Cadac grills, motor movers, electric bikes, and other such delights can make touring in your leisure vehicle so much more enjoyable.

Amen to all of those, but there is one accessory that I would never, ever, be without. It is the most important thing that I carry around in the van. Rarely does it get used. However, when it does get used, it is an absolute lifesaver.

That accessory, my friends, is the humble fan heater.

I bought my little fan heater from a caravan accessory shop about 15 years ago to boost the heating in my wee 1989 ABI Marauder 400D. This little fan heater has two settings: 500W and 1kW. In the caravanning context, these lower settings can be useful when the supply from the site bollard is limited. Despite its higher-than-average purchase price, it has stood the test of time; obviously money well spent.

‘I’d rather be hungry than be cold,’ my dear Nan used to say in the 1970s as she lit the gas fire in our 1969 Thomson Glenmore caravan. Amen to that too.

Heating systems in caravans and motorhomes can, and do, sometimes break down for a variety of reasons. Fan bearings, fuses, wiring problems, elements, burners, circuit boards ,flues… like everything leisure-vehicle related, these heaters and boilers need to be far lighter than their domestic counterparts, yet withstand the rigours of being bounced about on a regular basis. Therefore, it really makes sense to carry a back-up heater. A fan heater is far lighter than an oil filled radiator and takes up less storage space than a convector heater.

For off-grid caravanning away from the mains hook-up, I carry my Dometic Origo stove and a good supply of Bioethanol. When using any open flame to warm up the van, you have to ensure a good supply of fresh air because of the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Cranking open a window does rather defeat the object when you’re trying to heat up your space, but it’s preferable to being dead.

Please check out the Camping and Caravanning Club’s page devoted to carbon monoxide awareness here.

At night time, make sure all flames are extinguished and pile on the blankets to keep warm. Here is where a family pet comes in handy. Recent experience on a camping trip taught me that it really is possible to share a single ‘mummy-type’ sleeping bag with a Jack Russell Terrier.

Like carbon monoxide, extreme cold can also be a killer. If the heating breaks down and you can’t get to a site with mains and you cannot get warm, put your own health and wellbeing first and book into a hotel or B&B until you get the heating sorted out.

How about you? What item or accessory would you never hit the road without? I’d love to hear about it.