Looking to get out there—you know, really out there—but tents are a no-go and you don’t want to drag a trailer to sleep in or drive something the size of a house? Then you’re looking for a camper van. These handy homes away from home are based on normal-sized trucks and vans, meaning they should fit in normal driveways and parking spaces and be fairly easy to drive. We’ve gathered up 10 worth considering for going #vanlife, although fair warning: Even while the majority sit at the affordable end of the camper-van and conversion-van spectrum, they’re all significantly pricier than a regular ol’ van with an air mattress thrown in the back.
Airstream Interstate Nineteen
Looking for the bougiest luxury conversion van? Airstream’s smallest “Touring Coach” starts at the bargain price of $159,040 and comes finished to the same high standard as the company’s legendary polished-aluminum trailers.
Based on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter (a rather fine-driving commercial tool, if we may say so), the Nineteen includes a fold-out bed that spans the entire rear area of the camper van, as well as a bathroom, a kitchen, and even swiveling front seats that can turn to face the van’s interior.
The name Nineteen is a nod to this van’s 19-foot length, but spelling it out—instead of calling it the Interstate 19—adds a proper Airstream-y sense of class, don’t you think?
Boho Camper Conversion
Boho Camper Vans is chill. Like, super chill. So chill, in fact, that it doesn’t even specify “models” or “trim levels” for its creations. In fact, its creations seem entirely custom—you simply bring them money and a van, or let them pick a van for you, and the outfit will turn that van into a wood-lined cabin on wheels. Pricing starts at $29,000 for the conversions, not including the van.
Caravan Outfitter Free Bird Camper
Caravan Outfitter’s Free Bird conversion vans are based on Nissan’s humble NV200 cargo van, making them the smallest and most affordable on this list. If you want a cheap conversion van, a small conversion van, or have a tiny parking spot, the Free Bird is likely your best option.
The basic Free Bird Standard starts at $37,665—including the van—and includes a nifty removable (!) contraption that supports a double-size, longitudinally oriented bed. The apparatus fairly fills the NV200’s cargo hold, and can be folded up to reveal booth-like seating with a central table, and also has slide-out drawers housing a 31-quart fridge and a single-burner gas stove.
As mentioned, the entire bed/dinette can be slid out of the NV200 and stored should you need the Nissan for cargo duties.
The $42,415 Pop-Top model is, as you’ve likely surmised already, is the same and adds a pop-up roof section that allows occupants to stand up in the back.
The Solis falls near the upper end of this roundup’s price spectrum, and it hails from one of the RV industry’s mainstays, Winnebago.
All-new for 2020, the Solis is based on the Ram ProMaster cargo van and thus is manageably sized. It earns its $100,677 price tag a variety of ways—but we’ll readily admit that the Solis won us over with a single luxury camper-van feature: Its heated bathroom. Nobody wants a chilly throne, right?
The rest of the Solis camper van is well-equipped, with a pop-up roof for standing space, a reconfigurable bed, swiveling front seats that can flip to face the living area, and full insulation on the walls and plumbing so that the vehicle can be parked and used in wildly varied climates.
Like Boho vans, Outside Van generates custom van builds for customers. There is no set template, nor does the outfitter require a single make of donor van, although the company’s website seems to show a preference for Mercedes-Benz Sprinters. All of these large camper vans have one thing in common, however: They’re all rugged-looking and built for living van life off the beaten path. Those not interested in delving into Outside Van’s involved custom ordering process can choose from among the already-built inventory the company has on hand at any given time. This might be the one we’d choose if we ever decided to live the van life.
Off Grid Adventure Vans
Starting with a long-wheelbase (159-inch) Ram ProMaster van, Off Grid Adventure Vans will build you a camper in one of three layouts: Rambler, Summit, or Vagabond.
Happily, all three builds are affordable. After first buying the underlying ProMaster (about $36,000), customers need only shell out $33,000 for the entry-level Rambler setup. The Summit runs $35,000, and even the top-dog Vagabond costs just $38,000.
The differences between Off Grid’s designs are minimal, and mostly have to do with the integration of the bed, which can be a fold-out Murphy-style unit or fixed, etc. Optional extras include an outdoor shower, a heater, a composting toilet, an extra solar panel, and a hot-water system.
Sportsmobile Classic 4×4
There are a number of camper models offered by the Sportsmobile brand, but easily the coolest is that based on the old Ford E-series commercial cutaway van chassis.
As Sportsmobile’s website notes, the Ford Econoline E-series has been discontinued—but that doesn’t mean it’s stopped building them into campers. Customers can bring in used examples for conversion; those interested in a brand-new large conversion van can turn to Ford’s E-series replacement, the Transit.
In any event, the E-series is bad-ass because it’s tough as nails and, well, you could probably find one for cheap. The Classic 4×4 is based on the E-series cutaway; Sportsmobile adds a fiberglass shell from the cab back, as well as a $20,945 four-wheel-drive conversion.
With four-wheel drive and burly tires, the Classic 4×4 is remarkably rugged-looking. Its old-school frame and relatively narrow body do result in what appears to be a smaller living space than you might get in a more space-efficient, commodious modern camper van like a Ram ProMaster or Ford’s Transit. But who cares when you could take this Sportsmobile practically anywhere? Sure, a tent is also small inside and goes anywhere, but this is way, way better. If you want to live the van life but also want to go overlanding, this is the rig for you.
Similar to the Free Bird camper listed earlier in this roundup, Modvans’ creations can be transitioned between full-fledged camper vans and empty, cargo-ready vans. That’s because the bulk of the campers’ innards can be slid out through the back door when not needed, leaving the van, well, a van. (Hence the Modvans name—they’re modular.) There’s pretty much a single model in the lineup, the CV1, and it is constructed using a Ford Transit as its base.
American Safari JXL Conversion
American Safari’s JXL conversion for the Jeep Wrangler is nacv;wdc—which is to say, “not a camper van; we don’t care.” It is a camper, although certainly isn’t based on a van. But the key bits are there: A living space carved out of the back of a vehicle—in this case, a Wrangler SUV with an additional 15 inches of bodywork grafted on and a built-in pop-up roof tent—and nobody could possibly question the JXL’s ability to go camping. Really, the JXL conversion qualifies American Safari’s Jeep as an overlanding vehicle. A super burly and incredibly cool one at that.
Once again, we’re pushing the boundaries of the term “camper van,” but how could we not include this insane EarthRoamer LTS? Using a Ford F-550 chassis equipped with four-wheel drive, the LTS is both ruggedly capable and extremely huge. (It’s eight feet wide and 29 feet long!) Ford’s 6.7-liter diesel V-8 provides motivation, and the lifted suspension affords the rig 12.5 inches of ground clearance. We’d be careful cresting steep rises—the wheelbase is 17 feet long, so it’d be easy to drag this thing’s belly chasing a Jeep down a trail—but you can take your time and go the slow route, thanks to the 95 gallons of fuel, 85 gallons of freshwater, 12,000 watt-hour batteries, and 1300-watt solar panel onboard. For more on EarthRoamers, check out the $1.5 million XV-HD.
Bonus: LEGO Volkswagen T1 Camper Van
Want a taste of conversion camper van life but can’t afford anything on this list? Maybe give this cool LEGO kit a go! It is priced at an affordable $119.99, is officially licensed by Volkswagen, and should fit almost anywhere. The only hitch? It’s about the size of a shoebox, so you can’t actually sleep in this VW or camp with it. Also, it requires assembly, but at least that part’s fun. #vanlife for life!
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