In an effort to attract a more diverse (and younger crowd) the Camping and Caravan club teamed up with the Warner group UK to host the Campervan Campout. Can the old school Caravan and Camping crowd attract the van life community or was this just a cash in?

Campervan Campout – East of England show ground 2023.

This event wasnt on my radar at all but I heard about it through the grapevine after cracking my head open at camp quirky and decided to give it a go. The “early bird” price was £150 and if you wanted to show your van off in the van hub area you could get a spot for £75 for the three days to let people talk to you about your van.

No 2 ways about it this ranks as the most expensive “van life” event in the UK. In comparison to some of the bigger and more passionately attended events for 2023

UKVanlife Festival – £87 (solo friday till Monday)
Camp Quirky – £87 (thursday till Monday)

Comparison events have a wellness area, bathrooms, live music, bars, talks, van life areas so I feel this is a pretty fair comparison, other than these events are run with passion and not just a cash in mentality which I’ll come onto many times throughout this review.

Now granted for whatever reason there is a premium to pay for turning up late, so I arrived on friday, 1pm and shelled out £200 for 3 nights camping. Someone remind me where I could fly to (including parking) this for money.

Campervan Campout Arrival and Setup

Navigating through the main ground, I found myself directed to a plot with 3-meter spacing between vehicles. It sounded ideal, but being positioned next to the road meant a constant tilt. After 20 minutes of leveling, I finally got settled.

In past gatherings of this kind, I’ve witnessed a more casual and interactive layout. People would park with spacing that allowed for easy conversation, and pathways were created to encourage wandering and exploration. However, here at this particular event, a different vibe permeated the air. Rows upon rows of vehicles were lined up with almost military precision, as if each van had its designated place in a grand procession.

As I settled into my spot, I couldn’t help but notice a peculiar dynamic among my fellow campers. They had created their own little fenced-off areas, forming a sort of barrier that seemed to discourage interactions with neighbors. It left me with mixed feelings, as I had hoped for a more open and friendly atmosphere. It almost felt like we were unintentionally isolating ourselves from potential connections.

However, as the event progressed and the rain arrived on Sunday, some campers began to pack up and leave, freeing up space. This sudden change in occupancy made the surroundings feel more impersonal, adding to the sense of detachment. The initial fenced-off enclaves became even more pronounced, as the remaining campers spread out across the available space.

It was a shame that the initial setup hindered the opportunity for organic interactions with neighbors. The rain-induced departures further emphasized the impersonal nature of the event. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but wonder what the experience could have been like if a more inclusive and interactive atmosphere had been fostered from the start.

The facilities

When the constant and mentally draining rain kept me confined to the van throughout my stay, braving the outdoors became a test of endurance and reliance on wet weather gear. However, amidst the challenging weather conditions, one aspect stood out as a much-needed respite: the showers. It was my first time encountering on-site showers, and the presence of hot water was a true blessing, offering a brief reprieve from the dampness.

Toilets were pretty abundant and a welcome relief from the organic nature of camp quirky (it has its place btw) with toilet rolls never being too scarce for too long.

However, one curious omission stood out: the absence of recycling points throughout the entire site. Instead, large skips were provided. In hindsight, that never ending rain may have been a small blessing. Had the weekend been scorching hot, one could only imagine the smell to permeate the air over the weekend.

Despite this, the availability of showers and well-maintained toilets provided a much-needed sense of comfort and was a small saving grace over the weekend, making the £200 outlay more bearable.

Weekend Wanderings

A lot was promised, a van life hub (half a dozen vans of influencers and YouTubers doing talks and self promotion), camper van alley (expensive copy and paste pre fab vans), a shopping village (which to be fair had some great nik oaks), a fair ground (never existed), wellness village (one tent!).

The wellness village was pathetic even considering the rain, more of an afterthought cash in. Would Camp Quirky have been better in the rain, maybe not but if you are going for alert native therapies a barn next to a artisan food and drink area may not be the most conducive area to relax.

I wil give credit to the shopping village which had everything from expensive lithium battery conversion (bluefix you were amazing to help me) through to handy hooks and drainage plugs for a sink.

Campervan Campout Entertainment

During the weekend the VanLife Hub was constantly full with many regarded YouTubers / Speakers giving their talks about Van life and all it encompasses. Yet it was more of what it’s like for them, not how they go there, handy hints. Not one mere mention of a self tapping screw, mitre joint of should you got with 2 by 4 vs cheap battons for internal wood work. What I would have given for some advice on batteries, cabling, wood working. Whilst I understand the brand ambassadorship and plugging, personally I’d like to know how you got there rather than “everything is awesome” vibe. To give an example, no one mentioned what it’s like trying to goto the bathroom in the middle of no where without a cassette toilet.

The real reality of van life was sorely missed. There was no one in the moment being honest, what is life like without 1000 subs, without sponsorship. Instead it was the van life equivalent of Everything Is Awesome.

Campervan Campout Nightlife and Vibe

Throughout the weekend there was an event stage from 11am to a mad late night time of 10pm.

This is where I have the biggest grudge to bare, if you are going to try and attract a more young and diverse crowd (as many influencers said to me in a very rehearsed line mentioning Warner events verbatim), lights off at 10pm is not ideal. The phrase “you don’t have to go home but you cant stay here” came to mind as on all nights the main stage was turned off and partially dismantled at 10pm.

Headline act Craig Charles did a headline set in his hour slot, leaving 5 mins early, leaving the crowd in eager anticipation of one more song, only for the automated tracks to turn off 2 minutes later, with the stage going dark and being dismantled to an extend..

The exodus from the bustling crowd back to the parking lots resembled a solemn procession. Folding chairs were tucked away as individuals made their way back to their respective parking spots. It was as if a silent signal had been given, as if collectively, we were told, “It’s time to go to bed.”

I walked back to my van with a sense of quietness and a “do not disturb” atmosphere punctuating the air. I understand the need for respect and consideration towards fellow CamperVan Campouts, it felt somewhat contradictory to the event’s aim of attracting a younger and more diverse crowd. The absence of campfires, fire pits, and clusters of people engaged in late-night conversations left a void.

The night seemed to lack that vibrant energy that comes from shared experiences and spontaneous interactions you can only get with more self build events. The opportunity for deeper connections and memorable moments had been cut short. There’s nothing wrong with respecting your peers late at night, however where is the respect showed with yapping dogs in the early hours of the morning the owners ignored, citing “shes so cheeky”. No.. at 6.30am just because you’ve ignored it, that doesn’t make it cheeky. Would I have been cheeky chatting late into the night.. Nope!

The event held potential to create a lively atmosphere where individuals from various backgrounds could come together, but instead, it felt somewhat restrained and subdued.

The subdued atmosphere and lack of late-night gatherings were attributed to other similar Warner Event’s where residents monitored sound levels with measuring devices. And yet some 20 meters outside the grounds I wondered if I would have had a more enjoyable night at a local pub located just 20 meters outside the showground. When I let on Monday I wondered would I have had a better time with a jukebox and hopefully cheaper drink later into the night.

My first thought to those types who buy a house near an airport or motorway and complain about the noise. At least events are rare and not consistent.

Food And Drink Offerings (Expensive Cause and Effect)

For me when you come to an event like this, its a gathering, a place to meet people and what better place to to that over food and drink, the most social of elements. Through no fault of the traders the food area was pretty barren throughout the weekend and the rain wasn’t to blame.

I heard that vendors had to bid to sell food and drink, This result in

pizza £12 on average for a 10 inch
£5 for a can of Guinness
£4.50 for a can of fosters
£6.20 for a pint of beer

I should have known better for a show ground event. Where the issue is going for food thats expensive is a treat night rather than a sod it lets go for food night, or a few drinks later cant be bothered to cook night.

Food and drink are the soul of events, I hate to compare a but a week earlier at Camp Quirky I was asking to join a table to sit down and just chill whereas at the camper van campout it was a touch cringe and noticeable to be sat alone.

There are some standouts, Caribbean Foods… you were the most expensive meal I have ever had at an event but you we were it.. You got your crowd you deserved every single penny. I dont say that lightly even after 3 days of constant rain and asking you what do you recommend.

By the way I never ask what does any food stall recommend. It will ALWAYS be the most profitable item or the stock they need to shift. Prove me wrong internet!

East Of England Campervan Campout Review

As I reflect on my experience at the event, I can’t help but feel a tinge of disappointment. Sure, it’s a never say never situation, even if I had managed to secure an early bird or standard price ticket, priced at a hefty £150. It turns out that this is one of the most expensive van life events in the UK. And that’s where the point is missed.

As I strolled amidst the array of vans on display, I couldn’t help but notice a stark contrast between the event and the true essence of the van life community. It seemed to cater to a completely different demographic. Not everyone has the means to drop a staggering 50k on a van or mobile home, and this was evident by the lack of self-built conversions. I overheard more than a few people mention that they wouldn’t have attended if it weren’t for the opportunity to showcase their vans at a discounted rate.

The overall vibe of the event was lacking. There were no spontaneous conversations or impromptu gatherings where people passionately discussed their vehicle until Sunday where people fed up of the rain left, giving more space to breath and wanted. After all, once you’ve seen one motorhome or professionally converted van on sale for £50k, its not different to wandering into a DIY store, choosing a similar looking kitchen to what youve seen Time and time before but choosing different taps and handles.

To make matters worse, the food prices were exorbitant. Undoubtedly, this was a result of the bidding process for food vendors to secure a spot at the camper van camp out. I had the chance to speak with several catering wagons who expressed their frustrations. Even without the rain dampening the turnout, they were promised a larger crowd. But the steep price point for entry made grabbing a meal more of a special occasion rather than a casual “sod it, let’s eat out” moment. And the 10pm lights out policy certainly didn’t help create a lively atmosphere.

For those fortunate enough to own expensive motorhomes, this event may have been acceptable, perhaps even enjoyable for a weekend getaway. However, for individuals seeking a genuine glimpse into the van life culture and aspiring to delve into self-builds, this wasn’t the place to be. The event fell short of providing the inclusive and informative experience that van life enthusiasts were hoping for.

If this was the first attempt to create a younger and more diverse attitude towards the camping and caravan club, it needs to have a soul which sadly this lacked.