The motorhome equipment & options available to you when you buy a new or second-hand motorhome can be bewildering. Just like choosing your motorhome, what equipment you choose will be determined by how you’re going to use your motorhome. Full-timers on a motorhome tour of Europe will probably want heating and a full bathroom set-up. If you’re spending 2 – 4 weeks a year on holiday, you may want to spend the money on something else!
Motorhome Equipment & Options
When deciding on equipment and options, also consider how much weight each will add to the MRO (maximum running order), which is the van’s weight when it leaves the factory. The higher the MRO the less payload you will have available for your day to day running gear. Ask the manufacturer for a list of options weights before deciding on what is essential and what’s a nice to have.
Consider how you will use your motorhome…if its for short summer trips then you won’t need heating. If you intend to spend the winter in southern Spain or Portugal on a campsite with EHU, you would manage with a plug in oil filled radiator or fan heater. If you want to venture into the mountains (even in southern Spain) in the winter you will definitely need heating.
You have a choice between wet or blown air…in our experience wet is by far the most effective and comfortable; blown air tends to dry you out! A wet system will also supply you with hot water, it is worth considering a system with a boost feature if you like a long shower or there are more than two of you. You will also need to consider how to get gas in Europe, refillable systems are best and described further down the page.
Any heating system will need regular servicing, approximately every two years, and will use some form of fuel. With an 11kg and a 6kg gas bottle; continuous heating run time is approximately 48 hours, depending on your system…..in reality, once you get toasty, the van will hold the heat even for quiet some time.
Again, you need to consider how you’ll use the van…this probably comes in the ‘nice to have’ bracket, although it’s probably required if you have a dog.
Air conditioning is an expensive extra and needs at least 10A of EHU to be effective, any less and it will cut-out. Do not even think about operating from your leisure batteries unless you have a specialist set-up! Depending on the unit, you can also choose blown hot air which may supplement your heating system, or be all you need.
Modern units can be directed and often have a ‘silent’ mode for night use. I don’t think they are that silent and generally, once your van is down to a nice comfy temperature you probably won’t want your air conditioning on at night unless you sleep above the cab which can get quite warm and stuffy in hot weather.
In our opinion, a must for weather and sun protection. An awning light, linked to an inner switch is also helpful if you’re cooking or sitting outside after dark. You will need tie-down straps and may want to consider bolt-on options such as a central rafter; a sun screen; a wind diffuser and a safari room which closes your awning on all sides.
If you wild camp more than 80% of the time, you may not use an awning that much as you won’t be anywhere you’ll want to put it out or be bothered if you’re moving on…that’s our experience. We know people who carry a large parasol instead!
Make sure that you angle your awning to allow rain to flow off or it will fill up and collapse and always ensure yours awning-straps if there is the slightest chance of wind, it’s an expensive bit of kit to lose.
There are hundreds of types of bike racks to suit all needs. Investigate and check recommendations before purchasing, generally you get what you pay for. If you have a tow-bar you can get racks to fit which means no drilling into the rear of your van. However, if you have a long back end, this will weigh you down further and may cause you to bottom out on speed bumps and ferries.
You may want a bike cover and this will need to have a warning sign attached, (as do the bikes without a cover) according to the laws of the country you are travelling in.
How many, type and the size of leisure batteries will depend on how you are going to use your motorhome. If you are buying a used motorhome, you should consider how old the batteries are; battery life is approximately 4-5 years depending on usage and type. LED lights will help reduce your battery consumption when you are not plugged in.
The batteries are usually charged automatically when you are plugged in to 230V, are running the engine and/or trickle charged by solar power, if you have a panel fitted. There is usually a regulator fitted which manages the different charges and maintains your batteries in their optimum state. Batteries are a complex subject, talk with a dealer who can give you more expert information.
Refillable Gas System
Re-fillable gas cylinder systems such as Gaslow and Gasit are housed in your gas locker and can be filled at any LPG station in UK or Europe. It is a must if you’re travelling in Europe for any length of time. You will not be able to re-fill or replace UK cylinders outside of the UK. It costs approximately £500 but is well worth the investment and cheaper to fill than replacing conventional bottles.
LPG is readily available with a little forethought and planning…we usually fill up once we have switched to the small bottle and there are a few websites detailing locations which are helpful; there is also a guide with All the Aires books.
If you are having this fitted, you should also consider having a filter fitted at the same time due to the high levels of butane found in Spanish and Portugese LPG; it won’t filter out the butane but will remove any damaging particles.
You may also want to consider an accident recognition system such as Truma MonoControl which means you can travel with your gas switched on as the integral sensor stops any gas flow immediately it senses a collision.
External Gas Point
This is really useful to have if you intend to cook out a lot using a Cadac or other similar grill. The point is normally fitted somewhere in a storage area on the habitation door side of the van, are very simple to use and mean you don’t have to carry a separate gas bottle.
An investor converts your 12V to 230V meaning you can use plug in devices and appliances. We don’t use things like a toaster though, or other appliances which draw a lot of power as they significantly deplete your batteries. It’s ok to do occasionally but regular depletion affects the leisure batteries life cycle. Be aware that some invertors do not give you full 230V at every socket; you may have some 230V sockets and some 12V; make sure you know what you are having fitted. Read more about motorhome power here.
Some vans come with a Dometic stack of fridge freezer and oven or microwave. You should consider carefully what type of food you will be cooking to help inform your decision. Our van came with an oven; we debated bringing a microwave but realised we only really heated up baked beans at home! We didn’t think we would use the oven, and we didn’t in the summer, but come winter we are glad we have it.
If you have one fitted, a twin lens is the optimum type as this gives you a rear-view mirror view. Consider where you will be driving and how often you will reverse your motorhome; if you are going to one site for six months it may not be worth investing. If you are wild camping on cliffs then it’s probably a must!
A genius invention which prevents a smelly loo and eliminates the need for any chemicals. On opening the toilet blade, a fan starts creating negative pressure, extracting the unwanted odours from the cassette through the roof or side of the van depending on where your loo is located; you wouldn’t want your SOG vent letting out into your seating area! This means no need for expensive chemicals and no smells and best of all, it’s environmentally friendly…yay! To find out more about SOG toilets, read our post on Motorhome Water and Waste.
A must if you’re wild camping. Our van came fitted with a single 120w solar panel which trickle charges the 3 x 110AH leisure batteries via a regulator. If we are careful about how much tv we watch, we can have light and charge devices overnight knowing the solar panel will recharge the batteries the following day (unless of course it’s really cloudy, but we don’t seem to get much of that!). We can manage without EHU for around 2-3 days on dull days and indefinitely when the sun shines.
Additional panels can be fitted, providing you have the space on the roof. Alternatively, you can carry a mobile solar panel which needs to be set-up and dismantled each time you move. This technology is improving and developing rapidly so check with a dealer or supplier who can give you more information. Read more about motorhome power here.
We have a factory fitted Blaupunkt media centre with sat nav truck software which allows us to be confident about routes. She (of course, its a female voice) does sometimes send us off down lanes we really don’t want to be down but generally is spot on and will work from co-ordinates. There are a number of well-know providers offering pre-loaded units or upgraded motorhome software which can include stop overs.
Read our post about the best motorhome sat nav’s here.
If you are buying new or second-hand, we strongly advise you to ensure you get a full handover of the vehicle, equipment and control panels on collection.
When we bought our first motorhome, we didn’t do this and it took us some time to puzzle out how it all fitted together….every time we thought we had a problem with the van, it turned out to be a problem with us!
If you’re motorhome beginners like we were once, there’s loads of tips and advice in our HUGE guide for motorhome beginners. From buying a motorhome to planning your first trip, you can find it all here.