Cooler caravans attract the young

HE'S SPORTING chinos; she's casual, yet elegant, in linen. Little Sarah and baby Tom are walking adverts for Gap. The Wright family is off on their hols in their spanking new caravan.

This summer, the young middle classes will be blocking the roads and lanes of Britain in their thousands, indulging in the latest, and strangest, of Yuppie dreams - caravanning.

Forget the traditional cloth cap and headscarf image. Caravanning is the "new cool" with a small army of 30-something couples fuelling a boom in sales of caravans and motor homes.

More than 21,000 caravans and 4,500 motor homes were sold in 1998, the first rise in 10 years. Margaret Beckett, Leader of the House of Commons, holidays in one while other celebrity caravanners include Laura Davies, the golfer, the Duke of Gloucester and the actors Linda Robson and Christopher Cazenove. Prince Philip is the patron of the Camping and Caravan Club.

Increasingly, caravans do not look like caravans. The younger breed of owners, uncomfortable with the traditional beige and white box shape - and too fond of creature comforts to pick up a VW camper - is creating a market for a new generation of "sporty" off-road models appealing to hikers and windsurfers.

Expected on the market soon is the two-berth Sydney, so called because of its resemblance to the Sydney Opera House. Designed by Ruth Cochrane, an industrial design student at Teesside University, the 15ft long, 10ft high model has hammocks for beds and a shower and kitchen. It will cost about pounds 10,000 - a fraction of the price of a country cottage.

"The idea was to get rid of the stigma attached to caravans which is of a middle-aged couple clogging up the road," said Ms Cochrane. "The normal caravan is such a bad design."

Figures from the Camping and Caravanning Club show that the 31- to 45- year-olds, who make up 26 per cent of all caravan owners, are poised for the first time to overtake the 46- to 55-year-olds as the second largest group of owners, behind the over-60s. This social shift is reflected by a surge in membership of the club, which, with 294,000 members, is growing by 6 per cent a year.

"We're pushing caravans as a link to a freedom lifestyle for the younger age group," said Richard White, marketing chairman of the Tourer Marketing Board, set up by the five leading caravan manufacturers.

The Caravan Club, Europe's premier touring organisation with 750,000 members, says the new generation of moneyed owners appreciates the freedom of caravans. "They are attracted by the freedom to set your own timetable, unlike in a hotel where you are tied to meal times," said the club's Nikki Payne.

But an image problem remains. A study by the English Tourist Board of caravan owners found many felt the external appearance of caravans created a "stuffy" image. "There are more younger people towing caravans than five years ago but the industry still has this slightly fuddy-duddy image," said Mr Craig.

But not for much longer. Not only is the Sydney on its way, attempts are being made to import Airstreams, the large "silver bullet" caravans popular in the US, though under UK regulations they will be restricted to 30mph.

HOME AWAY FROM HOME

FITTED CARPETS, CD players, double glazing, shower units, central heating and L-shaped kitchens - the modern caravan has travelled a long way from the first commercial vehicle, the Wanderer, a horse-drawn wooden caravan introduced at the turn of the century and now residing in Bristol Industrial Museum. Since then, some 23,000 different models have been built.

Contrary to public perception, the Caravan Club claims that the average delay caused by being stuck behind a caravan on a single carriageway for five miles is just 0.6mph.

Today, the sleekest model twin-axle caravans are the most popular with the moneyed middle classes. This is partly because strict Department of Transport rules require a car to be heavier than the caravan it pulls, which means vehicles such as the Range Rover Discovery and Renault Espace have to be used.

The largest models include the Eccles Elite, Abbey Spectrum and Swift Conqueror, which can sleep up to six people, including bunk beds for children and a master double berth with en-suite shower. But when it comes to prices, size is not as important as quality. At the cheaper end of the market, around pounds 6,000 will buy a two-berth ABI Sprinter, while a Coachman VIP four-berth costs pounds 13,899. At the top of the range you can splash out pounds 19,990 on a four-berth Buccaneer Schooner.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital