I love a campervan. Before I went to Iceland, I researched every company renting campervans (definitely not motorhomes) I could find. I quickly narrowed it down (mostly by price; it’s not a cheap country) and it was Go Iceland vs Happy Camper. With seemingly little to separate them, we went with Go Iceland, based purely on price. Here’s our review.
Julie and I are ready and waiting (im)patiently at the Bus Hostel an hour before our scheduled pick up for Go Iceland campervan. It’s 11.30am on a brisk day in October. I look at the time on my phone (I really should get a watch), jiggle my legs and drink more water. At 12 noon, right on time, a man arrives. He recognises us by the eager looks we give him. With few words and little fanfare, we are bundled into his van and are driven down to the car depot where we are going to collect the wheels that we’ll call home for the next seven days.
The weather is horrendous. It’s sunny but the infamous Iceland wind has picked up and we are blown around like dry autumn leaves. It’s kind of a struggle to walk and I’m beginning to understand why people recommend taking out the extra insurance on rental vehicles, and why the most common insurance claim for renters is for doors being blown off in the wind.
Whatever the weather, we are taking this baby on the road. But first, we get a blustery tour. We keep it quick and brief. The important thing we take in is that we should hold onto the doors when we open them. I’m also trying to hold onto my hair.
Our campervan is supplied by Rent.is and is branded as such. All over.
Our Nissan camper is basically a workman’s van, or maybe a bakery delivery van, with a bed in the back. A raised platform in the rear is the base for a double mattress. It’s a proper spring mattress too, not just a piece of foam on a board. Underneath are two plastic tubs containing a portable gas stove (with one half canister and one full canister), two plates, two bowls, tow cups, two spoons, two knives, two forks, two saucepans, one frying pan, chopping boards and a handful of other cooking utensils. A nice touch is the dishwashing liquid, washing brush and tea towel. We get a 15 litre jerry can of clean drinking water, camping table and two camping chairs. They all fit under the bed space.
I can already picture us sitting around our camp table after dinner, drinking wine.
Up front we have all the electronics we needed – GPS, portable WiFi device that actually works, cigarette lighter charging socket (who actually uses these things for cigarettes anymore?) and a USB port.
Our brief glance looks like we’re all set. We don’t stop to explore more. With my scarf and hair whipping around my face, and Julie staggering under the onslaught of wind, we throw our bags in on top of the mattress. I dive behind the wheel and Julie takes her position as co pilot.
At 1pm, with a full tank of petrol, we hit the road.
Did we choose wisely?
We have our wheels, the Nissan Kangoo is small and easy to drive. I don’t like that all the sides behind the driver seat, on the sliding doors, are covered metal without any windows. It means there’s a bigger blind spot than usual. Not that this is too much of a problem. Outside of Reykjavik there are very few cars on the road. It’s a minor thing but it’s a thing.
At the end of our first day of driving we realise that the promised bathroom towels are not in the van. Luckily, I always travel with a Khmer scarf given to me by my students in Cambodia. It looks like a tea towel but works perfectly as a lightweight scarf, picnic blanket and more than once, a towel. Julie has packed her travel towel. We can make do.
The bed is really comfortable for camping sleeping. It’s the full width of the van so we have lots of space. Good for people who are not in a couple. We have pillows, sleeping bags and microfibre fleece blanket things. The heater keeps us warm, sometimes even too warm so I turn it off in the middle of the night. I’m cosy. Julie feels a draft through one of the side doors. We try sleeping with some clothes and bags tucked down the side and it does the trick. It’s also handy for getting dressed in the morning. We sleep with your heads at the driving end because the heater kind of vibrates and is a bit noisy. We sleep well for most of the week and when we don’t, it’s not the fault of the van.
Our portable WiFi device actually works in most locations. Sometimes, we receive weather updates and warnings from Go Iceland by email. They are keeping us safe on the roads. It’s a nice touch. The GPS turns out to be somewhat helpful at times too, especially for finding camping grounds.
It rains during our week of travelling the ring road. It is October after all. And there is a big cloud over all of Iceland. Sometimes it’s too miserable to set up the table and chairs outside so we improvise. With the plastic tubs inside, we sit cross legged and cook in the back of the van. We make the van smell like pasta and stir fried veggies. It works pretty well but it can get a bit uncomfortable sitting cross legged all the time.
We like the basic set up. It doesn’t have a full kitchen in the back like the Jucy Van Barry and I rented in California but it has some benefits. We hardly used the built in sink in the Jucy Van and it made the driving somewhat heavy. It was much easier to wash dishes at campground facilities (in hot water) than it was to nearly break my arm pumping the water out. Then there’s finding the right facilities to dump the grey water. So our 15 litre plastic jerry can (of water we can actually drink as well as use to wash, not that there’s a shortage of that in Iceland) is more than a good substitute.
Having our cooking things in a plastic tub turned out to be a simple but practical and effective method of portable storage. There were a number of campsites with indoor facilities – sometimes with kitchens, often with large tables. The option of being out of the wind and rain is, of course, appealing. With our plastic tubs we take our kitchen inside with us. There were some jealous campers around us.
We pass a lot of identical vans on the road and we wave, giving some camper van love.
We also see a Happy Camper at one of our camping grounds. I peek in to see what’s different (it’s okay, the people are inside talking to reception and I’ll be quick).
It’s the same model of van but configured differently. Possibly a different year because the first thing Julie and I notice is that there are curtains on the windows in the back. Curtains. That means glass. That means the blind spot we have is not the same in the Happy Camper.
Luckily for my curiosity, the campers have left their curtains open. I shamelessly look inside. A narrow section of one wall comprises a kitchen and storage unit. The bed folds into a long bench seat so indoor cooking is not done on the bed, cross legged. This does mean that the bed is not as wide as the full width of the van. It still looks comfortable, especially for couples. And you get a day time and evening seat.
But maybe Julie and I are happier with our extra space. No head butting when rolling over (it’s been known to happen from time to time).
Happy might have less storage as well as there isn’t a cavernous amount of space under the bed like our Go Iceland. Still, I like the looks of the Happy Camper, and with not difference in price I’d try it out next time.
Also, their vans are red with trees on them.
But then again, I bet they don’t have a competition that gets you a €100 refund just for entering, and the chance to win back the cost of your hire.