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About us - Leisure Pods Ltd

Established in 2010 by business partners Tom and James, Leisure Pods Ltd are the designers and manufacturers of the Caterpods (bespoke catering pods) and Campod Caravans.

Tom & James both worked at Airbus in Bristol for 10 years before entering the trailer building industry, and have a solid background in engineering which has contributed to the excellent design & build quality of both the Caterpods and Campod caravans.

Caterpods

When we first left our roles at Airbus in search of something new and fulfilling, we bought into a fast food franchise selling equipment to mobile traders, shops & restaurants.

As an extension of the business, we were also selling mobile trading solutions (essentially small hot dog carts) from which street vendors could trade. The trouble with these units was that they were very heavy and the user needed to have a transit size van to be able to transport them, and they weren't particularly suited to the UK climate -  they had a canopy, but it leaked like a sieve so they were really more suited to hotter countries with less rain!

We knew that the idea was sound but being perfectionists we had to find a better quality product, so we set about looking for a more user friendly mobile catering unit and stumbled across a really unusual shaped trailer which we thought would be a suitable alternative. This business idea quickly developed after discovering that these ‘pod’ looking trailers would make a fantastic catering trailer in general and could be adapted for use for all different types of catering businesses, and so ‘Caterpods’ were born.

 

After visiting several companies in China to find a suitable manufacturer, we imported our first 7 trailers and excitedly awaited their arrival into the UK. When the container was prized open at our premises in Alvington our excitement turned to horror as one by one the trailers were pulled out of the container, each in various states of disarray. We then had a fast and very steep learning curve and had to swap our pens and paper for power tools in order to rebuild the trailers to a decent standard which could then be sold on and used in the UK. After months of hard work and thousands of pounds in development costs, 6 of the 7 trailers were sold on and the last trailer was held back for an autopsy.

 

Having quickly decided that importing was clearly not the way forward, although still in love with the concept of the trailer we unpicked the 7th trailer and redesigned the pods in accordance with the VOSA manual / framework issued in 2012.  This required a completely new version to a much higher standard. The framework and chassis are now manufactured by an ISO9001 engineering firm and the assembly takes place at our premises in the Forest of Dean.

BBQ Caterpod by Leisure Pods Ltd - the manufacturer of the Caterpods and Campod Caravans.
The Pizza Pod Caterpod by Leisure Pods Ltd - the manufacturer of the Caterpods and Campod Caravans.
Asta Barista Baby Caterpod by Leisure Pods Ltd - the manufacturer of the Caterpods and Campod Caravans.

Campod Caravans

After nearly 10 years of success with the Caterpods, we decided that it was once again time to step outside of our comfort zone and throw ourselves into a new project.

Many of our Caterpod customers over the years had suggested that we look into adapting the design to create a leisure vehicle, as the small caravans niche of the leisure industry was growing in popularity and our custom designed chassis with a dropped footwell would be an ingenious way to offer full standing height in a 2 berth leisure vehicle, in a shell that was far smaller than the behemoth twin-axle caravans which had traditionally dominated the market. We did a lot of research and found that there were no other offerings on the market which could boast the same benefit.

We started by analysing the competition and noting the prevalent features that were present across the major manufacturers. There was also a lot of time spent trawling various caravan enthusiast forums and noting the 'wish lists' of users discussing the various features and layouts of their ideal caravans. One notable thing that kept popping up was that most of the small caravans available on the market felt claustrophobic and restricting - something we already knew wasn't an issue for our Caterpods with the recessed footwell. Standing room is incredibly important to provide an open feeling to a space, which is why so many public spaces and galleries have very high ceilings.

We thought long and hard about how to open the space up even further, and decided that 2 large, opening side windows would be the perfect way to expand the interior and 'invite' the outside in. We didn't stop there, though - an additional semi-oval shaped window was added to the rear of the Campod to provide extra daylight, so that if the UK weather isn't playing ball (as is so often the case!) the interior still feels light and open when the side windows are closed.

A key component of the design of a small caravan is clever utilisation of space, which was something we were already well versed in with our work on the Caterpods. We added a seating area which converts into a double bed, using a pull-out base that bridges the gap across the footwell area and the backrest cushions to create a mattress.

The next step was to design the kitchen area. We noticed that a lot of small caravans have the important utilities located in awkward positions - like the fridge in a bottom cupboard near the footwell area. That makes them difficult to use and can be a source of frustration, so we decided to locate all of the important bits so that they're easily accessible when standing up. The sink & hobs are just above waist height, and the fridge is mounted in the unit behind around chest height - both easy to access and making it possible to multitask, which is important when cooking in a limited space.

Another element that we knew we wanted to deviate from early on in the design process, was the UK caravan markets love affair with big white boxes. Most of the caravans you see on site are almost carbon copies of each other - large, white rectangular boxes without much character or individuality. The Campod shell is available in a range of colours, some of which we've pre-set, though it's possible to decide your own custom colour scheme too. Of course, if a customer wants a white shell we'll happily oblige - exterior colours can be a bit like marmite!

Something we were acutely aware of throughout the design process was the need to keep the Campod as lightweight as possible, so that enthusiasts with smaller-engined cars would still be able to tow it without a significant effect on fuel economy. The fibreglass shell plays a huge role in that, weighing far less than traditional aluminium-bodied caravans but offering just as much durability. They're also a lot easier to repair, as any car workshop should be able to patch fibreglass to a decent standard.

It took a while for the Campod to materialise from the initial inception of the idea and market research through to production of our first test model, juggling time in the workshop making improvements and amendments to the design alongside managing and maintaining our thriving Caterpods business, but as soon as it was completed and we took it out onto the grounds of our workshop for testing, we were ecstatic about the build quality and unique nature of the leisure vehicle that we'd created. We're confident that you'll love the Campods too, and we're so excited to have you along on this journey with us.

All we can say now is 'watch this space' as we go from strength to strength!

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