Are campervan pop tops cold?

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  • Are campervan pop tops cold?
  • Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    Looking to convert our T6, we took a trip to the caravan and motorhome show at the NEC last week for some inspiration. We had always discounted a pop top due to the need to take two touring kayaks; but we were very taken by the Jerba roofs, and their ability to take 100 kg. Seriously considering one, though it requires a bit of a rethink of the finances.

    If we went down this route we wouldn’t the put a rock and roll bed in the bottom, to max the space for bike/kayak/walking kit and sleep in the roof (Jerbas slatted beds 😀 take 150 kg). We are used to tent camping but my question is, are pop tops cold in standard UK 4-seasons (not East from the beast type extremes), given that you have a huge air avoid underneath you?

    Ta

    andylc
    Member

    It’s not so much the air beneath but the fact that you’re essentially in a tent – so yes they’re much more subject to outside temperature. If you plan year round use then a night heater is very useful, although I think that would apply pop top or not.

    ElShalimo
    Member

    Having had a pop top van and a high top van they are definitely colder

    Pros:

    Smaller/lower so better mpg

    Look nicer

    On a hot day the mesh panels help cool the roof space

    Cons:

    colder (you can buy a cover to go over them for extra warmth)

    Dropping the roof if you need to drive anywhere

    You will have to air the roof when you get if home  you put it away whilst wet

    If the weather is awful you’ll probably leave the roof down and will be like a sardine

    ElShalimo
    Member

    Re sleeping – have a look at Duvalay mattress

    Yes they are cold. That’s why I’d get a thermal screen cover. We bought one last year and it’s amazing how much difference it makes. Also helps the little one carry on sleeping early in the morning by blocking the light coming in

    scotroutes
    Member

    We don’t sleep in ours but it can definitely be colder in the van when the roof is up. I’ve seen a few with external wrap-around covers to add insulation.

    Did you budget for a diesel heater? That would be first on my list for any big money conversion.

    coppice
    Member

    Sounds like a purpose built motorhome would be a better bet to me.

    Premier Icon nickdavies
    Subscriber

    Yes, colder but not always a bad thing.
    Very rare to sleep in mine but it’s almost always up as it’s just too hot and claustrophobic otherwise – helps with airflow a lot. Thermal screen for it would help but for me the worst thing is the noise when the wind picks up if you’re up there.

    Think carefully about all the options – if you’re going to fill it with kit you’d be as well taking a tent and having more space, saving the money. Or look at a drive away awning. the r&r bed is more than just a bed. Clever converting can give you just as much room.

    Also check the lift on the foot end. My reimo is quite low so as a tall person I hate my feet touching the top. If you’re looking at roof carrying bear in mind it’s a pain to get things up there, the load needs to be at the back to keep leverage down on the hinges and loading kayaks is a pain. No pop top makes that a lot easier.

    There’s a company called Kernow transporters often posting on Facebook about California roofs, that’s where my money would go if I was starting again.

    Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    Thanks all for the thermal screen suggestions. Very fair point to consider re the wind – we have slept in a roof tent on a Land Rover, but we put it up in the dark and it wasnt up properly, and when the wind blew it just rattled like hell. Awful night.

    Think carefully about all the options – if you’re going to fill it with kit you’d be as well taking a tent and having more space, saving the money.

    Yes this is what we did with the old van for the last 5 years (and estate car before that) and what we have carried on doing with this one at the moment. Just the idea of having somewhere warm and dry to sit on wet evenings is appealing, and means we can get out and about more regardless of the weather. We havent discounted the rock and roll bed option at the moment (just waiting for a friends conversion to be finished to check it out).

    This is the roof and bed that has caught our eye (we did also try it out at the show). We are both 5’9″ so that does help.

    Sounds like a purpose built motorhome would be a better bet to me.

    Yep – but that would literally require us to move house (which I am not prepared to do living on a wonderfully friendly terrace street), or put it in storage (and then not bother just getting it for random nights away) and running a second car (not an option in my mind).

    Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    Did you budget for a diesel heater? That would be first on my list for any big money conversion.

    The ‘budget’ is currently a bit of a moving target – i.e. how long to save for before we get it done (and how much to do ourselves v pay others). But yes, diesel heater and leisure battery are high up the list. Also plan to build a bike ‘garage’ at the back – it is a LWB and it is just the two of us.

    Premier Icon spacey
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    Those Jerba things look awesome but they are £4300, wow, I spent half that on ours and it works great. Although only the kids sleep in ours, it seems odd to convert a van and then sleep in the roof. The interior of the van is nicely insulated from sound and cold, ours is just a lovely place to sleep whereas the canvas bit above rattles like a tent. BUT you get the interior space to carry kit, so I can see the benefit. Not sure that I’ve helped much!

    Premier Icon Jon Taylor
    Subscriber

    Haven’t read all the reiplies – a pop top is great – can be airy and light – but tit’s so much warmer and quieter downstairs, behind the insulated panels than upstairs in a single skin tent (so it’s colder than a normal tent).

    We have a lining made from reflective silver bubble wrap stuff that does a great job making it dark up there for the summer months and keeps it warmer.

    You can also get covers that go over the top, which help for blackout and keep it cooler during the summer too.

    Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    Hahaha – spacey I think you have summarised our muddle well.

    Ok – maybe an alternative question, is at the moment I look at standard conversions layouts and just can’t imagine getting all our stuff in! We will take ~80 cm off the length of the LWB with the bike garage, which leaves us ~40 cm shorter than a SWB inside, and without access behind the bed (though of course we will also store shoes, helmets etc round/under the bikes). In the last 5+ years we have got used to taking a very useful box (prob 40 L) full of camping stuff + sleeping bags etc + two 60 L mountain equipment bags with our clothes in + walking bags + boots + multiple jackets (walking/bike/kayak) + all the kayak stuff if we are away for a couple of weeks (of course tent, mats, camping chairs etc we would no longer need). I just sit inside a standard conversion and can’t for the life of me see us fitting it all in (and I cant stand mess, so it has to be organised if I am living in it!). Then you reflect on that fact that people go away with similar set ups (ok maybe not trying to do 3 sports at once), with 2 children!

    Anyone enlighten me? Maybe with photos. This is a genuine concern of mine!

    surfer
    Member

    it seems odd to convert a van and then sleep in the roof.

    Not odd at all. It makes sense to have living space and sleeping space separate if you can. Adding a roof that you can sleep in is an expensive but good decision. I dont have one by the way and not sure if I will, based at the moment on cost and the fact that there is only 2 of us and the dog.

    surfer
    Member

    Have you considered a bigger van? I have a T6 LWB and although it is great to throw everything you own into it and unpack into an awning at the other end. 1 or 2 nighters need a bit more thought.
    If I needed the bike garage I would be tempted to go for a Crafter although parking space may be a challenge. INRAT but did you say you were using it as a daily driver? If so that would be a consideration.
    A friend of mine bought a nice purpose build camper for £23k and part of me wishes I had skipped the VW stage and gone straight for that. The downside being he stores it a couple of miles from home (circa £40 per month)

    Premier Icon ahsat
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    Have you considered a bigger van?

    Yes, but we dont have space. It is incredibly tight getting the LWB into and out of our terrace street and anything longer doesn’t fit on the drive for the rest of the street to get past. Also the T6 fits in the garage which massively helps the insurance (car theft is an issue in West Yorkshire). I think if we put something bigger in storage, we just wont go and get it for ad-hoc trips; and we’d have the cost of keeping something else on the road for shopping, occasional commutes etc (we cycle/train to work normally). Rightly-or-wrongly we are looking to make it work with this. If we can’t make it work, we might just stick to the tent option and AirBnB in the autumn-winter. Alternatively is dont try and do some many activities on a single trip, but that makes me a bit sad.

    We might do good to hire a converted one for a weekend – thing is we’d only take walking kit if we did that, so not sure if helps us learn. (We had some bikes stolen, and it took me a while to get over it, so not keen to put them on a rack).

    surfer
    Member

    but we dont have space

    Understood. I think you can make it work I hankered after one for years and both of my kids are at UNI now so its just us and I thought Mrs Surfer would not fancy staying in it but thats not the case and once I finish the conversion in the spring I think we will use it a lot.

    Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    Yeah we’ve decided to not have kids, so this is our adventure toy. We loved our old van – gave us so much freedom, but just sat in campsite hankering for something a bit more flexible in the weather (we camped with the van and tent for 2+ weeks in the alps, so not afraid to rough it for a bit). Just how much Mr Ahsat (aka p20) and I can do ourselves to get the finish I would like.

    Good luck and have fun with your conversion – make sure you post photos.

    Andy
    Member

    Same issues as you when converted my SWB T5. Main thing for me was didn’t want a second car, so mine needs to work as a daily driver. I don’t put big miles on it, so I dont think am wasting the investment.

    Down stairs I wanted to be able to have a bed and also have 2 bikes inside if needs. Went through all kinds of permutations and settled on the standard side (but narrow) conversion and “rock and roll” bed. To get the bikes in I had to fit a bed on rails so I can slide it right forward to become a bed and still have bikes in the back. This is in a SWB so 40cm shorter than yours. Bed & rails were not cheap. Its a California seat so uses the rear multiflex shelf as well on bespoke legs. It has the advantage that when not being used as a camper I can take the multiflex out. Slide the seat right forward and fit 4 bikes and have 4 legal seats.

    I currently dont have a pop top but its on the list to add when funds permit. My reasons are it will make the inside more roomy, cooler in Summer (has been a bit of an issue a couple of times) and give me the option of not sliding the downstairs bed around if the van is full of bikes. I am concerned about using a pop top in high winds, or when stealth camping, so do still want to be able to sleep downstairs on those occasions. I have kept under the drivers seat clear for future diesel heater.

    I had a big Sprinter camper before this which had motorhome levels of comfort. The T5 doesnt have this, but is much more flexible. Many conversions I have seen pack the van with storage and gadgets which is a mistake. I like the simplicity of the T5. Less to go wrong.

    Van Halen
    Member

    I`m up to my 5th and 6th vans and the pop top we have on the current one camping one is amazing.

    Our van is big enough that in dodgy weather we can all sleep in the van with tehroof down (it does happen)

    Yes its chilly for year round sleeping but you just get a thicker sleeping bag or thermal liner or both. Its gonna get chilly in any van/tent without a space heater.

    Its lovely in the summer as it cools the van more than an insulated tin top.

    being able to get changed standing up is a wonderful thing!

    The kids love it and it provides a degree of seperation duing the day when you all need somewhere else to snooze/read etc.

    Everyone has different requirements though.

    Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    I am concerned about using a pop top in high winds, or when stealth camping, so do still want to be able to sleep downstairs on those occasions.

    Thanks Andy for your insight – good to know you made it work from a similar perspective. You’ve made me think. When funds allow we could fit a sliding rock and roll bed anyway (I like the look of the Smart Beds), which would be useful in the winter when we are likely to do shorter trips, and probably leave the boats behind. We could then take it out for summer, longer, multi sport trips when sleeping in the roof shouldn’t be such an issue (or just our big alpkit roll mats in for the floor if need a back up plan). Can’t afford to do all that in one go so would need to plan the order accordingly. Makes sense to pop the roof first to get all the heavy cutting out of the way.

    Hummmmm….this continues to be a major source of conversation – I am sure it is all we talk about. More things for p20 when he gets home.

    Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    Yes its chilly for year round sleeping but you just get a thicker sleeping bag

    Yeah we do both already have -10C rated down sleeping bags. Valid point.
    I also like the idea of standing up to change.

    dovebiker
    Member

    We have an old VW with pop-top – we have a rock-and-roll bed that gets used for sleeping. Yes, you can sleep in the roof, but for us it’s simply the practicality of having standing room, somewhere to stash everything safely overnight / off the floor and in the summer it’s good ventilation / helps reduce condensation. Recommendation on the Duvalay – we ditched the sleeping bags as the seats are too firm. Obviously, for winter some heating is really necessary – we just use an electric one when on mains hook-up.

    scotroutes
    Member

    2 folk, cycling. walking and paddling kit. We make it work by opting for packrafts instead of kayaks (lots more flexible in other ways too) and putting bikes on a rack. That leaves lots of room inside the van.

    An awning helps on those longer trips away as more stuff can be left outside. I’ve seen folk take a small tent for the same job. Not so applicable if wild camping or overnight trips.

    Andy
    Member

    ashat I agree with your thinking. If you keep the down stairs simple to start, it gives you flexibility to work out what works for you. The other option for down stairs is one of those simple long benches that have a full length slidey out bit to double their width. Pop top, leisure electrics, swivelly front seats, slidey out thing with cushions. Job done for now.

    Like this, which was the first thing that came up when I searched, but gives you the idea

    Oh and looked at Duvalet bedding. Nice idea but look a bit cheap, if was going to to would make my own version.

    For leisure battery and electrics I used Travelvolts. Cheap, safe and the guy that runs it knows his stuff and was very helpful. Everything is under the passenger seat. When I started researching electrics the very first thing that came up was a burned out T5 campervan on someones drive, which was sobering. Turns out it was a faulty installation by the conversion company that started shorting when the owner drove it home for the first time.

    Andy
    Member

    Oh yeah and I did have the swanky VW bike rack fitted but took it off. They look good but aren’t brilliant bike racks and I felt vulnerable with bikes stored outside. Only really used it when north of Glasgow. Might get a towbar thing in the future.

    Tried an awning as well but gave up as too faffy. Will get one of those Kirivans side sails at some point though.

    Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    Might get a towbar thing in the future.

    I’ll see if I can get a photo of the very impressive thing my Dad got built for thier sprinter. However he does still deploy about 8 locks!

    Thanks – this has been therapeutic and good distraction on a Friday ;-P

    surfer
    Member

    The guy from Travelvolts is highly recommended and he posts on a lot of the forums giving good advice. I had bought my kit before I knew, from a company called simplysplitcharge. It included a CTEK unit given that the new T6 has a clever charging system that the old simpler split relays didnt work with. Easy to fit and the kit was very good.

    Premier Icon tillydog
    Subscriber

    It is incredibly tight getting the LWB into and out of our terrace street and anything longer doesn’t fit on the drive for the rest of the street to get past.

    A MWB Ducato / Relay / Boxer is the same length as an LWB transporter and has a better turning circle.

    The mid height (H2) has standing headroom and they are wide enough for a transverse bed, even quite high up (Sprinters / Crafters get narrow very quickly as they go up – and Sprinters rust like something from the 1970s).

    Can’t be in the VW club with a Ducato / Relay / Boxer, but you can get a lot more stuff in them!

    ElShalimo
    Member

    A MWB Ducato probably won’t fit in their garage

    Premier Icon ahsat
    Subscriber

    Also we bought the van 4 months ago (18 months old, ex-trade Highline) and p20 loves driving it. We won’t be swapping it. Ok, we maybe should have got to the nitty gritty planning, but we knew basically we’d fit a bike garage and still have enough space for a rock and roll bed whilst choosing it (I didn’t totally think about my storage issues at this point).

    Yeah, bearing it mind it is a daily driver for us, the 2 m limit is critical (we can get 2.1 m in our garage as the Vivario with roof bars fitted).

    Poptops are fine in high wind and bad weather…spent many a night up there in adverse weather with no issues. They are cold in the winter and if you are running a heater you need to pipe air up there as the warm are from below finds it hard to find its way up into the pop top space -so a small fan to direct warm air up helps. And if I was doing any winter camping i’d use one of those wrap around blankets.

    Make sure you get a pop top that has mesh windows too – ours doesn’t and gets hot and steamy up there in the summer if the sun shines directly on it. Not too bad if you park in some shade but if you can’t and get direct sun on it then it gets really hot. Wish ours had mesh panels.

    Don’t think tow bar racks are any more secure than the swanky VW things. I’ve had both and security is equivalent…and not great anyway. But I’ve parked mine in many a Premier Inn car park, including one in Glasgow, with no issues yet. In a Transporter sized van you really have no room inside the van for bikes AND people, especially if it’s a camper.

    I used to have a pop top roof on an old T3 camper that had solid sides that folded up from the van roof and folded down from the pop top roof and bolted together in the middle. Seemed like a really good solution and it was much quiter than a canvas equivalent in winds which I had on older campers and warmer as the walls were insulated. Don’t know if there is a modern version now.

    trail_rat
    Member

    If your adament to stay with a t6 then I’d spend my money on a box trailer rather than pop top roof if your going to be carrying all that gear and wanting somewhere to sleep without having to move lots of kit every time you want to do anything.

    Premier Icon duncancallum
    Subscriber

    Your all soft as a small kid we had bay window with a pop top.

    Cheap sleeping bag and a blanket

    Camped all year round.

    I was far more nails as an 8 yo…..

    Premier Icon nickdavies
    Subscriber

    See if you can get away with less than 80cm in the garage. The negative of dropping room inside if you go standard conversion is the fridge will foul the bed when down, but it will work if you need it to. Raise the garage floor and you then have access to the under bed section of the back, clever use of boxes here, or a sliding drawer gives you a lot of options for storage. Think about how you convert and you’ll be surprised what you can do. I’ve got a leisure battery in the under sink cupboard and it’s a waste of space. Gas and water in the back compartment, again waste of space as you can fit under slung tanks. If I wiped the slate clean with mine and started again I could get all our kit for a week away in much easier.

    phil5556
    Member

    Don’t think tow bar racks are any more secure than the swanky VW things

    It’s lower down so easier to run a chain to somewhere solid and can tilt out the way to get in to the boot. I use a big chain around the tow bar, but yes the locks on the rack itself I wouldn’t trust.

    phil5556
    Member

    The “problem” with most standard van layouts with a R&R bed is you get lots of floor space inside the van but no storage. We’ve got an Amdro Angel interior in ours which gives a massive boot and a full camper set up in front. I can’t get the big bikes in the boot but without the parcel shelf in place probably could.

    If you’re determined to get the bikes inside have a look around for different layouts that might work without needing to cut a hole in the roof.

    I realise this isn’t what you are asking but something to think about

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