By Eric Ladd Explore Big Sky Publisher

As long as there have been cars, there have been RVs. The first motorhomes and camping trailers came off the factory lines at Pierce-Arrow and Auto-Kamp Trailers more than 100 years ago, in 1910.

Road trippers and sports enthusiasts, look out: Outside Van is revolutionizing the 21st century RV with durable, functional and stylish rigs, built in Portland, Oregon.

Residents of the outdoor mecca, Hood River, Oregon, company owners Erik and Nicole Ekman spent two decades camping, surfing, skiing and mountain biking out of SUVs before deciding in 1995 to build the best recreational vehicles possible.

Built into the body of a Mercedes Sprinter van, Outside Vans are custom designed for each individual owner. You can bring your own van and have them retrofit it for mountain biking, or order from a range of Sprinters at outsidevan.com and design the setup around kite surfing, motocross, surfing or snowmobile skiing – pick your sport.

“This is not a living room on wheels,” Erik says, describing the vans as “functional gear garages on wheels that can be sprayed out with a hose.” Most other RV’s, he says, “are garbage, built with particle board.”

The diesel Mercedes Sprinter vans get 20 miles to the gallon and fit in normal parking spaces.

Other perks include hydronic forced-air heat, cozy beds, skylights, a fully decked-out kitchen with a drawer fridge, a built-in blender and pullout cutting boards. Optional details include edgy coloring packages, custom wood cabinetry, off-the-grid power systems and hot water showers.

“I’m not a factory kind of guy,” said Erik – known to some Hood River locals as “Epic Man” for his habit of chasing the next swell, powder day, banked bike trail or windy down-river day – as he hand delivered a van kitted out for biking and skiing to its new owner at Hood River’s Kite Beach.

“These vans are meant to be at places like this beach.”

The process

Step 1. Source a Sprinter van.
Step 2. Get deposit in place at Outside Van.
Step 3. Design your dream ride.
Step 4. Meet at Kite Beach for van delivery, eat fish tacos and get a downriver SUP paddle in before you drive the first mile in the new rig.
Step 5. Downsize your house, as you’ll no longer want to be at home.

Winter? No problem. Stud out the tires and let the road trip to British Columbia begin. A van kitted out for backcountry snowmobiling and skiing is pictured at left.

Cost? Starting at $50,000

What are you waiting for? There is a six-month waiting list to get your Outside Van dialed out.

OSV founder Erik Ekman’s recommended winter road trip

Drive to British Columbia …

Stop 1. Sniff out the tree stashes at Whitewater Ski Area, Nelson
Stop 2. Head up the Slocan Valley for a day of backcountry riding on Idaho Peak, New Denver
Stop 3. Relax at Halcyon Hot Springs, Nakusp
Stop 4. Snowmobile ski near Trout Lake
Stop 5. Schralp Revelstoke Mountain Resort – all 5,620 vertical feet
Stop 6. Find untracked lines at Powder King Mountain Resort, Mackenzie
Stop 7. Score face shots at Shames Mountain, Terrace B.C.

This story was first published in the winter 2013/2014 issue of Mountain Outlaw magazine.