Campervan Conversion: Choosing Your Camper

Part I: How to choose the perfect camper for your conversion, or one that doesn’t need converting!

This is the first in a series about our own campervan conversion. We’ll talk about the reasons we made the choices we did, pros and cons of decisions, and hopefully provide some advice for your own adventure!

The first step in our full-time traveling adventures was to pick our vehicle. Across a few months we did in-depth research into each one, talked to the companies that had them, and also kept in mind what we wanted our camper for. So that leads us to our first topic.


What kind of lifestyle will you lead in your camper?

If you can work out the details of this, that will have a major impact going forward.

Do you have pets? We have two cats, Danaerys and Gamora, and it was important to us to pick a camper that will have plenty of room for them.

What are your hobbies? While we love traveling and exploring, we are also artists and writers. Not to mention avid D&D players! So it was important to us to have usable space inside for these activities.

How are you making income? Are you all saved up and don’t need to work, or will you work remotely via your computer? Perhaps you plan to sell things out of the camper? Whatever your plan, make sure you have the space and flexibility to do so. We work freelance through our computer, in addition to leading our own digital business.

Where do you plan to park? If you want to do heavy off-roading, you’ll need a vehicle fit for that. If you plan to stay at RV parks and take advantage of their resources, you’ll need a vehicle for that. And if you plan to mainly stay to roads, gravel or asphalt, then you have more flexibility in your choices.

Are you more adventurous or prefer to “glamp”? The type of comfort you require will impact what kind of camper you need.


The choices in campers.

Here is a list of all the choices we considered for our camper.

  • An RV
  • A Van We Would Convert Ourselves
  • A Camper Shell on a Truck Bed
  • Back of Jeep Living
  • Jeep Roof Tent Living

Let’s take a look into what we learned for each, and the pros and cons.


An RV

Our first thought was to buy an RV and live in that. We went to Camper World in Colorado Springs and took a tour of many of their RV’s. Honestly, we really liked them. And for a full month we were sold on that being our choice. But there were a handful of reasons we did not go with an RV.

ProsCons
Already converted for usThe layout isn’t customized to our lifestyle
Already has utilities Expensive
Comfortable living Limits on where you can drive and park it

Ultimately we decided not to go with the RV. We did like that it was already set up for us. But there were items within that didn’t suit our own lifestyle (like a booth or singular sofa). They were also more expensive then we wanted, and we wanted more freedom on where to drive them.


A Camper Shell on a Truck Bed

We also became fascinated by a camper shell we would mount onto the back of a truck bed. That would require us to a buy a truck, but we were okay with that. We visited some websites that provide them, and was in contact for awhile with a salesperson. We also really liked the fact that one company provided empty shells.

ProsCons
Less expensive than an RVNeed a truck to use it
Most are customizable Smaller space for living
More flexibility in where you drive and park The camper and driving area are separate

We decided not to go with the camper shell. The main reason was that we didn’t like the idea of having to get out of the truck to then go to the camper. It would mean our cats were separate from us. And it also meant if there was some kind of emergency it would be harder to go back and forth between the two.


Back of Jeep Living

We had our own Wrangler and we loved it. We called it our Raven. But it was only two door, which meant there frankly wasn’t enough space in the back. We would need a bigger Jeep. So went to a dealership and looked at them, and talked about the pros and cons.

ProsCons
Great for an adventurous lifestyle Not really as affordable as you would hope
Easy to drive and park anywhere A very small living space
They are built for outdoor needsYou can’t stand up inside

We definitely love Jeeps and liked how much easier they would making off-roading. However, we worried about good space for our cats as well as our hobbies. We also would not be able to stand up in it, which felt like a very cramped way to live.

Our Raven

Jeep Roof Tent Living

Given how much we loved our Jeep, we also discussed the possibility of installing a roof tent and living that way. It was an earlier thought of ours, and we did a great deal of research into what we would need and the cost. It’s worth noting you don’t have to have a Jeep for this. But as we already had one, we didn’t need to worry about buying a new vehicle.

ProsCons
Much more affordable Very rough living
Easy to drive and park anywhere Not a lot of privacy
Super adventurous way of travel Has to have set up and take down time

While we were enamored by the simplicity of this, as well as the adventure, we decided not to. It wasn’t ideal for our cats, and we didn’t like the idea of constantly feeling exposed to everything and everyone around.


A Van We Would Convert Ourselves

This was the final idea we landed on and the one that scared us the most. We aren’t builders. How would we even start? We would lose our Jeep. But we looked at three different dealerships and online, and this ended up being our choice.

ProsCons
Affordable (depending on model)You have to convert it yourself
Great living space and flexibility Not the best for rugged off-roading
You can stand up in itN/A

We found one Ford cargo van that was $62K, which seemed overpriced to us. The Ram cargo van was not in stock when we went to see it (even though it was listed on their website as at the dealership . . . ). Our final stop of that day was Nissan. At less than $40K, it was ideal for what we needed. We could stand in it, we could have privacy, and we had plenty of room to work with and customize to our own needs.

Yes, there are some cons. We had never converted or really built anything from scratch before. And we new there would be some limit to where we could take it. You can’t off-road it like a Jeep. And it is frankly to tall for drive-thrus (this is probably a good thing). But it handles well, its ride is smooth, and it is just the kind of space we want.

We went with the Nissan NV2500 high top, 2021 model.


Our next post will be discussing how we did our walls and floors. Sneak peek: we did not do the same thing as many of those conversion photos you see! Hopefully it can help you see alternatives, as well.

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