The Great Camper Van Debate: Part 3 – The Resolution

In January, the Backroad Buddies attended the Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show in the Denver Convention Center, the largest RV show in Colorado. We were hoping to find something we hadn't seen yet. There was one, the Pleasureway Tofino, which is similar to the Recon Camper, but a little bigger, a little more expensive and seemingly not quite as well engineered. Right Buddy was also disappointed to learn that the upper sleeping area (in the popup) had a max capacity of 200 pounds, which means she could not sleep up there, which was the main appeal of the popup to her, being able to have a better view and be closer to the sounds of the outdoors, like a tent.

We also had the chance to sit in the driver's seat of all three types of vans (Sprinter, Transit and Promaster). That was a good thing, because Right Buddy discovered that the Promaster was not comfortable for her really long legs. And the Tofino was based on the Promaster. This was a deal breaker.  The Mercedes Sprinter and Ford Transit provided an acceptable driving comfort.  And since we are set on going with a gasoline engine van, this isolated our preference down to the Ford Transit.

As the Backroad Buddies were leaving the Colorado Convention Center and feeling like the Great Camper Van Debate was going to go on forever, we glanced across the street to see a camper van in the parking lot with a large VanDOit logo plastered across it. VanDOit? What is that? Have we looked at them before? When we got home, we started our VanDOit research.

Right Buddy sent an email to VanDOit asking if it was possible to come out to the factory to see a van in person. Before she got a response, she came across their Calendar of Events on their website that said they were currently at the International Sportsmen Expo in the Denver Convention Center, right next door to the Colorado RV Adventure Travel Show that we were at earlier that day! The email response from VanDOit confirmed that they were indeed there. So we made arrangements to visit them at the Sportsmen Expo the following day.

We went down our wish list to see if VanDOit met our requirements:

  • Room to comfortably sleep two tall adults - yes, queen sized bed.
  • Room to completely stand up inside - yes, with a high-top.
  • Ability to safely transport a minimum of four adults - yes, up to seven with shoulder harnesses in normal van seats.
  • Ability to use the van as an everyday vehicle when we're in town - yes, it’s a Ford Transit long wheelbase passenger van.  Larger than we're accustomed to but still seems manageable.
  • Small enough to park in a normal parking space and a garage - yes for the parking space, but it’s too tall to fit in our garage, but to be fair, we park our current Highlander in the driveway, never in the garage.
  • Sufficient fresh water supply and water pump to boondock for several days at a time - yes, comes with a six gallon removable tank and we can carry as many tanks/jerrycans as we think we'll need.
  • No dedicated space consumed by indoor shower or permanent toilet - yes, there is a hose and spray nozzle along with the water pump that can be used as an outdoor shower and we can carry an optional portable dry flush toilet when we feel we need one.
  • Room to set up a portable toilet - yes, plenty of room, especially if the three person bench seat is left at home.
  • A heater - yes, the Espar Airtronic B4 that taps into the gasoline tank.
  • Counter space to prepare meals on - yes, a kitchen pod with sink and gray water tank.
  • Room for two workstations - yes, plenty of room to add a large table if the three person bench seat is left at home.
  • Ability to attach a large monitor or TV near Right Buddy's workstation - yes, a 32” LED TV.
  • A refrigerator - yes, two sizes of Dometic portable refrigerators to choose from.
  • A circulating fan and/or air conditioner - yes, choice of Dometic Fan-Tastic Air Vent or MaxxFan Deluxe Complete Ventilation System, and/or an air conditioner with or without a heat pump.
  • Comfortable driver and passenger seats - yes, Ford Transit seats with optional leather and the passenger seat swivels so it can be used as a seat with a table for a workspace or eating.
  • Enough room for gear - yes, the bed is on hydraulics and there is plenty of cargo room underneath, with a cargo slide to easily reach things and optional mounts for things like bikes. There are also optional hanging cabinets that hook into the ceiling T-track and optional trailer hitch accessories such as bike racks.
  • Reasonable gas mileage - yes, 14 to 18 mpg and some people report low 20s.
  • Reasonable cost - yes, prices range from $48,000 to $88,800 (depending on chosen options, includes van and conversion).
  • Lots of windows - yes, it’s a Ford Transit passenger van (not cargo van).
  • Reasonable engine power - yes.
  • Batteries with solar charging to boondock for several days - yes, 340 Watt solar panels with 300 Amp Hour battery bank with inverter.
  • Ability to plug into shore power - yes, and inverter will charge batteries from shore power, solar, or from van engine.
  • Good engine and chassis repair options and costs - yes, it’s a Ford Transit.
  • Awning - yes, choice of 8 ft. manual canopy or 10 ft. motorized awning.
  • Well insulated - yes, with an option to add an extra layer of insulation.
  • Small water heater - yes, on-demand water heater with holding tank.
  • Insulated, blackout window shades - yes, with or without pockets.
  • Full spare tire - yes.

It seemed like a VanDOit van was the answer to our prayers!

Alan Kline spent a couple of hours with us at the Sportsman Expo showing us around the van and answering all of our questions. In addition to having everything we wanted, the VanDOit van was very versatile. The bed could be moved up and down. There was T-track everywhere so things can be moved around, such as the hanging cabinets, TV, or bike mounts. The passenger seats (a two-person bench and a three-person bench) are easily moved or removed so the van could be easily configured to accommodate two, four, five, or seven adults. The kitchen pod can easily be removed when not needed, such as when we are using it around town at home.

We realized almost right away that this was the right van for us. The icing on the cake was that almost all of the features of the van are optional and can be added later. That helps us postpone some options to help us out financially. So we started working out the details for placing an order for a van that day. In less than a month, we had our van build order placed.

The Great Camper Van Debate was over. Now we are just waiting anxiously for the van to be built so we can travel in style!

If you want to see what options we ordered, check out the About Our Van page on our website.

(RB)