Deep down every climber, hill-walker and mountaineer wants a van... However the reality of the situation, more often than not, is that vans aren't cheap and even if you have the money to afford one then the cost of fuel to run one seems like an unjustifiable expense. Last year whilst in the market for a new vehicle I had such a dilemma: I really wanted a van… After much deliberation though I really couldn't justify buying one, so opted for a Berlingo and - on recommendation from a friend and UKC user mel_1 - a rather novel product that seemed to bridge the gap between car/camper van: the Amdro Boot Jump.
Amdro are a small company based in Caernarfon in North Wales and for the past 10 years they have been doing campervan conversions. Their latest product is their rather unique 'Boot Jump', which provides a neat solution to those wishing for a van but could not justify actually getting one. The Boot Jump slides neatly into the back of a variety of van based car models including the Berlingo, Kangoo, Doblo, Partner and Caddy. There's no screws or fixings required so when you need the additional boot space (or greater fuel economy) you can slide it back out. It has been designed so that there is no need to remove the back seats, therefore allowing you to fit a full compliment of people into the vehicle, something that has been useful whilst lift-sharing on trips from Sheffield to Pembroke, North Wales, Lakes etc... All-in-all it means that when you want a van you've got a van and when you want a car you've got a car.
Once in the transformation from car to van is a very unlikely one, so much so that I barely believed it was possible upon first acquaintance. From this small kit comes both a bed, seating and cooking area. The former simply requires the back seats to be lowered and the front seats to be dropped forward. At just shy of 6ft I can sleep at full stretch on the comfortable, machine washable foam cushions provided. It definitely beats using a karrimat/thermarest and is substantially quicker + less hassle than putting up a tent! In order to further guarantee a good nights sleep the Boot Jump comes with black-out blinds to keep the light out until the morning, these pop onto each of the windows using a suction cup and are removed within minutes in the morning.
Come morning the sleeping quarters can be swiftly converted into a seating area. This is probably the most remarkable thing about the Boot Jump, it really does create space from nowhere - I have lost count of the number of people that have commented on this whilst away camping and the surprise on their face as five people pile into the back of an implausibly small van. This is achieved by raising the front seats and removing the panel in the middle of the Boot Jump to create both a table and an area to put your feet. It can get pretty cosy, but then again you're camping – what else would you expect? If none of this makes sense, or sounds physically impossible, then watch the following video as proof:
When buying my Boot Jump I opted to go for the additional Boot Tent. Whilst the Boot Jump alone does more than enough, if you're after creating your own miniature camper van then the Boot Tent really does make that difference – particularly when cooking. The poles and guy-lines provided mean that it can also be made to stay upright even when the boot in lowered, plus made to fold over onto itself when you drive away for the day. It will happily shun light rain, but if things get a bit more serious you'll need to make sure that the seal is good around the boot + rear tires or else water will get in through the sides. The window feature on the back door means that it's nice and light within the tent and during good weather I have found that the door stays open most of the time anyway. If you're looking for something a little more fancy then there's the option of the Driveaway Awning too.
The twin burner cooking system provided runs on bio-ethanol, much like meths but without that horrendous smell or concerning purple liquid. This pops out of the Boot Jump so is ordinarily used in the open-air, shielded from the elements by the windshield provided. With the Boot Tent things become much easier, as you have both more space for cooking and no wind/cold issues to contend with (plus your own miniature kitchen and useful storage area). I have previously favoured gas cookers due to their speed and reliability, but there are a couple of major benefits to the alcohol cooker: it's cheap, it's quiet, it doesn't smell and it's safe and easy to use. Due to the stove featuring a sponge system there's no slopping around either, so you can't hear it swishing/spilling around whilst your driving.
Whilst the cooker takes up one half of the Boot Jump, the other half is for storage. High quality Recyclable polypropylene boxes are provided, which I have made use of on some occasions and not on others. They're useful if you've got a setup that you like using (i.e. bowls, plates, spices etc…) and are happy to keep in the Boot Jump full-time, but for shorter trips can be left at home in favour of additional space for kit.
This may appear like a bit of a glowing review, so what – if anything – is the downside? Personally I cannot think of a single features that is lacking and the attention to detail within the design shows great care and attention from the deisgners. Weight could be seen as an issue, at 54kg it definitely has an impact on fuel economy, but still no way near as inefficient as a larger van. Realistically there can only be one drawback: the price. In total the Boot Jump is £1,695 without the Boot Tent and £2,045 with. All-in-all I considered this value for money - I bought one myself - but I can see the Forums erupting now: "I could make something for half that price!!". Well maybe you could, but a) I couldn't and b) I suspect that it would also be half as good. In addition to this, I am comparatively time-poor and – relatively speaking – money-rich with a full-time job and my spare time very much dedicated towards going climbing. As a result I would like something that is built to last, fun to use, and guaranteed to give me a bit of additional comfort whilst I'm away on trips...
A great compromise for anyone looking for a van, without having the necessary funds to actually buy or run one. I lived in mine throughout pretty much the whole spring/summer of 2014 and it constantly amazed me with both it's comfort and ease of use.
For a full history of this small business and to see their also VW T5 conversion (if you have the extra cash) check out the following video here.
About the Author:
Rob Greenwood is the Advertising Manager at UKClimbing.com.
He's a passionate climber, hot yoga addict and eater of vegetarian food. He has done more UK trad routes than he's had roast dinners (and that's got nothing to do with the vegetarianism).
Aside from UK trad, he's dabbled with alpine climbing, Scottish winter, Himalayan climbing and more recently Peak limestone sport climbing.
He keeps an occasional blog about his adventures here: Rob Greenwood Climbing