what kind of camper?

[note:  I chose the Promaster.  I am leaving this page up in case it helps others]

This is the main problem I am wrestling with now.  The financial stuff is on track, my plan is in place but so many things hang on the choice of platform.

My requirements in order of importance:

  1. able to run off grid with solar and propane – dry camping/boondocking.  Need huge room for big PV (solar panel) install.
  2. 1996+ due to presence of OBDii.
  3. FI due to snowbirding altitude changes and MPG advantages
  4. able to lie down at 6′, preferably not at a diagonal
  5. be able to stand up at 6′ in at least one location
  6. location for composting/dessicating toilet

Would like to have:

  • fiberglass roof (for trailers and class C)
  • cabover bed
  • hot water.  Dump load or solar heating would be a nice plus!
  • maneuverability – drive easily and park normally
  • stove with vent hood
  • pre-existing hookups and vents
  • receiver hitch
  • minimal shower in wet bathroom.  Aisle shower if I must.
  • stealth
  • no cabover front window

The shortlist, in current favorite order

High roof Eurovan

imagesIn order of preference:

  1. Promaster due to width, rack mounting, and no-frills nature.
  2. Transit – due to wider serviceability.
  3. Maybe an NV if one drops into my lap at an irresistible price.

I love, love, love the idea of the AMT (automated manual transmission) in the Promaster diesel but the diesels are so strangled these days.

used Class B

small Class C or B+

Something like a Thor/Four Winds Chateau 19G seems perfect.  A Sunseeker 2300, Coachmen RV Leprechaun 190CB, Coachman Freelander 19, or Minnie Winnie 22R would be good if I wanted a corner bed (I don’t think I do).

Pro: Stand up room.  Roomy.  Inexpensive used.

Con: Generally poor build quality.  Poor maneuverability.  Worst stealth.  Lots of pseudoluxury crap.  Problematic roof for big solar grid.  Terrible MPG.

Needed modifications: better converter. Solar.

4×4 with small trailer

image-1I’ve always wanted a Toyota Tacoma, one of the early 2000s small ones before they got huge and mutated.  I could do that with this scenario, or some other 4×4 pickup or SUV like Xterra, 4runner, suburban, etc.

A good scenario for this might be to put a camper on the truck and use the bed to carry fresh water and house batteries.  Run a long rack (outside the shell if so equipped) and cover with solar.

download-2This setup would require a heavy cable like a shore power cord to tie it to trailer.

Could live minimally in tow vehicle (TV) while shopping for trailer. This would allow a staged approach:

  1. buy truck
  2. buy camper and rack
  3. build minimal living quarters (bed, lights, fan)
  4. install solar, batteries, water
  5. buy 300# carry rack for receiver hitch
  6. go mobile
  7. find scooter at leisure, carry on receiver rack
  8. find trailer with rack at leisure, move scooter to trailer rack and store receiver rack in TV bed


The a-frame trailers I could find with a small rack are:

Pro:  4×4 truck, separable for city runs, recons, etc.  Serviceable by any mechanic.  Lower overall height than stand-up vans so could be put on lift in the shop.  Long rack could carry massive solar and other items.

Con: trailer theft when separated.  Unable to pass between trailer and truck.

Needed modifications: everything

The longer list of possibilities

DIY high roof cargo van

Pro: second-to-least expense, easiest to source.  Can set it up how I like. Good stealth.

Con: high roof hard to find.  solar mounting may be a problem over the high roof.

Needed modifications:  Everything.

Class B

If I could find a clean Class B that checked all my boxes (and I had the $$$) I’d do it.  Heck, I’d probably pull the trigger now and start boondocking while I still have fulltime employment.ClassB

Pro: Can be driven and parked normally.  Relative stealth.  Good MPG.  Better construction than other retail RVs.  Hookups and vents.  Better looking.  Fits my general approach.  Needs little modification.

Con: $$$ and most rare.  Usually have aisle showers. Boo!

Needed modifications: better charger from shore power. Solar.

Step Van

A bread truck / UPS van would be epic.  Unfortunately there are at least two factors that limit availability:  people converting them to food trucks and people selling the aluminum bodies for scrap.  🙁mWtQKE3bXutHQvTw8mTOP4A

Pro: large, angular space amendable to RV mods.  Massive roof area for PV.  4bt and 6b engines renknowned for MPG and reliability.  Large but relatively stealthy because people see them regularly.  Big pass-through.

Con: increasingly hard to source for a decent price.  Slow (not a problem for me), homely (again, not a problem).  4bt engine expensive to get serviced if it does fail.  Diesel availability.

Needed modifications:  Everything.

Box Van

boxvanHeavier-duty than I would like but shares many traits of the step van.  Must have pass-through from cab to box;  this rules out Isuzus and others with separate cab.

Pro: as with step-van only, except the pass-through is a little duckable port rather than a walk-through.  Space underneath for hanging tanks.

Con: terrible MPG.  Very tall both externally and internally.

Needed modifications:  Everything.

truck + slide-in trailer

Pro: Stand up room.  Roomy.  Inexpensive used.  Can park camper with effort and use truck as driver.

Con:Poor build quality.  Poor maneuverability.  Worst stealth. Can’t get from cab to house area.

Needed modifications: better charger from shore power. Solar.

DIY cargo van (normal roof)

extendedPro:  Easy to source.  Best stealth. Good expanse for solar installation.

Con: normal roof limits interior vertical space.

Needed modifications:  Everything.

DIY Conversion van

Pro:  Easy to source.  Good stealth. chevrolet-chevyvan-20-conversion-van-08

Con: raised roof not very high.  Likely poorly insulated. 

Needed modifications:  Everything.

truck + travel trailer

Pro: Stand up room.  Roomy.  Inexpensive used. Can leave trailer and use truck as driver.

Con:Poor build quality.  Poor maneuverability.  Worst stealth.  Can’t get from cab to house area.  Need $$$ truck.

Needed modifications: better charger from shore power. Solar.

Checked out in person

  • Aliner
    • Aline Ranger 12 – surprising amount of headroom in main/center area.  Easy to set up.  Won’t use the optional AC or trick exterior but offroad package might be good.  Outside shower.  Would sleep on made-up sofa and use extra space for Nature’s Head composting toilet.
  • Forest River Wildwood
    • 195BH – A little long at 21.5′.  Good fresh water tank at 28gal.  Bunks are sufficient;  would use bed area for something else.  Several inches of headroom (6′ 6″ maybe?).  Dry bath with good shower.
  • Jayco Jay Flight

Interested in

  • Aliner
    • Expedition – more interior space although getting long at 18′
    • Ranger 15 – Bigger with spot for optional toilet.  Would mount the Nature’s Head there.   3′ longer than the 12.