To embark on this 8 year journey, it’s going to take some serious planning. We’ve had to map a route (have you seen the picture of our world atlas online yet? She’s a biggin!), research all the places along the way we plan to stop, figure out how much money it’s going to cost in fuel and groceries, where we can fuel up along the way and how easy it would be to remain inconspicuous when you’re in a city and living in the van. We also had to research the type of transportation we are going to be using to live out of for the next 8 years. That’s a long time; 8 years. Making that decision was definitely not easy. Bronson researched every vehicle under the sun.
We didn’t want to spend $150k on a Sportsmobile, we needed more space than a regular 4WD lifted van, we even went the route to try to find a VW Westfalia with a pop-up and considered an old short school bus. After looking at all of these vehicles and not being satisfied with any of the designs or chassis, we decided to go ahead and get a cargo van and have the interior built for our needs. Since we’ll be in it for 8 years, we want it to be comfortable. It also needs to be rugged since we’ll be on nearly inaccessible roads. We need a shorter wheel base and more head space. We also want it to be easy to clean with 3 of us and a dog, it’s bound to get very messy. It needs to accommodate a bed that will sleep us and a separate bed to fit the kiddo. We want it to be essentially a mini-RV, only built with better quality to withstand the beating it will take on the road and we need it to easily fit in a shipping container for when we plan to go to different continents.
We decided to use the Nissan NV 3500. Since it doesn’t come fitted with AWD or 4WD, we have to purchase it and take it to Advanced 4 Wheel Drive in Salt Lake City, Utah to have the drive train pulled and replaced with a 4WD system. That’s going to take 3 months. This is one of only 2 companies that can switch out the 4WD system without voiding the 5 year 100k mile warranty on the vehicle and also guarantee the same manufacturer warranty as Nissan.
Today we met with the team that is going to be retrofitting our van, Tahoe VanWorks. We discussed tons of options and configurations. This team is going to make it specific to how we use the van to function in our everyday lives on the road. This company stands by their work and warranties all work done (sans crashing the vehicle) for 10 years. They are very meticulous about the work they do and because they are that meticulous, they are expecting the build to take approximately 7 months. We decided to go with this company for a couple of reasons.
First, they guarantee all work done for 10 years. If anything breaks, they fix it for free. Second, they are highly trained mechanical engineers who have worked for Boeing for many years, making sure the welds hold on airplanes and that all the mechanical moving parts are tested, tried and true. Third, they are straight forward and don’t try to force you to buy any particular product because they don’t have any manufacturer they work with that provides them anything. Everything they make in their craft shop is specific to the space with collaboration between them and their clients. And fourth, they’re local. When they have questions about a particular area of the build, or if they need input on changing the layout to make better accommodations, we can actually go and see the van in its production and decide whether we like the configuration or if it needs to change. They can make the changes without hassle and they don’t use prefabricated interiors. Everything will be specific for the design with tons of forethought put into every aspect of building up our new living quarters.
We’ve compiled a list of things we want to have in the space and it’s as small or smaller than a tiny house. It’s up to this company to make it happen. There will definitely be some compromises that will need to be made, but as the space gets built up, we’ll be able to see what is actually feasible with the space we have. We will be living in 323 square feet and the things we want to put in it to make it self contained, off grid and livable will need to be strategically placed. That should pose a significant nightmare for Tahoe VanWorks because our list is long and the need is great. Here are the things we want built in:
Mat solar panels
Lithium Ion batteries (longer battery life and less space and weight and can power the vehicle if our battery runs out for some reason)
water tanks and pump
Gas powered heater
Low current AC/fans
Heavy Duty Alternator
Front Steel bumper with Winch
Rear steel bumper with tire mount and gas can mount (maybe the generator will go here too)
Ladder to access the roof
detachable roof rack
tow hitch for our bikes
magnetic curtains for privacy
3 built in cabinets for clothes
Space in the back for storage bins
LED interior and exterior lighting
Sump pump with water filtration system to fill our water tanks from streams, rivers or lakes and a secondary system for micro-filtration against bacteria, viruses, and other microbes that like to hang out in dirty water.
4 stage battery management system
Kill switch (so nobody can steal the vehicle)
So there it is in a nutshell. Now it’s time to start making our way to downsizing, wish us luck. Garage sales abound!