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Old 10-16-2019, 03:22 PM   #1
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Default Camping in Europe

Camping in Europe

I just traveled 1,600 miles from Budapest to Amsterdam on the Danube, Main and Rhine Rivers. There were several RV parks and I photographed many I saw. Of course this is anecdotal since I only saw river camping and a few campgrounds on bus tours. My observation is there are not dedicated camping spots like our typical pad, picnic table and fire pit. There is little separation between campers. Some you could not extend an awning. There may or not be public facilities such as toilet rooms. Any electrical would be a standard plug as there were no electrical boxes on pedestals. Thus, no air conditioning. No dumping facilities. The are just basically camping fields and there were few prepared pads.

There were very few campers of any type longer than about 24 foot either trailers or motor coaches. Once you see the roads and cities you quickly understand their Class Cs are built not much wider than the vans because they canít handle widths more than 8 feet. If you have driven the Needles highway in the Black Hills of South Dakota, gone through the Danial Boone National Scenic River Road in Kentucky or tried to drive to Makerís Mark Distillery in Loretto, Kentucky you would understand. I put in 1,500 miles once all over England and especially Wales and could never imagine a RV bigger than a van. Thatís what you encounter everywhere outside Germanyís Autobahns.

They use a cab/chassis more for simplicity in design to make walls upright and most likely less expensive. Those kinds of Class Cs, though desired with envy, might not go over here since we have a collective mindset of thinking bigger is better especially when we have no constraints such as a unibody steel van.

Class B camper vans appeared a myth over there as well as here. There were very few. Small trailers ruled and next came those small Class Cs. Class Bs may very well have been about 2% of all RVs as is here.

I think I now know why Class Bs in Europe almost are universally designed to have a second row of seats to have face to face seating inside the van. For one many places you could not extend an awning out and there were no picnic tables. So people need the sit down comfort of an inside space. We donít. We expect a campground to provide a picnic table and our tendency is to be outside even when we seek non-facility dispersed camping.

I assume we drive more miles than Europeans and much more comfortable roads. We might not want to sacrifice inside space for comfort sit down situations. At least I donít.

Some lucky few when they could park parallel to the river had full width screen porch tent structures. Those were mostly trailers. Like I said campgrounds were more like dispersed fields of grass.

Cassette toilets are necessary because I never saw any dumping facilities in any campground. My only experience with grey water disposal was in the United States by Europeans that brought their RVs here. It was done by draining into buckets are wheelable totes to take to a disposal site. I guess they used that outside drain right on the ground if convenient.

As I said this is anecdotal and I saw maybe a dozen campgrounds mostly similar while cruising on a river boat in daylight. Cruising underway was mostly at night so there probably was many more.
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Old 10-16-2019, 04:19 PM   #2
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For the most part, what you describe is very similar to what we experienced in our Iceland trip a few years ago. Culturally, Iceland is basically part of Northern Europe. Campgrounds tended to be simple open fields. A few bothered to delineate individual "sites" by drawing lines on the ground. Most did not. Here was one of the fancier campgrounds we stayed at:

IMG_8289.jpg

Electricity, when available, tended to be distributed via centralized distribution poles. Everybody carries very long cords (which is more practical in the land of 220VAC, where the wires are skinnier):

IMG_8287.jpg

Many of the campgrounds did have dump stations, but they are easy to miss. They consist of a little pipe designed for dumping cassettes. Greywater was simply dumped into a drain basin that you park over. No hose involved:

IMG_8291.jpg
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Old 10-16-2019, 08:01 PM   #3
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Most campgrounds in Europe:
1. Donít have designated campsites with some exception in Germany
2. Most have restroom facilities
3. Most have shore power outlets
4. Most have drive-in grey water dumping station
5. Toilets are practically all cassettes because it is what Europeans are used to not because they donít have black water dumping stations.
6. I have seen a lot of camper van. Westfaliaís all product line is based on Camper Van which includes smaller Mercedes V-class and VW T7 and they have considerable market share. There are more van options such as VW Ė current Crafter, and Opel and all siblings in Europe than in NA. I donít have market data but during my time in EU I have seen a lot of steel-walled Camper Vans.

National and state park campgrounds in NA have no equivalency in Europe, they are the best. Next year, I am hoping to drive to Trondheim in Norway, a few years ago we traveled up to Bergen, next this time we will rent a camper or a trailer in Bergen.
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Old 10-16-2019, 09:11 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GeorgeRa View Post
Most campgrounds in Europe:
1. Donít have designated campsites with some exception in Germany
2. Most have restroom facilities
3. Most have shore power outlets
4. Most have drive-in grey water dumping station
5. Toilets are practically all cassettes because it is what Europeans are used to not because they donít have black water dumping stations.
6. I have seen a lot of camper van. Westfaliaís all product line is based on Camper Van which includes smaller Mercedes V-class and VW T7 and they have considerable market share. There are more van options such as VW Ė current Crafter, and Opel and all siblings in Europe than in NA. I donít have market data but during my time in EU I have seen a lot of steel-walled Camper Vans.

National and state park campgrounds in NA have no equivalency in Europe, they are the best. Next year, I am hoping to drive to Trondheim in Norway, a few years ago we traveled up to Bergen, next this time we will rent a camper or a trailer in Bergen.
Isnít that a chicken or egg question on cassettes if they canít have black tank toilets if there are no facilities?

Accessibility issues are lacking in Europe as well. Very few stairs have adequate handrails. Outside steps are especially treacherous. Iím not handicapped but I am more and more cognizant of those issues with age and the fact I am on a blood thinner, and as an architect, Iím intimately aware of the requirements. Is that because European are used to it or is it just an older infrastructure With no money to address or desire to change historical buildings?

I was surprised at the lack of vans in campgrounds given that nothing was large. I checked about a dozen campground photos and my 2% estimate was close on. They have many more vans about but not as campers. A pickup truck was rarity. And where pickup trucks are used in America, a van seemingly was the substitute, and yes, there were a lot more varieties of vans. Given in America you supposedly get more bang for your buck with a Class C over a Class B van, maybe that holds true in Europe with the nearer equivalent size.
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Old 10-16-2019, 10:24 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Davydd View Post
Isn’t that a chicken or egg question on cassettes if they can’t have black tank toilets if there are no facilities?
Perhaps chicken and or egg from your perspective but from the perspective of Europeans rather not. Europeans use cassettes, this is The standard here.

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Accessibility issues are lacking in Europe as well. Very few stairs have adequate handrails. Outside steps are especially treacherous. I’m not handicapped but I am more and more cognizant of those issues with age and the fact I am on a blood thinner, and as an architect, I’m intimately aware of the requirements. Is that because European are used to it or is it just an older infrastructure With no money to address or desire to change historical buildings? .
A couple of weeks ago we went to the concert in the covered stadium, long stairs without a hand rail, variable depth and height of steps, big no-no in NA. When I built a deck in Portland with five steps stairway I had to have handrail by law. So, I agree that based on my experience the safety standards are lacking here.

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I was surprised at the lack of vans in campgrounds given that nothing was large. I checked about a dozen campground photos and my 2% estimate was close on. They have many more vans about but not as campers. A pickup truck was rarity. And where pickup trucks are used in America, a van seemingly was the substitute, and yes, there were a lot more varieties of vans. Given in America you supposedly get more bang for your buck with a Class C over a Class B van, maybe that holds true in Europe with the nearer equivalent size
I don’t fully get your 2% Van Camper market presence, based on my experience gauged by 50K miles on my Opel here in the recent years, I don’t agree. Perhaps your population sample wasn’t sufficient. Old eastern bloc countries like Hungary or Slovakia you just traveled through don’t represent well campgrounds or type of camping vehicles in western Europe like for example France or northern and Scandinavian countries.

In my view big differences between NA and EU camper manufacturing are:

- Weight conscience, for example all camping trailers use engineered beams for frame
- Smaller
- Modern and space efficient designs
- Generators, AC, inverters are not common
- Li batteries are not existing
- Solar is a common upgrade
- Extensive manufacturing engineering and investment

Cassettes are standard, I would use the fish analogy, they don’t know they’re in water unless they travel to USA. Undeniable benefit for NA is the choice and as with every choice come advantages and disadvantages.

A lot of folks from Europe travel in NA in rented RVs. I will never forget a sign in Monument Valley campground - >> Showers, >> Dusche so they know that camping in NA is unbeatable, perhaps Australia is close.
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Old 10-17-2019, 07:04 PM   #6
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I think weight is a much bigger constrain in Euro RV designs than people realize: you can’t drive a vehicle over 3.5 metric tons (7,500 lbs) without a commercial driving license which is somewhat tough to get, so all manufacturers shave weight so the curb weight is under that hard limit. This is a big reason why you have cassette toilets with about 5 gallon of capacity and not a 20 gal black tank. Plus you can pretty much dump the cassette anywhere, no special dump station required.

As for why all European RVs made recently use a forward seating bench or seats it is because all seats must now have 3 points seatbelts and face the direction of travel to be road certified.

Some campgrounds are indeed just glorified parking lots, although there is often a restroom/shower house. More pricey and secluded campgrounds are more like “resorts” with all facilities, bigger individual lots, trees, pools, etc. A lot of people (specially with trailers) use those and spend 3-4 weeks during summer at the same spot.
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Old 10-17-2019, 09:01 PM   #7
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I think weight is a much bigger constrain in Euro RV designs than people realize: you canít drive a vehicle over 3.5 metric tons (7,500 lbs) without a commercial driving license which is somewhat tough to get, so all manufacturers shave weight so the curb weight is under that hard limit. This is a big reason why you have cassette toilets with about 5 gallon of capacity and not a 20 gal black tank. Plus you can pretty much dump the cassette anywhere, no special dump station required. . . . .
Very good point. Most of the world will not let average folks drive heavier RV vehicles like most of the USA. I've never understood why we let folks drive 13 ton RVs without a special license. Strong RV lobby I guess.

I've been in Spain, Portugal and Morocco for last two weeks. Haven't seen that many RVs, but there are many passenger vans in the tourist areas I'm visiting on an Iberian Globus tour. Most are 3.5t models for same reason related to driver's licenses. In Spain and Portugal the vans are an equal mix of MB Sprinters, VW Crafters, IVECO and MAN. But in Morocco almost all the mini-bus vans were MB Sprinters.
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Old 10-17-2019, 09:32 PM   #8
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Sprinter high top vans were dominate in Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. Surprisingly, Ford Transits were number two over the Fiats in my informal noting. Volkswagen dominated the small vans but no so much as the high top vans.

As I mentioned earlier, pickup trucks were practically non-existent but there were cab/chassis flat bed trucks. However lots of 40 seat or more tour buses where we went. Mercedes Benz dominated them. I was amazed how well the drivers drove those buses in narrow streets.
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Old 10-18-2019, 12:10 AM   #9
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Drove the western coast of Ireland in a rental car and stopped at a coast overlook where there was a small tourist van parked. The entire van had a huge gash that ran the length of the van. Driver was standing by the van and we started talking. His description of it was "bit of a scraper." A lot of narrow roads there. After driving around for a week or so I noticed that the hubcaps were missing from the left side of the car. Hard to guage the left side when you're driving from the right.....I guess. Rental company never billed me for them.
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:53 AM   #10
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When in north Wales I just had to get out and measure a highway once that was billed as a major through highway on the map. It had stone walls with no shoulder area. It measured less than 16 foot stone wall to stone wall and the highway was curvy in the Mount Snowden region. That was typical. Larger commercial vehicles had 4x4 steel tube rails welded on the left side to gauge and scrape the walls.
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Old 10-18-2019, 08:37 AM   #11
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Towing weight limits are defined more precisely than in NA. Vehicle registration cards have maximum trailer weight clearly defined and printed, no ambiguity due to different models or options. Police can check if limits are not exceeded even using mobile scales like this one https://www.obelink.eu/caravan-weigh...rol-extra.html. Pending on the percentage over weight limits penalty varies in amount but to drive further car and towing vehicle must be reduced to be within limits, not much fun.

Envision similar test conducted by police in Luxemburg but NA, would it be more than 4.3%.

https://today.rtl.lu/news/luxembourg/a/1381829.html
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Old 10-18-2019, 01:08 PM   #12
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Europeans rving in US.

In late August I was camped, boondocking next to a couple from Holland, just the 2 of us, not far from the intersection of the Beartooth Hwy and the Chief Joseph Sceenic Hwy. They were spending a year in the US in an RV, paradise? Guess what kind? and where did they get the RV?

They shipped it from home, a 25 foot C based on the Euro Promaster chassis. I think that it was an Adria, not sure. They were also shipping it back home after the year.

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Old 10-18-2019, 01:31 PM   #13
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Europeans rving in US.

In late August I was camped, boondocking next to a couple from Holland, just the 2 of us, not far from the intersection of the Beartooth Hwy and the Chief Joseph Sceenic Hwy. They were spending a year in the US in an RV, paradise? Guess what kind? and where did they get the RV?

They shipped it from home, a 25 foot C based on the Euro Promaster chassis. I think that it was an Adria, not sure. They were also shipping it back home after the year.

Bud
Based on my conversations with RV travelers from Europe a 3-5-month long trip is a threshold point for justifying bringing your own RV versus renting one in NA. Renting an RV from Europe in NA is also less expensive than renting by someone from NA.
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Old 10-18-2019, 04:02 PM   #14
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I met several European RVers when we went to Alaska and back. It seems that was a favorite destination and they had the time since they shipped over their own RVs as GeorgeRa mentioned as the break even point. I remember most came through Baltimore.

I got my inspiration for our next RV from this van and young couple from Germany we first met at Muncho Lake and then down the road at Laird Hot Springs. They had a CS Reisemobile DUO.

At Laird Hot Springs

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Old 10-18-2019, 04:42 PM   #15
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Maybe someone can clue me in on the European RV pricing.

The vans below are all based on the same chassis, Fiat has a different engine/trans.
Promaster cargo van, MSRP $36k
German built Fiat Ducato RV approx the same price as the Promaster cargo van.
Winnebago Promaster RV $100k

https://www.clever-mobile.de/cleverly-basic-line/
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Old 10-18-2019, 05:25 PM   #16
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See this new VW Grand California available in Cali...., sorry, my bad. It is based on the new Crafter (No longer Sprinter's sibling) for 70K£ or $90K

https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/volksw...ifornia-review.

Here is a comparison of all panel van in Europe, Mercedes Sprinter first followed by VW/Man Crafter siblings. Ford on fourth position. LDV is currently Chinese and I wonder if it ever will come to our shores.

https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/volksw...rge-panel-vans
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Old 10-19-2019, 12:12 AM   #17
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Thanks Davidd, and all the contributors, for all the great info on RVing outside the USA - it is interesting to see the differences in all facets of RVing. Ron
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Old 10-25-2019, 05:53 PM   #18
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I traveled on Danube then toured in Switzerland this summer. The riverside campgrounds are quite dense, as are most waterfront campgrounds anywhere. Height can be an issue since low bridges are more common in urope, especially in mountains: lots of low rail bridges. Europe doesn't have the vast expanses of undeveloped land that we have in NA and campgrounds are often just outside of villages and towns and definitely are not "wilderness" experiences.
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