One of the reasons many metalheads baulk at the idea of attending a metal festival is that they hate camping. For many people, spending three to five nights inside a flimsy tent pitched in a muddy, dirty campground surrounded by 70 000 other metalheads who just WILL NOT SHUT UP, with the risk of rain, overflowing toilets and drunk people falling over your eternally on the horizon, doesn’t sound like a fun holiday. Especially not if you’ve come all the way from New Zealand or Brazil or Antarctica and spent your entire life savings on the trip.
You can eliminate this problem by renting a campervan or RV. That way, no matter what the weather gods throw down, you’ve got a warm, dry and secure place to sleep and store your stuff. You can keep your beer cold in the fridge. You can sleep on an actual bed. You can stand up to get changed. You can have sex without rocks jabbing you in the bottom. It’s win all-round.
In 2009, we rented a campervan for eight weeks to travel across Europe. It cost an astronomical amount, but shared between four people, it was pretty affordable. Most festivals occur over the summer, which means you’ll be paying the peak price for your van, but for many of us, it’s a small price to pay for an oasis of comfort in the cesspool of filth that is a festival campground.
if you want to rent a campervan for Wacken, be prepared to pay over €100 per night. No, it’s not cheap, but the cost doesn’t go up that much from a 2 person to a 4 person to a 6 person sleeper. If you can get a couple of friends to go in together, the camper suddenly becomes quite affordable. One thing to be aware of – most companies will not allow you to book a campervan for less than 14 days over summer, so if you want a camper for Wacken, you’ll need to book it for at least two weeks. (or book with Röhnelt Caravan Gmbh, which is who we’re going with this year. They have a seven-day minimum rental). Otherwise, even if you only want it for Wacken week, you’ll still have to pay for 14 days. Also, German campervan depots are shut on Sundays, so don’t plan on returning it on a Sunday.
There are two main campervan rental companies in Hamburg (and a handful of smaller ones) – MCRent and DRM. You can book direct from those companies, but I prefer to go through a site like Ideamerge – we received a hefty discount for our long-term rental through this site, and their staff are in the US, so speak the goode englande if you’re not accustomed to dealing with booking in German.
You can drive a camper less than 7m in length on an international license – anything larger is considered a truck and you’ll need a seperate license. Check the restrictions on the rental site before you book – you will not be able to take your van into some countries (such as Greece, Turkey and Romania) nad may have other restrictions.
Plan on at least half a day to find the campervan depot, pick up your campervan, sign all the papers, learn how to operate it, and get on the road. We had to book in a specific time of day to pick up and drop off our camper. Being German, if you’re early (like we were), you will still have to wait around for your designated time.
Don’t underestimate the learning curve involved in driving a campervan, especially if you’re a) a nervous driver in cities, b) never driven a huge vehicle before or c) drive on the left-side of the road. We picked ours up, drove out to the depot gates, saying “drive on the right. Can’t forget, drive on the right.” Straight away, CDH turned into the left-hand lane. It’s difficult to rewrite 20 years of driving instinct. Thankfully, the poor German lady coming the other way stopped in plenty of time, and seemed to understand we hadn’t meant to cause her any heartache. And CDH made the mistake only once again in the entire trip (thankfully, on an empty road).
Driving through Hamburg is scary. You’ve just picked up your van. You’re driving a huge 6m beast on the wrong side of the road. The lanes are narrow with no room for error (in NZ we have wide verges on all our lanes and roads), you have a map no one can read and you have to get to your campground in the middle of the city befure they give your reservation away. We made it in one piece, but it was a harrowing experience.
Tips for hiring a German RV for Wacken (and other European adventures)
Get travel insurance: The van is covered by insurance, but it has €1000 security deposit – make sure your travel insurance covers this! We decided to head up to Wacken a week early to look around the village before the metalheads descended. On the way up we passed some roadworks, and … remember what I was telling you about German lanes being really narrow … you have just enough room on either side between the metal/concrete markers to pass through, unless you’re an extra-wide, extra-high campervan and one of the markers has shifted a couple of inches to the left, and BAM, the light on the top of it connects with your passanger side wing mirror. This hit cracked one of the mirrors … no big deal, but when we were driving to Wacken the second time, we hit EXACTLY the same light, which broke the plastic around the mirror and sent it sailing down the road.
Then, in Norway, we had to go on a deteur down a winding mountain pass only 1.5 cars wide, on the side of a sheer cliff, in a campervan. At one point, the road narrowed to nearly 1 lane and a Merc came around the corner. They smushed over, we smushed over and must have scraped one side of our van along the rocks in the process, causing a big gash down one side. This cost us our deposit. Luckily, our insurance covered it, and the €1000 was returned to us within a month of our return.
The moral is, my husband is an awesome driver, but sometimes, things happen, especially when you’re in a foriegn country. Get travel insurance.
If you’re doing a bit of campervanning around Germany, you can park your van at the service stations on the side of the auto-bahn and sleep for free. Sometimes, these stations are nothing more than a grotty toilet, other times, they’re a full-on shopping mall, and you can even take a shower. You will spend many nights sleeping surrounded by idling trucks (it’s like sleeping with 10 000 purring kittens) and eating truck-stop food (which, in Germany, is awesome, but still …)
The Auto-Bahn is awesome: 130mph in a giant white box. Need I say more?
The Wacken RV Campground is also Awesome: At Wacken, there is a seperate campground set aside for campers (in our year, it was campground R, or, as we called it, campground “Arrrr!”). You can’t get electricity or water hooked up, but honestly, you don’t need it. You can run your fridge on battery, and get water from the tanks that travel through the campground each day. If you’ve got mates in tents, they can set up around your camper too, and you can bring in a barbie and fry up sausages for breakfast and sit around drinking and blowing on a viking horn till a decent band comes on. (Hint: bring a sunhat).
Choose buddies wisely: We lived with two friends for eight weeks and, although by the sixth week, we were all starting to fray around the edges, it was surprisingly easy living in a confined space with 3 other people. CDH and I were worried we would fight all the time being in each other’s faces, but we barely fought at all. We set out some basic campervan rules in the beginning – you have to take your shoes off at the door, clothesline space was allocated on a rotating roster, etc – and this helped everyone get along great. If you’re only sharing for a couple of weeks, you should be fine.
Redecorate!: That van is going to be your mobile home for a few weeks, so you might as well make it your own. You can hang flags and other decorations from the windows – this also helps you recognise your van when stumbling drunk through the campgrounds.
Divide expenses evenly: We kept a kitty, and everyone threw in €50 at a time – we used this to pay for gas, campervan park fees, and tolls. Having the kitty (we kept it in a bag in the glove box, or in one of our bags) stopped everyone having to scramble for money each time we stopped.
If you want to go to Wacken or another huge festival, but the thought of camping for 3-5 days has seriously put you off, then consider hiring a RV or campervan. Even though I don’t mind camping, it is so nice coming back after a day on the festival grounds, cleaning off at the pay showers, and being able to shut the door to the world and crawl into your own bed. You know your gear is safe. If it’s raining outside, there’s no worries. You can even put the heater on. It’s metal festival luxury. In the morning, you can make yourself a bowl of cereal with nice cold milk, and wash it down with a nice, cold beer.
This year, we had so much trouble finding a van for a good price, but thanks to our awesome German buddies, we’re booked and ready to go! Other friends of our are renting a converted postal van from Sixt. They’ll be cuddling up in the back on a mattress – another great idea.
How do you like to do metal festivals? Have you ever rented a campervan before? What was your experience like?