Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Vicky Dorvee

Taking it off the grid with Dunraven Campers


Michael Robson

The first model of a Dunraven Camper set up off the grid in Yellowstone National Park. The Niwot-based company specializes in campers that comfortably sleep five and take adventurers to secluded locales.

Is getting away from it all, being one with nature, spending time off the grid appealing to you? Do a toilet and shower, a comfy full-size bed, a well equipped kitchen and easy portability of your outdoor toys also register high on your happiness meter? Dunraven Campers, a Niwot-based business, specializes in hand-built, customizable campers that meet all of those desires.

Created by Niwotians Abbie Wathen, an aerospace engineer, and her husband Bob Petty, a software developer, the aluminum sided, 3,400 pound camper is named to reflect their love for Dunraven Pass in Yellowstone National Park.

The family’s lifestyle embodies their company’s tagline, “Life is for exploring.” Avid campers with three kids (ages seven, nine and 11) and four dogs, Wathen couldn’t contain her engineering ingenuity when it came to designing an off-road camper that suits her family’s needs.

Knowing others would also appreciate the recreational vehicle that they were unable to find elsewhere meant Wathen was destined to make it her business to help others get out of the confines of campgrounds. It took Wathen about a month to concoct her dream camper, and now the family can truly be in the wild, but with the amenities that make their outings comfortable.

The camper sits on a steel trailer with a differential axle making it ready to hit bumpy forest roads leading to secluded locales. The camper is towed by a mid-size SUV or truck, and once it’s parked, virtually indestructible solar panels can be set up and moved if necessary to best capture the sun’’s energy and provide power to the rig. That means the camper can be parked in the shade while the 180 watt solar panels can be basking in the sun.

The set up includes a rechargeable battery, and for places where electricity is available, there’s also an outlet which will charge the battery while providing immediate power. Skylights bring in natural light, and there are USB and 110 power outlets throughout the interior.

Aside from being a self-sufficient vehicle, the biggest differentiator is sleeping accommodations for five people, where typical large campers max out at four. One person can easily set up the entire camper; there’s just not much to do to make it usable once parked.

Kayaks, canoes, and bikes can be safely loaded on top. The bathroom comes standard with a hot water shower and a cassette toilet. Easily accessed and generously sized (27 gallon) fresh and gray water tanks are onboard.

An outdoor kitchen module pulls out to reveal the hot water sink, an electric refrigerator, a double-burner propane stove and a prep area. A retractable awning above the kitchen shields campers from sun, rain and snow and drop down walls may be added to create an enclosed outdoor room. A sizeable pantry accessible from outside the unit provides storage for shelf stable items.

Walls lined with wood (and plans for using beetle kill in future versions) make the interior look, smell, and feel homey. Each spacious bunk space is equipped with a memory foam mattress and an LED light. There are three twin-size bunks and a short-size queen that sleeps two people.

“We think it’s super important for the kids to be able to experience life outside their normal,” Wathen said. “But with three kids, we thought, ‘How do we do this affordably?’ So we always camped. We started looking at other products and they’re a lot of money. We wanted to do it reasonably affordably, and have a good time.”

Wathen said a van conversion can run $150,000, an Airstream could cost close to $85,000, and even a large Teardrop camper (which would be too tight for their family) is priced around $30,000. With those figures in mind, Wathen was confident they could develop an original design meeting all of their needs and build it themselves at a lower cost. Dunraven Campers are priced from $28,000 to $40,000, depending on the desired components.

Hunters, fishermen, and mountain bikers have conveyed interest in buying the unique RV. The dimensions are 7 feet wide by 14 feet long, and with the trailer, it measures 18’feet in length and 80 inches tall inside from floor to ceiling.

The couple will manufacture each custom-made camper in their newly leased downtown Niwot location on Murray Street, in the warehouse between the post office and the former Powder Keg Brewery location. They’ve committed to the space for two years.

For more information, visit http://www.DunravenCampers.com or write Abbie@DunravenCampers.com.


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