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Converting a campervan to travel the world

16TH MARCH 2023


Nohma founders outside their van

“We’re a bit of an accidental business,” says Dale Comley (pictured below). “My partner Charlie and I started converting a transport van into a campervan in 2019 with the idea that when we’d finished, we’d step away from our jobs, live in the van and take a year to travel and have a bit of a rethink,” says Dale, 31. “We finished the van a couple of days before the UK went into lockdown.”

Dale Comley, co-founder of Climbingvan
Dale Comley, co-founder of Nohma (previously known as Climbingvan)

The couple’s book, The Van Conversion Bible, is the result of their delayed travels and the hundreds of questions they received through Instagram (they have more than 87,000 followers) when documenting the conversion of the van.

Their business, Nohma, takes the advice in their book one step further by providing personalised advice on converting a van into a campervan, particularly on designing and installing the electrical system. “It’s been really cool seeing what our customers have gone on to do, from building mobile hairdressers and recording studios, to expedition vehicles and tiny homes on wheels. We have customers all over the world and they’ve used their vans to travel to all sorts of countries including Morocco, Italy and Turkey.”

Dale Comley standing in a yellow van with an open door
Through Nohma, Dale and his partner Charlie help others convert campervans

Charlie Low, 27, and Dale opened their Starling business account in 2020, when they launched Nohma. They are based in Bristol and are about to set off across the US, partly to promote the American edition of their book. Of the places they’ve visited so far in their van, Northern Macedonia, Croatia and the West Coast of Scotland are their favourites.

Creating a definitive guide for van conversion

“Because we were getting so many questions on Instagram, we could see that there was a need for something,” says Charlie. Encouraged by the large size of their engaged audience on Instagram, they decided to self-publish the book and sell it online. For each book sold, they arrange for a tree to be planted through Ecologi.

Providing electrical systems for campervans

“The electrical system is a very complicated thing to get right and it’s bespoke for each person. Some people will want very low, basic usage, others will want to be able to use a hairdryer or an induction hob. It’s not one size fits all,” says Dale.

“So we developed software that would take people’s requirements for their van and output a potential electrical system for them,” says Charlie. “Someone from our team of engineers then has a conversation with the customer to work out exactly what they need and then, if the customer wants to go ahead, we supply all of the components along with a wiring diagram and installation guidance so that the customer can install the system themselves.”

Charlie Low, co-founder of Nohma
Charlie Low, co-founder of Nohma

Charlie has a background in physics, digital marketing and photography and Dale has a background in engineering. They currently have six people working for them.

“The whole team works from campervans, boats or off-grid houses. And what’s nice is the reason they’re able to do that is because of the very electrical systems they design each day,” says Dale.

A sustainable, branchless bank

“The two main factors for us choosing Starling were the ethical side of the bank and the fact that we wouldn’t need to go into a branch to do things. We’re confident that the money we store with Starling is invested in an ethical and socially sustainable way and everything is online, which is perfect for us,” says Charlie.

Her favourite Starling feature is Bulk Payments. “Molly, who deals with processing orders and accounting, can put everything into a weekly payment run and we can use the Bulk Payments to process all our invoices in one go.”