RV News

A means to an end

A unique RV unit is home for a family on their way around the world

by Trevor Crawley

Eco-friendliness, sustainability and RVing come together in a custom-made motorhome designed by Jay Shapiro, his wife, Alice Gugelev, and two kids.

Literally home for the family, Shapiro and the crew are on a worldwide adventure to explore the highways, back roads, and even places with no roads, on four different continents.

To get around the globe, Shapiro designed what he’s dubbed the EcoRoamer, a heavily modified F-650 capable of navigating pretty much any kind of terrain that catches his eye.

The 27,000-pound vehicle has a Caterpillar engine that runs on biodiesel fuel and a battery bank with solar panels on the roof to provide for all electrical needs.

The intent was to find a reliable chassis and frame that could be modified to incorporate environmentally friendly features not just on the mechanical side, but also in the living space.

The size of the truck makes people question the eco-friendliness of the unit but Shapiro said appearances can be deceiving.

“Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Yes it’s big, but the fact is, we produce less CO2 than a small car because we run on veggie and we offset it, we’re made out of recyclable materials and this is our home, our school, our office.”

Recycle, reduce, reuse

The camper body is made of Alucobond—an aluminum composite composed of two recycled aluminum sides with recycled plastic for the core.

The floors, walls and roof are insulated with recycled foam board and the top of the camper pop up and acts as air scoop for ventilation in warm weather.

Water filtration is done through a five-step system designed by NASA and sewage is composted naturally.

With 200 square feet of living room, the interior was consciously designed to maximize the space. The dining area is a U-shaped bench—one side of which is the freezer—and the master bed lowers down from the ceiling.

The unit also features mobile WiFi, which allows internet access for Shapiro and his wife to run the Muskoka Foundation, a non-profit organization that networks with fellow travellers and encourages them to use their skills to benefit the areas they visit.

For example, an IT specialist travelling through South America contacted the foundation and was able to set up IT workshops in communities he was going through, said Shapiro.

Going worldwide

The plan to travel around the world was just a natural extension of their experiences living in Asia. They frequently took trips in vehicles like Toyota Landcruisers and explored remote areas, camping along the way.

When the kids were born, they realized they still wanted to travel, but needed a bigger vehicle.

“We knew we wanted to go around the world, we knew we wanted to drive, the question was, ‘how do we do it with as little impact as possible?’ ”

The general plan is to head south to Mexico and down into South America. From there, they'll ship the RV to South Africa and head up the coast into Europe and then down into Asia.

Track the family's global progress and find more information on the EcoRoamer and the Muskoka Foundation at www.ecoroamer.com

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