August 19, 2022 4 min read

HEST Rigs We Dig GMC Sierra Camper Buildout Back of truck DuallyYour name: Michael Bhanos

Location: Park City, Utah

Nickname: AKA Savanagon - AKA Operator 

Make & Model: GMC Savana 

Year:2006, Automatic

HEST products: Two HEST Sleep Systems


Critical dimensions for your bed platform: 
Length: 78"

Width (at narrowest point): 50"

Height: 15"

Is this your daily driver or getaway car? 


What do you like most about your rig? 
What I like most is its used often, for proper adventures, utilizing all built features. If it's not used, it's removed mentality. From the ground up, I built and styled the van by hand from a blank 2WD commercial van found in Elko Nevada. The unique adventure styled interior and exterior was out of real use cases and trial and error. A form/function forward logic, American made, work horse. Its an OG adventure van that looks better the more beat up and dirty it gets!


On your average weekend adventure, what is the gear set up you bring with you? How did you navigate gear storage needs into your rig set up?
The van is fully kitted and self contained, so it's away turn-key-ready with water, food and cold beers;) My Hest Sleep System, Goal Zero 1400 lithium + 200 watt panels, goal zero string lighting, Camp Chef Everest stove, Jetboil, Lodge cast irons, Dometic CFX fridge, Dometic marine toilet, Kelty love seat, Nemo Star-gazers, Joolca Showerand an Alta bike rackthat slings 1+6 Mtn bikes has me and friends well fed, sound slept, clean and chill-laxed on the book ends of active type 2 adventures ahead.

How did you navigate gear storage needs into your rig set up?

I wanted to still be able to use the van as a cargo carrier, so I kept a through galley design. In addition to daily life hauls, I’ve taken discreetly carried motos, ebikes,, kittingboard and surfboards inside. The built pantry, fridge slide, cabinet/drawers/kitchen, under bed storage, high roof bulkhead front/rear storage handle all the home goods, bedding, food, clothing and tools. The Kuat rear swing + Alta Bike Rack handle some of the toys while not limiting rear access, front hitch mount works wonders for a second bike rack, cargo cage or Warn winch when going big. The Blue Ridge Overland Trash Bag, Blue Ridge propane carrier, Aluminess Paddle board rack + Rhino Rack Shovel/Axe clamps carry all the things you wouldn’t want inside the van and living space.

Any cool custom details you’re proud of?
Yes, it all feels custom to me; insulation+flooring+camper interior, but also the Boulder Off-road Brush guard with KC 4 pack lights, Salt Lake 4X4 conversion, Fiberine Camper Top, Bullet Brand black coating on the hood+roof endcap+and all around skirt, Aluminuss Surf bars + axe/shovel mount, Weboost/CB comms, Thule rack degree-cant mounted Goal zero solar with secondary charging link to the alternator, Rhino Rack Awning for shade on demand.

Coolest place you’ve taken your rig to? 
The coolest is being able to work remote and working on the go. I’ve taken it to all the top events - SeaOtter, Sedona Mtn bike Fest, Overland Expo, OR Show, plus all the great West and Mtn West Wonders - Olympic National Park, Taos, Santa Fe, Sedona, Moab, Telluride, Crested Butte, Aspen, Big Sky, Sun Valley, Yellowstone, Wind Rivers, and Sierras.

Any projects in the pipeline to get the cruiser even more adventure ready? 

I think the van is dialed to where it needs to be! It could always use more prettying up, but I'm happy with where it's at and I'd much rather save money on TLC, fuel, beer and the occasional well-scented candle/incense.

Biggest challenge in your build out? 

The shape of the van is not linear.  It's like building in a whiskey barrel that's both round and tapering as you head forward and aft.  All interior structures had to be custom to follow the contours of the van to maximize space.  Also, not having professional tools or space was a hurdle. For instance, not having a table saw and having to cut the straightest of lines by hand with a circular saw. Using a working two car garage that was on a slope made for sore backs and daily-routinely set ups and break downs. Piecing together equipment as you go tends to influence the build after the fact, like when I got my hands on my Dometic fridge, it caused a massive interior redesign and build to make the most of the functional space. 

Tips for others looking to do the same to their vehicle? 
Just do it.  Build light and simple with as many stand in pieces you can find until you really know what you want. I'm a big proponent of up cycling/recycling/reusing so visit second hand shops and get creative to find some unique treasures. Have a plan and gather as much of the major pieces of the build together ahead of time.  Ask questions and network, there are so many online resources to educate yourself. As with a house, complete the behind the wall work first, electrical, plumbing, insulation, walls and flooring first then tackle the furniture type configurations. Pre-planning multiple electrical and plumbing access points in your space makes the evolution of the interior build a convenience. Take pictures and video along the way.  Make a physical scape book as they'll become personal keepsakes in the years to come.