Inspired by Thoreau (and #vanlife), this Concord couple founded Walden Campervans

During quarantine, the Concord couple took a page from Thoreau (and possibly Kerouac) and embarked on a motorhome adventure.

They considered recreational vehicles. But a motorhome “made a lot of sense. It was easy to drive, it wasn’t intimidating, ”he said.

Each van has a memory foam mattress in the dorms.

The trap ? “Almost all motorhomes are two-seater; we needed a third seat for our 2 year old, Ava, ”he said. “So we found Cascade Custom Vans in Oregon.”

They gave Cascade specifications and details. In a few months, the Patricks had their dream van, aesthetically inspired by Thoreau’s tiny cabin. They named him Walden, after the book.

It’s not your grandparents ‘Winnebago, or your parents’ motorhome. It’s more like an Amazon Prime delivery van, handcrafted and outfitted with top brands like Yeti, Pendleton, Casper, Rumpl, and Corkcicle. Roof terraces for stargazing or sunbathing, a well-equipped kitchen.

When friends saw Walden, they had the same reaction most of the time: “This is great. Can we rent it? Mike said laughing. “I felt like we had something too good not to be shared with others. “

So sitting around a campfire last summer, they decided to go: Walden Campervans was born.

There are three charming motorhomes in the Woburn-based fleet.
There are three charming motorhomes in the Woburn-based fleet.

As they say on their website, “We founded Walden Campervans with a simple mission: to bring people closer to the wonders of nature and to each other. “

The Patricks now have a Woburn-based fleet of three charming campers – Walden, Mardy, and Emma – each commendable for 3 to 30 days, to give New Englanders looking to travel a chance to sample #vanlife.

Pendleton blankets and wall details make interiors stand out, as do hardwood floors and rooftop decks. Thoughtful details and a fully equipped kitchen add to that little boutique-living vibe.

Pendleton blankets and wall details add to that little boutique living vibe.
Pendleton blankets and wall details add to that little boutique living vibe.

There is a French press, ground coffee, wine glasses, bottle openers, saucepans, jars, olive oil. There are swivel seats, a memory foam mattress, Rumpl down blankets, and bath towels. For the campfires, there are chairs and a table, a solar lantern, marshmallow skewers, plus a Frisbee and a slingshot. There is no bathroom in the van, but for an amount of $ 45, tenants can add the “Calls of the Wild” package. It includes a pop-up privacy tent, shower mat and portable toiletry kit.

Walden Campers rival any you might see on #vanlife Instagram accounts. Just check out their Instagram.

“RVs have a much stronger presence on the West Coast – the movement hasn’t really reached the East Coast yet,” said Mike, who grew up in Jackson Hole, Wyo. “When you take one of those vans out in New England, people get excited about the van. Like ‘Wow, what the hell is that?’ “

“It’s really interesting when you have people looking out the windows – you can see how people are in it,” says Susie, 34, from Franklin, laughing.

“You open the door and people are like, ‘What is this? ”Says Mike. “It inspires people.”

All three vans have that sparse, hip, outdoor vibe that makes #vanlife so appealing.

“It’s the balance between the comforts you have at home – comfy blankets, everything you need to cook – with the camping experience,” said Susie. The design is minimalist. “We don’t want any extra stuff out there. It is really: what are you need. And then some comforts.

There is a French press, ground coffee, wine glasses, bottle openers, pots, pans, olive oil in the well equipped kitchen.
There is a French press, ground coffee, wine glasses, bottle openers, pots, pans, olive oil in the well equipped kitchen.

Creature Comfort “opens up your market to people who might not have considered camping,” Mike said. “I would say 60-70% of our audience has never taken an RV trip before. There are probably 20 to 30 percent who have never camped.

While they are visually stunning on the inside, for the Patricks, it’s all about getting out.

Getting back to nature and nature conservation is “at the heart of who we are, something we have always believed in. This is when we are happiest, when we are out with the family. ”

It's more like an Amazon Prime delivery van, handcrafted and outfitted with top brands like Yeti, Pendleton, Casper, Rumpl, and Corkcicle.
It’s more like an Amazon Prime delivery van, handcrafted and outfitted with top brands like Yeti, Pendleton, Casper, Rumpl, and Corkcicle.

Emma is named after Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, the first woman to hike the Appalachian Trail solo. So named “because when we first launched a lot of our business was made up of retired couples looking to hit the road,” said Mike.

Mardy, meanwhile, is designed for a puppy: there’s a dog pen, additional window views, an onboard crate for a safe nap, dog bowls and even a dog sleeping bag. .

“It’s really designed to make sure the dog feels as comfortable as humans,” Mike said.

“Can you tell we had a puppy last year?” Susie adds, laughing. (Their goldendoodle is called Beau.)

Mardy is named after naturalist and conservationist Margaret “Mardy” Murie, known for her efforts to create the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – and who often traveled with her dog.

Obviously, you can’t park anywhere or hit the road without a map or reservation.

While you can book a reservation at any campsite of your choice, Walden RVs are designed with the new generation of campsites in mind – Tentr, Harvest Hosts and similar types of sites, which are the Airbnbs of the campsite. .

“One thing you’ve seen with COVID is that all the traditional campsites have become overcrowded, so those ramifications have exploded,” Mike said.

This is private land leased by owners. On Hipcamp, for example, you’ll find an alpaca farm on the Vermont / New York border with kayaking, tubing, hiking, biking, and apple picking. There is also a secluded woodland area in Maine overlooking a salt marsh and cove. The list goes on. Harvest Host, meanwhile, partners with farms and wineries across the country.

"At the end of the day," said Mike Patrick, "the van should disappear in the background and the focus should be on what you are doing outside.
“At the end of the day,” says Mike Patrick, “the van should fade into the background and the focus should be on what you are doing outside.”

Some private sites may not have electrical or water hookups. Walden motorhomes therefore have an off-grid water system, two 7 gallon tanks, for showering, washing dishes, etc. There is a heating system if you go on a winter trip. The living space is “designed to operate indefinitely without any type of electrical back-up”, according to the site, thanks to solar panels and an inverter. There is also a standard AC power outlet.

When the Patricks drove Walden to Florida last winter, they only stayed at Hipcamps and Harvest Hosts. At a harvest host, for example, they had a full tour of the vineyard and a wine tasting.

They have both Harvest Host and Hipcamp linked on their website under “trip planning” – and have visited their fair share of both.

“If our guests have a general idea, we can help you. We have our favorite places, ”said Susie.

Helping tenants find the perfect site is “half the adventure,” says Mike. “What we’re really trying to do is get people out into nature. At the end of the day, the van should fade into the background and the focus should be on what you are doing outside.

The Patricks took Walden campers all over New England states and as far south as Key West. The tenants spent a week in the Berkshires. A couple went to Niagara Falls. Another couple just booked a trip to North Carolina and others to the Grand Canyon. The newlyweds recently booked a motorhome for a #vanlife honeymoon.

“There really are no limits,” said Mike. “The ocean is the limit.”

Learn more about waldencampervans.com. Rentals range from $ 249 to $ 319 per night depending on the season.


Lauren Daley can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twiiter @ laurendaley1.

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