My Camper Van conversion in 17 days – A How-To Guide

I made this video showing the day-by-day process for making a really pimp Van Conversion!

You can also find a FULL online-guide for how to convert a van here: https://www.thevanconversionguide.com/ 

Download a PDF eBook Guide with full schematics and parts list here

This project was SUPER fun but obviously quite involved. You can see full detail of the build on the following blog I made to help people with their own projects; https://www.thevanconversionguide.com/

Preparation for ‘Psycheventure’

I am basically a mediocre climber who has dabbled in all sorts of climbing. I started doing more trad and then moved into winter alpine mountaineering and then to big wall but mostly doing it as a weekend warrior / holiday climber.

My current aims are explained in this 1 minute long video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mP1JYC3q8Xc
These aims came about after a trip to Yosemite where I mostly aimed to solo some routes I really felt the desire to free climb big walls. A good idea but the only real problem being my fitness. After a bunch of injuries and a severe lack of climbing routes my endurance was low and my finger strength was pretty poor.

At this point, with frequent pulley, collateral ligament and back-disc issues I was not even sure if it was possible for me to climb anything resembling ‘hard’. That said I was ready to try, starting at the bottom I climbed the easiest routes and, as my fingers allowed, slowly increased the difficulty.

I was training mostly in the Castle Climbing center in London, first with my friend Hattie and then Angela who was totally psyched to train and work hard.

After my Solo Yosemite in April 2014 I took a bit of time off climbing and started to train after that. In reality at that point in time I could probably climb around 7a on Sport or Trad.

We did 4x7s on routes (4 routes 7 times each on lead with no rest) which took between 45min and 1hour to build general endurance. We did doubles (a hard route, for you, and try and lead it twice with no rest).

The aim was to climb 7b in Siruana in October that year. Which I did.

Back to the UK for winter and we carried on training. We did 4x4s on the wave in addition to the above while paying careful attention to injury management and preventative exercises.

March 2015 in Kalymnos the aim was to redpoint 7c and I did. Actually it was graded 7c+ but I think it was soft so 7c might be the right grade anyway. This was a great confidence boost, it felt like that if I just followed the process and was careful with injury I could maybe actually get strong.

During this time I worked for a two and a half years and saved really hard – 70% of after-tax wage sort of hard – I even did work on-the-side to meet this target and I did, just.

A plan was forming in my head. A plan that would see me climbing and travelling for the next three years. I would start by going sport climbing for a year and a half, build up the fitness, then move back in to Trad and more adventurous climbing with the end goal of free climbing routes on El Cap.

I left my job in July 2015, converted my car in to a camper van, and with my brother we travelled down to Briancon in France, then Ceuse and then Spain where we rented an apartment.

Due to the disruption of leaving London at the start of this trip I was taking a few days to redpoint a 7b+ and three months later I climbed my first 8a and onsighted my first 7b+.

All in all, 1.5 years from taking the decision to start training and then moving to climbing full time I had moved my redpoint grade up from around 7a+ to 8a and my max onsight from 7a to 7b+.

Shere Khan 7c+, Camarasa
Shere Khan 7c+, Camarasa

The generally reassuring thing about all of this is that consistent training processes work, just climbing more works wonders and training carefully with injury allows you to get stronger and healthier at the same time.

It is now just 2016, I am writing this while doing new-years in El Chorro. I have 6 months in Asia ahead – a month each in Ton Sai, Thakek, Yangshou and somewhere else afterward until June.

For the rediculousness of it I decided to call this trip master plan Psycheventure.. an adventure in climbing psyche.. or something and we have made some silly videos too.

Hydracare – Idea to IP sale

Hydracare was a project which aimed to reduce dehydration in hospitals and care homes – a problem sadly still poorly addressed. It started while at university and the patent/surrounding IP was eventually sold in 2012.

I came across the problem of dehydration after obliterating my foot in a climbing accident that required me to spend 8 days in a French hospital. After leaving the hospital with a rucksack and directions to where I could purchase crutches & injections I was prescribed to inject myself with – I made my way to Paris and hitched a lift back to the UK where I started to research my injury with the precision of someone who has a 30% chance of not walking properly again and with a job that was not taking up all of my time.

If you break your Talus in half there is a chance the bone will die causing you life-long problems.

I cannot remember where, but there in an online medical forum a woman was writing about how her husband, after under going reasonably significant surgery almost died from dehydration – which caused further surgery to be carried out at (I think) a loss of a limb. Again after that operation he became dehydrated and further complications ensued. All the man needed was water on a regular basis – but somehow this was not being administered.

It turns out that dehydration can significantly slow the progress of recovery, and if serious can cause further complications. In need of a project for university and sensing I was on a rich vein I Googled ‘Dehydration problem’ which I suspect today will have people asking the same questions and pointing out the same issues.

Dehydration is a big problem – especially with the elderly.

My research at the time shown the dehydration problem to cost 80,000 bed days in the UK alone (one bed day is estimated to cost £600+) and costs even more through dehydration caused illnesses and accidents. In the US, Medicare paid out over half a billion dollars for patients diagnosed with dehydration, in one year; dehydration is a global problem.

 Elderly patients often don’t want to drink due to poor thirst mechanism, water is often changed by cleaning staff and, with nurse shift changes it is currently very difficult to monitor patient water consumption. The elderly, especially, need constant reminding and monitoring, if the carers don’t notice a patient not drinking, within a short time it can lead to a long hospital stay, from which many never fully recover.

 In hospitals dehydration causes post surgery complications and can reverse a patients condition, again it’s very hard to prevent. If hospitals used this product it could save millions of pounds just from bed-days saved resulting from improved recovery rates.

 At home the elderly need to be reminded to drink, staying hydrated prevents dizziness (caused by low blood volume) and falls upon standing. Elderly with care support could be given independence for longer preventing them from having to move in to nursing homes.

Project..

As a Brunel Industrial Design student – for me it was important to build a product of some kind. These days, if I wanted to make a tangible difference I would probably lean towards lobbying and trying to change how dehydration is viewed on a legislative level. Either way I designed a product and through entering competitions IKB Awards I was able to get low-cost access to a Patent Attorney who patented they key basis of the product; a drinks container with a monitoring and alarm means.

Hydracare simply reminds patients to drink and alerts staff if too little water is consumed. The product can be used in hospitals and care homes as a bed side unit, or can be used by the elderly in the home potentially with family, day carers or the elderly person themselves using the devices’ feedback. In a care setting carers are able to identify those who are not drinking within one day; preventing serious problems and possible legal action from the patient’s family. The design was shaped with significant input by care professionals with the aim for it to be a simple and inclusive design although admittedly it is fairly over-engineered from a commercial/production point of view.

The project I won a few competitions including a Medical Futures Innovation Award a grant from UnLtd and a couple other minor cash wins (IKB Award, Bright Ideas Award, Reliance Prize of Prizes Award) which in the most part went on the project or went into future ideas.

Dehydration Prevention

I could have moved faster on the product – but it took several months before the Tech Transfer department at Brunel renounced their claim to 75% of my IP; a ridiculous practice considering I am a fee payer not an employee – I was pissed off to say the least. After University, and a bit of travel, I made attempts Continue reading “Hydracare – Idea to IP sale”

Tips on getting an office

Moving in to your first office can be pretty cool, but for most (self funded) start-ups you tend to spend your formative years either working from home or renting a desk with other companies.

There are are a few ways to manage your work environment and I have experience of most of them – below is a break-down of the key options and what I found.

Working from home

There are lots of advantages in doing this – but unfortunately it is coupled with a few striking disadvantages.  I worked from home for a little over a year as we started up for the first time. At this point we did have an office but this was in Kuala Lumpur where our programming team was; in the UK there was just me doing my best to keep them busy.

I had recently moved to a flat in North London over looking a park with a friend who I used to work with. There are some advantages to having no commute and ‘arriving at work’ basically means sitting up in bed and picking up your lap-top. However it not always conducive to a productive work environment.

The key disadvantage is that you find yourself travelling out for all your meetings and you find yourself feeling slightly awkward when you say you work from a home office (it clearly positions you as a small company or one man band). It got to a point where taking on additional employees or interns just felt a little awkward and when dealing with more serious clients the fact that you do not come across like a ‘real’ business does become an issue (even if it is just down to confidence).

Rent a desk

There are plenty of companies offering hot desking environments and depending to what sort of company you are starting certain types of offices will suit you more. They usually have additional costs for when they take and forward calls for you and other add-ons like meeting rooms and such. I did not really want to move in to this kind of office, many are practically chicken farms, and generally over priced for what you get.

The easier option is to find a small business that has some spare desk space that they are looking to rent out to individuals or other small businesses. You can usually find a decent desk in a friendly, small and intimate office for £200 to £350 per month. I moved in with another start-up albeit a more advanced company and built good relationships with was beneficial for everyone involved. I rented one desk, and if I needed more for free lancers or employees, it was easy enough to take another.

One key issue with moving offices like this, or running a lean start-up in this way, is sorting out a phone line. The easiest way is probably to just have a land line number that forwards to your mobile. If you are often out in meetings this is invaluable.

Serviced offices

As you grow you are likely to need a bit more than a couple of desks in an office – somewhere for your business to call ‘home’. We moved in to serviced offices early into our third year. Our first office was enough for 12 people and a small meeting table (we were not too fussy about putting people close together) and as we got the office in the middle of a recession it really was not a problem to negotiate down rent costs (for which we got about 30% off).

The office cost around £3,000 per month (in 2009) (if my memory serves me correctly) and although actually pretty expensive for the space we could leave with more-or-less 3 months notice and phones, IT, internet, chairs, desks, cleaning, heating, electric, reception and post collection was included. It meant we could move in and be up and running in a matter of hours.

Serviced office #1
Serviced office #1

About a year later we moved into a larger room in the same building – which cost about £5,500 and I estimate to be around 750 sq/ft. The office was actually pretty damn nice, but at £95/sq/ft/year it was obviously fairly expensive. We were able to fit around 20 people in that space, and to be honest could have fit another 10 if we were going to push it!

Serviced office #2
Serviced office #2 (before we sorted it out!)

Leased offices

We wanted space for about 30 to 40 people it was obvious that moving into a leased office would make more sense. Also as we were getting bigger it was clear that our revenue streams were going to be a bit stronger and we could ensure that we would be able to honour longer-term rent agreements.

A cost consultant suggested that we should be able to find space at £17.50 per Continue reading “Tips on getting an office”