Electric Picnic 2005 was when I began to get turned off festivaling in tents. There were two lads sitting outside the tent next door to ours, both from the same town and both equally out of their bins. They spent the early hours of Sunday morning discussing how sound they thought the other was and wondering why they’d never talked before, what with them living in the same town ‘n’ all. Their inane chemically fueled chatter nearly drove me demented, as did the piss poor music selection they were bangin’ out on the stereo. It was a festival, you can’t go and ask them to keep it down, so I fashioned ineffective earplugs from baby wipes and blades of grass. I’ve never forgotten them, but I’m willing to bet they never spoke or embraced the next time they met either. Furtive glances and uncomfortable half memories of being loved up are likely to have followed. I could be wrong, maybe they got married!
Choose you neighbours carefully
The flip side of that experience was in a van at Helium in Ballymahon last year. After staying up until about 7AM at a bonfire, singing our heads off, we went back for some needed z’s in the van. A pair of boy racers parked behind us started banging out the Out There Brothers at about 10AM – “Boom, Boom, Booooom. Let me hear you say way-oooh”. Fuck no! I ducked up front, checked the mirros, let down the hand-brake and rolled 20 feet down the field to a whole new neighbourhood. Vans rock. Even if it’s not a camper, a mattress in the back of a rented Transit can sometimes be enough to get you through a weekend’s festivaling.
My first van was a 1973 VW Bay that I worked on for five years, finally getting it to become a glistening and functioning festival wagon. The thing about these beautiful vans is that they are vintage vehicles, and even with twin carburetors, you can only expect acertain amount of performance, economy and comfort from them. Wanderly Wagon I reminds me of a former girlfriend – beautiful to look at, but impractical to live with on a daily basis.
Wanderly Wagon I
There was no way that my beautiful vintage van would have been able for the laps of the country that saw me clocking up 183 festivals in 12 months. It broke my heart, but I sold it and upgraded to a 93 VW California (WWII). A German psychiatrist living in Barna sold me the van and it immediately felt like the perfect vehicle for the campaign ahead. Over an arduous 12 months on the road, there were more than a few running repairs needed on Wanderly Wagon II. An engine replacement was required at one point, but we both made it over the line. I don’t know which of us was more battered and bruised from the experience.
Wanderly Wagon III lowering the tone of the neighbourhood at Vantastival
Over the years I’ve rented campers in Spain and driven my own around the UK and France. Here at home there are more options every year for renting a van in which you can hit up a festival. It’s expensive, but not much more so than forking out for a tee-pee at a shindig that bandies the word “boutique” about the place like a Sex and the City wannabe on a shopping spree in Kildare Village. The price drops considerably if you find some like-minded festivalers to share the cost of a bus for a weekend. There are more and more camper rental companies popping up every year and as a result it’s becoming more economical. I’ve picked out five of the best and had a chat with them on your behalf. Here’s the sceal…
Lazy Days outta Wicklow have beautiful busses, but they book out early
First scanning and chats showed there’s not much joy in renting a van in the republic for anyone who has had their full license for less than 8 years i.e. is under 25, due to insurance laws in Ireland. There is some good news for younger drivers from Bunk Campers working out of Belfast however, but it’ll cost ya a few bucks more for the privilege. General advice is to book and plan as early as possible and check out as many different companies as you can find. Do keep an eye out for extras that might be added on top of the listed price, this can be in the form of kitchen equipment and mileage limits, but it’s usually pretty clear when you starting rooting about in the terms and conditions. I’ve asked the companies I talked to for costs around the time of Electric Picnic, so do check prices for any specific dates you have in mind. If there’s a bit of traveler in you and you’d like to get in touch with your inner Pecker Dunne, these are my top 5…
Celtic Campers – www.celticcampervans.com
This company have the biggest fleet in the Republic, with about 30 different wagons to choose from. Stephen told me they had a few vans rented out to Irish festivalers who hit Glastonbury last year and it’s a regular occurance to have a few heads making the trip from here over to Worthy Farm in their campers. He has a couple of vans rented out for Doolin Folk Festival and a Belgian TV Crew rented a van for last year’s Vantastival. Even the ploughing championships brings a bit of business their way. For a 6 berth camper for 4 nights round Electric Picnic time, it will cost you €600-€800 with a returnable deposit of €500-€2000. Deposits depend on license and insurance details. It is pricey, but when you split the costs six ways, things start to get a bit more attractive. Probably nothing available for Electric Picnic at this stage, tends to book out around February and March for the do in Co. Laois. Check the website for pricing and availability around the time you want to hire, or get in early next year.
You will have to travel up to Belfast to pick-up and drop-off if you’re renting a Bunk Camper and are from the republic, but the good news is that there is likely to still be some limited availability around EP time from this crew and you get a 5% discount from dealing with the Belfast depot. This crowd have somewhere in the region of 50 vans available and there is the possibility that drivers with a full license for less than 8 years might be able to rent a van, but it’ll cost ya. The youngest drivers that can be accommodated are 21 year olds, give Bunk a shout for more details. Basic costs are £75 a day for a 2 birth and £120 a day for a 6 berth. There might be some extras to add on to this, so do have a good rummage in the terms and conditions, but it’s definitely an option, especially for any late starters.
The Bunk Bus
Vanderlust – www.vanderlust.com
Working out of Co. Clare with a relatively small fleet, Dave deals in custom design and luxury, pitched purposely at surfers and tourists along the western side of the island. My current van, Wanderly Wagon III, is an ex-rental that I bought from Dave and I’m extremely happy with it. Truth be told, it’s a bit more flash than I’m used to. You’ll find that some companies have a minimum rental period, which can be a bit of a pain for festival weekenders, but Dave has an interesting twist on it. The minimum rental period is a week, but you don’t have to use the whole week in one go. You can use the van for 3 days for a festival in July, and then use it for the remaining 4 days in August. Weekly costs for the vans that are designed and fitted by Dave are €954 for a 2 berth, €1155 for a four berth and €1295 for a six berth. Only 12 vans in this fleet, but go have a gander and prepare to drool.
Craic ‘n’ Campers – www.craicncampers.ie
A new arrival on the scene and a crew that are causing a stir wherever their vans turn up, quickly becoming the punters first choice for festivals. Most camper rental companies don’t focus on festival trade, the large majority of their business coming from foreign visitors, but the approach from Craic ‘n’ Campers is somewhat different. Festival trade seems to be the primary focus of Craic ‘n’ Campers. There are only a few vans in the fleet, but one of them is a Bosco themed bus that is possibly the best place to lay your head down at any festival… anywhere… ever!
Ta sé go hálinn
Five options there for anyone who want’s to dip their toes into the world of ‘life on the road’, be careful though, it can be addictive. If you do get hooked up with a van, give me a shout, we can start a convoy. That’s a 10-4 Rubber Ducky.
Safe Travels, Don’t Die.