Like with all recreational equipment, there’s always room for improvement. Cumbersome, external frame backpacks have been replaced with kushy suspension alternatives so you’re barely aware you’re carrying any weight. The classic – and classy – breakable retro aluminum camp chair alternatives can now be assembled in mere seconds and leaky canvas tents have long since been replaced with featherweight alternatives for all four seasons.
The almighty adventuremobile isn’t exempt from the same revisions especially since their ubiquity has exploded in the last decade with the popularization of #vanlife and overly engineered quarter-million dollar expedition vehicles.
After leaving New York, Texino founder Nick Devane sought out to live the dream with a rolling home while also experiencing first-hand the R&D it was going to take to drastically improve the vagabond experience.
While living in a Volkswagen Vanagon he was trying to get deeper into what the whole vanlife world looked like traveling up and down the west coast surfing and using his vehicle as a tool for outdoor experience. “The Vanagon is the perfect vehicle from a features perspective,” Devane remembers fondly. The only problem is that they come with a long list of mechanical shortcomings that can drive even the most seasoned mechanic mad. In fact, many drivers underestimate the stress involved with zen and the art of van maintenance.
This real life experience and even the celebration of their novel interior utility led Devane to research recreational vehicles even further to inform a potential business plan. He went straight to the source in Elkhart, Indiana – affectionately known as the “RV Capital of the World” – to ogle the tribal graphics and granny interiors of the most commonly bought RVs and even to see firsthand how Sportsmobile has maintained their cred as one of the longest running adventuremobile outfitters in America.
He returned with an idea for the first iteration of Texino. “Let’s get all the iconic adventure vehicles and get feedback,” he thought. “We imported a couple cars from Japan – that crazy Japanese camper that’s in the Vice show. Two 70s series Land Cruisers, then we scratch-built two Sprinters. We had three Volkswagen Vanagons we fully restored and upfitted to look a little meaner.” The goal was to crowdsource renters’ feedback and see if that was a sustainable business model. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t.)
Caravan culture in America is much different than in other parts of the world where it’s almost a cultural right of passage. Most of us only get two weeks off a year and we don’t like our vacation time to get rained out as much as we don’t want our vehicles to break down. While the Vanagon looks cool for an Instagram post, it’s not so sexy broken down on the side of the road.
Sprinters are only luxurious if you’re living in them full time or hauling toys such a dirt bikes. Otherwise, they’re top heavy and feel like you’re inside of a tumble dryer if you’re mashing down a washboard road. Land Cruisers will also get an approving nod at a stop light but will leave you head-in-hands at the mechanic.
With all these learnings and a passion to get people outside, Devane switched lanes to focus his attention on not only offering upfitter build-out services to desiring clients, but to also drill down on what he saw as the perfect alternative to vehicles known for mechanical failures.
Enter the Mercedes Metris. It fits all the base requirements and with a little bit of love, it fills the perfect niche in the recreational vehicle market. To make it camp-vibe ready, Texino fabricators added a pop-top area to sleep in, custom cabinetry with rattle-proof slots for all your cookware, an ergonomic interior complete with swivel seats, compression latches and catches that help with the drawers spontaneously opening, and so much more.
While Devane has since made the call to retire the vintage business, a fleet of Metris’ will be available for purchase soon with an extra incentive.
“We’ll sell you a van and you can enter that into our rental fleet as a share partner. We charge a little dough for storage and managing a rental and then we’ll split all the profits 50/50. Even if you use your van twice a month you could offset the cost of the entire vehicle,” he explains from the comfortable Texino HQ that doubles as a clubhouse and retail space to fuel worthy outdoor pursuits.
The idea is young but very few outdoor startups get the chance to be so nimble after living through the R&D process. With any luck, Texino is just what the market is looking for and Devane knows it from experience.
“I’ll have people who have never been camping take a van out, bring it back and they’re stoked like little kids,” he says enthusiastically. “That’s payment enough and from a community building standpoint, is really what we’re after.”
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