In this guest post from a would be festival goer “Cookie” tells us about here experience renting a camper van – a refitted ‘people carrier’

If the word “campervan” summons images of pastel-coloured VW Vans, that iconic badge, and a beach-blond surf dude at the wheel, it’s time to broaden your definition.

How about a Toyota Lucida, kitted out with a double bed and mini kitchen, spray painted in lurid slogans?

Wicked Camper Vans

Welcome to Wicked Campers, an Australian import that is offering refitted “people carriers” for hire.

The vehicle that is more the preserve of the school run or the car park at Sainsburys, is popping up at music festivals and campsites across the country this summer, and has even been spotted over the Channel.

They may be Toyotas under the hood, but they bear little resemblance to the vehicles that left the Toyota factory.

For a start, there’s fold-out beds, storage boxes, table and seating in the van and mini kitchens in the boot.

Secondly, there’s the exterior… the racing green or slate grey finishes that rolled off the production line have been oversprayed with lurid graffiti and cringe-worthy slogans. There’s no disappearing into the crowd in a Wicked Campers van.

The phrases range from the baffling: “Gravity’s stupid – the Earth sucks”, to the lyrical: “People try to put us down just because we get around”, and even the political: “War does not determine who is right, it determines who is left”.

I drove one down the M11 last week and drew smiles, stares, and at one point a less-than-friendly hand gesture from drivers who passed my bright green van bearing a “punk” leprechaun and the slogan: “The luck o’ the Irish”.

Wounded though my pride may have been, I did take some comfort from passing at least two gorgeous retro campervans pootling along in the slow lane with their chug-chug engines and far-from-power steering.

Then there’s the smug-factor from the cost. Hiring a retro campervan will set you back upwards of £300 for a weekend, or £450 if it’s over the summer. By contrast, shed the cool factor, and a bit of self respect, and hire a Wicked Camper, and you’ll have change from £120 from a weekend away.

The company has been operating in the UK since 2007 when it started with 12 vans. It’s now grown to 140 vans with three UK depots and six in mainland Europe.

The fleet was booked out for Glastonbury Festival this year, and Wicked has vans going to festivals across the UK as well as Benicassim in Spain, Roskilde in Denmark and Sziget in Hungary.

It’s the UK outpost of a global brand that launched in Brisbane in 1990 and now numbers 1,400 vans in Australia and New Zealand.

“The Brits come over to Australia and wanted rent-a-bombs for road trips,” says UK managing director Denis Geary, “John [Webb, the Wicked Campers owner] tapped into this and Wicked Campers came after.”

Van Graffitti

“The graffiti obviously got a lot of attention, but we also do it to hide the dents. The used vans have good motors but the bodies are a bit roughed up,” says Geary.

The attention certainly wasn’t lacking in Australia, where the van slogans make the UK Wicked vans look conservative. The company became notorious for its designs, hitting headlines across Australia and Asia over allegations of sexism and racism. It has since toned down the language, but some of the more printable versions included: “If the van’s a rockin, don’t come knockin’”, and: “Sex police: spread ‘em”.

Back in the UK, Geary is keen to distance the company from the tone of its Australian sibling. “Australia is a lot more controversial and John doesn’t care who he offends… he has a very Australian sense of humour, and I don’t necessarily share that.”

Neither did many campsite owners in the UK, admits Geary – many of them took objection to the slogans sprayed on his vans. “We toned down the vans in the UK after we got banned from most UK campsites,” he said.

Our van graffiti wasn’t enough to get us turned away from a festival campsite in Suffolk, but I couldn’t help noticing that the pretty pink VW campervan with floral curtains got the prime spot, while we were relegated to the end of the field. We had the last laugh come Monday morning though, as we zipped back down the motorway, passing them squeezed between two lorries on the M11 slow lane…

The Low Down

It costs from £118 to hire a smaller Wicked Campers van for two days over the summer (from £94 over the winter – Oct 1-Easter).

The smaller van seat two and sleep two, and the large vans, launched in June this year, seat up to five and sleep up to three in the van (cosily) and two in a tent, supplied.

Vans have bed with mattress, indoor table, camping stools, outdoor table and chairs, CD player and/or iPod connection, sink, water container, cool box, crockery, cutlery, gas stove, kettle, saucepan and frying pan.

Unlike many traditional campers, they’re easy to drive – power steering, automatic, and even electric windows.

Each van comes with a road map, third-party insurance, 24-hour roadside assistance, London Congestion Charge paid-up, and with sat navs and cigarette lighter power adaptors as extras.

For van layouts, terms and more details got to www.wickedcampers.co.uk