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Jay Nelson’s travel micro-campers: from bike home to tiny boat

“I don’t know if I could have a car without a bed in it.” San Francisco artist Jay Nelson has put beds into nearly every vehicle he’s ever owned, including a semi-totalled Honda Civic (bought for $200) and a tiny rowboat (found on craigslist).

He’s even made a moped into a camper, but his most impressive podmobile is the electric camper bike he built from scratch using parts “you can find at a hardware store”.

He bought the PVC pipe chassis online, along with an electric motor (he discarded his initial pedal-powered design because of the San Francisco hills) and began to build the vehicle in his driveway.

To create the pod covering, he used plywood that he fiberglassed (a technique perfected while building surfboards) to create a bulbous, geometric shape. The result is a vehicle that looks like nothing else on the road, aided by the crystal-inspired multi-faceted windows.

He calls his tiny mobile home the Golden Gate and with an electric motor range of 10 miles, it can go basically anywhere within San Francisco (7 x 7 square miles) at a top speed of 20mph.

To create a mini home in the 8 foot by 3.3 foot space (4.5 feet high), he added a kitchen (with a hand-pumped sink, a boat/rv stove, a cooler), a bed (the steering wheel pops off to create space) and even an extremely basic toilet (a lined bucket that can be closed and stored under the plywood floor to be disposed of in the morning).

In this video, Nelson takes us to the surf shop down the street where he now stores a couple of his podmobiles to show us the Golden Gate and his camper boat.

Back at his home, he gives us a sneak peek of his next creation (right now just an ordinary-looking Toyota pickup truck) and takes us inside his relatively large 450-square-foot home that he shares with his wife and explains how long-term he still prefers the comforts of home to the short-term freedom of camping in his mobile creations.

* Music credit: Dave Warstler;  Photo credit: Jack Halloway; Lloyd Kahn’s book Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter