RV Modders and the DIY Culture: Yes, It’s a Thing!


This is what our brand new Winnebago EKKO “Number One” looks like at the moment.

Honey, let’s go camping this weekend! Oh wait…

Did you catch that “brand new” bit? There’s nothing wrong with Number One. It being torn apart like this certainly wasn’t necessary. James, a born tinkerer, couldn’t wait to get our new RV and start ripping it apart. RV modding is a fun hobby for him. I’m quite sure he enjoys modding our RV more than he likes RVing itself.

Weighing seats he removed. Just because it’s fun.  And before you ask: 114lbs.

Since sharing some of James’ recent RV mods, we’ve gotten quite a few comments from people who just don’t get the modder mindset. “Why would you buy an RV that needs so much work done to it?!” With the RVing DIY trend so prevalent right now, the comments surprised me. I’m so engulfed in both the RV community as a whole as well as the RVer DIY subculture, that it never dawned on me others might be perplexed by James’ weird compulsion to tear apart a perfectly good RV.

James’ happy place.

People have been DIYing since forever really—homes, cars, personal things—it’s nothing new. Even though the DIY scene has likely always been around in the RV world, it wasn’t noticed as much until recent years. Social media, and especially the #vanlife movement, has accelerated its popularity. Vans have so little space, owners are forced to get creative… so they mod, share their mods on social media, and that inspires others to do their own mods, and the movement grows. As long as you’ve got willpower, and internet connection, you can learn to do almost anything. Or if you’re like James, you don’t even need to learn it ahead. Just hacksaw the top of the fridge door off and see what happens. It’s fun!

 

Fifty years ago people DIYed out of necessity. Renovate or fix something yourself and you save the expense of hiring a pro, and you ensure it gets done right.  Today’s resurgence of the DIY culture shares that motivation, but there’s another component: the hobby aspect. That’s what we’re seeing here in the RV community– modding as a hobby, not a necessity. There’s a whole subculture of RVers out there (including James!) who enjoy doing their own RV enhancements, even if there’s nothing wrong with their RVs. Modding allows RVers to tap into their creative sides. They get to solve problems, tackle challenges… making the seemingly impossible, possible. The final reward is an improved RV and a sense of accomplishment.  It makes modding highly addictive. You may start out innocently mounting a paper towel holder, but then the next thing you know, you’re mounting shelves, moving lights, ripping down walls, or taking sewing classes every Tuesday night so you can DIY your own divider curtains. It’s like the cycling world’s n+1. With modding, it’s m+1.

Warning: Mounting paper towel holders can lead to dropping your generator.

RV manufacturers not only know about the prevalence of the RV DIY culture, they encourage it. When Winnebago announced the EKKO launch, Winnebago’s Product Director Russ Garfin was proud to let people know they had used construction strategies to make modding the EKKO easier for owners. He also said he couldn’t wait to see what sorts of creative enhancements people would do. So, the manufacturers aren’t offended by the mod movement. Quite the opposite; they’re a captive audience. In fact, there have been plenty of clever mods individuals do that eventually find their way into mass-marketed RVs. Like when Greg Schultz added an exterior light over the dump service area on his Travato– which the Travato community lovingly refers to as the GSDL. Now GSDL’s are on all of Winnebago’s campervans!

So, yes. If you missed it, modding – the way James has always done – has morphed into a trendy, RVing subculture. And whether you’re a modder yourself or you’re a mod enthusiast who enjoys watching modders like James work their magic, the RV DIY movement continues to grow, and fast. James, who’s never been ‘trendy’ before, couldn’t be happier about it.  Though even if it wasn’t a trend, James would continue to mod. It’s part of his nature. We all have a basic human desire to want to create, enhance, improve, and challenge our limits. This is one of the ways James satiates that desire within himself.

 

And the best part?!? I get to kick back, throw out the occasional “good job honey”, and ultimately get rewarded with a totally badass RV. Color me lucky. And grateful for James’ DIY gene! He’s a keeper for sure. That is, if I can ever get him to come out from under the RV…

Is he napping down there???


Keep the conversation going below! Be well, all!

xo, Stef



After 15 years as an educator in both the public K-12 setting and the University level in Special Physical Education, Stef made the leap to her true passion… the fitness world. She’s currently a personal trainer and wellness coach specializing in seniors, medical conditions, and injuries. Stef loves running, cycling, and being “Mugga” to her two favorite mini-humans — Punky and Marshmallow. ❤️


    17 thoughts on “RV Modders and the DIY Culture: Yes, It’s a Thing!

    1. Rich Ambrose

      This article makes me smile! You’ve done a great job capturing the modder spirit. I always enjoy seeing what James is up to, and have used a lot of his videos to guide me through my own mods. But it does see like he has upped his game for the EKKO! A CNC router!?! The 20K project!!! Can’t wait to see what is next!

      Reply
      1. Stefany - Post author

        Thanks, Rich! Yep, it seems James’ mod hobby keeps growing in both complexity and the collection of tools he “requires”!!!

        Reply
    2. Greg Schultz

      Thanks for the honorable mention.
      We “modders” make changes to make the RV work better for us, the way we use it. If it works for others too, even better. We continue to be sooooo impressed with the way Russ and his crew pay attention to the details and embrace our mods.

      Reply
    3. Kevin Clark

      As my ex-girlfriend and still friend said to me a few years ago.. at this stage in the game I’m not looking to do more I’m looking to do a whole lot less ! At the time that was about five years ago when we were both in our mid-50s. The reality is hitting 60 still remains the same I’m not looking to do more I’m looking to do a heck of a whole lot less. It’s time to kick back and relax.

      Reply
      1. Stefany - Post author

        Yep. DIYing isn’t for everybody. Luckily these days you can hire pros to do pretty much anything!

        Reply
    4. Andy & Kim

      We’ve been following you since Das Bus. If James wasn’t in process for some mod we would be tempted to send the police over for a Wellness Check!
      Andy & Kim

      Reply
    5. Don Wilson

      If only I was close enough to drive by once in awhile. As a retired machinist, tool calibration tech, Elevator mechanic, tool inspector, and Cleanroom tech, and electronic component machine builder and maintenance – before retiring. I would either be thick in mods with James, of watching and writing down ideas as he worked. As I am still waiting for our rig, and lots of ideas to start, but with no exact measurements to start fabricating parts to add when it arrives. I am waiting and watching every mod with anxiety. Keep going James!!!

      Reply
      1. Stefany - Post author

        How cool… Sounds like you and James would have a blast hanging out in his shop! AND, I suspect we’ll be seeing some pretty sweet mods coming from you too. Here’s hoping you get your new rig very soon!

        Reply
    6. Bill Case

      Please post up your WeBoost video. It will be one of my first mods when I get my EKKO in early August.

      Reply
      1. Stefany - Post author

        He’s still out there under the rig, but if I ever see him again, I’ll get on him about it!

        Reply
      1. Stefany - Post author

        Indeed! Sometimes I catch him just staring at things in the RV… unmoving, lol. His mod wheels are always turning!

        Reply
    7. Graham Smith

      As one of the numerous modders, I salute you. Often the key to successful modding is to prioritize the mods. Decide what MUST be done NOW and what can wait. Of course, there’s always those things that come up during a trip that have you saying, “Oooh, oooh, oooh, I have to do that!!!”. That’s where having a few basic supplies and tools along helps.

      Reply
      1. Stefany - Post author

        RV modders unite!!! You should have a secret handshake or something. Hope we’ll be seeing you in FC very soon! xo

        Reply

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