THE VAN

This is quite a long post so please, bear with me if you are interested in knowing the process behind the search for a "perfect" rig, the opinions below are personal and relative to my own experiences.
It all started in 2010 actually, after joking around with my ex-partner and because we were complaining about not traveling enough; so why not buy a van and tour the continent?
Then something clicked right away and my sometimes obsessive mind started to wander... what if? yes, what if i could?  It was already a dream as a teenager to get a cheap VW Kombi to go surfing/skateboarding whenever and wherever, how come i forgot? Life is a treacherous friend and the dream of becoming a famous artist and creating Sci-Fi universes took priority above the swell and salt; reason above passion, a common discursive pattern unfortunately. Even though i never really stopped bruising my body trying new tricks on a skateboard, a snowskate or a wakeskate in the last twenty years, it was done so sporadically that i've lost the daredevil inside, spontaneity is gone for good (or bad in this case).
Anyway, what if we could reach newer grounds in a different manner, a more "permanent" one? we really wanted to travel and take some distance with the increasing stupid politic stands of both Quebec and Canada.
I started to research and very soon was lost in the world of RVing and forums, full timer's blogs, manufacturer's floorplans...etc. To be honest, none of us knew anything about Recreational Vehicles before that, despite the fact that a Westy is an iconic figure of our pop culture. We learned a ton of new technical terms and it was very confusing at first; Type A, B or C, toad, snowbirds, towing, GVWR, black tank, CG, inverters, bla-bla-bla!!! It takes some time to figure it out and now i know that the notorious little "hippie" wagon is a Class B van conversion :)
We went to  the Toronto Fall RV Show twice and talked to a lot of representatives, visited local RV dealers, took a lot of brochures, downloaded many catalogs and tried to imagine ourselves living inside the large 5th wheels or buses.  What i can say is that most of the brands are targeting the US/CA market for retired couples, families or 4-wheeler aficionados, and is definitely not for my "tastes", only Airstream stands out with a more contemporary, sleek and "fresh" look, with an obvious better overall quality too. I wish we could see more of the cooler European or Australian RVs here.

Toronto Fall RV Show
Here is a rapid overview of my decision process, for a long time i kept changing my mind and went back and forth from one model to the other, from one brand to another. My partner on the other hand, rapidly understood that the smaller the better and was getting bored of my constant hesitations. We are not yet ready to jump in the fulltime RV bandwagon so let's start with a practical vehicle and have fun.
  • From Type A to Type C:
We looked at the type A RVs for some time but it was a short-lived option as there is so much discrepancy from the (too) large luxury buses to the smallest ones in terms of choice and options, not even talking about quality of materials and equipment which are for the most part; mere crap. Because of the price of gas, the market is slowly evolving and we could see some smaller type-A RVs that look more and more like type-C vehicles without the advantage of the overhead bed. Thus, we were very interested by the latest, a classic C has lots of interior space for their relative small length, they look very welcoming and comfy and we both loved the bed over the cabin. The main problem is that their chassis are usually very close to their maximum weight limit, and they don't come in 4x4 options which is something important in our considerations.
  • From 5th Wheel to Truck Campers:
Truck Camper Magazine is a great site and a strong recommendation for the most up-to-date news and reviews of anything TC. I could still be interested by such rigs later if the truck industry eventually start to make more fuel efficient HD models. 
  • From Truck Camper to Tigers:
Tiger Adventure Vehicles are really unique and belong to a niche market in North America; the expedition vehicles. I came upon these amazing little motorhomes after checking out the different TC forums and got very excited at the idea of having a solid self-contained "condo" on top of a strong overland PU truck. The only thing that kept bothering me with this combo is having 2 completely independent entities and no direct internal connection, which admittedly could be also very useful.
The great thing about these Tigers is that they are top quality 4x4 type C and at a "reasonable price" that said if you compare it to the equivalent products available now (like Earthroamer and XP camper).

Ford F-350 Super Cab XLT - Bengal TX, photos copyright Provan Industries, LLC.
Most of their models are quite small and "affordable" for that type of vehicle (except for the Siberian) and we were interested in the 2013 Bengal TX version above. I talked to Mark Guild the President and it was a real pleasure, they are patient and very helpful people which earned them a great reputation, he put me in contact with Glenn Rogers their Canadian dealer in Alberta, who is also very sympathetic and knowledgeable. I don't know why we couldn't find a solution to finance his rig though, nothing worked out well and after waiting in disappointment, i started to come back to the research board.
  • From Tiger to Vans:
Tiger trucks forgotten, i started to look back at the Type B/B+ and camper vans which are the smallest of the spectrum.  They are perfect to travel light and fast and the build quality is often better overall. There are numerous great manufacturers like Airstream, Roadtrek, GTRV, Outside VanTriple E...etc.
But then i became obsessed with Sportsmobile vans based on a Sprinter chassis, you can fully customize your vehicle and the service is outstanding, unfortunately they are not (at the time of this writing) approved by Transport Canada. I realized that there were also a few interesting models on the streets around our block named Safari Condo, a local brand apparently so i paid them a visit at a show nearby, it was very interesting, a family business with beautiful products at a competitive price. This led me logically to New-West as they are neighbors and have lots of similarities both in their design and construction. The main advantages reside in the choice of the Chevy Express 1500 chassis which is more economical and they have chosen an alcohol stove instead of the classic propane system (saving precious space and weight) as well as a gasoline heater. On top of that they are pretty well insulated being made here in Quebec.
If you have the chance to visit their factory, don't hesitate.
Time to hit the road!
For those interested in doing something similar, i would say that the most important thing is simply to evaluate your program; what do you really want to do, your needs and how/where do you want to go? take the time to research as there is so much to learn, visit or try the different configurations available and ask a lot of questions. It could be a daunting task but it is also very exciting.

Enjoy and see you there. Peace!
T.