The nomadic lifestyle seems to be on the rise and one local Whitefish man has tapped into this potential by employing his carpentry skills to build out customized vans.
Logan Hertel, founder and owner of Hertel Vans, has been working with his hands since he can remember and has merged his passions of building and adventure to create spaces that feel more like home. Having been on the road himself, Hertel knows that these living situations can feel less than welcoming, and hopes to remedy this with his custom-built vans.
“The vans that they make ready to go are mass built and the materials that they use in those are a little bit less high quality and it feels like you’re in a hotel room. It just doesn’t feel like home and it’s different from what you’ll get with a one-of-a-kind style van,” he said.
Whether it’s for camping, business, or full-time van-life, Hertel works with clients to achieve their vision, his motto being “Your lifestyle, your adventure, your van.” Hertel’s first project was for ABC IV Hydration in Great Falls which entailed creating a mobile space for IV hydration and massage.
As Hertel himself lives in a 35-foot Keystone with his fiance, two dogs, two cats, two fish tanks, and what he jokingly calls “a jungle of plants,” he understands the importance of maximizing space and creating that homey feeling.
“I’ve got the background of knowing what it’s like to live in this kind of space and we’ve totally redesigned our camper to fully benefit us,” said Hertel. “Once you’re inside, you don’t even know that you’re in a fifth-wheel home. I put a dishwasher, washer, and dryer in there. It’s got a full-sized fridge, an instant hot water heater, and a regular porcelain toilet. It’s all these little things that make it feel like home.”
From framing, flooring, insulation, electrical, and plumbing, Hertel does everything himself, and while he is not a certified electrician, he is currently taking online classes in pursuit of an automotive electrician’s degree.
“I want to get that tag on my shoulder so people can trust that their van is in good hands,” said Hertel. “I’m an experienced carpenter and I do all the mechanic work, so everything that moves and works inside the van, I’ve had my hands on it.”
Hertel spent the last six years working for a custom home builder, doing work throughout the Iron Horse community and projects for American footballer Drew Brees, but anticipates to be pursuing Hertel Vans full-time by the new year.
Hertel hopes his business will inspire others to take on their own projects and shares the evolution of his van customizations on Instagram and Facebook.
“Once I made a Facebook page, I was blown away. I was messaged by so many people and that’s what motivated me to start taking more videos and pictures,” said Hertel. “I set up a camera full time so I can take all the content of the building and post it and show people if they’re wanting to build their own van at home. They can see exactly how I did something and what steps I took and how the process it takes to get it done.”
Eventually, Hertel hopes to set up a YouTube channel documenting his process. Further into the future, Hertel sees himself expanding and hiring employees. While he has only worked on vans from Montana, Hertel is open to doing work on vans from out of state.
“Once everything is ramped up and I’ve got too much to keep up with, I would love to have my own employees. But right now the shop that I work at is just at my house and it’s not that big so I’m looking to get a bigger shop and more of a stationary spot.”
Hertel Vans can be contacted through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Facebook or Instagram @HertelVans.
Reporter Summer Zalesky may be reached at email@example.com.