Based out of Hamilton, Rustic Camper Co is a new boutique campervan rental company. All vans are built by friends Henry [left] and Rory [right] using locally sourced materials. As you can see from the images, the builds are all about creating a warm, cosy cabin feel. With their website going live now it’s an exciting time for the two bussiness partners. The start of a fleet perhaps, and the finish of the start. Rory fills us in on why and how…
What was the kernel of interest for you each in getting into building campers?
We’ve both spent years travelling around South America, Europe and North America. We found doing it on your own 4 wheels was by far the most cost effective and most fun way to do it.
During these trips we were subconsciously building a ‘sh*t yes we need that’ list for the ultimate campervan. Between us we have done many of vantrips in our travels. Spent 3 months travelling in an airstream across North America. Travelled in an old postie van across Europe. Up and down the west coast of the US in one of those “wicked campers” that featured beavis and buthead on one side (getting some very strange looks when filling up at the gas station).
It was in Canada though where I fell in love in the rustic wooden tree cabins which appear to be scattered all over British Columbia. Not only that, but I started getting exposed to other travellers that have taken this same cosy wooden aesthetically pleasing characteristics of cabins and fitting out their vans in the most incredible ways.
So as what most returning Kiwis from overseas do when we come home – we want to explore our own backyard so I bought a hiace with 350,000 km on the clock and fitted out my first van (super rustic!) photo below
After some real positive feedback from renting it out on various rental sites and very few companies in New Zealand doing campervans with real character and originality this validated the idea to make it into a full blown business.
The fit outs look incredibly detailed and you have that very clear aesthetic, with the use of Poplar and Cedar, what is each of your guys skill sets?
We have been good mates since high school. I am from a business / sales background and Henry is an experienced electrician. The first couple of vans I did by myself out of pellet wood (very rustic!) and Henry just helped me out with running the electrics. He was paid appropriately in steak and beer!
After some small success with renting these we sat down one afternoon during lockdown and said should we have a proper crack at this thing. For this we would need to:
1. Invest in newer, bigger and better vans.
2. Spend more money on the builds using top quality materials.
3. Work every single weekend for the foreseeable future.
We agreed, shook hands, and we started searching for vans. It works well because I can run the admin side of things. And I do the basics on the build and Henry is a polished electrician and builder by trade.
Why did you decide on the model of fitting out campers and then renting them out?
It was a personal thing originally. Upon returning from overseas I wanted to explore my own backyard but I wanted to do it in style. When I wasn’t adventuring in it myself, I quickly learnt that there were other like minded individuals out there that wanted to do the same thing and were digging the vibes of the van.
The big thing for me though was dealing with these people. The people who were interested in renting them were all cool cats that you have a yarn to. Although you are getting paid for it, you feel good with helping them make their travels special. My first customers were on their way to a festival up in the Far North. They needed to go there a week early to make a 8 metre tall octopus sculpture. Certainly not your everyday work stories in the campervan business!
Tough year to do it, was there a consideration that this wasn’t the right time to launch?
100%. Covid meant that the international tourists wouldn’t be here which is a little concerning. However the void has been somewhat filled by the fact that Kiwis are now highly motivated to explore there own backyard.
We like to think our offering is also more than just big multiweek travels and we actually cater for people wanting a weekend escape too.
How are the vans spec’d out, do they have shore power, solar, self-containment?
We are now on our 6th and 7th van conversion so with each build you get a more refined understanding of what is important. The vans have deep cycle batteries and are hooked up to solar which gives us more than enough energy to power the fridge, laptops, lighting, phones etc.
For self containment, once you understand the requirements and get them signed off by an authorised self containment officer you are good to go. We have joined both the NZ Motorhome and Campervan Association as well as the Rental Vehicle Association. They have been really good resources for us and everyone in the community has been really helpful.
Where are you based, do you have a commercial workshop set up?
We are based in Hamilton. We work out of Henry’s home where he has a workshop set up in the garage. The neighbours are probably not overly impressed when they hear the drop saw start up at 8am but everyone has been super supportive which is cool.
Who do you think your clients will be?
So far it has been mainly couples aged 25 – 40. We like to cater for those that want the finer things that only larger campers offer such as a shower, gas hobs, fridge etc but don’t want to ride in a big motorhome, that although is very practical does not have any character or originality.
Are you putting the vans on sites like Mighway and Quirky?
Yes they are on there. But we have our own site now! Check it out HERE
And check out Rustic camper Co’s Instagram HERE