This Week in Modifications

Adds: traction tape to rear step platform, added various hooks for clothing, shoe organizer, roof rack, 15mm thru axle, black curtain and shower rod to divide cabin from living quarters, and added various hooks for clothing, carbon monoxide detector

Deletes: most wood trimmings, microwave removed, garbage bin, removed carpet and mesh pockets in storage areas, console, front passenger seat.

To Do: security alarm with engine kill added, 100 watt solar panel, cargo box, 22"X18"X34" storage next to galley, higher quality cooler, workstation with pop up table, second 15mm thru axle.

A Van Named Dusty

I’m officially a camper van owner! I closed on the van on Tuesday of this week and here’s the lead up storyline…

For many months I have been motivated to increase quality of life so what better way than to enter the van life culture?! A slue of influences like following many van lifers on Instagram, a visit to New Zealand, and other inspiring factors, had driven me to begin the research which lasted months. The search included van model possibilities, conversion materials and costs, as well as the time to build my prototype diagrams of configurations. Due to my confidence that a camper van was in the not so distant future coupled with impatience to live the best life possible I had prepared myself for immediate purchase should THE van present itself. I thought I found the gem a couple weeks ago. It was a used 2011 Freightliner 140 HR with 3000 miles for $32K. Best of all it was an extremely rare conversion with a built in office workstation which I would need to build if my employer approves my proposal to work remotely for an indefinite period of time. Long story short, the deal fell through because the dealer failed to disclose that the recall created a stop sale and the wait for a replacement airbag was 10 months! Ugh! I was so disgruntled but it unknowingly became a blessing in disguise. The trial run to own a Freightliner prepared me with having processes and math in place to make an immediate purchase. Days later my friend had notified me of a converted camper van on the market. It was a local 2014 Nissan NV 2500 cargo van with a high roof, V8 Titan engine, and converted by the then owner who was also a mountain biker interested in the backcountry trail experience. The more I researched the vehicle, the more interest developed and soon found myself taking a tour of the vehicle and getting an idea of the person behind the build. Like myself, the builder is very analytical but had the experience of previous conversion builds that I don’t possess. He stated he put X amount into the conversion and spent 14 months doing so, driving it less than 5,000 miles in the 14 months of ownership traveling to and from the hardware store for the build out. The owner seemed like a standup guy and unquestionably took pride in the build but he couldn’t justify maintaining ownership of a vehicle he was using less than anticipated. Fortunately, we settled on a price on site and began the process of transferring ownership. I had never closed a private sale before so I was surprised at the numerous and frequent challenges that were presented. Both the seller and I were motivated to close so it was motivating to have the bill of sale signed as soon as possible. I am a very emotionally charged and energetic guy so I had to continually keep myself in check to avoid a big time buzzkill in case the deal didn’t go through. Keep in mind that it’s not just a van, it’s an investment into a lifestyle. Once, the last signature was inked, I had a mental exhalation that my unknown but adventurous future was secure. I walked out of the credit union to where the vehicle was parked, looking at my future, and that I was living up to my friend’s motto that I’ve adopted, “Take what’s yours.”

For a photo tour of the camper van, see “VAN BUILD OUT” in the “VAN LIFE” menu.


Personal Prerequisites for a Camper Purchase

Everyone's lifestyle and goals have their own unique nuances so I thought I'd share mine which establishes parameters leading me through the process of purchasing the best fit to create the most fun, sustainably liveable, and cost effective adventure machine. First, to describe myself quickly, I am an ultra endurance mountain biker with heavy foot on the pedal for adventure. During the dry seasons, I am riding high volumes in the backcountry on the weekends. I enjoy the camp life immensely, so the extra miles to a remote setting is often traveled via dirt roads, some graded and some 4X4 material. Equipment wise, it can be a ton to maintain order however, I strive to engage in the minimalist approach so I meet a balance somewhere in the middle. I am a budding photographer, so more equipment and time is added to storage and adventures. Luckily, both activities play well together. Then there's the job that keeps the wheels turning and I'm hoping my proposal to be employed remotely is approved to work from my camper for an extensive period of time if not indefinite. I would be operating this mission solo so all travel decisions and storage space belong to me. I currently own a 2014 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited which has a ghetto rigged, semi-permanent sleeping platform as pictured in the previous blog entry. It's nothing special but I love it for the weekend warrior lifestyle. I also love my jeep but if selling it due to the possibility of working remote and increasing the quality of life factor then the priority wins. I would ideally be chasing the sun, living in never winter mode. All weekday overnights would be spent within territories of a healthy wireless signal (via a MiFi with phone booster or a satcom device) to ensure my work performance is not sacrificed. This means urban camping, camping in parks with healthy signals, at cost camp sites near suburbia, or Cabela's parking lots.

Below are my prerequisites for determining the best option for a camper set up given my circumstances.

*Must be sustainably liveable but able to manage with particular discomforts, i.e. hot water on command (remember never winter), may be able to get by with a reservoir heated outdoor shower.

*Storage for three to four bikes inside at all times. Nothing is to be stored outside unless in a lockable cargo space.

*Toilet (doesn't need to be a throne, just needs to do the trick).

*Indoor or outdoor shower.

*Double burner stove that is safe, ventilation is offered, and able to cook indoors on rainy nights. 

*Two way roof ventilation

*Heat is necessary but since I may be chasing the sun then it's not imperative to have a high powered unit.

*A very well insulated cooler like a Yeti Cooler or an RV type fridge but are twice as expensive.

*100W solar panel system with secondary battery and/or Goal Zero Yeti 400 to charge and power cameras, MacBook, iPad, iPhone, LED lights, heater, music, outdoor sports electronics, etc.

*A degree of a sink system, not sure yet how barebones I can tolerate.

*Must be weatherproofed living area and soundproof/resistant to provide a healthy environment to succeed at working remotely, i.e. productive and phone calls uninterrupted.

*Must have good ground clearance and ability to modify to all terrain tires.


Current Qualifiers

*2016 Mercedes Sprinter: 144 wheelbase high roof (170 is too lengthy for backcountry dirt roads in my scenario)

*2016 Ford Transit: long wheelbase high roof

*Jayco or a like company's A Frame Pop Up Camper such as the 12BSB to be towed by my jeep.

Scratched off the List

*Dodge ProMaster

*Nissan NV

*used Sprinter from 2005 or 2006 within I5 or 2008 with V6.

Penciling in the Sprinter Mindset

The timing and the experience of New Zealand has changed the wild in my dream to live the van life to the wild in attitude toward making it a lifestyle. Since last February, it's been a mission to learn everything there is to learn and create my perspective and niche as a van lifer, world class ultra endurance mountain biker, and budding outdoor adventure landscape photographer. I've well underestimated the time and effort necessary to dedicated to the granular of building this lifestyle from the ground up. With that lesson, I am appreciative of those that are out there on the road today. So it begins, I've emotionally committed to the trials and tribulations of designing my own van lifestyle.

Current camp situation in my Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. I'm 6'2" so it's a tight squeeze but it's still so much fun.

Current camp situation in my Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. I'm 6'2" so it's a tight squeeze but it's still so much fun.

A simple aerial for a clean view. Not bad for a broken fifth metacarpal.

A simple aerial for a clean view. Not bad for a broken fifth metacarpal.