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Campervan North America LLC
- Fall and leaf-peeping season has officially arrived and many people are considering alternatives to domestic flights and hotels for their travel plans.
- With COVID-19 still very much a factor, a camper van is becoming an increasingly alluring proposition for those seeking an affordable, socially-distanced vacation with limited social interactions.
- There are many different types of camper vans for a compact, economical alternative to large motor homes, with more comfort than you’ll find in traditional camping.
- Read more: The best RV rentals
With fall officially here, and the COVID-19 pandemic surging on, the travel landscape continues to evolve.
A motor home rental is one such way forward. After all, your wheels, lodging, and dining are all relegated to one controlled space. However, RVs (recreational vehicles) tend to be difficult to drive, sometimes too large for many campgrounds, and pricey when it comes to fuel.
For those looking for an equally convenient way to travel with more flexibility, consider the camper van.
Like larger RVs and motorhomes, a camper van offers travelers increased levels of control over their environments. The best camper van is a self-contained living pod with sleeping, washing, and cooking facilities all onboard. They allow easy access to socially distant spots in nature, are easier to drive, better on fuel, and can slip into most campgrounds without problems.
“Camper vans are the perfect option for those wanting some extra comfort during their road trip without having to break the bank,” says Carley Clegg, spokesperson for Escape Campervans, a company founded in New Zealand but that now operates US locations. “Camper vans are small enough to fit into most tent sites and large enough to fit a bed inside and a simple, efficient kitchen. It’s the perfect middle ground to soak in the outdoors.”
Adds Hiron Menon, spokesperson for fellow New Zealand transplants Jucy RV Rentals, “If you are not used to a big RV, it can be very intimidating to drive. A camper van drives just like a car and is an easy way to get into the camping world. Camper vans are also more economical and are not gas guzzlers like the big RVs.”
Indeed, it seems the traveling public is coming around to the camper van as a viable option for travel. “We have seen an increase in inquiries/bookings,” says Kirby Sandberg, spokesperson for Montana-based rental company Campervan North America. “Many inquiries are for more nights than we typically see from the domestic market. I have the feeling that people are itching to get out and travel, and a camper van offers them a great way to socially distance in the great outdoors.”
Motor homes and camper vans both generally fall under the definition of RVs. A motor home is usually larger, built on a bus or truck chassis, and has a divider between the driver’s cab and the living quarters, which include comfortable sleeping, cooking, and bathroom facilities.
A camper van is generally smaller, typically with no divide, and usually more basic. Many were not originally built to be self-contained living quarters and have been specially adapted and fitted to serve this purpose.
Converting or outfitting vans, and even living in them has become a phenomenon, with #vanlife now one of the more celebrated hashtags on social media.
Customers can choose from a range of outfitted vehicles, some with very basic facilities and some with rockstar levels of comfort, but all offer flexibility, economic benefits, and control over the traveler’s own environment. It is tricky to specify exact fuel economies for each type, but for average-sized camper vans, around 20 miles per gallon is a good working average.
“Camper vans offer great gas mileage and can access the more restricted roads (that might be unavailable to larger motorhomes),” says Kirby Sandberg. “They also offer great maneuverability and visibility when driving, and you’ll save big by having the option to camp instead of booking into hotels.”
These are general use vans such as the Ford Transit that were not built for camping, but which have been converted. Additions usually include at least basic sleeping quarters and storage for camping or biking gear, with more upscale models including a small kitchen or galley area with a refrigerator, sink, and running water.
Composting toilets and propane-heated shower attachments for outdoor showering are also possible. These vans typically contain few factory-fitted amenities that are directed towards camping, and most of their additions are due to conversions, fitted after the vehicle has been purchased.
These vehicles are usually a newer-generation product built intentionally to be sold to travelers. These camper vans tend to be more luxurious with upgraded fixtures and fittings, made from comfortable materials, and feature nicely integrated electronics and plumbing facilities.
The upper echelons even have dining rooms and full bathrooms with showers. Some of the more popular brands include Winnebago, Volkswagen, and Airstream, a company more usually identified for their classic vintage trailers, but who now produce state-of-the-art camper vans, too.
These vehicles typically come with a higher roof that has either been factory-fitted on the original vehicle or extended as part of a conversion.
Think of this space as an added ‘attic” space on the design that can be used for sleeping quarters (opening up the back of the camper van for larger living space, more passenger seats, or more amenities), storage space for camping, or adventure gear. Some variations of this type of van include pop up, semi-rigid tops, or offer space and components to set up what are essentially tents on the van roof for overnight stops.
These companies offer some of the best camper vans that we’ve found based on reputation, customer satisfaction levels, specialties, all-around value, and fleet offerings.
Quotes below are for a 45-year old driver for a two-week rental during high season, booked two months in advance, picking up and dropping off at the same location (as stated), and without any extras unless listed.
Check very carefully what amenities your camper van comes with at the time of booking. Fuel and mileage costs vary depending on the vehicle, but for fuel economy, an average of 20 miles per gallon is a fair estimate.
Regardless of which option you choose, if you’re new to camper vans, be sure to read up on important info and tips for first-timers at the end of this guide.
Source: Best camper vans (Updated September 2020)
By email@example.com (Paul Oswell)
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