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.
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A comfortable mattress makes a world of difference when you’re on the road and sleeping in an RV.
But not any regular mattress will do as you’ll want to make sure the one you buy fits the rig you’re driving.
The most important features to consider when buying an RV mattress are its weight, size, and materials.
As people start to plan summer vacations, many are still wary of the safety of flying. Because of that, alternative forms of travel, like renting RVs, are experiencing a massive boom. Take the Airbnb-style RV rental marketplace, Outdoorsy.com, for instance. Between March 2020 and July 2020, bookings on its platform rose by a staggering 4,500%. That’s no minor blip – hitting the open road in a mobile house on wheels is very in.
But it’s important to note that there’s still no guarantee of safety right now when it comes to travel, even while RVing. We always recommend following guidelines from the CDC, practicing safe social distancing, and washing your hands frequently.
That said, there are many elements to consider if you are planning an RV trip, such as where to park for the night, how many supplies to pack, and what accessories to bring. But for a peaceful night’s rest, a good RV mattress may be the most important factor.
According to Paige Bouma, Vice President of RV Trader, a marketplace for RV sales and rentals, “some of the most important things to consider when purchasing an RV mattress is deciding on the type of mattress, setting your budget, and determining the size, length, and weight needed for your RV.”
No matter if your travel plans take you to a warm or cool destination, having an RV mattress that adapts well in different climates is essential. This mattress is made with gel beads that liquify once temperatures rise to cool you down and then resolidify once temperatures dip.
The Tuft & Needle Original Mattress
The Original Mattress for Tuft & Needle is a great choice for RV and camper use since at 10 inches tall, it’s a bit shorter than the brand’s other mattresses. This helps it fit into small spaces more easily and adds a little less weight to the RV.
However, this model is larger than many other RV-specific mattresses, so it’s best for vehicles that have more room for a standard-sized mattress.
Avocado Green Mattress
The handmade Avocado Green Mattress is 11-inches thick and delivers firm support with the use of sustainable latex and organic cotton and wool material. This brand sets the standard for affordable eco-luxury.
While this is best for larger RVs with enough space for a traditional-sized mattress, leaving the pillowtop option off saves you two inches on the depth. The sturdy handles on the sides also make the mattress easy to hoist into the RV.
Dynasty Mattress 10 Inch Cool Breeze Gel Memory Foam
The Dynasty Mattress has a gel interior to help regulate your body temperature when you sleep. This memory foam mattress is medium-firm and comes in King RV, Queen RV, and Short King RV sizes depending on the specs you need.
The Queen size weighs around 55 pounds. On Amazon, some reviewers noted how the mattress helps eliminate night sweats, while others say it allows them to sleep just as well as they would on their premium mattresses at home.
A luxury mattress option for RVs that welcome standard sizes, the Haven Premier has a 12-layer memory foam construction. The foam features five layers of cooling gel and is ideal for tighter sleep situations or for the sleeper who runs hot.
The 12-inch thick mattress is described by user feedback on the website as comfy and sturdy.
Idle Gel Foam
Idle’s 12-inch gel foam mattress rapidly returns to form when you move around at night. As an added bonus, there’s a removable, washable quilted cover that makes keeping your mattress clean super easy, even while on the road.
This mattress is on the firmer side and is an especially good option for back sleepers.
Live and Sleep Ultra RV Mattress, Short Queen Gel Memory Foam Mattress
The 60-pound Short Queen mattress by Live and Sleep is made from a gel foam material. The medium-firm mattress comes with a soft linen cover for extra comfort. Eco-conscious travelers will like that this mattress is made from environmentally friendly ingredients, too. The CertiPUR-US certification means that the mattress was made without ozone depleters, mercury, or lead.
After a long day spent hiking outdoors or driving, collapsing into this hybrid mattress is just the ticket, since it offers both comfort and breathability. The Nova mattress is made with foam and springs for increased airflow, making it great for hot sleepers. There are also seven support zones built in to help align your spine while you sleep.
Bonus: Each mattress cover is made from approximately 70 recycled bottles.
A budget-friendly mattress that fits most standard-size RVs, The Allswell has charcoal and copper gel-infused memory foam that absorbs heat away from the body to cool you down at night.
Most sleepers rate this mattress as a medium-firm feel and say it is supportive and supremely comfortable.
What to consider when buying an RV mattress
While you may not usually think about the weight when it comes to choosing mattresses, it’s incredibly important when it comes to RV mattresses since every last ounce is precious.
“In an RV, weight and size matter for all components, since the load weight is critical when towing a travel trailer or driveable RV,” says Bouma. “Most RV mattresses weigh between 50 to 75 pounds, but this can increase depending on the size and type of mattress selected,” she notes.
You’ll want to keep weight in mind when choosing both size and type of material. “For example, a king-sized premium memory foam option will weigh more than a polyurethane foam queen size mattress,” Bouma explains.
Almost all RVs have a space for a bed, but some spaces are smaller or shorter than a standard size mattress and have a lower profile. The most common RV mattress measurements are 60 inches by 75 inches by 80 inches, which doesn’t match standard measurements for home mattresses.
After measuring your space, you will see that it may measure somewhere between a Queen and King size. If this is the case, you’ll want to look for an RV-specific option with specialized measurements. However, there are also some RV models that have room for standard-sized mattresses.
Prices vary depending on a variety of factors, including quality, size, materials, and customization. Additionally, if you’re in the market for your first RV purchase and there is an opportunity to buy an RV with an already-upgraded mattress, it may be a better value to pay a little more upfront, rather than paying to swap out the mattress later.
Standard-sized mattresses and RV mattresses come in a wide variety of materials. “Low-cost polyurethane foam mattresses are the most common and most firm style. They usually come standard with an off-the-lot RV,” says Bouma.
“However, if you’re going to spend a lot of time in your RV or if great sleep is important to you, it is worth splurging on a different, more supportive material. Some of these materials include gel, memory foam, innerspring, and natural latex,” she notes. “If you’re planning to do most of your RVing in hot climates, though, consider a gel mattress. This material is also more supportive than polyurethane foam and provides the additional benefit of a cooling effect.”
Innerspring mattresses contain many coils and thus are often more supportive, while memory foam mattresses help distribute weight evenly, which can be important depending on the type of sleeper you are. Additionally, natural latex is similar to memory foam, but more durable and has a longer lifespan due to a rubber material component.
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.”
It’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic gave the RV industry a major boost in sales during 2020. Popularity was so high, RV maker Thor Industries now has a $14.32 billion order backlog, the company said in its 2021 third-quarter earnings report on Tuesday.
Thor Industries – which owns RV brands like Jayco and Airstream – first began seeing a boost in sales in May and June of 2020, especially with RV newcomers, Thor Industries’ president and CEO Bob Martin told Insider in May 2020. This boom in popularity only continued to grow: Thor achieved $3.46 billion in net sales in Q3 2021, the strongest in the company’s history, Martin said in the earnings report. This is a 105.7% increase compared to Q3 2020.
And now, this boost in sales has grown into an over $14 billion order backlog, which is an almost 550% increase compared to the same time in 2020. Taking a closer look, Thor’s backlog for towables and motorized RVs by the end of April in North America increased 766% and 548%, respectively, compared to the same time in 2020.
And now, the company is “pretty much sold out for the next year,” Martin told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on “Mad Money.” Many of Thor’s dealers also have “virtually no” inventory, but because a large portion of its backlog consists of pre-sold orders, Thor currently won’t be able to increase its dealers’ inventories, Martin told Cramer.
“Since a significant number of units in our backlog have already been retail sold, we currently believe the restocking cycle will extend well into calendar 2022,” Martin said in the earnings report.
To combat this pileup of orders, Thor has and will continue to boost production, according to the company.
Las Vegas-based analytics company Stream It designed the CyberLandr to make the Cybertruck multi-use so you can use it as a portable home for weekend trips or even in emergencies. It said the CyberLandr fits in normal parking spaces and comes with a shower, kitchen, and bed.
It also has a water-filtration system, voice automation, and Starlink dish for internet access.
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.”
Harvest Hosts, an RV membership company that gives RVers access to “unique” overnight stays, has found success during COVID-19, and a new almost $40 million investment will allow the business to continue its fast growth ahead of the predicted summer travel boom.
Road travel vehicle manufacturers specializing in RVs, camper vans, and trailers saw a huge spike in sales during 2020 as COVID-19 stopped would-be travelers from flying and cruising. However, these makers weren’t the only travel-adjacent companies that benefited from the coronavirus pandemic: from May 2020 to December, Harvest Hosts’ membership base doubled in size, the company says.
Prior to this, the company had already been growing fast due to the millennial #VanLife boom and retirees interested road travel. But when COVID-19 hit the US, “everything went into hyper-speed,” Joel Holland, CEO of Harvest Hosts, told Insider in an interview.
Harvest Hosts’ expanding business eventually caught the attention of Stripes, leading to its $37 million investment in the RV membership company. Stripes previously invested in companies like GrubHub, Reformation, and Refinery29.
“We look to back ambitious entrepreneurs who are delivering amazing products, and it became clear as we spent more time in the space that Holland is building a really special product for RVers,” Chris Carey, a partner at Stripes, said in a press release. “His vision for the company is something we are excited to be part of.”
How it works
Harvest Hosts’ appeal is in its straightforward membership model. Members can tap into the company’s network of over 2,000 locations – known as “hosts” – across the US for overnight RV stays. The company’s hosts encompass a wide range of destinations, including breweries, farms, golf courses, and wineries, the latter the most popular option.
There are several stipulations to the membership program. For one, members must have a “fully self-contained RV” with a toilet and wastewater tanks. RV travelers are also required to notify the hosts ahead of their arrivals and are discouraged from staying longer than the allotted 24-hour overnight stay.
Annual memberships start at $79 for the classic package. This price then jumps to $199 for the classic package plus access to golf and country clubs. Overnight stays don’t come at any additional cost, but Harvest Hosts encourages its members to spend money at their destinations in order to support the local hosts.
“We keep our membership costs low because we want to encourage people to take the money they’re saving and spend it with the local businesses,” Holland said. Currently, about 60% of its members are retired, and over half have a six-figure-plus disposable income, making them a “powerful buying force,” Holland explained.
Last year, Harvest Hosts’ members spent over $25 million at the visited locations. Holland projects this will grow to $30 million this year, which translates to an additional $15,000 for winery-based hosts specifically.
Harvest Hosts has grown quickly. This is how its new investment will help
The company’s rapid growth has been a constant for several years now. From 2018 to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harvest Hosts’ membership base grew ten times, and this growth only continued to accelerate through 2020.
According to Holland, new members began flocking to the company through the summer – as expected – into the winter. Travel normally hits a lull during winter, but the inverse happened for Harvest Hosts: interest in January and February 2021 were so high, the number of members spiked 400% compared to last year.
“Everything in this industry seems to be moving fast,” Holland said. “We want to make sure we can keep up, and the funding will help us do that.”
According to Holland, this $37 million investment will help Harvest continue the growth of both its host and member communities, all with the goal of becoming “the trusted resource for RVers when they’re looking for a place to stay.”
To do this, Harvest Hosts is now using the money to boost its location catalog from a little over 2,000 hosts, to 3,000 hosts by the end of the year. Looking even further ahead, the company is “racing to 10,000,” Holland said.
Along with this host growth, the Harvest Hosts is also building out features like improved “route planning tools” and a new reservation system meant to ease the hosting process.
“The faster we can get more hosts onboard, the better for our members and these small businesses,” Holland said. “The more we scale, the better everyone does, so I’m excited to [do so] as quickly as possible, and that takes money. “
Are you a travel industry employee or have a travel industry story to share? Contact this reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.