Swiss Room Box design camping kit based on Swiss Army Knife to turn any car into a camper van


The transformer films are getting worse every time one is released, but there influence on the world just keeps getting better.

Some clever designers (Michael Bay was not one of them) created this nifty kit that turns your car into a little camper van.

The Swiss Room Box folds out to form a table, chairs and a camping stove, and then when dinner time is over the kit can be transformed into a double bed.

Inspired by the design of the Swiss Army Knife, the design fits in any car, regardless of its size, and will work even if the car is parked on a slope.

A spokesperson from the company said: ‘Thanks to an ingenious modular system installed in the boot of your car, you can cook, eat, take a shower and sleep during your outdoor adventures.’

Pictured -The  Swiss Room Box that sits in the boot of a car and folds out to a bed and other useful tools. See Ross Parry copy RPYSWISS. This innovative idea will save you bags of V-ROOM as you convert your car into a camper. Whether at the side of a stream or the top of a mountain, the new Swiss Room Box revolutionises the motorhome and makes even the most compact of vehicles a dreamy place to stay. Modelled on a Swiss army knife, the design has a tool for every camping trip - including a double bed, a table and chairs and a camping stove.

Everything you could need, excluding an actual house (Picture: SWNS)

It of course has some limitations (by ‘shower’ they really mean ‘extendable tap’), but it does still seem like a handy luxury for any campers who love the outdoors but can’t stand being too far away from their car.

The unique design allows everything to be put together without the use of any tools, and when you’re done it all folds away again into the back of your car.

MORE: Worcestershire pub offers overnight camping to boozy customers

MORE: Carry on camping in the van that’s the ideal vehicle for music festivals

Pictured -The  Swiss Room Box that sits in the boot of a car and folds out to a bed and other useful tools. See Ross Parry copy RPYSWISS. This innovative idea will save you bags of V-ROOM as you convert your car into a camper. Whether at the side of a stream or the top of a mountain, the new Swiss Room Box revolutionises the motorhome and makes even the most compact of vehicles a dreamy place to stay. Modelled on a Swiss army knife, the design has a tool for every camping trip - including a double bed, a table and chairs and a camping stove.

The design fits snugly onto the back of the car (Pictured: SWNS)


Solar charging your car, camping or emergency batteries

ALEKO® 30W 30-Watt Monocrystalline Solar Panel

I wanted the option of solar charging my 12V batteries; I found it cheap and simple.

All you really need is a panel to collect and convert the energy, and a controller to send it to the battery at a safe current for charging!

You can just buy a kit and get all the parts you need in one click. I’ve found, however, that shopping for your own panel, controller and wiring gets you a nicer and more reliable set for about the same price. I have also standardized on the same quick-connect pigtails my pulse battery charger uses (and I’ve installed on my motorcycles and cars,) so I like to just buy the parts.

I chose the 30W panel for its ability to nearly, fully charge my 400W battery in 8 hours of decent sunlight. Most often I use the panel to charge this inverter/jumpstarter/air compressor while camping. I’ve made it two weeks without needing to plug the battery in to a wall, limited only by available time to keep camping, not the efficiency of the charging system. Make sure to pick the right size panel for your application!

All in all, the solar charging of 12V batteries is pretty simple.



Martin Dorey – Western Morning News interview

Working to enjoy life

By Mike Bramhall


Martin Dorey has a simple philosophy in life: work and reward. It’s one that has underpinned his busy, eventful life and has paved the way for countless adventures and time spent enjoying the Westcountry’s beautiful beaches.

Some might think the Cornwall-based surfer, writer, VW owner, cook and TV star has the perfect life, making the most of his family and the gorgeous coast and countryside of his adopted home. And they would be right.

But as workaholic Martin, 47, makes clear, he has earned every second of the time he spends exploring the coastal paths, coves and surfing spots of Devon and Cornwall, foraging for nature’s harvest and cooking up quirky culinary creations on his classic camper van stove.

It has also led him to his latest project, the Two Minute Beach Clean initiative, which is sweeping social media sites and attracting thousands of volunteers. But more of that later.

So who is Martin Dorey? The husband to Joanne and father of daughters Maggie, aged 11, and Charlotte – otherwise known as Charlie – aged 10, lives in Bude and sprang to national fame in 2010 when he presented a 10 part TV show One Man and his Camper Van on BBC2, which has since been shown all over the world.

The ‘star’ of the show, if not Martin, was his 35-year-old Volkswagen Type 2 camper van, affectionately known as Dave. And making up the Dorey clan is a seven-year-old dog of unknown origin called Bob. Also in 2010, he published the phenomenally successful The Camper Van Cookbook, subtitled Life on Four Wheels, Cooking on Two Rings.

Billed as ‘the book that no camper van or motorhome owner should be without’, it features almost 100 recipes for cooking on two rings, over a fire or on the barbecue and a few ideas for fireside drinks.

It was followed two years later by The Camper Van Coast, subtitled Cooking, Eating, Living the Life. This featured more than 100 new recipes to cook in a camper van, on the campsite or at home. Many are based on ingredients which can be found at the coast.

As Martin explained about his first best-seller: “This was a book I had wanted to write for a long time before I actually got the chance to write it.

“I love to cook but I’m not a chef, nor will I ever claim to be. But I do consider every meal to be part of my continuing education in food.

“My love of cooking and camping comes from half a lifetime’s worth of experience cooking and sleeping in vans, cars and under canvas whilst on surf trips, but it wasn’t until I began picking and cooking mussels from beaches near my house that I had the idea for The Camper Van Cookbook and it all started to come together.

“I wanted to share everything I’d learnt along the way. I wanted to share the joy of waking up to perfect surf, of camping in the wilds, of spending time with good friends, of eating well, of finding food and of getting off the sofa. It’s not much to ask is it? Simple pleasures like picking blackberries or walking the coast path should be celebrated more. It’s what makes us feel alive.”

All of which sums up his outlook on life. Now he spends his time writing articles about VWs, camping, food, fun and simple pleasures, and producing material for clients of his thriving digital, advertising and marketing Copy Monkey company, which is based in North Devon and has clients across the South West, UK and Ireland. Not to mention surfing and generally enjoying life wherever and whenever possible.

So how did Martin fall in love with Devon and Cornwall, and come to enjoy what to many must seem a dream existence?

He explains: “I have only had conventional jobs for about five years.

“I was born in Chalfont St Giles and was brought up in Buckinghamshire. When I was seven or eight, my family went to Bantham on holiday. I saw people surfing and thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen.”

He was bitten by the surfing bug. But first he went to college in Manchester to do a film production degree course. Still surfing at weekends in the North West, he graduated in 1989 and went to work in the film production industry in London as a runner in Soho.

Fed-up with life in London, he came to Cornwall and spent a summer working in a surf shop in St Ives, but went back after the season ended.

He returned to film production, which saw him end up travelling the world filming and making documentaries, and interviewing among many others Hollywood legends Lauren Bacall – “She was absolutely charming, a warm and funny human being” – and Kirk Douglas: “Interviewing him, that was awesome.”

Martin said: “It was amazing, a brilliant career to have, but pretty precarious.

“You worked really hard, then you took time off. I have this attitude that I would work extremely hard, then save up the points for when I was not working.

“It is about working really hard in order to have the things you want: namely freedom.

“I used to work all year, then the film industry would go quiet in December and January. That’s when I would go travelling.

“I did one job where I was working seven days a week for months, then I took several weeks off. It is all about work and reward.”

Finally, in 1996, Martin tired of his hectic lifestyle and took the decision to move from Notting Hill to Bradworthy in Devon.

He recalls: “It’s wild – a great place. I spent some time doing up a house, going to the pub and surfing.

“My wife moved to the South West in 1998, we got married and that’s when I started writing.”

After spells living in Northam, North Devon, and Horns Cross, near Clovelly, the family moved to Bude 18 months ago.

Martin said: “We would always spend time in Bude when we had time off. It’s fantastic.

“Now I run my company, and I am writing a film script. Since my books came out, I have been able to do more of that kind of work. My heart and soul went into those books.

“I was lucky enough to catch the moment with those books and TV show.

“This year I have been writing a series for MMM Magazine about Great British Adventures, which has taken me all over the UK in the name of work.

“We’ve climbed Snowdon, gone caving, ridden the Severn bore, been on Europe’s longest zip wire, cycled half the coast to coast, done stand up paddling, Segwayed and just about everything else. That’s been brilliant!”

So how does Martin like to spend his time off when he is not working?

“I love to get out in the camper van and go surfing, eating well and cooking. It has always been, for me, something that takes me out of everything.

“I enjoy packing a picnic with the kids, going onto a beach and having a surf. I adore St Ives and I love Bude – it’s absolutely brilliant. It has a really nice attitude and lovely people.

“Once you have earned something, you should enjoy it. I love having freedom, fun, simplicity – the good things in life.

“I really love the attitude of people in Devon and Cornwall who have fun and enjoy going to the beach every day. We should never under-estimate the power of that. We must remember how lucky we are to be in this wonderful place.

“My wife is studying nursing in Truro and is working really hard. I am supporting the family through my work. I am enjoying life and we do our best to enjoy time off.

“It’s that work and reward thing again.”

Top 10 winter camping and glamping breaks in the UK

Winter Pod, Langdale, Lake District A winter pod, Great Langdale, Lake District. Photograph: Rose Lord

Great Langdale, Cumbria

Winner of the Great Outdoors accommodation of the year award 2014, this campsite at the head of a valley is a beautiful spot for winter walks. But while hiking should keep you warm by day, a selection of cosy hideaways will keep you snug at night. Visitors can choose from double-glazed wooden camping pods, which include heating and lighting or, for those who want a more boutique outdoors experience, luxury yurts furnished with Moroccan-style rugs and throws, fairy lights, lanterns and a wood-burning stove. And with the Sticklebarn pub – known for its real ales and good local grub – nearby, you should be able to slip into a pretty comfortable routine in no time.
Standard pods from £35 a night (two adults, one child), 01539 432733,

Vanellus, Elmley national nature reserve, Isle of Sheppey, Kent

elmleyshephers hutssummer

In the stunning surroundings of the Isle of Sheppey nature reserve, Vanellus is a large shepherd’s hut. From the comfort of your abode (which is hooked up to electricity), you can gaze out through floor-to-ceiling windows as the sun rises and sets, watching birds of prey and other wildlife. The reserve can be explored on foot, or you can book a 4WD tour of the area. The farm has a lounge in a converted barn, where you can hang out or eat communally, but if you really can’t bear to step into the cold, you can have meals – including hot bacon rolls for breakfast – delivered to your door.
From £180 for a two-night stay (sleeps two), 0117 204 7830,

Inshriach shepherd’s hut, Inshriach House, Aviemore, the Cairngorms, Scotland

Inshriach glamping

Another shepherd’s hut, this time in the Highlands, where it really does get chilly come winter. Thanks to a Alles stove and a slate hearth, however, you should be able to keep toasty all year round. No expense has been spared on its interior, which has a mahogany table and a raised oak bed. The hand-built Swedish-style hut may be well insulated, but if you feel yourself in need of a deeper warmth, the wood-fired sauna made from a converted horsebox down on the riverside should do the trick. And if there’s snow, you may even be able to partake in a spot of ski touring, with the help of the estate’s owners.
From £150 for a two-night stay (sleeps two), 0117 204 7830,

The Cabin at Nant yr Onnen, near Llandovery, Wales

The Cabin glamping

The Cabin is an unusual octagonal wood structure, built by local craftsmen keen to make an eco-friendly home. The electricity supply, for example, is powered by the nearby stream. From the sheltered veranda you can enjoy views across the hills, and the surrounding countryside is perfect for walking all year round. Inside the cosy hut is a wood-burning stove, and you can also warm up in a recently built spring-fed hot tub.
From £85 a night throughout December (sleeps two), mulled wine available 15 Dec-4 Jan, 0117 204 7830,

Guilden Gate Glamping, Hertfordshire

Guilden Gate glamping

Campervan comforts … though the hammock may suit summer months better

Just 35 minutes by train from London, the Guilden Gate campsite is ideal for an easy rural family escape from the capital. Set in a woodland glade, a campervan is your main bedroom,and a bell tent can act as another bedroom, or a lounge. There’s also a huge wok-shaped hot tub, big enough for six adults. The site is close to Cambridge (20 minutes’ drive), so you can explore the city by day – if the icy countryside gets too much.
From £65 a night (sleeps four, minimum two-night stay), 01763 243960,

Baby Moon, Dunsdale, North Yorkshire

Baby Moon glamping

If the “magic herb garden” doesn’t tempt you, maybe the chance to meet a chicken named Lady Gaga will be enough to get you booking. Just 10 minutes’ drive from the coast, the bohemian site offers its visitors a host of creative activities, including classes from knitting to yoga and therapies including reiki and Indian head massage. There’s also a wide choice of richly decorated, cosy and very groovy places to sleep, including yurts inspired by Mexican divas, fairy tales and the intriguingly named “hippy hippy shake” tent.
£95 a night (sleeps four/five), 07764 928487,

Circus wagon, near Llangrannog, Ceredigion, Wales

Circus wagon, near Llangrannog, Ceredigion, Wales

A colourful, romantic and unique place to stay, this restored circus wagon is one of just three identical carts built in 1946. The opportunity to bed down in what was the home of a troupe of acrobats, and later a clairvoyant, is difficult to pass up and the two-person carriage provides a warm, snug place to stay during the winter. Inside is a fully kitted-out kitchen and next door is a shepherd’s hut that has been converted into a shower room. An electric heating system will keep you warm inside the oak-panelled bedroom, which boasts a full-size double bed.
From £179 a night (sleeps two), 0844 5005 101,

Wowo campsite, Wapsbourne, Sussex

WOWO glamping

Surrounded by woodland and a brook, Wowo offers year-round camping – as well as a wide range of impeccably decked out yurts, shepherd’s huts, tipis and bell tents for anyone wanting some rustic comfort. The site itself has a festival atmosphere: there are regular workshops and acoustic music performances and campers are encouraged to make their own campfires to keep warm … and cook their dinner on. For an extra-special stay, book into one of the yurts on the “tipi trail”, a secluded section of the campsite in woodland, where you can enjoy the soothing sound of running water.
Prices vary according to accommodation. Bell tents start at £156 for two nights midweek (sleeps family of four). The Gypsy wagon starts at £124 for two nights’ stay midweek (sleeps two adults and one child), 01825 723414,

Heather Hut, Hesleyside Huts, Bellingham, Northumberland

Hesley huts

The rustic wood exterior of this shepherd’s hut (one of two on the estate) transforms into a world of cosiness once you step through the door. Inside are all the luxuries you’d hope for, especially on a cold winter’s night: a wood-fired oven and hotplate, en suite shower, wood-burner and electric lighting. The king-size bed is tucked into the far end of the tastefully decorated hut and there’s a fold-down bunk suitable for children. Entertainment in this neck of the woods takes the form of campfires in the fire pit outside and stargazing; telescopes are provided.
From £150 for a two-night stay (sleeps two adults and one child), 0117 204 7830,

The Roundhouse, Somerset

Roundhouse GoGlamping

It’s probably pushing the limits of what you can even class as “glamping” but we realise that for some, winter really is not the time to shirk on home comforts. This hand-crafted wooden roundhouse, in the grounds of an organic farm near Bath, is a palatial hidey-hole with a grand four-poster bed as the centrepiece. And that’s not all, the en suite cabin also contains a classic roll-top bath, a 1940s Rayburn stove, a well-equipped kitchen and a couple of sofas. Still, the countryside is right outside your door, with the 40-acre farm and nearby woodlands to explore. Home produce, including veggie and pork sausages are also available to guests.
From £41 a night (sleeps up to four, minimum stay three nights),

What’s a Subagon?


Subagon is a VW Vanagon made more reliable, faster, safer and very attractivre.  If you love your Vanagon but it runs like a Vanagon, we can help. If you don’t have a Vanagon but want the coolest one out there on the road…Call Subagon.
We convert client vans and we also build our own ultimate Subagons for sale. Either way we love what we do and we work really hard to make your van the best we can.

Our Subaru Vanagon conversions consist of top quality VW Vanagons, Syncros, Westfalias, Transporter Single Cabs and Double Cabs combined with the ultimate in reliable engines from Subaru. Conversions range from the 135HP Subaru 2.2L, (CA LEGAL) to the 175HP 2.5L , the H6 3.0 motor and the 230HP 3.3L Subaru. With any of these fine motors you will notice a huge improvement in your Vanagon performance. From the smooth delivery of power, to reliability, to the sound of the engine, you will not be disappointed in your Subagon Subaru Vanagon conversion.

A little about the SVX:
The Subaru SVX was a vehicle built by Subaru from 1992 – 1997 and was the precursor to the WRX. The SVX engine is a 3.3 Liter, 4 cam  230HP Motor. It has 4 valves per cylinder and four cams driven by a toothed belt. This a non-interference engine, meaning that it will not self destruct if the cam belt breaks. It features an engine management computer capable of learning as you drive with input from crank and cam position sensors, two knock sensors, two oxygen sensors and it controls the spark, fuel injectors, and timing. It has no distributor, cap, rotor, or plug wires. The stock horsepower is rated at 230 at 5400 RPM and has a stock redline of 7000.  The SVX motors are so reliable that they are used in many airplanes today. We don’t know many pilots that would put the original Waterboxxer a plane. If they did I would not ride in it…

What we do is we remove the stock 70 – 110 HP VW motor and install the superior Subaru using a special adapter plate to the VW transmission. We then install or build the any of the many other upgrades you can dream of.  See build menu

We strive to furnish you with the best quality, best looking and best performing Vanagon we can. We are not magicians or super humans, thus things will break and we will make mistakes (remember, these vans are 20+ years old.)  That said we work hard and do the absolute best we can to make your ride safe, reliable and fantastic looking.

Hippie VW Kombi part of the family

With their peace, love and Volkswagen Kombi van the spirit of the 60s is alive and well in the Goodhue household.

United by their fervour for time gone by, the Taranaki family delight in all things retro, but child of the hippy era, Bryan Goodhue, says in addition to bonding over records and gramophones, he and wife Raechel, together with their, children Isabel and Hamish, also share a passion for camping.

This makes the 1964 Volkswagen Kombi a compatible choice of camper for the family of four who delight in the gypsy lifestyle.

The well utilised split screen van captures the essence of minimalism and when navigating New Zealand’s highways or parked up alongside the beach, the VW provides the family with the means to wash away the complexities of day-to-day life.

“It offers us a less complicated life,” he says.

“And it’s become a hub for reconnecting with each other.”

The Kombi van, which sleeps four, has become an extension of the Goodhue family. Every summer the beach-loving family either hits the road in it on a camping expedition, or use it locally to transport their beach essentials.

“We are at the beach once or twice a day so we’ll fill it up with our surfboards. And then it has a fridge and everything else in it, so it really just becomes a base for us,” says the Volkswagen enthusiast.

The green VW, which was redecorated with hippie memorabilia for a Millennium party, was purchased locally by the Goodhues 16 years ago for the bargain price of $300.

A past owner had salvaged the Kombi from the back of a truck heading for a wrecker’s yard in Wellington, and he transported the broken down van to Taranaki to restore.

“I’m pretty sure it never made it to the road and when I eventually got it it had no engine in it,” explains Bryan Goodhue.

He worked around the clock tackling the bottom 15 centimetres of rust and installing a 1600 twin port engine and a new braking system before the New Zealand-assembled Kombi was roadworthy.

In addition he carried out a combination of camping conversions by installing a pop-top and making various changes to the interior.

“It’s no trailer queen but mechanically it’s pretty good,” he says.

The Goodhue’s history with the iconic German camper stretches back nearly three decades to when Bryan and Raechel first met one another and together purchased their first Kombi.

Eventually the couple went on to sell their 1962 split screen before later acquiring a more recent model, which would then also be placed on the market after it became a struggle to drive for Raechel, who at the time was pregnant with their first child.

“We were using it as our daily driver and with her big belly she found it difficult to steer.”

Following the sale of their second Kombi the pair experienced their first camper-less summer.

“We couldn’t do it again, we knew we had to get another one straight away.”

And not long after the birth of Isabel, the hippie-van found its way into the Goodhue life and for this reason the Kombi now goes under the moniker of Bellie’s Bus.

“Our kids have been brought up in it, that’s all they know,” says Bryan.

“It’s filled with memories, just like all Kombis – if you can pass a Kombi and not have a giggle then something’s wrong.”

– Taranaki Daily News


A-Team van voted ‘most iconic’



The black and grey van used by The A-Team in the hit 1980s series and subsequent film has been voted the most iconic van in TV and cinema history.

In a poll by Auto Trader, the two-tone GMC Vandura, complete with red stripe and spoiler, was chosen by a third of respondents over other famous rides to win the van-tastic title.

German manufacturer Volkswagen took both third and fourth position in the Auto Trader poll, with the VW camper van in Lost and the camper van featured in award-winning Little Miss Sunshine both receiving 11% of the vote.

Children’s TV favourites clearly still hold their place in the heart of UK motorists. Postman Pat’s famous red van, complete with black and white cat (Jess), came second in the poll (14%), with the Mystery Machine, driven by Fred, Shaggy, Daphne and Velma to solve supernatural mysteries in Scooby Doo, getting 6% of the vote.

Most iconic van of all time, as voted by Auto Trader users:

1. The A-Team van 33%

2. Postman Pat’s van 14%

3. VW campervan (Lost) 11%

4. VW campervan (Little Miss Sunshine) 11%

5. Mystery Machine (Scooby Doo) 6%

6. Dad’s Army van 5%

7. Cheech and Chong’s van 2%

8. Mutt Cutts (Dumb and Dumber) 1%


Nick King, director of research at Auto Trader, said: “Every on-screen hero or villain needs a memorable mode of transport. From Dad’s Army to Postman Pat it is clear the memory of these vehicles stays with us long after we have watched them on screen.

“Fans of these much-loved shows have been known to take inspiration from the big screen when looking for their next set of wheels online.”



Couple circles globe in 30-year-old VW camper van

After being ejected from their countryside campground by local police, Brad and Sheena are taken in by a Buddhist monastery and allowed to camp next to the temple. Near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: Brad And Sheena Van Orden, Drive Nacho Drive / Drive Nacho Drive

“The world isn’t as big as you think it is.”

Easy for Brad and Sheena Van Orden to say.

The Seattle couple just drove a 30-year-old Volkswagen camper van around the globe, logging some 48,000 miles on its aged odometer.

Their 2½-year road trip took them to 34 countries and resulted in two books’ worth of experiences in foreign geography and common humanity. Along the way they built a sizable following on social media and shared much of their adventure in near-real time with people who followed their wheeled trek.

After a long while spent stuck in the mud on India's border with Pakistan, a man arrives on an antique tractor and succeeds in freeing Nacho from the quagmire. Photo: Brad And Sheena Van Orden, Drive Nacho Drive / Drive Nacho Drive

The last stop on the couple’s round-the-world drive, and the place where they decided to park the van for now: Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood.

The plan

Part of the motivation for the adventure came from tragedy.

During a ten day strike by Maoist rebels in which the entire country of Nepal is prohibited to drive, Nacho joins a military convoy and is deposited in the heart of the Himalayas. Once free of the convoy, the treacherous road, not Maoist petrol bombs, becomes the real danger. Langtang Valley, Nepal. Photo: Brad And Sheena Van Orden, Drive Nacho Drive / Drive Nacho Drive

A friend was killed in an avalanche. The loss was a strong reminder of how brief life is and a challenge to get out to see the world. Shortly after the tragedy, Brad, 31, saw an article about a couple who drove to South America, along the Pan-American Highway, in a van.

Brad, who was working as a mechanical engineer, pitched the idea of a round-the-world trip to Sheena, 30, who was working in accounting. They had traveled together before but never enough to satisfy their urge to explore. Previous travels only left them wanting more.

Sheena’s immediate response to Brad’s idea was an enthusiastic yes.

Their plan: To circle the globe, slowly, while discovering culture, food, recreation and emergency roadside Volkswagen maintenance.

The van

Nacho and crew arrive at the complex of ruins of Angkor Wat near Siem Reap, Cambodia. Photo: Brad And Sheena Van Orden, Drive Nacho Drive / Drive Nacho Drive

Brad and Sheena worked and saved money for two years while living in Flagstaff, Ariz. During that time the couple — harnessing Brad’s engineering background and lots of sweat and patience — transformed an aged VW camper into an enviable, yet low-key, travel machine.

They bought the Westfalia — which they named Nacho — from a children’s songwriter in Hollywood, Calif. It already had 276,000 miles on it.

Working together, they gutted the interior and modeled the body of the van using computer software. A CNC machine was then used to cut new, custom cabinetry, and the interior was updated with many comforts of home. They added solar-electric power and a false floor which covered a sophisticated water purification system Brad designed.

To help with comfort, they built a water system that took heat from the engine coolant and allowed them to take hot showers under the rear hatch of the van.

“I didn’t intend to do all the changes,” said Brad while sipping coffee in Seattle recently. “But I had idle hands and an engineering degree.”

The resulting home on wheels became so much more than one of the vagabond vehicles that VW vans are known as.

A group of camels sip water and watch the silly humans and their wheeled machine stuck in the mud. Pakistani border, Gujarat, India. Photo: Brad And Sheena Van Orden, Drive Nacho Drive / Drive Nacho Drive

Restoring and improving the van also taught them how to turn wrenches and get greasy, skills that were quite useful while on the road. The van carried a roof-top box of spare parts that included everything from spare wheel bearings, CV joints, belts, hoses, an alternator, brake parts and an assortment of other items that would be difficult to find in remote, developing countries.

The van is not one of the four-wheel-drive Syncro models that are so popular – and expensive – in the Northwest. And in some parts of the world the roads they traveled in their two-wheel-drive van resembled hiking trails more than highways.


So Brad and Sheena had to use the skills they learned as competitive mountain bike racers and relied on the momentum of the 6,000-pound vehicle and the line they chose to make it along seemingly impossible roads. They would also let air out of the tires to get increased traction. “It’s amazing what 12 p.s.i. can get you across,” said Brad.

They also completed the journey without air conditioning, crossing some of the world’s great jungles and deserts. Not having chilled air helped them better acclimate to the local environment. “We tried to do what the locals do,” Brad said.

Traveling in the van eliminated many of the things that can make traveling exhausting. “We didn’t have to stay in hotels or use public transportation. We could close our curtains at night and sleep in our home on wheels,” said Sheena.

But traveling in a 93-horsepower, mildly temperamental van still offered challenges.

The journey

During their travels, Brad and Sheena accomplished many of their original goals of discovery. They were immersed in local cultures, ate local food, enjoyed the world they discovered and became experts at emergency roadside maintenance.

They also had some harrowing moments, such as when Maoist rebels in Nepal led a general strike.

Their van was one of the few vehicles on the roads in Kathmandu as transportation was shut down and people took to the streets. Eventually, after three hours of driving out of the city, they became part of a military convoy because of attacks along the road by the Maoists.

And after being left by the convoy, they ended up on a cliffside road in the Himalayas, hundreds of feet above a valley. They had to drive the van as if they were on a technical mountain biking trail, using momentum and hoping the tires didn’t leave the path. That terrifying road (shown in the gallery above) prompted Sheena and a friend, who joined them temporarily, to get out and walk as Brad worked to keep the van from sliding down the hillside. But even with the concentration of terrifying moments there, Nepal stood out as a place rich in culture and trekking opportunities.

During their day-long drive without a road along the Pakistani border, Brad attempts a river crossing and fails, proving that water and clay combine to form an insurmountable obstacle for Nacho's two-wheel-drive. Soon a group of men emerge out of nowhere with a bucket of peanuts and nothing else to do but sit and watch. Photo: Brad And Sheena Van Orden, Drive Nacho Drive / Drive Nacho Drive

“All of our safety issues were more about bad roads we ended up on. It was never about the people,” said Sheena. “If you put in your mind that people are out to get you it changes your experience because you are looking for the negatives,” she said.

After their transmission gave out in a remote section of Colombia, Brad asked the village mechanic if he could borrow a jack.

When Brad later returned to his van after making a phone call, the mechanic and a local hotel owner had started removing the engine and transmission, leaving it hanging by the electrical harness. They had also removed parts of the brakes and a wheel. But the situation also showed another side of people as a local farmer recognized the situation Brad and Sheena were in, and helped them take back their broken van from the sketchy mechanic late at night.

The farmer then let them keep the broken van on his property while they figured out how to repair it. It took them two months and a trip back to the United States to get Nacho moving again. Their friendship with the farmer and his family continues.

“It ended up not being so much about the places we went, but more about the people that we met,” said Brad.

As they found Internet access along their route, Brad and Sheena would update a blog and Facebook page. Their writing style and description of their adventures along the way helped them gain thousands of followers.

“There is a community that comes along with these vans,” said Brad.

After shipping the van across the Pacific from South America, they traveled through Asia, where VW vans are quite popular. When they drove into Bangkok they were greeted by about 25 of the vans, arranged like a royal welcome ceremony. While in Thailand, they also had help getting a new engine, swapping out the old 93-horsepower VW turtle for a 165-horsepower Subaru power plant — for a fraction of the cost of the modification in the United States.

They experienced similar guidance and welcomes as they traveled across Turkey and into Europe. They are shy about admitting it, but their trip turned them into celebrities in the overland adventure community.

The couple arrives in southern Laos in time for monsoon season. The land floods, turning Nacho into an uglier version of a Venetian gondola. Photo: Brad And Sheena Van Orden, Drive Nacho Drive / Drive Nacho Drive

Back home

As they traveled, Brad and Sheena realized that many of the people following their journey were from the Pacific Northwest. The vans are popular in the wet climate as adventurers and families seek to get into the great outdoors. They recognized that Seattle already had a built-in community for them. So upon their return to the U.S., they headed to the Northwest.

As they settle now into a Ballard apartment, they admit they are having some travel withdrawals. Brad is working with a European finance tech company looking to expand into North America. Sheena is searching for work in accounting. Together they are writing the second of two books to come from the adventure. The book should be done in the next few months

You can buy the book about the first half of their journey, from the U.S. to the tip of South America here.

You can learn more about their journey on their website here.

Here are the countries they traveled to in order: Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, India, Nepal, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Canada and the United States.

VW Tristar Concept vehicle -Paris Car show 2014

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The Volkswagen Tristar concept that world premiered at the IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hanover recently has been presented at the VW Group Night in Paris. Designed to mark the 30th anniversary of the first Syncro concept, the Tristar is an extended cab pickup based on the Transporter. Designed as an off-road vehicle, the concept is equipped with an aggressive exterior that is accentuated with plastic body cladding, a 30mm increased ride height and 17-inch alloy wheels shod with off-road tires. The concept is also endowed with a sportier front fascia featuring a revised grille, LED headlamps and a winch. The cabin is appointed with sharp wrap around lines and the monolithic dashboard reminds of the earlier models of the VW Transporter. It includes premium leather seats and metallic accents. The concept leaves its driver with a 20-inch tablet and state-of-the-art video conferencing and sound systems .The driver and passenger seats are turnable and slidable, with the Tristar even featuring an espresso machine. The concept is powered by a 2.0-liter TDI engine that produces 201 bhp and 450 Nm of torque a t 1,400 rpm, paired to a seven-speed DSG transmission and a 4MOTION all-wheel drive system. The car can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in 10 seconds and achieve a top speed of 115miles per hour. The Volkswagen Tristar concept is a mobile command centre with off-road capabilities.  Look past the rugged exterior, and you can easily see the next generation Transporter(T6) that will launch in 2015. 2014-Paris-Auto-Show-Volkswagen-Group-Night-706-600x375 Unveiled in the presence of German rock band “The Scorpions”, the Tristar is compared by VW with a Swiss Army knife, as the concept vehicle combines extreme off-road capabilities with flexible transport and storage capacities, making the Tristar equally suitable as a mobile workshop, a mobile high-tech office or a surf mobile. The load can be distributed on two separate levels: on the flatbed and in a spacious, dust-proof and watertight drawer under the flatbed section, where a deep-tread spare tire is also housed. VW-Tristar-concept-rear-quarter-at-the-2014-Paris-Motor-Show At 4,788 mm (188.5in) long, 2,320 mm (91.3in) wide and 2,066 mm (81.3in) tall, the Tristar is a pickup truck with an extended cab, styling bar and short wheelbase, fitted with a permanent 4Motion four-wheel drive system with mechanical rear axle differential lock and 30 mm (1.18in) additional ground clearance. The new T6, which will heavily resemble this concept, is rumoured to have its global debut at next year’s Geneva Motor Show.