Add Ireland to your list of places to go truck camping! Paul Kellagher tells us about truck camping in Ireland, his European rig, snow-holing, and bivouacking!
Every now and then our email box pings with a message from a country we never imagined was an opportunity for truck camping. On May 1st, Paul Kellagher sent us an email from Ireland including an incredible photo of his European truck camping rig. Needless to say, Paul’s email stopped us in our tracks and we immediately asked if he would share his story, and more photos, with us. Get ready to see Ireland in a whole new way. It’s time to go truck camping in Ireland!
TCM: What are some of your earliest memories of camping?
Paul: I started camping in tents with friends when I was very young. Where I live in Northern Ireland is on a large inland waterway. There are lots of small islands and we just wild camped. For small boys, the islands seem like a huge wilderness. In reality we could row an open boat there from home in an hour. As I got into mountaineering, we headed off into the local hills. Then we went to Scotland to go snow-holing in winter before going to the European Alps where I have bivouacked in some spectacular locations.
TCM: Snow-holing? Bivouacked?
Paul: Imagine a very deep snowdrift on the side of a hill. Now dig a cave into the snow and move in for a few nights! That’s a snow-hole. My memory of my coldest night ever is of a few hours shivering on the Valley Blanch before heading up Mont Blanc in the wee hours.
Bivouacking is improvised overnight sleep-outs in the mountains or wilderness. No tent is used and stop-overs are generally one night on the way up a mountain.
When our kids arrived we moved on to bigger tents and briefly experimented with towing caravans. The truck camper is pure luxury in comparison.
TCM: When did you first get into truck camping?
Paul: Truck camping is very new to us. We rented a truck camping rig in Scotland for Easter of 2008 and only bought ours this year following plenty of research.
TCM: You have an awesome rig. Tell us about your truck and camper.
Paul: The truck is a Land Rover Defender 130. By American standards it’s pretty small, but by European standards it’s one of the largest four-by-four pick-ups about. It is also the most capable of all the competition.
I’m a long-term fan of Land Rovers having totally rebuilt my last one from the remains of an ex-military vehicle. We went all over Europe in it and went down to North Africa, spending several weeks in the Morrocan Sahara. So, a Land Rover was the logical choice of truck.
The camper was built to my own specifications by a company in England called Ranger motorhomes that mostly builds campers for smaller Japanese pick-ups. I also looked into a Swedish firm and two German manufacturers. Whilst the European ones were very well specified, they were also ridiculously expensive.
TCM: How did you choose your truck camper?
Paul: I run a part time mountaineering and adventure therapy business, so I needed a working vehicle that could double up for business and pleasure. The ability to demount and go exploring is also a major attraction.
A lot of our trips take us down very minor roads and tracks so a decent four-by-four opens up lots of possibilities. One recent weekend trip saw us crossing a tidal causeway and wild camping in some dunes on Omey Island in County Galway. You wouldn’t dare to attempt this in a two-wheel drive camper with poor ground clearance.
TCM: How did you get your truck camper? Did you have it shipped to you or did you get it from a dealer in Ireland?
Paul: I ordered it directly from Ranger motorhomes in England. The owner, Simon Chown, was really helpful with a can do attitude to my wishes. When it was ready, I went over on a Friday night ferry and came back the next night.
TCM: Did you have to make any modifications to your camper to make it work properly or make it legal in Ireland?
Paul: The only modifications were designed in to provide a set of bunk beds for the kids. Other than that it was just a case of adding the fixing points to the Land Rover.
TCM: What do you like to do when you go out truck camping?
Paul: I’m into climbing and canoeing. The camper provides an ideal home away from home on trips. Our climate in Ireland can be pretty wet, so a dry and warm base is ideal. In winter, I often head out to Scotland to climb (ice, snow, and mixed). I’m hoping the truck camper will save the hassle of trying to find a base while following the best conditions. It also allows a great deal of freedom to get away as a family with the kids. We intend to go to England this summer and probably down to the Alps next year.
TCM: What’s it like to go truck camping in Ireland?
Paul: So far it’s great! One of the reasons behind the purchase of a truck camper was the ability to fully explore the west coast of Ireland. There are lots of small beaches and coves. Although Ireland is a small country, it is sparsely populated in places, so getting away from folks is easy enough.
TCM: Could someone fly in and rent a truck camper in Ireland?
Paul: I don’t think anybody is hiring truck campers here. The rental companies have moved to fixed-body campers. As far as I know, there is only my camper and one other here in Ireland. I’ve seen a few in England, and I hired a truck camper in Scotland before I bought my own. There are lots of companies renting fixed-body campers, which should be fine for a trip.
TCM: Have you been anywhere else in your truck camper outside of Ireland?
Paul: Just Ireland so far, but were planning for further afield.
TCM: Is Ireland truck camper friendly?
Paul: Ireland is pretty friendly all round. You really have to try to upset people before you get any hassle. Some communities have a bit of hassle from travelers ( Irish gypsies that are recognized as a separate ethnic grouping). Genuine tourists are recognized and welcomed as such. So there is no difficulty truck camping.
TCM: Are there any special rules about having truck campers in Ireland?
Paul: No, but I get lots of interest in the rig from owners of fixed-body campers.
TCM: What are some of the most amazing places that you would recommend others go to as they travel through Ireland?
Paul: The north and west coasts are spectacular. The Atlantic Ocean spans all the way to America and constantly pounds the shore. If your truck camper could float, you could drive the 3,000 or so miles. The beaches are some of the best in the world and you can access most of them by truck camper. I’ll do a more detailed response on this point in the future.
TCM: What unexpected challenges have you faced on your truck camping adventures?
Paul: I’ve bought a set of sand ladders and put them behind the rear cab seats for the inevitable day when I get stuck. There’s also a 9,000-pound capacity winch on the garage floor that needs a service before fitting. That should extract me from most things. So far, despite best efforts, no epics.
TCM: Where do you typically camp?
Paul: I use a mixture of campsites and wild camps. The best so far goes to Omey Island followed closely by a wild camp at a small fishing peir called “Port”. It’s in County Donegal. We spent a night there in March and didn’t see another soul until two fishermen came down to tend their lobster pots the next morning. They said, “Hello” and went about their business.
TCM: What’s next for you in your truck camping future?
Paul: Europe probably. But I want to climb in the Rockies in both the United States and Canada at some stage.
TCM: Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you’d like to add to your interview?
Paul: I’ll keep you posted about our travels. If anybody is heading over here on a camping trip they can contact me by email.
We are looking forward to more stories and pictures from Paul on his truck camping adventures in Ireland and Europe. If anyone wants to contact Paul, please send us an email and we will forward it to him. Just realize how incredibly jealous you will be making the rest of us. Thank you Paul for sending this in. What a treat.
|PAUL KELLAGHER’S TRUCK CAMPER RIG|
|Truck: 2008 Landrover Defender 130, crew cab, 4×4, diesel|
|Camper: 2009 Ranger|
|Tie-downs and Turnbuckles: Commercial rachet straps
|Suspension Enhancements: Rear coil springs with helper air bags and beam axles
|Gear: Electric winch on front bumper and sand plate mountings on rear tub to allow exploration of all the lovely beaches we have here|