Mad Mike’s Guide to Glamping Your Van

The Pimp My Ride vet is here to show you how to make the most of your music festival road trip.

When “Mad” Mike Martin hits the road, he does so in extreme style. A star in the American glamping scene (where camping meets glamour, for the uninitiated), Martin is famous for his tricked-out and amenities-rich rides. Boasting a massive self-made tent filled with plush furniture, a working kitchen, multiple big-screen TVs, and a fully functioning bathroom, his “glampsites” are legendary.

They’re also perpetually being upgraded, as Martin is never one to rest on past accomplishments—or build-outs. “I told myself I wasn’t going to build a new tent for 2018, but I ended up doing it anyway,” he laughs over the phone. “It’s a little bit different. Not too extreme, but a little bit nicer.”

For music fans looking to turn their festival excursion into a full-blown glamping trip, Martin makes a point to emphasize that anyone with the ingenuity and means can follow in his footsteps. First and foremost, double down on the essentials. And before you can start getting fancy, the basics have to be well-handled.

“You need food, water, shelter, electricity, and heat,” he explains. “The trick is to figure out some way to get those items out in the middle of nowhere. That can often be very difficult to accomplish. It’s not the most glamorous aspect, but it’s the most important. You’ve really got to think ahead on how to maximize those things. You’re also going to need something to entertain yourself for when you’re not at the show. There’s more downtime than you might realize.”

Once you’ve checked off everything on the essentials list, that’s when you can turn your attention to the aesthetics. Let the world know which festival you’re hitting by writing it along the outside of your ride, and make some new friends along the way.

Any decently sized vehicle can be glamped, Martin insists, pointing at his own ride of choice. “My motorhome is an old 1992 Winnebago Brave, and it’s all I need,” he says of the RV that he’s pimped into a stealth glampmobile. “I only really like old stuff, because I’m just going to tear it up anyway,” he chuckles.

“Once I saw the inside of rich people’s houses, I was like, ‘I can build that.’”

When queried about how he became such a dedicated glamper, Martin points to his parents, who inspired him to not only go after his dreams, but to literally create them. “I’ve always done things my own way,” he explains. “Because I was poor, I grew up wanting to live like rich people. My folks rehabbed houses while I was growing up, so I learned a lot about construction, plumbing, and stuff like that. Then I was on a TV show and got a glimpse of how rich people actually live. Once I saw the inside of rich people’s houses, I was like, ‘I can build that.’”

The TV show Martin is referring to is MTV’s legendary Pimp My Ride, where unsuspecting teens had their ordinary cars transformed into flashy, four-wheeled art pieces packed with unexpected features. He’s proud to reveal that he’s the only person to be featured on every one of the show’s seventy-three episodes. “I love to be creative. I’m not the guy who can just buy a hundred-and-fifty-dollar tent at Walmart to go camping,” he states of his immediate attraction to the world of glamping. “My goal in life is to be one of the few, not one of the many.”

Martin was able to flex his Pimp My Ride prowess this year when he was commissioned to customize four unique Toyota Sienna Swagger Wagons, each with their own “personality” inspired by the small town of Marfa, Texas. The results were put on display at Stagecoach 2018, where fans were able to check out Martin’s work. They will also be popping up at various festivals over the summer, including Life Is Beautiful, Lollapalooza, and Voodoo Fest.

His fame has grown to the point that people pop up from the most unexpected places looking for wisdom from him on how to most effectively tune up their own skills. “My girlfriend works at a hospital in Torrance, and the doctors there are always asking her if they can call me for camping advice,” he notes, laughing. “While they were at school becoming doctors, I was in a garage rebuilding cars from the ground up.”

When he’s out on the road, Martin says that there are two things people tend to forget more than any others: “Charcoal. Folks never seem to have charcoal. And, ‘Can I borrow a lighter?’ There are a billion smokers in the world, and no one ever has a lighter.”

As for the destination of the trip he was set to embark on at the end of the interview? “Buena Vista Lake, up by Bakersfield, California,” Martin reveals of the emerging hotspot. “You have to reserve your space a year in advance. Otherwise, you’ll be out of luck. From Friday through Monday, it’s a huge, nonstop party. It is the most fun you’ll ever have in your life.” FL

This article appears in the 2018 FLOOD Festival Guide, presented by SiriusXM and Toyota. You can check out the rest of the magazine here.

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