The wacky world of camper conversions

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Camper Van

Some people don't like tents, hotels or RVs, and for exactly that sort there are camper conversions. Photo Credit: Helena/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-SA

Hotels and recreational vehicles are expensive, not to mention bulky, and tents are not always the most accommodating. To that end, a number of DIY enthusiasts and plenty of companies do camper conversions, making everyday vehicles into a living space.

No stakes or sleeping bags needed

Camping is one of the most common forms of recreation. However, sleeping on the ground in a tent is not always pleasant and not everyone wants to get an RV. Many are serious gas hogs, expensive and just sit most of the year. There are also a number of travel trailers available, though just like an RV, it just sits there most of the year and one needs a truck to haul it if they don’t have one.

How, then, about a vehicle that can be used to camp, go on road trips and be used as a daily driver? As it turns out, a fair number of companies do camper conversions professionally and a healthy contingent of DIY enthusiasts exist.

Swank vans to take down by the river

Camper conversions come in several varieties. Some companies will convert a vehicle using a truck or van the customer donates; some get an entirely new vehicle from the manufacturer and modify it extensively. The latter is most common.

For instance, a company called Sportsmobile has been doing camper van conversions for more than 50 years. Sportsmobile converts full-size Ford, Chevrolet, Nissan and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans into an RV. The company uses new vans and installs things like beds, a kitchenette and an upward extending roof. Some models have showers. However, they aren’t cheap. Including the cost of a brand new van with options, along with the conversion, a Sportsmobile van costs $60,000 or more.

[Now is a great time for auto loans]

That is the low end of the spectrum. Global Expedition Vehicles, according to Popular Mechanics, sells a camper conversion using a Freightliner semi-truck, called the Patagonia, which costs $500,000. Granted, the vehicle is geared for journeys well away from civilization rather than road trips, though with considerable luxury; it comes with marble floors. The company does make less costly models, though.


There are also ways for one to turn a vehicle of their choice into a camper. Essentially, all it takes is getting the appropriate vehicle and a little ingenuity. A used ambulance or full-size van is an obvious choice; there are numerous websites and blogs like and that describe how people have done it and give tips and insights to anyone aspiring to do likewise.

There are also people who take things a step or two further. According to Popular Mechanics, some people buy old military cargo trucks and build living quarters on the back of them. The trucks can be bought for as little as $4,000. They are quite large, thirsty for diesel, but perfect for converting into a camper.

Of course, one can always just throw a canopy on the back of a pickup and put a mattress back there.


Popular Mechanics


Global Expedition Vehicles



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