Adventuremobiles: Will Dennis
Words and Photos: Taylor Boyd
We admittedly use this column loosely, and sometimes the rigs we feature are more elaborate, while others are relatively stock. Will Dennis' is far from basic. The mobile living setup Will has created is a true custom build and serves as his full-time home. Based in Bend, Oregon, Will Dennis is part of the SnoPlanks crew and spends his days building custom wood and bamboo boards in the utopian town that lies at the foot of Mount Bachelor. That is, when he's not slashing windlips up at the mountain in the name of R&D or cruising his home on wheels to other Northwest zones. We ran into Will up in Oregon, and he graciously showed us around the approximately 8'x5' space he calls home.
Vehicle -- 1999 Chevy Astrovan AWD, Vortec 4.3L V6
Philosophy -- For me, it started out as a challenge to see if I could build out my van and begin living in it within a year from the time I bought it. As the year went by, I didn’t think much about why I was doing the build other than that it was fun and that I wanted it to be comfortable during the winter. When it came time to move out of the house and into the van is when the “why” started to form. My philosophy on living out of a rig is that it's a great way to save money, minimize your possessions, and have fun posting up pretty much wherever you want. It seems like there is a tendency to make living out of a rig a spiritual awakening or something more than it is, but for me it's just a fun, low overhead way to go about life.
Process -- The guy I bought the van from is a carpenter, and he had a little bed set up in there at one point. He put all the seats back in before he sold it, so I started with a stock van. I wanted to start by putting in a wood floor and through some research I came across a guy on the interwebs that goes by Traveling Troy. He has videos on how he built out his Astrovan, so a lot of the early projects I did were based off his videos. I started by getting the seats out, insulating over the carpet, and putting down the cheapest vinyl flooring that home depot had. After that, I started researching a lot about how I wanted to layout the inside of the van. Pinterest, Instagram, Youtube University, and Traveling Troy’s website were the sources of inspiration. I copied Troy’s van build until I got to the electricity, propane, and cabinet layout. I decided to not go with solar because I drive quite a bit and figured I could charge the extra battery using a split charge relay that charges off the starter battery while the rig is running.
Once the electrical system was in, I was able to hook the power inverter up to run a mini-fridge, boot dryer, and any other normal AC outlet. The cabinets were built around the fridge, and I freestyled the frame for the cabinets. I work for a snowboard company in Bend called SnoPlanks, and we make all bamboo boards and skis, so most of the wood from the cabinets is scrap bamboo. My friend owns a granite shop here in Bend and got me set up with a granite counter top to cover the cabinets with holes cut for the stove and sink. Through some research I found a DIY salad bowl sink and a cheap water pump off amazon to get running water.
Next came propane tank and hoses. I used a cheap 20-pound propane tank rack off Amazon and mounted it to the back door of the rig. It’s a little dangerous but was the only spot that made sense. After I had propane, water, and electricity, all that was left to do was hook everything up. When it came time to move out of the house and into the van I got a storage unit to put all the other stuff that didn’t go to Goodwill.
Amenities -- Mini-fridge/freezer, 7-gallon water tank with pump/sink, propane stove, propane heat, LED lighting, boot dryer, slide out bed/couch, fully insulated and light tight for stealth, coat rack, pantry, roof box (attic).
Living -- It definitely took some getting used to at first, but now I really enjoy it. I have everything I need, and it's been really fun getting to use the rig and enjoy the fruits of my labor. I was a little reserved and maybe a little embarrassed to tell people I was living in my van in the beginning but that has all faded and I’m stoked on it. One main challenge is the bathroom situation. It's kind of hard to post up in a random neighborhood and hop out to take a piss in the morning.
Future -- I’m committed to living out of this rig for another four and a half years, during which I plan to save as much money as possible while still finding time to board and get out on the sled. A couple future tweaks to the rig include a 2-3 inch lift, swivel passenger seat, and plasti-dipped exterior. I’ve also been looking at building out another van and flipping it to make some extra cash.