Here is a great example of how the Recreational Society works; In Sam Roil’s interview [HERE] he gives Ken props for helping with his Ute fit out, both are firefighters in Tauranga. That led to checking out what Ken does….And now meet full time firefighter, semi full-time camper builder Ken Macpherson. He is making beautifully finished, highly customised campers out of Mt Maunganui. We’ll let him explain;
Creative Campers started as a passion project building my own van out of free pallets from the side of the road in my parents garage and borrowing my dads tools. I came back home from overseas travel and naturally bought a van because they have always been my vehicle of choice to fit all my toys in for weekend adventures.
I originally looked at buying a used camper van but every one I looked at seemed to be way over priced and 300,000 + km. Also they all had people living out of them for a year with minimum maintenance and servicing invested as people seemed to want to do just repairs to get them through their travels not preventative maintenance. Added to all that the layouts didn’t seem to tick my boxes.
When I finished building my van (that took far longer and cost a lot more then expected) I found some great things that worked and some things I would modify if doing it again. Things I only knew by building my own and trying it out. When I was parked at the beach after a surf I’d often get approached about the van, layout and build. Having people take interest made me think I could list it for sale and buy another empty van to do another build with some of the changes I wanted, and really this is how it continues to be.
I’m not a qualified Cabinet maker and call myself Google Qualified and have spent a lot of time at Youtube University. I have always been around tools from when I was a kid with my own little work bench working alongside Dad on projects. Woodwork has always been a massive passion for me but only recently I have been able to turn it into a business. I also work full time as a Fire Fighter in Tauranga that pays the bills at home and Creative Campers is more a passion than a money making venture.
At Creative Campers we just help people however we can. It could be giving a little advice on van choices and what we recommend, helping with advice on how to meet self containment standards, local camping spots that we know about, or just the best local pubs for a beer. We also custom fit out client’s own vans, do modifications on campers and purchase vans on behalf and do the full fit out.
Some of our builds are all done while our clients are still in their home countries, we talk about their reasons for choosing NZ, what they want to do while here and it paints a picture of what style van will best suit them and also the build and storage spaces needed. If they are coming to surf, Kite board, Ski etc we build around how they will store their toys. Also preferences with van size, manual or auto, diesel or petrol and of course their budget.
If someone already has a van or even ute, bus, trailer etc we chat about the same things to do a custom build for them. Personally, this is a great way for me to learn and our builds evolve. We don’t know the perfect set up and I don’t think there is a one build that suits all. We enjoy the clients to have an input, feel they have added to their builds and then we get to take it from paper to reality.
If someone has a camper that isn’t 100% what they like we can do custom modifications. Whether adding a couple of shelves, making a non-self-contained build self-contained, Secondary battery set-ups, roof vents, Solar or custom curtains, replacing / recovering mattresses custom cut to size. We have a fantastic seamstress that has been backing me from day one that I could have never done any of this without (Mum).
The materials we use like wood, hinges, drawer slides, latches and fittings all come down to client preference and budget. We are still changing the ply regularly to get different looks and finding new suppliers but we have found using 18mm structural ply for works well and it is strong enough to not need framing timber behind it.
Our general client can be absolutely anyone wanting a weekend getaway sleeper van, some tradies wanting work van set up in the week and surf tripper for the weekend. We had a great retired couple bring in their trusty work van that they bought brand new 15years ago to get a birthday fit out.
Up to this point tourists have always been the highest percentage of our clientele. A lot of them still in their home countries and we do all coms online. It seems to work perfect as we send them details of potential van, view them on behalf, get them mechanically checked if wanted and when they say go we go. This way they have had an input into choosing their future home. We do the build and send progress photos the whole time discussing any changes or thoughts along the way.
For them they have enough going on with some moving country for the first time to live in a country they don’t speak the language in and needing to do all of the stressful things to pack up life in one country and move to another, stressing about a way to get around and their accommodation is all taken care of. We can meet them in Auckland or most jump on a 3hour bus to Tauranga, we pick them up, drive them to Mt Maunganui, straight to the beach and let them make themselves at home. When they are 100% happy we can do the change of ownership and they are sleeping in their new home that night.
With our current times, I think huge restrictions will be put on International travel both in and out of the country for at least the next couple of years and we will be adapting a complete new business strategy. We will be hoping Kiwis and NZ residents really jump on board and discover the best place in the world, their own back yard. I have a few mates heavily into 4WDing, back country camping and after seeing how great Sam’s setup was using the back of his ute and a roof top tent, giving him access to off grid camping spots its something im really interest in designing. Also camping trailers, horse floats, buses, anything on wheels really. My partner Eva and I just bought a 7m Nissan Civilian bus with a covered in trailer for toys that we are slowly decking out to show case what Creative Campers is able to build and as we won’t be doing international trips for a while now so local adventures will be our escape.
With the price of our builds it fluctuates for every build and we more try to build to clients wants, needs and budget. Sometimes we get clients wanting full self-containment builds, second battery set ups, solar on a shoe string budget and sometimes we just can’t do it. But most of the time we can compromise change a few things and get the builds done, although the better the budget, the better materials, fittings extra shelving and more we can make it how the client wants.
Check out Creative Campers Facebook page HERE