Last week's NEC show was certainly one of the highlights of the caravanner's calendar, with five cavernous halls filled with all manner of shiny new vans, ingenious tents and clever accessories. There was also plenty to amuse the little people during the coinciding half-term break, with climbing walls to scramble up, ice skating, and a Bear Grylls Adventure experience to test their survival skills.
But for those of you that couldn't make it to the show, here's a round-up of our highlights.
The show was opened by TV presenter, journalist and Caravan and Motorhome Club member, Matt Allwright, the President of The Camping and Caravanning Club, TV presenter and outdoor enthusiast, Julia Bradbury, plus writer, extreme surfer and all-round adventurer, Martin Dorey; all ably compèred by Rowland Rivron, who also did a sterling job at the Freedom to Go theatre, ushering in experts galore.
Lunar increases 8ft Quasar options
As the only mainstream manufacturer displaying a new model at the NEC show, Lunar's Quasar range stood out. The Quasar 686 was launched at the show back in October, but last week saw it joined by the brand new 696, which takes innovation a stage further.
The most obvious difference is that there is no window in the front nearside corner, only a decal that looks like one, which is to accommodated a large TV on the inside that makes the most of the L-shaped lounge.
In the rear, separated by a solid door so that you can pack the kids off to sleep while you continue to enjoy your evening, there are permanent bunks on the offside and a dinette on the nearside that can provide another two bunks.
Willerby stopped making touring caravans at the end of the 1960s, but a reminder of their heritage was proudly on display at the holiday home maker's stand. The 1956 Willerby Vogue was one of the very first tourers the company made, and there are now just 10 left in the country, making this quite the rarity.
A mini-trailer with portable heating
NEC newcomers Boondock Trailers was pulling in the crowds on its stand by displaying not only its own hardy off-road trailers (the Grizzly and the Cub), but also a novel type of heating for this and other caravans. These heating pads ('Glamprads') rely on radiant heating technology, which is said to be 70% more efficient than convective heating, made by Swansea-based Universal Glamping and costing £225 per pad.
Tripbuddy goes single
Chichester-based Tripbuddy returned to the show, after a 5-year absence, with its new single-axle model, the Tripbuddy Anyone. This bespoke van, made from a one-piece composite shell, comes with a confident 25-year water ingress warranty.
A second model, the Anywhere, includes parallel seats in the front that make up into a 6ft 3in-long bed, a rear kitchen and a shower. The van still has the unusual rear entrance, but you can also go for a clamshell design which will soon include a built-in air awning, or barn doors.
The Anyone costs from £24,950, while the Anywhere costs from £34,950.
Opus goes up
They said it would and it did. Trailer tent manufacturer Opus claims it's new Air Opus UK/Europe-specific off-road model can be entirely inflated in just 90 seconds from the touch of one button. We were given a demonstration at the show and indeed, 90 seconds was more or less all it took.
A new twin roller mover, Quattro, has been launched by Purple Line; "Typically, the mover roller is offset from the motor which can cause a lot of tension in the gearset," explained designer Ben Hawkins. "By bringing the roller inline we were able to alleviate this, meaning it can be smaller, lighter and more powerful whilst remaining efficient.
"It was also important to ensure that the electronics were equally impressive," continued Ben. "The new handset utilises a precision thumbstick which allows for independent variable speed control of each motor."
Generally, movers have a set speed and turning radius which can be a bit clunky. The thumbstick allows the user to adjust both speed and direction.
Foldable electric bike
Gocycle launched the GX, which folds in under 10 seconds, is light and compact. "Although it was designed primarily with commuters in mind," explained sales manager Andi Albu, "the benefits obviously extend to the caravan market, too."
Terrified of towing?
There was also an opportunity for the less seasoned tourer to take the plunge, whilst very ably accompanied by Camping and Caravanning Club tutors. Definitely one for the faint-hearted.
But the real star of the show was Upton. No, not the name of a fancy new 8-footer, but an adorable guide dog. His trainer put him through his paces in the Top Dog Arena - always a hugely popular highlight of the show.