This news seems to make it a good day to post this:
I’ve been on the road for two months now, and I’ve come to understand something about road tripping: Your vehicle can earn you instant street cred among climbers. There seems to be a distinct hierarchy of climbing road-trip vehicles:
1. The cool of the cool: THE WESTFALIA
This wonder of German engineering began in the 1950′s, when a contractor in the Westfalia region of Germany started converting VW Busses. Since then, they’ve earned the loyal following of smelly hippies and hard climbers throughout the ages. Roll up in one of these, and you are instantly a legit climbing dirtbag. You’ll likely have no space for highball crash pad, but you don’t like bouldering much anyway.
2. School Bus
Rob and Megan live in one of these, and they are pretty much the coolest people I know. They have all the amenities of a normal house, except a toilet… but that’s another story. If you can convert a school bus into a viable camper bus, you can climb V12.
3. The Custom Sprinter
The envy of every climber, you provide headspace to stand, and enough room for storage so you won’t be sleeping with your rack. The interesting thing about these is that I’ve never seen a climber dirtbag with a tricked-out new Mercedes Sprinter-RV conversion… to be legit, you need your Sprinter outfitted with plywood cabinetry, and still-visible insulation.
4. 4wd Mitsubishi Delica / Toyota Hiace
I didn’t see one of these until I got into western Canada, and I think that has something to do with the lack of a U.S. market, and import/export laws. When Elena and I went to Chuck Chuck for climbing in the Squamish Valley, we were met with a steep, 4wd-only dirt road with a small lot at the base. We pulled over, and, prior to making a long, uphill hike, I wanted to affirm that this was, indeed, the way to Chuck Chuck. I did this by asking the driver of a 4wd Delica next to us. ”Yeah,” he replied. He then examined our van, and scoffed, “…but that’s not going to make it up.” He then sped off in a cloud of dust, bouncing on knobby tires up that rocky hill. While I felt slightly emasculated, I still gazed longingly at the rear of that Delica with envy.
5. Chevy/GMC/Ford/Dodge Van
Live in one of these, and you’re in good company. You’re practical, economical, and can probably pull .12′s without too much difficulty (Not true for me. I take great difficulty.). Customization options in a cargo van are limitless, and you have the opportunity to express your inner engineer, or interior decorator. Can you install a solar panel system on the roof? How about a nice bonsai tree mount in the door?I’ve personally spent nights in a Chevy and a Dodge, and each has their little quirks. For example, Dodge Vans, while discontinued, have a very short front, making them easy to park and maneuver. They drive easy, and are pretty reliable. My Chevy Express 2500, however, has a much larger nose, modern good-looks, and power and torque to spare. You say tomato, I say tomato. Ask me about wiring a Chevy Express for towing a travel trailer and editing workstation. Just kidding.
- The quintessential climber van conversion thread on SuperTopo.com
- If you own one, this is your forum.
6. Astro/Safari Van
I met Matt Segal in Ten Sleep outside a coffee shop in passing. He rolls in a variation of one of these, and while he spoke of upgrading to a Sprinter, I could hear in his voice a small amount of disdain for the luxury. It’s like upgrading from a double-wide mobile home to a large estate in Western Connecticut… with horses.
7. Truck with/without cap
A standard for the independent man, a guy in his truck, often accompanied by a trusty canine companion is another well-respected road warrior. This vehicle is versatile, but with limited storage and sleeping arrangements… if you’re a guy on the road, and meet the girl of your dreams, you’re going to be pitching a tent, getting an extra-high cap, or going full truck camper. Remember, caps are notoriously insecure, and scream “I HAVE EXPENSIVE THINGS IN HERE.” Extra bro points if you have a pre-’95 American-made diesel, bonus if it’s a dualie and/or 10-ft bed… or if you’re an attractive female.
8. VW Bus
This vehicle oozes a left-leaning political opinion, and the presence of illicit substances on board. The folks in the Bus came to climb, express their beliefs through their lifestyle, and alter their states of consciousness. Comes standard with peace-symbol bumper sticker and hula girl on dash.
9. Old, aluminum Class-C Motorhome
This needs to be colored shades of tan, and have rust on the wheels to be legitimate. I believe Chris Sharma went around in one of these in the video Rampage, while he knocked off impossibly-difficult boulder problems as a teenager. Plenty of real estate within to comfortably sleep five 20 year old men, or five young men and five young women, and all the crash pads you can muster. Cover the rust and water leaks with FiveTen and Petzl stickers.
10. Hatchback compact + tent
I’m looking at you, 18-year-old college student on break, living the dream. You might have even brought your significant other along to crash in the back of your Subaru Impreza, and neither of you will shower for approximately 3 months. I don’t know how you do it, but you survive on $200/month, and eat only Ripples, PBR, and Ramen noodles, and you keep telling yourselves that your sending abilities are inversely-proportional to your cleanliness.
Where do we fall on this list? We’re in a bit of a Twilight Zone. We don’t really fit in well with the over-60 crowd and families with 2.5 children that usually have similar travel trailers. We also aren’t really dirtbags, so we can’t fit in with the super-cool road warriors out there. We have a shower in our travel trailer, for chrissakes. I met a guy in Ten Sleep who just wanted to verify that we weren’t, in fact, climbers. It was like we weren’t supposed to have a travel trailer. When we told him that we were there to climb, his head nearly exploded, and I think he crapped his pants. Well, we might not be as cool and dirty as you, good sir, but we’ll be on the road for a solid year, living the dream, showering almost once a week, with the ability to stand up while changing clothes. Baller.