Meet Bertie BoxLife

People have been asking me and John about our new campervan, particularly what it’s like inside and why we chose it. It’s a Knaus BoxLife 630, which John has named ‘Bertie’. I wasn’t sure about this name at first but it seems to suit the van and has grown on me a lot.

Collecting Bertie BoxLife

We loved our previous van and the layout suited us well, with a well equipped kitchen, a bathroom and lots of storage space for our running, hiking, kayaking and cycling gear. Therefore, we found it really difficult choosing a new one, especially as there were none available with a similar layout. Nevertheless, the time was right to upgrade, and our pride and joy was put up for sale on various websites. We were very sad to see this van go but it’s gone to a lovely new home in Livingstone in Scotland. It was great to get a text from the new owners recently to say they’ve had their first trip and love the van.

When choosing our new van, we decided we didn’t want to move up in size to a coach built van because we like being able to access remote places up narrow lanes and round hairpin bends, and we like to be able to sleep outside friends houses when we visit. We decided we’d like a fixed bed that didn’t have to be put away every morning, and so one of us was less likely to disturb the other if we got up. This led to looking at vans with the bed in the back and a lounge or dinette in the front. Although these sometimes felt quite cramped, and the kitchen unit covered part of the opening for the sliding door, they seemed to be our best option, and I’m sure we’ll soon get used to the new layout.

Buying a campervan always requires compromises because so much is fitted into a small space that it isn’t possible to have everything. We like the German van conversions because they’re generally really solid and well made and don’t seem to develop rattles and other problems like some of the UK conversions. However European vans of this size don’t have an oven like the UK vans.

Kitchen unit

Bertie has a 2 burner hob but doesn’t have an oven or grill so we’re going to have to get used to managing without. Last Saturday we had our first night away and I managed to cook fajitas very easily and, on Sunday morning, I cooked hot cross buns on a special toasting gadget that sits on the gas ring. It worked well, except when I knocked a hot cross bun off the stand and it burnt and set the fire alarm off!

Our first meal… looks a mess but tasted lovely!

Bertie’s kitchen is great, with lots of drawers, some of which can be opened from the outside, a flip up work surface, and a large fridge. We were a bit worried about the fridge because it doesn’t work on gas, which we’d found kept things colder than the 12 volt electricity supply from the leisure battery in the previous van. However, we were advised that the newer compressor fridges are much better than the older types of fridge and that with the solar power topping up the leisure battery, we shouldn’t have any problems. It certainly kept everything cold last Saturday, which was a hot day. The cold beers were very welcome!

From the outside looking in

I got rather excited when I finally found a washing up bowl to fit Bertie’s kitchen sink. It’s rather small and all of the washing up bowls I looked at were too long to fit in the sink, or too deep to be able to replace the chopping board cover back on top of the sink. The board is useful as extra work surface. Finally, I found a collapsible storage box made by Outwell which fits perfectly. It’s quite big when it’s open but collapses to fit under the board. I’ve never been so excited about a bowl before! It was even in the sale, which was probably a good thing as it wasn’t cheap!

The bathroom

On Saturday when we took our first trip, John and I had both had long days in the sunshine… John kayaking, and me taking photographs… so we needed a shower. Bertie’s bathroom is small but perfectly formed and the shower worked well. We have a few niggles with the bathroom at the moment though… the shower curtain came of the rail and the  bathroom sink is leaking (luckily only into the shower tray), but Don Amott, where we bought Bertie from, have booked us in to sort the snag list. The other thing we need them to look at is the radio, which sounds awful. We wonder if the door speakers haven’t been connected. It sound very tinny but changing the radio settings has made no difference! The dealer’s customer service has been excellent so far and we’re hoping after sales are good too.

The large bed before it was made

The bed in Bertie is fantastic and we slept well, waking up to beautiful views of South Stack lighthouse and the Anglesey coastline.  It’s lovely to have proper, comfortable mattresses (almost a full single size each!) and cosy new brushed cotton bedding. The two sections of the bed can be folded up and strapped to the van sides for carrying large items, such as kayaks or bikes, or to enable us to access our storage boxes easily and walk through to the back doors.

Enjoying a cold beer and the view towards South Stack after a busy day

The blinds are great, keeping out most of the light. The windows and skylights have better opening catches than the ones in the previous van, and we even have a fly screen on the large sliding door, which will be very useful sometimes.

View from the sliding doorway

The lounge is comfortable, with the option to sit in 2 bench seats at the table in the back of the van, or to swivel the driver and passenger front seats. These are very comfortable to sit back and relax and watch the TV, which has been fitted on the wall above the bench seats. The table is very big, particularly when an extra piece that’s hidden away underneath is turned out. I don’t think we’ll need to use the extra piece very often.

Looking from the bed towards the front, swivel seats

The van itself is a Fiat Ducato, a newer version of the old one, which John was happy driving, and a little bit longer. We still have lots of storage space in it, which was important to us when choosing a van. There are cupboards all around the top of the van and in the bathroom, for clothes, toiletries and miscellaneous bits and pieces, and we’ve bought 5 large storage boxes that fit under the bed for all the sporting kit and things like chairs, ramps, hose, mains cable, and so on.

John also enjoying his beer while I try out the bed

I think that’s all the key details for now. We’re looking forward to getting away for longer in Bertie. As with the previous van, I’m sure there’ll be a few adaptations or extras that we’ll decide we need to make this one perfect for us but, for now, we’re going to see how it goes, not rush into anything, and just enjoy it 🙂




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