Our names are Marie-Louise “ML” Smith and Cynda Vanorsdale. We live in Boise, Idaho and El Pescadero, BCS, Mexico. We are the proud owners of a Grit GO/AT.
We are and, throughout our lives, have been avid outdoors people (camping, biking, backpacking, exploring); since we retired we are also ‘commuting’, seasonally, between the places we live in the US and in MX.
After having done this for a number of years in a Honda Element with a rooftop tent (with 4 dogs and a cat!) the move to a van was inevitable ;-).
What factors influenced your decision to choose Grit Overland over other options available in the market?
“After the decision to go class B (parking it, driving it, etc.) and because we know both MX and the rural West, we knew we wanted a gas (not diesel) van and one with some off-road/rough road capability. We looked at them all and we think the current Ford Transit (Eco-boost V6) is the best van chassis. We also looked at many, many upfitters.
For our travels we like to be ‘off the beaten path’ and so a van that would give us independence (power, water, robust heating and cooling) and the ability to be ‘out and about’ longer was top of the list. A close second was a van that had flexible space and finishes that were robust enough to stand up to all the dogs (and the cat).
Once we met the folks at Grit and saw the vans it was an easy decision. (Note: we live in a small ‘off grid’ house in Baja and know solar power systems. We were impressed with the Grit power system (Victron based) and use many of the same components in our MX house, as are in the van, in the challenging environment that is southern Baja).”
How has owning an overland camper van improved your overall flexibility and freedom when it comes to travel and exploring new destinations?
“Much over-used phrase, but ‘game changer’ for us.
We can go where and when we want. So far we have traveled in near zero temps and snow to 100+ degree heat and sand, the van handles it all beautifully and we are warm (or cool), dry, and comfortable. If we need to leave the dogs (and cat) in the van we are confident that both the heating and cooling systems will keep them comfortable and safe for hours and hours.”
What is your favorite trip you have taken so far in your Grit van? Tell us the story!
“We’re just getting started! This year was our first to and from Mexico in the van. We camped through Nevada on the way down in November and enjoyed early winter camping in the beautiful ‘sky islands’ of that state. Closer to MX we spent beautiful nights in the Mojave Desert in CA and then spent a few days traveling down the Sea of Cortez beach camping on the way to our house in southern Baja. Did the same on the way back. Here in Idaho we are regular ‘weekday’ campers and have a few favorite spots we go to regularly to enjoy mountain views and e-biking with our dogs. We leave the weekends to the folks that still have the 9-5!”
Could you share a specific instance or story where our van or any of its features proved to be invaluable during your journeys?
“The power system is amazing as is the heating and cooling systems. Never, ever concerned that we will have enough power. We did some exploring this winter in MX, specifically to Magdelena Bay to see the ‘friendly grey whales’ of Baja up close. Took all the dogs and camped on the beach. Could safely leave the dogs in the van for a good part of a day with the AC on while we went in the panga out on the bay. We saw many, many whales and the dogs were cool and safe in the van.”
In your opinion, what are the key advantages or standout features of our van that make it a worthwhile investment?
“No doubt it’s a big investment and we feel very fortunate to be able to have this van. At this stage of our lives we place a premium on experiences that we can have with each other. This van enables us to keep doing the things we love with our ‘four footed’ family. The van is very well built, the components are quality, and it performs very well for us.”
Which features or aspects of our van do you personally find most beneficial on your adventures?
“The power system, the large water capacity and the extended fuel tank. We travel 4,000 miles RT to MX and we need every bit of those capacities. Close second is the flexible interior spaces (bed, rear seat, shower). Love them when we need them; love that they fold up and out of the way when we don’t!”
Has your van or our company surpassed your expectations or met your needs in ways you hadn't anticipated?
“We travel a lot and love it. The van has taken a whole level of stress that I didn’t even realize I/we had out of it. We can stop when and where we want to take a break and rest or get something to eat in the van. We can literally camp anywhere we can park it and be completely self contained. Love it.”
Could you recall any standout interactions or memorable experiences you've had with our customer support or sales team during the purchase or ownership of our van?
“The folks at Grit have been great from start to finish. We were among the first I think to sign up for a GO/AT because we liked the concept and design AND we really liked them, personally. They were infinitely patient in answering questions and keeping us updated on status of the van (even during all the delays associated with COVID).
Since then, when we’ve had questions or minor issues, they have been almost instantaneously responsive and helpful. When we came back from MX we had a couple of things that needed attention AND we wanted to add that super handy fold-down shelf! I drove it over and they had everything installed and ‘ship shape’ in a couple of days.
I know I can count on GRIT (Dan and Jack in particular) to be the friendly, helpful voice on the phone or by text if I need it.“
Do you have any advice or recommendations for other outdoor enthusiasts considering purchasing an overland camper van?
“Think about how and when you are likely to use it and go from there. We live in a rural state with lots and lots of public land (and roads) and travel regularly and extensively all year, so a van like this is a good fit for us right now.
The GRIT vans are very well built and are RVIAA certified (built to an industry standard) so we feel good about the investment, i.e. we can insure it in a straightforward way and believe it will hold its value. If circumstances change for us we know we will likely be able to find a person or family that would like to have it after us.”