Old world craftsmanship meets mobile living in the Tonke Camper
By C.C. Weiss
May 2, 2013
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.