Experiments in off-grid deployable shelters on Oregon dry lake




I first heard about the Alvord Desert from a local who told me he lived 100 miles from the nearest grocery store and he thought perhaps it might be the most remote place in the US. Then a landsailer friend swore this dry lake bed in Southeast Oregon was a hidden treasure for speed enthusiasts.

We had been warned that this place was isolated, but we weren’t prepared to hit 40 miles of unpaved road in the middle of the night. After avoiding all the jackrabbits we arrived at the Alvord Springs campground where we’d booked a retired military popout shelter. The so-called MASH unit (Mobile Alvord Sleeping Hut) was actually a former expando-van or expansible van truck. Now it was minus the truck and looked like a shipping container with pop-out sides. It didn’t look insulated and we spent a very cold night (we hadn’t noticed the heaters) inside.

When our metal box began to heat up with the morning sun, we decided to try some off-roading and turned off the unpaved road for an even bumpier entrance onto the dry lake bed. There we bumped into some seasoned landsailers who’d been coming here for years. Unfortunately there wasn’t much wind so we took the opportunity to explore their off-grid shelters. One sailer showed us the accessible schoolbus (with lift still installed) he’d converted with CNC-cut woodwork for himself and his two dogs. Another Portland-based camper showed us his two-person tent tricked out with solar panels (for morning espressos), a sink that pops out of a toolbox and similar jack-in-the-box-style kitchen.

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42 Comments

  1. ryan
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    You can buy those army housing units for around $300 each. For some folks that's by far the most affordable option.

  2. aknopf
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    "… easy, right?"

    Seems like a great guy to stay in the desert with for a week or two 🙂

  3. Free America
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    Nice video. I've always lusted after a 5 ton truck with the expando van as a camping tool. In the Army we have diesel generators and even AC units on those things. We use huge camo nets over them too, it keeps the sunlight from turning them onto an oven.

  4. Fu Dog Whisperer
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    You'd think they'd set up a solar roof on the carts so if the wind isn't blowing they could use them as solar buggies.

  5. Aki Vector
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    Sounds like the lady from "This is Criminal"… 🙂 Great video!

  6. Joe Vega
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    i love your videos! chicago il 2018

  7. phuck ewe
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    Beware the 'dry' lake bed in the spring and winter.
    However, prime arrowhead hunting country around the edges.

  8. Michelle Carithers
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    I bet your kids are having the best experiences of their young lives

  9. Romashk
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    There should be a net with camo and leaves on top of those expanding things.

  10. georgebushwack
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    Such a treat to see a new Kirsten video on a lazy Sunday morning !!

  11. R D
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    Not very good for the environment if you have to use diesel fuel to truck in every single drop of water and food. Libs are so dumb.

  12. Bob Sturgis
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    As all ways great video,showing how to live on less stuff.Also lucky kids to travel to different spots,and see and meet different people.Jokingly do you want to adopt me.Ha Ha Ha.Will be interested in what the next video will be.Peace.:}

  13. Jittra Chokechaimadol
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    love the Idea

  14. Ron Briz
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    I drove a 5 ton expando van in the Army. I was in a Calibration unit and the center floor area was filled electronic rack work benches. When folded up you could walk around the benches, but when expanded, there was room for our stools and room to walk around each other. Heat and AC was not a problem, our 10K generator operated the AC and heat with help from the diesel heaters.

  15. funkolog
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    you capture sunlight into panels which production definitely not ecological. you're sending it to batteries, full of chemicals.
    I see bunch of guys having fun. nothing off-grid in this video.

  16. Chaz Evansdale
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    That pop up sink and pop out kitchen are awesome!

  17. MrCbass1234
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    That's cool; the guy you interviewed with a tool box, converted into a sink and camp supplies.

  18. TheDenisedrake
    July 8, 2018
    Reply

    Alvord Desert! That is on our bucket list. We've heard it is great for star gazing.

  19. tarmacsurfers
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    Kirsten I say it every time but I love everything about your videos. This one was something very different and it was a great watch, great diversity you bring for us to view. Thanks again very enjoyable.

  20. Bill at Yellowdog Welding
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    A very enjoyable video! The commentary in the beginning was very nice. The kids singing at the end was da bomb!! ATB, Bill

  21. Andrew Kumler
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    Very cool. I love that place and go there several times a year for landscape photography, and of course just enjoying the solitude.

  22. Brian Binns
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    Enjoyed this video. Nice narration.

  23. Joe Jakob
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    Kirsten Dirksen eloquently documents architectural history. Your absolutely one of my favorite film makers. I imagine I'm not alone or the only one here who digs your films. thank you

  24. Siddharth Shah
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    Fantastic! A mastefully made film! An artful take on the subject that elevates the home review to an exploration of relationships with the environment.

  25. it's burningmanmike
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    I like the school bus option. Roll up, park, and relax. Once done, clean up, and take off to the next spot!

  26. IronicallyVague
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    Geography kinda fits the description of Aztlan -'

    let me know if you find any golden temple ruins

  27. Chris MacDhomnhuill
    July 9, 2018
    Reply

    The window covers in the expanding vans are to black out the window not for protection. At the front of it there is a standard A/C opening. Those are old models the newer ones are larger and better insulated

  28. ElGueroLoco
    July 10, 2018
    Reply

    Kirsten, greetings from LA. I’ve been watching your content for awhile now. I’m so excited to see your channel doing so well and always appreciate your work. Take care!

  29. Sally Clay
    July 10, 2018
    Reply

    I never heard of those shelters. Interesting.

  30. suchlongboards
    July 11, 2018
    Reply

    kd you're the best at what you I always feel like I'm on a journey watching your videos

  31. Matthew Troiano
    July 12, 2018
    Reply

    I had experienced one of these during training we called the one a mill van. Only one side expanded out but it just quite doubled the floor space. It was a more mobile expanding shop/office than it was a living quarters.

  32. john doe
    July 12, 2018
    Reply

    Adventure! I love it! Enjoy! and good luck!!!!

  33. MrLegacy36
    July 13, 2018
    Reply

    What’s the point really,
    Get a decent job even part time and buy all that crap and go “camping” anytime you want..there’s nothing special or any ingenuity here, just a bunch of collected crap

  34. I C.
    July 14, 2018
    Reply

    trip planned here next week, this make me so much more excited great vid

  35. frankie2234
    July 15, 2018
    Reply

    Thanks, always something new.

  36. whycuds
    July 18, 2018
    Reply

    Fascinating. Great video.

  37. Kathy Paaaina
    July 19, 2018
    Reply

    Aloha strong shelter nice to meet your family hugs and prayers from me 2 U from Hawaii Oahu

  38. Ralf
    July 20, 2018
    Reply

    Galinha pintadinha samba samba o lê lê ! Samba samba o lá lá!

  39. Leah Regal
    July 24, 2018
    Reply

    Yes! I love the playa camp knowledge. <3 my peeps

  40. Colin Kelley
    July 28, 2018
    Reply

    Thank you. So interesting. So fun to watch. But what you are doing is really important.

  41. Allen Hare
    July 29, 2018
    Reply

    Thanks for another great video. I really enjoyed it.
    It’s amazing the intelligent, fascinating, and friendly folks you can meet when you just follow your nose, and ask questions.
    Those folks on the dry lake bed really had it sorted out. The land sailing would have been awesome to see, had the wind co-operated.
    Happy Trails

  42. small footprint
    July 30, 2018
    Reply

    Great video, from the pop up living spaces to the wind sailing… but the best was the great little song at the end. Thanks, girls.

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