Photographer Andy Best lives with his wife and two young children out of a Four Wheel truck camper. They spend summers escaping the heat on the high mountain peaks of New Mexico and Colorado, and winters in Baja, Mexico.
Of course, living in such a small space with kids (ages 1.5 and 4), has its own set of joys and challenges, an experience Andy wouldn’t change for anything. Sometimes, people can’t quite grasp why he’d want to live this way. Why put up with hardships like extreme temperatures, running out of propane, dealing with long, bumpy roads if you can have the convenience of a house?
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That’s why Andy was thrilled when SmugMug approached him about doing a documentary about his lifestyle. A filmmaker rented an RV, packed up his wife and kids and came to live out in nature with Andy and his family.
The result is a poignant, 25-minute documentary with breathtaking imagery, and explores the true depth of experience one gains while living completely off-grid.
Watch Living in Long Shadows here:
Why Andy Lives in a Truck Camper with his Family
Andy Best has been living an alternative lifestyle off-and-on for about a decade. It helped him establish his career as a photographer, and nature gave him constant inspiration. At first, he built out a truck with shelving for his camera gear and towed an R-pod small travel trailer. He’d often go out on his own to do his work but realized he was spending far too much time away from his wife.
That’s why they chose to pack up their belongings, sell their house and buy a Four Wheel pop-up truck camper.
“The Four Wheel pop-up camper was an awesome fit because I didn’t want to pull a trailer,” Andy said. “I also didn’t want a van because I love the access a truck gets you. This truck camper is pretty incredible because of it’s capability to get you further into places. And all the amenities one of these has makes you feel like you’re cheating.”
He said the further away he gets from civilization, the more luxurious the truck camper feels. “The farther you get into the mountains and the thermostat is set to 70 and you have hot water; it’s amazing.”
The truck camper is resting on the back of a 2016 Toyota Tacoma, which is lifted with heavy-duty suspension. It helps Andy get into remote places where he takes stunning backcountry photos.
What it’s Like Living in a Truck Camper with Kids
While they started out traveling full-time with their youngest daughter, they found out they were pregnant while on the road and decided to keep on living out of the truck. “My youngest was only in a house for one month and then we were back in the truck,” he said.
Andy is the first to admit that living in a tiny space as a family of four isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
“It is a lot of work, but we have a process in place to keep it fun,” said Andy.
For example, they chase good weather so they don’t have to cram inside the truck camper all day.
“It’s not very fun for everyone if it’s rainy or cold, which happens but then we use those days as a travel day,” he said. “We try to be in an area where we can play and do crafts outside until sundown and then we move inside for dinner. We spend most of our time in the evenings looking at weather maps and navigating by weather.”
He loves seeing the kids’ brains work while exploring different aspects of nature, and seeing how they react when visiting friends’ houses.
“They see a house with more toys and big screens and it gives my daughter the idea of what a house is, and then she wants to stop at a house like an Airbnb. So we have a mix of going out and exploring rural remoteness and then coming into town to do playgrounds, parks, children’s museums and libraries and socialize with other kids,” he said.
The family of four all sleep in the same bed at night – the bed in the Four Wheel truck camper is almost king-size – and Andy relishes the time he gets to spend with his children while they’re young.
“One night I was cooking dinner about 6-feet away from my 4-year-old, and she said I was too far away from her,” he said. “We aren’t much further than an arm’s length away from each other very often. It’s so rare for people to sleep with their whole family every night, sharing blankets, telling stories, we’re always on top of each other 24/7, but I think that’s cool, otherwise, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to spend so much time with them. I love these precious early years.”
Andy loves creating memories with the girls and hopes it gives them plenty to look back on in the future.
Living in a Truck Camper has Changed Andy for Good
Andy says living tiny has changed his perspective on stuff, and what you need to be happy. When he goes to visit people in houses he is shocked by all the stuff. He can’t imagine collecting and having so many different things when most of them are unnecessary.
“I love living simply and not needing as much,” he said. “When you are out here it shows you what you actually need. We have food, water, shelter and a good place to set up our shelter. I am thankful we also have nice clothes. It’s all very minimal but we have every single thing we need.”
He also said living out of a truck camper has changed the way he behaves, especially when it comes to resources.
“We were visiting my parents and I was doing dishes and had the sink on a trickle,” he said. “I kept turning the water off and on and my dad was looking at me funny. I realized, oh yeah, there’s not a tank under there and I don’t have to worry about my next fill-up.”
Andy truly loves his lifestyle and dreads the day he might have to live in a house and lead a more conventional life.
“I never liked the idea of being sold that there’s a certain life path for me,” he said. “I feel people just go through the motions of life and never question why they are doing certain things. Buying a house that’s just the same house as everyone else. I get claustrophobic when I get into a routine in a house and the days blur and you miss entire years. The only things you remember are the big things, the spontaneous things.”
He said living off-grid makes him feel more alive, the constant changing. He loves meeting people from all walks of life and exploring wild places.
“One day, I’m going to miss the simplicity of this lifestyle, and I get emotional when I start thinking about switching gears back into a more conventional life,” he said. “I’m really grateful to my family because I don’t think this would be their first choice because it is a lot of work.”
Do You Want to Live on the Road? Andy’s Advice.
If you’re thinking of ditching everything to live on the road, Andy says to make sure to do some test runs first.
“That teaches you a lot of things you won’t know unless you practice going out first,” he said. “Rent a camper a few times, plan some big trips and see how you like it. You’ll learn what you need to take, how to prepare. Make sure it’s something you want to do.”
For the foreseeable future, you’ll find Andy and his family on the road. Both Andy and his wife are from Idaho, and they love exploring the mountains there. They also go to Wyoming and Colorado.
Now, they are preparing for another Baja trip for winter – their third in a row.
“We love getting into those little fishing villages in Baja,” he said. “You call on a lot of trust in your vehicle and system to be dialed in to visit those remote places. The more remote, the more special the experience.”
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