What is a camper van and why are they so popular right now? A camper van is a converted van that turns the interior into a small living space and makes it into the ultimate travel vehicle for a specific lifestyle. While some have created mobile offices to travel around constantly, others have converted their vans to accommodate their families during vacations and explore the surrounding areas. Essentially, a camper van is really whatever you want it to be but the intention is the same – Have a comfortable vehicle with everything you need that can be moved around from place to place, anywhere you would like to go.
The Best Products For Camper Vans
For us at ADF Sprinters, each camper van we convert is unique because each person is so different. However, in our 20 years of experience and converting hundreds of vans, we’ve seen, installed, and tested a variety of products which is why we’re confident in recommending this list of the top camper van gear.
One of the most important items you’ll need to have in a camper van is the battery. If you’re planning to spend any amount of time on the road and specifically off-grid, then a campervan battery is inevitable. You’ll need an ample amount of power to run a fridge, lights, heater, and other personal items like phones and laptops. For those reasons, you’ll need to look at multiple factors like battery lifespan, efficiency, safety rating, and price. The two most popular options are either a lithium battery or AGM battery – Both will serve the same purpose but there are pros and cons to each.
Lithium Battery –
- Pros: Greater energy density than AGM
- Pros: Greater discharge capability
- Pros: Naturally higher resting voltage
- Pros: Can handle significantly more charge cycles
- Pros: Lightweight
- Cons: Expensive when comparing the initial cost
- Cons: Smaller ideal temperature range
- Cons: Specialized chargers necessary
AGM Battery –
- Pros: Very affordable price point of the two
- Pros: Rugged and durable
- Cons: Shorter life span than lithium batteries
- Cons: Extremely heavy
- Cons: 20 amp discharge cap before significant performance drop
- Cons: Slow recharge rate
- Cons: Advertised ratings don’t match healthy discharge
Recommended AGM Battery – Full Throttle, Odyssey
Most modern campervan appliances are designed to run specifically off 12-volt power. The days of propane refrigerators are long gone. With so many more items drawing 12-volt power, it’s important to build a fundamentally strong power system. Sure, you could use shore power hookups, but those are only good if you are parked and at a facility that offers plug-in power. Solar panels are a great way to constantly generate free electricity and keep your batteries healthy. Once installed, your solar panels will provide clean renewable energy that is also environmentally friendly. Here are some of our favorite options and why –
Best Solar Panels For Camper Vans –
- Zamp Solar: Solar is specifically designed for RV’s and campervans. These solar panels are made in the USA and come in multiple shapes and sizes which allow us to maximize the solar capacity. Portable systems also allow boosted output.
- Cascadia: The @cascadia4x4 hood-mounted solar panel system is a plug & plug installation that installs in under 2 hours and is designed to stand up to the rigors of overland travel. These solar panels make use of otherwise dead space and give you 80 more watts so you can go further and stay longer.
One product that offers safety, insulation, and privacy all in one is the coveted insulated window covers. Anyone who owns a camper van understands that uncovered windows let light in and allow the outside temperature to severely impact the interior – Something that isn’t ideal when you’re living part or full-time in your van. Investing in insulated window covers is extremely beneficial in the summer for keeping temperatures cool in the van and equally valuable in the winter when you don’t want the heat to escape. The ones we add in all of your van conversions are available on the DIY Adventure Van Co store. There are options for all Sprinters, Transits, and Dodge Promasters.
Having a refrigerator in your van conversion is ideal for life on the road, essential for going off-grid, and makes it feel more like home. Unless you want to live off goldfish, beef jerky and warm beverages we recommend getting a fridge in your campervan – Although you could get away with having a cooler, it will require consistent ice and will always have fluctuating temperatures. The size of the fridge you get should be contingent on how much you eat/cook on the road and the amount of space you want to allocate to the fridge. There are three styles of fridges available – Upright, chest and drawer style. Each has pros and cons based off how much power they use, your personal style of cooking, and how long you plan to stay away from civilization.
Upright Fridge – An upright-style fridge has a swinging front-facing door similar to the ones in our house. This creates easy access to all the food and drinks without having to slide out a drawer, so no need for heavy-duty drawer slides or need to lock it in place. This is best for fresh food that you don’t want to pile things on top of. Generally speaking, this style of fridge will have a separate freezer compartment and be more easily organized.
Chest Style Fridge – The chest style opens from the top similar to any kind of cooler. When incorporating these into a camper van conversion, we generally leave open floor space with tie down points. If enclosed in a cabinet, it will always be on heavy-duty drawer slides with a latch so it doesn’t slide out while driving While you will have to stack your groceries on top of each other, it is the most energy-efficient and portable option. These are popular options for additional fridge space that might not always be necessary on your trip. A simple 12V power plug and open space to physically store it is all thats necessary.
Drawer Style Fridge – The final style fridge is a hybrid of the two which is a drawer-style fridge. It’s similar to the upright fridge but instead of the door opening on the front, the drawer slides out the entire fridge. With this fridge, you can see and access all the food/drink but it is the least energy-efficient out of all three.
Our Favorite Fridge –
The fridge style and brand we use in almost all of our builds are the Isotherm Cruise Series. These are high-end marine refrigerators that have the proper latches to keep the doors from flying open through the windy mountain roads and reliable compressors to keep your beverages cold at all times.
Table & Mount
Even though you will be spending the majority of your time outdoors, a table is a necessity when spending time in the camper van. Whether you are looking for a workspace, dining table, or just a place to entertain, adding a table and mount to your conversion will make you feel much more at home.
One of the best available mounts for camper vans is the Lagun Mount. This patented mount is incredibly versatile as it can move up and down vertically, the arm swings in any direction, and the mounting plate itself also spins in any direction. You can lock the mount/table in any position you want and it’s extremely easy to install. The entire mount is built with lightweight aluminum so it’ll last forever and take up little to no space.
Roof Rack & Ladder
Adding a roof rack to your build can serve many purposes – It’s the solution for extra storage with a gearbox as well as ample room for a surfboard or kayak(s). If you are planning to add solar panels this is the best and most secure location to install them. In addition, it’s a great location on the van to check the surf, hang with friends, or get a great photo. Here at ADF, we do in-house aluminum fabrication and build a variety of differently styled roof racks. Whether we are installing fans, AC, lights, or a specific amount of solar, having the ability to build it with the interior design in mind makes our adventure vans that much better.
Other Great Companies That Offer Roof Racks and Exterior Products –
- Backwoods Adventure Mods
- Owl Vans Engineering
L-track or also known as Logistic Track is a modular rail system that can be used as tie-down points for gear or mounting points for custom equipment racks. This truly maximizes the function and storage in your van. Many people even use L-track in their van conversions to strap down heavy items like motorcycles and safely secure their mountain bikes. Mount some on your ceiling and use it to hang surfboards too! What’s so great about L-track is that it’s extremely strong, low cost, and can be installed almost anywhere in the camper van. Once you install the L-track, there are a variety of rings, hooks and attachment points that can be moved in 1-inch increments and removed in seconds.
If you have L-track in your camper van and own a mountain bike, check out the DIY Adventure Van Co Bike Mounts which are quick-release fork mounts designed to allow you to securely mount your bike where you want.
One of the major decisions when planning a camper van conversion is whether to install a shower or not. If you don’t want to rely on campgrounds, gas stations, or having to shower or do your business in the great outdoors then some sort shower will be a must. The next question to ask yourself is whether you’re fine with a shower outside the van or if you’re willing to dedicate interior space for a full shower system. If you’re okay with taking that shower outside, you will save a ton of space inside the van. A big downside of the outside only setup is thel limited places or temperature ranges where you can actually shower. Many of our clients are opting for an interior shower or an enclosed wet room to house their shower and campervan toilet all-in-one. This way they can shower wherever and whenever and have the same luxuries at home.
If you’re on the road for extended periods of time and you don’t want to use public facilities, then a toilette might be a product you want to add to your van conversion. Especially for families with small kids, having a toilette for long rides and bathroom breaks may be necessary. If you are set on adding a toilette to your conversion, here are the two types –
Portable Toilets – Portable may be the most popular of the two and they have two components to the toilette. The upper part is the toilet bowl and also has a water container for the flush mechanism, while the lower part houses the waste and is removable. These types of toilettes you can put under the bed and also store in the shower.
Best Option – Thetford Porta Potti
Compostable Toilets – Compostable toilets are often bigger and may require a cubicle to house them. The main difference in a compostable toilet is how they store liquids and solids in two different tanks. The basis of these types are the pee is stored in a small tank while the other tank collects the solids and contains bulking material such as sawdust or coconut coir to minimize the odor. In addition, these composting toilettes often have built-in fans with vents going outside the van. Other than the size of the toilette, they are also expensive which is why many go with the standard portable toilettes.
Best Option – Nature’s Head Composting Toilet
More Camper Van Accessories
There are so many amazing accessories to add to your camper van but we know space is limited. We kept our list short but these are some of the products we know aren’t necessary but recommend keeping your van feeling a little more like home and protected from the elements. Also, check out our recommendations for essential 4×4 accessories to get.
Max Trax – These are something you’ll hope you never have to use but are the most necessary things to have if you are ever going off-road. From driving on the beach, through dirt, mud, rocks, the Max Trax will help you when you get stuck.
First Aid Kit – This 200 piece kit from Adventure Van Co. will have everything you need to help minor injuries when on the road. It’s another tool you hope you’ll never have to need but it’s important to keep one in your van at all times.
Hammock – Want to set up a place to sit but don’t want to pack a chair? Well the ENO Hammocks could be for you. They’re light, come in a variety of styles, and are easy to set up.
Rumpl Blankets – These 100% post-consumer recycled blankets are the best addition to any van. Compact with multiple designs to choose from, these water-resistant blankets are sure to keep you warm.
Mugs – When you pour yourself a cup of coffee, it’s important that it stays warm. Yeti is one of our favorites because we can count on being able to enjoy that cup for a while. They’re also great for keeping your drinks cold all day.
Coffee Maker – We know a good morning brew is important which is why we recommend the Staley Pour-Over Set. Easy to use, and even easier to clean, you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy that cup of coffee in no time.
Window Screen – Whether you’re camping overnight, or just making a stop during the day, having good air circulation and bug prevention is something to keep in mind. This screen can provide both of those and can attach easily by a simple velcro patch.
Hand vacuum – It’s not a secret that vans can get dirty pretty easily, especially when you’re using them to travel some of the country’s famous hiking trails. This is why in order to keep our vans clean we use the Black+Decker Hand Vacuum. Compact, adjustable, and great for getting into small corners, this is the vacuum to use.
PackTowel – A towel is always needed whether they’re for you, your dishes, or your van. These quick-drying and super absorbent towels will be perfect for all your adVanture needs.