Fuel, LPG and the Gaslow system

Mothership II is currently doing about 21 to the gallon. That is down on Mothership I which managed 35 or more, but we have to allow for it being double the weight.

Another first for us a few days ago was our first ever LPG fill-up for the gaslow system – this is the permanently installed LPG gas bottle system that can legally be refilled by the user.

The great big hiss disconnecting from the pump made us jump even though we knew it would happen! 39 litres for £24. At the local Calor dealers, it’s £22 for a 6KG (11.7 litres) and that’s already cheaper than camping supply stores, so you can really see the saving – about a quarter the price.

But the big benefit for European travel is the hassle saving. Although there is now a European standard for regulator pressure, there are still national gas bottle providers in each country so it’s not practical to have lots of different canisters. Campingaz is a solution and the canisters are pretty common all across Europe, but it’s expensive and the largest size is just 3KG.

For refillable systems, there are still differences across Europe but it reduces to just three different filling connectors (plus the UK) so it can be achieved with a bag of 3 brass adaptors which screw into the UK system. So our only constraint is LPG filling stations. We’ll probably carry a small LPG generator too so the LPG supply will also double up as our emergency power supply if the sun fails to shine! LPG filling stations are pretty common all across mainland Europe, but tend to get harder to find on islands, so the fix is to attach a locally sourced pigtail and just use whatever propane source is hand such as the Campingaz bottles noted above.

We’ve tended to be pretty frugal on propane in the past, and have only got through two or three 6KG bottles in a year. That works out to about 15 bottles over 12K miles. With the new system being double the capacity and filling both bottles at once, that works out to about four refills over 10,000 miles for the same usage profile. Our power budget estimates that the fridge will run for around 50 days on the full gaslow system and that’s by far the biggest gas user. We still have a couple of tricks up our sleeve to reduce that further, but it does depend on getting the solar panels working efficiently!

Shakedown trip 2: Cornbury Festival and Blenheim Palace

Summary: Weekend was great, the van was *almost* great, the water tank leak is sorted, all our gear is now packed in the van. Sadly, the solar panels are still not working. 

Thursday saw us head up to Great Tew Park in Oxfordshire for the return of the awesome Cornbury Festival. Everything *except the solar panels* worked just great. We are still learning the personality of the new van, but getting there.

The weekend brought us great music from the likes of UB40 and Squeeze and then on Monday we decided to avoid the traffic by spending the day at Blenheim Palace which was just around the corner. We had passed loads of cops and demonstrators on the way up on Thursday and it took us a while to work out that it was all Trump related.

It’s been a decade since we visited Blenheim, so it was high time for the return trip. It felt a little more seedy than last time knowing the feckless chump had been there, but what made it an interesting day was that the palace was hired for a film shoot by a Bollywood film company, so we got to watch a few scenes being shot, which was pretty cool.

But it does look like Mothership will need a trip back to the dealer before we leave to get those panels sorted.

Selina has only a few days of work left and then the heat is on to get out of the country and hit the road!

Dog Tags

Once you hit 50, even with a set-off checklist, stuff will still get forgotten. Trust us!

Driving with the LPG on is irresponsible, driving with the corner steadies down will plough fields and also cause sparks like an F1 car (cool!) and trying to move off over the top of your chocks just makes everyone laugh at you, so we made these dog tags to attach to the steering wheel to remind us of the most important stuff to fix before driving off.

Which dog tags do you think would be the most important for your van? Do you like these? We can make them for about £5 each. They are double sided with the warning text one side and an icon on the other and they are on a wrist sized mini lanyard. Most people already have a system like this we think!

Mothership II Shakedown trip #1

We took MS2 on a shakedown trip down to Horam in Sussex and had a delightful couple of days in Horam Manor Touring Park. We had a couple of niggles including a leak from the fresh water tank. It seems that the tank covers were not screwed down tight enough. There is also a little seepage from the drain hose and the overflow hose. The tank covers are now numbered and marked so we know if they come loose again. We’ll drain the tank properly and check the drain hose in the next couple of days. A leak in either of the water tanks is a big deal in a double floored van because the water leaks inside and not down onto the road as with underslung tanks. We probably lost a litre so there was half an hour of careful mopping out and it’s sorted now. We think no damage has been done. This is an important thing to fix as we do need to travel with the water tank full – we don’t have the budget to be on campsites all the time, so wild camping means carrying everything for a few days with us.

The acrylic mount for the sat nav works reasonably well – it seems to flex a little so some strengthening strips to glue on the back over the next few days. There’s a niggle or two with the captains table – it has a latching middle leaf that seems not to latch properly plus some magnets that hold it together that are not fitted properly. Again, on the snag list they go!

We’ve been fitting the obligatory tack matting to the cupboards and storage spaces to try and stop things sliding around and we still have to sort out the bathroom cabinets – they have only a tiny lip so almost everything falls out when you open the doors. I guess this luxury tourer is meant to travel from place to place without anything in the bathroom lockers!

The fridge needs another shelf – so we’ve emailed Dometic to see if we can buy a spare. The auto switchover for the fridge seems to be non-intuitive, so we’ve turned it off for now. 

The underfloor storage areas seem to be naturally morphing into beer, wine and soft drinks storage.

We decided not to test the power budget this weekend so we stayed on hookup. We have a music festival in a couple of weeks so that will be the first wild camping weekend. We don’t expect any issues, but we still want to make some changes to the solar setup before we go away.

It was a scorching weekend and the van was certainly warm, but we have found that the Alpa layout allows us to completely partition the cab off and that makes a big difference. The 7(!) skylights mean that we can get plenty of air in and the windows all open really wide too. The overcab bed was really comfortable and we hope to have proper bedding for it in a week or so.

All in all, we tested pretty much everything on the van this weekend and apart from the above niggles everything seemed to work just fine, although the snag list is longer now than it was on Friday! But we are moving onwards and upwards!