Once upon a time there was an ideal vehicle for the wanderer, and it was not a little tent or a massive RV. The classic VW Westfalia was a compact design, perfect for the drive to work or a weekend at the lake. Pull in, pop the top and there was a home away from home, a base camp for swimming, surfing, hiking or biking. For over 50 years, Volkswagen delivered, but like many products, the VW Westfalia gradually crept up in price and down in availability. And then it was gone (at least in the USA.)
Not so many years later, Honda launched a mid-sized vehicle called the Element. With a design aimed at function over form, it landed somewhere between a van and an SUV. The brochure showed the seats folded flat for sleeping inside, though it looked uncomfortable. The clever design featured useful details such as power outlets, easy to clean rubber floors, and a large flat floor space.
"it reminds us a bit of a modern day VW Microbus. That, too, was cheap, funky, and very practical. But unlike the Microbus, the Element is safe, plenty powerful, heated and cooled inside, and it’ll start every day" - Click and Clack
This Element seemed to hold a hidden potential, especially for an engineer who happened to own a small composites fabrication business. Like many projects, creating the first ECamper took longer than planned and cost a little more than expected, but the end result really worked. Put into use shortly after the last bolt was tightened, we camped all over southern California and Baja. From gas stations and grocery stores to remote beaches, more than a few people liked the idea. It turns out it's hard to camp when people are constantly asking "where did you get that pop up?"
We began quietly building campers for other enthusiasts here in Southern California, gradually expanding our production and improving the design as word got around. When the Element ended production, it was time look for other opportunities. Many of our customers did not want a bigger camper, but one with a little more off-road prowess than the Element. The Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, was an ideal platform. With the ability to ship our Jeep camper tops all over the world, we're now able to help campers from Australia to Europe explore their back roads.
A degreed mechanical engineer, founder John Gish began his experience in van camping with a 1965 VW Micro, which after 43 states, 3 countries and 240,000 miles went off to a well deserved R&R (repair and restoration) in Tokyo, Japan of all places. After that, his camping adventures moved to cruising on small sailboats, paddling kayaks in Baja, and casually looking for a decent Westfalia Synchro. When that proved unsuccessful, a few scribble and sketches finally migrated to a CAD programs and the ECamper was born.