Part 1: Camper van and 3-week paternity leave made possible an amazing experience in snowy Finnish Lapland

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Updated 5.9.2021

Pasi had the last 3 weeks of paternity leave left and we wondered if it would be awesome to live van life that time in Finnish Lapland !!! ??? We have a Weinsberg Carabus 600 MQ -motorhome (so-called Scandic model). The holiday started already on Thursday, but I had to get ready a thermal cover for our son’s stroller at first and therefore the departure was delayed until Sunday 17.1.2021. Almost the whole Sat-Sun night went by sewing, but the end result was just ok and it was really functional in the 3 week adventure.???

How long are you going to be on the trip?

Many asked before the trip how long we are going to be on the trip. We didn’t really know yet at that point and just replied that let’s see. ?? At least, we have 3 weeks time!!???

We had only one 9-night trip as a previous experience in winter time travelling with a camper van from October-November 2020. But it wasn’t a really winter experience yet, because the outside temperatures varied between +10…-10 degrees. ? However, it was a really amazing experience also. During that first winter trip we got really excited about the winter van life and the feeling when your home goes with you in the winter time too!???❄️

What was planned in advance?

Nothing else was planned in advance than that the manufacturing of the side door thermo cover was reserved for Tuesday 19 January 2021 and then we had to be in Keminmaa. It is quite North in Finland. ? Planning and scheduling have never been for us and with a child those would cause even more stress when you would always notice that you are again late from something.??

And at least in Finland you cannot know so much in advance where the wind blows in a suitable direction for kite boarding, so it is better to go just to the flow. Then you can feel also that every day is like a new little adventure when you don’t know in advance what the day brings. And also if you are tired in the morning, you can just relax and enjoy a slow breakfast and make a good food for the dinner (or in our case, something what it comes?). ??

A three-week trip briefly

It was such an eventful trip that I didn’t get any way to fit those three weeks into one blog post, so now it looks like there are going to be three of these blog posts. ? And we took again too many photos, so you can watch them a lot. ?

At first, I listed some information and tips found on the trip:

  • The trip took 20 nights, almost 3 weeks (January 17-February 6, 2021, Sun-Sat). ???
  • All nights we stayed in the camper van. 2 nights we were in the travel park and 4 nights of the trip we were in the campsites, otherwise we stayed just some free parking spots.
  • Our little one slept almost all the day naps outside in a stroller or in a baby’s sleeping sledge (maybe two naps he slept in his safety seat during driving and one nap he slept in his bed in the van when it was so cold outside (-15…-22). Day dreams in the van don’t work and it takes a long time to falling asleep and if we put him sleeping to outside he falls asleep right away. ?
  • On the road with a camper van, our son sleeps more than at home. Daytime sleep on the road is about 4…5h per day and night time he sleeps normally about 10…11 hours. So we recommend that you should also try how it works to be on the road with your child(s)!! ? This sleeping thing has been quite surprising for us, but the environment changes often. And we are more outside on trips compared to time when we are at home, so our son probably just needs more sleep because of that. ?
  • Our route: from southern Finland at first to Keminmaa (the manufacturing of the thermo cover for the side door) and then via Rovaniemi to Saariselkä and Inari. Then from Inari to Levi and from there to Pallas. And from Pallas via Levi and then the most direct route back home to South of Finland. I was able to fit to this blog post about the first week of this trip, and here in this blog post we get a little bit north from Rovaniemi. ???
  • It became clear that a one-week trip is not enough at all and it is already going in the study of the camper life and in general adjustment, at least in our case. ??
  • It was also noted that it would be worthwhile to get knowledge with the technology of the car a little in advance and then you could know, e.g. the location of the water pump. ?

For the first night we even made it to Lahti

The first night we stayed in a free parking spot in Kärkkäinen’s yard in Lahti. It was a quite slow morning in Lahti because we slept past the breakfast time, but no worries, luckily ABC Renkomäki had already lunch available. ??? In the van on the trip, you can sleep too well and you don’t want to put a alarm clock on if it is not mandatory to put it during vacation. ??

ABC Renkomäki may have the best salad table of all ABC stations, or at least all those times we’ve been there. ?? Our son liked also and the grapes seem to be the best at this time. At the buffet with a child, it is best to be able to taste all sorts of new things that have not been tasted at home. ?

On driving days we usually go at the easiest way. On those days it is a permission to eat in service stations etc so that no time is spent for cooking. The departure for the trip often comes as a bit of a surprise even to us and then there is usually no food ready to take with you in the fridge. ??

The child’s routines are taken your time and everything goes slower in the van compared to home. And with the toddler, you sometimes have to find the way how it is good to do each thing. During the winter trip with a camper, it took also time to take care of “maintenance”, i.e. gas cylinder’s replacement and shower visits in camping sites, if you do not dare to use your own shower due to too many minus degrees. ❄️? Then you also have to visit the food stores sometimes.

In ABC Renkomäki we also bought some food in the fridge, and at the same time our son was able to take a walk. These shopping carts were on his mind and he wouldn’t have been willing to go on to continue the journey. ??

The journey continued from here with the tactic of a few stops and for the night we reached Kärkkäinen’s yard in Ii.

On Tuesday (Jan 19, 2021) the thermal cover of the side door of the camper van was received

On Tuesday, we had to be at 11 o’clock in Keminmaa in order to get a thermal blanket on the side door of the van. We had reserved the time already to this work from Verliz sometimes in late 2020. We got to wait there in Verliz’s place for the time when the cover was made. It took about 3 hours and the result is really good !!! ?? The price-quality ratio is so good, because they also installed it in its place. You should definitely ask for a quote if need to have the similar product. ?

Retkeilyauto talvikaytto

We noticed during the trip that the new thermo covers made it possible to lower the Truma heating setting. On the trip in October-November (link is added soon) the outside temperature was between from -10 … + 10. And to blog post related to the experiences of camper van life in winter time I’ve written that we used Truma setting 16 … 17 degrees on that trip. So that setting was suitable for night times and if you put higher setting, you woke up too hot. In this case/trip, we had only the thermal cover for the rear doors inside the van in use.

On this January-February 2021 trip, the outdoor temperature varied between about -8 …- 22 and the Truma’s setting was only +13…+15 depending on the frost and wind. In the windiest place, that +15 setting was in use. And in addition to the rear door cover, we had also those covers shown in the picture above (front window and side door covers) in use.

There are additional pictures of the covers here in the blog post for the winter use of the camper van.

Then we started thinking about where to get water for the fresh water tank

The departure delayed so late on Sunday evening that we didn’t have time to fill the fresh water tank at home. And after that we had driven to the place where the nice woman made a thermal cover to the side door of the van. And now after the side door cover was put its place, we had time to think and look for the service stations etc where we could get water in the fresh water tank of the van. However, soon we noticed that it is more challenging than expected. We could not find any water from the Kemi’s and Tornio’s service stations and the campsites were not open in winter time. If there was a water point in the stations, it was on ice and the water did not come from it. ?

In addition, it would have been good to have your own hose or watering can with you on the trip. If you would have found a water point which would have not been frozen, then the hose might be completely missing from the tap or it was too short in order to get the water from it to the van’s tank. ? In this case, water could also have been obtained, for example, from cafes, etc. with the help of a watering can. I also wrote this tip for a blog post that lists tips which we’ve got related bush parking (link is added soon when the translation will be ready) as we say in Finnish if you translate directly. I am not sure if you can say bush park in English also. However, I mean the free parking spots where you can stay a night and it could be in the middle of the nowhere or it can be the parking place of the food market. ?

After that wondering where to stay on Tue-Wed night

As no water was found in the Kemi and Tornio areas, we continued driving to north, in the direction of Rovaniemi. However, it was already so late at this moment that we stayed the Tue-Wed night before Rovaniemi in Teboil Mäkipeura‘s yard. We usually search the night places with different ways on the trip, and tips for this issue is also found from the bush parking blog post mentioned a moment ago in the previous section.?

Wedneday 20.1.2021

In the morning, we were so tired that we slept again over for breakfast time and went for the lunch to Teboil Mäkipeura. ?? Our son liked a lawn mower found in the hallway of this service station a little too much, and it was perhaps a mistake to let him take a closer look. ??

After lunch, he was so excited of the truck. Our little adventure dude was barely the height of a tire and he talked so excitedly to Pasi with using his own language. ?

And when we got back to the van, the chatting continued when the view from the window was so pleasing. ? It is quite easy to get a little one enjoying the time on trips and toys are often not needed if there is something else to wonder. ? But it is good to have some toys and books in the van e.g. for during driving or to have sometimes nice coffee moments.

Weinsberg Carabuc 600 MQ retkeilyauto

Then the journey continued towards Rovaniemi. We arrived to Rovaniemi at daytime and our son went to sleep to his own bed located on the back side of the van because it was too cold outside. Falling asleep took a long time. Maybe half an hour when usually he falls asleep immediately in his stroller. ? Finally he fell asleep there with his monkey and deer sleeping toys. ?

Weinsberg Carabus 600 MQ
Weinsberg Carabus 600 MQ retkeilyauto

During our son’s nap, we stayed in the yard of Shell Rovaniemi Arctic Circle -service station. We were so lazy and tired of the adventures of the beginning of the week. And we could not cook and picked us up some food from the service station and ate it in the van. Our son ate after waking up too. I can tell you that it was a luxury to eat in complete peace!! ??

Retkeilyauto Weinsberg Carabus 600 MQ

At the same time, we started to think the water issue again and from where we could get the water in Rovaniemi. We got a tip that it is possible to fill the water tank in Rovaniemi’s Best Park Arctic Circle -travel park. After our son’s day nap we drove there and we got the tank finally filled. ?

After that, a new little challenge became and now we had water in the tank, but it didn’t come from the taps. ? The pump made a sound when the tap was opened, but nothing came. We called a couple of times with the car’s seller, but unfortunately we couldn’t get the issue fixed on the phone. He was on the other side of Finland. We tried all the tips we got and also tips which we found from Internet.

For the fourth night (Wed-Thu) we stayed in the Best Park Arctic Circle -travel park, because staying in the travel park only cost about 5 € more compared to the maintenance visit and it included showers and a sauna, etc. More information about this travel park is provided below.

On Thursday (Jan 21, 2021) a visit to the local Caravan service in Rovaniemi

On Thursday, we googled a little during the breakfast and found a local Caravan service place. We went to Caravan Center Reatalo. We thought that the trip was just at the beginning and we had to get the water in use at least for the dishes. We should stay as many nights as possible in the bush parks and to cook by ourselves during the rest of the trip in order to save money. We didn’t have so much money to spend on the trip and e.g. the gas is quite expensive (about 25…30€ per 11kg gas cylinder) in the North of Finland. ?

We had a good luck and we got the service time for the van starting after half an hour from the asking moment. ? There was air in the water system and it just didn’t start working for some reason. The maintenance guys got it working somehow and the water started to come from the taps. ??

However, they replaced the water pump just in case, if there was some issue in it. At the same time, they had noticed that the water didn’t come from the kitchen tap so well than from the shower tap. They had investigated the issue more. The water pipe inside the structure of the van had been pressed by some part. They fixed this issue at the same time. Very good service! ?

In addition, a mask thermo cover of the van (you can see it in the first photo of this blog post, I am not sure if the word is a correct one for it) was added for cold weathers. It prevents cold air from entering to the engine space during driving. They told that it would even be a condition of Fiat’s guarantee that a mask cover should be in use in the Nordic countries. This issue should be checked because we haven’t heard about it before. Do you have any information about this?

What to do next time if the water does not come from the taps?

At the same time, we asked from guys in the Caravankeskus Reatalo what we could do next time if a similar situation occurs: the fresh water tank is full, but the water does not come from the taps. They advised that the pump can be tapped and then just open the taps many times and hope that the water start to flow.

At least now we know, where that pump is located. In our van it is on the kitchen side under the bed and can be accessed by lifting the mattress and opening the hatch under the mattress. Maybe it was told us when we got the car but we didn’t remember that. And I had not had possibility to follow the introduction of the camper van so well because our son was with us and I had to take care of him, but it’s an own story. ?

In winter time, after the trips, the water system must always be completely emptied before switching off the heating. And we heard that this can cause that air problem to the water system if the system is totally dry. We also read tips from the internet and various Facebook groups and found that you can also try to suck from the shower tap and it can help to get the water flowing, but it didn’t help our situation. At least for two people had got their system working at this way. ??

Thursday almost went there

It took several hours at the Caravan Center Reatalo and we waited there in their coffee break space while they were fixing the issue. The service was good and a place can be warmly recommended if you need help in the area of Rovaniemi. ?? When the job was done and the water system was working, we decided to stay in Rovaniemi for another night.

The Best Park Arctic Circle -travel park was so cheap and cost only about € 14 per night including all services. We thought that we would have at least a short trip to the Caravan Center next day if we need more help if something else comes before moving further north. ?

Weinsberg Carabus 600 MQ retkeilyauto

We got the place number 1, which was located at the edge of the area. We stayed there alone also this second night, so the showers, sauna and the whole service building were only for our use. It is a really functional and nice place to stay if you need to do maintenance and get in the shower. ??

On Friday after breakfast to meet Santa?

We did not put the alarm clock on on Friday and for once I woke up before our son and was even bright enough to get a photo of the situation. There he slept without a blanket, as usual. It doesn’t stay long on. ? We got a lot extra space with Pasi with this sleeping solution, where you can get your feet under our son’s bed. ? And at least for now, the solution is really working. ? You can see more photos here but unfortunately the text is still only available in Finnish. I update the link when I have translated it.

We can often sleep all night without waking up until the morning. At the beginning when we got the van, we had some issues with Truman’s temperature setting. It took some time to find a suitable setting so that we did not wake too hot. ? At some point in the autumn, we realized that the temperature could be adjusted to a lower level with the help of a phone application (Truma App), if necessary, without even having to get out of the bed. More information of that is found in the winter use post of the camper van. ?

Deryan UV teltta matkasankyna

At breakfast, we thought that if we did not want to drive right away, and the outdoor activities had been limited the day before, when we went to solve the water problem to the Caravan Center. We decided to visit Santa Claus Village and just check it by walking outside, because now we were close to it. And we had never before been there. The visit became cheap because our son did not dare to go near to Santa.??

There weren’t many people in Santa Claus Village, so the corona virus risk was really low. It was a little bit strange to go there after Christmas to watch the Christmas trees and Santa Claus, but our son liked a lot. We had hard to keep him outside of those fences ?

Kuva joulupukin kanssa

Many places were closed perhaps due to the corona situation or low season. Our son went to try e.g. the door to a shop called in English as Hay Shoes, but it didn’t open.

There would also have been reindeer rides on offer, but we didn’t dare to go without our little one. He was already asleep at the point when we noticed this reindeer ride opportunity. ?? Next time then !! ? In below photo you can see also the thermo blanket of the stroller which delayed the departure of the trip.

The place was really beautiful and almost magical in the dark. The lighting is absolutely stunning. ??

On Friday (Jan 22, 2021) the journey continued north

When our son woke up from a nap, we ate fast and start to drive north. And about 20 km to north from Santa Claus Village we found, a bush park near Vaattunkijoki River. I wondered a little if we would get stuck there on the snow, but the driver thought that it is a good spot. ? After dinner, we just relaxed in the van because it was quite cold outside. As you can see in below photo, 3 persons can fit well to the van. ??i

Weinsberg Carabus 600 MQ

When we arrived at this night spot, it was already dark and once again we had to wait until the morning in order to see in what kind of place we are. ?

On Saturday (Jan 23, 2021) we woke up in stunning scenery

From the pictures below, you can get an idea of ​​what kind of bush park we ended up for the night. The spot was located in the outdoor area and there were fire places right next to that spot. The weather was a little gray, but it didn’t depress us at all. ???

Weinsberg Carabus 600 MQ
Vaattunkijoki bush park 2

We made breakfast. The coffee machine shown in the picture below works with gas and then you don’t need so big batteries. It is found from here if you want to check it more. It was quite cold outside , about -15 degrees.

After breakfast, our little one looked at the book with Pasi and Pasi asked e.g. where is the car and he showed it from the book. ?

And I got a lovely moment to drink coffee in peace and follow the moment of father and son. ☕️? And also looked at the river landscape by opening the door from the side door cover. ?

Vaattunkijoki bush park

Then we went out to explore the surrounding area. Our son liked that bridge and began clearing snow from the railing.

We could definitely stay at this bush park again and it would be wonderful to see what it looks like in summer. Or what do you think? ? It is possible that you can’t leave a van parking to this same spot in the summer time. Now that point was not plowing and we thought that maybe we don’t bother anyone. Indeed, the best thing about travelling with a camper van, is that your home is where you park it. ???

Please check out also video from this amazing spot from our “Koti on siellä missä tuulee” – YouTube Channel. ?

No water comes out when the toilet flush button is pressed

At some point on Saturday (January 23, 2021), we noticed that the tap in the button of the toilet flush did not work and the water didn’t come from there and the kitchen tap worked poorly (the water came weakly from the tap). This night spot was pretty windy and the night was cold. Maybe some pipe was frozen. ? So the water started to come again maybe the next or the second day after that Saturday normally. And that’s why we concluded that some pipe had probably been on the ice.

How the water system was used on this trip?

I tell you already at this point how the water system was used on this trip in order to avoid possible misunderstandings. Until now, the water had worked well after the guys of Caravan Center fixed the issue and water started to came from the taps in Rovaniemi (the day before yesterday from that moment). So it worked 2 days before something frozen.

However, we did not notice to open the tap of the gray water tank immediately after visiting the Caravan Center. We already noticed in Best Park that it was probably on the ice because we could not open it. We decided then that we don’t allow water to enter the drain until the tap of the gray water tank is possible to open.

After all, the gray water tank tap was on ice for the entire 3-week trip. The water system was used only by taking the dish washing water from the kitchen tap and putting the grey water into the canister. And also using the toilet flush button in the toilet. The shower/toilet tap was not used at all during the trip. We had baby cleaning wipes in the toilet and they were good for cleaning hands. ?

Baby wipes work well also to maintain your own hygiene during the trip on days when you can’t take a shower. And you can also remove food stains on clothes relatively well with them. ?? The convenience of baby wipes was only noticed with our son, but many have used these long before the baby. I don’t know why no one told us before.?

At the end

The travel story continues in the next blog posts and I can tell you already in advance that also the sun sometimes started to show up a bit. ?☀️ And we also got to snow kiting in some awesome spots during the trip. And we have still more than enough different coincidences and experiences to share with you from the end of the trip! ? All these little coincidences seem to be part of the van life. If you don’t like surprises like this, maybe you should not use the van in the winter time at all. ?

For us, the putting the camper van in winter storage is not an option and I can tell you that this 3 week van life in Weinsberg Carabus 600 MQ -camper van in the middle of the winter in Finnish Lapland with our family was one of the best experiences of our life!! ???❄️? Despite of the fact that at this stage, we thought that luckily we have still two weeks time for exploring the Lapland. Because the first week of the trip was almost over and we felt that it went for the surviving of the different challenges.It was already on Saturday morning (Jan 23, 2021) and we left from home on Sunday (Jan 17, 2021). ?

We want to share real experiences of camper van life here on this blog so that everyone does not need to learn by himself/herself and test these things. And you could know directly how to use the camper van in different conditions. And it would be a dream, when you bring these kind of user experiences forward, so maybe the winter features of the campers and motorhomes will be improved over time! And at some point you might be able to use your own shower in outside temperature -25 degrees. Imagine that experience in your mind!!! ????

And I have to say, even if you don’t use the water system at all in the winter, that van is so luxury! What else you could even hope anymore!! ???

Have a top day there! And welcome to follow us on Instagram and Facebook in the meantime when I will get the next post ready! ? And here you can read more information on the blog and here you can find a story about us. Here you find information about where the camper van dream came. ?

PS. Wondering where the first photo of this post has been taken? It’s a foretaste of an upcoming post. ?

Other camper van related blog posts for you

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Enjoy reading and please send some nice message to us and tell some story of your van life or some little adventure! ?

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