Making Every Mile a Memory: A Recap of 2023
What a year! 2023 was a year of change and growth for Outside Van. It started out with a bang as we opened up our new production facility and launched Approach, our first model van conversion produced for the mass-market. Building custom vans over the years has given us a unique insight into what works best in the outdoors. We took all that knowledge and have condensed it into building a series of innovative adventure vehicles that rely on common layouts and are geared for a broader set of adventurers, explorers, and van lifers.
To build Approach, we had to modify our manufacturing pipeline that we have perfected over the years building one-of-a-kind custom vans and adapted it to fit in with a workflow that focused on high-quantity production. To do this, not only did we need to engineer Approach in a way that was complimentary to mass production while still sticking to our construction and quality standards, but it was necessary that we open an entirely new dedicated facility that enabled this workflow. Thus, Outside Van South was born.
Located just blocks away from our headquarters, Outside Van South is a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility where every step of the build process can be done in-house and under complete control of Outside Van.
On June 15th, after months of logistical kung-fu, equipment deliveries and installations, and long nights and weekends getting the facility up and running, we officially cut the ribbon for Outside Van South. To mark the monumental occasion and in true Outside Van fashion, we decided to throw a huge party!
With our legacy of building the top adventure vans, we pride ourselves at being a resource in the community. Since 2007, we have left our mark and helped define what it is to be an adventure van, and have worked with many builders and manufacturers along the way to help build this industry into what it is today. There is always room around our campfire and as a tilt of our hat to the community we invited all our industry friends and turned our Open House into a celebration of all things Van Life.
We opened up the facility for tours, debuted Approach, launched t-shirts out of a t-shirt cannon (!), and had a massive raffle. It was a incredibly successful event and we thank everyone who attended and participated and are humbled by the good vibes and warm reception from our community that we hold dearly in our hearts..
Not only did we have a blast at our Open House, but we also introduced the Apex Wheel, our first go at building a wheel that is purpose-built for the unique uses of an Outside Van. Crafted using advanced Flow-Forged technology, the Apex Wheel achieves an exceptional balance between strength and lightweight construction, resulting in improved fuel efficiency and performance. And, the removable rock ring allows you to easily replace any damage or scuffing down the road.
To add to our arsenal of awesome components, our team developed the Wing Step Rear Bumper. The Wing Step is a specialized type of rear bumper that incorporates a grip tape step with an integrated wing shape that allows the use of hitch mounted bike racks and accessories without an extension. The design will not interfere with the use of the backup sensors, and its no-drill install is fast and seamless allowing you to take your upfit into your own hands without any expensive specialized tools.
As the year marched on and with Approach rolling out to dealerships nationwide, our team developed and built Slim Chance, a Sprinter 144 concept van that incorporated a new layout and features that we have been secretly developing over the past few years. Outside Van began in 2007 in Hood River, Oregon, which also happens to be one of the top wind sports destinations in the world. So as an ode to our origins we teamed up with Naish Wind Sports to build the most badass rig this side of the Columbia and to turn Slim Chance into a vehicle kitted out for extreme wind sports. With tons of gear storage incorporated into a murphy bed, a wrap around kitchen that has everything you could ever want or need while camping riverside, and a hitch mounted outdoor shower, Slim Chance encapsulates the spirit of what we set out to accomplish when developing concept vehicles.
Slim Chance was also our first 144 built on the new Mercedes-Benz All-Wheel Drive Sprinter chassis, and as with all new innovations, we wanted to thoroughly test the capabilities of the new All-Wheel Drive system, so naturally we went wheelin’! Mercedes decision to move away from their 4-Wheel Drive system absolutely sent waves throughout the adventure van community, and admittedly we were also a bit anxious about the new reality for the Sprinter. The move to All-Wheel drive makes a lot of sense. While adventure vans built for overlanding is a fantastic use of the Sprinter chassis, the reality is that most Sprinters built at the Mercedes factory are destined to be package delivery vehicles or utility vehicles used in urban areas. Even the 4×4 Chassis were considered a niche offering and over the years and through a great relationship with Mercedes, Outside Van has been able to secure a sizeable percentage of these chassis to help support and build the adventure van lifestyle. So when Mercedes announced the end of their 4×4 offerings and the move to All-Wheel Drive, we knew we had some learning to do.
To help with our tests, we teamed up with Agile Off-Road and gave Slim Chance one of the first RIP kits designed for the new AWD system. Installed directly at the Agile HQ in Southern California, we then set out to the Anza-Borrego desert with the Agile team to put Slim Chance through some trials.
The desert of Anza-Borrego is filled with deep sandy washouts from ancient rivers that are carved into the rocky terrain, and is the perfect environment to field test Slim Chance. Guided by John and Jesus from Agile, we aired down our tires, climbed steep sandy hills, weaved through tight slot canyons, and got up to highways speeds off-road in the wide ancient river beds. To sum it up, it was an absolute blast.
The All-Wheel Drive system in combination with the RIP kit and the off-roading knowledge of experts like John and Jesus proved that you can really go just about anywhere you want to go in an Outside Van. With some salsa stains, a huge amount of desert dust, and some minor pinstriping (much to the chagrin of our Production Director, Ted Riske. Sorry Ted! 😊) we headed back to Outside Van HQ in the Pacific Northwest with a new sense of admiration for our vans and their capabilities, and full confidence in the All-Wheel drive system.
Building just one concept van wasn’t enough for our team this year, so we designed and built Pacer, a Sprinter 170 dually which was made to be a sanctuary for nomadic professional athletes to prepare, rest, and recover as they travel to compete in professional endurance sports such as trail running and obstacle course racing.
To put it to the ultimate test, we partnered with two incredible athletes, Lindsay Webster and Ryan Atkins. Lindsay and Ryan took Pacer to use on their journey to the Obstacle Course Racing World Championships in Mammoth Lakes, California. Traveling through high elevation areas, they acclimated and prepared for the pinnacle endurance event of the year, using the van’s athletic recovery tools such as the built in red light therapy bar in the fully enclosed shower, and the extra amount of gear storage and kitchen space for their training gear, Lindsay and Ryan camped throughout the Cascade and Sierra-Nevada mountain ranges as they weaved their way to Mammoth Lakes. We then met up in Mammoth where Lindsay and Ryan both clenched golds at the OCR World Championships as Pacer passed out refreshments for the athletes and doled out good vibes at the finish line.
To celebrate our amazing Outside Van owner community, lovingly dubbed as our Outsiders, we hosted our second annual Outsider Summit at the end of September at Camp Cedar Creek in Sandy, Oregon. With an unprecedented number of Outside Vans in attendance, our time was filled with tasty food, informative and entertaining seminars, and outdoor hijinks through the trees of the Mt. Hood National Forest. The catered meals brought us together, the warm fires and lively spirits kept us celebrating into the night, and Outsiders of all kinds, including customers, kids, dogs, and employees, came together to partake in the fun!
To wrap up fall, we had a blast celebrating the fall season with our friends from Ecliptic Brewing at our spooky Van-O-Ween event. We brought Approach, Pacer, and Slim Chance full of candy and halloween decorations. There was plenty of spirits, spooky movies, costumes, and laughs to go around.
Finally, the 2023 Chris King Open House was a killer event that brought the outdoor community together seamlessly. Outside Van partnered with several companies including Chris King Precision Components, Smith Optics, Pivot Mountain Bikes, and Snow Peak to outfit our Signature Collection van Knuckles with the latest and greatest in biking and camping gear for the event. The party raged but eventually the refreshments ran out, and the pizza guy went ahead and reserved his place for next year. All signs that the day was a success.
As we head into 2024, we have a lot of exciting things in the pipeline, including the release of our newest model, Syncline. We are looking forward to keeping the stoke high and the fuel tanks topped off and can’t wait to bring you along.
See you on the Outside!