GoneCamper 2.0 Boondocking In Hammertown
The GoneCamper Chevy Express attended the King of the Hammers off road races in the Mojave Desert.
The great advantage of a van camper is the versatility to drive almost anywhere and camp when you get there. This is especially true when you can camp for free, which is easy on BLM and National Forest lands. Sometimes camping is required to take in great scenery or special events. One of these special events is the King of the Hammers off road races held every year in Johnson Valley, California.
Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area is a huge expanse of BLM land that is open to off road exploration. There are nearly 100,000 acres of desert and mountains, much of which was a bombing target range in World War II. Some of the toughest four-wheel drive trails in the U.S. and found here. Trails like Sledge Hammer, Jack Hammer, and Claw Hammer have given the area the abbreviated name of "the Hammers".
About a dozen years ago, a handful of off road enthusiasts decided to link the various trails together and stage a race. Today the races have expanded to several classes of motorcycles, side-by-side UTV's, Jeeps, and custom-built Ultra4 race vehicles. The Ultra4 vehicles are hand-built, unlimited racing machines. They sport engines topping 800 horsepower combined with extreme suspensions and 40-inch tires and wheels to travel across the desert and crawl over rocks and ledges in the mountains.
Erik Miller 2nd Place
Jason Scherer 1st Place
Because of the location of the races in the remote valley, camping is required. The resulting village of over 50,000 race fans has been dubbed "Hammertown". This area of BLM land is always free for camping. But during the King of the Hammers week of races, the town grows to encompass several square miles!
Camping at the edge of Hammertown. The starting line is one mile away - in the dust!
A van has many advantages for this type of camping. A van allows you to drive almost anywhere on the sandy trails. You can carry all your camping gear, as well as tow a trailer. we towed an ATV to ride to the various race course observation areas. And a van is WAY more durable than any RV - which are not built to endure the stresses of travel off the paved roads.
Of course, for boondocking in the desert you must be self-contained. Dry camping means that you are responsible for all your needs. In the picture below you can see the camping gear we carry in the Chevy Express GoneCamper.
Camping gear at the rear of the GoneCamper van
The GoneCamper bed has a storage headboard. The front storage compartments are accessible from bed, while the rear holds camping supplies like paper towels and miscellaneous groceries. The bed is positioned about 15-inches ahead of the rear doors. This provides space for the bulky and sometimes grimy items you don't want in the "living room". Shown above on the left is a 20-pound propane tank to fuel our stove and lantern. Centered are two 6-gallon water jugs. On top of the water is our Cooking/Eating/Screen?Shower/Toilet combination tent. On the lower right is a tote with tools, under a box containing a Dutch Oven. On the box is another crate containing a 5-gallon bucket which is used for our "Luggable Loo" toilet. Inside the bucket are trash bags and a small bag of kitty litter.
We prefer to cook and eat outside. The tent provides a place out of the wind (and dust) to eat our meals - provided we don't just eat outside on the "patio". We also carry a folding 4-foot table that travels on the floor of the van.
Up front, the GoneCamper bed retracts for travel. The mattress folds and stores on top of the front section of the platform bed. In between the sections of the mattress is a great place to store the Reflectix window covers, as shown below.
The GoneCamper bed stowed for travel
This picture above also shows the large amount of storage under the bed frame. The three legs that complete the bed frame store under the bed. Not shown are also two camping chairs and another tool box. To the right of the mattress we store our two-burner propane stove. Unseen behind the stove and mattress is a propane lantern. At the far right is a fold-down table that allows one person to reach from the couch and another to reach from a chair. Behind the fold-down table is a pump sprayer we use for showering along with the rolled windshield cover. There is also a storage compartment at the floor for small items like one-pound propane bottles.
Pictures above to the left of the bed, standing on edge is a 100-watt solar collector. Rather than permanently mount this solar panel to the roof, we have added legs so that it can be aimed at the sun and positioned for maximum exposure - even if the GoneCamper van is parked in the shade!
It only takes three minutes to extend the bed and fold the mattress forward. The result is a full-size mattress that is 6-feet 2-inches long!
The full-size mattress on the GoneCamper bed
We carry our clothes in totes that slide under the bed. Likewise, our cooking and eating utensils are stored in totes that fit under the bed frame.
The GoneCamper bed is a huge advantage over platforms built to run across the width of the van. Our GoneCamper Chevy Express is only 5-foot 10-inches from side wall to side wall. Since I am 6-feet tall - AND like a few inches to spare - I refuse to sleep hunched up sideways in a van!
The GoneCamper bed with storage underneath and along both sides
By designing the GoneCamper bed to run lengthwise, we have allowed for storage space on both sides of the bed as well as underneath. Our Chevy Express is fairly plain, but additional compartments and drawers could be added to the side spaces. The folded bed provides more open floor space when not in use. And the bed can also be converted into a comfortable couch for lounging or eating - as shown below.
The convertible GoneCamper couch
With space at a premium in a van, you simply can not afford to waste it with a fixed platform bed. At the most, the bed gets used one-third of the time. The GoneCamper convertible bed and couch provides a LONGER bed at night and a roomier van with a comfortable couch during the day.
The GoneCamper bed and couch is also designed to fit between the wheel wells of ALL standard vans. The full-size mattress is 54-inches wide, but the legs of the bed frame are only 50-inches wide. Optional brackets are available to secure the bed to the floor of the van. The bed is disconnected with the removal of two pins. The entire bed can be removed or inserted into any van in only a few minutes.
Most camper vans have a permanent platform bed across the back. This platform can not be removed easily if the van is needed for other purposes. This is not the case with the GoneCamper bed/couch. The bed frame and mattress can be inserted into any van with 50-inches between the wheel wells. that means ANY cargo or passenger van can be converted to an efficient and comfortable camper in less than 15-minutes! And - best of all - ANY van can be converted to a camper for less than $1,000!
You can have a work van during the week and a camper van on the weekends. Or you can have a passenger van during the week and a get-away camper in under 15-minutes. Our Chevy Express is also our daily driver and lumber hauler - but it becomes our escape vehicle when we need to get away.
A camper van provides the options we need for camping, trailer towing, and general travel. We can camp in established camp grounds or in the middle of nowhere. Why not join us on the road? Contact us to schedule the delivery of YOUR own GoneCamper. You might even join us at Hammertown 2019!
Traveling Efficiently, Camping Comfortably, Living Frugally
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