Jess has never been one to shy away from a new challenge, a new adventure or experience. Two years ago, after an ankle surgery she began the process of finding a way to fulfill her dream of making it down to Mexico to camp on the beach, learn to surf and conquer her fear of open waters. Biggie Smallz, as she calls her rig is her version of a dream camper set up. We checked in with Jess to see what it took to get Biggie Smallz down to The Baja.
Where did you find your camper/truck?
Jess: I Bought the camper from a retiring fisherman in Princeton, BC and I got the truck in Maple Ridge, BC.
What year and model is your truck and camper?
Jess: My truck is a 1996 Ford F150 inline 6cyl 4.9L - the stuff legends are made of. The camper is an 8ft Bigfoot fiberglass bad boy from somewhere in the mid 80's. The original Bigfoot camper factory is in my hometown (Vernon BC) so it was really meant to be.
What modifications did you make to your camper in the rebuild?
Jess: I bought the camper a few weeks after having ankle surgery. My roommate Ben is the camper guru so he helped me alot with the first few steps when I was still unable to walk without crutches. We stripped everything down to the bones, removed all the cupboards, floors, everything. Ben installed beams to reinforce the structure since fibreglass campers (especially old ones) can get pretty soggy and I was planning to do alot of 4x4-ing on sketchy roads. After that it was re-panelling the interior, installing the cupboards and flooring, painting everything, sewing upholstery covers, building shelves and racks, fixing the plumbing and water pump, and installing the solar system. I used lots of free or reclaimed materials to help keep costs down - spent a lot of time in used building material stores. Everything inside is handmade. All of the racks are made from old pallet wood and paint that people were throwing away. The process basically felt like it would never end, but a few months after spending every single day on my hands and knees in there and banging my head against the wall until it was dented (my head, not the wall), the rig was ready to leave for Mexico via a stop at Mount Hood for CAMPiTA.
What's the most important piece of equipment you have in the camper for living on the beach?
Jess: My propane fridge! It has a little freezer in it so I have ice packs on constant rotation. I stuff them in my hat or sit on them so I don't go insane from the heat. Cold drinks and food that isn't rotten is also a bonus.
What was the most difficult part about getting your rig set up and driving it down to Mexico?
Jess: Driving it down was the fun and mellow part but tearing it apart and rebuilding it was a neverending pit of hell and despair. Hahah I'm just joking, it only felt like that because I was on crutches and nothing would work on the first try. Pinterest warriors beware, it's not as easy as it might seem but its definitely worth it.
How long have you been surfing?
Jess: About 6 months in total. I came down last summer determined to learn how to surf and spent the first few months getting absolutely crushed and humbled. These days I'm only usually getting crushed and humbled and sometimes catching some waves. But I refuse to give up.
What makes Mexico a good place and surfing there such a good activity for you to get ready for the snowboard season?
Jess: Its a good way to prepare for the season because when you live in a camper off the grid, you never stop moving. There are always water jugs to fill, gear to pack, things to fix, food to cook...and that's just to make normal life happen in between surf sessions. You can't just sit around and watch tv or go on the internet to waste time so life is much more active down there. Surfing is alot like riding pow, once your standing up. But everything leading up to that point is like trying to run or hike through the deepest snow while getting chased by a grizzly bear that bitch slaps you every 10 seconds. So, you're not allowed to stop and rest...also known as paddling out on a big day. It's good for building character, determination, and fitness. Also it makes snowboarding look much easier in comparison, especially for a land dweller like me.
How long have you been down in Mexico for this summer?
Jess: I've been back and forth since June. I've been working hard on getting The Uninvited finished so I wasn't as able to spend long periods of time down here like I was last year but I made the best of all time I did have.
Will you be heading back next year?
Jess: Yes! I leave my truck and camper down there, it's my Mexican timeshare. When the sales dudes try to sell me Mexican timeshares at the grocery store I tell them I already have one...and it's oceanfront.
Any advice for anyone thinking of building out a camper, living in their truck or any other vehicle to live the dream in (wherever that may be) on a reasonable budget?
Jess: Start small by setting up your current vehicle for living out of on short trips and invest in small luxeries like a nice camp stove, insulated window covers, fold up tables, or a 12v cooler. Figure out what you will need in the end by testing your kit on the road. Take a lot of time to think about all of this so you can save time and money once you decide to start the final rig. My camper took a lot of time and work. At times it would be equal to another full time job but you can do it. You don't have to go big scale. I went from living in my 94 VW Golf, to my 98 Subaru, to living in my truck, to living in my Bigfoot. Biggie Smallz is my version of a dream rig but there are lots of smaller or more affordable options in between.