We have a new adventuremobile this year! Aptly named Carlos Vantana (yeah, it’s a hot one), this new vehicle will be our new home this season and well into the future. Carlos came to us as a hollow shell, a blank canvas of metal that is (slowly) being shaped into a beautiful new tiny living space for two humans and a scruffy 50-pound pup. As much as we loved our van-home last year, we decided if we are going to be living in a vehicle for longer than eight months at a time, it would be nice to stand up every once in a while.
We purchased a RAM Promaster 2500 High Roof. We spent many long hours researching different vans makes and models. There are a bunch of good options out there but choosing a van really comes down to each person’s individual needs. For us (and many others) the number one factor in choosing a vehicle comes down to budget. Mercedes Sprinters are a popular choice for van build-outs but they are pricey. Depending on their age they become even more expensive to maintain and repair. In hopes of delaying potential repair costs, we chose a newer vehicle with a warranty and the Promaster fit the bill. We also wanted a high roof model so we can stand inside and a bed long enough for Ben to sleep on comfortably.
What made our build out tricky was the timeline in which we needed to have the build done — and the fact that neither one of us has ever actually built any furniture. We had roughly four weeks from the time we purchased the van until the time we needed to hit the road and kick off our tour. We spent two of those weeks exploring New Zealand so really most of the build came together in the last two weeks. We had to call in a lot of favors to make this all happen. Even though we wanted to do as much of the build by ourselves as possible there were obviously parts that we had to leave to the professionals.
We called on the adventure experts TIMBR Basecamps who agreed to help us out even with our crazy short deadline. They installed the walls, ceiling and floor. They installed our windows, a robust electrical system and a fan on the roof to help with ventilation. They have a lot of experience with build-outs and they worked with us closely to make sure everything they did, and everything we did, would fit into our grand plan.
While the van was at the TIMBR shop we had the daunting task of building cabinets, a kitchen, and gear drawers for a van that we didn’t even have with us while we were building. Once again we called in some reinforcements. Barry at Urban Barry Designs agreed to help us hand-build a solution for all of our storage needs. We spent ten days in his shop furiously building sometimes for as long as 10 hours a day. Building cabinets and drawers are one thing, but building them to be safe, strong and durable enough to meet our demands was a monumental task.
Once TIMBR finished with their portion of the build we spent two days installing everything in and putting on some finishing touches. It was a whirlwind. We placed our final screw at 2 a.m. the night before we were set to head east. Even as we type this we still have a lot of work to do. This morning we installed a nice backsplash behind our kitchen counter. Our sink is still a work in progress. It turns out that finding fittings for the sink we ordered is a little trickier than we thought.
The realities of a van build are hard to see until you start one. The old rule “measure twice, cut once” becomes “measure five times, and still end up cutting the piece in the wrong spot.” We started to feel as if we may have actually entered Purgatory, where we were destined to wander around Home Depot aimlessly trying to find obscure hardware for the van.
It’s a miracle that it turned out as nice as it did. Somehow everything ended up fitting and working together. It wasn’t easy. We had to come up with a lot of workarounds. We’ve received so much help and support throughout this process and we’re eternally grateful. If you’re interested in checking out the van, just drop by one of our festivals and meetups and say hello! For now, it’s time to go organize the van. We still haven’t had a chance to unpack.
There is one way for this tour to be a reality, our sponsors! Sending a thank you shout out to our title sponsor Nite Ize, and all of our other awesome sponsors like Crazy Creek, National Geographic, Sea to Summit, Mountain House, Lowe Alpine, Old Town, Leki, HydraPak, UCO Gear and Wenzel.