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Obla Di Obla Da

Thinking about folding

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After a(nother) wet weekend in the tent, I'm thinking of getting a caravan and awning - mainly so that when it rains there is somewhere that is a little cosier to stay, but also so that we can go further as a family - a long trip with the tent can be an issue because a) you have to pitch it and take it down again every stop and b) that's even more of a pain if the tent is wet - so until now we've only camped places that are with a day's drive of home.

 

However, the car we have is not a great towcar because it's  1.8 petrol which produces it's maximum power relatively high in the rev range. That said, we like it, and for the 95% of the time when it isn't towing, it suits us perfectly; and it already has a tow bar for bikes / camping trailer.  We have no need for a larger car most of the time, so we don't want to change it, although both of us passed our tests long enough ago that we have all the towing categories on our licences.

 

So, I've been thinking about getting a folding caravan (not a folding camper, nor a trailer tent) because these tend to be lighter than full 'vans (which seem to have become seriously heavy since my mum and dad bought one in the 80s) and more aerodynamic because they are lower, so the car should be ok with it - it's max towing limit is 1400kg, although in reality I can't imagine it would be a pleasant experience to tow that much; even with the 250kg max camping trailer you sometimes have to drop out of 6th gear on dual carriageways.  A folding caravan appeals because, having had to spread the tent out in the garden to try and dry it this weekend, I do not fancy having to do the same with the canvas from a folding camper / trailer tent. We do not have a drive on which we could air one, so it would need to be stripped of canvas every time we came home with it wet. I *assume* you can put a folding caravan away wet? Although as I type that, it occurs to me that you probably can't because the water on the walls will get inside it and on the cushions and stuff?

 

Anyway - as you can tel I'm very much at the preliminary investigative stage, but that's ok as I don't need a 'van for this summer. Any folding 'van experience and input much appreciated.

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Posted (edited)

Not sure how many folder owners we have now but we had a member Chris Gosling  ( caravan channel ) that had a folder and did a vlog of his travels with it . The advantage also is it can be stored in a garage saving storage costs and protected from winter elements .

You could also consider a pop up but they like the folders hold their price .

 

Dave

 

Edited by CommanderDave

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I looked at folders some years back - they seemed heavy compared to rigid caravans of comparable size, as there's a weight penalty in the folding mechanism.

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We have a 2008 Gobur Carousel 12/2T Folding Caravan, purchased in August 2018. It is far easier to tow, and uses much less fuel [2 litre diesel VW Tiguan returned 43.99mpg towing from Portsmouth back up to Scotland in mid February], but there are2 main prices to pay, figuratively and actually.

Firstly, Folders are much more expensive than standard caravans because they are low volume production, built largely by hand [almost every 1 was custom made with n number of variations and tweaks] and many of the components are non-standard, to ensure that they will all fit below the fold line.

Secondly, the price or compromise is in available/usable space. Walk into a standard 2 berth van and see how wide the caravan is; how much height you have; how much space you have in the bathroom; how much work surface space is available. Repeat the exercise with the Folding Caravan!

Our bathroom is 1.5 steps from the end of the bed, and the bathroom itself is about 2 feet wide  x 3 feet long but still contains a Thetford cassette toilet, shower and a sink plus bathroom cabinet ... Not built for the fuller figured human!

The seats are slightly lower than a standard caravan and the underbed storage is much more limited, both in actual size and the 'free' space after you have stored the wall cupboards. We have left the 3 back wall cupboards and the free standing dining table plus some of the excessive seat cushions out of the caravan to reduce weight and give more usable space.

Having said all that, we do love 'Gobby' [MTPLM 1050kg, MIRO 822kg] and have spent 107 nights away in him from late August 2018 to 18th July 2019, including 53 nights in Spain during December and January. We were very grateful for the awning [and the sun canopy for weekends or overnight stays]. so you cannot really get away from canvas! We have managed Autumn Rallies of up to 5 nights in Scotland without the awning, but that is when you do realise how compact everything is!

In the caravan itself, we have H&C water, shower, blown air heating, fridge, wardrobe and storage cupboards. It's functional, rather than luxurious, but we don't want for terribly much. It takes 30 minutes to level Gobby, extract all of the kit that is crammed into every available orifice, and be settled [plus awning set up time]. Packing Down is usually 2 hours+ to enable toilet emptying, waste water disposal, hot water drainage to take place, plus squeezing bedding and clothing into nooks and crannies. Gobur recommend leaving 2 'footprint' spaces so that you can enter/exit the caravan comfortably. We have it down to1 foot print and my exiting via a reverse 'Ministry of Silly Walks' manoeuvre where I hurdle the prone wardrobe after folding down the offside wall and then slide the waste water container into the space where my right foot was! Takes practice, but adds to the fun!

If you want any more details, photos etc, please send me a PM.

Steve

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Thanks all - especially @marchie1053 - that's interesting. Can you pack them down when it's been raining, or does it mean everything inside then gets wet? (I assume it does?)

 

I'm going to have to pay to store any 'van so it doesn't *have* to be a folder I guess, it was just that a lot of 'vans I see for sale are too heavy for the car, or are described as "I bought this as a project but I never got around to it" - which always reads to me "I bought this as a project, but then realised what an utter shed it is, so I'm trying to get rid of it."  Having said I'm not planning on changing the car, when this one does die, chances are it's replacement will be smaller / lighter (I but cars at around 6-8 years old so I look now for the car I will be after in the future, and the one I have my eye on for 4-5 years time has a towing limit of 1200kg) 

 

So in summary, I like the idea of a folder, but if the consensus is they are dear and problematical, I don't rule out a normal 'van, but it's going to have to be lightweight. It needs to be 3 berth minimum too.

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We had an Esterel folding caravan for a few years - upgrading from a combi camp.  Easy to put up with the roof balanced on gas struts.  Start with the front and rear walls then the sides.   Could be a bit hairy in the wind until all 4 walls were locked in place.  Same with taking down but apart from getting wet there were no issues about folding it up after rain.  A 2 person job to hold end walls while the sides were fixed.

 

If not a folding caravan how about a 'pop top'.  These are usually better appointed than the folders but tend not to be too heavy and apparently tow better.

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Obla Di Obla Da said:

Thanks all - especially @marchie1053 - that's interesting. Can you pack them down when it's been raining, or does it mean everything inside then gets wet? (I assume it does?)

 

I'm going to have to pay to store any 'van so it doesn't *have* to be a folder I guess, it was just that a lot of 'vans I see for sale are too heavy for the car, or are described as "I bought this as a project but I never got around to it" - which always reads to me "I bought this as a project, but then realised what an utter shed it is, so I'm trying to get rid of it."  Having said I'm not planning on changing the car, when this one does die, chances are it's replacement will be smaller / lighter (I but cars at around 6-8 years old so I look now for the car I will be after in the future, and the one I have my eye on for 4-5 years time has a towing limit of 1200kg) 

 

So in summary, I like the idea of a folder, but if the consensus is they are dear and problematical, I don't rule out a normal 'van, but it's going to have to be lightweight. It needs to be 3 berth minimum too.

Packing down in the wet is not a problem [other than getting wet yourself, especially when 'extracting' the seals around the sides of the folding caravan [takes 5-10 minutes, even when it's playing awkward!]. The roof is designed like a shoe box lid so the caravan fits inside. The roof has a deep lip, front and back, and water does gather there [just need to remember and to let the roof down gently, otherwise you get a free shower as the roof goes through the 45 degree angle and the water cascades!] In practice, with a gentle approach, a tiny amount does splash onto the teak wall batten at the fold. A quick wipe with a microfibre cloth or those artificial chamois style things that absorb copious quantities of liquid gets the water away quickly and the wood is dry by the team the seals have been extracted. The worst problem is loading the free standing chairs/loungers into the van at floor level; space restrictions mean they need to be stored under the van [especially if no awning used], and if it rains, they have to go in slightly damp, but on arrival at siteor home, 10 minutes to open the van up and 5 minutes to mop any damp with a cloth has the problem resolved. 

I hope I haven't been too pessimistic or negative; I was trying to highlight where the compromises occur, so that you can judge whether the greater comfort and more usable space of a standard caravan is preferable to the Folding Caravan advantages of easier towing, much better fuel economy, and lower tariffs on Cross Channel ferries [classed as a large trailer on DFDS].

Gobby is never less than entertaining for the set up and pack down. I do love the set up when I have the front and rear walls in situ under the roof [just before erecting the 2 side walls] so that I can ask any onlookers if they want onions with their burger :D.

If you need details of any dimensions or weights etc, I've got most figures on my phone since the Manual is in the bowels of the van in storage.

Steve

PS Gobur do a Clubman version of the Carousel [quite a bit heavier] and some were 3 berth. The vast majority  are 2 berth. The website has photos of stock and the base weights of the various permutations of layout. goburcaravans.co.uk

Edited by marchie1053
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2 hours ago, Julianjay said:

We had an Esterel folding caravan for a few years - upgrading from a combi camp.  Easy to put up with the roof balanced on gas struts.  Start with the front and rear walls then the sides.   Could be a bit hairy in the wind until all 4 walls were locked in place.  Same with taking down but apart from getting wet there were no issues about folding it up after rain.  A 2 person job to hold end walls while the sides were fixed.

 

If not a folding caravan how about a 'pop top'.  These are usually better appointed than the folders but tend not to be too heavy and apparently tow better.

I think the Folder will tow better than the 'pop top', not least because it sits around 15cm below the car roof level, so sits in the car's slipstream. Very few 'snakes' for the same reason - the Folder sits some 58cm lower than the 'pop top'. Fuel economy is also much better at 38mpg with a heavy right foot, and just shy of 44mpg [or less than 75% of the tank] for the tow from Portsmouth to Fife in February of this year [472 miles from the refill at Tesco Bursledon J8 of M27].

Steve

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We picked up our Clubman a couple of weeks ago from Mr Gobur (Richard) at Melton Constable, and have just got back from a wet time in the Peak District. I was initially sceptical about the various claims made by him, but to be fair he was spot on. In 48 hours of solid rain, not a drop got into the van! I tow with a Berlingo and previously had a Sterckeman lightweight - a bit lighter than the Clubman. Yet there has been a massive decrease in the amount of fuel I use.  I particularly notice a difference on downhill stretches where in the past I would have kept a bit of power on due to wind drag- now I'm braking as the Carousel pushes you down the hill. It really is so easy to tow. I can see over the top from the interior mirror, and don't need extension mirrors as I can see down both sides. We don't carry much extra stuff with us, and even as newbies to a folder, 15 minutes sees it up and ready to use. I can't say it takes us much longer to pack up than with the Sterckeman, though we do have to carry things like water and waste containers in the car rather than in the van. We have been surprised in comparison how much space we do have when it's up. We have the twin layout and have been using them as single beds and there's loads of room and plenty of storage for us. I guess it all depends what you are comparing it with. For us it's worked out perfectly and we are very pleased with it.  We have a washroom with shower in ours. The shower will be used very occasionally and I can see that it will be rather compact, and probably a fight with a clinging shower curtain. But at least it's there and it will get used.

 

The best thing when we got back was it took me just 15 minutes to wash it down as only the bottom half was dirty. In the past it was a long brush and a set of 8' step ladders and a good hour or so. The shiny fibreglass roof just requires a wipe over not a scotchbrite pad to get rid of ingrained algae! It was after a day balanced on the ladder scrubbing just the roof of the old van a few weeks ago,  that made me say "never again" and instigated a trip to Melton Constable.  We went for a look and came away rather surprised to find we had bought a van. We're not quite sure how it happened, but we're not disappointed. 

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