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Affordable pop-top transforms your van into a camper for $7K

Never sleep on the ground again

Ursa Minor Vehicles converts Honda Elements, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, and Ford Transit Connects into pop-top campers.
Courtesy of Ursa Minor Vehicles

Each month the top conversion van companies in the country debut sleek, innovative homes-on-the-go that appeal to everyone from retired couples to adrenaline-addicted mountain bike pros. But a much-anticipated trend has finally hit the United States: Camper companies are opting to build out the smaller siblings of the Mercedes Sprinters and Ram Promasters, vans like the Nissan NV200, the Ram Promaster City, and the Mercedes Metris.

The trend towards smaller camper vans is already prolific in Europe, where many families opt for campers that can serve both as weekend retreats and daily commuters. But it’s been harder to find here in the U.S., with popular campers like the Volkswagen California van unavailable stateside.

That’s changing with campers like the Free Bird, the Envy from Recon campers, Cascade Campers, and the latest to catch our eye: Pop-top campers from Ursa Minor Vehicles. Inspired by the VW Westfalia, Ursa Minor Vehicles operates two shops—one in San Diego and one in Portland—that convert Honda Elements, the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, and Ford Transit Connects into a pop-top camper.

With the Transit Connect pop-up, Ursa Minor starts with the 120-inch wheelbase Passenger Wagon (with an overall length of 190 inches) and works to ensure that it can function both as a people hauler and a camper. This isn’t a full interior conversion. Instead, Ursa Minor focuses on the pop-up roof, providing a strut-assisted pop-top that opens to 6.6-feet of standing room inside.

A 7-foot by 4-foot double mattress with washable covers fits in the above sleeping area, and you can access the bed from inside or outside of the vehicle. Ursa Minor uses a water-resistant, breathable Sunbrella canvas to keep the bugs out and the temperature comfortable. One of the coolest features is the zippered window screens that help with air flow but also let you unzip to appreciate panoramic views from the roof of your car. The top also includes low-current interior LED lighting that is wired into the van’s battery.

The view from the upper bed area with the screens open.
Courtesy of Ursa Minor Vehicles

Because Ursa Minor doesn’t do full conversions, the pop-top work doesn’t include a galley kitchen or lower bed. But the Passenger Wagon’s lower level makes for a versatile work horse; rear seats can hold a family and also fold completely flat to create an 85-inch area that could easily work as another sleeping space or a place to haul cargo.

Not building out a kitchen and other amenities also keeps the costs down for the DIY enthusiasts out there. Prices start at $6,400 (including installation) for a pop-top roof that works on 2014+ long wheelbase Transit Connect Passenger Wagon XL, XLT and Titanium models with standard roofs. Optional extras include paint, a 60-watt solar panel, roof rack systems, and USB or 12V outlets.

A pop-top from Ursa Minor won’t fit the needs of people looking for a fully built out camper van. But it does follow in the footsteps of companies like Sportsmobile and Colorado Camper Vans that have made a name for themselves popping the roofs of larger vans. For anyone looking to add some space to their Transit Connect, Honda Element, or Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, a conversion from Ursa Minor could be an affordable option.

The camper uses tough, breathable, fade and water resistance canvas for the pop-top walls.
Courtesy of Ursa Minor Vehicles
The camper boasts 6’-6” standing room when popped up.
Courtesy of Ursa Minor Vehicles
The interior of a converted camper.
Courtesy of Ursa Minor Vehicles
Courtesy of Ursa Minor Vehicles

Via: New Atlas