2018 was the year of the camper here at Curbed. We reported on dozens of innovative, interesting rigs that ranged from tiny teardrops to massive Class A RVs. We started a fast-growing Facebook community group for camper enthusiasts to geek out on the coolest designs around.
And perhaps most importantly: We expanded our service-oriented content to include things like gear guides, RV class-type explainers, and stories that detail which vans, conversion kits, and trailers are the top choices to buy.
The best part? Readers loved it. Curbed camper stories were some of our most popular stories of the year, and our Facebook camper group has become a top destination to discuss camper design. Whether you live in a camper full time or just dream about owning one, our coverage of campers, RVs, and trailers has struck a cord.
As the days tick down towards a new year, we’re looking back at our favorite campers of 2018. Today’s focus is camper vans, the ubiquitous Class B RVs that you see all over your Instagram feed.
Some are brand-new vans that debuted this year from big-time industry players like Winnebago and Airstream. Others are under-the-radar rigs ranging from DIY builds to budget-friendly conversions. Behold, the campers vans that caught our eye in 2018.
We’re always excited to see what Oregon-based Outside Van cooks up with their custom-built adventure vans, whether it’s a no-frills mountain biking oasis for two, or a sleek and modern 4x4 ready to off road. But the biggest van of the year from Outside Van was this 2016 4x4 Mercedes-Benz 170 3500 Sprinter, aptly named the Power Station, which sold for $240,000.
Built to take bike and camping trips, the Power Station is a bike-centric power hub ready to tackle the outdoors. A gear garage holds bikes easily below the bed, and three long-life, extreme capacity, high-output AGM batteries and a 2800 watt inverter can charge an electric bike to full battery. That’s also enough power to run the rooftop air conditioner for up to eight hours off-the-grid, and van dwellers can even use a hair dryer while making a smoothie in the recessed Vitamix blender. Because why not? See more, over here.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Outside Van, this DIY van from a couple named Isabelle and Antoine shows what you can do on a limited budget. They’ve transformed a 2016 Ford Transit into a roving home in approximately 1000 hours and $18,275 (excluding the van cost) and obsessively documented the process on their website Far Out Ride.
In order to live in the van full time, the couple knew they needed an off-the-grid, four season adventure van that could fit both of them. That meant insulating the van, adding a Webasto Air Top 2000 heating system and extra ventilation, and ensuring that they had solar panels and batteries to power them in the backcountry. Find out more, this way.
The VW California wasn’t new in 2018, in fact it was just the opposite. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the first Westfalia-built California camper van—which ironically has never been sold in California—Volkswagen brought over a dozen California T6 AWD vans to the United States in spring 2018 for a good old-fashioned road trip. I was one of the journalists invited to participate in the trip, which included three days of driving and two nights of camping near Los Angeles.
That road trip inspired one of Curbed’s top stories of the year: My review of the VW California.
Based out of Maryland, Off Grid Adventure Vans is both one of the only van outfitters on the eastern seaboard and one of the industry’s most affordable. Whereas many van conversion companies are selling builds that run over $100,000, Fensterheim jokes that he would have to work hard to get a client to spend $80,000. He wants to sell vans for around $60,000 total, breaking down to $30,000 for the vehicle and $30,000 for the conversion.
For the money you’ll get a van with a Murphy-style full size bed, a spacious dining and living room area in the rear with bench seats and a removable table that can seat six, and a fully functioning bathroom with shower and optional toilet. See more, this way.
It’s big news when an industry veteran like Winnebago debuts a new camper, and the Revel delivered. The first mass-produced, manufactured 4x4 RV in the United States, the Revel is chock-full of outdoorsy amenities, like a 3-liter turbo diesel engine, all-terrain tires, and an on-demand four-wheel-drive system that has a high, low, and “hill descent” mode.
Inside, the Revel provides all the conveniences you’d expect from a larger motorhome, like a full kitchen, air conditioning, and heating. The van can sleep two on a rear-mounted power-lift bed that, in its highest position, allows for 140 cubic feet for bikes, surfboards, or whatever other gear you want. Read more, over here.
California-based ModVans is a Swiss army knife of camper vans, able to convert from camper to passenger vehicle and work truck. Removable, modular components let you change the layout with ease, and the CV1 uses the low-roof, medium-length Ford Transit chassis as its base.
Families will love the second row of seats—two captain’s chairs and a middle seat—to travel five with seat belts. It sleeps a crowd thanks to a removable downstairs bed installed over the storage cabinets and an upper bed located in the pop-up top. Read more, over here.
There are plenty of Class B vans out there that sleep two comfortably, and even some that use a pop-top to sleep a family of four. But if you’re looking for a design that sleeps four people easily—even in the dead of winter—check out this custom build from Sportsmobile. It’s my own personal van, and the culmination of years of dreaming and work.
It uses a high-roof 4x4 2017 Mercedes Sprinter 3500 cargo van and boasts a a microwave, refrigerator, sink, and two-burner induction stove. A full-height pantry lets you bring plenty of food for kids, and you can eat at a large dinette in the center. Read about the journey, this way.
Nothing says van life quite like a rooftop deck, so it’s no wonder that we loved this van from San Francisco-based Glampervan in 2018. Using a 136-inch wheelbase high-roof Ram Promaster (the medium-sized model in the Ram lineup) Glampervan maximizes space with a build customized for two people.
You enter the van in a galley kitchen loaded with cabinet and storage space. In the back, a Murphy bed sits on the passenger wall and allows space to haul gear or supplies whenever you’re not resting. When in the sleeping position, the bed is just shy of a queen size, and overhead cabinets provide more storage. But the coolest part is the rooftop deck. See more, this way.
As the longest-tenured recreational vehicle manufacturer in the world, Airstream is best known for their iconic “silver bullet’ trailers. But they also make Class B touring couches with their Atlasand Interstate lineups. In 2018 they debuted the Interstate Nineteen, a compact Class B that’s full of Airstream’s signature touches. At only 19 feet long, the Interstate Nineteen sits on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 2500 chassis and a 144-inch wheelbase.
It sleeps two comfortably on a power rear sofa that converts into a generously sized bed, and there is ample storage thanks to high-end overhead cabinets. When not used as a bed, the rear area functions as an eating a lounging area, and a compact kitchen boasts Dupont Corian countertops, a sink, and a cooktop. Check it out, this way.