clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Convert your van into a camper for $7K

Sleep two in a Ram Promaster City

California-based Cascade Campers is selling basic van conversions for $7,000—cost of the van not included.
Photo by Carolyn S Campbell, courtesy of Cascade Campers

For aspiring camper van owners, one of the biggest obstacles to buying a dream van is price. There are a lot of innovative, intriguing campers, but not many of them are truly affordable. That’s slowly changing, however, as more and more companies tackle the challenge of building vans that have all the essentials without the high price tag. Love campers and trailers? Come join our new community group.

One of the most affordable options we’ve seen lately is from California-based Cascade Campers. Using a Ram Promaster City (that’s smaller than the longer Ram Promasters), Cascade Campers installs basic, no-frills kits that give you just what you might need for life on the road and nothing more. Unlike other camper kits that you can install yourself, Cascade Campers does all the work. You just need to get them a Promaster City and wait about two weeks for installation.

The size of the Promaster City doesn’t allow for extras like a bathroom or gear garage, but the interior of a Cascade Camper is great for one or (maybe) two people who want to stealth camp. The company has added insulation and wall and ceiling paneling to help with heat, and a long, futon-style sofa on the driver’s side is the only rear seating option—there are no seat belts in the back of the van.

But that same sofa allows for plenty of seating when at camp, and at night it transforms into a 42-inch by 76-inch double bed. Cascade Campers says that 42 inches may seem narrow for two people, but plenty of happy customers report otherwise. The sofa also hides storage underneath with five pull-out bins, and you can keep necessary items at hand thanks to wall-mounted cargo nets.

There isn’t room for things like skis and bikes inside, but the basic interior boasts a futon-style bed and simple kitchen.
Courtesy of Cascade Campers

For cooking, a small kitchen runs along the passenger side of the van and includes a sink and a Dometic fridge. The sink runs off of a 19-liter jerry can with quick-release water lines, and a single-burner butane stove is a simple solution to cooking.

The van is powered by a solar-fed electrical system that includes a 100-watt solar panel, 400-watt inverter, 75-Ah AGM battery, and four USB ports. That’s not going to be enough to power a heater or air conditioner—the van doesn’t come with either—but it’s enough to keep your lights on and a 6-inch ventilation fan working. Unlike larger vans with custom gear garages, you’re not going to find much space for bikes or skis in this van—expect to need exterior boxes and racks.

It’s a simple build with an alluring price tag: The Cascade Camper conversion fits on Ram Promaster City Cargo vans newer than 2015 and retails for $7,000. That’s substantially cheaper than Colorado-based Contravans, which is making similar vans. You have to provide your own van—a Promaster City will cost you about $24,000 new—but there are many used options on the road that would bring down the price even more.

Cascade can also build your van out much faster than other luxury conversion outfitters; a helpful online calendar shows when spots are available and the build out takes about two weeks in their Grass Valley, California, headquarters.

If you’re looking for a camper van for a family or want to live in your van full time, this type of basic build might not be for you. But for anyone who lacks the skill or time to DIY a van, a Cascade Camper is an option that could fit the budget of many aspiring van lifers.

Storage underneath the bed provides room for clothes.
Courtesy of Cascade Campers
A kitchen features a fridge, small sink, single-burner stove, and cubby holes for storage.
Courtesy of Cascade Campers
Courtesy of Cascade Campers
The view from the front-seat cabin.
Courtesy of Cascade Campers
An air ventilation fan helps with circulation.
Courtesy of Cascade Campers

Via: New Atlas