I want a van. Heck, I want a lot of things, but a van is near the top of the list. Last summer I visited the kind folks at Wayfarer Vans in Colorado Springs. (I did not photograph the vans, their site will show you what you need to see.) Wayfarer makes plug-and-play van systems that install brilliantly in a Dodge Promaster(amongst other models) in roughly three hours, and at a price that will put a smile on your face. Well, you might not smile but you surely won’t grimace like you are staring at the price tag of a kitted out Sprinter van.
Each year Wayfarer has an owner weekend where van owners come from all over the country to camp, hang out and open up their vans to people like me. There are many things to love about these vans. First, I like the people who run the company. They remind me of people I knew when I was younger, and they are kind, informative and incredibly laid back. Not to mention they are cyclists, hikers, campers, paddlers, etc.
I also like the fact their system is simple. It’s clean, operational, functional and doesn’t waste on gadgets that none of us need. I also love the fact you can get a new van, with a full install of the Wayfarer kit, at a reasonable price and be on your way to the wild in the same day.
We drove up and camped for two and a half days. I drove the Tacoma, pitched my ancient and partially melted North Face tent and we settled in to meet the van owners and explore the possibility of becoming owners ourselves, something I think will happen in the next six months if we can somehow find a place to live here in Santa Fe. There is still much to do.
Wayfarer reserved Hutchinson Ranch, which is a beautiful spot on the South Arkansas River, just west of Salida. Roughly forty vans made the scene, some coming as far as New Jersey. There were small vans, medium vans and even a few of the largest model, all of which were modified to their respective owners.
Don’t get me wrong, I like my Tacoma, but the ease and functionality of a van is another reality entirely. You pull up to your location of choice and you are good to go. You can cook, sleep, work or hang out without leaving the van. And, all your tools, toys and kit are inside and locked away. When I show up in the Tacoma it looks like the truck rolled over as the debris field of tent, bikes, and supplies stretch around the entire truck. And, I can’t leave anything anywhere without repacking for fear of it disappearing. Throw in rain, bugs and no place to work and you realize we are talking apples and oranges.
Now, the Tacoma is a serious 4×4 and can get me to places there is NO possible way to find in the van. The Promaster is a 2×2 only with a low rear axle, so this would limit my ability to hit more remote locations. I can’t decide if I’m going to keep the Tacoma or sell it. If the transmission was good I would keep it for sure, but the transmission is HORRIBLE which makes me think I will part with my great tan beast. But time will tell.
Why not rent a van? Good question. We could, but now that we live in New Mexico the van is something we would use all the time, so continuing to rent would get even costlier and logistically challenging. There are no van rentals in Santa Fe or the ABQ that I can find that offer what we want. I know I can rent a van out of Colorado but that isn’t doable most of the time.
Stay tuned for more data on this little development. Until then, get out there and if you are interested in a van make sure to check out what the folks at Wayfarer are up to.
It was a pleasure meeting you and your wife again during the Wayfarer weekend. I will continue to explore this incredible website, from your photos to podcasts and thank you for sharing your wisdom and passion, to say the least I am inspired. Hope your van dreams come true sooner than later. See you on the road!
We loved meeting you both and also enjoyed the photography conversation. Hope to be “with van” by spring. Much to do out there. Let us know if you want to come to New Mexico. We can craft some adventures!
We certainly will, we are headed from Cali to Texas around February/March for the second stretch of our trip and plan on stopping in NM, we will keep in touch!
Hey Dan – As an interim solution, have you looked at rooftop tents for the truck? No need to clear a level spot for the tent, and setup/breakdown is a lot quicker. Just folds up with the mattress and sleeping bags inside, plus you have more room in the back of the truck for gear. No groundsheet to mess with and no worries about ground drainage and (less) worry about critters getting inside.
I’m looking to get one for my Outback soon, as it’ll be perfect for the 2-3 day photo trips I like to do in the desert. Cheers!
Yes. Am looking at it now. I’ve looked at the full range, but might just go for something simple. The rooftop tent is a good middle ground, for sure. I’ve already got crossbars, Yakima, and can put their tent up there no problem although I might add a third crossbar. It’s nice to be off the ground, plus it frees me up to keep things in the truck.
I hope you won’t mind me pointing out that buying a new vehicle because the one you have isn’t perfect and you have too much stuff is rather the antithesis of your admirable concerns about the state of the environment and society.
I really enjoy your work here- thanks!
Good point. But it’s more complicated than that. First, there would be one vehicle at the end, not two. So a switch not an addition, at least I think so at this point. Also, I don’t have too much stuff, far from it, but it’s about WHERE the stuff lives.(I’ve been living out of a duffle bag for the last two months.) Inside or out. Outside stuff disappears in short order. Inside stuff, a far better chance of it not being stolen. The van also impacts where we live, which right now is a 450 square foot casita, which if we have the van is probably doable for us to live long term. Without the van, it won’t work. Both my wife and I work from home, so if the van becomes her studio we can make it work. It not, we are stuck trying to find another studio which means more resources and not just financial. As for my stuff…one bike, which has greatly reduced my gasoline expenses after moving to New Mexico. My sleeping bag is over fifty years old, my tent over twenty-five. I actually don’t like buying new things unless they are built to last and fit in an overall strategy. My wife, however, is a collector of all things so I gotta be flexible. But to your point, the fact that we have the time to even consider any of this means we are lucky ones. Maybe the 1% depending on your point of view.
Makes sense to me!