The Best Camper Vans | Digital Trends
Driving a camper means you’ll never have to pitch a tent or look for a hotel room ever again. These rigs give you the freedom to set up camp anywhere you want (or, at least, anywhere you’re allowed to). Whether that’s next to a lake, on top of a mountain with a breathtaking view, or on the beach is for you and your fellow travelers to decide.
If you’re ready to spend time away from civilization, check out some of the trucks and vans we’d choose to leave it all behind. Our list includes purpose-built off-roaders with correspondingly high prices, budget-friendly used models you can turn into your base camp in your spare time, and a lot of options in between.
That’s right, the very same company that makes luxurious sedans and ultra-quick sports cars also manufactures some of the most badass off-roaders on the planet. The Zetros wasn’t designed for camping, however. Originally, it was a heavy-duty truck commonly used by the armed forces in various countries, as well as for logging operations and trans-Sahara expeditions. It didn’t take long for adventurers to discover its unusually high tolerance for pain, however.
Many aftermarket companies turn the Zetros into a camper, and Mercedes even entered the segment with a factory-approved conversion three years ago. The best ones create a vehicle that’s a lot like the RV your grandparents used to cruise around in, only cooler. Knobby tires, a lifted suspension, and the same genes that produced the G550 4×4² allow it to effortlessly cruise from point A to point B even if there’s a mountain range in between the two. Inside, Mercedes’ world-famous craftsmanship and attention to detail shine through. Work hard, play hard, and sleep well.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter by Midwest Automotive
Maybe going off-road and eating berries to scrape by isn’t your idea of fun. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some seek a camper van that blends the comfort, luxury, and amenities of a mansion with the practicality of a car. If that sounds like you, check out the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter modified by Midwest Automotive.
Starting with a homely Sprinter, the same kind of van that delivers your FedEx packages, Midwest Automotive builds a camper van you wouldn’t trade for a night at the Hilton. The better-equipped models have a fridge, an oven, soft leather upholstery, in-car Wi-Fi, a premium sound system, and even a flatscreen television so you never miss a game. Better yet, you can work directly with Midwest Automotive to create a custom, one-of-a-kind van to your exact specifications. If you can dream it (and fund it), Midwest can build it.
Winnebago Revel 4×4
Winnebago has come a long way since the 1980s. No longer the makers of the retired adventurer’s rig of choice, the brand embraced overlanding when it turned the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter into a do-it-all camper named Revel. It kept the stock 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 engine and the four-wheel drive system, and it turned the cargo compartment into a home away from home with a bed, freshwater tank, closet, fridge, pantry, and fold-down exterior table. Power equipment draws electricity from a pair of high-performance batteries users can monitor via Bluetooth.
The 19.7-foot Revel 4×4 seats and sleeps two adults comfortably. It comes standard with a Wi-Fi hotspot, adaptive cruise control, and keyless entry, among other equipment. And, with 188 horsepower under your right foot, it’s peppy enough to pull itself and all of your gear through the Rockies without causing a 50-mile traffic jam. The trade-off — there’s always one, isn’t there? — is that it costs approximately $175,000 before options are added.
Ford E-Series by Sportsmobile
The Ford E-Series is completely outdated as a delivery van, but it makes for a pretty awesome camper. Sportsmobile starts its conversion with the cab-chassis model, which is the only E-Series left in production. While the back part of it looks like sheet metal, it’s actually a custom-designed add-on made with steel-reinforced fiberglass. The van then gets a four-wheel drive system designed in-house and upgraded brakes sourced from the heavy-duty F-550.
If you don’t want to spend money on a new van, Sportsmobile will convert any E-Series into a 4×4 camper. The company notes the four-wheel drive kit is currently only compatible with the 6.8-liter V10 gasoline engine. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Though thirsty, the 10-cylinder has enough power and torque to move you and yours over boulders.
Your local utility company and explorers deep in the Canadian wilderness have one thing in common: A Ford F-750. Colorado-based EarthRoamer started with the Blue Oval’s biggest truck to build a rugged four-wheel drive camper called XV-HD. It accommodates six people in a comfortable environment that includes a full bathroom with a separate shower, a washing machine, a drier, in-floor heating, and a Bose surround sound system.
The 46-inch Michelin tires and a custom suspension with Fox shocks let it conquer and tame all kinds of terrain, Raptor-style. Also, 250 gallons of freshwater, a 115-gallon fuel tank, and a 20,000-watt lithium-ion battery bank ensure you can spend weeks without needing to communicate with another human being.
Whether you’re planning a hardcore around-the-world trip or anticipating a full-scale zombie attack, there’s no better option than the MAN Noroader. Its name alone suggests that it soldiers on dutifully where other off-roaders get weak knees, turn pale, and head back. Built in Switzerland, the Noroader rides on a proven semi-truck chassis for peace of mind when it comes to durability, and it’s equipped with a heavy-duty turbodiesel engine that delivers all the hill-climbing torque you could ever need.
The list of equipment reads like a survivalist manual. The Noroader offers LED searchlights, satellite-based television and internet, a 4,000-watt diesel generator, an outdoor kitchen, a hydraulic platform for carrying an ATV or a motorcycle, and three separate fuel tanks with a total capacity of 317 gallons. There are three suspension settings to choose from, called on road, bad road, and off-road. It’s tough on the outside, but the living quarters look like a luxurious condo. As a bonus, it’s so tall you’re certain to get the best view in the house no matter how far off the grid you end up.
The Volkswagen EuroVan is the direct descendant of the Bus hippies claimed as their own during the 1960s. The engine is in the front, not in the back, so the interior is bigger and correspondingly more comfortable to sleep in for days — or weeks — at a time. Volkswagen offered several variants of the EuroVan. Some were passenger-carrying models with three rows of seats, while others were fitted with the desirable Westphalia option and factory-built for camping with a sink, a small kitchen, and convenient cupboards. You’ll likely spend less on a passenger-carrying one, but you will need to convert it into a camper. The pricier Westphalia, on the other hand, is a turn-key solution.
Volkswagen sold EuroVan models between 1999 and 2003 model years. American-spec models had a robust 2.8-liter VR6 engine with 140 horsepower. With a four-speed automatic transmission, the front-wheel-drive EuroVan was a popular iteration. While it might require some patience, we recommend finding a low-mileage option with a documented service history. That way, you have the best odds of avoiding a breakdown 100 miles away from the nearest service center. Plan on spending at least $15,000 on a clean example. That’s a lot for an old van, but rest assured they hold their value exceptionally well.
The Nissan NV is a full-size van designed to move anything big and bulky. Body-on-frame construction makes it one of the more rugged options in the van segment, a boon if you need to tow. It’s available with a somewhat awkward-looking high roof option that clears up a studio-like space behind the seats. You can use the cargo compartment to build a walk-in van — Nissan claims even 6-foot-3-inch adventurers can stand up straight — or you can install a mezzanine bed. Bluetooth connectivity and a USB port for compatible devices are both standard, while Nissan offers navigation at an extra cost.
Engine options include a 4.0-liter V6 rated at 261 horsepower and a 375hp, 5.6-liter V8 shared with the Titan pickup truck. We recommend selecting the eight, and here’s why: You’re going to deck out your NV with a bed, cabinets, a sink, and a small kitchen. These features inevitably add weight. Odds are your adventures will take you to higher elevations, too. You might even climb up a mountain pass or two. Get the extra power; you won’t regret it.
You can purchase a brand new Nissan NV for $29,980. Motorhomes can range anywhere from $30,000 to $85,000, making campervans an affordable alternative. If in the used market, you can find an NV for as little as $15,000, making it even easier to make life on the open road a reality.
Keep in mind, buying a used camper van may not be as easy as it sounds. Do-it-yourself builds can be of varying quality, and some owners don’t place a high priority on vehicle maintenance. Add high-mileage to the equation, and it pays to have any used model examined by a qualified mechanic.
When you want the freedom to enjoy the open road and beyond, a camper is a must-have. Our recommendations span everything from high-priced luxury models to more affordable camping models with basic features. Whichever you choose, we guarantee an adventure that awaits you.
Campervans provide an incredible amount of mobility compared to motorhomes and travel trailers. Even more experienced travelers find that campervans drive better in traffic and are easy to park when compared to RVs and other mobile homes. They also tend to be more affordable.
You don’t have to worry about the stress of driving a giant motorhome or trying to figure out how to back up a trailer if you get a campervan. While they don’t have the same interior luxuries as larger motorhomes, they’re easier to drive so you’re more likely to take them out for trips both long and short, so you’ll be getting your money’s worth from this vehicle.
Check out some of the specialty models on our list if you’re preparing for the zombie apocalypse. We’ve included a variety of campervans that are both attractive and easy to drive so after a brief tour, you’ll be ready to take off on an adventure of your own.