My wife and I have a 159“ high roof promaster 2500 on order, planning to convert into a camper for travel and boondocking. I’m calling it MVC the ”minimum viable camper" for now, because the goal is to get something usable as quickly as possible, then keep improving it over time. Ideally something we can take on a trip without much planning/forethought/reconstruction, but we’ll see.
I’ve been lurking/reading forums and blogs for a long time (probably too long) - first link I have saved is the Heat Loss Calculator
from GaryBIS back in early 2015. I’ve got some experience with house building/renovation, plumbing and electrical, but the vehicle thing is all new. It’s also an excuse to try building some things using new tools (CNC, waterjet, milling machine, CNC, waterjet) that I now have access to. The trick will be to turn my dreams into plans and then into reality!
We currently camp/hike/bike out of a Honda Fit, and have successfully carried 2 bikes + camping gear for 2 weeks in it (without exterior racks!), but my wife is having more difficulty sleeping on the ground, and needs a CPAP at night, so we need something more than a tent. We want something that is reasonable to drive up fire roads in National Forest/BLM land, since we enjoy dispersed camping/boondocking.
We’ve rented a variety of options for upsizing, including:
- a Sprinter-based class C RV with slider (palatial, but challenging for dispersed camping, terrible gas mileage, terrible construction quality)
- a T1N Sprinter-based Roadtrek (nice, easy to drive, rotating front seats are great, too much space used for wet bath, third seat, mediocre construction quality for the price)
- a Grand Caravan outfitted for camping with a bed and small kitchen in the back (too much setup/teardown, not usable in inclement weather)
Our end goal is something usable as a biking/hiking base camp, viable for use in inclement weather for two. This includes interior space for:
- comfortable bed
- cooking and eating space
comfortable space for computer work x2 (photo processing, occasional remote work)
Now, our definition of “minimum viable” is certainly different from others, but we’ll be starting from an empty shell, and want at least the floor in fairly quickly. The bed will be a pretty close second, followed by ventilation.
We are living in Northern California at the moment, so weather when we’re camping is usually pretty moderate, but we miss cross-country skiing, and will likely move back to Canada at some point. That means for today planning for moderate-high temperatures, but being able to use the van (and stay in it) below 0C / 32F is a goal.
After driving the three main options (Sprinter, Transit, Promaster), we decided on a Promaster and placed a factory order. Key deciding factors:
- ease of driving (my wife was OK with the Sprinter but didn’t like how the 148" Transit drove)
- front wheel drive means lower cargo area, lower roof for equivalent internal height
- talking to people using the Promaster in winter, the front wheel drive is reasonable in snow
- availability of service (compared to Sprinter)
- cost (compared to Sprinter)
- I like the idea of improved fuel economy with diesel, but increased fuel costs, complex emission control and lack of availability when we ordered led to a gas engine. We decided to factory order primarily to get the swivel seats, upfitter switches and heavy duty alternator. A wife requirement was also not-white color, making a factory order pretty much mandatory.
Van should be delivered to the dealer in mid-September, so if all goes well we’ll start the build from there.