To no one’s surprise, our next rig (since it’s just me and my doggo) will be a camper van! We’ve just finished getting the Airstream ready to hit the market, so this transition is coming whether we are ready or not.
Whether we would end up with a camper van conversion kit (DIY option) or a “done for you” van built by one of the van conversion companies out there was a huge question for a while.
When we decided to downsize from our 25-foot Airstream Argosy, it was because we don’t use the space as we should. We want something that’s a little easier to just pick up and go when we want to hit the road. (We like the road.)
This means we’ve been diving into the world of #VanLife for a while now researching all the best ways to plan, build, and hit the road in a camper van.
One option we’ve found fascinating is the van conversion kits I mentioned. These handy kits come with almost everything you need to build out a van on your own without having to spend quite as much cash as you would if you had a professional camper van conversion company do the job.
But before we get to the list of conversion kits, I want to go over some of the most popular models for campervans on the market to help you understand which van to buy before searching for a conversion kit.
(**Side Note: Whichever chassis and conversion kit option you choose, we highly recommend you do some research before choosing an insurer for your campervan.
There couldn’t be anything much more stressful than getting in a major accident and then finding out that your insurance carrier is not going to cover all of the costs because of your “unique” vehicle! Don’t let this happen to you.
The newest “kid on the insurance block” that you’ll want to check out? Roamly. It’s an insurance company built by RVers for RVers, to take care of many of the headaches you can potentially face with an RV insurance claim. In select markets, Roamly can provide coverage on DIY campervans and upfitted Class B’s that are historically very difficult to insure as an RV. Get your quote in 60 seconds today!**)
The Most Popular Camper Van Models
RAM’s Promaster is a great choice for camper van conversions because unlike most of its competitors, the Promaster offers squared corners instead of rounded ones.
As an Airstream owner, I know just how painful adapting renovations can be when it comes to rounded corners everywhere. Largely for this reason, the Promaster has been one of our most intriguing choices since we started looking for a campervan to convert.
The largest Promaster offers a wheelbase of 159 inches, which depending on whether you choose the regular 159 or the extended 159, you’ll be getting roughly 240 inches of living space from nose to tail, give or take a few inches.
The Promaster has a lot going for it including its reasonable price and durability. I definitely consider this van one of the best options because it not only saves a little cash for the conversion but also because it’s likely to be less expensive to repair if needed… unlike some of its competitors (we’re looking at you, Sprinter).
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van
Also known as one of the most expensive vans to buy before or after conversion, the Sprinter van is a popular choice amongst van lifers for a variety of reasons.
Depending on what kind of van you’re looking for, whether it be new and luxurious or used, the Sprinter almost always has an option out there for you.
Since Sprinters have been around for a longer period of time, you can often find a good deal on a used Sprinter van if you look hard enough. But if you’re more interested in high-end van-living, new Sprinter vans offer all that and more.
Sprinters also offer one of the longest wheelbases out of all campervans on the market today. The largest Sprinter van measures 170 inches wheel to wheel, which allows for more living space than most other vans if that’s what you’re after.
But with more space and luxury comes a higher price tag. Like I said earlier, you can usually find a good deal on a used Sprinter if you look hard enough, but with van life becoming increasingly popular, used Sprinters are getting snatched up pretty quickly.
Keep your eyes peeled if you go this route!
Ford’s Transit is offered in a variety of sizes but it maxes out at 147.6 inch wheel basel. But don’t let that discourage you from checking it out for your camper van conversion!
I personally have been inside a Ford Transit camper van and loved every second of it for two reasons. As someone who likes a small but homey space, the Transit offers just enough space for two or three people to spread out depending on the layout. This is not always the case with a wheelbase of this size.
The ride is also smoother than other campervans that I’ve been in which makes for a more enjoyable on-road and off-road experience.
Though it’s a little more expensive than a Promaster, I think the Transit van is a great option because it’s almost like an in-between design of the Promaster and Sprinter vans: not too square and not too curvy, which can help with fuel efficiency!
The Best Camper Van Conversion Kits
Now that you know all about the most popular van choices for van-living, it’s time to dive into the camper van conversion kits. Let’s take a look at some of the conversion kits on the market right now.
The Walt Camper Van Conversion Kit
Wayfarer Vans offers three van conversion kits all for the varying sizes of Ram Promaster vans. The Walt Camper Van Conversion Kit is meant for the 159” wheelbase Promaster and it includes everything you need to make your van feel more like home.
- Cargo management tracks
- Paneling and insulation
- Kitchen area with 5 gallon fresh and grey water tanks and a hand-pump sink
- Bed platform with cushions
- Bench and boot boxes with cushions
- Slide-away table
- Privacy paneling for the windows
This setup is pretty traditional and offers you everything you need to get started with van life. You can easily add a tabletop burner to the kitchen setup, too, if you’re interested in cooking inside the van.
This camper van conversion kit is roughly $11,000. This isn’t a bad deal for the size of the van and the materials you receive! Once you get this kit installed, you pretty much have everything you need to make your van comfortable for long road trips or full-time van life.
TrailKitchens Build-Your-Own Van Conversion Kits
TrailKitchens offers a variety of camper van conversion kits. What I like the most about TrailKitchens’s kits is that the individual pieces are sold separately for those who want to customize their vans a little differently. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of option.
The campervan kitchen pod is perfect for most campervans and includes:
- Marine-grade water system
- Portable stove top
- Fridge/freezer compartment
- Storage for plates and utensils
Outside of kitchen kits, TrailKitchens offers wheel well storage cabinets, a platform bed, extra water and electrical setups, and a campervan fridge slider and water system pod!
You can easily customize your order by ordering the pods you need or choosing kits that have a variety of options like the campervan wheel well cabinets!
The best part of TrailKitchens is that their kits are reasonably priced and are highly rated by DIYers and van builders, too.
ZENVANZ Bamboo Camper Van Conversion Kits
ZENVANZ’s Bamboo camper van conversion kit is a little more luxurious than other conversion kits, which will cost you more (starting at $18,000 based on the length of your van).
But the look and feel of this kit remind us more of home. Made of bamboo and aluminum, this kit looks great and is durable enough for the bumpiest road trips.
This kit includes everything you need from a bed platform, kitchen setup, a foldout gear rack, and all the cabinets you need to turn your van into a living space. Other options you can add to your kit include ceiling, door, and wall panels.
You can also order custom-sized components to fit your floor plan, which is hard to find in a DIY kit. Take it from someone who has done enough research to know.
The best part about this kit? Its installation only uses factory holes to prevent you from drilling extra holes into your precious van. This allows you to keep your van intact and maintain its integrity, protecting you from potential leaks and other major headaches.
Happier Camper’s DIY Adaptiv System Van Conversion Kits
Happier Camper’s Adaptiv System was originally made for their brand name travel trailer, but Van Lifers needed their own system, too! This DIY kit is module-based and allows you to move things around inside your van for whatever your particular adventure demands.
This kit doesn’t use glue or screws for most of its system. Instead, the designers chose to make each module fit snugly inside the fiberglass flooring that’s included in the package. Happier Camper chose honey-combed fiberglass for its modules to allow for better weight distribution and added strength for its on-the-go components.
This camper van conversion kit offers quite a few possibilities with adaptive cubes that can be used for:
- Sitting and storage
- Bench/bed area
- Nesting tabletop
- Cooler cube
- Bunk bed/couch
Happier Camper’s kit allows you to adventure with a flexibility that other conversion kits simply cannot offer.
If you’re an adventurer who needs the ability to move your van floor plan around from work to play, Happier Camper’s Adaptiv System is probably your best option to make it all work without sacrificing anything you need.
Which Kit Would Fit Your Needs and Goals Best?
At the end of the day, and after plenty of research, I think I would choose Happier Camper’s Adaptiv System. Even though I’m not planning on purchasing a conversion kit for my van, I love the idea of being able to live with ultimate flexibility in a small space. That’s what the Adaptiv System appears to offer vanlifers.
I work remotely and also adventure pretty hard when I’m not working. Having a van that allows me to look presentable for virtual meetings while also allowing me to hide my dirty hiking gear on the opposite side of the van is exactly what I need!
Also, who can say no to playing with “adult legos” in your van with the Adaptiv modules? Not me!
Erin Maxson is rooted in South Dakota, but wanders every chance she gets to see the beauty that nature holds. From hiking to climbing, there’s not an adventure she’ll turn down.
After renovating her 1976 Airstream Argosy, Erin knows the ins and outs of living life on the road and trailer maintenance.
Whether she’s on the road with her dog and partner or at home curled up with a good book, Erin is always planning her next adventure because life is meant to be lived outdoors.