Nigel Fryatt – contributor
The route to the campsite confirmed it implicitly. We had been right to buy a decent 4×4 before testing out our brand new Vango 400 tent. And so had the driver in the mud-splattered, lifted, Hilux that we had just met. “The track’s no good for a car, but you’ll be fine ‘in that’,” he said, somewhat disparagingly we felt, pointing to our RAV4.
And we weren’t attempting any of this ‘wild camping’, this was just a standard campsite close to West Wittering beach on the south coast, but the recent heavy rains had turned one route to our farmer’s field into something of an enjoyable, muddy greenlane. It was certainly a muddy baptism, but as you would expect, it was nothing that the Toyota couldn’t cope with. It was interesting, however, to note that the addition of the aluminium side runners does significantly cut down ground clearance. Personally I hate them, but my partner Sue’s in favour and it’s technically ‘her’ car, so they’ll be staying – and they do, at least provide early warning when driving off-road, useful when going over a ridge into a rather deep ‘puddle’.
Considering we were only going away for a few days, it was amazing how much stuff we ended up taking with us. Thankfully, it doesn’t involve any kids, otherwise it could have been somewhat cramped, but we filled the rear of the RAV with all that was necessary for a comfortable few days under canvas. Well, under polyester, but you get the idea. Loading is a little restrictive and it would be better if the rear door opened further to give better access, but that is always a problem on a 4×4 with the thumping great spare wheel mounted on the same door.
As a load carrier and comfortable motorway cruiser, it’s hard to find fault with the RAV. Light controls, very easy to drive and it hustles along with limited wind and road noise, allowing for normal conversation without involving raised voices… that was later when we were putting our new tent up for the first time!
It could well be the last camping exercise this year and as thoughts turn to autumn and winter, now is the time to consider some decent ‘winter’ tyres. That will be an interesting choice, more of which in forthcoming reports.
Model: Toyota RAV4
Spec: NV VVTi
Recent costs: Little to report, apart from fuel
Arrived: June ‘10