Austin RV Expo and the MetroRV Project

My brain has been buzzing since I decided to make my Metro into an RV. Today my Dad and I hit the Austin RV Expo, which had about 100 of various kinds of campers, pop-ups, trailers, and motorhomes. I wanted to see what the state of the art was for consumer RVing, and this show was one-stop shopping for new camping and RVing gear. Prices ranged from under $6,000 for a tiny pop-up with few amenities to over $200,000 for The Battleship RV, which had, I shit you not, its own *garage*.

Attending with an eye for minimalism was quite an experience, especially because we started with the smallest, cheapest units and moved upward.

What I’m looking for generally is a setup that is Metro-portable, livable for months at a time in the 50-85 degree range, and works well as a office for my mobile computing career. It was
interesting to see how what’s available compares to what I want, and how much it might cost new (which I would never pay.)

If I were going to buy something off the shelf to put on a bigger vehicle than I have, the minimum acceptable setup would be something like this Aliner Expedition or a truck-camper like the Palomino Bronco 800, or for prefab Metro-compatible, a motorcycle camper.

The market seems to like more bedspace than I need, with very few units having only one double-sized bed. Most had at least two. I also don’t need the bed to be a bed all day long, I’d prefer to have the usable floor space instead. The ones that had all the interior features I want tended to be larger, heavier, and roomier than what I’m looking at. Finally, security seemed to be a priority for those with pretensions of climate control, whereas I really don’t care how able the shell is to withstand deliberate damage as long as I can keep out some noise and have some climate control. For instance, I’d be happy with polystyrene as a primary building material as long as it could withstand wind, sun, and rain. I had this fantastic couch for years that was lightweight, super-strong, and easy to move. When I finally had to get rid of it, I discovered it was over 95% Styrofoam. While I realize the material has some environmental issues, I’m not aware of anything that is so light, strong, and relatively inexpensive.

A major goal was to identify key features for making my own RV on the Metro platform, and also to consider alternatives to it. I found that most of my interest in brand-new was in the $7,000-$15,000 range. I want Some of Everything, but not necessarily in the proportions I was seeing commonly. I definitely want:

  • Has to be pullable/mountable/towable on a 1997 Geo Metro 1.0L 3-cylinder with a whopping 55 HP motor.
  • Very comfortable stand-up and sit down workstation space for long-term computing use for a 6’2″ person. This is my mobile office, not a weekend camper.
  • The Metro must be detachable from the living space to allow driving around at destination without violating the integrity of either unit
  • Multiple-burner stove
  • Microwave/Toaster Oven
  • Propane/electric fridge and freezer (accessible mobile and deployed)
  • Sink large enough for easily washing dishes (accessible mobile and deployed)
  • Toilet for full-time use (likely will do Humanure) (accessible mobile and deployed)
  • Burner and sink should be accessible inside or outside the vehicle as in the fantastic VW Minihome!
  • Some ability to bathe indoors, though I only shower every few days
  • 120 VAC with a decent battery capacity
  • One (and *only one) full sized bed (enough to sleep 1 person accessible mobile and deployed)
  • Totally waterproof both when mobile, and when fully deployed, enough to withstand daily rain for months
  • Total weight of <600 lbs.
  • Some degree of soundproofing
  • Ability to withstand winds and mountain driving and 1600 mile trips to Portland
  • Some degree of climate control, even if that’s only the AC on the Metro.
  • Some kind of small generator (probably a Honda) to prevent total dependency on batteries and 120V hookups
  • Some kind of alarm/security system
  • The ability for a 6’2″ to do yoga indoors

To get these things I am willing to sacrifice:

  • Interior space
  • Constant access to the bed (it’s ok for it to fold away during the day)
  • Any pretense of physical security (breaking into this house could be accomplished with one hand in the dark)
  • Bed space beyond one full-sized bed
  • Quick setup time (gonna stay in one spot, generally, for weeks or months when not en route)
  • A warranty (on the whole thing, not the individual components)
  • A certain degree of fuel efficiency, but not too much. Going from 50 mpg on the highway to, say 40 mpg, is fine. Going to 20 mpg is not. At that point I might as well buy a small RV.
  • Full climate control. I’m willing to assume that I’ll only be using this setup in the 50-85 degree F range.

In order to accomplish all this, I’m going to do most of the building myself, while ripping off a good portion of the design from others. I’m confident I can do the construction, plumbing, and electrical work (I already maintain the Metro myself), but I’m less certain that I can independently magically find the optimal arrangement for all the pieces.

Is this even possible? I keep thinking in a yurtward direction for the shell. I was also one of the first people to bring the Hexayurt experience to Flipside, our regional Austin Burning Man event, and the Poly Paradise camp at Burning Man, so I have some experience in super-low-tech, low-cost rigid shelter construction and issues.

A good place to start on the “Can It Be Done?” portion of the question would be to find out how much all this gear I want weighs, then compare that to 600 lbs. 🙂

I’d also love to go somewhere to see a large collection of smaller RVs in the field, and clearly there are plenty of events that could provide that experience.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Austin RV Expo and the MetroRV Project

  1. Megan M. says:

    Wow — this is incredible!

  2. tellit2me says:

    I’m looking forward to updates regarding this mobile shelter project. I think its great that you’ve made this wish/needs list for the shelter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s