It’s been two long years since the first Open Roads Van Life Fest took over Jug Mountain Ranch in McCall, ID. Understandably, we had to wait until the time was right for many to gather in such a large capacity. Trust us, it was worth the wait. All weekend long we learned essential van life skills and techniques from some of the most experienced in the industry. In addition, we ate incredibly well, enjoyed chilled beers, met fantastic new friends, laughed hard, and relaxed with genuine contentment.
Our team of seven left in four vans from Portland early Thursday morning. Tails, Par Four, Immersion, and Stingray towing our event trailer made the seven-hour drive stopping briefly for lunch in Baker City. During this stop, we ran into a pair headed to Open Roads! Community you meet while out and about is so special. It was great to make connections before the event even started and to excitedly chat with the pair when crossing paths during the event. Already connected around a love of vans and the outdoors, we easily felt like old friends with everyone new to us. With 450 miles behind us plus crossing over into Mountain Daylight Time our team was tired but eager to roll into camp and set up our temporary home. One aspect that absolutely enhanced the overall welcoming nature of our booth was the incredible lounge space outfitted by our friends at KUMA Outdoor Gear! We couldn’t be more appreciative of their generosity in outfitting our booth with several propane fire-pits, padded chairs, loveseats, and pillows. Their contribution was without a doubt a game-changer for us and attendees. With flags staked, the pop-up tent expanded, van awnings deployed, and personal tents assembled, we all sat down to our first group dinner. Jon’s Chili for a Tired Team brought us all back to life. There’s something uniquely cozy about sharing a warm meal amongst friends with fire-pits glowing as dusk creeps in across an expansive field flanked by a perimeter of tall, old trees.
The following day Open Roads Van Fest officially kicked off! Attendees started to roll in as early as 9:00 am. You could feel the energy rise while watching DIY rigs, tricked out vans, elevated camper trucks, and everything in between roll into our collective space. There was lots of oohing, awing, and a buzz of overall excitement in the air. Guests placed their chairs under the covered big top for the unveiling of Kristen Bor’s newest van, built by us. Each department back at our shop put an immense about of time, thought, precision, and care into building the newest Bearfoot Theory rig. Bor’s 2021 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 170 includes our traditional Outside Van touches like our 3-panel bed system with a latex foam mattress, robust 630Ah lithium batteries, and an extensive galley kitchen space. New and unique to this build is a floor to ceiling closet with shelving and a center cabinet housing both a full-size recycling and trash bin. Bor chatted with our Service & Warranty Manager, Thomas Ratts, about the build while questions came in from the crowd. At the end of the chat, guests were able to tour the van for themselves. Curating a personal space takes time. It can feel vulnerable to open the literal slider door of your home to strangers. We appreciated Kristen’s graciousness in showing off her new van before she had a chance to get settled in it.
Tour over, we welcomed guests into our booth for pizza, conversations, and an evening hang. Brian, Marketing & Creative Director, brought along his personal Camp Chef set up. This included Camp Chef’s Artisan Outdoor Oven! Our team started to sling Brian’s Pizza for a Hungry Crowd in cohesion. The least we could do is supply fresh pizza to the masses. Brian and Justin prepped and fired the pizzas. Lindsey and Caity dressed the bubbling hot pies with fresh arugula before slicing them into individual portions. We couldn’t keep them on the table! It was fun to see people crowded around, chatting, sharing drinks, and enjoying themselves. Full of pepperoni and mozzarella, guests naturally meandered over to the corn hole boards, lounge chairs, and fire-pits. Our evening flew by quickly with all the hustle and bustle, but we wouldn’t have kicked off the event any other way.
If you’re not familiar with our ultimate mobile bike mechanic van, Tails, take a few minutes to watch our Van Spotlight. That will make what we’re about to share more understandable. Chris, Supply Chain Buyer, has spent decades in the bike community. We were thrilled to have him join us while offering his expertise in bike repairs to guests. Each day Chris set up an off-grid mobile bike repair station on the back of Tails! He brought along tools, including spare 29” tubes, which were needed throughout the whole event. Attendees lined up to chat with him about modifications while waiting as he made repairs. He did it for the love of the sport and community but was tipped (unprovoked) with both cold beer and kombucha. When not at the repair station, Chris, Lindsey, Jon, and Brian took the shuttle up the hill to squeeze in a few singletrack rides. We’re out here living and breathing what we make. This isn’t a schtick or façade. This is about connecting with likeminded people who are also doing incredible things because of the opportunity’s vans can provide. Ready to cool off, the team left the booth for a for a good old-fashioned creek sit. Knee deep in cold rushing water, Migration beers in hands, KUMA chairs placed in the creek, and ample sunscreen passed around, we took a moment to visit with one another, chat with others in the water, and regroup before our hosted happy hour and second fire-pit hang.
Open Roads Van Fest brings together a diverse community, not to mention the brilliant minds of Diversify Van Life, whom we enjoyed conversing with. With diversity comes many chances to experience new things. Knowing we would be hosting a happy hour on Saturday; it was important to us we include non-alcoholic options. The outdoor community has a reputation for partying hard and drinking long into the night. By providing a non-alcoholic margarita with Ritual Zero Proof tequila, WellBeing Brewing non-alcoholic beers, and Liquid Death sparkling water, everyone could continue to rage without feeling left out. People experienced new beverages they might not typically try. When you can still have fun socializing and drinking tasty offerings, what’s not to be happy about?
Each day at Open Roads Van Life Fest was unique and different. With that said, Sunday was our favorite day. If you weren’t there, it will be hard to fully translate and convey the fun and camaraderie created that day. All we can say is that when there’s an opportunity to have a spontaneous acoustic concert in a creek with lounge chairs, cold beers, and good friends, and ample recycling, you jump in with both feet.
See you on the outside.