic refrigerator to cool down. One thing to remember is that coolboxes will not perform well when in a hot car or small space, as the cooling components will overheat. They also all require an air gap around the cooling fan and vent area. 

  1. Electric coolboxes are a good idea for a small size RV rental. One of their great benefits is that it can stay cool for as long as they are plugged in. If you are not going to have access to a power source on your trip, you may need to consider a different option.
  2. Thermoelectric coolers are the lower price range cool boxes that use fluid that is heated electrically and then released into an enclosed chamber where it rapidly expands, this provides a cooling effect and requires no compressor to operate so they can be quieter.
  3. Absorption coolers rarely have a thermostat, so whilst they are not designed to freeze, this can cause damage to sensitive items such as eggs. 
  4. Compressor coolers use an electric compressor to compress refrigerant, this is by nature noisier than the equivalent absorption cooler. 

Most coolboxes can run from either 12v and 240v mains. Some cool boxes have thermostats or eco and max power modes, but these max and eco modes on some coolboxes only function when running on 240v. There is also a simpler version of the coolbox and this is the simple insulated cooler. They require no power and are ideal for days out and parties/BBQs.

Built-in fridge

The refrigerator can operate on three power modes:

  • Mains voltage (230V AC / External mains cable)
  • Direct-current voltage (12V DC / Backup battery)
  • Gas (liquid gas propane/butane) Atlas only 

Select the desired power source by turning the energy selector switch according to the situation. To regulate the cooling temperature, rotate the knob. In 12V mode, there is no possibility to regulate temperature.

The refrigerator should only be used in 12V DC-operation (Backup battery) while the engine is running or driving, otherwise, the backup battery would be discharged within a few hours!

In Gas mode: (Atlas only) 

To operate the refrigerator when not driving the RV rental or connected to an external mains power source, use it in Gas mode:

1. Open the gas bottle valve and appliance shut-off valve on the valve block.

2. Turn the rotary selector switch to Gas mode (flame icon)

3. Turn the temperature selector clockwise and push. Keep the controller button depressed.

4. Then, press the button of the battery igniter down and keep it depressed. The ignition process is activated automatically.

5. Once the flame ignites, the pointer of the galvanometer begins moving into the green range. The refrigerator is operational. Keep knob depressed for approx. 15 seconds

and finally, release it.

As a basic rule, gas operation is prohibited in petrol stations and when driving the campervan.

Electricity mode:  

To operate the refrigerator when driving the campervan, turn the rotary selector switch to

12V mode (battery icon). Make sure that the motor is running when using this mode.

To operate the refrigerator when parked in a camping site and with mains cable connected, turn the rotary selector switch to 230V mode (electrical plug icon).

In our Nomad model:

Rotate the knob selector inside the cooler and select the adequate option, depending on the case:

  • Turn OFF while parked, and with no 230V cable connection - the previously selected temperature will be maintained;
  • Turn ON, selecting Min, while driving - light refrigeration capacity;
  • select any position (Min to Max) according to the desired temperature while parked and connected to the campsite via charging cable.

Types of beds in a RV rental

French bed layout: The design is most commonly seen installed inside low-profile RVs. This layout refers to a fixed double bed arranged length ways against a wall of the RV. 

A decent bed (such as the domestic standard 4ft 6in wide) leaves only around 2ft 6in for the washroom. Most French beds share space in the rear with the washroom alongside, so the ratio of bed to washroom width is crucial. 

Then there’s the washroom door. Sliding or tambour doors often work best, but you still need room to access the ablutions, so the bed usually narrows towards the foot to make space. This ‘chopped off’ corner can see the sleeper on that side with a leg dangling; some are far worse in this area than others.

Another, less common, variation sees the washroom arranged behind the bed and across the rear, so then there’s more space for both the bed and the reasonably palatial ablutions. The overall length of the RV will be greater, though – probably 7.5m or more.

Top Bed (Atlas model) 

In order to prepare the top bed you will need to:

  1. Remove headrest
  2. Close top lid
  3. Release straps located in the corners
  4. Pull down the bed, it will automatically lock into place
  5. Use the provided ladder to climb onto the bed
  6. For added safety, you can attach the net that is stored under the top bed mattress

Please note that when the top bed is pulled down, the living is no longer usable 

Transverse fixed bed: These models will often be usefully shorter than fixed single bed or island bed RV layouts but they will boast some of the most commodious garage storage available. 

Length ways beds can sometimes be rather too short, these occupying the full breadth of the vehicle — are usually more than two meters long. While a transverse double is a good option if you’re tall, don’t forget that the person sleeping against the wall will have to climb over their partner if they need to pee at night.

Today’s Campervan community 

The van life gives you the opportunity to enter the nomad community via the internet. Internet resources are great spaces to share experiences, ask questions and find useful information, as well as connect with others. The most common ways to connect online are:

  • Instagram: a great place to connect with other van lifers and keep up with your friends and their travels.
  • Van life Facebook groups: You can find everything from general #vanlife groups, ex-pat groups, and digital nomads. These groups tend to have lively discussions, and they’re great places to ask questions, learn, and connect with others.
  • Vandwellers subreddit: Like the vanlife Facebook groups, r/vandwellers is a great place to find tips and tricks, and connect with others interested in this lifestyle. r/vanlife is a smaller subreddit that’s also helpful.
  • Forums: cater to various segments of the nomad community. Some of the more popular ones are:
  • The Project Vanlife Forum
  • Cheap RV Living Forum
  • Expedition Portal Forum

Things you must know about camping in campsites with an RV rental

When arriving at a campsite, you are required to have a current valid driving license to drive a vehicle on-site. Park as close to the reception area as possible and report your arrival. Do not drive to a pitch and park unless directed by reception staff. 

When you select a spot, try to choose a dry area and do not park in a position where you will obstruct others coming in. If you have no alternative but to pitch on a slope, ensure that when you leave you are driving down the slope. It is always good practice to chock the wheels of the RV rental when parked on a slope or a slippery surface, even when the brakes are applied. 

As you leave the site, always tidy your pitch and make sure you do not leave trash bags lying about. Check out at reception, pay your site fees, and thank them for an enjoyable stay.

Please take into consideration the following:

  • Keep to roadways unless otherwise directed. 
  • Adhere to speed limits. Note that these are generally 10 mph. (Remember that the stopping distance on grass is considerably greater than on the road.) 
  • Ensure that all freshwater taps/ connections are turned off after use. 
  • Young children should be escorted around the park.
  • If the vehicle is not fitted with a wastewater tank, a suitable receptacle should be put below all wastewater pipes. Do not let these containers overflow. Dispose of all wastewater where instructed
  • Empty the tanks from chemical toilets where instructed.
  • Put all litter in containers marked for that purpose
  • Do not make excessive noise. 
  • Petrol generators, unless silenced, should be used with consideration. 
  • All dogs and other pets should be kept under control. 
  • Adhere and take note of all fire precautions, noting the whereabouts of the fire points. 
  • Unless permission has been granted, barbecues should not be used. When permission has been given, consideration should be given to the annoyance that can be caused to other users of the site. 
  • Open fires are usually not allowed. 
  • Awnings and tents should only be used when permission has been obtained. 
  • Leave the pitch clean and tidy.
  • When leaving, check out with the reception, paying any required dues.

Logistics of an RV rental

If you rent a RV online and do not know the area, be sure to know where the actual pickup location is. Failing to understand this can make the start of your trip very stressful, add time to the trip, impact your ability to pick up the vehicle, and add considerable cost.

To rent a RV or campervan is not like hiring a car. As a general rule, you can’t pick them up from an airport, because of the space required to have large numbers of big vehicles on hand. Also, the depots are usually out of town, in areas where space is easy to come by and rent is cheap. This means that you will often need to travel a reasonable distance to get there, and catching a taxi or an Uber might not be an option.

RV rental Handling and Safety

Always keep in mind that your RV rental is much larger than a standard motor car when carrying out any maneuvers. 

  • Allow longer times to speed up when overtaking.
  • Do not swing out suddenly.
  • Carry out all maneuvers as smoothly as possible.
  • Use the nearside wing mirror to check the RV rental has cleared the obstacle when overtaking.
  • Do not bump the curbs with the RV rental wheels.
  • Reduce speed accordingly in strong winds, going downhill, or in poor visibility.
  • Large high-speed vehicles cause air buffeting, extra care must be taken when passing or being passed by a high-sided vehicle. 

When traveling in your RV rental, do not obstruct the permanent ventilation openings which are fitted, your safety depends on them. In case of a fire:

1. Get everyone out 

2. Turn off the outside gas valve at the gas cylinder. 

3. Disconnect the mains electricity supply. 

4. Raise the alarm and call the fire brigade. 

5. Attack the fire if safe to do so. 

FIRE PRECAUTIONS: DO NOT LEAVE CHILDREN ALONE WITH NO MEANS OF ESCAPE

Insurance

The insurance is included in all our motorhome hire. You may choose from 2 protection plans: the basic and the Premium. 

The Basic protection plan is included by default with your booking, and includes one driver only, 24/7 roadside assistance (only in the EU) and coverage for the damages caused to third parties. Additionally, a €2,000.00 deposit is required at the time of pick-up. 

You can also upgrade to the Premium plan, which is exclusively available for drivers above 25 years old, and it allows you to include additional drivers and provides you with more protection. A€500.00 deposit is required at the time of pick-up.

Driving abroad in a RV rental

Please make sure that you are familiar with the relevant laws and regulations that apply in the countries in which you choose to travel. Different European countries have different laws and regulations, and it is your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle complies with these regulations and that you drive within the law.

Tips for winter camping in a RV rental

  • Before starting your road trip, find out as much as you can about weather and driving conditions. 
  • Make sure to wash the underbody and all exterior surfaces with water after driving on roads that have been sprayed with salt. 
  • Secure the vehicle against rolling away and then release the parking brake to prevent it from freezing. 
  • Place all cushions in the vehicle upright to ensure they are aired and dried.  
  • Use only 100% propane in winter, as butane will not gasify below its freezing point. Make sure you have an adequate supply of gas bottles. Keep gas bottles in the gas locker only! 
  • While heating up the vehicle, open all cupboards, flaps, and storage lockers to prevent condensation from forming.  
  • Avoid storing containers (bottles, cans, etc.) containing water, juice, or other liquids in the unheated vehicle as they may freeze.
  • All snow and ice should be carefully removed from the roof of the vehicle and the awning; it is particularly important to ensure the flue on the wall is kept free at all times.
  • Never run power cables on the ground - they may freeze to the soil or be damaged by snow clearing vehicles. 
  • Keep metal taps open in an unheated vehicle at low temperatures, even if the water system has been drained. Always remember to open the mixer lever in both the "cold water” and then in the "hot water” position and to leave it in one of these opened positions.

Additional Tips for Environmental Sustainability

  • Collect all operating fluids (e.g. lubricants, spent oil, and detergents) in suitable containers and dispose of them properly!
  • Never dispose of wastewater of any kind or domestic refuse in the gutter or in the countryside.
  • Always empty the wastewater tank and the toilet unit at disposal facilities on the campsite or at specially designated disposal facilities. Observe town and district regulations and ask about disposal facilities.
  • For the WC, use small doses of an environmentally friendly and biodegradable WC chemical.
  • Separate domestic refuse into glass, metal tins, plastic, and wet refuse.
  • Never dispose of domestic refuse in waste bins in car parks. Ask about disposal facilities in towns and districts.
  • If residing for a longer period in a town or district, look for a specially designated parking place for RVs. Ask about parking facilities in towns or districts.
  • Turn off the vehicle engine when parked.
Reviewed by:
Hugo Oliveira

Hugo Oliveira

CEO & Founder

Hugo Oliveira founded Indie Campers eight years ago after graduating with a double masters from NOVA School of Business and Economics.

Frequently Asked Questions

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