We passed Connie McClaran and her converted Mercedes Sprinter camper, "Swiss Army Van," a number of times before we finally stopped to ask her about the vehicle while exploring Yellowstone National Park. She had noticed us admiring the van, and thus was eager to share its story when we finally approached her.
Connie and her husband Don purchased their van in 2008 and began to convert it into a camper soon thereafter. Their philosophy towards their van is summed up in the KISS acronym — “keeping it simple, stupid”. “We didn’t want to get into the recreational vehicle that had all of the things hanging down underneath, you know the propane tanks and whatnot, so that you couldn’t go on bumpy dirt roads,” Connie explains. Instead of equipping the van with running water, large propane tanks, and a bathroom — all of which could prevent its mobility, Connie and Don sought the basic essentials. What they have is a super insulated cooler for produce and other perishable items, a camp stove attached to a small propane tank inside the vehicle, a 5-gallon refillable water jug, intentionally placed storage, and a comfortable bed.
Originally, "Swiss Army Van" was to be the first of a number of Sprinter vans Don would convert into campers, but business plans changed when the recession prevented the McClaran’s from retiring. However, that resulted in their own one of a kind adventure vehicle to be enjoyed for many purposes and circumstances.
The McClaran’s have spent nearly 18 months worth of time on the road in the Swiss Army Van since they purchased it in 2008. Connie shared with us some of her favorite places the road has taken them — a list including Stout Grove and Gold Bluff Beach in the California Redwoods, Big Sur, Steens Mountain and the Alvord Desert in Southeastern Oregon.
Listen to Connie’s full audio interview, including her proclamation as the “pillow princess”, below: