Monday, 9 January 2012

Links - a list of useful websites for the Eribanaut

Hymer Group - Eriba pages
Eriba Motorhomes – a Hymer website dedicated to the current range of Eriba motorhomes
Jandi – the Scottish authorised Eriba caravan and motorhome dealer, based between Edinburgh and Glasgow
Lowdham Leisure – Nottingham & Huddersfield. Listed by Hymer as the authorised English Eriba motorhome dealer and Hymer caravan dealer,  but Lowdhams don’t mention the brand on their ‘New Motorhomes’ webpage and there are no details of Hymer or Eriba caravans on their website at all.  
Automotive Leisure – a recently appointed official Hymer Eriba dealer, based in Poole, Dorset. They have been trading as a used dealer and importer for many years and their elevation to Hymer appointed dealer followed the closure of ERIBA Ltd, Lechlade.
Leisure Vehicles – used Eriba dealer based in Cheshire
Retro-Eriba – used Eriba dealer based in Hull
Classic Caravans - dedicated to older caravans and camping trailers
Lakeland – home of the Remoska
Soplair – French makers of Eriba specific awnings
Eriba Forum – Independent UK based forum specifically for all things Eriba
Eriba Amiga – An earlier Eriba forum and help site now accessible via Eriba Forum
Eriba Owners Club of Great Britain – does what it says on the tin
Eriba Touring Club – German Eriba Club
Dometic UK Ltd – the Eriba fridge manufacturer
 Thetford Ltd – the Eriba toilet manufacturer
Truma UK Ltd – the Eriba heating and water systems manufacturer
What Tow Car – Which cars can pull your Eriba etc
1965 Eriba Titan Project – Nessy’s mammoth restoration task
Regal Furnishing – If you fancy an internal revamp, based near Nottingham
Raskelf Ltd – Home of the Duvalay and other bedding products, based in Dewsbury
Avtex Ltd – specialist manufacturers of mobile TV and multi-media units
Martin Dorey – Author of Camper Van Cookbook and presenter of One Man and his Campervan on BBC2
Squid in a box – a shameless plug for my son’s computer games design site.
Cobb Oven – a sort of enclosed barbecue
CADAC – a range of portable gas barbecues

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

First catch your ERIBA – Shopping

OK Eribas aren’t cheap, or are they?
These days you can get a brand new 2 berth Elddis for just over £10,000, a new Swift (Sprite) for not a lot more and a Bailey for a tad under £12,000. Go slightly larger with 4 berths and they start at around £12,000. That’s with a useable shower, oven, grill, 90 litre or larger fridge, microwave and all mod cons. Compare that to the price of a brand new Eriba Troll 530 3/4 berth van at around the £20,000 mark. So no they’re not cheap. 
But hang on!
Swift Group’s top of the range 4 berth Conquerors come to market at around the £19,000 to £19,500 mark. Admittedly they’re luxuriously fitted out, have loads of kit and have furnishings better and more cutting edge than Kevin McCloud’s favourite Grand Design. But they don’t have that je ne sais quoi, that cachet, that panache, that style that is Eriba. Add to that the fact that they’re fatter, heavier, lose value at a fair old rate and tend to be unusable after a dozen years and the Eriba’s prices don’t seem so bad. That’s just when your Eriba is getting interesting and it will still be worth 50% (often more) of what you paid for it. A case in point is our own 10 year old  Eriba Troll, which fully kitted out and in excellent condition should fetch around £9,000 to £10,000, if we chose to sell, which is only £3,000 to £4,000 less than her original new price. On the other hand the equivalent of the 10 year old 4 berth Swift Conqueror (or similar) are selling at between £4,000 and £5,000, if still watertight, depreciation of something like £10,000 over the same period.   
So Eribas aren’t cheap, but they’re brilliant value. 
Go slightly lower down the food chain from new and you’ll find superb nurtured Eribas with just a few years on them for probably only a few thousand pounds less than a new one. Add a few years more years (say 6 years old) and you’re talking prices that are about £5,000 to £6,000 below current (2011) list prices and not far off the price the original owner would have paid.
Inflation and the weaker £ plus higher production costs have all meant significant increases in list prices over recent years. High demand has ensured that used vans keep their price extremely well and the recent shortage of new vans off the production line, following the factory change, has also done its bit. Good news for existing owners, perhaps not so good for an aspiring Eribanaut.
Move on back past the 10 year old vans and there are still plenty of totally serviceable Eribas going way back to at least the 70’s. Sure they won’t look so sprightly, they’ll have dings and wear and tear, their liveries will look dated but they’ll also have character and that hard to define air of retro-chic that’s well appreciated and highly sought after.
Spares may be harder to find, but there are dealers who’ll do their very best to help you and just occasionally you might find parts in a breakers yard or on Ebay etc. Using such a grand dame of an Eriba is using a heritage vehicle and helping preserve a unique and well loved icon. Prices at this end of the market are totally dependent on condition and can vary between a few tens of pounds to thousands. 
Where to buy your Eriba
If your heart is set an a brand new Eriba there are two sources in the UK, both Hymer appointed dealers  - Automotive Leisure Ltd in Poole, Dorset and Jandi Ltd at West Calder, sort of midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Both businesses service and repair Eribas and sell used vans.
Both the UK authorised dealers generally sell all their new vans with quite a wide range of extras attached as standard, although individually specced vans can be ordered from the factory. However Continental buyers are offered Eribas with a fairly stripped out specification and can add options should they require them. So used vans imported from the Continent can sometimes have a lower spec. than you’d normally expect and therefore might need a few bob spending on them to get them to match UK expectations.
A few years ago it used to be quite fashionable to source your new or used Eriba from the Continent. There were substantial savings to be made as the £/Euro balance was in our favour. These days however the savings aren't really there and the flow of Continental vans bought privately or by UK dealers has slowed to a trickle.
As well as the two Hymer appointed dealers there are a few other independents scattered around the country who specialise in offering imported used Eribas on a relatively small scale and it’s also quite possible to come across the odd example on the forecourts of the larger caravan dealers who’ve taken the Eriba in a part exchange deal.
Eriba Tip The big caravan dealers often don’t know much about Eribas as they’re outside their usual run of fayre, indeed they often can’t get their head round the high values Eribas attract. Occasionally you’ll find a bargain as Eribas don’t feature in their Glass’s guide to used caravans either.

Then there are private sales where you should be looking to pay around £1,000 to £1,500 or so less than a dealer’s price for a particular van. Of course there are risks to private sales that are well documented elsewhere and you don’t get any protection from the Sale of Goods Act etc.
There are plenty of sources for private sales from websites like Ebay, Preloved etc and the For Sale posts on the likes of Just take it steady, think your purchase through, don’t overpay and if possible find an Eribamate with experience of the marque to accompany you on any shopping expedition.
Eriba Tip
Motormovers are sweeping the land and they’re being fitted to Eribas at an increasing rate. They’re very handy and avoid much muscle strain and bitter words between partners, but they are expensive. The going rate for fitting a Reichmover (which seems to be the favourite) is around £1,000 to £1,500 and you can expect any used van for sale with one fitted to attract a suitable premium.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Awning - Yawning

It still amazes me that on a certain Eriba based internet forum the subject heading ‘Awnings’ has attracted the fifth highest number of posts. 
Can you believe it, fifth place?
And I suspect quite a few awning posts have berthed themselves in some of the other sections over the years, so in reality the subject may actually have crept up into fourth place.
Never has so much been hot air been expended on so much hot air.
Now I have to declare an interest here and you may have detected a slight hint already, but awnings don’t interest me, in fact I find the whole subject a bore.
It’s true however that generally if Eriba owners at a rally aren’t erecting or demolishing an awning, then they’re standing round in a circle with a glass in hand talking about ………… awnings. I’m not sure what it is about them that involves and attracts so much discussion but I have to accept the will of the people here and acknowledge that I’m in the minority.
Types of awning
In a way we do have an awning, although to be truthful it’s technically a sun canopy (Omnistor 2000), which retracts into a cassette box that’s secured to the awning rail and looks like the wind-out awnings fitted to motorhomes and campers. We’ve even acquired sidewalls to clip in place but we’ve not used them so far. 
A peaceful scene with two beardies en couchant (almost), the knitting bee in full operation and Poppy showing off her Omnistor 2000 drag-out awning.
I’m not sure I’d recommend the Omnistor overall as its pull-out mechanism can be a bit fierce and make it a handful if you’re erecting or dismantling it on your own. However with two people it’s much easier to manage.
The varieties of awnings available to an Eriba owner are seemingly endless. There are full awnings and porch awnings, curved awnings and bow awnings, cheap awnings and mega-expensive ones. The best advice I can give you if you absolutely must have one is log onto, type ‘awning’ into the search box and settle down for several nights reading.
Awning useage
As to the uses that are made of awnings there seems to be three distinctly different camps of opinion.
One regards them as a place to store gear that would otherwise clutter up the van.
The second consider them to be places to live in, cook in, sleep in and generally entertain visitor and friends in, almost ignoring the van alongside, except as somewhere to bung anything that clutters the awning.
The third treat them as an airlock, drying room and pets boudoir and are probably somewhere in the middle between the other two extremes.
As we’ve already considered Eriba aren’t the biggest caravans and using an awning does give you an opportunity for additional enclosed space if that’s what you feel you need. Although as one dealer said to me they often find that people with small Eribas come to them to buy an awning to gain space and shortly afterwards return and buy a bigger Eriba because the awning hasn’t satisfied their requirement. 
Travels with an awning
Carrying an awning/sunshade around fixed to your awning rail is probably the neatest and easiest way to indulge, however if you decide to add sides and a front then you start to gain clutter and need the space inside your van or car to store it. If you decide to go the whole hog and opt for a full awning then you’re most likely into a pair of quite substantial bags containing the frame, clips, pegs etc and the canvas roof and wall bits. Not only are these quite large, they can also be quite heavy and weight distribution and securing the load need to be considered seriously, especially if you’re going to travel with the awning in the Eriba. A lot of awnings come with a choice between glass fibre poles and steel poles. There is a trade-off here. Glass fibre is lighter but more flexible and potentially not so strong in nasty weather, whereas steel is more rigid and will stand up to terrible storms but weighs a lot more. So as in many things you pays your money etc.     
Purchasing your awning
Two of the main brands you’ll hear of with regard to Eribas are the French Soplaire range and the UK-made NR range for Eribas that are sold exclusively by Automotive Leisure. Both are made to fit Eribas and this is important as the awning rail is much lower on an Eriba than on a standard (white box) caravan. The Soplaires have a reputation for sturdiness but require study and practice to erect quickly and effectively. The AL/NR has the advantage of being able to act as a stand-alone ‘tent’ which is ‘zipped’ to the awning rail once built. 
A NR made awning exclusively supplied by Automotive Leisure of Poole
Used awnings of all shapes and sizes are often posted on the For Sale board of and Ebay can be a useful source of supply as well.
Divorce rate
Before venturing into awning use it might be as well to think about your relationships and maybe reserve a session at Marriage Guidance for just after you return from your first trip. This might seem odd advice for a book about caravans, but believe me although it doesn’t feature in the official list of reasons for divorce I suspect initial awning erection must figure somewhere. So just consider whether your relationship with your nearest and dearest are up to it before going further with awning purchase.
Erecting an awning with its myriad poles, clips and pieces of cloth, all of which can be used in at least two, if not more, different ways tests the ingenuity, spacial awareness, determination and temper of even the most angelic and placid of caravanners and Eriba owners are not immune. Getting it all wrong after a lot of physical fixing and dragging can lead to total apoplexy and your poor partner is probably the only nearby person to whom you can make your feelings known. Drop kicking the dog also helps but is not recommended on legal grounds.
Not all the relationship effects of an awning are negative however as it can provide an excellent place for a partner afflicted with the results of a surfeit beer and/or curry to spend the night without upsetting the delicate olfactory senses of their other half.   
Spectator sport
One of the favourite occupations on any campsite is to sit inside your van with tea and biscuits (or cake if you’re that way inclined) and watch new arrivals moving their van into place, getting it set up and watching the erection of the awning. With any luck it’ll be raining cats and dogs, with a Force 10 gale blowing. With even more luck it’ll be a newbie with an untried awning and erection instructions in French that are turned to papier-mâché by the downpour. Hours of entertainment can follow which makes the pitch fee seem totally worthwhile.   
Awning Men   
There are probably more, but we’ve come across three interesting sub-species in our awning observations on camp-sites throughout the country.
The first is Tap-Tap Man
We first detected him at a site on the Roseland Peninsula in Cornwall. He was invisible but setting up his awning a hundred yards or so away from us late one lunchtime. And early afternoon. And mid-afternoon, and teatime and early evening and on and on. You get the picture. He started banging in tent pegs at about 1pm and was still at it at about 8 in the evening. We couldn’t figure out whether he was pitched on very, very hard ground and just wouldn’t give up or whether he had a very, very lightweight hammer/mallet or had fallen out with his Mrs and just kept on peg banging so he wouldn’t have to go inside and face her. If I listen hard I can still hear his insistent ‘tap tap’, tap tap’, ‘tap tappy’ in my head.
The second is Bunker Man
Every early morning as I was dragged to the dog exercise area I’d spot him with the top half of the front of his awning rolled down. His pitch was on a strategically sited knoll from where he commanded a panoramic view across the tops of the assembled vans towards the soft, green hillside beyond. He’d spend from cock crow ‘til evening light sat inside looking out over this vista for all the world as if he was in a pill-box waiting for an invading enemy to cross the ridge line. All he needed was a tin hat, a cigar and a pair of binoculars. I can’t recall whether his towcar was a Jeep and I still wonder if his surname was ‘Patten’? 
The third is Sporty Man
He turned up and proceeded to fill his awning with clothing rails straight out of the rag trade. He then started hanging an inordinate number of wet suits from the rails, plus lots of flippers and bits of underwater swimming gear and for all I know his lovely little spaniel was hung up there as well. The awning resembled an Aladdins cave of scubaism (if that’s a word). Whether any of it actually got wet we never did find out.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

A Tenuous Link

OK there are days (not too many I hope) when it's pouring down outside the Eriba and the weatherman says it's not going to let up for hours. What better time to break out the laptop and play a video game to while away the drab hours before the sun breaks through and Eribaland returns to its warm, dry, fragrant normality. See what I mean about tenuous?
That's as close as I could get to linking Eribas with the subject of this blog.

Whilst I prepare the next portion of real Eriba blog I thought I'd mention something else that's been going on at Steamdriven Towers recently. Our only begotten has moved back home in order to put the final touches to a project that he's been working on for a while. He's a games designer and has been nurturing an ambition to build and publish his own game ever since he sat at a BBC Computer at nursery school. Well almost.

And after many, many long, long nights (games designers don't do days) it's almost upon us. He's set up his own company 'Squid in a Box Ltd' to manage the game and the launch date has been set for 16th November when the game will be available to download from both:

It's called WAVES and I am told that it's a 'psychadelic twin-stick shooter' in gamer parlance. The 'psychadelic' bit means it's bright and colourful and the 'twin-stick' bit means you use two hands to control the game i.e. a mouse and a keyboard or the twin joysticks on those gamer pad thingeys. 

However as it's an online game it probably won't be easy to play in many campsites with no wireless internet or the labouriously slow dongle internet but I have a solution - well sort of. At present you can download and play for free a fully working version one of the five game modes that will be available on the full game. So go to:
download your very own free copy of the demo and you'll be able to play immediately and forever with no internet needed.

Personally I've found it a very challenging game, but totally absorbing and highly addictive.

And Squid says that if you enjoy computer games or have never played one before have a go at WAVES he's sure you'll like it.

Oh and our son has promised that if he makes his fortune from this game he'll buy myself and Mrs SDA matching his and hers Bentleys. The thing is though I'm not sure if you can fit a tow hitch to a Bentley and they don't make an estate version to accommodate the beardies.


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Let me entertain you - Entertainment in an ERIBA

OK I don’t like starting yet another chapter with ‘unlike most modern UK caravans’ but I will.

Unlike most modern UK caravans an Eriba doesn’t come with entertainment facilities included. I told you it harked back to earlier times.

There is no radio/CD player and no fitted speakers. Neither are there any pre-prepared cable runs and sockets for TV aerials or satellite dish cables. Indeed because of the type of roof involved in a Touring it’s advisable to opt for aerials/dishes that are freestanding rather than roof mounted. 

However this lack of so-called modern facilities doesn’t stop a lot of owners enjoying television whilst using their Eriba. Most Eribas will have at least three mains electric sockets fitted at points in the van within a cables reach of where you’d want to site a TV. And of course these are also useful for radios, laptops, kettles, toasters and electric fan heaters etc. etc as well.
Eriba Tip Just don’t overload the circuits and trip the hook up unit as the site wardens won’t thank you.
Most Eribas also have one or two light fittings that have a 12 volt socket built into the end opposite the switch. These can be used to provide power for relevant electrical equipment.
Eriba Tip Make sure that you’re using specially built caravan/mobile equipment as the type of 12 volt power can be harmful to some things.
You can be nice and tidy and have a TV aerial socket discretely fitted on the outside of your van or even do it yourself. You can route the cable equally discretely inside the van and fit a socket/sockets in a place convenient for your viewing positions or you can just bung the cable through an open window, it’s your choice, but the window thing might lead to complaints about drafts.
TV’s made especially for use in caravans and mobile homes have proved very popular. There are many brands available which can cope with both mains and 12 volt power and have the inbuilt ability to run CDs and show DVDs as well as TV and their cases, screens and internals are built to withstand the hurly burly of caravan/motorhome life. Some will also act as a computer monitor, show photographs from relevant media sources and some will record and playback TV as required. As yet they don’t make coffee but I’m sure someone’s working on it somewhere. 
An Avtex 10 inch Expresso Percolator. Sorry an Avtex 10inch all singing and dancing TV. In our opinion if you have to have a TV in your Eriba this is the ideal size. It just suits the look.
Some owners have fitted aftermarket car radio/CD players and speakers and have made a very neat job of them, although I’m not sure how they manage about an aerial. Others, like ourselves, make do with an ordinary portable radio, although the all embracing steel frame of an Eriba can present reception problems where the signal strength is poor.
Eriba Tip We’ve found that placing the radio on the shelf on top of the wardrobe and therefore outside the vans metal framework provides the best solution. Just make sure you remove it before attempting to shut the roof!
However whatever form of in-van entertainment you choose please be aware that Eribas have a wide slit around their roof which is covered in canvas. Canvas isn’t very good at insulation, heat or sound wise. So please make sure the volume is low enough not to disturb any neighbours who may be upset.
Our Pure Evoke Mio sounds good and the design just matches the Eriba retro mood. Happy sitting on top of wardrobes
You can go the dongle route although we’ve found it relatively unsatisfactory as campsites generally speaking tend to be in low mobile phone signal strength areas and the resulting internet can be interminably slow. 
A tablet computer is ideal for use while caravanning, small package, easy to access, lightweight with all that most people on holiday will need. And rather than give more exposure to the i-Pad here's the much hit upon Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
 Using wireless (wi-fi) is a much, much better solution providing it is available on site. Availability is spreading fairly rapidly, with some sites offering free wi-fi as a benefit to attract customers and others seeing it as an extra income stream opportunity. For those charging to use the facility the prices seem to vary considerably and in a lot of cases I’m sure that customer take up is being curtailed by high access charges. 

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Bye Bye Poppy, Hello Esmerelda


'We break into this blog on Eribas to bring you some exciting news!'

Our lovely Poppy has moved on and is now a Welsh Poppy (thanks Randa) living near Carmarthen.

This morning she was replaced by Esmerelda, a 2005 Troll 540 with central cabinet type lounge. Externally it's hard to spot the difference, red plastic trim round the mid-rail instead of white, different hitch cover design, different finish alloy stone chip guards on the front, a small square extra vent on the rear roof and a towel rail grab handle across the back instead of two single handles and different design rear light mouldings, but otherwise much the same. 

Inside the changes are more noticeable, different upholstery fabric, updated kitchen with round sink instead of square, chromed tap, hob with glass cover. Washroom with electric flush loo and a grey mottled worktop all round and different shelving and lockers plus chromed tap again. Up at the back is the real reason we changed, the central cabinet, with extending worktop, it means we don't need the gurt great table anymore and the bed benches are on hinged supports that mean the end of lifting 2 stone, 6ft 5ins bench tops about, Brilliant!

In fact Esme arrived at Steamdriven Towers at about 2pm this afternoon after a gentle perambulation up the M5/M6 from her erstwhile abode in Bromsgrove. I was gentle with her, rarely exceeding 55mph, because she was a little tail happy. I suspect this was due to the Soplair awning loaded up the back of her interior with absolutely nothing loaded up front to add noseweight. In fact I suspect we were travelling with an almost zero noseweight, a fact that was demonstrated by her desire to sit down on her back end as we manoeuvred her into her parking spot at home with the Reichmover. 

The other reason I was gentle with her, and BTW I treat all my ladies with gentility, was that I suspected the tyres were original and checking the code when we got home confirmed they were manufactured in week 21 of 2004, so they're over 7 years old and best advice is always change caravan tyres every 5 years.  

I'm also given to understand by her previous keeper that she hasn't been used in 18 months and therefore deserves a good full service.

Having checked through her this afternoon I find we've 'inherited' a pillow, a proper set of boules, a Waste Hog, a TV aerial array and wiring etc, some plastic waste piping, an Aquaroll, a microwave, a nearly empty container of Thetford green, some winter fridge vent covers, an ENORMOUS wheel clamp thing, a full Soplair awning, a green Protec winter cover and lots of bibs and bobs. And of course a Reichmover, something we'd ummed and ahhed about fitting to Poppy but now we have a van already fitted out. OK it's not the all singing version and you have to manually wind the rollers up against the tyres and the roller is the 'old sort' with pebble-dashed finish BUT it works and it's an absolute pleasure to move the van into her spot on the drive. More than a pleasure it's a boyhood fantasy in slow motion, a remote control caravan. Yeah! How cool is that? OK maybe not cool but, no dammit, COOL!    

I started moving some of our 'stuff' from Poppy into Esme this afternoon, just a few things, but I'm starting to worry. Our garage was already crowded but I thought when Esme arrived most of the 'stuff' would disappear into her. But with an extra awning and poles, extra Water Hog, the winter cover that's seen better days etc, etc it seems we're even more crowded. I'm already regretting letting our unused winter cover go to Poppy's new owners for £75 as I checked and a new one is £290 or so and on close inspection Esme's cover has a degradation hole on the prow which can only get worse.

One other thing that makes a massive difference to Esme's interior ambience is that she's got carpet fitted that matches the upholstery colour. It not only looks good, but feels good underfoot, however I don't think it's probably a sensible option to use with bad weather and two bearded collies on board. Maybe the carpet is one more thing for the garage. 


Water Water Everywhere – nor any drop to drink

Having dealt with the washroom issue we can now address cold (and sometimes hot) fresh water in an Eriba.
Water systems can vary greatly
It may surprise some UK owners, or potential owners, but even in 2011 if you look on the Hymer Caravan Price List you’ll find that standard specification Eribas are supplied without a hot water boiler and even without the means to connect an external cold water supply source, say the mains or an Aquaroll or similar. Getting those sorts of facilities is an option and costs extra. Eribas that come without such equipment have removable plastic containers (of relatively low volume) under the kitchen sink (and washroom basin if applicable), which take up storage and require easy access as they can need refilling/emptying quite often. 
Eriba Tip If you can use an Aquaroll water container then you'll find it will fit snugly in the standard Eriba washroom, standing on the floor, whilst the van is in transit.
Generally virtually all UK supplied vehicles have full water systems installed at the factory.  Eriba Ltd, the closed dealership that operated until Summer 2011 from Lechlade in Gloucestershire and Jandi, the still very much operating Scottish dealership, tended to have ensured they’re fitted. However Eribas imported from the Continent (normally used vans) may not have them as it seems that Continental buyers can be content to manage without. That’s not to decry the owners of vehicles without such water systems as plenty of people regard them as totally unnecessary and manage happily without and as they’d doubtless say, ‘what’s a kettle for if it’s not for boiling water?’
In fact Hymer offer a number of options as far as water systems are concerned, indeed over recent years they’ve even started offering built-in fresh and grey water tanks, thus aligning your Eriba to the same sort of system that most motorhomes use. It means you can fill up an inboard fresh tank and your sink/washbasin will empty into another tank that you can empty at leisure. Such fresh tanks can be attached to the mains with suitable adaptors to control the pressure and allow you to take advantage of pitches where mains water is provided direct. However unless you want to go through the rigmarole of coupling up the van and dragging it to the motorhome waste point you’ll still need some sort of container to empty the grey water tank when necessary. And if your pitch has direct drainage provided then you won’t need the inboard waste tank anyway. And always bear in mind tanks can use up valuable storage space, generally under seating, which you might consider more important. 
The water system most often seen in a UK supplied Eriba
I suppose what can be considered the standard water system is a connector hole in the flank of the van, usually covered by a hinged flap that generally has a joint 12 volt electric and a water connection. When required for use a hose with suitable connector is fitted and this hose has a water pump at its opposite end which is dunked into a water container such as an Aquaroll. The pipe has a 12 volt electrical wire running down it which drives the pump when a tap is turned on inside the van. In an Eriba with no boiler this will supply cold water to your tap or taps on demand.
The Truma Crystal hose which is the most prolific water system on Eribas, showing the pump at one end and the dual purpose water and 12V connector at the other.
Again what can be considered the standard hot water system works off the same water supply but has additional piping to a Truma Therme boiler, an insulated tubular shaped device, tucked away, normally in a seat locker somewhere. However the Truma Therme works on 240 volt mains only so you need to be on an electrical hook-up for it to be able to work. Other options are available, including a boiler that operates on either mains electric or gas, thus providing independence from mains hook-up, are available but are something like double the price of the Therme system. 
Our Poppy's Truma Therme boiler with warm air trunking passing through the middle and the clear tubed cold water supply and red tubed warm water piping.
Even if your chosen Eriba doesn’t boast a full water system or boiler a competent DIYer or caravan tech. should be able to retro-fit with little problem if you require it. Finding an Eribamate or mates to guide you and show you systems already in situ can help enormously.  
Grey (waste) water  
The standard waste water system on an Eriba is fairly basic. What did you expect?. 
You are supplied with one or two plastic jerry-cans (depending on model) and these are placed under hose outlets outside. One outlet will be directly under the sink and one directly under the wash basin (if your van has a washroom). Even when full the jerry-cans aren't too heavy but checking and regular trips to the waste water point can be a pain. For this reason a lot of people have the two hoses connected under the van and a single outlet fitted, normally on the nearside. This can either feed into a drain on the pitch (if you have that luxury) or into any form of waste container, such as a wheeled Wastemaster. However be warned that whilst the jerry-cans are quite small and can be neatly stored for transit, Wastemasters and their like are generally bigger, heavier when empty and of an awkward shape for stowage and cost extra cash.    
Drink from that?
But would you trust a water system in an Eriba, or any caravan to deliver pure, clean drinking water from the tap? Consider that it usually comes straight from a fresh water tap on site somewhere, into your Aquaroll then up through various pipes and out of your van tap. It’s recommended that the whole system is sterilised regularly (at least once a season) following the sterilising liquid, powder or tablet manufacturers instructions to try and ensure some purity. 
Whilst we carry out this practise ourselves we tend to opt for a separate supply for drinking, using recycled 1.5 litre water bottles which are refilled as necessary. It’s probably no safer and many people consider it too much fuss but we feel better doing it that way.  
The Nalgene 1.5ltre HDPE wide-mouthed bottle
 Recently we've been introduced to to the Nalgene range of bottles that are made of a rigid plastic that doesn't affect the water's taste and which can't leach any possibly dangerous nasties in the plastic into the water and are more sturdy than the bottles supplied containing shop bought water. In addition our favoured model the '1.5litre HDPE wide mouth' is much easier to fill and quicker to pour from than those of a recycled variety. Nalgene bottles are available in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours via Amazon and other outlets.  

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Splish Splash – I wasn’t taking a bath

There is an unending debate wherever Eribaites meet, whether on internet forums or face to face at rallies etc. The two opposing sides are trenchant in the defence of their firmly held opposing beliefs and neither will budge an inch.
So what is the question that provokes such strong opinions?
It’s simply this:
Advocates of the ‘no Washroom’ view consider the inclusion of the Washroom as a waste of space and only something extra to clean and maintain. And why bother when most of the time most people use full facility sites with toilets, sinks, mirrors and showers a mere few steps away.
On the other side Washroom supporters point out that having a toilet and wash basin on board is the bare minimum one should expect in this day and age and if caught short at night it’s far more civilised to use a loo with a closing door than it is to tramp to the site facilities block through storm and pestilence or use a Porta Potti in the van or awning.
I suspect that your view on this issue will be influenced by your keenness on the ‘outdoor life’, your willingness to don a hair shirt and whether your partner threatens to leave home unless a washroom is included.  
A 2011 Troll 530 Washroom, 4ins wider than its predecessor, with extra headroom and a Thetford 250 swivel toilet rather than the bench version previously provided.
If your Eriba is one of the smaller varieties like the Puck or Puck L then you won’t have a choice as there’s no space to fit a washroom. As you move onto the larger models, Familia and Triton, you get the choice with some layouts having a washroom and others not. And all the ‘big boy’ Troll models have a washroom fitted, although years ago I believe a washroom-less option was offered, as was the intriguingly named ‘fold-up washroom’ which I’ve only ever seen in pictures.  
What both opposing camps totally agree on though is that:
Leave aside that at least one supplier of new Eribas used to have a shower curtain factory fitted as standard and that there is a plastic shower tray with plugged drain hole. For anyone over 6ft tall it’s difficult enough to actually get into the washroom and virtually impossible to bend over and pick up the shower gel. But what seals it is that really the furniture inside the washroom just isn’t built to withstand regular soakings and whilst a clingy shower curtain can be draped to provide some protection I wouldn’t suggest it can be relied on.
The inclusion of a mixer tap that has a spray option and pull out extending pipe on the wash basin encourages the showering notion, but most people agree that hair washing in the basin is really the most that should be attempted.
Overhead view of the 2005 to 2010 washroom with electric flush Thetford bench toilet, grey/brown mottled worktop and chromed mixer tap.
For those worried about such things, Eriba Washrooms, and they are virtually a standard module almost throughout the range, are well provided with storage, with a lot of shelves and several cabinets/cupboards. In fact in mine there’s even a mains electric socket which would surely not be allowed under current UK regulations.
Poppy's 2001 washroom with hand-pump flush bench Thetford toilet, one piece moulded white plastic work surface and integrated basin and just a hint of the plastic mixer tap.
One area where there is an issue is washroom lighting.
For some reason the majority of Eriba Washrooms are fitted with two lights side by side just above the usefully large mirror. It’s a fabulous level of light for such a small room and absolutely brilliant for those who wish to apply make-up or inspect the finer points of their complexion. However people who wish to utilise the Thetford whilst standing up (usually gentlemen, I’m advised) will find that unless they are exceedingly short they will be standing with their back to the lights and a deep dark shadow will be cast on the toilet bowl and surrounding area. It brings a frisson of danger to the whole operation as you’ll find you can be literally ‘p****ing in the dark’.
I’m not sure what the solution is for this problem, clenching a torch in your teeth might be worth trying.
Size matters
There’s really no getting away from the fact that the washroom is small. Knee room for sitting down is restricted and people have been known to remove cabinet doors, or even the whole floor cabinet to provide extra space.
For those over 6ft or so tall there’s another issue. Eriba supply a removable towel rail in many vans that fits from just above the mirror to the other side of the washroom. It’s very useful as a washroom is the ideal place to dry clothing etc. However if you’re over 6ft you’ll find that whilst standing at the toilet your left shoulder may come into contact with the rail and you’ll be forced to adopt a pose not unlike Quasimodo. If you remove the rail you lose the facility but gain some comfort, although the edge of the fixed roof then rests gently on your shoulder.
This is something that has improved on the newer ‘FYised’ Trolls with their extra 4” height and width and unless you're very, very tall you’ll find plenty of head and shoulder space in the redesigned washrooms..
All of the above might be considered a litany of bitching. Maybe it is, but at 6ft 2ins tall and a whippet-like 17 stone I find the Eriba washroom a challenge. On the other hand my dearly beloved at 5ft 2ins and ‘don’t you dare mention my weight’ thinks it’s wonderful.
Who's to blame?
I think here might be an appropriate point to consider the overall sizes of Eribas and their washrooms in particular and how and why they've continued to be produced over five decades. I don't know, but I suspect that back at the end of the 1950's the original Eribas weren't fitted with such luxuries as washrooms. When washrooms started to make an appearance I haven't been able to find out, but consider the picture of Erich Bachem in the second blog. I would hazard a guess that EB is about 5ft 9ins to 5ft 10ins tall and not too portly, based on Hanna Reitsch being about 5ft 2ins (she looks fairly diminutive). Now I can imagine a man of 5ft 10ins designing a caravan of Eriba type dimensions but I can't imagine him being too happy with washrooms the size of the ones generally fitted to our vans.
On the other hand take a look at the picture below, taken at an awards ceremony.
Now I don't know who was the wicked devil that stood Erwin Hymer in the back row and I don't know who positioned him next to the giant on the far left, but you definitely get the feeling that Erwin is not the tallest chap in the group. I'd go so far as to estimate that he's probably about 5ft 3ins to 5ft 4ins tall and he's certainly a very trim gentleman, certainly not a Porky Pig. 
Now someone that's slim and 5ft 4ins tall will have absolutely no problem using an Eriba washroom or having the vision to generate the concept of hundreds of thousands of vehicles that are, to put it bluntly, all somewhat challenged in the space department. So there you have it, it needed a small guy to build a leisure vehicle colossus like Hymer Group. Come on! Could you see George Foreman doing it?
And I think that guy has a soft spot for Eribas and despite all that his armies of accountants and design gurus are telling him he has made sure they survive. What might happen when he passes on is another matter entirely.   

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

‘How am I supposed to manage in here?’ - Food glorious food

Unlike most modern UK caravans Eribas don’t have ovens fitted and they don’t have a grill or microwave either, but there are loads of caravanners out there who confess that their oven has never been used, others that complain bitterly about their grill and are scathing about  the microwave that's usually fitted about 7ft high, rendering it positively dangerous for anyone under 8ft tall. So Eribas do you a good turn by not fitting something you won't use, something that you won't be happy with and something that could injure you. Here's what you do get:
The cooking facilities in an Eriba vary dependant on model and year but generally you get a gas hob with two or three burners, with or without spark ignition. This I’m told is ‘the Continental way’. The fact that there’s really no space for the missing appliances and that not installing them saves money may also be ‘the Continental way’.
An Eriba kitchen in the for'ard position from circa year 2000 with three burners, hob controls on cupboard front, rectangular sink, metal splashguard and folding worktop/cover.
So if you’re the team chef you’re going to be limited to what can be cooked in two/three pans on the hob or go out for meals or order take-outs.
Actually the reality is better than that as demonstrated by Martin Dorey in his BBC TV series ‘One Man and his Campervan’ and in his wonderful ‘Campervan Cookbook’, a copy of which should be chained inside every Eriba in the country, not just for the recipes but for lots of other relevant ideas and information. In fact VW Campers often have better kitchen facilities than Eribas as they can come with a grill. It’s often a highly ineffective and annoying grill, but it’s one all the same.
One quibble with Martin is over the list of ingredients he suggests you take with you in ‘Camper Van Cookbook’. I don’t know if VW Campers are all sprinkled with Tardis dust but taking what he suggests would certainly challenge the storage space in most Eribas kitchens.
You do get a fridge with an Eriba (well with most of them) and oddly it seems to have been the same fridge in all models since forever. It has the ability to run on gas, 12 volt and 240 volt like most caravan fridges and has an internal storage capacity of 70 litres. Now these days 70 litres isn’t a lot for a fridge and most current UK caravans are offering 97 or 110 litres and some even more. This lack of fridge space is again, I am told, ‘the Continental way’.
The Dometic RM4230 fridge fitted to most Eribas for decades
The good old Dometic in the Eriba has a freezer compartment that fills half the top shelf and then two more shelves that aren’t very deep and then a sort of hitching rail across the bottom of an even less deep space which is caused by the need to accommodate a wheel arch. It seems that wherever Eriba decided to place their fridges in their myriad of layouts a wheelarch magically appeared behind it. Luckily the fridge door isn’t so challenged storage-wise and can take a goodly amount of stuff. As to the rest, the team’s storage technician has to be adept at getting the very most out of the space available. Mind you that’s an attribute that’s generally required throughout any Eriba.
Finally in terms of kitchen equipment you’ll get a stainless steel sink, sometimes round, sometimes rectangular, normally with a mixer tap but sometimes with just cold running water. Never fear if you have just cold, ‘tis the matter of a few minutes to warm a kettle on the hob.
Eriba Tip It’s even better to warm the water via the site’s electricity, rather than your own expensively purchased and precious gas.
Usually your Eriba will also have a cupboard with shelves and/or wire baskets and a cutlery drawer. In some fancy Troll models there’s even a pull out piece of extra worktop, albeit with a weirdly shaped sort of hole in the middle to allow the sink pipes to pass into the depths below. And talking of extra worktop you’ll usually find either a worktop flap to help extend the kitchen worktop or that the wooden sink/hob cover extends to provide similar facilities.
The fabulous looking 2011 Troll 540 kitchen gains a fixed splashguard but has lost the fold-down worktop extension to the right and the pull-out worktop above the cutlery drawer.
 So that’s where the gentle art of culinary preparation takes place in most Eribas. It’s not much and it’s cramped, but thousands get by using it every day throughout the world.
Eriba Tip Just remember to duck when you say that to your other half the next time he/she complains.
Of course what you put in your kitchen drawers and cupboards is down to your own and your family's own needs and desires, but in the cutlery drawer you’ll need appropriate numbers of knives forks and spoons, known as ‘gobbling rods’ in our family, together with food serving stuff, usually something to light the gas hob, a tin opener, bottle opener and corkscrew.
Eriba Tip Don’t be tempted to go for really cheap utensils as you’ll often find they’re false economy and you’ll end up paying twice.
Another Eriba Tip On the other hand weird looking specialist camping gear isn’t really necessary and can cost a small fortune.
On the saucepan side we initially purchased a special camping set where the handle clipped onto the pans and everything sort of stacked inside everything else. Very neat, very tidy and very small. But the handle didn’t work very well and made cooking a misery. So the camping kit is stashed away in the garage and we use some brilliant normal pans with fold out handles that just work and store easily. I would also recommend electric kettles over gas (on economy grounds) and suggest that camping toast thingeys that use the gas flame are a pain and that life can actually exist, but only just, without toast if you don’t want to lug an electric toaster about with you.
Eriba Tip A further hint is to decant your teabags, coffee, cocoa, sugar, etc into plastic screw top containers which are safer than glass and less prone to ripping and spilling than paper. Enough for most trips can be fitted inside a relatively small container and so saves precious storage space. They come cheap as twice fried potato slices, ours were from Morrisons. We’ve also recycled a couple of the small fruit smoothies plastic bottles as olive and sunflower oil containers.    
The paucity of space and facilities, should be considered as good for the soul, taking us back to our roots and closer to nature and all that guff. Basically it means you have a sound excuse for living on a diet of fry-ups for every meal, washed down with oodles of tea/coffee/beer/wine as is your preference and as dictated by the time of day. This doesn’t really match up to my understanding of ‘the Continental way’ however.
Anyway in order to keep your metabolism operating at peak efficiency you really do need a more mixed diet than fried eggs and bacon at every meal and to allow this to happen Eribaists have developed a whole range of coping strategies.
Our preferred option is the Remoska Strategy.
For the unititiated the Remoska can loosely be described as an electric saucepan. A non stick saucepan base sits in a chrome wire frame with a large chromed lid that has heating elements inside and is fitted with a mains electric cable and a black plastic handle. There are no controls except an on/off switch and it works by cooking food at a fixed temperature. You obviously need a mains electric hook up for it to work, but it’s amazing the range of dishes you can cook in what is really a portable mini-oven.
A Remoska - exclusively from Lakeland
Remoskas come in a range of three sizes and there are optional extras like cooking grids and pan separators to help with certain dishes. You get a booklet with some recipes included in the box and there’s a large wire bound Remoska Cookbook available to buy separately. And as it comes from somewhere on the eastern side of Europe which ends in ‘ia’ you can be certain that it is ‘the Continental way’.
Other cooking strategies used by Eribanauts with greater or lesser success include:
  •         Cobb Oven
  •         Portable Barbecue (gas, charcoal or one shot throw away job)
  •         Bravoska (similar to a Remoska but with a thermostat control)
  •         Various electric grills mostly made by retired heavyweight boxers

A heavyweight boxer
Websites for some are included in the links chapter and you’ll find information galore about their attributes by searching and other caravanning and camping websites.
It just wouldn’t be fair to end this section without providing at least one recipe, however it’s hard to outdo Mr Dorey and Ms Randell and their magnificent opus. However I have a secret weapon, a recipe thrust into my hand by a grizzled Worcestershire native as he dragged himself up into the cab of one of his many Auto-Sleeper Nuevos. Yes he is a chugger, not a tugger, but we’ve all been tempted by the dark side from time to time and somehow he and Auto-Sleeper deserve each other. Thanks Zebedee.
Zebedee’s Cream Cheese Bread and Butter Pudding
8 large slices of white bread
75g (3oz) unsalted butter
500g (1lb) soft cream cheese (Quark or Ricotta)
3 eggs
50g (2oz) raisins soaked for 15 minutes in dark rum
100g (4oz) caster sugar
Finely grated rind from 1 lemon
500ml (1pt) milk
Cut bread slices diagonally across into triangles, brush both sides with melted butter and place half in the base of the buttered Remoska. Mix the cream cheese with two eggs, the raisins, half of the sugar and the grated lemon rind. Spread the mixture over the bread: cover with the rest of the buttered bread. Whisk up the third egg with the milk and pour over the prepared pudding. Drizzle with any leftover melted butter, cover with the lid and bake to a golden crispy brown approx. 30-40 minutes. Sprinkle with the rest of the sugar whilst still warm and serve.

My arteries hardened just typing it out.