Solar-equipped Off Grid adventure van puts focus on sustainability
Van life, solar power, open-road adventure and sustainable wood ... what more could a fun-seeking millennial want? Maybe a table piled high with avocado toast and an integrated selfie cam with live streaming, but they'll have to figure that out on their own. The rest is provided by Maryland-based Off Grid Adventure Vans, a new conversion shop that turns the Ram Promaster into a fully functioning, two-person motorhome complete with bathroom, Murphy bed and solar system.
No matter how many camper van conversion shops sprout up around the world, each one has its own unique vision. On the vans we've looked at in the past couple months, those visions have included tiny home decor, pull-out beer taps and full expansion modules. Off Grid's vision is all about creating an economical van outfitted sustainably, and in the process, it's created a space that appears quite functional and beautiful.
Like Glampervan over on the other US coast, Off Grid starts off its signature camper conversion with a Ram Promaster, saying it likes to work with the van because it's a full-size front-wheel drive with a reasonable price tag. Off Grid upsizes its camper in comparison to Glampervan, basing its main package on the 159-in (4,039-mm) wheelbase with high roof.
The extra van length leaves just enough space for a wet bath with standard shower and available toilet, along with the bed, kitchen and storage. And that's no minor inclusion - a bathroom can mean the difference between a quick pee and back to sleep or getting near eaten alive by fluttering bloodsuckers after passing out in a ditch you didn't see as you were scampering toward the nearest tree. Or so we hear. We'd make sure to get the toilet.
The midships bathroom leaves no hope for the common mid-cabin bench seat and removable table. Instead, Off Grid pushes the table all the way to the back, setting it up in a longitudinal layout between two storage benches. The table removes to make way for the Murphy bed dropping down off the passenger-side wall. It looks like the full-size bed could even be used with the driver-side bench to create a larger sleeping space - so long as you add in the optional bench cushions and don't mind a bumpy seam between main bed and cushions.
What really transforms basic Promaster into Off Grid Adventure Van is the gorgeous wood that lines the walls, dresses the floor and gives the kitchen a butcher block with drop-down extension on which to work. Off Grid explains that its standard package uses wood harvested from stable local forests and processed at a local mill. That wood really gives the van a warm, elegant aesthetic that looks far more "home sweet home" than vans with other interior wall trims.
The standard kitchen area includes Dometic appliances - a dual-burner stove/sink unit and an 80L fridge/freezer. Photos also show an optional microwave added directly across from the main kitchen block, which also requires an electrical upgrade.
It might not be quite ready to power a microwave, but the standard electrical system is a nice base-level option for keeping things running off-grid without a generator. The system includes 200 watts of roof-mounted solar and 255-Ah of AGM battery storage. Buyers can also beef the electrical system up with options like 300- and 600-Ah lithium batteries.
Other miscellaneous standard features and specs include a 28-gal fresh water tank, 9- and 3-gal gray water tanks for the shower and sink, dual-zone dimmable LED lighting, an overhead storage cabinet, a roof fan/vent, and 12V/120V/USB outlets in the front and rear.
Off Grid prices its base package at US$30,000 for the conversion alone, which includes all the features above, save for the ones identified as optional or available. It offers a variety of local woods at that base price, giving customers some flexibility in designing the perfect look.
Other available options include front seat swivels ($345/each), air conditioning ($1,750, needs to run on shore power or generator), heating ($1,750), a hot water heater ($725), a TV mount and prewiring package ($225 to $400), a steel roof rack ($760), an LED light bar ($450), and various levels of sound system upgrades.
A quick look at Ram's website puts the 2018 Promaster 159 high roof's base MSRP at $36,740 after destination charge, so you're looking at just under $67K for a brand-new van, assuming no discounts or incentives. That price does indeed seem to meet Off Grid's goal of keeping things affordable, as far as camper vans go, given that you're driving away with an all-new camper complete with indoor shower, solar power and stylish wood trim throughout.
Off Grid has also partnered with a local Ram dealership to offer full van/conversion financing as part of a Promaster purchase. So you don't have to spend years confined in a studio apartment with two roommates to someday afford the freedom of Adventure Van life. Drop $1,000 down and start your adventure - just make sure you can pull over and grab some Wi-Fi once in a while to do enough work to make your monthly payment.
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