Meet the roughly $85,350 e-Camper, an electric camper van for those who “want to both protect and enjoy the outdoor environment,” according to a press release.
“The campervan market is growing rapidly and, despite these vehicles being used for coastal and countryside adventures which often include national parks and protected areas, they are still powered by petrol or diesel engines,” Joerg Hofmann, CEO of LEVC, said in the press release. “This is a major conflict; we can see a shift in consumer attitudes, with demand for greener mobility solutions to help to protect and improve air quality.”
The tiny home on wheels will be built on LEVC’s VN5 electric van, which has an electric range of 60 miles, and a hybrid range of 304 miles with help from a 1.3-liter gasoline engine, Rachel Cormack reported for Robb Report. But if you’re only interested in zero-emissions camping trips, you’ll have to rely on the van’s 31-kilowatt-hour battery.
The tiny home on wheels can sleep four people with the help of its pop-top roof, which creates additional sleeping and standing room inside the van. Besides the pop-top, like other camper vans, the second row of seats can transform into an additional double bed.
The first row of seats can’t turn into a slumber space, but it can swivel 180-degrees. This – when used in conjunction with the dining table and another row of seats – creates a small living and dining room within the camper van.
There’s also an electric kitchen for meals on the road and storage racks to hold onto outdoor toys, such as surfboards and bicycles.
So far, the company predicts “huge potential across the UK and Europe,” and will begin delivering its electric campers in Q4 2021.
RV and camper van makers have seen extraordinary sales during the COVID-19 pandemic as other travel options were seen as unsafe.
Now, Wingamm, an Italian luxury RV maker, is looking to capitalize on this trend by bringing its camper van model to the US …
… and the compact motorhome is already booming in popularity ahead of its debut.
Meet Wingamm’s Oasi 540, one of “Europe’s most sought after motorhomes,” according to the press release.
“It has taken persistence and innovation from our team of engineers and consultants in both Italy and the US to create a Wingamm Oasi 540 for the US market,” Lorena Turri, CEO of Wingamm, said in the press release.
The Oasi 540’s popularity isn’t just a European trend.
For the past three or four years. Wingamm has been receiving inquiries from US-based customers interested in the compact RV, Turri told Insider.
Wingamm’s RVs are currently available in 15 European and Asian countries, but the US market has always been a goal for the company.
Upon its arrival to the states, the camper van will be distributed by TM Motorhome Sales.
Sales will begin in Los Angeles and New Jersey in 2022 before a full nationwide rollout in 2023, Tony Diamond, co-owner of TM Motorhome Sales, told Insider.
Luckily for the two companies, demand is already high ahead of its debut, in part because of media coverage in early June, Diamond said, citing Gear Patrol’s article about the camper van.
After the Gear Patrol article was published on June 3, the company began receiving “nonstop” calls and emails about the van (we’re talking an inquiry every minute).
“We didn’t know what was going on,” Diamond said. “There was a stream of emails coming in and we were like, ‘Oh my god, what’s going on here?’ The phone was just ringing, ringing, ringing, and it was a magical moment because we’ve believed in this.”
Demand has since tapered off a bit, but Diamond says the team is still receiving an email or call about the van every roughly 20 minutes.
And all of this happened despite not having any marketing campaigns in the US yet, according to Turri.
“[The US] is a huge market that could be immediately bigger than our European market because we are receiving many inquiries,” Turri said.
The company now has a waitlist of over 550 customers, according to the press release.
Over 30 RV dealers, including “some of the biggest dealers around the country,” have also contacted TM Motorhome Sales about becoming a dealer, according to Diamond.
Now, let’s take a closer look at some of the features that have made the Oasi 540 so successful.
The camper van is based on a Promaster, but it has its own custom one-piece monocoque fiberglass shell.
This shell prevents leaks, improves sound insulation, and allows for a customizable floor plan.
RV makers like Thor, Winnebago, and Airstream often build camper vans and floor plans within existing Ford Transit, Ram Promaster, and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans. But according to Diamond, this method is “very limited.”
“Because of the custom fiberglass monocoque shell, Wingamm is basically able to design whatever floor plan it wants,” Diamond said.
The camper is 17 feet, 9 inches long, which should fit in most standard US parking spots.
This size means the van can operate in both national parks and cities.
Diamond calls the camper van an “alternative to an apartment,” and it’s easy to see why given all of its home-like amenities.
Despite being pint-sized, the tiny home on wheels still has several key rooms, including a bedroom, bathroom, closets, and kitchen.
The kitchen and living room are towards the front of the van, while the bathroom and additional closet storage fall towards the back.
If you’re wondering where the bedroom is, well, it’s in the ceiling.
Unlike most camper vans that have a pop-top bed or a dedicated bedroom space, Oasi 540’s bed is stored in the ceiling.
The memory foam bed can then be pulled down over the driver’s area, living room, and kitchen when it’s time for a cat nap or a night’s sleep.
Hiding the bed in the wall makes space for a larger kitchen, bathroom, and living room.
The living and dining room is equipped with an L-shaped seating system and a movable oval-shaped table, perfect for dining or remote work.
These seats, plus the swivel driver and passenger seats, can accommodate up to six guests, according to a YouTube video tour of the Oasi 540.
Now, onto the kitchen, which is right across from the living room.
The kitchen has a two-burner gas stove, a countertop, several soft-close cabinets …
… a sink with a cutting board cover, and a refrigerator-freezer.
If you think the kitchen seems home-like, wait until you see the bathroom. Diamond compares the van’s bathroom to that of a hotel room bathroom (but smaller, of course).
There’s a shower, sink, ceramic toilet, vanity, and cabinets, all within the compact space.
The van also uses a cassette sewage structure that breaks down all of the unwanted sewage. The suitcase-like cassette can then be removed from the van and emptied into a toilet at any rest stop or establishment.
Worried about wintertime? The heated floors will help keep the already insulated camper even warmer.
Besides the closet and cabinets, there are also storage spaces hidden around the exterior of the van, including a storage unit that’s accessible from the inside of the van, according to the YouTube video tour.
When you need to brighten up the tiny home on wheels during a remote workday, just use the overhead LED lights, which are both dimmable and color-changing.
“We look at the Wingamm Oasi 540 as being to other Class B motorhomes as what the iPhone was to the flip phone, or what Peloton was to Nordic track, or what Tesla is to other electric vehicles,” Diamond said. “This is truly an innovative motorhome in so many ways … from its size to the sewage system, to the bathroom, to the bed.”
Wingamm plans to produce about 150 to 200 camper vans for its debut US season. This number of builds will grow to about 500 vehicles per season in the future, according to Turri.
“I suppose we’ll have more demand than products for the first season,” Turri said.
To address this, the company is already looking to grow production by investing in a new manufacturing plant.
The vans are currently being built in Italy, but Wingamm’s next steps could include moving production to the US depending on the success of the camper van’s overseas introduction.
To market the vehicle upon its US debut, Wingamm and TM Motorhome Sales will display the Oasi 540 at malls across the US, which could help attract customers that are new to the RV world.
The final price isn’t set yet, but Turri estimates the camper van – with all of its sleek luxuries, multipurpose spaces, and compact size – could range between $135,000 to $145,000
Turri and Diamond believe that the rise in big city living costs, #VanLife, remote work, and “experiential living” makes the Oasi 540 “an enticing value proposition,” according to the press release.
Driving around in an RV is becoming cool again: Winnebago’s RV sales are skyrocketing thanks to millennial and Gen-X customers and a boom in road travel, Michael Happe, the company’s CEO, told Fox Business‘ Stuart Varney on the “Varney & Co” show on June 23.
Under one in every 10 Winnebago buyers are now 30-years-old or younger, and the average age of its customers has subsequently been dropping, Happe said.
“They want to experience the outdoors, but yet they want to be connected,” Happe said.
Last year, Brian Hazelton, Winnebago’s senior vice president, told Insider that the company had also been seeing an increase in demand for connectivity-related features.
“As we learned more about the Class B van business, we started to see those demands for connectivity,” Hazelton told Insider in September 2020. “That customer group was really pushing us to do … a lot of those things before the covid pandemic started.
“But obviously with COVID, we’re ramping up the pace and really trying to look at the product and say, ‘Okay, how can we not take the traditional RV and make it into an office, but maybe start designing the office and make it into a traditional RV’, Hazelton continued.
Along with this “phenomenon” of a demographic change, Winnebago’s business has been booming: the company is now delivering RVs at “record levels” with dealers seeing “record retail … and orders.”
Winnebago isn’t the only RV maker that’s seen massive success during the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier this month, Thor Industries – which owns RV brands like Jayco and Airstream – reported a $14.32 billion order backlog, the company said in its 2021 third-quarter earnings report. And now, Thor is “pretty much sold out for the next year,” Bob Martin, the company’s CEO, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on “Mad Money.”
For van lifers, having the right accessories is key to being comfortable on the road.
This includes sleeping on a comfortable mattress and having a reliable way to prepare food, among many others.
After rigging my own van and driving across the country, I’ve put together my definitive list of essentials.
I daydreamed about owning a camper van for years, to the point where I’d approach strangers in parking lots who had nice vans and spark conversations to hear about their trips. I burned countless hours on Pinterest viewing custom DIY van setups that made me self-conscious about my apartment.
I was no stranger to life on the road, having done quite a bit of car camping as a young adult in a Toyota hatchback and frequently driving from the Pacific Northwest to Los Angeles. When I became a parent in 2018, I finally pulled the trigger on purchasing a camper van as an easy way to take family trips on the weekends.
My original vision was to buy a luxurious 4X4 Mercedes Sprinter but I instead downgraded to a Ford Transit Connect, mainly due to the logistics of size and a need to street park in Brooklyn, NY.
Two years later, my partner, daughter, dog, and I have logged thousands of miles in our van. It’s not the glamourous, Pinterest-worthy van I hoped to own, but it’s unassuming and smartly organized. It’s comfortable for the whole family to sleep in, cost-effective, and reliable. In other words, it’s exactly what we need.
After countless days and nights spent on the road, I’ve gotten the necessary accessories and customizations down to a science. Sure there are still glamorous extras on my wishlist, but when it comes to starting out, just getting the basics right is the key.
If you’re thinking about jumping into van life, my biggest piece of advice when it comes to outfitting a van is that you don’t need the high price tag vehicle with every amenity already personalized into it. You can start small, simple, and inexpensive and have all you need to hit the road and be self-sufficient.
You can also opt to rent a van if you only plan on doing a couple of trips or if you want to try out the lifestyle before committing to buying. Even with a rental, you may want to bring a few extra accessories to make your trip as comfortable as possible.
And while it’s easy to get caught up in bigger accessories like mattresses and roof racks, don’t underestimate the power of little items like gear ties, bungee cords, tarps, batteries, drinking water, and trash bags. These always come in handy and often when you least expect it. Things will inevitably go wrong on the road, so the more prepared you are for the small or large fixes, the better.
Here are 17 of the best accessories for outfitting a camper van:
The Keetsa Plus is supportive without being too bulky, making it a great choice for a van mattress.
The most important part of van camping and road tripping is your sleep setup. The bed deserves the most attention.
Depending on the size and model of your van, it may not be an option to put in a proper mattress like you have at home. But if it’s possible, even at a twin size, it’s worth it. The Keetsa Plus is a high-quality mattress that’s exceptionally comfortable without being too big and bulky to comfortably fit in a van.
With some nice sheets and pillows, your van sleep just might be better than in your usual bed.
A good organization and storage solution like the Decked Drawer System will inform how you live in your van and what you’re able to bring on a road trip.
A quick google search will reveal endless ideas for DIY storage designs by experienced van owners, but simple drawers provide the best storage in my opinion because they allow for easy access without having to unpack your van.
The Decked Drawer System is not only highly durable but designed for the year and model of your van. It’s an easy way to get a more custom storage option that will be the best use of space.
A durable cooler
A YETI cooler is your van’s alternative to a refrigerator, allowing you to store fresh food on the road for multiple days.
Most entry-level vans don’t have fridges. Without one, it’s mandatory to invest in a quality cooler to store perishables for multiple days. YETI products can be considered a little pricey, but I’ve found they are well worth the investment.
The Tundra 35 Hard Cooler holds enough food for a family and the 20x15x16-inch dimensions make it easy to find a logical place in a van.
The Thule TracRac system is designed to mount a range of outdoor toys and equipment on top of your van.
The main point of van camping is to get into the outdoors and experience nature. For that, it’s always helpful to bring some extra toys. Whether you have bikes, kayaks, or surfboards, you’ll be surprised at what you can bring with you that doesn’t need to fit inside the van.
Thule TracRac roof racks are easy to install and modular for adding specialty components designed for your activity of choice.
The Nemo Helio is a portable shower that allows you to rinse off anywhere you park and use minimal water.
Having the ability to shower will extend the amount of time you’re able to stay on the road comfortably. The Nemo Helio Pressure Shower compacts to take up minimal space in the van. It can be set up quickly and you can enjoy a proper shower without using a lot of water. Trust me, road-tripping across a long distance is much more enjoyable when you’re clean.
Installing a Webasto air heater to run off your van’s fuel source will allow you to van camp year-round.
Depending on the climate and time of year where you’re headed, heat may be an issue. If your van’s not insulated and you’re in a cold region, heating can be tricky.
A reliable heating option is an air heater that runs off your van’s fuel source. A Webasto Air Top heater can quickly heat the inside of a van and you don’t have to leave it running all night. It also avoids the less safe alternative of using an electric or butane heater inside the cab while you sleep. However, it’s best to have a Webasto professionally installed before you use it.
Note that this item is sold through a third-party seller on Amazon. You can also find a local place to buy this heater and have it installed through the Webasto website.
Good lighting is essential for the hours spent in the van cooking, reading, and organizing after dark and when you’re not driving. LE camp lighting is easy on the eyes, energy-efficient, and compatible with your smartphone.
The LED Camp Lantern is a great unit to have because you can use it inside the van or take it with you outdoors. And the Portable Nightlight can be set up in the van and easily operated via Bluetooth.
When you spend days on end behind the steering wheel, the Pioneer AVIC audio unit will solve all your sound and navigation concerns.
If your van is older and doesn’t already have a modern navigation and audio unit, you definitely want to add one. Traveling by van involves a lot of hours behind the wheel and some easy listening will make the time far more enjoyable.
Whether your preference is music, podcasts, audiobooks, or local radio, you need decent sound. For me, Apple Car Play is a must, so you can easily flip from map navigation to whatever you’re listening to and receive notifications. The Pioneer AVIC-W8400NEX does it all and can be installed in almost any van.
The Genesis Basecamp Stove has been a game-changer on my trips. This portable camp stove is easy to use and can cook your food extremely fast. It’s compact and easy to keep stored in a van, where you can also take it with you on day hikes or mini-adventures.
I’ve even pulled over at highway road stops countless times to quickly make lunch and coffee out of the rear door of the van with this stove.
Design and quality are the selling points for this Snow Peak cook set that allows you to expand your camping culinary skills.
When it comes to camp cooking, having a van is a big step up from tent camping. You can widen your range of cookware items and set up stations to cook inside and outside of the van, depending on where you’re parked. But size, weight, and durability are still important.
This cook set from Snow Peak is well-designed, of great quality, and compact enough to easily store in your van. The set includes two stacking pots and frypans with foldable handles — enough to tackle almost any type of meal.
If you want to get serious about your camp meals and up your game, add a grill to your van inventory. The Weber Q1200 Gas Grill is small and functions with 14-oz gas canisters. It will grill your food to perfection in minutes and is a breeze to clean up after.
Bugs are a reality almost anywhere you camp. A van may shield you a bit better than a tent, but mosquitos and other small pests can still be an issue. The Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller covers a 15-foot radius and has no scent or spray.
Leave it on the ground under your van at night and you’ll be bug-free.
It’s almost a guarantee that van camping involves getting wet. Whether coming in from the beach with wet gear or getting caught out in the rain on a hike, you’ll want a designated area to stuff wet items (or dirty laundry) that’s out of the way.
Patagonia Stormfront duffel bags work for both efficient storage and daily use if you’re packing gear up in the outdoors. The material is durable and heavily water-resistant, providing the right protection when you need it.
An electrical outlet
Easily turn your van’s electrical source into wall outlets and USB ports with a Wagan inverter.
Adding power and electricity outlets to your van can seem complicated, but having a good inverter is a simple solution to the power access you need while van camping.
The Wagan Elite 700W Pro inverter is a small and sleek unit that converts your van’s 12V power into 120V wall outlets and USB ports, allowing you to keep all your devices charged.
Foldable camp chairs
After spending hours sitting in your van, sometimes you just want to sit outside. REI Flexlite Air Chairs are an easy answer.
After hours or days logging miles in a van, you need to spend time outside your van when you reach your destination. This can be as basic as setting up a chair five feet away from your van in a campsite.
REI Flexlite Air Chairs compact into a small volume for easy storage and can be set up in seconds wherever you park.
Safety first, right? Having a good first-aid kit in your van is critical. The Pelican 1500EMS Protector Case is durable and weatherproof so it will keep all your emergency supplies safe under almost any conditions.
You can also customize the medical supplies you want to keep accessible and store the case in your van without concern of it being squished or damaged.
Many of us remember exactly where we were when we first realized COVID-19 was about to jarringly disrupt our lives.
For Seth and Scarlett Eskelund, the realization hit when they were in Sedona, Arizona, a 29-hour drive from home on the East Coast. The couple had just begun their full-time #VanLife journey two months prior, a goal they had been working towards since early 2019 when they first purchased a used van to turn into their own tiny home on wheels.
“It was pretty devastating for both of us,” Seth Eskelund told Insider in an interview. “It was a long time in the [car ride back home] to sit and think about it and go down Interstate 40 essentially the wrong way for what we had prepared for.”
However, a glimmer of hope came out of this disappointment. Along the drive back home, the couple decided to pursue their plans of buying another used van to convert into a camper, an idea they had already been toying around with.
“We wanted something that would keep us connected to the van life community,” Scarlett Eskelund told Insider in an interview. “We knew we wanted this in the long run. We figured we’d do something that kept us connected to the community as a whole.”
This decision then turned into Roah (pictured below), the couple’s first camper van conversion after returning home during COVID-19. The moment they completed and sold the van, the duo returned to the road and began heading up to Canada for the summer.
But as we all know now, the Canadian border closed, and the couple was again forced to return home. That was when they decided to convert another van, this time out of leased warehouse space. And as the cliche goes, the rest is history, and the couple has now built five vans, including the personal camper that’s been with them since the start of their van life journey.
“We joke that we’re just continually forced into this in the best way possible,” Scarlett Eskelund said.
Converting and selling vans is a necessity
“If we don’t sell these vans, it’s over, not just for the business, but … we would have no money to get back out on the road and travel,” Scarlett Eskelund said. “Luckily I don’t think either of us harped on that too much, because I think if we did, we definitely wouldn’t have gotten into this.”
The pair’s 12 to 18-hour workdays grant them a rapid turnaround time. The first van they built in the warehouse, pictured below, was completed in 20 days – partially because the couple needed the financial support – and sold in three weeks.
Ironically, that van was the longest it has ever taken the couple to sell a finished van. Their “list-to-sell” time normally sits at around two to three weeks, which Seth Eskelund says is “pretty quick.”
Relying on public interest after a van has been completed – instead of doing custom builds – may seem risky. But so far, this business decision has paid off with the help of the couple’s YouTube and Instagram presence, which have almost 70,000 subscribers and 21,000 followers, respectively. All of the couple’s buyers have found their vans through Instagram, where the Eskelund’s will do daily check-ins on their in-progress vans.
Within two to three weeks after a camper van sells, the pair will have another used van in the garage, ready to convert again.
Their pricing methods aren’t an industry-standard, but that’s the point
The Eskelund’s camper vans have been a hit with customers because of their prices, according to the couple. Their tiny homes on wheels can range from a weekend warrior van to a built-out unit with a shower and toilet. But no matter the amenities, the couple aims to price “very fairly” and below the current market rate, which can often run high.
Camper van conversion companies and RV makers have seen a boom in sales as more people have turned to road travel during COVID-19. But as a result, the camper van market has been price gouging, sometimes to the tune of an additional $60,000 to $70,000 compared to 2019 prices, according to Seth Eskelund. But when pricing their own vans, the couple doesn’t want to take this route, and instead opts for a price tag that’s less than the general market.
From the start, the couple’s goal was to convert vans to give them something to focus on during the coronavirus pandemic. The point was never to become wealthy from the business: instead, they wanted to break even or just make a small income.
“It’s a lot more than just a business and money for us,” Seth Eskelund said. “I would say we are as personally invested in the vans as we are in the business, and maybe that’s not smart from a business perspective on us, but that is who we are.”
There’s also the added bonus of ad revenue from their YouTube videos, which allows the couple to subsidize their prices while educating the public about how to DIY a camper van.
“Obviously there is demand and a lot of supply as well, but I think that’s been a factor in why we sell quickly because we really do try to price as fairly as we can,” Seth Eskelund said.
As Scarlett Eskelund describes it, this is both a lifestyle and a business, giving the couple fluid “accessibility.” When the COVID-19 pandemic is over, the pair will continue their business for as many months out of the year as they would like. For all the other months, they’ll resume their #VanLife dreams.
“It’s a means to an end,” Scarlett Eskelund said. “It allows us the ability to do what we really want to do.”
Outdoorsy is a peer-to-peer rental service (much like Airbnb) that started in 2015. Over the years, the platform has expanded and today there are over 200,000 vehicles listed for rent in over 4,800 cities and 14 countries. Jen Young, CMO and co-founder of Outdoorsy, told Insider in December 2020 that the number of RV rentals made on the site skyrocketed during the pandemic.
I, too, decided to rent a camper van during the pandemic after years of wondering if life on the road was for me. Ultimately, I booked a 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van through Outdoorsy for a weekend trip from New York City to Philadelphia.
From booking to talking with customer service, here’s what planning a road trip through Outdoorsy is like.
First, Outdoorsy’s landing page prompted me to search for an area in the US and plug in my travel dates.
I typed in New York City and then the dates I was looking to rent the van. I was surprised it didn’t ask me any other information, like how many people were traveling or what type of vehicle I was looking for.
After I entered this basic information, the available vehicles were listed in a grid on the left and laid out on a map on the right.
There were two things that stood out on this page. First, Outdoorsy’s business model is largely the same as Airbnb, where people rent out their homes for travelers. Essentially, all the vehicles listed on this page are owned by people in the New York area who want to rent out their RVs when they aren’t using them. The resemblance doesn’t end there: This page is even laid out like Airbnb’s website.
The second aspect that stood out to me was the variety of vehicles that were listed. There were over 500 options when I searched, and some were traditional RVs, towable trailers, and camper vans.
At the top, there were filters, which helped narrow down my search significantly.
There were six tabs at the top of the screen that helped narrow the search. In those tabs, I was able to specify that I wanted a camper van — I figured taking a larger, more traditional RV would be too difficult for a novice. I also specified that I wanted to pay less than $500 per night and wanted the camper van to be delivered to my home on the day of my departure.
Only a few camper van owners allowed for delivery — as most renters pick up the vehicles themselves — so my options quickly became limited.
After narrowing my search, there were only two camper vans that suited my needs, so I began chatting with the owners directly.
The first van I liked was a 2014 Dodge Sprinter that was located in Connecticut for $200 per night, while the second one was a more luxurious 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and located in New Jersey for $400 per night. While their prices varied greatly, each had plenty of bright, large pictures that showed off every inch of the vehicle.
Like Airbnb, I had to message and confirm with the owners before actually booking the camper van. The messaging system is built directly into the website, and I received a text message and an email each time an owner sent me a response.
In my conversations with both of the owners, I confirmed the price and asked if they would be able to drop off and pick up the van on my travel dates.
Unfortunately, one of the owners decided I was too far away, so I went with the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter.
Before booking the more luxurious van, I double-checked the list of amenities to ensure it had everything I needed.
These visual icons clearly helped confirm that the van had everything I would need on my short road trip, including enough room for two people, a bathroom, and fresh water.
When double-checking the page, I became concerned about one aspect of the van: There was a 75-mile limit each day, and I would be charged for every mile that I went over. This would mean I couldn’t travel that far outside of New York City if I wanted to keep the price low. When I looked at the other vehicles on the platform, most didn’t have this requirement. I chatted with the owner again, and he explained that he put the limit on the van because he didn’t want people traveling too far.
In the end, I decided to proceed with the booking anyway because this camper van was a perfect match for my needs.
Once the owner confirmed the price and dates, the booking process was simple and fast.
The camper van cost $400 per night plus $200 for delivery and pick up. An additional $180 was added to the bill for insurance, which included up to $1 million in property damage protection and a $2,000 deductible.
In the end, the grand total for a three-night rental came to $1,700. I was also notified that Outdoorsy would take a $3,500 security hold that would be refunded when the van was returned.
I was surprised by how expensive the camper van was for just a short weekend road trip. For $1,700, I could fly to Europe and back again. According to Outdoorsy, the price of a rental on the site can vary greatly depending on the type, style, and size of the vehicle, but in 2020, the average price for a rental was $161 per night.
While the van I rented was priced a bit higher than most of the other vehicles on Outdoorsy, it was more luxurious, so I was paying for the high-end features.
Leading up to the arrival of my van, I turned to Outdoorsy for some much-needed guidance.
Since I had never traveled in an RV or a camper van before, I knew I had a lot to learn. Luckily, Outdoorsy provided teaching tools that were built into the site. On the camper van’s page, there was a section titled “RV Travel Tips,” which had detailed videos explaining delivery, propane tanks, and WiFi.
Additionally, I was having trouble finding an open campground that was located within driving distance from New York City in the middle of the winter. I turned to Outdoorsy again, which had a section on its website that lists campgrounds near certain points of interest across the US.
When the camper van finally arrived outside my apartment in Brooklyn, we instantly ran into some issues.
During the walk-through of the van with the owner, he discovered a leak from the bathroom that was pouring into the living space at the back of the van. After investigating further, he decided he needed to cancel my booking and bring the van back to his shop.
The co-founder of Outdoorsy, Jen Young, told me that vehicles listed on Outdoorsy must be inspected every 90 days, but these issues do arise.
Although it was very frustrating to have my trip canceled just seconds before it was to begin, the owner assured me I could rent the van the following weekend.
The problem was that Outdoorsy was not aware of the new booking we agreed to. Nervous that I was going to be charged for a trip that never happened, I jumped on a call with customer service.
The customer service rep I spoke to gave me conflicting information when compared with what the owner was told to do. I decided to reach out to customer service again via email. Unfortunately, every time I received an email back from them, it was from a different person who was more confused than the last.
Ultimately, we were successfully able to rebook the camper van for the following weekend, but customer service did not offer any discounts for my troubles, which was frustrating.
Young said Outdoorsy is working on a new product feature that will clear up the confusion among the customer support team in the future.
“On the customer support front, we also learned a lot this past year after our busiest year on record, and we’re hard at work to address the areas we know we need to improve on in order to provide both our owners and renters with the best support possible,” Young said.
The following weekend, I was finally able to take the camper van out on the road – with Outdoorsy by my side the whole way.
When the owner dropped the van off the second time, he walked me through a quick tutorial of all the van’s systems. As a first-timer, I didn’t understand some of what he was saying, but I hoped for the best. During my journey, I did run into some issues with the heater and electricity, but I contacted the owner directly via his phone number instead of Outdoorsy.
Owners should upload a manual of their vehicles to the Outdoorsy site so that renters can access it throughout their stay when issues arise.
Outdoorsy did, however, send a text message early in my trip, explaining that I had free roadside assistance in case of “an unexpected emergency.” The text message included the phone number I would need if such a situation arose. Thankfully, it didn’t.
I also downloaded the Outdoorsy app just in case I needed it during the trip.
I downloaded the app so that I could access my messages quickly. I also wanted the app because Outdoorsy has a 24/7 live chat function. Since I was a new RVer, I wanted to make sure I had every support system at my disposal.
Although I ran into problems along my journey, I didn’t end up using the app at all, but it was reassuring to know it was there as an option.
When I returned to Brooklyn, the owner came to pick up the vehicle in another easy process.
When the owner arrived, he inspected every inch of the vehicle to ensure I didn’t break or hit anything while traveling. Even though I went over the 75-mile-per-day limit, he decided to not charge me because of electricity and heater issues I had experienced.
After I signed a few papers, my first experience with Outdoorsy came to a close.
I received an email to write a review of my journey a couple of days later.
Just like most reviews, Outdoorsy asked me to rate my experience on a five-star scale, to describe my overall experience, and to upload any photos from my trip.
Although there were a few mishaps along the way, in my experience, Outdoorsy is the perfect platform for first-time RVers.
From the beginning, it was clear that Outdoorsy’s main mission is to help acclimate new RVers to the world of road tripping. That fact is evident in their easy booking process and in the tools they provide both on their site and on their app.
I believe the growing number of people who feel inspired to get out on the road for the first time because of the pandemic will feel reassured and confident getting behind one of these rigs thanks to Outdoorsy. I know I did.
Even though I had trouble with my van, customer service was a bit confusing, and there are a few features that the company should improve upon, I always felt like I had a support system to help along the way — whether that be the owner himself or the support service via Outdoorsy.
If I take another road trip in the future, I would probably use the platform again — but I’d choose a less expensive vehicle.
Advanced RV has revealed a prototype of its “B Box” camper van built on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cab chassis.
The B Box fits a full bathroom, kitchen, and dual living room and bedroom inside of the highly insulated box.
Advanced RV’s president Mike Neundorfer estimates that the price will be similar to the company’s other vans, which have recently ranged between $310,000 to about $490,000 with a median price of about $380,000.
Advanced RV has begun manufacturing custom B Box vans for its customers and has hired new staff members to accommodate this increase in production.
The unveiling of the B Box comes at a fortuitous time for the RV industry, with RV sales going through the roof with no sign of slowing down.
Unlike most camper vans – including ones that Advanced RV has built in the past – the B Box doesn’t take the classic look of a tiny home on wheels. Instead, the camper cabin sits inside of an insulated fiberglass composite and foam box that’s both off-grid and four-seasons capable.
“Advanced RV’s mission is to listen to and understand our clients’ travel objectives so that we can collaborate with them to bring their vision to life,” Advanced RV’s president Mike Neundorfer said in an email interview with Business Insider. “When we discovered a box that would allow us to meet our clients’ objectives on a cab chassis, we pursued building a prototype because we knew of the spatial, insulation, and off-grid advancements a box would provide.”
Despite this upwards trend, Class A and C RV shipments dipped year-over-year last month by 12.7% and 5.2%, respectively. month. However, Class B RVs remained resilient: last month, Class B shipments increased by 57.9% compared to September 2019, according to the same survey.
According to Advanced RV’s YouTube tour of the B Box, the van was designed to not appear like a motorhome.
The prototype of the B Box camper took around 10 to 11 months to complete and has similar dimensions to a traditional 170-inch Sprinter van, although the B Box has a higher ground clearance with at least 9.5 inches.
B Box’s interior is about 6.67 feet tall and has an extra nine inches of width despite having a similar exterior width as a traditional Sprinter.
The cabin box is about three inches wider than the widest part of the van.
According to a statement from Neundorfer, the name of the van is derived from its Class B RV classification, which the company specializes in.
Like many camper van and RV makers, Advanced RV has seen an increase in Class B RV interest from the public since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Even if interested parties aren’t looking to build a van, we are receiving more calls, inquiries, and interest in our YouTube channel,” Advanced RV president Mike Neundorfer said in an email interview with Business Insider.
Advanced RV created the B Box out of partial necessity, not because of the coronavirus pandemic, but because of chassis manufacturing changes.
In 2018 and 2019, Advanced RV began struggling to meet client demands due to delays in Sprinter chassis deliveries in 2018 when Mercedes-Benz opened a new Sprinter manufacturing plant in South Carolina, according to Neundorfer.
In order to prevent employee layoffs, Advanced RV started building its own box on wheels.
“The creation of the B Box turned a difficult Sprinter supply problem into an opportunity to meet client objectives with a design using cab chassis which are readily available,” Neundorfer wrote.
The company has now begun hiring new staff members to accommodate the ramped up production of custom B Box vans for its clients.
This includes a B Box with a washer, dryer, and pop-up roof camper for a family with children.
Neundorfer estimates the price will be similar to its other vans, which have recently ranged between $310,000 to about $490,000 with a median price of about $380,000.
The van’s air suspension system is electronically controlled and comes with custom shock absorbers. And for improved efficiency, the exterior of the van is lined with airtabs.
The exterior also has sidelights and a 360-degree camera system.
For extra security, Advanced RV included a keypad by the entry door to password lock and protect the van.
Stepping stairs automatically drop down when the entry door is opened for increased accessibility.
The cabin can be easily accessed from the van’s cab, and the passenger seat can swivel to face the interior, therefore serving as an extra seating spot.
Behind the cab is a microwave, refrigerator and freezer, and the kitchen unit, which includes cabinets, a sink, and a large counter space.
The camper has shoe storage shelves integrated into the side of the kitchen unit and cabinets that line most of the van’s ceiling.
The color of the lights that brighten up the interior can be changed.
To clean off after a day in the outdoors, the B Box’s bathroom has a shower that can filter and sterilize used shower water, allowing the water to be recycled and reused. This repurposed shower water can also be used for the toilet.
The bathroom is also equipped with a toilet, mirrors, a shower curtain extension, a medicine cabinet, and a sink.
The bathroom and kitchen’s water is sourced from the van’s 50-gallon freshwater tank. Used water is then deposited into the two 27.5-gallon grey and black water tanks.
Advanced RV’s latest van also has openable dual pane windows with screens and shades by the sofa bed. The back hatch can also open, bringing in more fresh air and rear access.
There’s also room to store outdoor toys like bicycles in front of the rear hatch and behind the sofa bed.
The sofa bed can seat three people with seatbelts and sits on a steel frame for extra support and security.
The interior also has a Sonos sound system and a TV for extra entertainment inside the tiny home on wheels.
B Box’s strong insulation allows the interior to be warmed and cooled with only approximately 20% of the energy that it takes to maintain the temperature of a normal camper van, according to Advanced RV.
The van is so tightly sealed, the interior’s carbon dioxide levels will increase if people stay and breathe inside the van for too long, according to Advanced RV’s YouTube video. To combat this, its makers included an air heat exchanger and a carbon dioxide monitor.
To make the tiny home on wheels more four seasons capable, Advanced RV included on-demand heated water and floors, and air conditioning and auxiliary heating systems.
All of these amenities are powered by the van’s 48-volt, 15.2-kilowatt-hour lithium battery pack that can be charged with the alternator. These power systems can then be monitored with the van’s touchscreen control center.