The diversity of camping rigs out there is ridiculous. This post explores all the different kinds of vehicles that can be converted to campers, maybe some you’ve never heard of. Whether you’re in the market for a camping rig or just want to drool, this guide aims to inform and inspire.

Vans

  • High Roof Cargo Vans
  • Low Roof Cargo Vans
  • 4X4 Vans
  • Compact Cargo Vans
  • Ambulances
  • Box Trucks
  • Step Sides
  • Classics
  • Minivan
  • Conversion Vans

Off Road

  • Truck Campers
  • Roof Top Tents
  • Cab Over Chassis
  • Pop Top 4x4s
  • EarthRoamers
  • Ex-Military Vehicles
  • Off-road Trailers

On Road

  • Class A Motorhomes
  • Class B/C Motorhomes
  • Skoolies
  • Shuttle Buses
  • Travel Trailers
  • Cargo Trailers
  • Car / Truck / SUV
  • Crazy DIY Deathtraps

Vans

High Roof Cargo Vans

Highly dependable and a popular choice for camper van conversions because of of the available head room. Most popular models in the United States are the Mercedes Sprinter, Ram Promaster, Ford Transit and Nissan NV.

Low Roof Cargo Vans

Your classic cargo van which you can not stand up in. Also highly dependable and a popular choice for van conversions because of the huge used market. Popular models include the Ford Econoline, Chevy Express, Ram Promaster and Ford Transit. Check out our Chevy Express build here.

4×4 Vans

Most of these vans have been converted to 4×4 by a company such as Quigley or Sportsmobile. Some vans have optional 4×4 or AWD from the factory such as Mercedes Sprinters, VW Syncros, Chevy Astros, GMC Savannas, Mitsubishi Delicas and now the Ford Transit. These vehicles are more expensive to buy and maintain then regular cargo vans. On the flipside, they retain their resell value more and can be worth the investment if you want to go a little farther off road then most camping rigs. Some have standing room height like the Winnebago Revel, others have pop tops like the Sportsmobile and some are low roof like the VW Syncro or Quigley Chevy Express.

Compact Cargo Vans

Perfect affordable stealth campers for anyone who doesn’t want to explore the back country. Popular models are the Ford Transit Connect, Ram Promaster City and Nissan NV200. Great gas mileage and dependability, fits an any parking spot and blends into urban spaces.

Ambulances

Retired ambulances can often be found on auction websites for a steal and come in MANY different configurations. They are built to very high standards, have huge cargo capacity, meet rollover testing standards and can be very reliable. They are often maintained in a fleet or by a municipality so service record is usually very good. They can however spend a lot of time idling which isn’t good for the engine so its important to compare engine hours to miles when shopping. The lights and sirens are disabled before selling to the general public and all the accessory equipment such as compressors and generators can be overwhelming for an inexperienced builder. Configurations include type I (truck chassis), type II (van chassis), type III (cut-away van chassis) and ‘medium duty’. Converted ambulances are known as campulances.

Box Trucks

Box trucks can be an excellent option for a DIY van build. Their flat walls with 90 degree corners make fitting wall, floors and cabinets much easier. They can be just as reliable as a regular cargo van but generally get slightly less MPGs. Some come with a pass-thru between the cab and box. Ford, Chevy and Mercedes all offer box truck versions of their van platforms.

Step Sides

Step side vans or step vans are commonly used for delivery and get their name from being able to step directly into the cab from the curb. The body of these vans are integrated into the cab unlike box trucks which are separate. They are rarely used for RV conversions because the second hand market is sparse and they typically have high mileage.

Classics

If nostalgia is your thing these classic vans definitely turn heads. Just make sure you’re handy, have deep pockets or both. Examples include VW buses, Dodge B200, Ford Econoline or Chevy G20.

Minivans

Highly reliable and more affordable then a cargo van, minivans can be a good choice for travelers on a budget. Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country, Toyota Sienna, or Honda Odyssey are among the most popular choices.

Conversion Vans

Bigger and more featured then a minivan but not quite a Class B Motorhome yet, conversion vans come from the factory with some features that make them more comfortable on the road such as swivel seats, integrated screens and refrigerators.


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Off Road

Truck Campers

Tons of choices out there ranging from cheap second hand (or tenth hand), Craigslist campers to expensive lightweight composite shells. Some are designed to go in the back of a standard pickup bed and others are designed to mount to a flatbed. These can be an excellent choice if you already own a capable truck. The truck itself will determine the overall performance and many will need a suspension upgrade to maintain a comfortable ride and off road capabilities. Many can be removed from the truck relatively easily so you can leave the camping rig behind to use the truck for exploring or errands.

Cab Over Chassis

Most commonly built on Mitsubishi Fuso or Nissan NPR chassis’s the customization options are almost endless. Factory 4×4 and diesel options make these rigs highly reliable and off road capable and are a popular choice for DIY world expedition vehicles.

Roof Top Tents

You can slap one of these on almost any vehicle. We saw one on a Porche 911 with all terrain tires. More comfortable and easy to setup than a ground tent but also just as drafty and loud. If you already own an off road capable vehicle, this is a quick way to make camping easy. We explored Costa Rica for two weeks in a Toyota Hilux with a rooftop tent and it was awesome!

Pop Top 4x4s

Kind of the best all around off road camper solution combining comfort and space while not impacting the performance of the vehicle too much. The beloved Toyota Landcruiser and various Jeeps can be retrofitted with aftermarket pop-tops.

EarthRoamers

These are arguably the most over the top campers available. Starting at $300,000, you and your entire family can live in comfort on top of a mountain in Peru.

Ex-Military Vehicles

Retired military vehicles can be bought at government auctions for almost nothing and usually have stupid low miles. Unimog, MAN, BAE and Stewart & Stevenson are among the most popular manufactures. If you’ve got the money and skills to operate and maintain these vehicles they could provide an amazing, world tour capable, experience, likewise they could be a horrible money pit if you’re not prepared to care for such an exotic beast.

Offroad Trailers

A popular option if you already have an off road capable vehicle and don’t like the truck camper or roof top tent solution.


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On Road

Class A Motorhomes

Huge number of options available to meet anyones budget and needs. Perfect if you’re looking to have all the luxuries of home but want the flexibility of changing location at will. These vehicles will require special maintenance considerations and because of high power consumption most often require shore power hookups. They are however the most comfortable long term solution on this entire list.

Class B and C Motorhomes

Smaller then Class A RVs with slightly less features but are more maneuverable because of their size.

Travel Trailers

Trailers come in a huge number of variations to meets anyones budget and needs. They have the added benefit of being able to unhook from the tow vehicle and left at camp so you can bum around town more easily.

Cargo Trailers

If you’re looking to build your own trailer then a cargo trailer could be a perfect blank canvas. Available in many different configurations you can have higher control over the quality standards then a traditional travel trailer.

Skoolies

These super hipster rigs have a cult level following. Not the most affordable or practical vehicles but they offer a HUGE blank canvas for a DIY build and have a massive community of skoolie owners for support.

Shuttle Buses

Rip out all the seats and you’ve got a huge blank canvas for a DIY build. Be cautious of the high mileage and abuse these vehicles take. The number of windows can be a good thing or bad thing depending on your camping goals.

Car / Truck / SUV

Nobody’s stopping you from throwing a mattress and sleeping bag in the back of the car you already own and hitting the road. We traveled though Michigan this way for a week in the back of a Chevy Equinox just fine. You wont be the the most comfortable but it’s the cheapest and fastest way to get out there. This can be a great way to test if life on the road is right for you before investing in a more expensive rig.

Crazy DIY Deathtraps

Need a creative outlet and DGAF about section 4 page 10 of the electrical code? Let your freak flag fly this is ‘MERICA, you do you boo!

Hope you got some inspiration from this post. Subscribe below so you don’t miss out on more content like this. If you have insight into any of the rigs listed above, please reach out, we’d love to feature you.

4 comments

  1. You had me cracking up when I read the title to the blog! That was awesome. I’ve had 4 vans (the “WeeWoo Redux” being the current one), a 26’ class C, a 35’ class A complete with washer/dryer, a 1 ton 4×4 pickup with an 11’ cab over and a dozen or more tents. Probably a few more that I missed… WeeWoo has been the larger of the projects and not for the faint of heart. The electrical is still in work. Although small in size as an older type II ambulance that was in service when we picked her up, she is a heavy little girl weighing in at 8,550 pounds of pure muscle while still getting 16mpg in diesel at 65mph! She gets her solar next, just in time for summer boondocking in the PNW.

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