The UTOPIA EIGHT traveling shelter attempts to address the exceptionalism and vitality of the American frontier, its relative idealism, as well as highlight the Utopian/Dystopian duality of the American mythos of freedom, exploration, self-sufficiency, and contemporary nomadism.


As far back in Western civilization as the 5th century BCE, the mobile shelter has been denigrated as inferior. The city dwelling Athenians thought of their nomadic Scythian neighbors as uncivilized and primitive.The reputation of the static brick and mortar dwelling as being more civilized than the portable shelter has persisted through Western history into the New World. The mobile dwelling is still maligned today with its associations with poverty and negative ‘trailer park’ stereotypes.

However, many attitudes have been changing in large part to current events, for example, the toxic FEMA trailers provided for relief post-hurricane Katrina or the coverage of the ‘Small House’ movement in the media. These two examples bookend the extremes of our cultural perception of mobile shelters. On one hand we have the low end, poorly constructed mobile homes, with no personality, crammed together into ad hoc communities for the displaced, and on the other, we are presented with beautiful images of well designed constructions, often isolated in Arcadian environments. While both examples provide the basics of shelter, the motivations vary from sheer necessity to alternatives triggered by the current energy and mortgage crisis, but both these cases can be said to be defined by limited interior space for the purpose of mobility and living outdoors.

Although, many of our traditions of mobile shelters may have followed us from the Old World, as of the 20th Century, there is a uniquely American mythos rooted in our identification with the pioneering spirit.  From the cab-over camper to the Airstream trailer to the self-contained Winnebago, these models have offered the possibility of freedom, exploration, self-sufficiency, and perhaps a potential to re-enact a defining historical moment. There are a number of mobile structure styles on the road, reflecting an arc of utility to comfort, and while new models are still produced, many of the older styles still exist, littering driveways and lots, often in various states of decay. Once offering freedom in the face of the frontier and adventure, many of these now stand like a symbol of a failed Utopia.





First Aid kit


Needle-nose pliers

Roll of duct tape

Camp shovel

Tin snips


50 ft. rope

Orange tool-box (emergency supplies)

4 black cases

2 sleeping bags

Green jumpsuit

White jumpsuit

Blue jumpsuit

Reversible hunting jacket

Vietnam era parachute in black bag

Black 5 gal. Bucket

Orange fleece blanket

Green fleece blanket

Camouflage netting

One air pistol with holster

2 boxes misc. emergency supplies

11 books

-Steal This Book, A. Hoffman

-Edible wild plants handbook

-Wilderness Survival Handbook, A. Fry

-US mil. Survival Handbook      

-US mil. Rigging Handbook

-Red Mars, K.S. Robinson

-Green Mars, K.S. Robinson

-Blue Mars, K.S. Robinson

-Walden/Civil Disobedience, H. Thoreau

-Dwelling Portably 1980-89, comp.

-Red Cross First Aid Handbook

CB radio and antenna

One ‘Utopia 6’ postcard

Field guide US Antarctic Program, copy

2 red resource binders

Fire extinguisher

Hand-cranked emergency radio

Three set silverware (Bonus, Ikea)

Two tin cups

Two military mess plates

Two tin bowls

One clock

One stovetop espresso maker

One felt trivet

One cutting board

One burner gas range

Misc. cans, containers, food boxes