Old world craftsmanship meets mobile living in the Tonke Camper


May 2, 2013

Tonke Explorer 1 getting unloaded

Tonke Explorer 1 getting unloaded

Image Gallery (26 images)

The Dutch-built Tonke Camper is a more stylish version of mobile home than those found in the average trailer park. It features a wooden home set atop a Mercedes Sprinter platform and can be used like an RV or removed off its vehicular underpinnings and planted on firm ground.

When he hauled a gypsy cart through northern France back in 2005, Tonke founder Maarten van Soest used a 4x4 to tow it. While he had a memorable trip, he realized quickly that a rickety vintage trailer really needed to be atop a modern truck for properly navigating roadways.

"When we got home two major things happened in our life: my wife gave birth to our first child, Tonke, and I made the first Tonke Camper," van Soest explains on Tonke's website. "It had the combination of some of the good things in life: a safe and modern truck, a sailing-yacht style interior, and roughly the exterior aesthetics of the gypsy carts. I sold this truck to a well known comedian here in Holland and I began to built a second camper."

Unlike most modern campers, Tonke campers use a distinctive wooden shell that indeed gives them a look of the horse-drawn carts of generations past. Van Soest's father built wooden boats and toys, and Maarten grew up with an appreciation for wood craftmanship, which he applied to his Tonke trailers. The interior and exterior blend different types of wood styles into a rustic, classic look.

Each Tonke camper in the Fieldsleeper and Explorer series is planted behind a Mercedes cab packing a 130-hp 2.2-liter CDI turbodiesel engine. Tonke also mentions that buyers can select other vehicle bases. Out on the road, owners can drive and sleep in the Tonke camper like an RV or remove the camper from the vehicle base in about 10 minutes. In addition to using it for open-road overnighting, Tonke mentions purposing it for a guest home or building annex.

Tonke describes the Fieldsleeper 1 as a "storage space wonder." Longer than the Explorer series, the Fieldsleeper 1 includes a vertical garage for hauling up to three bikes. It sleeps three with a built-in bed and a living area that converts into a second bed. It includes a kitchen with two-burner stove, stainless steel sink and refrigerator, as well as a bathroom with toilet and shower. It has a 4 kW heating system, 140-liter frost-free fresh water tank, 10-liter hot water tank and 83-liter waste water tank.

Tonke offers a number of different Fieldsleeper and Explorer models, along with van campers for those that want something smaller and more maneuverable. Each one is built by hand upon order. Prices range from €61,570 (approx. US$80,400) for an Explorer I camper with floor but no vehicle, to €103,291 for a Fieldsleeper 2 with the Mercedes Sprinter.

The most interesting part about a hand-built wooden camper is seeing the craftmanship inside and out. So instead of overwhelming you with specs from the various Tonke models, we'll point you to the gallery where you can see them for yourself.

Source: Tonke via Tiny House Swoon

About the Author
C.C. Weiss Upon graduating college with a poli sci degree, Chris toiled in the political world for several years. Realizing he was better off making cynical comments from afar than actually getting involved in all that mess, he turned away from matters of government and news to cover the things that really matter: outdoor recreation, cool cars, technology, wild gadgets and all forms of other toys. He's happily following the wisdom of his father who told him that if you find something you love to do, it won't really be work. All articles by C.C. Weiss

Looks neat - much prettier than the fibreglass and plastic campers usually seen on truck platforms. That is the only real innovation (retro-innovation?) though, the interior looks like any other caravan around. Where are the curved to fit solar roof panels and inverter for away from grid living for instance?

The Skud

Just checked out the gallery - why, or why, did they fail to make the Morgan (famous for hand-made wooden chassis) car's car trailer to match the camper? A triplet of wooden manufacture theme would be perfect!

The Skud

While not to my taste I wish him great success.


Very lovely, a welcome change in this plastic world. Nice that you can park and drive off with the truck. I also like the two larger rear doors, it brings you closer to nature. How about adding a small retractable deck out there?

I would have made a small compromise by making it slightly more aerodynamic - vehicles tend to go faster now than at the time of the gypsies.


Very nice but how heavy is it?

One issue with many modern campers is how easy it is to exceed the 3.5 ton Gross Vehicle Weight of most European van chassis- many such vehicles are often legally overweight when loaded with people and posessions, and although such chassis are available with higher payloads, exceeding 3.5 tons in Europe legally have to be fitted with a speed restrictor to 56 MPH- deathly slow for motorways. Campers built with a high wood content tend to be heavier.

The other issue is how well does it resist torsional flexing? Van chassis by their very nature tend to flex because they have to be lightweight in order to maximise payload.


I think that is really nice. I think it is neat that it can not only haul that 'tiny house' on the back but also pull a trailer with a vehicle in it.

It is like a portable tiny house.

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