We drive an American Motorhome, but at just 27 feet, we are rarely the longest van on a campsite. Most every tag axle van is longer than us, and there are a lot of those around these days. Like most of us, when reversing, I do like to know what is behind me. My partner, after huffing and puffing, finding shoes, putting a coat on, sometimes gets out and guides me back. But, after 30 years she still hasn’t quite grasped the concept that if she can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see her frantic waving. I’d had enough; I wanted a reversing camera. I’d noticed the one in my son-in-laws Mercedes, a crisp, clear view, and those fancy super-imposed lines that show you what you are going to hit (or miss). I was going to get one.
After years of reading about how difficult it can be hiding cables for wired systems and how good wireless camera are these days, I opted for the easy option, a wireless system.
The guy who sold us the kit at the Peterborough show assured us that wireless cameras were fitted to rigs much longer than ours and that they work well. And to be fair it did, it was excellent, but only at around midday in mid-summer. Only then was it bright enough to give us a good picture, and then, as long as we were at least at a 100-degree angle away from the sun; otherwise the glare obliterated everything. It seemed most anytime before mid-morning, or after mid afternoon it wasn’t quite bright enough. The image was grainy and indistinct, (maybe Wales should take the blame for some of that.) Then whenever it was raining, or windy, or we were anywhere near other radio signals, there was no picture at all.
Was it the distance from camera to monitor causing the problem? I spoke to others who had shorter vans than us; some were happy with their wireless system, most thought it could be much better. I was going to have to bite the bullet and get a decent wired system fitted.
How hard could it be to fit one myself, camera one end, monitor the other, a bit of power to each, I could do that couldn’t I? Probably not, electricity has been a mystery to me all of my life. But it wasn’t the power that put me off it was the cable run! How on earth would I manage to run a cable the length of the van and keep it invisible. Lots of threads like this one confirmed how difficult this would be.
I know; I’ll ask my old mate Eddie at Vanbitz how to do it. He’s been hiding alarm cables in vans professionally for 30 years. It was then that he sold me on my new twin lens camera and navigation system from Dometic. After describing the quality of the cameras, how they can almost see in the dark, and how easy it is to switch from one lens to the other. He described the lens functions
A 140°wide angle lens that looks directly down and back, enabling precision manoeuvring onto pitches, and making things easier it has those fancy superimposed lines that remove any doubt about where your back end is.
A 50°straight back lens that acts as a rear view mirror but with a much wider and sharper view, showing me everything that is happening behind me on the road.
I was sold and he knew it.!
Ever the salesman he didn’t leave it there, Eddie said I could have a regular monitor attached to the dash which would be excellent. But of course that monitor would sit there only of any use when reversing, or, if I spent a bit more, Okay a lot more, I could hook the rear view camera up to the Blaupunkt Columbia 945 – a top-of-the-range double-DIN multi-media/sat-nav/ which comes with a database of European campsites. Has a whopping 6.8in screen along with detailed mapping for 44 European countries. Eddie said you can program specific height, length and weights, and tell it if you are towing your trailer!
It sounded great but I wasn’t sure, so Eddie invited me to come and look at the same system he’d fitted in his own motorhome. I did, It was everything he said it was. I’ve always been a sucker for a gadget but It looked so smart.
Just one dial and a couple of rows of buttons. Everything is done from the touch screen. A couple of rows of customisable big square on screen buttons, easy to stab with one of my fat fingers so you can select things like DAB Radio or PHONE etc.
Eddie touched a big square section called REAR VIEW and immediately filling the whole screen was the scene behind in eye-popping detail, even better that my son-in-laws Merc.
It’s 3:45pm in January and while its not fully dark yet we’re not far off. I can see I’m exactly 1m from fence and I’m missing the gas bottles by less than a foot!
I bought it. I had a choice of the Funsters discount or free fitting, I thought about all those cables for camera and power and chose the free fitting, I chose right.
It took around 4 hours to fit and after hours of ogling all the goodies in the Vanbitz shop and drinking endless free cups of coffee I was ready to have the kit demonstrated to me by Ash.
I was very impressed, the kit is just so intuitive. You just drag your most used items onto the screen just like you’d do on a smart phone. It hooks up to your phone for streaming music and it’s so simple to do. It also provides unrestricted access to the Promobil campsite database.
The software is built on the Android operating system and there are literally hundreds of apps you can install.
The radio both DAB and FM is so easy to operate on the big screen, you get a remote to so we can operate it from our bed. The crystal clear Parrot Bluetooth system for my handsfree calls on route is superb. And the icing on the cake for me.. the navigation, the most clear mapping and instructions I’ve ever used, So much better that my old Tom Tom which would never again fall off my windscreen. You can search for a campsite or location and then navigate in just a couple of clicks, nothing fiddly, BIG easy on screen buttons. The way that phone calls radio and navigation all work together, one going quiet as you use the other, makes it a joy to use. Oh and if like me your partner still decides to get out and watch you back, you’ll hear her cursing you through the inbuilt microphone!
This kit comes highly recommended from me (and Mrs B). We paid £1500 for the full system and got free fitting from VanBitz.
I’m still exploring many of the functions, but this should give you a good idea about the capabilities of my latest gadget.