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Camper-Van 101

6521 Views 10 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  DrJean
Good evening,
Let me start by saying I'm completely new to the camper-van concept. My family and I lived in Hood River, OR for five years where I fell in love with the idea of having a van, tossing gear and family in, and enjoying what it can offer. I ended up buying a passenger Sprinter van which worked out great but had to sell it to buy my wife a new vehicle. I'm sure most folks on this site are aware of: outside The owner lived in HR where I would see all these customized rigs down the street where I wondered when there would be a day in which I could have something at that level. Once I was hooked, it felt like everywhere I looked around there was another converted van by the water or at the trail head. Fast forward a few years and we moved to Denver where I bought a 10 passenger, 2015, MR, 130, XLT, EB, with LSD. It was my attempt to get back in the 'game'. Since then, we have had two more kids (twins) and now our oldest is a toddler. With the twins, we moved to the DFW area to get some family support while the kiddos are still young but I still have this desire to do something with this van other then the basic back and forth. When I lived in CO and OR, there was always a dream to get them converted to 4x4 but now living in TX...I'm thinking that might not required at this time and plus, I don't know if Quad-Van, Sportsmobile, or Quigley even do a 4x4 conversion on a 130 size rig. With all my friends having 5th-wheel or RV's, I'm now trying to decide which short putts can enhance our tent camping style and take it one level up. I would love one day to have a more converted set-up but I think that is down the road at this point. So after that long winded introduction, here is what I'm hoping to get your thoughts on: Towing camper vs roof rack/pop up tent. I recently came across a few companies that make pretty cool and capable teardrop 'off-road' or something that can at least hit a gravel road which has a few kitchen related items on the back side, sleeps a few folks in, and then can add an awning and fold out tent on the roof. I believe it would sleep our five family members and also to tuck away in the garage when not in use. I will say that the ones that caught my are approx 18k which is cheaper then a RV/5th wheel but at the same time...not loose change. Then I start looking at the Aluminess roof-rack with the light bar on the front end. I like the look of those with the ladder going up. Figured I could possibly toss a motorized pop-up tent if it fits within the width of the rack. I also thought there might be enough room between the front of the tent and the front of the roof rack in which I could install a solar panel so if the kids are in the mood to skip rocks or widdle wood by the fire, I could turn on a tv or run power to some degree without running the van. But I don't know if they make those racks on a 130 either. Pros to this...I everything is attached to the van, no towing something around town, and cheaper. Obviously it doesn't include all the accessories as the teardrop would offer but it might be more of a step into this space then going right to a trailer option.

I apologize for the length but I'm really struggling to select which option makes the most sense for both getting into this space but also in an affordable manner. I would love to get your thoughts if you have an opportunity to respond. This is a great site and I have learned a ton.

Thanks everyone.

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You have lines to color inside of, which simplifies things. Others are still trying to weigh the Pros and Cons of which wheelbase and height van to get!

A 130 MR isn't very big, and I certainly wouldn't want to try to sleep more than 2-3 people in one (or in a 148). Trailers are a good extension, but require licensing and insuring, and limit your mobility some. BUT, depending on your situation, can serve multiple purposes. We have friends who have a small restored vintage trailer that serves as a "guest house" when they have company, or as a quiet secluded den for reading.
A good tent, maybe one that attaches to the van, might be a good choice. An awning, maybe the Batwing style that covers side and rear, would extend the usable space of the van when camping, leaving the van itself as a bedroom. It takes longer to set up a camp with a tent and outdoor kitchen etc, much longer than just opening the door to the trailer, but is modular, cheaper and easier to store. I've found that setting up camp is fun for the kids, they look forward to that almost as much as anything else on a camping trip.
I've seen some builds that basically turn the van into a teardrop layout, with the kitchen accessed via opening the rear doors. This can easily be accomplished with a mobile kitchen setup that you put in the rear of the van just for camping trips. You'd probably want that batwing awning if you did this. Sleeping platform for the bed could be on top of the kitchen cabinet.
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If I am not mistaken, XL and XLT are trim levels, and are not respective of wheelbase or height. For some desired options, you MUST also spec XLT trim level to "unlock" access to those options.
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