Thursday January 26, 2023
Climbingvan: Powering Off-Grid Adventures
Charlie and Dale, the couple behind Climbingvan, have combined their technical backgrounds with their love for the great outdoors to run an off-grid electrical system business.
Charlie Low and Dale Comley have been living, traveling, and operating their company Nomadic Energy from their campervan full-time since 2021.
As their business is exclusively online, reliable website resources are a lifeline for the couple. Thanks to Hostinger, they’ve been able to grow and facilitate audience demand, all while exploring nature.
It’s not surprising that Charlie and Dale met on a climbing trip.
“Climbing and van life are kinda synonymous,” says Charlie. “It’s very common to see people bring their campervans to climbing areas and combine the comfort of home with roadside adventure.“
The couple dreamt of converting a campervan into a home on wheels so they could conveniently embark on more climbing trips. They eventually bought Ringo, a yellow ex-DHL delivery van, and started working on it. They planned to take a year off once the conversion was completed for travel and then come back to work rejuvenated.
Along the way, they documented the conversion process on Instagram and set up a blog, racking up a considerable following as the project progressed.
Unfortunately, a week after the van conversion was complete, the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe. The UK went into a nationwide lockdown, effectively canceling Charlie and Dale’s travel plans. With Charlie also furloughed, the couple suddenly had much more free time on their hands.
This ended up being a catalyst for a bigger change for both of them. The couple decided they didn’t want it to be just a year off – they wanted to change their way of living altogether.
Blazing a New Trail
The couple’s hobby presented them with the perfect opportunity: during the van conversion, they found it hard to get reliable, well-researched information. Aware of a clear gap in the market, the couple began writing a definitive guide on converting a campervan themselves.
In April 2021, after thousands of hours of research, they published their book aptly titled The Van Conversion Bible, just as they moved into the van full time.
They didn’t stop there. Knowing the ups and downs of converting and living in a van, Charlie and Dale wanted to help others. They surveyed thousands of people who wanted to or had converted a van. This gave them a good idea of what people found the most difficult: getting the electrics right. Funnily enough, this coincided with their own experience – Charlie’s background in physics and Dale’s as an engineer.
“When people first wire in their systems, it can appear that everything is functioning. But soon, things may stop working, and it’s not always clear why,” Dale says.
Charlie elaborates further: “We call those problems the unknown unknowns. They’re essentially the things you can’t consider because you don’t know about them until they happen. Then you realize that you’ve been screwed over by something.”
Shortly after the book’s release, they launched Nomadic Energy, a campervan and off-grid electrical system design service.
With the information they collected, Charlie and Dale created a clever system that does the math for individual conversion projects. “It’s a bit like a calculator. We can work out things like how much power someone is using or what type of batteries they need based on the appliances they have, and how they plan on using their van,” Charlie explains.
Driving the Fully Online Route
As their business is completely internet-based, Charlie and Dale realized they needed to take their online presence seriously and build a robust website.
Their previous blog could barely handle the increasing traffic. That meant they needed a flexible content management system to improve the site’s SEO aspects and keep all the content in check.
The couple opted for WordPress to rebuild the Climbingvan website. They filled it with more structured and detailed articles, utilizing Elementor to handle the front-end.
At the same time, their new site needed a reliable web host to facilitate the growth they were experiencing. Charlie found out about Hostinger through recommendations and online reviews. The positive feedback for Hostinger’s customer service convinced her to try it.
Charlie notes that whenever they reach out to Hostinger’s Customer Success, the agents are always helpful and friendly, ready to address any issues or concerns.
“We honestly reference Hostinger as the benchmark for our engineers when providing support,” Dale says. “We’ve sent them screenshots of Hostinger’s support, with their little GIFs and stuff like that. It’s so, so good.”
Today, their website handles more than 60,000 visits a month from all over the world. It’s at the core of their business – of the 23,000 The Van Conversion Bible copies sold, 34% were purchased via the site. It’s also the storefront for bespoke Nomadic Energy electrical systems. And since Climbingvan first made its name as a blog, people also drop by for helpful information about van conversion.
“We don’t have any sort of premises, offices, or shops – the website is literally everything to us,” says Dale.
The Journey Ahead
Climbingvan, the couple’s passion project, has grown from just Charlie and Dale to a team of eight. Everyone involved lives vagabond off-grid lives. They also use Nomadic Energy’s off-grid electrical systems, meaning they can work from anywhere. This ensures that their customers get service from like-minded people who really walk the talk.
Now that their business is up and running, the couple has big dreams for the future. They both agree they like being agile and nimble, so they do not plan to take root anywhere anytime soon. Charlie and Dale emphasize that the whole business is about off-grid electrical systems, so it feels almost wrong to have a physical office somewhere.
That said, they dream of building their own off-grid house. The team is also planning to expand to other off-grid electrical systems and regions. The US market is particularly enticing – America is arguably the home of campervans, RVs, and living the nomad life.
And while they plan for the future, the couple remains committed to sustainability. Climbingvan is a member of 1% for the Planet – 1% of their revenue is allocated to applying solar energy to community organizations. Moreover, for every book they sell, they plant a tree with Ecologi, an environmental organization that partners with businesses to offset carbon emissions.
Living, traveling, and working on your own terms while giving back to the world? Mother Nature must be proud.