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Old 07-18-2017, 03:11 PM   #1
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Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 5
Austinite looking to learn more about expedition vans and small campers

Hi All,

My name is Charlie, I am from Austin, TX, and I am looking to learn all I can about vans and campers. My wife and I bought some property recently in Park County Colorado with the intention of building on it eventually, but camping on in the near-term.

We like camping out, but since the property doesn't have water or electricity, having a mobile base of operations with those things would be kinda handy for longer trips and/or times when we want to be out of the elements. We've been looking at bit at various RV options, but we don't want to spend a bunch and we'd rather not pull a trailer the ~1000 miles to/from Austin every trip (or leave one unattended for months at a time).

There are a few miles of dirt roads to get to the property that are not super well maintained, and the property itself does not (yet) have a proper driveway (or any improvements for that matter). A 2WD vehicle can get there fine in the summer, but in the winter is probably another story (not that we plan on doing a lot of camping in the winter).

We also have two dogs, and plan on starting a family pretty soon, so we'd like something that can accommodate ~3-4 people traveling, and isn't a total pain to park (both at home and in parking lots).

We've been toying with the idea of picking up a used luxury travel type van, but we went and looked at one recently and we think we want a bit more 'camper' than that. I am a relatively tall dude (6'2"), and so I'd prefer something I can lay down completely in, and potentially stand up in (less important).

I think our trips will be on the order of 5-14 days several times per year (spring-fall), with civilization pretty close by (Fairplay, CO is about 20 min away), but without immediate access to electricity, water, and wastewater. Our dream is to be able to stay on the property the whole time, but be able to cook/shower/use the bathroom. We can build up to a 200sqft shed without a permit, so there is the potential to store some camping gear there to avoid having to build all functionalities into the camper/van (e.g. larger composting/incinerating toilet, larger solar power charging system/array, shower stall).

We don't have a huge budget for a van/camper (ideally, <$15k), so used and/or self-built is definitely our market segment.

With all that said, what are your thoughts on:
-sportsmobile (or similar) type van vs. campervans like Pleasure Way etc.?
-Van (or vanbody type) vs. larger class B?
-2wd vs 4wd?
-What would you consider van necessities vs. 'nice to haves'?
-Any other random advice/recommendations?

I'd love to see some rigs in person to get a feel for different sizes/layouts, so if anyone is in/around Austin, let me know!

Cheers ,


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Old 07-18-2017, 04:07 PM   #2
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Location: Vacaville, just east of the San Francisco Bay Area
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Here's an out-of-the-box thought for you.

I live in CA and my van was built at SMB in Austin. I searched and found a college student willing to visit my build on a weekly basis and photograph progress. By offering to do the same you could get access to various builds in all stages of construction. You would be providing a service while at the same time increasing your knowledge of just what is possible. Like I said, just a thought....
“Flint” - 2016 SMB Sprinter 4x4 144" RB 150S w/ PH
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Old 07-18-2017, 04:28 PM   #3
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Location: Golden, CO
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Did you buy property near Hartsel? If so be ready for some bizarro stuff in that area. I would put that $15k into a guns, chicken, and pot plants so you can fit in with the rest of them out there.

Honestly I would buy a Class C RV for a site like that. A van is going to get cramped awfully quickly especially with two dogs and kiddos.
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Old 07-18-2017, 05:07 PM   #4
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Thanks for the replies! Good idea about the photography, though I am not much of a photographer, haha.

Simplesez: The property is off 285 between FairPlay and Como. One neighbor is super cool, and the others not around often enough to know. While I bet there are some characters, I don't think (hope?) it's nearly as 'bizarro' as Hartsel, haha.

The reason we are thinking van is due to:
-want to be able to park it in our driveway in Austin (not a giant driveway, rules against parking RVs in public view)
-use as a secondary vehicle in Austin (I mostly ride my bike places, could get rid of our current second car)
-use as a primary vehicle in CO, i.e. Not wanting to tow a car with us and/or leave one up there.
-property is on the side of a ridge. It is accessible by a class C, but it wouldn't be a lot of fun to get it in/out, and would require some substantial site work to make it readily parkable.

That said, I bet you're right about the space. I envision us camping in tents and spending most time outside in the beautiful mountain landscape, and potentially building and using a <200sqft shed as a bunk house/camp cabin while we're there.
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Old 07-18-2017, 05:17 PM   #5
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Ah I know where that is. I've got a friend with a place off Elkhorn Rd. The nice thing is that you will not need 4x4 to get around out there so a van could do the job.

you will want an ATV out there, the pedal biking isn't very good at all.

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Old 07-18-2017, 08:42 PM   #6
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Welcome Charlie. Your questions are common ones. I would just hang around here and read awhile. Most of the stuff you're curious about is discussed very often. Good crowd and good reading here, and of course naked chicks on tandem bikes. Could it get any better?

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