Words: Justin Cafiero
We may have reached peak "adventuremobile" saturation. The livable vehicle concept is ingrained in popular culture like never before, with the rich and famous and Instagram influencers readily adopting the trend. Whether it's to truly experience all the vagabond lifestyle has to offer, sometimes it's hard to know for sure.
That said, nomadism has been an integral part of snowboarding from the beginning. There's something about life on the road that is appealing to our kind: chasing snow with the freedom to come and go as you please. Sleeping in a camper is one thing; building it yourself is another, and Ben Bilocq has been doing both for quite some time now. His interest was piqued when he went on a spring camping trip in a big RV. "I really liked it, but those things rely too much on generators and fuel," he remembers. "So as soon as I got home, I started searching for a beat-up camper-trailer to customize. It turned out to be way more work than expected, but I'm now working on my third personal camper and have helped out on a few others."
Bilocq moved to Whistler in 2006, and the single season he intended to stay for turned into over a decade. Now residing in Squamish, BC, he works a day job as a tile setter, with his remaining free time being divided between riding, surfing, skating, and his camper restoration projects. "The campers usually win," he remarks.
"Starting a new project is the best. My brain just won't stop thinking about it, and it's the best feeling," says Bilocq. He stresses the ease of underestimating the amount of time the process will take. "Usually about ten times the amount of time you might expect."
Typically the first step is to acquire an old rig with potential. Then all the rotten wood needs to be removed—often the whole floor and large chunks of the walls. Spending extra time on this step is worth it, as doing it right the first time will negate having to gut the thing again. "After that, you can build it back up as fancy or as rough as you want it; that's the beauty," Ben says. "I prefer reusing materials as much as possible to keep costs down. It also cuts down the amount of waste as well." And the best part about a custom rig? "Making it your own, customizing the details you add, and then getting to put it to use!" Of course, there's also the potential for the process to become all-consuming. Ultimately, for Bilocq, the end goal is a rig that is self-sufficient and able to be off the grid without a generator and using little propane.
Adding customizations like his own woodstove, and working with friends on their campers, Ben has an impressive and diverse list of projects under his belt. Longtime friend Louif Paradis planned to spend a month on the West Coast last spring and decided to buy a camper on his way out. "There were a few things that needed attention, so I invited him up to Squamish and helped him get everything in order just in time to get to Holy Bowly," says Bilocq. Ben also spent last summer completely refurbishing a Bigfoot truck camper for Jess Kimura that she drove down to Baja. "It probably took a month and a half of working on it every day, but it's holding up and she's been living it in all summer."
With work and camper projects occupying much of his time, while living further from the hill, Ben's riding days are chosen more carefully. He stays in contact with the Déjà Vu crew he grew up with, though time spent together is more limited, as many have kids and also hold down fulltime jobs.
This season, Bilocq filmed with Brendon Hupp for an upcoming Dinosaurs Will Die video and spent time in Japan. He also put in considerable time behind the lens with Jess Kimura and helping her with The Uninvited project as a creative director and producer, becoming heavily involved with the editing process, music selection, and much more.
It's understandable that newfound outside interest in something snowboarders have been doing out of necessity for years can draw skepticism. "About ten years ago, I had a "Day in the Life" video with ThirtyTwo, when I was living in my truck up at Mount Hood. Some people were judgmental, saying that I must stink and that I was a gypsy," Ben remembers. "Now it's all about hot yoga chicks on Instagram taking selfies in their Sprinter vans." It's interesting how cultural paradigms can shift. According to Ben, there are a wide range of people that own custom rigs. "It goes from the outdoor person who uses the shit out of their rigs and doesn't care whether or not the general population knows, to the Pinterest-type who seems to worry more about the color of their curtains and the geo-tag on their photos. One kind doesn't usually want to be mistaken for the other."