Co-Living Meets Van Life at Kibbo

Kibbo gives your van a place to call home.

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Kibbo Clubhouse Community
Kibbo Clubhouse Community.


There is a lot to love about the idea of van living, having a tiny home that can go anywhere; but it's also nice to have a place to call home, to stretch out, to meet other people.

This is the brilliance of Kibbo, "A new way to live and work wherever you want without giving up relationships or the comforts of home." They are building a network of home bases where you can bring your van and get access to groceries, washrooms, wi-fi, and "an inclusive, adventurous community — everything you need to live an extraordinary life."

Kibbo Clubhouse Zion
Kibbo Clubhouse Zion.  Kibbo

Kibbo describes itself as "a co-living company that brings together vanlife, clubhouses in unique locations, and community for a new way to live, work, and explore the West Coast." Note that co-living comes first, ahead of van life. Treehugger has covered a few co-living projects, noting that they are set up as communities where people can share resources, and come and go without being tied down to expensive real estate, usually aimed at millennials looking for “hip housing on demand.” An English customer told the FT: “My parents have a bookcase full of books and DVDs; I have a Netflix account and a Kindle. We’re far more experience-based and less possession-based.”

Inside Kibbo Van
Inside Kibbo Van.  Kibbo

Kibbo ups the game seriously; there is no kind of living that is more experience-based than van living. You can't own a lot of possessions and fit them in a van.

Kibbo van interior design
Kibbo van interior design. Kibbo 

If you don't have a van, they will rent you one for a lot less than the cost of a California studio apartment – a beautifully converted Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, complete with "off-grid power, fully equipped kitchenette, a cozy bed, and clever amenities." It is not the most elaborate Sprinter conversion we have seen, but it doesn't have to be when you have access to the base camp for washrooms, showers, or more elaborate cooking. Their tag line perfectly embodies the times we live in:

"Don’t shelter in place, shelter any place."

Kibbo van in the redwoods
Kibbo van in the redwoods. Kibbo 

Kibbo is most definitely not an RV park. Before coming to Treehugger, I was trying to market an upscale tiny home and found that the audience for such a thing was very different from the RV crowd, with very different expectations. I tried to develop special parks for this different product without success, which is why I am at Treehugger. Nellie Bowles nailed the issue in the New York Times, asking van builder Benjamin Fraser about the difference between RV culture and van life:

"'It’s red versus blue,' he said. 'It’s Republican versus Democrat.' Vanlifers see themselves as free from restrictions and rules, he said. They do not want to be in R.V. parks. They want to be in the wilderness or on the streets of beach towns. Some of their parking behaviors — they will park for days in beach parking lots and residential streets — are illegal. This is becoming a problem as their numbers grow."

But it isn't really red versus blue, it isn't political, it's cultural and it happens all over the world. It is a different attitude. It is, like all of these photos, mostly young people without kids, although I have noted that there is also a huge van-living market for older people without kids.

Kibbo clubhouse dinner
Kibbo clubhouse dinner.  Kibbo
"At Kibbo, we are actively working to build a diverse and inclusive community. We want to create a more sustainable, affordable, and equitable way of living that is an open, welcoming, and safe space for people of all backgrounds."

The RV community thinks the hipsters in vans will outgrow them, but Kibbo is providing more than just a "youth-oriented park" to a different market, saying it welcomes "adventurers, makers, creators, and doers from all walks of vanlife." It neatly solves the problem of providing home bases (four exurban proposed right now, in Ojai, Zion, Black Rock Desert, and Big Sur, with urban locations in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and Los Angeles coming next year). And it costs a whole lot more than an RV park, starting at $995 for full-time access and starting at $1500 a month if you want a van as well, though that's still cheaper than a California apartment.

Kibbo van on the california coast
Kibbo van on the California coast.  Kibbo

When we write about van living, there are often complaints about how wasteful and un-treehugger it is burning all that gasoline and doing all that driving. In fact, these are homes and they are not going to be moving constantly, and they would otherwise probably be burning gas or electricity to run an apartment or house and still have a car burning gas. Kibbo also supplies a lot of recreational equipment so that one doesn't have to own a lot of stuff. Sharing is always greener than owning.

The timing of this is brilliant, with so many more people now being able to work from anywhere. Vans may be small, but one doesn't need to have a lot of space if Kibbo is providing the living room and other facilities. You get the benefits and resources of co-living combined with the independence of van living. Or as their other tagline says, Where freedom meets community. If only they weren't oversubscribed at Kibbo, I would start packing.