My first camping trip - I have some questions.


New member
Ok, I took my first camping trip in my 86 Westfalia this week. It was a short trip so that I could figure out any problems, etc. before I take a more extended trip next week. I have a few very basic questions that I would appreciate any help on.

First, can you store things (sleeping bags, duffel bags, etc.) in the very back of the van over the engine while you are driving, or would that cause your engine to overheat?

Second, when you hook up to the electric hook ups at the campsite, are all of the electrical components in the vehicle then drawing from that source, e.g., lights in cabin, air conditioner, stereo, etc. or just the electric outlet on the back wall?

Third, when travelling at about 55 miles per hour going uphill through the mountains, the engine seemed to hesitate a bit, but did not totally die out. The engine did not seem to be overheated, per the instrument guage. Could this just be a matter of needing to use a higher octane gasoline? (A VW repair man checked the vehicle before I purchased it and said everything looked fine).

Thanks so much for your help.

Gary B. Dixner

New member
First, I don't believe the engine cooling depends on heat dissipation through the inside cover so it wouldn't cause the engine to overheat. Of course, you wouldn't want to have a lot of small hard objects untethered back there as they could become lethal in a crash.

Second, Although there is such a thing as a converter that would power low voltage stuff from an outside source, unless someone added it, your Westy powers only the electrical outlet and the refrigerator (set switch to outside source) from 110 volt AC current. If the air conditioning you're talking about is the vehicle system, it only works when the engine is running to power the compressor. The galley light works off the battery. Some Westy's have an auxilliary battery under the driver's seat. There is also green/red/yellow light under the sink to tell you if your main battery is low. It's probably a a good idea to carry a small trickle charger in case you run the battery down.

Third, These vehicles are underpowered and typically slow down on hills. You may need to shift to a lower gear for climbing. Watch the tachometer and limit rpm's to about 3,000. If it's truly hesitating, it could be another problem. Search this site for lots of information.

Finally, You should have two owner's manuals: One for the Vanagon and one for the Camper stuff.

Welcome to the club and happy camping!


New member
It looks like your questions have been answered very nicely. We have some nice, informative people on this list, and it is good to have them. Welcome to our relm of camping fun - one thing that needs to be mentioned is a "CAUTION." Being that this is your first camping experience - and being a "Westy - girl," be ever so careful where you camp, especially if you are by yourself, or with other Westy girls! There has been a couple of rape / murders on the road to women who have been alone. I recall reading about a women in a Westy who had parked (by herself) at a rest stop somewhere in the Southeast part of the USA, who ended up not getting to her destination - due to jerks out there looking to hurt people. So as a friendly reminder - Please be ever so careful where you camp and who is around you. Other than that - ask us anything, and I'm sure we all can get you an answer. Take care and good luck. CGOTTS

Capt. Mike

Around this site you'll find many hints & tips. There's a entire section devoted to "what to take"; others on security, dealing with wildlife, and camping equipment. For early trips, don't bite off more than you can chew. Keep them short, nearby and to very reputable & safe place like National Parks. As you become more comfortable with camping, then you can expand into longer and more adventuresome trips.


New member
Thanks all for your helpful responses.

I do appreciate your warnings about having to be careful when camping. I have done a lot of tent camping, and I actually feel much safer camping in the Westfalia. Pepper spray and a baseball bat have always been on my list of essential camping gear. To be extra cautious, though, I had an alarm installed on the van (even though I really hate those things), in case anyone tries to break into the van while I am asleep.

I envy you men who feel secure enough to pull over anywhere and set up camp, but I am more comfortable for now, as Capt. Mike recommends, camping in parks around other campers.

Thanks again for your kind encouragement and welcome.


New member
Why, yes Redlocks12, it HAS been pretty cold and rainy 'round these parts.

If you're going to make the trip to Sonita, you should make a day of it & poke around Bisbee, the old "Queen of the copper camps." It's become something of an artists' colony & haven for old hippies... which means a guy like me with George W bumper stickers plastered all over his VWs is something of an endangered species!


New member
I am a guy and sometimes have felt a bit out of my element while camping. Most often it is when civilization is close at hand and once in a large national chains parking lot. Not their problem really.

I do a couple of things.
1. My 84 Westy is an automatic so when I go to bed I put the key in the ignition. I figure if I hear things outside and need to get away I can fire it up put it in drive and steer for a while and make them run. Just remember to never drive with the top up. I am talking life and death here so I am just looking to get out of a bad situation. This method would certainly not pass driver or Westy safety education.
2. I have a good size axe that I use for cutting wood. That stays near by and only as a last resort. I am a far better driver even with the curtains up and stuff piled on the drivers seat then I am a fighter

Capt. Mike

Transferred to consolidate similart subjects.

rmcgrath Junior Member Posted April 20, 2007 10:19 PM

I'm new to Westy camping and I have a question. "What am I?" I see listing for campsites for RV camping and tent camping. Since we are a little of both, I have the original West "Front porch" tent, what do we specify or does it really matter.


Capt. Mike

In most campgrounds, it will make little difference. "RV" tends to designate the larger park pad with hook-ups. You can use them but many have about as much personality as a Wal-Mart parking lot. Sites like Good Sam cater to the big RV's and wide-open manueverability for a 40' rig towing a SUV is more important than privacy and communing with nature.

"Tent" often implies that the actual camp site is not directly adjacent to the parking, i.e. it might be a small walk or at a different level.

Both are useable and you will find yourself picking a site and adapting within a campground. Some RV sites have individual sites slots that face into the natural terrain so that you can set up facing that side and have some privacy.

Tent Site campgrounds will probably have sites where the planned tent place is sufficiently close you can use those anemities like table, fire-pit, etc. and still use your Westy for sleeping and base. Most state & federal campgrounds are multi-purpose. Since you don't need hook-ups, you'll have more versatility. The less developed the campground, the more you'll appreciate your Westy and enjoy the experience. Sites with minimal facilities -- maybe a pump and outhouse -- become treasured after you've spent a night next to a 40' bus with generator roaring and satelite TV blaring.


New member
RV or Passenger Van?

I am seeking some clarification. While camping in Death Valley my party consisted of 2 Westies - so I thought we could share one large spot - say for a 40' RV - but the Ranger said we had to take two individual spots - which was ridiculous - because it was an incredibly busy weekend - and this resulted in some other poor soul not getting a spot at all. The Ranger said we were a RV - not passenger van - I wonder if anyone has any advise - we easily could have share a large spot - and shared the fee. This was not my motivation - as we ended up getting two spots quite a distance apart - so much for camping with 2 Westies.

Gilwell II

New member
RV or Van

So far we have been classed as a van even on the boat to the mainland.
We rarely use a svc'd site and usually end up grabbing a tent site with no amenities. Quiet, green, friendly. Out here popular spots are the gravel pits that scar the country side after the roads went through. [It didn't all get paved until '65]. Some pits have evolved into mini communities where campers, school bus conversions and trailer are parked all year 'round. We even have a song and a video by one of our favourite groups about "the pits" and the "24" weekend. The Victoria Day weekend is our traditional start to summer and we usually get out for a wet and snowy weekend. We finish off on Labour Day weekend in the same kind of weather. Come on out to Newfoundland - it's the pits!!


New member
My first camping trip I have some questions

Sorry to hear you had to cut your trip short, Claire.

What awning is it that you have the first one? Maybe we could help with some tips re opening up the folded panels?