Here some items we considered were essential to have, not only for safety, but to make our van function. Also some accessories to make life a little easier. Old hands will know all about these, and probably have other items too. Of course, it will also depend on what items you have fitted on your van and where you go.
Compulsory in many mainland European countries are the hazard vest and warning triangle and spare headlamp bulbs etc. Check with the RAC or AA for latest info - it changes often! Beware Spain requires TWO warning triangles and a hazard vest for the passenger, plus a spare pair of spectacles if needed for driving.
Update. From July 2012 all vehicles travelling in France were supposed to carry an NF approved alcohol breathalyser. It appears this requirement has now been 'postponed' (at January 2013) - whether the idea will be dropped permanently we have yet to find out.
This pack contains two breathalysers; if the driver uses one to test, then there is still one left in the vehicle. These can be obtained from The Caravan Club, Halfords, or at ports etc. Our attempts to buy them in France in August failed - the Pharmacie at a large Hyper-U had no stock!
Note the breathalyser pack has an expiry date, ours is 07/2014, so worth a check when buying.
Box contains spare fuses for all the appliances, 12v. fuse box and battery wiring fuses, plus spare headlamp, side/brake and indicator lamp bulbs.
Headlamp deflectors/protectors. When driving on the right it is necessary to deflect the headlamp beams. In the old days one could stick bits of black tape onto glass headlamps, but these days the plastic headlamp 'glass' doesn't take kindly to this simple solution, so we are told. These moulded plastic protectors with self-adhesive black masks can be obtained and fitted over the headlamp. One can remove the black shapes afterwards and keep the 'protectors' in place.
Details on fitting and removing deflectors here
The cab windscreen insulating system, or "Silver Screen" to give it its usual name, not only helps keep the van interior warm at night (and so prevent condensation forming on the inside of the windscreen), but also helps keep the interior cool during the day in hot sunny climes. This Silver Screens model has strong velco strips that allow the front section to fold down so, in daytime, let more light into the cab (and let you see out the front) if the sun isn't full on.
If you like sleeping on the level then two plastic wedges are essential (only one needed here).
Orange mains hook-up extension cable, 2.5mm sq. x 25m. long. Plus a shorter one (blue cable) about 8 metres long - this one very useful when the campsite mains bollard is close to the van.
Left: a standard continental mains adapter (occasionally required in Europe); red/white cable is same type adapter, but with the polarity of the live and neutral conductors reversed (also occasionally required). Centre, a 13amp household plug adapter. Useful for connecting mains power to the van at home, or when camped on a friend's lawn - they'll be so thrilled at having you they'll not notice your using their electricity.
Right, a recent addition. UK-type connectors at each end, but with live and neutral conductors reversed - we've found an increasing number of sites in France and Spain are using the large blue connector, but many have reverse polarity - so we made this adapter up. We could fit a reversing switch inside the van with a warning light etc, etc, but this is simple.
Vital item to have: mains polarity tester. Useful also as it checks for earth continuity.
We have not fitted a mains battery charger in the van as a permanent fixture. It is an essential item though. Generally, we don't stay at a site more than three nights and our leisure batteries will cope on their own without a mains charge. It is very likely in those three days, at some point, we are bound to go shopping (Mad Mumsie retail therapy), so the batteries will get sufficient top-up charge. For stays longer than 3 nights without moving the van we'll need the mains charger. It is handy to have 'loose' as one can charge a battery off the van, or it may help another camper with a flat battery problem.
An induction ammeter. Measures the current (amps) flowing in any cable. It simply clips on a cable without damaging it. Useful if you want to check the actual current flowing, rather than just relying on, say, an LED to show something is working - in this case it is showing the charge going into the leisure batteries from the portable battery charger. See Sources for a supplier. This one will show range 0-30 amps.
Fresh water tank, food-grade flat filler hose. One on left is about 4 metres long, one on right, 25 metres long. Our fresh water tank is under the van floor, it is filled from a locking filler on the nearside of the van. Whilst these hoses do work and do roll up very small - they are a bit of a nightmare in that it is almost impossible to drain all the water out of them after use. Even though we hang them up over the rear doors for hours, then squeeze them flat, roll them up and unroll them repeatedly, for days after little pools of water will be found in the bags we keep them in. We've given up trying! So...
We saw someone topping up their underslung water tank with a watering can - great idea - we use it all the time and rarely bother with the hose. In fact, we stopped carrying the longer hose now. This inexpensive 6.5 litre can came from Homebase.
Left: waste (grey) water tank is under van floor and has a large drain tap just under the van sill on offside. Usually, at sites with motorhome facilities, it's just a case of turning on the tap and letting the water out, but at some smaller sites it may be difficult to manoeuvre the van close enough to the drain cover - this extension hose has a bayonet fitting which fixes to the van tap/drain.
LPG filling point adapters. See Gas Section.
The 'Red Book'. Vital item to take - but, hopefully, never need! Contains all the manufacturers instruction leaflets: fridge, gas hob, water heater, fuse sizes, etc, plus 'phone numbers, web sites and so on.
Wind-out Awning. Fiamma F65S 370 model. This version specifically for the Sevel X250 panel van. Note, there are different length awnings for short or long-wheelbase versions. Very heavy item (31kg.), for safety needs three people to lift into place. Unfortunately they don't do a Deep Red painted version!
Update. Usually, if stopped on grass, the two corner poles are fixed with long pegs hammered into the ground. However, when stopped on concrete it is difficult to secure the poles and not a good idea if it is at all breezy. Fortunately the awning is also supplied with two wall brackets that can be fitted to the van side - the end of the pole is then fitted to the bracket to secure it. We didn't fit these brackets originally, but having used the awning a lot in Germany on Stellplatz, which were mostly on concrete, we will be fitting the brackets.
Fiamma F65S Awning brackets (adaptors). Two are required (not supplied with awning) - rear one shown here. These are specifically for the X250 Ducato and bolt (and glue using Sikaflex) onto the existing roof fittings at the front and rear, so no drilling necessary. The grey hard foam strip is supplied with the brackets and acts as a water drip barrier.
2-bike rack. Fiamma Carry-Bike model 200 DJ Ducato. Fits onto off-side rear door, allows rear doors to open as normal. Max load 35kg. Mad Mumsie's electric bike weighs 24kg without battery fitted; my ancient 1950s ordinary bike weighs 11kg, so we are on the rack weight limit. Unfortunately lifting Mumsie's 24kg bike to a height at almost eye-level to fit it on the rack isn't on, so just my bike will be used at present. We could lower the rack, but it would require a separate towing number plate board with lights plus wiring, relay and plugs/sockets suitable for Fiat electrics.
With hindsight we should have gone for a towbar and hitch and towbar fitting bike rack which would be a much easier lift - although one would lose the option of opening the rear doors with bikes fitted. One can't win them all it seems!
We found the 'weather station' and thermometer very useful on our 'winter sun' trip. By knowing the temperature in the van we could make a decision on whether to bother with putting the convector heater on overnight. It was also of interest to know the temperature in the morning and observe the length of time the new Propex warm-air heater was taking on the 'gas' setting to warm up the interior. It's a gadget to play with...
Altimeter/Barometer. Whilst the Michelin maps are very good for giving general altitudes they are not specific enough. This little gadget which sits on the dash shelf (and no bigger than the van key fob) was pretty accurate. If you have a breathing problem, as I do, knowing the altitude can be extremely helpful.
Wooden box 'step'. We knocked up this very simple, but strong, box right at the start of the build just to make stepping in and out of the sliding side door a little easier. It's also handy for Mad Mumsie getting into the cab through the passenger door. It can be used any way up, which gives three different heights. It's been so useful for all sorts of uses we take it with us.
Update. Mad Mumsie spotted this folding step in one of her many catalogues. It is much higher than the wood box and has two steps, making it much easier to get in or out the van from any door. It can be used as a small table - if one is that desperate. Yes, it is ugly, and it can give one a nasty pinch if one doesn't keep fingers clear of the joints when folding it, but she loves it...