The one we're looking at today has several things going in its favor: it's easy to put together, affordable, and can be done with minimal skill – while delivering maximum enjoyment.
The developments of recent years have seen a decisive shift in perspective, where people have started prioritizing mental health, leisure, and travel opportunities. It helps that working from home is still possible, just like it helps that the #vanlife trend allows for the exploration of every possibility to enjoy it, from renting, converting, building from scratch, or going all in (financially) with a brand acquisition. Perhaps more importantly, the surge in digital nomadism popularity helps by offering a good look at every detail of the daily life of a digital nomad.
That's also the idea behind this electric mini-camper, designed and built by Jason from Quiet Nerd. Made with accessible materials and only as many frills as it needs to function, this e-mini-camper is both affordable and fun. Strike that: it's not just fun, it's functional, which is more important, Jason promises.
He describes it as an "off-road" camper that moves under its own power – a statement you should definitely take with a grain of salt. It might look off-road-capable with its rear treads, but its fragile construction, the exposed underside that holds all the electronics, and the poor ground clearance are working against it being a proper off-roader. But as the video below shows, it's a decent solution if you're looking to escape into nature for a night or maybe a weekend if you're feeling particularly bold.
Jason designed it with the goal of building something anyone watching at home could replicate, on the condition they have the proper tools, a working space, and about four days to dedicate to manual labor. Oh, and the willingness to ditch comfort during the first test outing.
The frame is all wood with metal brackets in the corners and a middle beam for rigidity. The upper part is actually a greenhouse structure bolted down to the board flooring, with a weatherproof tarp on top to offer protection against the sun and the elements.
The entire drivetrain is homemade with accessible components and materials. The front wheels are from a golf kart, the steering is improvised from a kit, and all components are affordable items from local hardware stores. Jason added a torque button on the steering wheel and a button for reverse and forward on the control box he placed up front. He also put in powerful front and rear lights but no brakes. This thing isn't fast either way, but he also controls the speed by means of a twist button that regulates how much power he sends to the motor.
The interior is spacious, if you compare it to a bike trailer. Jason has room to stretch out and sit upright, and the addition of hanging storage bags helps with keeping the floor clear of clutter. For extra comfort, there's a small fan with integrated lights, and the zippered sections of the greenhouse can be used for extra ventilation.
No beating around the bush, this electric mini-camper is neither an off-roader nor that much of an overnight camper as is. It lacks features that ensure durability, from the untreated wood to the way in which the underside is left open and, thus, in contact with whatever he comes across, from vegetation to rocks. Even the battery location is not the best, hanging as it does in a bike rack at the rear. The range is ridiculous even for an e-bike, let alone a camper you should take out on adventures in the middle of nowhere. And the whole structure sits too close to the ground to be able to ride across rougher terrain.
But that's not to say it's not a nice little project with some potential to become a proper mini-camper. It can be a starter project, a challenge you give yourself to see if you can complete it, or a nifty little thing you take to picnics or on short rides in the woods, as long as you stay on the beaten track.