Thinking of down sizing then read on....

Laika (library photo)

Thirteen years ago due to ill health (unable to pass the dreaded 70+ medical) we had to downsize from our A class Laika Ecovip 400i (4,200 kg MAM). We had had the Laika for 2 years and had fitted it out for winter touring.

Extras we had fitted were a pair of 60-litre LPG tanks for domestic use, a 60-watt solar panel and a Sporty Trailers aluminium back box. As standard, the Laika had a 135 litre fridge/freezer, 115 litre fresh water tank, 140 litre waste water tank and a marine toilet of 52 litre capacity. We had just got the van sorted to our satisfaction when we had to part with it.

We usually wintered away for 4 or 5 months (Jan - May), then had an Autumn trip (late Aug - mid Nov), making 7 or 8 months' continental touring in a year. We had spent Jan - April 2002 in Turkey and returned home via Rhodes, Patras and Venice.

The Laika was easy to drive, very spacious to live in and the only drawbacks we found during this extensive trip were difficulties in parking and the impossibility of taking it down extremely narrow difficult roads to visit isolated ancient sites.

The search then started for a replacement motorhome, with two single beds and a reasonable payload. It was a lot harder than we thought it would be. It could not be above 3,500 kg MAM and we fancied a low profile coach-built but on most the payloads were inadequate for our needs. Some payloads were only 250 - 300 kg and we were still looking at fairly large motorhomes.

Timberland (library photo)

We then started to look at LWB high top vans and after much thought and deliberation we settled for the Timberland Freedom 11 on the LWB Fiat Ducato with a payload of approx 500 kg. We were very apprehensive about laying out over £38,000 and having all our plans go pear-shaped. We spent a great deal of time and thought before placing an order for the van.

Other vans we considered were the Autosleeper Duetto but this dropped out of the frame when we discovered that they were now built on the MWB instead of the LWB chassis. We also considered the Murvi but as they are built in Devon and we live in Yorkshire we decided it was too far to travel if any problems arose. Also its layout meant we could not have a back box. Another contender was IH Campers at Ferrybridge. They had a very good product and offered to build to our specification but Timberland got the nod, as they had the two single bed layout we wanted on the production line when we visited the works.

The Timberland has all the same facilities that we had on the Laika. The toilet/shower area is smaller but still as good as many coach-builts. The cooking facilities are actually better, with a small full domestic cooker. The fresh/waste water tanks are smaller but we don't find this a problem. In addition we carry 4 8-litre water containers for tea/coffee making. We also prefer to fill the 60-litre fresh water tank with these, rather than carrying long hoses, which are often inconvenient anyway. Our hobby of chasing the winter sun often means travelling through cold weather before finding the sun. Before, in the Laika, having enough LPG for cooking, heating and the fridge was always a major problem.

We chose to have the optional Eberspacher diesel heater fitted at Timberland and later had an MTH Autogas 13kg refillable gas bottle with an external filler installed. This solved all the heating and LPG problems. Our 60-watt solar panel was fixed on the roof, to keep the 2 leisure batteries and the engine battery topped up when not on the move.

Storage space is down from the Laika but we still found room for all the essentials. It wasn't easy but we got there in the end. Sporty Trailers manufactured us a back box that hangs on the rear door, which takes care of the loungers and camping equipment. The main thing we had to come to terms with was the downsizing of the fridge/freezer, from 135 litres to 60 litres (I'm allowed one cold beer at a time now). It just means you have to shop more frequently.

This is not a problem these days, even in Turkey/Greece/Morocco. Large supermarkets are fairly frequent, even small village shops are much better stocked than they used to be and local markets are good. General storage had to be juggled until it was right. The main thing is not to take anything not strictly essential (no ballgown or tuxedo). One of our main concerns was the fact that we might be falling over one another all the time. With a bit of thought and co-operation it never happened. Seating is comfortable and we can both lounge with feet up. Sleeping is also comfortable, with room to visit the loo and make tea.

If you are thinking of downsizing, do your homework first. Sort out your major priorities and look at all the options. If you get it wrong it can be a very expensive mistake. It was forced upon us but now we feel it's done us a favour. It's almost halved our fuel bill, reduced our ferry crossings and we have parked and visited places we would not have thought possible in the past. So our freedom has increased.

A 5-month tour of Turkey, Italy, Sardinia, Corsica and Austria went quickly without a hitch and all we could say about it was - this is even better than it used to be!

I hope this in some way helps.

Don Madge

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