We have been fortunate to fish in our favorite home waters and exotic destinations around the word. But because there are infinite opportunities right here in the USA, we have decided that we need to find a way to do more domestic fishing.
For us, it would be ideal to do that without the usual fly-rent-a-car-book-a-hotel-eat-in-a-restaurant routine. Not that there is anything wrong with that- there isn’t. But now is the time for a different approach. You know. Stay where you want to stay, sleep in your own bed, use your own bathroom, and scramble your own eggs. We need an RV. (A RV is the proper grammar, but that sounds awkward. I am going with an RV on purpose.)
How we went about looking for the RV that would be right for us.
We went and looked at RV manufacturers websites, and attended a couple of RV shows, just to see and get a feeling for what-all is out there. Wow. There are big companies who are mass-producers, and there are smaller builders who do one-at-a-time custom construction. There are endless possibilities.
Then we went home and thought about how we would use an RV for touring, hunting, and fishing. We spent 18 months kicking this around, back and forth. We wrote down what we decided that we needed and why, and what we wanted and why. We envisioned daily use. We imagined places that we wanted to go. We calculated how much time we would spend there once we got there. What facilities, or lack of facilities, would there be in most of those places? We made sketches, we made lists. We built the RV that we needed on paper.
Our RV has 2 parts: R- the recreational build, and V- the vehicle.
V: The vehicle features needed to include:
- narrow enough to travel essentially all vehicle roads, low enough to pass through essentially all height-restricted places
- capable enough- it had to be able to get where we want to go
- nimble enough- that includes nothing to prohibit compound backing turns (no tow)
- powerful enough- ok, build the vehicle tow capable just in case we find something big and want to take it with us
What RVs did not work for us? All trailers, truck campers, class As and class Cs. What RVs did work for us? Any class B with either all wheel drive (AWD) or 4 wheel drive (4WD).
Now we needed to choose the chassis that worked best for us. RAM was eliminated because they do not make either an AWD or a 4WD. We chose the Ford Transit AWD over the Mercedes Sprinter 4WD because 1- the Ford is more serviceable, 2- its’ gasoline engine does not have the problematic diesel exhaust management system, 3- the fuel-cost-per-mile for gasoline is 20% less than for diesel, 4- the Ecoboost engine has higher HP and the same torque as diesel but costs several thousands less, and 5- AWD is preferable to 4WD for the roads we will travel.
R: The recreational build features had to include:
- self sufficient, off-the-grid systems operation- no ‘hookups’ required
- comfortable sleep arrangement- no crawling or climbing or bridging
- toilet and shower- you always have it when you need it
- sound deadening insulation- quiet means quiet, insulation means 4 season comfort when it is below freezing
- storage space- the camping ‘usuals', plus screen room tent chairs table rug, plus kayaks, e-bikes
Specifics to accomplish build goals.
Self sufficient, off the grid. For 1 or 2 weeks in the backcountry, there are no electric, gas, water, or sewer hookups. We need as much water storage capacity and energy storage capacity as is practical. Can we build in about 46 gallons of water storage? Yes. And can we battery bank about 600-1200ah of electricity with a reliable energy source for recharging that capacity? Yes.
- Dual engine operated high-output alternators will automatically recharge a large lithium battery bank either while parked or while under way. Lithium is expensive, but has greatly increased life-span, is much lighter weight, and occupies a much smaller space than lead acid (FLA) and gas mat (AGM) batteries. The engine is autostart, so the battery bank will recharge even if nobody is in the vehicle.
- No solar because of a low return on cost, low output when clear/sunny, low-to-no output when cloudy/shady, and no output if panels are obscured by roof rack things.
- No propane utilities: propane is not always available, and cannot be replenished during extended backcountry stays.
Comfortable sleep arrangement. Twin beds eliminate crawling, climbing, or bridging that comes with single bed designs.
A toilet and shower. For 2 weeks backcountry with limited water, a no-flush toilet and a low flow shower are essential. Classified among the so-called composting toilets, we chose a desiccating, urine-diverting toilet that does not consume water, and requires no black tank and no dump station.
Sound deadening and insulation. Hot or cold, year around ‘four season’ RVing requires floor to ceiling insulation. Sound deadening of large metal skin expanses should be done at the same time. We chose foil coated reflective membranes with dead air space sandwiches to accomplish this.
Articulating roof rack. Roof storage space is needed if one is going to carry a robust stable of camping equipment (screen room, rug, zerogravity chairs, table, etc) and recreational devices (kayaks, bicycles). Climbing a ladder with heavy stuff isn’t a wise move for anybody. An articulating roof rack would bring your 'stuff' down to you. Several of these racks are commercially available.
Specific utilities. Hot water and air systems that sip from the vehicle's expanded capacity fuel tank will be installed. All water tanks and lines are inside so freezing can never be a problem, even in sub-zero temperatures.
Water taken on board goes through pre filtration then through a 1 micron filter. Once on board, it goes through 0.2 micron filtration, then ozone purification.
An energy efficient 12v air conditioning system is capable of running up to 31 hours before the engine would automatically start and recharge the battery bank. When the bank is charged the engine autostops.
Who makes our RV?
However, our RV can be made by a small custom builder. And fortunately, there are several companies to choose from. They are scattered from east coast to west coast. So, we set out to interview companies.
We looked at all of them. It took a lot of work, but we had the time and wanted to do everything we could to make a decision that we would be happy with for a long time.
We found Terry Minix at Embassy Specialty Vehicles (ESV) in Elkhart, Indiana. He can build everything that we needed, and- to our surprise and enthusiastic acceptance- much more in his RV branch of ESV- ERV.
Here are a few major features- and advantages- of his philosophy and approach to building:
- ERV builds do not use wood, so there can never be any warp or rot, and there are no staples or screws to wiggle loose. Instead of wood, they use powder coated welded aluminum (AL), AL-HDPE-AL sandwiches, and solid HDPE sheets. Strong, odor free, dry, hard to scratch, and easy to clean.
- ERV electric wire connections are made inside clamp-terminal blocks, and the wire bundles are protected by loom tubing. No crimp connections. Everything is readily accessible because the runs are outside of the steel chassis channels.
- ERV construction design does not require multiple exterior cuts and interior piercings of the metal parts of the van. Instead, they use 3M very high bonding strength adhesives and industrial strength Velcro fasteners. The chassis skin is perforated in only 1 place, and that is to install a super-high-quality shore power receptacle (the Smart Plug). While all other B RVs have roof fans and roof AC, ERV can interiorize both leaving the roof completely without fenestrations or clutter.
- Right now, Terry is inventing a POWER articulating roof rack. Genius. I want one.
- ERV does not have a typical assembly line approach like we saw in the factories that mass-produce Bs. For decades, they have built specialty vehicles primarily for medical and educational services, so their custom build-one-at-a-time approach spills into their B builds. When we first visited, 2 vans were under construction. Now 4 or 5 are on the floor in various stages of construction. One thing that we noticed was that employees were unhurried, thoughtful, and focused on what they are doing. What Terry calls "speed limits." They do it once, right, the first time. No do-overs. A smart move and a winning formula. Another good reason why we chose Embassy to build our RV.
All in all, Embassy can build our RV because their quality, technology, and design are exactly what we need.
Click on the picture above to go to Embassy RV