PT company turns passenger cars into cozy campers

Posted 4/9/21

Dropping everything and tossing a few worldly items into a car and shunning the material world to become a nomad of American roadways is a dream that has had its fair share of film and literary …

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PT company turns passenger cars into cozy campers


Dropping everything and tossing a few worldly items into a car and shunning the material world to become a nomad of American roadways is a dream that has had its fair share of film and literary romanticization.

But in practice, such endeavors have been met with varying degrees of success.

When readying for a cross-country Kerouac-style romp, the separation is in the preparation. And it’s the aim of the Port Townsend company “Camp N Car” to adequately prepare these wheeled wanderers with reasonably affordable options to live out of their cars — whether it’s just for a weekend camping trip, or for a spiritual journey of indeterminate breadth and indefinite duration.

Camp N Car is located in Port Townsend’s unassuming Glen Cove Business Park. While the site may not be as breathtaking as the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon or the arches of Moab, just behind a garage door Steven Moore, Micah Van Lelyveld and Martin Nerbovig, are all working to build the stuff of vagabond dreams.

“We create removable vehicle camping platforms and furniture,” said Moore, managing director of Camp N Car. “Some of it is standardized products that are sent to the customer for DIY assembly and then the other part of what we do is custom work.”

As the sun sets on the days of wanton excess and a “bigger-is-better” zeitgeist, more travelers are bucking conventional recreational vehicles and rigging up smaller, more bespoke and generally simpler ways of bringing the comforts of home where the rubber meets the road.

Approximately half of the company’s revenue right now comes from custom builds and the other half from their standardized products, like the “Trunk Bunk.”

The Trunk Bunk is a one-size-fits-all expanding bed frame that raises the sleeper up off the floor of the vehicle, while still keeping campers low enough from the roof to avoid a claustrophobia-induced panic attack. The extra space below also allows for storage bins to be slid under the bed for added convenience.     

“If people have a very specific vision of what kind of tiny camper they want us to build in their vehicle that isn’t met with our standardized products, then we bring them into the custom shop,” Moore explained. 

Moore is particularly well-suited to help Camp N Car’s customers work through their visions of their projects. Moore and Nerbovig started the company after the pair designed and built Moore’s own sleeping platform, which he then successfully used during a six-month excursion across Alaska.

For many folks, the idea of trying to fall asleep in the backseat of their car is a rather unwelcome prospect, reserved only for emergencies and following overly-indulgent social gatherings. But Camp N Car’s sleeping platforms make effective use of the backseat space, creating a more comfortable, flat quarters.

This is especially true when the platform is paired with a sleeping pad or a custom mattress. Shelves and storage cubbies also bring order to the whole affair by securing food, electronics, cookware and other odds-and-ends during travel. The entire ensemble creates an experience much more akin to camping in a conventional trailer or RV than sleeping one off in the backseat.

A cursory internet search for terms like “van camper” or scrolling the “VanLife” hashtag on Instagram will no doubt yield countless results showcasing DIY-ers who have crafted something similar to what Camp N Car builds on a daily basis. But as Moore points out, a not-insignificant number of these results, touting “simple living,” actually show builds that can carry six-figure price tags.

“Like so many things, there’s this glorification of this certain lifestyle or way of traveling that can be taken and turned into this hyper-monetized, boujee thing,” Moore said. “That’s the sort of van that people see on Instagram and they see it with some really conventionally attractive couple in swimsuits, at some luxurious location, and that’s what the popular culture of van life is pushing.”

Not so for Camp N Car, Moore says: Those other vans are crazy expensive and most people don’t look that good in a swimsuit.

“We’re not the custom shop that’s only servicing [Mercedes-Benz] Sprinter vans and $200,000 builds,” he explained. “We’re seeing that and trying to make a brand that is a little more down to earth, a little more accessible.”

And to that end, Camp N Car has recently partnered with the Homes on Wheels Alliance, a nonprofit — led by Bob Wells, who was prominently featured in the Oscar-nominated film “Nomadland” — that works to help connect homeless folks with vehicles that can serve as housing.

Van Lelyveld, Camp N Car’s custom lead, will soon be heading down to Pahrump, NV to assist Homes on Wheels with a van build.

Camp N Car will also be contributing a portion of the profits from the company’s newest product — a mini-van build kit — to donate more build kits to the Homes on Wheels Alliance into the future. The more kits they sell, the more they donate.

Van Lelyveld and Moore both said they hoped the partnership would be a sign of similar socially-minded endeavors to come for Camp N Car.

“Understanding that we’re just a few people with limited resources which can’t fix everything, but what can we do with the money and the privilege and the resources that we do have?” Moore said. “If there’s opportunities for businesses and grants to help [us do that kind of work] and expand that, I would definitely be interested in that.”

“That’s what I’m most excited about with the mini-van kit,” Van Lelyveld added. “Being able to serve that community in any way, even if it’s small.” 

Camp N Car will begin taking orders for their new mini-van kit, which will have a $1,795 price tag, starting mid-April.

For more information on Camp N Car, call 360-554-9684 or visit


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