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.
We can’t recommend any of the super-cheap, low-powered models because the few we tried at first were useless – no suction and batteries flat within a few minutes. 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.
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)
- An extendable hose can be useful, but we found that suction was pretty poor with these.
Our top choices
The Hoover Freedom Handy and the Dyson V6 Trigger. It’s almost impossible to choose between them – both are really comfortable to use, have battery charges long enough to clean out a campervan and a good range of tools. For the cheaper option, it’s the Hoover; for design perfection, it’s the Dyson.
Very much like the Dyson to look at, but not quite as refined. The Dyson, for example, sits solidly because the base of the dust chamber and the handle are at the same height. 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.
It comes with a motorised carpet/pet hair tool, a crevice tool and a dusting brush, and is easy to empty. Filters are easily changed too.
- Weight: 1.6kg
- Suction/power: manufacturer doesn’t state this, but it’s a 22V battery
- Use time: 25 minutes (20 minutes)
- Price: From around £120
Dyson do seem to confuse things with their models. There’s a V6 Trigger, a V6 Pro Trigger, but we also came across a car and boat version (with 12v adapter) and a pet version that looks exactly like the Pro.
Whatever you choose, the V range models are 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 car and boat accessories offer more, but we found suction wasn’t great, especially with a ‘heavy dirt’ tool whose hard bristles created 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.
Our advice would be to choose whichever is on special offer and select extra accessories if your choice doesn’t include them. Overall, we were impressed with the power and sturdiness.
- Weight: 1.3kg (V6) 1.6kg (V6 Pro)
- Suction/power: 20W in normal and 100W in max power (V6), 28W and 100W (V6 Pro)
- Use time: 20 minutes(much less in turbo mode and with the powered head)
- Price: From around £140 to £250, depending on tools and special offers
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 and 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)
- Price: Around £95
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, 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)
- Price: Around £140
The Black and Decker is a little underpowered, but a good budget-buy. The simple pull-out nozzle gives you an extended crevice tool and it’s super-easy to empty. There’s a charging base station, a battery indicator and a filter secor to tell you when it needs cleaning. There’s also a boost mode.
Power is obviously not as good as the Dyson and Hoover, but it’s the cheapest and lightest of the lot.
- Weight: 1kg
- Suction/power: 10.8V, 27W
- Use time: 15 minutes (nearer to 10)
- Price: Around £55