"There are a lot of elements to keep in mind on mobile creations like weight, materials, moving parts. It makes building a normal house seem easy."
Words: Taylor Boyd
Photos: Ben Gavelda
Ben Gavelda once sat at a desk. But you see, Ben likes being in the mountains more than he likes talking about being in them, so, like many others in the snowboard industry, his stint in Southern California met its end as a result. He left the beach and his associate editor role at this very publication and returned to higher elevations and cooler temperatures. His seasons since have been spent following pow, banging nails in the summer to afford this wintertime chase, subsidized by his continued freelance editorial endeavors. Gavelda is involved in the snowboard industry for the reason anyone should be, snowboarding, and after putting together plenty of these features himself, it's time his own mobile living endeavor gets some shine. This is what Ben has been up to when he's not on the job site, smashing pillows, snapping a shutter, or writing about someone else's rig.
VEHICLE: I started with a 16' x 8' dual-axle trailer and ended up rebuilding the whole thing. I stripped it down then replaced the axles, leaf springs, hardware, wheels, tires, wiring, lights and brakes then modified it a bit and painted it. I was debating building out a cargo trailer but was stuck on this layout. Cargo trailer interior heights are really low, and you can't insulate them as much either. The rest is a 16' x 8' x 8' box off a delivery truck. I went up to a place in Denver that sells them, and they forklifted it onto the trailer. I bolted it on in their yard. I was pretty nervous because it was a six-hour drive home, and I hoped I measured everything right. In hindsight, I should've ordered a custom cargo trailer or changed my layout. Registering and insuring it was a process; so was getting it to tow safe and smooth.
PHILOSOPHY: The root of this project was to be closer to the mountains and make exploring them easier and more comfortable. I sought to create a small, mobile, efficient, winter-ready, low-key vessel. I'm kind of a camper nerd and sought to put what've learned over the years into this. I wanted it to be nondescript, yet nice and cozy inside and capable of being remote for weeks at a time. Hauling a trailer can suck, but I like the ability to park it and have a home base. Mike Basich has been a friend and inspiration over the years; he's such an incredibly creative person and great to bounce concepts off of. Seeing what Jason Robinson did with the box and trailer gave me some ideas too.
PROCESS: Work construction fulltime, so I'd do that all day then come home and chip away on this 'til I passed out. Custom and intricate builds like this take so much time. I did everything except for the spray-foam insulation, the stainless steel countertop, and some of the welding. I fully rebuilt a Four Wheel Camper before, and I've learned so much from both. There are a lot of elements to keep in mind on mobile creations like weight, materials, moving parts. It makes building a normal house seem easy. I enjoy repurposing materials. Marine-grade stuff is definitely the way to go for any kind of mobile build. Building the back and side doors from scratch was challenging, but they turned out well.
AMENITIES: It has a queen bed and a couch which folds into a full-size bed for guests. There's a 130-liter fridge that runs on DC, a mini wood stove, and a thermostat-controlled garage heater. The reason for two heaters is that propane is a wet heat, its byproduct is water, and in a small space combined with wet gear, that equals a lot of conden-sation. A wood burner is a dry heat, which rules for drying out gear. I put in a 4-burner battery spark range with an oven. I love cooking and wanted to be able to pump out good food. There's an on-demand hot water heater with a showerhead and a decent size sink. I put in a 500-watt solar setup with a 500-amp hour battery bank, inverter, a few 110v outlets and a lot of USB ports. I wanted to be able to run the refrigerator, charge computers, phones, cameras, radios, and all sorts of other electronic crap for shooting missions, plus I knew in winter there wouldn't be a lot of sun.
LIVING: I've only taken it out a once so far, and after all this work I'm really looking forward to using it. I have been blown away at how insulated it is. It barely takes any heat to warm up, and it stays toasty. I tried to maximize storage space to keep it clean and uncluttered and have guests stay. When the deck is folded down it doubles the floor space and offers a sweet outside hang spot. Having the whole back be a window is cool; you really get to feel the outside. I nixed the composting toilet because I ran out of space. That's one downside. I do have some room under the dressers where I could make a poo dungeon though.
FUTURE: Have a checklist of zones and friends' places to lurk at this winter. There's so much to explore in the West. I'm hoping to have a lot of guests and ride and shoot a ton; maybe some interesting word and photo projects will come of the journey. I have a Baker pass and plan on being up around there quite a bit. I'm already thinking of the next creation and how to make it better though. It can be challenging, but I really dig building this stuff and have so many other ideas I'd love to fabricate. It'd be sweet to have a proper shop and build out all sorts of custom mobile rigs, or at least get some land and live out of this while I put up a shop and house. This is kind of the first step in that process and my vehicle for winter endeavors to come.