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5 small but mighty camper vans you can buy now

The coolest vans on the block

A side view of the pop-top camper van with the side door open and the roof popped up. Photo courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

For years, the North American RV market was missing what so many adventurers seemed to want: A compact camper that fits in your garage, can function as a daily driver, and still sleep two to four people for short weekend camping trips. It’s what has made the Volkswagen California van—unfortunately not sold in the U.S.—so popular around the world. Love campers and trailers? Come join our community group.

The good news? Things are changing, fast. The biggest announcement of the last six months is that Mercedes-Benz is bringing a pop top camper—called the Weekender—to market in 2020. Companies big and small have recognized the demand, resulting in a range of new innovative camper vans.

Other choices are built on smaller versions of best-selling larger vans (like the Ram Promaster City or the Mercedes Metris) while some companies are converting low-roof Nissan NV200 cargo vans. One seller is even building out a minivan—the Toyota Sienna—into a weekend getaway.

In the past, we’ve written guides to other popular campers—like the best teardrops, lightweight trailers, Class B camper vans, DIY camper van kits, and vintage trailers. Now we turn to the newly competitive small camper van market, with five picks that are sure to impress.

The Weekender by Mercedes-Benz

An external view of Mercedes-Benz minivan with a pop-top camper roof sitting in a dirt parking lot.
The upper bed section of the pop-top camper van has screened windows.
Inside a camper van with the beds laid flat and curtains on the window. Photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz
A side view of the pop-top camper van with the side door open and the roof popped up.

Cost: Debuting this spring with price TBD, but rumored to be just under $70,000

Details: You’ve probably seen a Mercedes pop-top van before, but the Weekender will be the first factory-built version in the U.S. Thanks to a partnership with Seattle’s Peace Vans and Mercedes-Benz Master Solutions partner Driverge, soon you’ll be able to walk into a Mercedes dealership and snag a Metris with a seating for five and sleeping spaces for four.

The Weekender will fit inside a standard seven-foot-high garage and will come with a pop-top sleeping are for two that pushes up easily thanks to spring loaded lifts. The camper also features privacy curtains, a rear seat that folds down to a double-size bed, rotating front seats, and an auxiliary battery.

The Free Bird from Caravan Outfitter

A light grey van, the Free Bird. The door is open revealing a bed.
The interior of a camper van. There is a red cushioned bed.
The interior of a camper van. There is a red cushioned seat. A person is sitting on the seat. There is a camera next to them. There is a table. Photos courtesy of Caravan Outfitter
A person making coffee with a portable coffee maker on a shelf in a camper van.

Cost: The 2019 Free Bird SV+ starts at $37,165

Details: Built on the Nissan NV200 cargo van, the Free Bird from Caravan Outfitter uses a convenient slide-rail system that makes switching from camper van to cargo hauler a cinch. The slide-and-glide system allows all of the components to be installed or removed in about two minutes. The main cabin is a series of boxes that hold everything you need to camp.

The kitchen is accessed from the rear in a slide-out kitchen box; it consists of a portable butane stove and two storage drawers. A seating area and table makes a comfortable indoor dining or workspace, and then at night the table legs remove and the table slides in to form a mattress platform. The cushions combine to form a 76-inch full-size bed, with space for two adults. Read more, this way.

Oasis Campervans

A grey camper van. The side door is open revealing storage. In the background is a red rock face near the side of the road.
The interior of a camper van. There are seats, a sink, and shelving.
The interior of an Oasis Campervan. The seats are expanded into a bed. Photos by RamenViews, courtesy of Oasis Campervans
The back of a camper van. The door is open revealing a shelf with a sink. Under the shelf are storage drawers.

Cost: Van conversions start at $4,000

Details: Unlike other small camper van companies that use Nissan or Mercedes vans, Colorado-based Oasis Campervans converts the all-wheel-drive Toyota Sienna minivan into mobile homes-on-the-go. Oasis Campervan conversions include a main living room with pull-out drawers, a finished floor, and a moveable table for working. One of the most innovative parts of the design is a foldable chair that transforms into part of the bed with a helpful back rest, and when in the sleeping position the full-size mattress can hold one or two people comfortably.

Similar to a teardrop trailer, the van’s rear area accesses a small kitchen with a sink, running water, drawers and shelves, and a large countertop. Dinner prep is made easy thanks to a fold-up kitchen table, and in certain van layouts, the kitchen can also fit a slide-out drawer that fits a cooler or refrigerator. Head over here for more.

A silver mini van. The roof has a pop out inflatable sleeping area. There is a black pattern painted on the van. Courtesy of Recon Campers
The interior of a camper van. There are black seats. Courtesy of Recon Campers
A silver camper van. The back doors are open. There is a bicycle sitting against the door. Inside of the van are storage compartments. Courtesy of Recon Campers
A silver camper van with a pop out inflatable sleeping area on the roof. Courtesy of Recon Campers

Cost: Starting from $28,500

Details: Recon Campers uses the Nissan NV200 commercial grade van to create campers that give you #VanLife at a fraction of the cost of many larger builds. Their Envy camper features seven feet of standing room thanks to a pop top that contains an 88 inch by 40 inch upper bed.

Down below, the Envy boasts a custom rear bench seat—made with breathable multi-density foam—that folds flat into a 42 inch by 72 inch lower bed, perfect for a couple. A galley kitchen isn’t large but houses most of the basics, like a stainless steel fridge, sink, and pantry area with a bit of room for storage.

Recon Campers temporarily stopped taking orders in 2018 to expand production, but they should open up sales again in spring 2020. Read more about the Envy, this way.

Cascade Campers

A white camper van parking in a clearing. In the background is a sign that has words that say: Ride N Rest.
The interior of a camper van. There is a seat and various other storage compartments.
The interior of a camper can. There are seats and a sink. Courtesy of Cascade Campers
The interior of a camper van. There is a shelf and other storage areas.

Cost: The Cascade Camper conversion fits on Ram Promaster City Cargo vans newer than 2015 and retails for $7,000

Details: California-based Cascade Campers uses a Ram Promaster City (that’s smaller than the longer Ram Promasters) to install 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 company has added insulation, 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. 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. 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. Head over here for more.