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‘The Flow State is being so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter: Every action, movement and thought flows inevitably from the previous one. Your whole being is involved, you're using your skills to the utmost and the result is a feeling of spontaneous joy.’ - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Live2Flow is the concept of a man trapped in an unfulfilling career who decided to pursue a life of Flow.  This blog is documents the activities of a man who swapped a desk for the great outdoors, dedicating himself to better his personal performance in his chosen sports and to pursue his passion of coaching and training others; the objective is to literally Live2Flow.  This is not a selfish obsession, Live2Flow aims to take these experiences to others and through passionate coaching and guiding help them experience Flow for themselves.

Metamorphosis of ‘The Dub’: Turning a VW T5 into an Adventure Sports Camper Part 1

The Dub in the Brecon Beacons last week, parked in the spot where I wild camped
The Dub in the Brecon Beacons last week, parked in the spot where I wild camped After a rare clean! The Dub from the front and the rear... The bike rack loaded

When I began Live2Flow it became clear I would need a strong four wheeled companion to support me.  It needed to have the capacity to shift a stack of multisport gear, carry me and a number of clients in comfort and ideally also act as my mobile home.  Oh, and I also wanted car like performance, decent fuel economy, good reliability levels and, in a perfect world, something that I would be proud to be seen at the wheel of.  In short, I needed a custom VW T5.

As I have travelled around in my beloved ‘Dub’ a lot of people have expressed an interest in how I have adapted the van to my purposes.  It started as a straightforward VW T5 Panel Van but over the last 18 months it has been slowly converted into a versatile Adventure Sports Camper.  Over two consecutive blogs I thought I would lay out the key changes made to the van and how they have worked out, first looking at the exterior changes and then in the second part focusing on the internal modifications.

 

PART ONE: EXTERIOR

 

Looking Good…  When I viewed the van it already had colour coded bumpers and grill giving it the look of a personal vehicle rather than a fleet van.  I had the tinted side windows fitted at purchase ready for the camper conversion but it was some time later before I got around to getting some 18” alloy wheels and mud flaps to complete the personal look.  One other feature that stands out visually is the tinted wind deflectors on the front windows but this was not a change stimulated by appearance factors; the deflectors allow me to camp inside the van with the windows opened for air circulation without the fear of the British weather getting inside the van - priceless.

 

I otherwise stopped short of making any radical appearance changes; the closest I got to getting carried away with ‘pimping’ the van was fitting the black VW badge, which made a big appearance change for very little investment, but I then had a quiet word with myself when I started looking at LED lights and lowering!!!

 

Kayak Carrying  One of the advantages of the van is that the kayaks don’t often have to go on the roof but there are circumstances where this becomes the only option.  I have always trusted Thule bars so went with their locking system bars spaced well apart then after a little experimentation decided I really needed some form of cradle too.  You see, I am no giant at only 5’9” and can barely reach the roof of the Dub.  Without any form of cradle I have to use a stool (which I affectionately title ‘the stool of shame’!) to get a kayak on to the roof bars.  However, with the Thule Hull-a-Port Pro cradles (terrible name...) I am able to quickly load a boat, even a large plastic sea kayak, on the passenger side, solo and without recourse to the stool.  On the driver's side it is a bit trickier and the stool of shame often needs to come out, but it is still much easier than trying to load onto flat bars or uprights.  With both cradles folding flat and still space for two boats in between them in extremis it has been a near perfect solution for me and, as an aside to van specific comments, I would even recommend the cradles to anybody who struggles to get their boat onto a car roof.

 

Bike Transport The other key requirement was to carry a number of bikes, ideally without any dismantling.  The roof space was not available and impractical anyway.  Although I still may fit a towbar to the van, if I do so I would not want it to be there for either a trailer or bike rack; it would be fitted to allow me to have both.  So, I looked at a range of tailgate bike rack options and settled on the Atera Linea Bike Carrier as a good compromise between some cheaper racks of questionable build quality and the VW OEM rack which was much costlier.  Although it has a capacity to carry three bikes, most of my bikes are what you would describe as premium and the potential to do damage when packing them close together is significant. For this reason I generally run with the middle rail removed so the rack holds two bikes firmly and well separated.  After a year of service it is in great condition and performs flawlessly and I would highly recommend it.

 

There were other factors and complications to consider for transporting the bikes.  Firstly, when the bike rack was loaded the rear gas struts were unable to take the weight of the tailgate making the rear difficult to access and preventing the use of the tailgate as a shelter.  Investing just £70 to have the VW California gas struts fitted to the van solved this problem.  Designed to a much higher load rate these stronger struts will now firmly hold the tailgate aloft, even with the rack fully loaded with MTBs – very impressive and possibly my most cost effective upgrade!!

 

The other issue is one of security as bikes on display on the rear of the van are a temptation.  My solution has been to take advantage of the racks integrated locking system but then backing that up with a heavy weight cable through wheels and frame to the body of the rack.  This withstood attack in a car park a couple of months back where the extra security measures were the key factor that stopped my bike becoming somebody else’s toy. That said, I still keep the bikes inside the van if it is to be left unattended whenever it is practical to do so, often even if that means removing a wheel…

 

Stay tuned for details of how the interior of the Dub has been transformed from bare panel van to comfy, versatile camping platform in Part Two.

 

If you have any questions about the changes made to the Dub please use the comments section below.

 

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Created on 03-Mar-2013 at 13:42