This past week I spent three nights with the adventure van as I hung out on the North Shore with my buddy Mike, hiking and photographing the Spring Superior Trail Races. The only additional build piece that I did was to add some bungie cords to the bed posts to keep everything from sliding around.
Our first night was at a municipal campground in Grand Marais and after hanging out with a beer I tucked in to bed and slept like a rock. I often have trouble sleeping in new places the first night of a vacation, but for some reason (maybe the 4″ memory foam mattress) I slept great. I woke up in the morning to the sound of light rain (a reoccurring theme this weekend), and was ready to tackle a day of hiking before my job started.
We spent the morning hiking at Eagle Mountain, and all the gravel roads emphasized that I really do need some better off-road tires for this van. Mike suggested the Falken Wildpeak A/T tire as a big favorite in the truck community. I’ll probably wait until fall to dive in, since my current tires aren’t dead yet, but I know I want to get something that feels more stable on loose roads. I never felt in danger of sliding off the road, but there was the occasional minute slip that gave me pause.
After Eagle Mountain we explored some National Forest Campgrounds and had lunch at Devil’s Track Lake. We found a site that was beautiful, and since these campgrounds are first-come-first-serve we didn’t feel bad nabbing it for a half an hour to cook up some food. Another thing to add to the list of enhancements is a small table for cooking on out the back of the van. I could fashion an extending drawer from the bed frame, but feel like a free standing table would be more versatile. I just need to find one that is small enough to fit in a good place for travel and sleeping.
Since I needed to be at the start line by 7-7:30am the next day we had to abandon Devil’s Track Lake and find someplace closer to the Lutsen area. Our first stop was the White Pine Lake campground and after stepping out of our vehicles for 30 seconds and being consumed by bugs, we opted to head back down to the shore to Cascade River State Park. Thankfully, the bugs were much better down there (as well as cooler temps).
Because I’m trying to be non-destructive I haven’t put up any permanent lighting. However, I’m using a string of BioLite LED’s that I got at REI. They are a string of small pucks with a cord that wraps around each one for storage. They use a 3.5mm plug on the end so that you can chain them together. I’m powering them off of an ANKER battery pack and running them along the various hooks and handles at the top of the van. It actually works really well for late night lighting while I’m getting ready for bed.
We ended up at Cascade State Park a second night (worked two days of the race), however it was raining pretty bad. Not to worry though, as Mike and just picked up a Kelty Noah’s tarp. We backed our vehicles up to each other, I opened up my lift gate and we made a perfect canopy area where we could hang out and do some whisky sampling. We took it all down before bed, but if we would have had more poles would could have set up a permanent structure.
Once again, I slept well almost every one of the nights. It was amazing how comfortable the bed was, and the quiet of the van helped me rest a bit easier. I still need some bug netting so I can keep a window cracked in summer heat, and that will affect noise, but I think it will still be more restful than a tent. I’ve got a couple other small tweaks that I want to do to my storage boxes, but that’s not really a ‘van’ issue, as we use these boxes for our camping trailer as well. Overall, I’m incredibly pleased with how this is working out, and I’ve got another couple nights in the van next weekend for a 50K race I’m running. Every trip I get closer to all the tweaks I need to make this setup work perfectly.