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Fifth Element Camping: Modular Camping Systems made with CNC Precision

By Ross Gruet, Monday, August 29, 2022

To the untrained eye, the Honda Element is just a funky SUV. Its production run was from 2003 to 2011 and the big draw for this vehicle is the insane amount of cargo capacity! The back seats fold up against the inner sides of the car, providing 25.1 cubic feet of space. But wait.. You can remove the seats completely and gain even more cargo capacity?! Now we’re talkin’!


Speaking of talkin’, the reason we’re on the topic of Honda Elements is thanks to a visit I had with a talented designer and woodworker, Nick Spero of Asheville, NC, who owns and operates Fifth Element Camping, a small business that creates modular camping systems for the Honda Element, specifically. Scrap wood from a previous job made it possible to experiment while developing a sleek, modular system of cabinetry, bedding, and a variety of accessories like the laptop workstation that attaches to the cars steering wheel. These kits make use of every nook and cranny of the vehicle.


Bench, Cabinets, Bed, Steering Wheel Attachment, and mountain bike storage are all parts of the complete camping system.

In May of 2022, I visited their garage woodshop to see where the bulk of production takes place. Upon stepping inside, my eyes bugged out like a cartoon. This shop was incredibly clean and well-organized! I’ve worked in furniture and musical instrument woodshops for many years and never in my life have I come across such an impressive use of shop space. Everything is easy to find, easy to access, and easy to move from one station to the next.


Back half of the soon-to-be former garage shop of Fifth Element Camping

Honda Element camping system parts in various stages around the shop after being cut on the ShopBot PRSalpha CNC Tool.

The other key element (no pun intended) to producing high quality camping kits is the ShopBot PRSalpha ATC located at his friend’s shop across town called Bearside Studios. Nick reserves time on this production-ready 5’x10’ ShopBot CNC machine and cuts out as many kits as he can before bringing materials back to his shop for sanding, finishing, hardware, and packing.

The ShopBot PRSalpha ATC at Bearside Studios of Asheville, NC where Fifth Element Camping has been cutting their precise modular camping system parts.

Nick has been a member of the Outdoor Gear Builders since 2015. Through this association, Fifth Element Camping has had opportunities to display their goods at related trade shows. There’s also a Honda Element-specific car meet-up celebrating its 10th anniversary this past May, called Elements On The Dragon, which includes camping and driving the famous Tail of The Dragon mountain road located near the border of TN and NC. It’s the largest gathering of Honda Elements in the country and quite the site to see!


Staging for Elements on The Dragon 2022

Photo Credit: @Elements_on_the_dragon Instagram account


Fifth Element Camping has now outgrown the Asheville garage shop that has served them well to this very day. Upon publishing of this article, there’s a brand new building that is nearing completion north of Asheville that will become Fifth Element Camping HQ before the end of 2022. With enough order to take them well into the next year, it’s no question why moving to a bigger space is necessary. “With a ShopBot and staff onsite, I hope to double my capacity.

The shop will be 1000 sq ft (double my current space) and completed sometime this Fall. We’re planning for a visitor’s area and we will be offering onsite camping in the near future.”

If you have a Honda Element, are considering buying one, or know someone who has one, be sure to check out and get ready for adventure!

2017 camping system shown above. Many nice improvements have been made since!

Links: Fifth Element Camping – Website, Instagram

Photos by: Ross Gruet, Fifth Element Camping, and Elements_on_the_dragon IG


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