Camper Van Installation Services at Muse & Co. Outdoors
Muse & Co. Outdoors is happy to announce that we are now providing installation services for people who need a little help with their DIY van builds.
A camper van buildout is a huge project, requiring a wide range of expertise and tools. Carpentry, 12V electrical know-how, plumbing, and even metal work are all requisite skills when building out a Sprinter van.
Sometimes, DIY builders encounter a “project within the project” that seems a little too daunting to take on alone.
Whether you need to cut a large opening in your van to install a window, need help installing a complex system such as a heater, or want to have some accessories mounted to the exterior of your van, Muse & CO. Outdoors can help!
What Kind of Parts Does Muse & Co. Outdoors Install?
Muse & Co. Outdoors can install a wide range of parts and accessories to your DIY Sprinter van build.
Some common parts that we install on vans include:
- Seat swivels
- Roof fans
- Air conditioning units
- Suspension upgrades
- Wheels and tires
- Roof racks
- Off-road bumpers, winches, and other accessories
- Rear door add-ons like tire carriers, ladders, and bike racks
- Exterior lighting
- …and more!
If you have a part you want installed on your van, and you don’t see it on this list, just give us a call! Our shop is well-equipped for all van-related projects and our team of builders has the know-how to install just about anything you could think of in a camper van build.
Why Choose a Professional Installer for Certain Projects?
We get it—you chose to build your van yourself, and you want the project to be yours. But sometimes, doing it yourself means uncertainty as to whether you are going to make a major error that results in damage to your van, safety concerns, or longevity issues.
Below you will find some examples of projects and reasoning for why people often opt to go with a professional installer for these aspects of their van builds.
Sometimes, the consequences of messing up a project on your van are too great to risk doing it yourself.
Every DIY builder eventually encounters the “I’m about to cut a giant hole in my van” moment. Whether it’s a roof fan, an AC unit, windows, or even ducting for a heater, there are some projects where you really only get one chance to do it right.
Hiring a professional parts installer like Muse & Co. Outdoors gives you peace of mind that these high-risk projects are going to be completed with precision. The old adage “Do it once, do it right” certainly applies to these projects. We use the highest quality sealants and tools to ensure that our installations will last for years without issue.
Other times, a project may seem relatively straightforward—but getting it wrong could have dire consequences.
Heaters, for example, must be properly vented to the outside of the van, and all electrical and gas connections must be perfect—or the risk of toxic carbon monoxide build-up or fire becomes an issue.
Other parts installed on the chassis of the van itself, such as suspension upgrades, wheels, and tires, all play a major role in the safe operation of the van.
Muse & Co. Outdoors installs all parts in accordance with the highest standards to ensure that no safety concerns arise as you use the van.
A van build is a massive undertaking, and no matter how well you plan the project, things always end up taking longer than you would have hoped.
Sometimes, life and work get in the way of moving along with the project as quickly as you want to. In these instances, it can be great to have a professional take care of some of your build while you take care of the other aspects of life.
Can Muse & Co. Outdoors Provide Parts for Installation?
Absolutely! If you already have the parts needed for an installation, we are happy to work with those. Or, if you need parts, we have lots of basics in stock and we work closely with many suppliers so we can get you what you need quickly and easily.
Contact Muse & Co. Outdoors today to learn more about the services we offer and chat with a specialist about installations on your camper van.
We’re kicking off a brand new “How-To” YouTube series with a video on how to use the incredible Dometic 970 portable toilet. We get a lot of questions about the toilets in our vans – where it’s located, how they work, where the waste goes, and more. Check out our YouTube channel to watch, or click the link below:
For more information on Muse & Co Outdoors, check out our website at https://www.museoutdoors.com/
Follow us on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/muse_outdoors/
As Sprinter vans become more popular, a new sub-set of van conversions is emerging: Off-road adventure vehicles that can get you to just about any campsite, and provide plenty of comfort once you’re there.
Off-road Sprinter vans are no joke. These tiny homes on wheels are serious 4×4 vehicles with the ability to handle a variety of road and trail conditions.
Like other camper van conversions, off-road Sprinters tend to be packed with amenities that turn camping into a luxe “glamping” experience.
It’s easy to understand why many outdoor enthusiasts would want a beefy four-wheel drive van. These rigs afford access to all sorts of off-the-beaten-path trailheads, campsites, and recreation areas—and include all the amenities needed for full-time living.
But not all off-road camper vans are created equal.
Below, you will find a full breakdown of what distinguishes the best 4×4 van conversions and where you can go to buy a new 4×4 camper van.
What Van is Best for Converting Into an Off-Road Adventure Van?
The most important part of an off-road adventure van is the van itself.
Camper van conversions take ordinary cargo vans and transform them into miniature motorhomes with all the amenities needed to live off-grid for days or even weeks.
There are several vans that are popular for converting into campers, but they’re not all up for the task of becoming an off-road machine.
Below, we’ve ranked the best vans for converting into off-road campers.
Best: Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has long been the gold standard for people looking to convert a cargo van into a camper.
With best-in-class fuel economy, reliability, and premium features, it is easy to understand why the best camper vans tend to be built on the blank canvas of a Mercedes Sprinter van.
When it comes to 4×4 adventure vans, things are no different. Mercedes’ 4×4 system is the only one of its kind in full-size cargo vans.
While other vans, like the Ford Transit, have optional all-wheel drive (AWD), no other full-size cargo van is offered with true four-wheel drive.
Any off-road enthusiast will tell you that when it comes to truly challenging road conditions, 4×4 is a must and AWD simply does not compare.
Mercedes’ widely loved turbo-diesel powertrains provide impressive torque and power, which, paired with the 4X4 system, are needed for challenging off-road scenarios.
Other features that distinguish the Mercedes Sprinter as the best van for converting into an off-road adventure rig include:
- best-in-class stock ground clearance
- heavy-duty components
- multiple wheelbase options
- 5,000-lb towing capacity
- premium features like adaptive ESP for more stability and capability off-road
- the most compatible options for suspension upgrades, roof racks, and other off-road must-haves
Runner-up: Ford Transit
With the introduction of their first AWD van in 2020, Ford has made steps towards including itself in the off-road conversion van conversation.
Still, the Ford Transit AWD pales in comparison to the Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 when considering it as a base for your off-road conversion.
Ford’s AWD system provides better traction than 2WD, but it lacks some of the torque and traction that 4X4 systems, including the Sprinter’s, are known for.
Furthermore, since Ford has only been offering the AWD Transit since 2020, there are far less available options when it comes to important upgrades like lift kits, metal bumpers, roof racks, and more.
Although Ford’s AWD system makes the Transit worth considering, it ultimately pales in comparison to the Mercedes Sprinter for off-road van builds.
Not Worth It: Dodge Ram Promaster
With no available AWD or 4X4 system, the Dodge Ram Promaster is the worst option among the three most popular high-roof cargo vans.
The most basic necessity of any off-road van is traction, and with only a two-wheel drive system available, the Ram Promaster lacks this essential feature.
The Promaster is also notorious for having build quality issues, an issue that the German-built Mercedes Sprinter has never struggled with.
With no option for 4X4 or AWD, very few available suspension upgrades, and poor build quality that is not intended to withstand rugged dirt roads, the Ram Promaster is simply not up to the task of becoming an off-grid adventure van.
What Are the Best Upgrades for 4×4 Vans?
The world of off-road vehicles is all about upgrades. Even trucks like Jeeps or the well-loved Toyota Tacoma that are built for going off-road are commonly upgraded and modified to better meet the challenge.
Camper vans are no different. To turn a cargo van into a truly off-road-ready adventure rig, some upgrades might come in handy.
We could write a book about available upgrades for off-road vans, but instead, we’ve determined the three most important features to include in a 4×4 Sprinter van conversion:
- Off-Grid Electrical System: Electrical systems are part of what make camper vans such comfortable little homes on wheels. The ability to have lights, cold food, hot water, and other comforts rely on your van’s electrical system. In an off-road van designed to get to camping spots away from the city, the electrical system needs to be capable of charging and powering your components without hook-ups. Plenty of solar panels, lithium batteries, and efficient 12V appliances are essential for a good off-grid electrical system.
- Suspension Upgrades: If you want a van that can really get back to some remote spots, you’ll probably want to upgrade its suspension. The best suspension upgrade for Sprinter vans is the Van Compass Stage 4.3 system. This system allows you to easily adjust the shocks to match different road conditions. It also provides a valuable 1.25 inches of lift to get you through those tricky trail scenarios.
- Quality, Durable Conversion: Ok, this isn’t exactly an “upgrade”, but we cannot stress enough how important it is for your van conversion to be up to the challenge of off-road driving. Many DIY and inexperienced builders make the mistake of designing a living space for their off-road vans that cannot handle the bumps and movement of dirt roads. It is imperative that every element of your van’s floor plan, from sleeping space to storage space, is designed with vibration and rattling in mind. Only the highest-quality van builders can outfit a van that is both luxurious and capable of withstanding off-road travel.
Where to Find the Best Off-Road Camper Vans for Sale
Off-road camper vans give you access to remote trailheads, campsites, and recreation areas, allow you to drive in extreme winter conditions, and of course, look super badass.
As the demand for off-road camper vans increases, companies across the country are hopping on board and producing their own versions of this popular type of rig.
But not everyone is up to the task: Many conversion companies charge top-dollar for van builds that have cheap components and can’t withstand the demands of the job.
A quick search for off-road vans will yield dozens of camper van builders and models, from Storyteller Overland to the Winnebago Revel to the popular builds from Outside Van.
With so many companies to choose from, it can be hard to sort out the quality builders.
Muse & Co. Outdoors is a California Sprinter van conversion company based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
With a line of semi-customizable camper van models, Muse Outdoors vans toe the line between hand-crafted luxury and rugged durability.
Available upgrades like the Van Compass Stage 4.3 suspension system, roof racks, and off-road tires and wheels can turn any of our van models into capable off-road machines.
Head to the Build My Van tool to customize your very own Muse & Co. Outdoors adventure rig!
People shopping for a Sprinter van conversion often wonder if they need a floor plan that includes a full bathroom.
The truth is, whether or not you need a bathroom inside of your tiny home on wheels comes down to your priorities.
Many people think that vans with bathrooms are simply better. This is not the case, and there are some great alternatives to having a wet bath inside of your camper van that still afford you comforts like a toilet and a shower, without many of the downsides of a full bathroom.
Keep reading to learn about some important considerations you should make when deciding whether a camper van with a bathroom is right for you.
Sprinter Van Bathroom Pros
Whether or not you need a full bathroom in your Mercedes-Benz Sprinter or Class B camper van largely depends on your priorities and how you plan to use your rig.
People who plan on living and working full-time in their Sprinter vans may decide they want a full bathroom so they can shower and use the toilet in privacy.
Other times, people who just use their vans for road trips may feel that having a bathroom will allow them to camp in more places without worrying about the amenities there.
The pros of having a full bathroom in a Sprinter camper van basically boil down to never having to go anywhere without access to a private toilet or shower.
What most people don’t understand about incorporating a full bathroom into a van build is that the extra space, complex water system required, and maintenance issues that can arise are all major downsides to be considered.
Sprinter Van Bathroom Cons
With such limited space and less likelihood that van owners will camp at RV parks with hook-ups, adding a full bathroom into a small camper van is much different than doing so in a full-size motorhome or travel trailer.
Before pulling the trigger on a Class B RV or Sprinter van, consider the following drawbacks of having a full bathroom in such a small space!
Less Living Space
The whole point of building a van conversion in a vehicle like the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, or Ram Promaster is that these are compact vehicles with just enough space to house some major creature comforts and provide a comfortable living space.
Adding a full bathroom to a DIY or professionally built camper van takes up a huge amount of valuable floor space.
To include a bathroom, major compromises will have to be made with the sleeping area, storage space, dinette, and with maintaining that signature open and airy feel that van life is known for.
More Mess and Maintenance
Full bathrooms are the norm in large RVs and travel trailers largely because these vehicles are made to camp at RV parks, where hookups to water, sewage, and electricity can be found.
Sprinter van owners usually want to camp off-grid and in smaller campgrounds where they can be closer to outdoor recreation and away from the hustle and bustle.
To have a full, functioning bathroom in a Sprinter van that does not have hookups, many major components must be added, including huge grey and fresh water tanks, a black water tank, a water heater, and more.
In addition to these extra components which will require routine maintenance, there is an increased risk of major issues resulting from leaks and water system mishaps inside of the van. Mold, wood rot, and other issues are more prevalent in vans with indoor bathrooms.
Increased Water and Power Demand
We’ll admit it: Having a hot indoor shower at a remote campsite sounds pretty nice. But, like any luxury, it will come at a cost.
Providing enough water and energy for a few hot showers is a big task for a small camper van. Major upgrades to the van’s power system and water system will have to be made to provide a steady flow of hot water and avoid having to visit a dump station after every shower.
Van Life Bathroom Alternatives to a Wet Bath: Toilet and Shower Options
What if we told you that you could have on-demand hot showers and a functioning toilet in your camper van without any of the cons listed above?
Fortunately, there are some amazing options out there for van lifers who want a bathroom but aren’t willing to compromise on interior space, power demands, or maintenance issues.
Best Camper Van Toilet
As Sprinter vans and Class B motorhomes have become more popular, companies have been developing solutions to many of the common issues and desires of van owners.
Portable toilets are one technology that has come a long way in recent years. Many camper vans now feature a composting toilet or cassette toilet that stores away in a compact, discreet slide-out cabinet.
Both composting and cassette toilets break down waste to eliminate odors and allow users to dispose of waste easily and sanitarily. They require no external tanks, water supply, or hook-ups to operate.
Best Camper Van Shower
Having a warm shower appeals to many van owners. The Yakima RoadShower provides a way for van lifers to have warm showers with privacy, without any of the major drawbacks of an indoor shower.
The Yakima RoadShower is a black holding tank that mounts on your van’s roof rack. It uses passive solar heating to provide hot water wherever the sun shines.
The RoadShower can provide hot showers through an integrated hose and shower head system. It can also be useful for spraying down muddy bikes or shoes, or cleaning dirty pets.
Muse & Co. Outdoors offers a solution that utilizes the RoadShower and a shower curtain which integrates into the rear doors of the van. Users can enjoy hot showers with privacy, without any increased power demands, risk of leaks inside the van, or losing valuable interior space.
If you’re looking for a luxury camper van with fully-functioning toilet and shower options but without the downsides of a full indoor bathroom, look no further than Muse & Co. Outdoors. Our vans are crafted with the highest quality materials and workmanship and every aspect of our builds has been thoughtfully considered. Check out our Build My Van tool to explore your options!
Camper vans today are not what they used to be. A camper van no longer means tossing a mattress, camp stove, and a jug of water inside of an old minivan and hitting the road.
Today, the world of camper vans is about converting large high-roof cargo vans into tiny homes on wheels with all the comforts needed to live in them full-time.
Camper vans today aren’t cheap. High-end brand new camper vans can cost between $200,000 and $300,000, including the van build and the van itself. Older, used vans may cost $25,000 or less but include far fewer amenities and comforts. DIY van conversions tend to cost between $10,000 and $50,000 not including the van itself, depending on materials used and components included.
This article will take a deep dive into camper van prices, exploring how much different vans cost and what you should consider before buying a camper van for sale.
The Average Cost of a New Camper Van
New camper vans with a brand new professional build-out tend to cost between $130,000 and $300,000. Let’s take a look at some of the factors that go into the price of a new class B RV (aka, camper van!):
- The van itself: The van itself is a major factor in overall camper van cost. The most common vans to convert into campers are the Ford Transit, Ram Promaster, and Mercedes Sprinter. The Promaster tends to be the cheapest (and also the lowest quality), followed by the Transit and then the Sprinter, which is the most expensive option. Most of the best camper vans are built on the Sprinter van chassis, as these vans feature the best reliability, fuel economy, and overall performance.
- Build quality and customization: Even when the same van base is used, costs between conversion companies can vary greatly. Some companies offer higher-quality builds with better workmanship. It’s important to remember that all camper van builders do not use quality materials or excellent building practices. A high-quality van build is meant to last the life of the van itself. Furthermore, fully custom builds will always be more expensive than cookie-cutter production van models.
- Materials and components: High-quality materials, from insulation to the wood used in cabinets, will cost more than cheap materials that are less durable and perform worse. Furthermore, each component included in a van build—whether it be the roof rack, the solar panels, or the propane system—tends to have multiple options with some that are cheaper and some that are more pricey.
The Average Cost of a Used Camper Van
Buying a used camper van might be a good option for someone looking to pay less than full price, but it depends on what type of van they’re looking to buy.
The cost of a used camper van can vary greatly, with older options available for $25,000 or less, and newer, professionally-built used vans clocking in close to their original full price.
The same factors, including the van itself, the quality of the materials, and the build quality, will affect the price of a used van.
The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is known for holding its value extremely well, so you won’t get as big of a discount on this van as you might with other vans if you buy one used.
Another cost factor when it comes to buying used is that since camper vans are in such high demand, many van builders have long waiting lists, sometimes asking customers to wait several months or more for their conversion van.
Because of these wait lists, it is not uncommon to see used conversion vans being sold for as much or more than they would cost new! This is especially true when the vans have rare but desirable qualities like four wheel-drive and off-road capabilities.
The Average Cost of a DIY Camper Van Conversion
DIY van conversions cost between $10,000 and $50,000, excluding the van itself. Of course, this does not factor in the hidden costs of all the time and effort spent on the build.
If someone is converting a small camper van like the Dodge Promaster City or the Mercedes Metris, material costs are likely to be on the lower end.
Larger cargo and passenger vans like Sprinters will usually require more materials and a greater investment by DIY builders.
For those who have expertise in a variety of skillsets and want full control over their van build, a DIY conversion may be a good option and a way to save money.
New vs. Used vs. DIY Camper Vans: Which Option is Best?
Camper vans are a big investment, so people thinking about this purchase will undoubtedly be considering cost and weighing their various options.
The bottom line about camper van cost is: The definition of a “good deal” will change based on who you are, how you plan on using your van, and whether you plan on selling your van anytime soon.
Here are some of the most important considerations when choosing between a new, used, or DIY van conversion:
- DIY van builds miss out on some of the benefits of professional builds, including warranties on the build itself, the ability to easily insure the van for its full value as a camper, and the peace of mind that comes with getting a van from a professional builder. DIY builds do not hold their value as well as professional van conversions.
- Some van builders charge a premium for fully custom conversions, but others use their brand’s reputation as a way to charge more for cookie-cutter builds with cheap materials and machined parts rather than hand-built quality. Whether buying a used or new van, look for vans built by companies with a reputation for craftsmanship and verifiable quality.
- There are ways to make your camper van pay for itself. Some rental companies like Outdoorsy allow van owners to rent out their vans to people looking for a little more luxury at their campground. New Sprinter van conversions can go for upwards of $150/night!
- Off-road camper vans will always cost a premium. These vans are in high demand. Models like the Winnebago Revel, Sportsmobiles, and Storyteller Overland vans are examples of vans advertised as being off-road capable that carry a higher price tag.
Best Camper Van Conversions in California
Are you looking for a camper van conversion company in California? Muse & Co. Outdoors in Oakland, CA offers semi-customizable, craftsman van builds for all Mercedes Sprinter models. Head to our Build My Van page to learn more about our different models and options!
The most important part of any camper van conversion is the van itself.
The rise of van life has helped push many automakers to start selling high-roof cargo vans in the U.S., a style of vehicle that was previously mainly seen in Europe with models like the Fiat Ducato, Volkswagen Crafter, and Renault Master.
High-roof cargo vans are perfect bases for van builds, as the cargo area provides enough height to stand up in and plenty of space for all the amenities needed for full-time living.
Choosing the best van for a camper conversion might seem daunting. In general, you should base your decision on the following factors:
- Cargo Space: Figure out how much room you need, and choose a van with enough interior space for all the amenities you want in your conversion!
- Reliability: You’re likely to be taking your van to some beautiful and remote places, so making sure that the vehicle is up to the task is a huge deal. Reliability can mean the difference between a ruined road trip or the time of your life, and reliable vans can pay for themselves in avoided repair jobs.
- Fuel Efficiency: Fuel efficiency has never been a more important consideration for camper van owners. With record fuel prices, a fuel-efficient van can save you significant amounts of money over time.
- Cost: Cargo vans vary greatly in quality and included features, and their price tags reflect these differences. You’ll pay a premium for the best vans, but it might be worth it in the long run when considering reliability, fuel efficiency, and resale value.
- Drivetrain: Off-road camper vans are becoming more popular, for good reason: Getting to remote campsites and trailheads is easy with a 4×4 van. It’s important to know whether you want a 4×4, all-wheel drive, or two-wheel drive van.
With these considerations in mind, we have compared some of the most popular vans for camper conversions and determined which vans are best. Keep reading to learn about the best vans for camper conversions!
1. Mercedes Sprinter
The Mercedes Sprinter van is the gold standard when it comes to candidates for a camper conversion’s base vehicle.
In fact, Sprinters have become so synonymous with van life that many people simply refer to converted vans as “Sprinter van conversions”, whether or not the van is a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
The Sprinter receives top marks in nearly every category, from gas mileage, to build quality, to the legendary reliability of its diesel engines.
Pros of the Mercedes Sprinter include:
- Great fuel economy
- Best-in-class reliability (diesel engines regularly top 500,000 miles)
- Optional 4×4
- Multiple options for roof height, and different lengths/wheelbases
- Unparelleled build quality
- Lots of included comfort and safety features with options for more
- Excellent resale value
It’s hard to find many cons for the Sprinter, although cost is certainly a consideration. The Mercedes Sprinter offers the best quality of any van on the U.S. market, but it also comes with the highest price tag.
2. Ford Transit
After ceasing production of their legendary E-series Econoline vans in 2014, Ford introduced a new line of cargo and passenger vans, the Transit lineup.
The Ford Transit has quickly become one of the top options for professional and DIY camper van builds.
Ford began making an all-wheel drive (AWD) model of the Transit in 2020. While AWD provides greatly improved traction over the standard 2WD models, it is not as capable as the Sprinter’s 4×4 system in true off-road scenarios.
Pros of the Ford Transit include:
- Solid reliability
- Optional AWD
- Multiple roof height and wheelbase options
- High roof Ford Transit has 81 inches of interior headroom, the most of any van
- EcoBoost models boast impressive gas mileage
Ford Transit cons include:
- Some build quality issues
- Low ground clearance compared to Sprinter
- No option for 4×4
- Lower reliability scores than Sprinter
The Transit is a solid choice for many DIY van builders, but there is a reason why most professional conversion companies prefer the Mercedes Sprinter. Although the Transit has a lower price tag, its build quality, available features, and reputation for reliability are no match for the Sprinter.
3. Dodge Ram Promaster
One year before Ford entered the high-roof van market, in 2014, Dodge came out with a new van of their own to compete with the Sprinter.
The Dodge Promaster is Ram’s new line of full-size cargo vans. Both high-roof and low-roof models are available, as well as multiple lengths.
The Promaster is a favorite among DIY builders because its interior is more square than that of other high-roof vans, making for simpler upgrades for less experienced carpenters and builders.
Although the shape of the living space is advantageous for build outs, the Promaster has several issues that make it the lowest-ranked high-roof cargo van on our list.
Pros of the Ram Promaster include:
- Widest van on this list; easier to fit a horizontal bed set-up
- Box-like interior makes some build-out jobs easier
- Most affordable high-roof cargo van, (both new and used models)
- Widely available at dealerships (Sprinters and Transits sometimes have waiting lists)
Cons of the Ram Promaster include:
- Only offered in front-wheel drive
- Very poor ground clearance
- Poor reliability scores
- Commonly reported for quality issues
- Older models have lower resale value
4. Mercedes-Benz Metris (Best Small Van)
Camper van conversions can come in all different shapes and sizes. Some people are simply looking for a small vehicle with a sleeping area and some storage space.
The advantages of small camper vans are that they are more maneuverable in city environments, they get better gas mileage, and their repair costs are lower.
Common small cargo vans used for van builds include the Ford Transit Connect, Ram Promaster City, and Mercedes-Benz Metris.
Of these three popular models, the Mercedes Benz Metris is the best small van for camper conversions.
Like the Sprinter van, the Metris leads its class of compact cargo vans in many categories, including reliability, luxury and safety features, and more. The Metris even comes with an available pop-top and folding rear seats, primed for a van conversion.
5. Chevy Express (Best Low-Roof Cargo Van)
While other low-roof cargo van lines like the Ford E-series have been replaced with the newer, more popular high-roof vans, Chevrolet’s Express cargo and passenger vans have stood the test of time.
In production since 1995, the Express is known for its powerful V8 engine option. More recently, Chevy started offering the Express with an inline-4 turbodiesel engine, giving it a dramatic boost in fuel efficiency.
For those who don’t need the standing room of a high-roof van, the Chevy Express is a reliable, no-frills option.
Used van seekers should look for a model with Chevrolet’s durable v8 engines, while people looking at a new Express should consider the I4 turbodiesel engine for its great fuel efficiency.
Although the Express is at the top of our list for full-size low-roof vans, it pales in comparison to the Sprinter when considering reliability, build quality, and available options.
What is the Best Van Conversion Company?
Are you looking for a professional van conversion company to turn a basic cargo van into your dream rig? With so many new builders and conversion kits out there, it can be tough to know where to turn.
When it comes to van conversion companies in California, Muse & Co. Outdoors is leading the way.
Muse & Co. Outdoors offers luxury, semi-customizable van conversions on the Mercedes Sprinter platform. We build our vans using the highest quality materials and practices to create craftsman vans that will last the lifetime of the reliable Sprinter.
Head to our Build My Van tool to learn more about our models and explore your options for customization!
Camper van conversions are surging in popularity because they provide so many comforts of home in a small space that you can take off-grid and on long road trips.
One component that really adds to the luxury of camping in a van is a heater. There’s nothing like relaxing inside of a warm van when the weather outside is cold and blustery.
Like most camper van components, there are several options when it comes to what type of heater you should buy.
The best heaters for van builds have built-in safety features, work seamlessly in different conditions, and provide thermostat-controlled, on-demand heat.
Keep reading to learn about the different types of heating systems available for use in camper vans, including which van life heat sources are best and why.
Electric Heaters for Campervans
Most components in a camper van can be run off of a 12v electrical supply. A van’s fridge, lights, fan, and more all run off of its batteries, which are usually charged by solar.
When it comes to heating up your van, though, electric heaters are not common.
Electric space heaters and ceramic heaters run off of 110-volt AC power. Although most campervans come equipped with an inverter capable of powering small AC appliances, the power draw of electric heaters is too high to make them usable in camper van electrical systems.
Still, carrying a small electric space heater is not a bad idea if you plan on spending a lot of time at campsites with electrical hook-ups. Just make sure to get one that has an automatic tip-over shut-off mechanism, which can help prevent fires.
For those camping off-grid in their conversion vans, electric heaters won’t do the trick. Thankfully, there are some other great options to provide hot air while on the road.
Camper vans have been around for decades, but they have never been as sought after as they are now. Camper van popularity is surging alongside the “#vanlife” movement, which involves turning an ordinary van into a tiny home on wheels.
The main thing that distinguishes van conversions from class B RVs and other camper vans is that they begin with an empty passenger or cargo van, and transform them into off-grid-capable mobile living spaces.
Although converted vans initially gained popularity as part of the Do it Yourself (DIY) movement, there is an entire industry based around high-quality, professional van builds and accessories for van lifers.
Van conversions differentiate themselves from motorhomes by providing more customizability, using higher quality materials, having greater off-grid capability, and of course, by having beautiful, Instagram-worthy interiors.
Keep reading to learn all about camper van conversions, including their benefits, what they usually include, and whether it’s better to take on a DIY conversion or hire a professional van conversion company.
What Are The Benefits of a Camper Van Conversion?
If you’re considering a camper van conversion, you might be wondering why so many people choose them over small RVs.
Van conversions start with the blank canvas of an empty cargo or passenger van. Whether the build-out is a DIY project or is crafted by a professional conversion company, there is endless room for customization in a van conversion.
People who are part of the van life movement love that no two vans are exactly alike. Although there are now large companies that offer cookie-cutter production “van conversion” models, most of these vans use low-quality components and are closer to a small RV than they are to a true conversion van.
Van conversions give you plenty of opportunities to make the space your own. The best vans have lots of character while still providing excellent functionality.
If there’s one factor that has led to the rise of camper van conversions, it is probably that they are the perfect size. These little vehicles can provide all the amenities and comforts needed to live in them full-time, while being small enough to fit into a standard parking space.
The most popular vehicles to convert are high-top cargo vans or full-size passenger vans such as the Mercedes Sprinter van, Ram Promaster, and Ford Transit. Some people even use smaller minivans or cargo vans like the Ford E-series or Chevy Express to convert into campers.
High-roof cargo vans like the Sprinter provide enough interior space for a kitchen, storage space, a bed, and other desired appliances, as well as additional living space.
Still, these types of vans are highly maneuverable. They are easily driven in city environments, get great gas mileage for their size, and can have impressive off-road capabilities depending on included options and upgrades such as four-wheel drive.
A major difference between van life and RV cultures is where each user group likes to camp.
People with conversion vans don’t usually camp in RV parks where there are hookups and other amenities available.
As such, conversion vans are usually outfitted to allow users to take road trips without needing power, water, or sewer hookups where they camp.
Many camper van builds take this a step farther and by including components like roof racks with solar panels, composting toilets, and large water tanks, all of which allow users to camp in remote areas away from established campgrounds.
The self-enclosed nature of camper vans make them appealing for people who want to get out and camp in remote, wild areas—especially those close to the outdoor activities they love.
With so many camper van builders and DIY van builds out there today, it’s hard to say that camper conversions are universally high-quality.
Still, part of what differentiates custom van builds from production RVs is the use of high-quality materials, excellent craftsmanship, and premium components.
Whether it’s the use of solid wood instead of cheap particle board to build shelving, or hand-checking every fitting in the van’s water system to ensure there are no leaks—quality and attention to detail are intrinsic to camper van conversions.
What is Included in a Van Conversion?
So, if van conversions are built in compact vehicles with short wheelbases, what do they include? Can camper conversions rival the comforts provided by an RV?
While there are certainly some aspects of van builds that involve compromising amenities for the benefits that come with the smaller vehicle, it’s pretty amazing what these little units can fit into such a small space.
Thanks to the ingenuity of builders and the continual improvement of technology used in camper vans, they can fit an impressive amount of creature comforts and amenities.
Think of your kitchen at home. What are its major components? A stove, sink with running water, fridge, cabinet space for food and utensils, and counter space for preparing food are the first things that come to mind.
Camper van conversions can fit all of those components into a compact but functional design. The ability to easily and quickly prepare healthy and delicious meals while on the road is part of what makes traveling in a camper van so much better than camping.
Bathrooms in camper vans vary a lot. Some vans include a full wet bath with an indoor toilet and hot shower. Others have no bathroom at all.
For most van users, it’s ideal to find a middle ground between a bathroom that takes up too much space and resources like water and electricity, and having no bathroom at all.
Common toilet solutions for camper van conversions are composting or cassette toilets. These small toilets are entirely self-enclosed, require no holding tanks, and can store away inside a small cabinet.
When it comes to showers for camper vans, there are several options. The Yakima RoadShower is a favorite among van owners because it allows for hot outdoor showers but requires no electrical or propane usage, and sources water from its own externally-mounted tank.
Many of the amenities that make camper van living so great require electricity. But with no guarantee of camping somewhere with an electrical hook-up, conversion vans have unique requirements when it comes to their electrical systems.
Camper van electrical systems need to be able to charge devices and power components like a fridge, lights, vent fans, an inverter, and more.
To accomplish this, they must have batteries that can hold charge and power devices, and a method of charging them that does not require plugging in.
The best combination to accomplish this task is a lithium battery bank paired with solar panels.
The van life movement has changed the way that people camp by making solar charging popular among travelers. As technology continues to improve, camper vans are capable of housing more and more robust power systems.
The most essential job of any camper van conversion is to provide a comfortable living space to relax and decompress in after a long day spent outside.
Believe it or not, many conversion van layouts allow for a full or queen-size bed, along with all of the other major amenities found in camper vans!
In addition to a large and comfortable bed to sleep in, camper vans often include seating and even desk/table space. Solutions like swiveling passenger and/or drivers seats allow for seating in camper vans without taking up additional floor space.
DIY Van Conversion vs. Professional Build: Which is Better?
DIY conversion vans may have started the van life movement, but professional conversion companies have elevated it to the level of popularity it holds today.
The choice of whether to take on a DIY camper van build or hire a professional company comes down to how much time you have on your hands, your budget, and your level of expertise.
Although endless resources can be found online detailing how to convert a camper van, this is a project that should not be taken lightly.
DIY builders will need to be well-versed in a wide range of skills, from building 12V electrical systems, to plumbing, to finish carpentry.
For people who have these skills and the large amount of time required to plan and execute a DIY van build, this option can save some money upfront and be a rewarding project to take on.
For everyone else, professional van conversion companies offer a great way to have the van of your dreams with plenty of room for customization, without the headache or time required by a DIY build.
If you are looking for camper van conversions in California, look no further than Muse & Co. Outdoors. Muse Outdoors offers craftsman, semi-custom camper conversions with no compromise on the quality of materials or the build practices used.
Our gorgeous camper van interiors are built to last the life of the van itself. To learn more, use our Build My Van tool to explore your options and visualize the van of your dreams.
Just because you have kids does not mean you have to miss out on the benefits of traveling in a compact and capable adventure van.
Many people think that Sprinter van conversions are only for single travelers and couples taking Instagram-worthy road trips.
But across the country, families are ditching clunky, oversized motorhomes and opting for their more nimble camper van counterparts.
Camper van conversion companies have responded to the demand for vans that fit the needs of families, offering models that can seat and sleep several people.
It’s possible to fit the whole family in a Sprinter conversion van, and still have room for plenty of storage space, sleeping areas for everyone, and all the other amenities that make camper vans so awesome.
We’ve put together a list of the top 5 best vans available for families and people traveling with kids. Keep reading to learn what the best camper vans for families are, and why.
Sportsmobile was converting vans into campers long before the vanlife trend took off. They convert all major full-size cargo vans, including the Mercedes Sprinter van, Ford Transit, and Ram Promaster.
Sportsmobile offers tons of desirable options for people traveling with kids. They have several options for seat and bed configurations, including vans that have up to four bunk beds.
One unique option that Sportsmobile offers is a pop-top roof which, when opened, reveals a second full-size bed that sits above the living area. When closed for travel, the pop-top only adds a few inches of roof height.
The “Penthouse” bed area, as they call it, can sleep two people or three little ones. Sportsmobile’s floor plans usually include a dinette, lots of storage space, and other basic amenities.
Sportsmobile’s builds are relatively no-frills and they do not have the same beautiful interiors as many custom builds and other camper van sellers.
Still, Sportsmobile has made a name for itself by reliably producing class B camper van builds that are rugged, durable, and highly functional.
If you are looking for a no-frills van for you and your family with plenty of different options for sleeping and seating, Sportsmobile is a good choice.
A first look at the Winnebago Ekko and you will understand that this Class C RV toes the line between a camper van and a motorhome.
While the body of the Ekko is far bulkier than a traditional camper van and it loses some of its maneuverability and sleek appeal, the Ekko makes our list because it includes some features that are great for traveling families.
Families will want to choose an Ekko with the optional pop-top sleeping area, a space that fits a double bed and can comfortably sleep two adults. For families of three or four, the Ekko also includes two twin-size beds in the rear.
The Ekko is built on a Ford Transit chassis which comes with optional AWD, making it more capable than most RVs of its size.
Although the Ekko lacks some of the appeal of smaller vans, families wanting more living space, plenty of optional add-ons, and extra storage space might consider this option.
Storyteller Overland Mode 4×4
Storyteller Overland provides van conversions using either the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 144” wheelbase, or the Ford Transit 148” wheelbase.
Storyteller Overland’s Mode 4×4 model seats 4 and sleeps 4. The van’s rear bench seat folds down into a 72” x 34” bed that can easily sleep two little ones.
As their company name suggests, Storyteller Overland produces vans that are capable off-road machines.
For people looking to get out and explore remote campsites and long dirt roads, their builds will be appealing because they include many standard options that make off-roading easier, such as a roof rack with a side-mount ladder, all-terrain tires, and a solar panel-powered off-grid power system.
Storyteller Overland’s models are not very customizable, so what you see is what you get. Additionally, although the vans can seat and sleep 4, the fact that they utilize the smaller 144” wheelbase Sprinter chassis means that living space is at a premium.
Still, these vans are a solid option for families who want to get out and explore with a capable four-wheel drive van.
ModVans offers a unique solution for large families and people who want a camper van that can also double as a work vehicle or passenger van.
The modular CV1 model is built on the chassis of a Ford Transit passenger van. The van can seat up to 7 people in “passenger mode”, or some seats can be removed to add in the modular kitchen, tables, and other camper components.
The CV1 includes two large beds that can each sleep two adults or three kids. While these swiss-army campervans aren’t a great option for people who want a full-time camper van setup, their unique flexibility makes them a great option for people who need a multi-purpose van for themselves and their families.
Muse & Co. Outdoors Endeavor & Explorer
Muse & Co. Outdoors has quickly made a name for itself as one of the best camper van conversion companies in California.
With three semi-customizable models to choose from, Muse & Co. Outdoors specializes in luxury, craftsman camper van builds that do not compromise on rugged capability or functionality.
The Endeavor model can seat three, four, or five depending on the size of your family. The Endeavor utilizes the Sprinter 170” wheelbase van, which is spacious but still nimble.
With a full kitchen, toilet and shower options, and sleeping space for four including a queen-size bed for the adults, the Endeavor includes everything a family could want on the road.
The interior’s elegance and durability speak volumes of the Muse Outdoors team’s decades of combined woodworking and craftsman experience.
For families who want an even nimbler van that is highly capable off-road and easy to drive in the city, the Explorer is a great option.
Built on the Sprinter 144” wheelbase, the Explorer can seat and sleep up to four. The van includes a full kitchen and an open floorplan with beautiful custom wood cabinetry throughout.
All Muse & Co. camper van models come with impressive standard options including an induction cooktop, a fridge/freezer combo, slide-out BedSlide storage in the garage, and a robust off-grid power system.
Options are available for everything from suspension upgrades to a roof rack that can hold your awning, surfboards, or kayaks.
Muse & Co. Outdoors offers semi-customizable, durable and functional camper vans for families that don’t compromise on the bespoke, craftsman vibe that vanlife is known for.
You can learn more about Muse & Co. Outdoors vans and options by using the Build My Van tool.
One of the best parts about traveling in a van is the ability to get off the beaten path and camp comfortably in various remote locations.
Most vans are made to be self-contained, meaning they don’t require hookups or campgrounds to function normally. Free camping spots can be found on various types of public land in the U.S., including on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land.
While some areas, such as national parks, are more regulated, free dispersed camping or “boondocking” as it’s commonly called is often legal just outside of park boundaries.
To find alternative wild camping spots, van campers can make use of a number of different apps that help travelers find free camping wherever their road trip takes them.
Many apps provide additional information, like whether or not a camping area has cell coverage, what jurisdiction of land the campsite is on, and where to fill up on water or propane nearby.
There are a lot of vanlife apps out there, so we compiled this list of the best apps to help you find campsites and boondocking locations on your next road trip.
FreeRoam is an app that helps people find the perfect campsite along their road trip. If you’re going to download only one camping app, we recommend FreeRoam.
This app is completely free and includes more features than most other similar apps. Users can search for campsites based on several different useful filters, including:
- Cell service: The app allows users to search for campsites with cell service, even adjusting for which carrier they use and how many bars they require.
- Rig length: Vanlifers don’t usually run into issues with their rigs being too long for campsites, but it’s still helpful to know whether a campsite has access issues for certain vehicles.
- Other filters: FreeRoam lets you be as picky as you want when searching for a campsite, with filters for shadiness, crowdedness, safety, noise levels, and more.
In addition to providing great filters to allow users to find the perfect campsite, FreeRoam includes helpful map overlays which you can toggle on and off.
Layers include BLM and Forest Service land boundaries, cellular service overlays for major carriers, fire and smoke hazard overlays, and elevation/satellite view layers.
FreeRoam’s layers allow you to quickly determine whether a potential campsite is on BLM land or within a National Forest. Free camping is allowed within these boundaries most of the time.
FreeRoam’s layers make it the best app for finding your own free campsite.
FreeRoam is available on Android and iOS. Learn more about the app here.
iOverlander has been a staple for years among vanlifers and others looking for boondocking locations.
Though the app itself is pretty barebones, it is still one of the best camping apps because it has a large database of campsites that have been contributed by users over the years.
This makes iOverlander the best app for finding campsites that others have already visited. The app also allows users to search for RV dump stations, places to fill up water and propane, showers, Wi-Fi locations, car washes, and laundromats.
Because iOverland is a crowdsourced app, anyone can add a campsite location’s GPS coordinates to the map. This makes it a bit less reliable than some other apps.
Some of the free campsites listed in the app are actually not on public land or in places where camping is legal, though with some practice it becomes easier to sort out the legit campsites.
The app also has locations such as Walmart parking lots and casinos where overnight parking is allowed, which can be helpful for those long drives when you just need a place to stop and rest for a few hours.
iOverlander is available on Android and iOS. Learn more about the app here.
3. The Dyrt
The Dyrt is a super popular app that provides many resources to people who are on camping trips in their vans.
The Dyrt is best used for finding and booking sites at established campgrounds and RV parks, rather than free campgrounds.
The app shows you reviews for each campground as well as information on amenities offered, what type of restrooms are available, whether it allows pets, whether tent camping or RV camping is allowed, etc.
Additionally, The Dyrt has great trip planning features that give you information on the area close to a campground, including favorite activities and even the upcoming weather.
The Dyrt has a free version with all the features listed above. Or, for $35.99/year, The Dyrt PRO membership gives you booking discounts on select campgrounds, waives fees when booking a campground through the app, and includes features like additional map layers and offline maps.
The Dyrt is available for Android and iOS. Learn more about the app here.
Campendium is similar to The Dyrt, except the app includes free sites as well as paid campgrounds.
The app is a little clunkier and more dated overall The Dyrt, though some users prefer it because there are often more user-provided reviews and pictures for campgrounds.
Campendium has a free version, or you can purchase a “Roadpass Pro” membership which costs $49.99/year and includes map overlays, plus memberships to a few RV-specific apps.
Campendium can be a good resource for people wanting to find reviews and additional information on campgrounds they are interested in staying at.
Campendium is available on Android and iOS. Find more information on the app here.
Allstays claims to be the #1 selling, ranked, and reviewed camping app in the world for over 144 months.
When you look through their massive database of campsites, rest areas, truck stops, and other places to stop and relax for the night, it’s easy to see why.
With over 60,000 places to spend the night, Allstays is worth downloading simply to scroll through the various options in the area you wish to camp.
User reviews and uploaded photos provide more information about campsites. The app doesn’t offer a trip planner or other premium features, but its large user database makes it a helpful tool when searching for campsites.
Allstays is available for iOS. Find out more about the app here.