Sand between your toes, muddy boots, well-soaked dogs…all signs of a great and active camping trip, but most of us would prefer not to have all that muck spreading into our sleeping bags or duvets.
We’ve been testing lots of handheld and cordless vacs for keeping campervans, caravans and tents grit- and dust-free.
Latest update: March 2021
Testing the Dyson V7 in the van. The motorised carpet tool works on carpets and hard floors. But it’s not our top choice. Read on…
In a hurry? If you don’t have much time using the links below to quickly find our favourites for you. You can be assured we only choose the best products…
Our top choice handheld vacs
These are the cordless vacs we tested. Our top choice is the Vax OnePWR Blade 4, a big improvement on our older favouroite the Blade2. It’s more affordable too. Great as the main house vac and the vac for a car and campervan.
The best cheaper option is the Hoover H-Free. We liked the design of the Dyson V7 Trigger, but it eventually let us down and we found the Vax Blade (for around the same price) offered more versatility.
Which are the best cordless vacs?
It’s tempting to go for the cheapest, thinking it’s just for the van or the car. A good handheld vac, though, soon becomes indispensable in the house too – more than justifying the extra cost.
Sadly, we can’t recommend any of the super-cheap, low-powered models because the few we tried were useless – no suction and batteries flat within a few minutes.
It’s all in the batteries and the bag
Lithium-ion batteries mean you don’t have to run the battery down completely before recharging. In the listing below, we’ve given the manufacturer’s claimed run-time and an indication of what our testers actually found. Cyclonic and bag-free just make suction better and life easier.
The tools you’ll need:
- Crevice tool for getting into narrow places
- A general dusting type tool
- A carpet tool – possibly with a motorised head (though this shortens run-time considerably)
- A long extendable hose can be useful, but we found that suction was pretty poor with these.
A crevice tool lets you get into…crevices. And there are lots of those in campervans and caravans. This is the older Hoover Freedom making light work of our tester’s crumb-strewn VW. It’s now been replaced by the more versatile Hoover H-Free, which can also be used as an upright for home.
Our top choice overall is the Vax Blade 4, and you can definitely justify the price if you’re looking for a new home vac too.
It has the longest run time and the most suction of any we tried. Perfect for home and the campervan or car.
It also has a detachable 40-minute battery and you can buy spare batteries should you need extra
It looked a beast out of the BIG box so we were prepared to think it was overkill for a campervan. However, we realised that it would make a lot of sense for someone planning to replace their home vac. You’d then have just one efficient machine you could use for the house and for the van or car.
From handheld to lightweight upright
How? Well, you hold the motor and dust chamber, but attach a long, lightweight nozzle that then takes the carpet brush-head. Remove the long nozzle and you have a handheld you can still use with the brush-head for stairs, but which is also perfect for the van with its crevice and upholstery tools.
The Vax Blade 4 is very sucky. You can boost power with one button and choose whether to have the brush-head powered (for carpets) or not (for hard floors).
There are enough tools as standard for cleaning crevices and upholstery
Just enough run-time
40 minutes run time is promised and we got close to that with a full charge and on standard power. It was long enough to make light work of a fairly clean house. You get a much shorter time with power boosted and with the brush-head powered, of course.
- Weight: 3.1kg
- Suction/power: Not stated but 18V battery
- Use time: 40 minutes (less in boost mode and with the powered head)
A chunky beast in handheld mode, the Hoover H-Free replaces the older Handy Freedom. It beats the Dyson on affordability.
The Dyson and Vax, however, are better designed for comfort. They sit solidly when not in use and they’re fairly streamlined. The H-Free is big.
The balance in the hand is also not as comfortable. However, these are small design issues and the Hoover is cheaper and has great suction. Like the Dyson, it has a trigger control, but also has a slide-across continuous power button.
There’s a standard and a pet version and the fact it has an upright ‘stick’ as well as handheld option means you can have just one vac for home and van.
The tools are all ‘on-board’ so no forgetting where you left the last tool you took off. The battery is also removeable so you don’t have to find a socket where you can plug in the whole machine.
We found suction was less powerful than the Vax.
- Weight: 2.6kg (including stick and head)
- Suction/power: manufacturer doesn’t state this, but it’s a 22V battery
- Use time: 25 minutes (15 minutes)
When we tested our Dyson handheld, there were a lot of V models in a rather confusing array. Now, for pure handheld, it’s just the V7 Trigger. Best prices for new were at Ebay.
The V7 was quick to recharge, light to carry and the super-sensitive trigger means you save the battery by starting the motor exactly when you need it. They’re not quiet, but the noise is quite a low pitch, so not annoying. They sit nicely on the base and motor (unlike the Hoover) and feel balanced in the hand.
We used the motorised carpet brush, which was very effective, the crevice tool and the dusting/upholstery tool. The flexi-nozzle attachments don’t offer great suction, and the ‘heavy dirt’ tool’s hard bristles create a gap between floor and suction.
There are standard and turbo settings, and the latter eats up battery life more quickly. Emptying is easy and clean, the filter is washable and the whole thing feels well-made and not cheap and plasticky.
Overall, we were impressed with the power and sturdiness. However, after around 12 months of use, its recharging seemed to have a mind of its own. Charged up fully, stopped, plugged back in for five seconds and OK again. Every time. Hmmm.
- Weight: 1.4kg
- Suction/power: 21AW (100AW in Max)
- Use time: 20 minutes (six minutes in Max mode)
The Black & Decker cyclonic is unusual in that it has an integrated hose so you can reach further and higher.
The hose wraps around neatly when not in use and it boasts “smart charge technology”, which apparently makes it faster to charge. There are two crevice tools and soft brush and an easy-to-open side door for dust removal.
We found it rather noisy and suction drops off when the dust-bowl starts to fill. It wasn’t our top choice for pet hair. It’s quite heavy. Very good value, though, and there are even cheaper lower voltage options.
- Weight: 2.28kg
- Suction/power: 18V (suction not stated).
- Use time: 15 minutes (more like 10)
- Heavy, but good value Black and Decker Lithium Flexi
This Black and Decker vac is a little underpowered, but a good budget-buy.
It has a simple swivel nozzle, a pop out brush and is super-easy to empty. Easy to charge and very compact for storing and for getting into smaller spaces (although there’s no fine crevice tool).
Power is obviously not as good as the Vax, Dyson and Hoover, but it’s the cheapest, smallest and lightest of the lot.
- Weight: 1.4kg
- Suction/power: 35W (for the 18V. Lower volt options available)
- Use time: 10 minutes (a bit less)
GTech are always advertising in the caravan magazines, so they clearly think this is the device for houseproud campers. We weren’t so sure.
The tools are clever (they all store in the machine itself) and the long nozzle is useful, but suction didn’t impress us as much as the others we tried.
We did like the battery indicator, which is missing on the Dyson and Hoover (there is one on the Vax), and battery life was good. It’s niftiest feature, though, is a spotlight. Now you can vac your tent in the dark!
- Weight: 1.6kg
- Suction/power: 22V (suction not stated)
- Use time: 20 minutes (pretty close to that)
GTech‘s nozzle is a nice touch, but at a price. We’d rather pay £50 more and have a vac we can use easily at home as well as in the van.