Industry Spotlight: Exploration Vans

Photo By: Exploration Vans

If you were asked where your favorite campervan builder may be, what would be your first thought- Portland? San Diego? If we told you there was a secret custom shop in New Hampshire, would you believe us?

Sitting at the base of some of the mountains that have helped shape athletes such as Richie Rude and Bode Miller, Exploration Vans is positioned unassumingly between a Gymnastics Camp and Karate Studio. Walking into their facility, you’re instantly greeted by an imposing auto lift, a colorful mural of the company logo, and a long line of 4×4 Sprinters all in their place in the production process awaiting custom upholstered panels, winches, lift kits, and cabinetry. A quick peek in their adjoining shop space shows off a woodshop, CNC machine, and, most importantly, a hanging rack of mountain bikes the crew makes sure to ride every chance they get.

Photo by Exploration Vans

Photo by Exploration Vans

Photo by Exploration Vans

Exploration Vans’ motto is short and sweet, ‘Built to a Higher Standard.’ This standard refers to the company’s goal to be at the forefront of the campervan industry in finding solutions to improve the experience of their clients and the quality of their work. The company’s founder and operator, Nick Nelsen, says, “People trust us to create a product that isn’t just a custom art piece, but a tool to use in their adventures. Equally as important for the gear you carry into the backcountry to be high quality and trustworthy, we want to create the most reliable and effective 4×4 campervans in the industry, not just for our region but for everyone! Our clients have come from all over the country, from Hawaii to Alaska. They recognize that where your builder is located geographically matters so much less than who they are and what they can do.”

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Nick was introduced into overlanding out of pure necessity, as so many outdoor athletes are. As a full-time rock and ice climbing guide, creating a mobile living solution was the only option for this dirtbag climbing guide. By upgrading that first van long before vanlife was trendy on social media, Nick generated interest for others to seek him out for their own bespoke builds. A tale as old as time, the hobbyist becomes the professional. After two years of balancing his time between his woodshop and guiding the granite monoliths and towering ice climbs of the White Mountains, Nick hung up his Goretex jackets and climbing ropes to begin his new obsession: finding a way to build the best campervans in the industry. Since 2018, Nick and his crew of fellow precision-obsessed outdoor athletes have worked tirelessly to find new and exciting solutions to do just that.

Recognizing the lack of any standard in the industry regarding electrical work, Nick became the first van builder in the country to earn his Marine Electrician Certification through the ABYC, the country’s governing body working directly with the US Coast Guard to create and maintain standards for the Marine Industry as a whole. “Your builder shouldn’t be watching the same YouTube video to build your electrical system that you watch to understand what your builder is doing,” jokes Nick.

Photo by Exploration Vans

Photo by Exploration Vans

It’s a funny but unfortunate reality in the aftermath of the pandemic where new builders have materialized to help satiate the ever-growing demand for new campervans. Exploration Vans is poised to take this momentum to push the industry as a whole to increase its focus.
“I want to continue our focus on creating effective and reliable products that are, above all else, safe. If we can position ourselves in the industry to create the best end result we can for our clients through our own development as makers, shouldn’t we? They’re trusting and investing in us. It’s only fair we invest in them as well.”

Photo by Brett Willhelm


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