Homes and Gardens / Travel

​​The couple paving the road for a generation of van converters

By Betty Woolerton, Monday Jul 17, 2023

Somewhere in central Kentucky, you’ll find Ringo – a mustard-coloured LWB Mercedes Sprinter, upgraded Scandinavian-style with seats, a double bed, running water and cabinetry with creamy surfaces – designed and renovated by Charlie Low and her partner Dale Comley.

The couple spend their days living nomadically, dividing their time between working on their joint-owned business designing bespoke electrical systems and adventuring, from wild swimming and paddle boarding to seeking out climbing spots – their number one shared love.

The ex-DHL delivery van was never intended to be a home, but that’s what it has become via many months of evenings spent meticulously planning in the pair’s former Totterdown home and renovating on weekends.

Independent journalism
is needed now More than ever
Keep our city's journalism independent. Become a supporter member today.

Dale, 31, from the Peak District and Charlie, a 28-year-old from Bristol, met on a climbing trip in the Dolomites, in northern Italy. It was in that two-week holiday that the new couple first discussed converting a van into a liveable home on wheels.

The couple are now currently travelling the USA

“It was something that neither of us has had any particular experience of before, but it quickly became a joint kind of aspiration,” Charlie told Bristol24/7 over Zoom. “Almost at day one, it was something that we started chatting about.”

Fast forward to January 2019, Charlie, who was working as data analyst for an adventure travel company, and Dale, an engineer, bought Ringo and started converting it, intending to give up their nine to five jobs as soon as it was complete.

“When we weren’t working, we’d come home and work into the early hours of the night together, side by side working on every single section,” Dale said. Charlie added: “It was fairly all-consuming.”

As months passed, the pair documented the renovation process on Instagram under the account @climbingvan, garnering thousands of followers. Charlie said: “We were just documenting it because I enjoy photography and because it felt like a nice way of recording what we were doing, but then it turned into a much bigger thing.”

The couple have co-authored ‘The Van Conversion Bible’, a new book guiding first-timers through renovating vans

On completion, after 15 months and 1000 hours of work, the couple reached a bump in the road. “We’d always planned when we finished the van to take a year’s sabbatical, but what actually ended up happening is that the week after we finished, the UK went into lockdown – so fairly poor timing,” Charlie said with a chuckle.

Undeterred, Dale and Charlie realised they had unwittingly tapped into a gap in the market, turning their hands to helping others with their van conversions.

“We realised that there wasn’t a single point of reference for van conversions,” Dale said. “As we were working, we made lots of mistakes that we didn’t need to make, purely because the information we found was a bit dodgy or it just wasn’t out there.

“So, with me coming from an engineering and design background and Charlie in physics and having a really good understanding of electrical systems, we’ve tried to record all of those problems so that other people doing van conversions can avoid them.”

The pair co-authored The Van Conversion Bible, a book outlining exactly how to plan, design and convert a campervan with handy hacks and ‘how to’ guides including a graph showing average costs for builds, sourced from more than 2,000 people who have bought vans to convert. “Rather than buying a £60,000 motorhome, you can do it at a fraction of the cost, to the spec you like,” said Dale.

Putting their full-time jobs happily on hold, Charlie and Dale left their south Bristol home in April last year to live in their campervan full-time – first traversing Europe and more recently shipping Ringo from the UK to Canada to embark on a year-long pan-American road trip.

Charlie said: “After that, slightly TBC, we’ll see how we’re faring after three years. We’ll probably end up spending more time in Spain, whether that’s in the van or, at some point, we’d love to build a house.”

“We now have the freedom of being able to go wherever we want, whenever we want,” Dale added. “It’s very, very hard to beat living in this way.”

For more information about Charlie and Dale, visit 

All photos: @climbingvan

Read next:

Listen to the latest Bristol24/7 Behind the Headlines podcast:

Our top newsletters emailed directly to you
I want to receive (tick as many as you want):
I'm interested in (for future reference):
Marketing Permissions

Bristol24/7 will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing. Please let us know all the ways you would like to hear from us:

We will only use your information in accordance with our privacy policy, which can be viewed here - - you can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at [email protected]. We will treat your information with respect.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Related articles

You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
Independent journalism
is needed now More than ever
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
Join the Better
Business initiative
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
* prices do not include VAT
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
Enjoy delicious local
exclusive deals
You've read %d articles this month
Consider becoming a member today
Wake up to the latest
Get the breaking news, events and culture in your inbox every morning