A looong over due introduction! Meet our van, Mama Rama. Rama means the bringer of happiness or can be broken down as Ra (Sanskrit for fire or the sun - the eternal light) and Ma (the true essence, or that which is unchangeable) so it literally translates as "the true essence of the eternal light", or the light that allows everything to be. Our van takes care of all our needs, she gets us around the continent, provides shelter, and a dry place to cook and eat.
We custom built just about every bit of the interior of the van to fit our specific needs. Here were our criteria:
- Fit three men, two of them over 6'
- Interior and exterior cooking space (interior for rainy days and exterior because it's much more pleasant being outside when it's nice out)
- Storage for all food, cookware, extensive camping, climbing, and slacklining gear
- Three seats with three seat belts
- Ability to stealth camp in urban areas (curtains on all windows, able to cook in contained environment)
- Spare tire outside of the vehicle to maximize liveable space
- Insulated as much as possible for winter months
- Power supply and inverter in order to charge camera's + laptops
In the photos above, you see our outdoor cooking setup. To begin, we built a raised bed in order to have food and cookware storage. We worked with my dad to build the two boxes you see at the back, they pull out and have legs which turn them into tables. We can then cook standing up with access to all our food.
On the back right of the van you can see a brown box. This is one of our main storage units - and its actually a crooked box. While designing the van layout, we realized that the dimensions of the van weren't a rectangle. In fact, the back of this box in width had to be a few inches narrower than the front. We had two choices: build a normal rectangle box which would leave a gap between the bed and box, or manage to build a crooked box with a working lid. We opted for the crooked box! It fits over the wheel well and gives us quite a bit of storage for our camping bags and some winter gear.
The back walls were built by the previous owner so we extended them to the front of the van. They're insulated, have a thin plywood layer, and have tongue-and-groove flooring on them which we stained to match the rest of the van.
To solve our bedding needs, Josh and I (6'5" and 6'1") sleep "downstairs". Our bed is just about Josh's length though perhaps a few inches short. We sleep on a 4" foam pad which is honestly as comfy as any bed I've slept on. For the winter months we used two down comforters and comfortably slept at -10 degrees for the first month. Getting out of bed was a different story!
Ben's dad, Barry, welded in a bunk bed above where Josh and I sleep. Ben sleeps in his 5'8" custom bunk. Its snug but comfy! He similarly sleeps on a foam pad and has some of our more permanent storage up there with him (medical kit, extra camping gear).
The box at the bottom of this picture is Ben's step-stool to get up to his loft. It's also our indoor cooking table, some food and cookware storage, card table, etc. As you can see, us as well as people we've met have been writing and drawing on it throughout our journey.
We found sheets at value village which my mom sew into curtains. Large front curtains allow us to stealth-camp as well as window curtains in all the rear windows.
The seat in the back is recycled from a UPS truck with a custom built mount and seat-belt fashioned by Barry. The two front seats swivel to face backwards so we can hang out facing each other!
We also wanted a touch of home with us, so we turned a New Brunswick flag into a headliner and fixed it above the driving area. Can you spot the goose which guides our way?
This wall was previously just a sheet of metal with vents open to the outside world. We sealed the bottom vents with sheets of tin, but for the larger vent we thought it would be nice to have a window for whoever was sitting in the back. Barry, perhaps the very next day, found a window the exact size at a scrap yard. It was meant to be.
Not pictured, we have 5 milk crates under the front-side of the bed which provide storage for all our climbing equipment and hiking shoes. We also have a total of 23L of water reservoir storage which allows us to spend a few days at a time wild-camping without having to find a water source.
Some other things we carry which provide some peace of mind:
- A tire pump + battery charging device. Its a small box which can inflate our tires when we're low, as well as provide jump starts in the event that we drain our battery.
- A solar shower and laundry bag (in warmer climate you can hang the solar shower from a tree to wash off and the laundry bag allows you to clean your clothes on the go). Truthfully we haven't used either as much as expected but they're handy to have.
- Extensive toolkit with tools for mostly any repair we might need to do ourselves.
- Medical kit
- A small assortment of clothes. If anyone is curious about this I can give more info, but after years of camping we each have a selection of versatile layers which have allowed us to camp and live in all conditions relatively comfortably. We mange to fit all of our clothes in the small cubbies you see in the slideshow above.
I'm sure I've forgotten some features but this is the gist of it. Most of what you see we built (with lots of help from friends and family) using as much recycled material as possible. As I've mentioned previously, Barry ensured we were mechanically sound, fixing many important systems in our van as well as tackling all the welding projects.
If anyone is curious about any specific element of our living, either because you're thinking of renovating your own van or out of curiosity, send me a message!
Bellow are two of the earliest photos I took in our building process. You can see that there's a bit of a wall, a bit of flooring, but no bunk bed, only two seats, and lots of work to be done.