The Deutchmark made me an offer I couldn't refuse
Like most bus owners, I coveted the cool Westie tents that I saw at shows and in old bus advertisements. They're cool, a little gaudy, and they give you more breating room when it's raining. For the past two years, I've been wondering whether to get an awning or a tent. I went back and forth, and finally decided to wait until I could afford a tent. It's a little harder to set up, but it's also a little more flexible, and gives you more sleeping room.
By the fall of 1997, the Deutchmark had fallen quite a bit against the U.S. dollar. I had finally saved up roughly enough money by the time the exchange rate hit $0.50 per DM, and I faxed Germany asking for a quote on the price of a tent.
After a week or so, there was a fax from Westfalia giving me the price and the shipping costs, and a request for my chasis number. Some things were unclear, however, so the faxes went back and forth for about a month. Finally, I sent the order.
My new Westfalia tent
(photo from the Westfalia catalog)
Though not as gaudy as some of the '60s and '70s tents, the new model Westfalia tent is still brightly colored. An overall grey color scheme is decorated with yellow and blue pinstriping. A bright yellow overhanging lip protects the outside windows from some of the rain, and two fresh-air screens are located under the lip, ensuring a supply of fresh air even when the tent is completely sealed.
The tent is constructed of rubberized canvas, with vinyl windows and nylon screens. There is no built-in floor, though Westfalia sells a 'teppich' (carpet) for this purpose. The floor area is 300 x 220 cm, or about 7¼ x 9¾ feet. The ceiling height varies from 185 to 235 cm (6' - 7¾').
The walls are all different. The outer wall (away from the van) has two large vinyl windows with shades that may be rolled up for the view or down for privacy. The left wall in the photo is a large 'picture window'. This window may be 'opened' allowing the breeze to waft through the mosquito netting window. When the window is closed, it is covered with a translucent plastic that allows light in, but prevents peeping Toms.
The right-hand wall is solid, but may be partially unzipped as a door. This wall may also be raised as an awning (as shown in the photo.) The back wall is also solid, but has a zip-up door that allows access to the van.
The tent is attached to the van in a very simple and elegant manner. A pole slides through a flap at the top rear of the tent. This pole (and the sleeve) is then clamped to the raingutter by three simple little thumb clamps. It's a perfect fit, and very simple to attach and detach. The flap is about a foot wide, protecting the area between the van and the tent from rain, and allowing enough room to open and close the sliding door of the van. At the right and left of the tent, elasticized straps ensure a tight seal between the tent and the body of the van.
Klunky but heavy
The tent weighs a ton. Well, actually it weighs a little over 23kg, or 50 pounds. My previous experience with tents has been with backpacking tents, where 5 pounds is considered heavy. I felt a little funny buying a 50-pound tent with a huge aluminum frame. This isn't a backpacing tent, this is a family tent, for a Roman Catholic family!
The aluminum frame (alugerüst)
To set up the tent, you first construct a large aluminum framework of poles. Despite never having seen one of these before and not reading German, my boyfriend and I were able to set the frame up in about an hour. I plan on taking nail polish and marking poles so that I know what fits where. This should save some time in the future.
The vertical and horizontal poles are telescopic, and the trick to setting up the tent is to construct the frame smaller than you'll need. We made the frame as short as possible, and slightly narrower than we figured we would need. Then you lay the tent over the top of the frame, and roll it down each side from top.
The next step is to go into the tent and raise each corner to it's full height. This takes a little time, since you can't really raise each the entire amount all at once. After stretching the tent vertically, you stretch out the top to be nice and snug horizontally.
Next you can attach the tent to the van as described above, and peg down the tent as much as you would like. The tent is pretty free-standing, but a few well-placed pegs make it a little more 'solid'.
All the toys
I also ordered a few accessories, since I can't resist cool toys. I ordered the 'einhängesschlafzelt', which is essentially a separate room which hangs within the main tent. It's a great kid's room or other bedroom.
I also ordered the Westfalia carpet that goes with the tent. This is really more of a floor sheet than a 'carpet', since it's composed of a rubbery woven material. The image to the left shows the general texture of the weave. (The tent itself does not come with a floor.)
The bottom line
Here's what all this cost:
Cost in DM:
Cost in US$:
Tent (shell only)
Alugerüst für vorzelt
Inside room for the Westfalia tent
Einhängeschlafzelt zum Westfalia-vorzelt
Carpet for the tent (in gray)
Teppich zum Westfalia-vorzelt (grau)
Shipping costs (air)
Value Added Tax
Document fees & terminal charges
U.S. customs duty (4.9%)
*Approximate amount, assuming 0.55 DM / US$.
Westfalia's address is:
Knöbel & Steffenmeier / Westfalia
Bielefelder Str. 55
+49 52 42 59 05-0
+49 52 42 59 05-49 fax
Copyright © 1997-2013 Ron Lussier. All Rights Reserved.
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