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Custom van to make the case for seasonal West Coast nomadism

Eric Kennedy was tired of paying San Francisco rent and he wanted to travel more, so he bought a 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter van and converted it into his new mobile home.

The loan payments (over 5 years) were half of what he had been paying in rent and since his job as a software developer allows him to work on the road, he could swap high-priced Silicon Valley for free Forest Service and BLM campsites.

To survive as an off-grid digital nomad (he pays the premium for plug-in sites only occasionally), he relies on portable solar panels (to avoid snow and ice issues with the roof-mounted option). His Isotherm 130L drawer fridge is the biggest power draw using 430 watts in 24 hours (34 amp-hours at 12.6+ v), and he only runs it to keep fruits and vegetables cold (it is on a separate cycle). “I can stay parked for 3 nights without draining the 310 amp-hour AGM batteries below 50%. I verified this at Denali where the van sat for 96 hours before briefly recharging it on a 15-mile drive”.

Kennedy finds working from a campground surrounded by nature much easier than from a crowded office filled with distractions. He says that tech companies are also more willing to hire remote workers, given the difficulties they have recruiting and retaining talent in major urban centers.

He converted his van with high-end materials (stainless steel, solid walnut heartwood, and aluminum angles) to create something that would hold up over rough roads (He has spent one summer in Alaska). He and his mother built custom walnut soft-close drawers with clearances within a millimeter (without the help of CNC cutting).

He added a gang locking system on each side to prevent the drawer boxes from launching with the vans turns (and to deter theft).

Kennedy now spends his year chasing good weather and good skiing. To insulate for the latter, he outfitted the van with Thinsulate insulation and trunkline-covered plastic interior panels. He also uses a diesel-powered heater.