Slick interior styling and an overall compact design are two major reasons Minnesota millennials Shea and Erin Laughlin chose the 19.7-foot Hymer Aktiv 1.0 for their home on the road.
Shea and Erin Laughlin stumbled onto the innovative Hymer Aktiv 1.0 while searching out their second rig. Hymer (erwinhymergroupna.com) is a convergence of European design, German engineering and North American technology.
“When we originally hit the road in Spring 2016,” recalled Erin Laughlin, a health insurance professional, “we had a goal of visiting all 50 states in roughly two years, but as most travelers do, we fell in love with the lifestyle and made the decision to slow down (a tiny bit) and continue our journey for as long as we can.”
Although the full-time RVers were enjoying their traveling combo of a Ford 150 pickup and 19-foot Winnebago Minnie Winnie travel trailer, they found that it limited their ability for spontaneous exploration.
“Even being as nimble as we were with a small trailer,” recalled Shea Laughlin, “we found that unhooking and hooking back up so frequently was becoming tedious and eating into our time to get out and about. With a van, we are able to change up our itinerary on a whim if we see something that we would like to visit, whereas on days when we had the trailer in tow we would have to assess the parking lot situation and potentially miss sites.”
The mere 19.7-feet footprint of the Hymer Aktiv van enables the Laughlins to safely maneuver along the narrow back roads of national park lands or through crowded urban streets of major cities, such as Washington, D.C.
In their early 30s, the outdoors enthusiasts “absolutely love primitive camping on public lands “where you simply roll onto the beach and pick a spot to settle in for the night.”
They discovered just such a place at Lone Lake Beach on Lake Powell in Utah. “Not only are you on a gorgeous lake, you could paddle board right out your front door,” said Erin Laughlin. “And, just a few miles south in Page, Ariz., you have a plethora of outdoor activities at your fingertips.”
As with any house, the Aktiv has fresh water, electricity, waste water disposal, heating, and cooling systems. In the Aktiv these systems are self-contained and travel with you,” states the owner’s manual.
The Aktiv’s interior features a center aisle floor plan and comes equipped with a full galley kitchen, clever interior storage, central heating, an entertainment system and a full wet bathroom with shower.
One feature not found in most USA-built recreation vehicles is the eco-friendly and convenient cassette toilet system, replacing the more traditional black water tank. A major advantage of a cassette toilet is that it can be dumped into any campground or residential toilet. Of course the living quarters are snug in all class B motorhome. That said, the Laughlins really like how small the rig is.
“We already knew that we didn’t need a lot of stuff to live happily, but living in a class B van highlights that even more than a truck and trailer,” said Erin Laughlin. “The overall layout is fantastic, so much so, that even in a small space it can feel like there are two rooms between the front and back of the van.”
The Aktiv comes with the latest in technological needs for the modern RVing couple who are living full-time on the road and working remote. There is a USB charger slot next to every 110V socket.
“As for functional aspects, we also love the solar setup because it allows us to boondock for extended periods of time and still have enough power to run everything and charge our laptops, which allow us to stay in touch with work,” observed Shea Laughlin who telecommutes with an IT software implementation company based out of the Bay Area.
The Aktiv is built on the RAM ProMaster 2500 chassis providing for a stable ride. The front-wheel-drive van is powered by a 3.6-liter V-6 fuel-injected gasoline engine allowing for safe driving on interstate highways or two-lane country roads. Fuel economy varies depending on driving conditions; stop-and-go traffic averages 13 mpg, while open roads can see 19 mpg.
The Hymer Aktiv has a basic list price of between $93,000-$105,000. Popular options include EcoTrek 400 lithium power module, 250-watt solar panels, and the VoltStart auto-start system. It comes with a generous six-year transferable warranty covering the manufacturer of the rig, appliances, electronics, plumbing and EcoTrek batteries. For the foreseeable future, the Hymer Aktiv will remain the Laughlins’ only home.
“While some may criticize us for living a non-traditional lifestyle, thinking it is somehow irresponsible,” said Shea Laughlin, “we think that it is probably the most responsible thing to be doing in today’s world.
“In our opinion,” he continued, “it is critical to get out of one’s comfort zone and experience life through someone else’s eyes. We are able to meet so many people with different backgrounds than our own and it exposes us to things that we may not have been exposed to if we didn’t travel.”
Erin Laughlin added: “We have no intention on slowing down and have even thought about taking the van overseas to do some extended travel there as well.” — Julianne G. Crane, Motor Matters