Stephane and Hannah Barbey, along with their children Beatrice (5) and Xavier (3), are a family of dream chasers from Salisbury in England. They home school their daughter and work freelance to allow them to explore the great outdoors, experiencing different cultures and living life to the full.
While planning an educational trip around Europe to see how other children are educated across the continent, they stumbled across the town of Rovaniemi – the gateway town to the Arctic Circle. Their world schooling trip had suddenly turned into an Arctic Challenge and in December of last year they set off on the journey of a lifetime.
With the lend of an Approach Advance Motorhome from Bailey of Bristol, fitted with Whale’s Rapid Heat 8L Water Heater and 4KW Underfloor Space Heater, they set off on their Arctic adventure. Stephane and Hannah knew they were going to be testing the Approach Advance and the Whale heating system to its limits by taking it to the Finnish Artic to visit Father Christmas in winter, but how best to really test the motorhome’s limits, and their own, by doing a wild camp while they were there?
The Approach Advance had been tested in the Whale test chambers passing to -15°C, and with average temperatures for the Rovaniemi area in Finnish Lapland around -12°C for the time of year they were visiting, everything was working out to plan. However, once the family arrived in snowy Rovaniemi, the area was experiencing an unprecedented cold snap and temperatures were already well below the seasonal average, hovering around the -20°C mark!
With the trip at a turning point and conditions more dangerous than ever imagined, the Barbey family had a decision to make. They could’ve turned around and found a safer, warmer place to stay but instead, decided to prove that they, the van and the heating system were made of stronger stuff.
Stephane reflects on that night:
“Once we’d found a beautiful spot around Olkkavaara lake and just before the ignition was turned off, we checked the outside temperature which was sitting at -27°C, – 12°C colder than the controlled test in the Whale factory and 15°C colder than the average lows for this time of year. We then checked the temperature gauge inside the van which showed the internal temperature sitting at zero. So we put on our pyjamas under our thermal underwear and tucked the children up in separate beds under duvets and spare blankets. After a quick board game with a hot mug of Finnish glöggi we headed to our beds with hats on but not after checking the temperature, -5°C. As the full moon glinted through the trees we settled down for the night and left the gas heater on to work its magic.
“Ah that gas heater, what a gem! By the time we woke up in the morning, we were sweating! Far from icy arctic conditions, we had had to kick off our extra layers of bedding and our hats were thrown on the floor. As we ate a late breakfast looking out over the half-dark lake, the room was so hot we didn’t even need jumpers!”
4706 miles, 42 days, 7 countries, and one arctic wild-camp later, the Barbey family finally arrived home with memories that would last a lifetime.
Speaking to Whale at the recent Caravan, Camping & Motorhome Show Hannah praised the Whale heating system saying,
“When you’re wild-camping in the Arctic in winter, you really need to be able to rely on your heating system. Our family of four were so impressed with Whale’s powerful 4KW Space Heater which kept all of us warm throughout the night despite the outside temperature of -27 degrees! Our tour of the Nordic countries in December demanded a lot of the hot water system too, and we were grateful for Whale’s efficiency and capacity, which never let us down. Thank you Whale! We were very grateful for the heat – in fact, thinking about it, without it, we would have had to abandon the challenge, so it was integral to the success of our trip, ensuring we had a Whale of a time!”