#VanLife first invaded your Instagram, and now with the pandemic in full force, interest has exponentially grown in RVs as people search for viable ways to enjoy summer vacation. Scrolling through social media displays a healthy and increasing level of interest in adventure vans, ranging from DYI builds to full, no-holds-barred creations from professional conversion shops. The best 4X4 camper vans are easier to drive and open up more potential destinations for the adventurous traveler compared to other recreational vehicles.
Whether you are looking to emulate builds of 4-wheel-drive camper vans you spied on your social feed, are searching endlessly for the deal you canâ€™t turn down on a used model, or are looking to buy your dream adventure vehicle fresh off the production floor, take a look at our potential list for the best 4Ă—4 camper van.
Built on a Ford Transit AWD Passenger Van or Quigley 4WD chassis, what sets the Van Do It Do model apart is the internal aluminum skeleton grid and the resultant modularity. Passenger seats, with factory anchoring and seat belts, can be added or removed, along with Murphy style beds, a kitchen pod, shelving, water and Espar heater, TV, and other options.
The Van Do It modular system also allows â€śa la carteâ€ť ordering. Customers can add whatever available features they wish, allowing for a high degree of customization without the usual associated costs. Anything from solar panels to toilets can be specified to suit individual needs and budgets.
Another characteristic of Van Do It 4Ă—4 camper vans is their use of used Transit vans. The parent company is a van rental company, based nearby in Missouri. Van Do It sources low mileage vans from the rental fleet, and the vans still carry the Ford factory warranty. This method saves a significant amount of money compared to converting a new vehicle.
Van Do It conversions may not be the best 4Ă—4 camper van for those seeking high-end interior aesthetics and luxuries. For flexibility, however, their modular system is hard to beat!
Using a Quigley converted Transit yields impressive 4WD capabilities. The other option is an AWD Transit from the factory, but no low range is available on this option. And engine choices depend on available inventory but include a 3.7-liter normally aspirated V6 and the twin-turbo EcoBoost V6.
Van Do It 4Ă—4 camper vans cost anywhere from $48,800 t0 $108,800 for the 4Ă—4 or AWD van and complete conversion. For more information, go to vandoit.com.
Just looking at a Sportsmobile Classic 4Ă—4 instills confidence for traveling to remote, off-grid destinations where other camper vans dare not tread. And the brandâ€™s deep history in adventure vans (since 1961) adds assurance.
Starting with a Ford E-350 Cutaway body, Sportsmobile drops a steel reinforced fiberglass shell with an integrated penthouse pop-top on to the frame. Every creature comfort is available; cabinetry, kitchen, refrigerator, toilet, water, and air heater, solar, and other options are all available. Full custom floor plans are also an option. Engine choices include the 6.8-liter Triton V-10 or the 6.2 liters Triton V8, but sadly there are currently no diesel options.
But the Classic 4Ă—4 is so much more than a home on wheels. The driveline and suspension have immense off-road prowess. An Advance Adapter Atlas II gear-driven transfer case, Dynatrac Pro-Roc 60 front Axle, and a Dana 60 rear axle are just the starters. A high knuckle front end, heavy-duty steering arm, horizontal drag link, and a Spicer 1350 one-ton rated driveline add more capability. Finally, reverse shackle leaf springs, a front sway bar with quick disconnects, brake rotors from the F550, and partial military wrap springs prove the Classic 4Ă—4 isnâ€™t just for looks. Sportsmobile offers the choice of open, limited-slip, or locking differentials to suit every off-roaderâ€™s preference. Even the finish means business â€“ Sportsmobile paints the Classic 4Ă—4 with Line-X.
Sportsmobileâ€™s no-holds-barred conversion results in one of the most capable four-wheel-drive camper vans in existence. The 16.5-inches of ground clearance, 44-degree approach angle, and 10,000-pound towing capacity puts the Classic 4Ă—4 in rare company.
Sportsmobile has locations in Fresno, CA, Huntington, IN, and Austin, TX. The Classic 4Ă—4 camper van starts at $150,000. See more at sportsmobile.com.
Oasis, of Lafayette, CO, specializes in building camper vans from minivans, and the Colorado company offers conversions based on the AWD Toyota Sienna and its legendary reliability. Toyota minivans routinely log hundreds of thousands of miles.
The bulk of the interior houses a living area, complete with Lagun table, 12 cubic feet of drawer space, hardwood laminate floors, and a foldable chair that converts to part of a full-size bed, suitable for two.
The rear of the minivan houses a complete kitchen galley with sink, running water, drawers, shelves, and a sizeable countertop. A fold-up table and on some models, a slide out powered cooler drawer rounds out the kitchen that makes the most out of the least. Finally, curtains all around offer privacy.
Cabinets are constructed from oak or baltic birch plywood and finished with water-based polyurethane. Oasis conversion owners can remove the camper van interior and return it to the original seating configuration with ease.
Oasis can make minor design changes free of charge, while significant omissions or additions incur a discount or added fee. It will cost you at least $8,500 for a full conversion. For more information, go to oasiscampervans.com.
Famed RV manufacturer Winnebago utilizes the Mercedes Sprinter 4Ă—4 and its 3-liter turbo-diesel powerplant as the base for its first off-road adventure vehicle.
The well-appointed and modern looking interior boasts a 79â€ł by 49â€ł bed on a power lift at the rear of the van with garage space below. Bump outs where the windows usually reside allows for laying across the width of the vehicle. A powered roof vent ventilates the area.
A wet bath, full kitchen with a single induction burner, removable pedestal table, above-cab shelving, refrigerator, pantry, and drawers fill the rest of the interior. A non-skid vinyl flooring makes clean up easy.
A 21-gallon grey water tank handles wastewater from the wet bath and kitchen. Winnebago opted for a 5-gallon cassette toilet for ease of dumping and water conservation. Another nod to saving water is a momentary switch that must be activated to drain the kitchen sink. All the water lines are inside to prevent freezing.
An on-demand water heater and Espar diesel air heater keep things warm, while a 2.5 cubic-foot refrigerator keeps things cold. A 13,500 BTU air conditioner is an available option. Solar panels keep the two lithium-ion batteries charged off-grid.
An exterior ladder is usable on both the rear and driver side of the van. The running boards and powered awning have lighting.
Other thoughtful features include a powered vent designed to dry gear, removable storage shelving in the wet bath, an outside shower outlet, bug netting with magnetic auto closures, and an outdoor fold-out table.
The Mercedes Sprinter 4Ă—4 system is capable and offers a low range as an option. Winnebago chose the short-wheelbase chassis for the best ground clearance. They also rerouted the exhaust to improve the exit angle.
The Revel 4Ă—4 starts at $174,906. Visit a dealer near you or go to winnebago.com for more information.
The Storyteller Overland Mode 4Ă—4 boasts the capable foundation of the 4WD 144â€ł Mercedes Sprinter, but the incredible efficiency of the interior is what sets this adventure van apart from the rest.
The Alabama based brandâ€™s intelligent design starts with the two-seater GrooveLounge passenger seat, which provides proper three-point harnesses. The seat even folds out into a bed suitable for one adult or two children. Rearward, the DreamWeaver sleep platform resides in Flarespaces that allow adults up to 6â€™5â€ł to sleep across the width of the van, saving precious length. The platform also folds longitudinally in sections, converting to a workbench and making space for taller gear.
Then there is the ingenious FlexSpace. It looks and functions as a floor-mounted storage trunk suitable for camp seating, but it also acts as the shower pan and is completed with a shower curtain and overhead shower system. Finally, this triple purpose space serves as a tailgating cooler.
The Mode 4Ă—4 has a proper kitchen galley with a single induction burner, sink, fridge, and outdoor table. A portable toilet, microwave, powered and lighted ten-foot awning,Â lithium-ion batteries, extruded aluminum roof rack with ladder, Lagun swing arm table, and low profile AC complete the package.
Prices vary across a dealership network. Find out more at storytelleroverland.com.
Oregon-based Outside Van has been creating fully custom adventure rigs since 2007. It is currently fulfilling dreams on Mercedes Sprinter and Ford Transit chassis, including 4WD versions.
Each custom build begins with its Premium Interior package, which includes insulation, sound damping, infrastructure, wall, ceiling, floor, and lighting. From there, inspiring vanlifers can choose from an extensive array of options to complete the vehicle of their dreams.
Every system in the van has a menu to choose from â€“ the customer can create the power system, water system, lighting array, heating, and cooling systems, and adorn the exterior with any accessories desired. The floor plan can be created and executed to match lifestyle, activities, the number of occupants, and interior decorating tastes.
Each Outside Van is genuinely an expression of the customerâ€™s vision. The sky is the limit, with in house woodworkers, metal workers, upholstery professionals, engineers, and design gurus ready to bring these visions to life.
The Outside Van full custom program begins with the Premium Interior Package at $23,000 for the conversion. See for outsidevan.com more information.
The VW Type 2 bus of the 1960s â€“ the first adventure van? Quite possibly. My first car camping memories were from a Westfalia camper bus during the 70s. I can still remember the curtains and how they felt in my hands and how cool I thought it was that there was a kitchen galley of sorts inside a vehicle.
1980 heralded in a new â€śbus,â€ť with a new name: Vanagon. In 1986, VW flexed its 4WD experience (going back to 1899) with a Syncro all-wheel-drive system in the Vanagon. The system utilized a viscous coupling to delivered power continuously and unnoticeably to the front wheels when the system detected rear wheelspin. This system was cutting edge technology at the time.
But the power was limited; 95 hp and 117 lb-ft of torque meant patience was a necessity. But maybe for some, forced, slow meandering down two-track was part of the allure.
The interior of the â€śCamperâ€ť version of the Vanagan Syncro housed an integrated kitchen with a three-way refrigerator, a two-burner stove, and a stainless steel sink with onboard water. The â€śWeekenderâ€ť version featured two rear-facing seats in the passenger area and a folding table that folded against the interior wall when not in use.
Owning one of these ground-breaking AWD camper vans would require administering constant TLC, but the immense feeling of nostalgia cannot be denied.
Mitsubishi offered the Delica Space Gear L400 from 1994 to 2006. This quirky van appeals to Japanese Domestic Market fans and DYI tinkerers as a base for a purpose-built 4WD camper van. Earlier, boxier versions proved off-road capable, but the L400 ushered in modern performance enhancements. Â Disc brakes and rear coil springs aided handling while more powerful gas and diesel engines (nine versions) doubled the available horsepower. The most popular powerplants were the 2.8-liter turbo diesel (140 hp, 232 lb. ft. torque) and a 3.0-liter gasoline V6 (185 hp, 195 lb. ft torque).
The L400 inherited the off-road prowess of the L300. Delica vans, with their high ground clearance, adequate approach and departure angles, true transfer cases, and available limited-slip differentials, can tread in areas other vans fear. The newer L400 added the option of an improved Super Select transfer case. This offered all the usual driving modes, plus a high and low 4WD through its locked center differential.
The standout feature of this particular Delica, which makes it an adequate camper van in stock form, is the seatingâ€™s amazing transformative ability. The middle two captainâ€™s chairs slide forwards and backward on tracks, pivot 180 degrees, and retract to fold up against the front two captainâ€™s chairs. The rear two-piece bench seat reclines, then folds up flat against the sides of the vehicle. And if that werenâ€™t enough for you to call this a camper van, every seat folds flat for sleeping.
Additionally, the rear windows open for venting, and some models have motorized curtains. The Mitsubishi Delica Space Gear 400 is ready for camping, just add car camping essentials. But itâ€™s also a great platform to build a camper van for those inclined to keep and maintain this JDM gem.
Cost varies, and only vans 25 years or older are importable to the US. More on Delicas here.
Toyota produced the fourth generation HiAce from 1989 to 2004. Making it a great starting place for a DYI campervan for the Japanese Domestic Market tinkerer. Available powerplants included 2.4 to 3.0-liter diesel or a 2.0 to 3.4-liter gasoline versions. Â Toyota offered two wheelbase lengths, as well as high roof versions. Both part-time and full-time 4WD was available.
The HiAce models of this generation featured many shared parts with the Toyota Hilux pickup and 4Runner of the same era. This sharing of parts dramatically expands the list of available parts for retrofitting and upgrades popular for 4WD upfitting. Limited-slip or locking rear differentials are examples of options capable of crossing over to the HiAce in the hands of capable hobbyists or conversion shops.
Toyota is renowned for reliability, and the HiAce inherited that attribute and perception, making it a highly sought-after starting point for smaller camper vans as well as specialty conversion shops for Japanese Domestic Market imports.
Cost varies, and only vans 25 years or older are importable to the US.
Ah, the â€ślowlyâ€ť Chevy Astro van (and GMC Safari). It is the first American minivan, and GM produced them from 1985 to 2005. They built 3.2 million units, and plenty still roam the streets and fill Craigslist pages. And staring in 1990, AWD was offered, making the Chevy Astro (or GMC Safari) an inexpensive platform for an off-road capable camper van.
A quick perusal of the internet reveals inexpensive ways to improve the primary platform. Kits to swap in an S10 transfer case for real 4WD with high and low, suspension lift kits, pop-tops, and prefabricated kitchen and sleeping platform kits are all available. You can endlessly peruse images and videos of DYI and professional builds, from the most basic to the outlandish.
And with prices that are hard to beat for a used AWD van (a quick search revealed some less than $4,000), itâ€™s not surprising that the Chevy Astro and GMC Safari have an almost cultish following for DYI camper van aficionados.
This broad collection of the best 4Ă—4 camper vans isnâ€™t close to being an exhaustive list. Itâ€™s an excellent place to start for both inspiration and guidance, however. A 4Ă—4 adventure vehicle should satisfy the expected needs for the type of camping you are most likely to do. Some donâ€™t need running hot water, while to others itâ€™s a must. In the end, itâ€™s all about your personal priorities. After deciding which features are must-haves, the only limiting factors are the available space in a van and your budget. But beyond that, the only limitations are imagination and creativity.
Our hope is this article inspires you to take the first steps that lead you to experience the road less traveled on your terms. The #VanLife is the good life. One of these best 4Ă—4 camper vans might just be your ticket to adventure!
(Lead Image By: @PeterHolcombe)