This morning saw the opening of another Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show, at the NEC, as the doors opened, at 10am, to the inevitable flood of camping and caravanning enthusiasts from all around the country.
The February show takes place in Halls 1 to 5 of the NEC. These are the five larger halls of the NEC, as opposed to the 11 smaller ones, used for sister show, the Motorhome and Caravan Show, in October each year. Although the February show is larger, it is a little easier to circumnavigate, as it is less spread out, and concentrated within just five main halls.
Although many aspects of the two shows remain the same, the other key difference is the inclusion of the word; ‘Camping’ in the title, meaning that there is far more emphasis placed on the camping side of the industry, as opposed to the caravans and motorhomes, although the latter categories are equally well represented, as they are in October.
Of course, ‘more emphasis’ is a relative concept, and the camping aspect of the show remains, largely, restricted to one hall, Hall 5, as in previous years. It is, also, interesting to note that the vast majority of this Hall appears to have been taken over by one retailer; PJ Camping. There are various stands in this hall, including Vango, Royal, Outwell, Kampa, Quest, Coleman, to name but a few. All of them are; “Shown by PJ Outdoors”, so anyone looking to play one retailer off against another, in order to get a bargain, may be somewhat disappointed.
Last year, the show boasted 350 exhibitors, across all five halls, and was attended by 86,000 visitors. Anyone interested in industry statistics for unit sales, etc, can check them out in the article I wrote, covering the February 2015 NEC Show.
Click here to take a look at the 2015 Show Video
Once again, the halls are divided up into key areas;
- Holiday Homes & Lodges
- Campsites & Destinations
- Tents & Camping
- Trailer Tents & Folding Campers
Obviously, these are very general classifications, and there will be a degree of overlap between halls / categories.
As usual, there is a lot more going on than just units and accessories for sale. These are covered in far more detail on the Show web site, so, where relevant, there is a link to each activity below. Simply click on each heading for more details:
There seem to be a few more celebrities, this year, than there have in recent years, with four appearing on the first day, alone, including; presenter and naturalist Chris Packham, presenter Matt Baker, and fellow presenter Julia Bradbury. A full list of celebrity guests can be viewed by clicking on the heading above.
New for 2016, this gives attendees the opportunity to check out some of the latest glamping products and destinations.
A comprehensive program of speakers covering a range of topics, including what to buy, where to go, and what to do when you get there. For a full list of speakers, and theatre timetable, click on the heading above.
The clue is, very much, in the name! Click on the link to check out the various chefs and timetables.
Back by popular demand, apparently, and, this year, for weekend attendees, with the added attraction of Ashley and Pudsey of Britain’s Got Talent fame.
This record breaking caravan made its debut at the October show, and, anyone who is a member of any caravan group, whatsoever, on facebook, is more than likely to be aware of it. It will be available to view at the show, again, all week.
Book yourself in for a free 20 minute motorhome manoeuvering course, run by the Caravan Club.
New to towing, and not sure if it’s for you? The Camping & Caravanning Club and Hyundai offer a towing experience, including hitching up and towing safely. These courses are free, and tend to be very popular, and, so, are offered on a first come, first served basis.
As previously, ticket prices are £8 in advance, and £10 on the door (£7 and £9, respectively for senior citizens). Children of 15 and under go free. This means that the basic cost of a day out for a family of four can be as little as £16 for two adults and two children, including parking, show guide etc. Obviously, the price ramps up pretty quickly if you start to venture anywhere near the huge selection of on site eateries dotted around the various halls.
The main show is exactly as you would expect it to be; a vast array of caravans, motor homes, tents, accessories, holiday destinations and accommodation, and anything even remotely to do with camping (plus a few things that appear to have absolutely nothing, whatsoever to do with it)! Generally speaking, you tend to find that the main exhibitors are situated in the centre of each hall, with a large selection of smaller exhibitors, accessories, etc around the perimeter.
Those who are looking to buy a new caravan, can, comfortably, spend a couple of days here, and still not see everything, if they spend time looking at all available options in some detail. Those who are interested in tent camping will find that a day is more than enough to cover everything they need to. Those who are just going for a browse should find it is a worthwhile day out, with plenty to see and do, and more than enough things to tempt you to part with your hard earned cash!
The Folding Camper Bit
Of course, Blue Sky continues to specialise in folding campers, and, to a lesser extent, trailer tents, so, as usual, it would be inappropriate to not cover that, particular, area in a little more detail.
As usual, all folding camper / trailer tent exhibitors are grouped together, in Hall 5, which did keep things nice and convenient, as well as saving on the shoe leather. Once again, there was an improved showing over the October event, with a couple of notable additions being the Cabanon and HoltKamper ranges.
In simple terms, Hall 5 is divided in two by the Glamping Village stand, with tents to one side, and folding campers / trailer tents to the other. There are, actually, seven stands, dedicated to the latter; as follows:
- Cabanon and
- Opus (Who, once again, have squeezed onto a small part of one of the PJ Outdoors stands).
Each of these stands are covered, in a little more detail, below. Also, these models were reviewed, in some detail, at both 2015 shows, and can be seen in our articles; Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show 2015. Folding Camper & Trailer Tent Models, and Motorhome & Caravan Show Returns To The NEC, should you wish to see more details, pictures and videos.
Presented by Black Country Caravans, there were two HoltKamper models on display; the Cocoon, and the Kyte. These innovative and stylish campers really look the part, with a huge kitchen unit, cleverly incorporated into the main tent canvas, and large comfortable beds. On the downside, these beds do tend to be quite high, at just over 3ft off the ground, and there is only one double bed, with additional berths being in an annex tent, off the main living area. One thing that is particularly cool about this marque is the way certain models inflate totally automatically, using their patented Windforce system
Images, clockwise are; the Cocoon, the Kyte, raised bed in the Cocoon, which is extremely spacious and comfortable, but, also, very high. The Holtkamper kitchen is in a bit of a class of its own.
The Trigano stand is next to the Holtkamper one, and, from memory, is also presented by BCC. All four current models are, again, represented; the Alpha, the Galleon, the Odyssee and the Olympe. These models have not changed significantly since the review we did last year.
The spacious interior of the Trigano Olympe, the largest pram hood style trailer tent on the market, and the luxury kitchen unit of the stylish two berth Trigano Alpha.
The Raclet stand, once again, included current trailer tent models, such as the Moovea, Safari, and the Solena, as well as their only current folding camper model; the Raclet Quickstop.
The Raclet Moovea and Solena, above, with the Quickstop SE folding camper below.
Once again, Pennine had all four current models on display, including three (the Conway Countryman, Pennine Fiesta and Pennine Pathfinder) which were set up, ready to be viewed, plus a Conway Crusader, used to demonstrate the setting up / folding away procedure. For the first time, however, the ‘standard’ Pennine stand was complemented by an additional stand, adjacent, with another Conway Crusader (this time, a 2015 model, already sold to a customer) with the new Pennine Air Porch 6 awning attached. The 2016 Pennine range was, actually, launched at the October show, and, hence, all of the new work tops, fabrics etc are exactly as they were then, although Pennine have enhanced this with some pretty cool cushions to match the existing seat fabric, and it’s getting to the point, now, where it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how the company can possibly improve on the current range (other than, perhaps, returning to the dual fuel heaters / hot water systems of older models – there remains something, still, extremely frustrating about having a brand new camper, of the quality of the current Pennine / Conway ranges, and not being able to have heating and hot water, unless you are on electric hookup). Overall, though, that’s a pretty small niggle, when you look at the quality and finish of the current models.
The Air Porch 6 awning, attached to a 2015 Conway Crusader, front and rear aspects of the Pathfinder interior, Pennine Pathfinder wash room, and Pennine seat cover fabrics, with matching cushions.
As previously, Camperlands are displaying both the Camp-Let range, and their own Campmaster Air. The latter is an innovative trailer tent design, that can be towed by a motorcycle or small car. It is based around a modified Vango Eden 400 air beam tent.
Unlike the October show, Opus did not have their latest prototype model, the Moto, on display, nor did they have the Opus awning set up, simply an Opus Camper, set up for viewings, and a second one folded with a standard bike rack on top.
Distinctive leatherette U shaped seating of the Opus camper, and, slightly unusual kitchen layout for a folding camper.
As in October 2015, I took a number of walk through videos of many of the models on display. The 2015 ones are already uploaded to our You Tube Channel, and the 2016 ones will be uploaded over the next couple of days.
The ‘Worth A Look’ Award
This year’s main award must go to the glamping village display, in Hall 5. Although not huge, it does have an interesting display of teepees, yurts, cabins and, even, an inflatable bubble tent. Some of these are beyond glamping, but and well worth a browse, even if, just, out of curiosity.
Inflatable bubble tent, and luxury yurt, with two bedrooms and luxurious living area. Glamping at its best.
A couple of other things, at the show, that stood out as interesting (if not, entirely necessary) accessories were the E & P Hydraulics Levelsystem, and Levelsystem Compact. If you think motor movers make things too easy, then you’re going to hate these! Levelling of your unit by remote control. Another of those things you don’t need, but you really really want!
Another product I quite like the look of, which, again, many will consider a little OTT, is the Tyrepal Solar, a solar powered sensor that monitors your tyre pressure every six seconds, and sends an alert, immediately it detects a problem. Again, many will consider this to be somewhat OTT, whilst others will consider it a must have safety feature.
As ever, the show has much to keep all family members entertained. Those looking for a new caravan, or motor home could spend days wandering around the various halls, viewing all of the available options. Tent enthusiasts are not quite so well catered for, and folding camper/ trailer tenters even less so, but, even so, there is, still, plenty to see and do, and it would be quite possible to spend a whole day just looking at the accessories and other stalls, and partaking of the various activities on offer.
You very often hear complaints as to the costs of the food on offer, however, when you bear in mind that the whole day costs, at most, £10 per person, with entrance, car parking program and loads of free activities, it’s not a bad deal, overall, and you can always take a packed lunch, if you feel the need.
Much of Hall 4 is also comprised of the ‘Campsites & Destinations’ section of the show, which includes an excellent selection of camp sites, travel companies etc, many of them outside of the UK, for those of you considering venturing a little further afield, or just looking for somewhere different within the UK.
Everything else camping is catered for as well, including clothing, cooking equipment, cleaning products, satellite TV, furniture, tow cars, solar panels, the list is endless. If you’re still undecided, I strongly recommend you give it a go. It’s excellent value, and a real full days entertainment, if you have any interest in camping or caravanning whatsoever.