What Is a Campervan?
A campervan is a small truck or van-like vehicle that offers both transport and sleeping capabilities. As one of the smaller types of RV’s, these vans closer resemble a mini-bus or delivery truck rather than a typical motorhome. Similar to other class of RVs, there is typically no barrier between the cab where the driver sits and the living portion of the vehicle.
For many people the word “campervan” stirs up images of a VW bus camper from the 1970s. Campervans typically come equipped with a small kitchen and a two-burner gas hob. Larger models may include a water heater for a small shower, space heating and a portable toilet. Some models can be equipped with a porta-potty toilet and sometimes an external shower which operates with the privacy of a campervan awning.
KEY TAKEAWAYS CAMPERVAN
- Small van-like vehicle that offers both transport and sleeping capabilities
- Similar feel to a car makes for easy drivability for beginners
- Offers many of the same amenities as larger motorcoaches
- Better gas mileage than other motorhomes
- Will feel cramped for more than two people
Campervan Culture: The “Van Life” Community
The campervan or “van life” community has its own unique culture separate and apart from it’s Class A, Class C and Trailer brethren. Currently, there are over 9.1 million hashtags for #vanlife on Instagram. Campervan cultural is defined by freedom, youthfulness and desire to live life on one’s own terms.
The “van life” community is a fast-growing segment of the American population that has chosen to sell or store their belongings and move into a campervan Washington Post. The campervan culture is all about traveling the globe, with some people working remotely or others just doing it for the experience. Van-lifers will often park their van in public or private campgrounds or in free campsites on public lands.
Due to the affordability, maneuverability and freeing lifestyle that the campervan offers, campervan’ers tend to significantly younger than other classes of RVers. Mostly, this may be due to the relatively affordability of campervans, but also the ability for younger people to live in small, cramped spaces without being overly bothered.
Compared to larger class RVers that prefer taking the comforts of home on the road, campervan culture is more about the freedom that small living has to offer. The limited storage and supplies available in the campervan ensure that the focus of the experience is on travel.
In 2020 and 2021 van lifers have been squeezed out of many public and private areas as COVID forced the closure of public lands to stem the spread of the virus. Van lifers have found that local communities have discouraged or even shunned outsiders as concerns over the pandemic swept through the country. See above.
Campervans v. Motorhomes: What’s the Difference?
Even experienced RVers will ask: “What is the difference between a campervan and a motorhome?” The terms “campervan” and “motorhome” are often used interchangeably to describe a small vehicle with a compact living space allowing for flexibility on the road CamperVan Adventures. While the terms “campervan” and “motorhome” may be used interchangeably there are differences in the design between the two types of RVs.
With their compact van-like design, campervans are made for function and flexibility. It’s the freedom of traveling lightly and cheaply without the “baggage” that ties you back to home. A campervan is usually ‘fitted out’ to provide basic accommodations such as a bed and small kitchen area, but not much else. Campervans are for the explorers, the young folks and the beatniks who love to explore with no strings attached.
Compared to campervans, motorhomes are designed for comfort on the road. Larger in size than the campervan, the emphasis for motorhome design is on creating a cozy and comfortable home away from home. Motorhomes typically will have a dinnette area for eating or lounging, a decent size kitchen space as well as stationary and fold-down beds for sleeping.
Exterior Campervan Design
A campervan is usually built on a van or a very small, delivery truck-type body. Generally, there is generally no divide between the cab and the living quarters in a campervan.
Similar to larger RVs, larger campervans may offer an “overcab”, which allows for bed space over the cab of the vehicle where the driver sits. Campervans can sometimes include “popouts” – extensions of the vehicle’s living space that can slide-out to allow for more living space.
While many campervans have a hard, fixed roof some feature “popups”, where the roof rises out of the top of the vehicle giving the campervan a more spacious feeling.
Interior Campervan Design
Campervans are typically “fitted-out” (customized) from the body of a van. Amenities included in campervans are similar, but significantly smaller, to those you would expect in other types RVs. These can include a full-size bed, a kitchen with a cooktop, a microwave, a small fridge, a sink and sometimes a small oven. Some also include small bathrooms with either a toilet or toilet/shower combo.
Other modern additions usually found on customized campervans include tanks for drinkable freshwater, propane, and wastewater. These vehicles can also feature stand-alone heat and air conditioning systems for comfort. Other add-ons that may be available include generators for additional power, awnings for outdoor shade and solar panels.
Some campervans also offer top-of-van luggage or equipment carriers for items like suitcases, bikes, surfboards or kayaks .
Benefits of a Campervan
Campervans offer mobile flexibility in a small, compact space. Some perks of campervans in comparison to other types of motorcoaches are:
- most maneuverable of the RV types
- ability to park in smaller spaces
- typically most affordable of RV styles
- less maintenance than Class A or Class C RVs
- one of the easiest models to convert, modify, or “build-out” on their own
Drawbacks of a Campervan
Due to their smaller size and lack of storage, campervans have some drawbacks:
- cramped for any more than two people
- can feel claustrophobic after long time on the road
- offers little storage space
- lacks comforts of larger motorhome
- typically lacks built-in toilets or showers
Related RV Terms
For related RV terminology, please reference the RV definitions below:
- Diesel Pusher: A Class A motorhome powered by a diesel engine mounted in the rear of the RV.
- Pop-Up Camper: A class of recreational vehicle (RV) with collapsible roof and walls.
- Travel Trailer: A non-motorized compact home on wheels that you can tow behind your personal vehicle.