The Great Camper Van Debate: Part 1 – The Desire

Backroad Buddies have been considering purchasing a campervan to travel in for almost a year, but had been struggling to agree on what to get. This three part series of blogs shares our experience with you. If you are considering a van, hopefully it will help you find the van that fits your lifestyle.

We have been tent camping for decades, but the comfort and convenience of a campervan or RV was tempting to our aging bodies. Left Buddy grew up with trailers (popups and travel trailers) and had been talking about getting something for years, perhaps even a truck camper. Right Buddy grew up in a family that did not camp and did not travel much. Right Buddy liked the low price tag of tent camping and the thought of maintaining and storing a camper did not have much appeal to her.

Then, in a chance YouTube video, we were introduced to the Recon Camper, a small delivery van that is converted to a popup camper with a low price tag. For the first time, Right Buddy could picture herself in a camper. The Recon could be used as one of our everyday vehicles and could be parked in the garage, but yet have everything we needed for camping. However, Left Buddy thought it was just a little too small for our needs, not quite enough room for a camping toilet and you can only stand up in it when the top was popped. It also did not have an air conditioner or heater that could operate when the engine was off. From that Recon YouTube video we were exposed to the broader world of Class B campervans and #vanlife. The size and amenities we saw in video after video drew us into what's possible with a Class B RV.  

So the dream began and Backroad Buddies came up with their campervan wish list:

  • Room to comfortably sleep two tall adults (both Right Buddy and Left Buddy are six foot tall)
  • Room to completely stand up inside, to be able to change clothes comfortably and not feel claustrophobic.
  • Ability to use the van as an everyday vehicle when we're in town, no extra vehicle to store
  • Ability to safely transport a minimum of four adults (more everyday vehicle use, room to take our two grown children or friends out to dinner)
  • Small enough to park in a normal parking space and a garage
  • Sufficient fresh water supply and water pump to boondock for several days at a time
  • No indoor shower or permanent toilet to dedicate valuable space for inside the van or require messing with a black water tank
  • Room to set up a portable toilet for "emergencies", such as Cleanwaste, dry flush or Nature's Head (us old folks get up a lot in the middle of the night)
  • A heater for winter camping and long trips to Alaska
  • Counter space for meal preparation
  • Room for two laptop workstations (Right Buddy and Left Buddy will be working on the road)
  • Ability to attach a large monitor or TV near Right Buddy's workstation so she can edit her photos on the road
  • A refrigerator so we don't have to keep replenishing coolers with ice
  • A circulating fan and/or air conditioner to keep the van cool and reduce moisture inside the van
  • Comfortable driver and passenger seats
  • Enough room for gear (clothes, food, dishes, cooking equipment, chairs, cameras, laptops, backpacks, two bicycles)
  • Reasonable gas mileage
  • Reasonable cost ($80,000 was our budget limit)
  • Lots of windows for natural lighting
  • Reasonable power for mountain passes
  • Batteries with solar charging to boondock for several days (enough power for lights, fridge, water pump, device charging, and TV monitor)
  • Ability to plug into shore power for campground hookups or driveway surfing/moochdocking
  • Good engine and chassis repair options and costs
  • Awning to provide outdoor shade
  • Well insulated
  • Small water heater for dishes, washing hands and rinsing our bodies or equipment off, long showers not needed
  • Insulated, blackout window shades for keeping heat in or out and privacy
  • Full spare tire

How hard could it be to achieve all that? Ha!  Good question. That's where we'll pick up in the next blog.