2020 was fraught with issues and people all around the UK, and the world, for the matter, found themselves locked away in their homes with nothing but TikTok (come on, you must have heard of it by now!) for company. But 2021 has seen the world begin to return to normal and this means getting away from it all and enjoying a little outdoor adventure.
If you’re not keen on the idea of buying a huge motor home but still want the freedom to travel and have accommodation all in one place then a small campervan could be the right choice for you. For newbies to this type of vehicle, it is important to get to grips with the different types of mini campers and what they can offer.
In our 2021 guide to the best small campervan, we will be looking at your and showing you how easy it can be to choose your new adventuremobile!
Why Choose A Compact Campervan?
For many years, avid caravanners would be trying to go bigger and better than their fellow outdoor lovers. This meant a huge rise in the sale of large RVs. But the modern camper wants convenience and a small campervan is the best way to achieve this.
There are many benefits to choosing a more compact camper. One of the most obvious being that you have much more freedom in terms of where you can travel. For more remote areas with restricted access, a large motorhome would surely struggle. You won’t face this problem in your mini campervan.
Not only does this make driving much easier but it also means that you will be able to explore locations that you otherwise may not have. Plus, thanks to their small size, they are ideal for single night stays or a weekend. If you want to spend your Saturday and Sunday exploring the country, these small vans will allow you to do this. Oh, and did we mention that the running costs are far lower as well?
Types Of Small Campervans
Now, so after putting off thoughts of camping in your car, you have decided to go for a small campervan, we’re delighted to tell you that your options are endless. Whether you are looking to purchase a brand new, top of the range model with removable fittings or fancy trying your hand at converting your existing van, there’s a lot to think about.
Let’s look at the most complex option first; converting your existing van. You will find that this is one of the most affordable options. Yes, you will have to put in more effort in terms of getting everything set up but the plus side of this is that you will be able to create a bespoke van that perfectly suits your needs.
Converting a van is a great choice for couples and there are a lot of small vans out there which might be suitable for this type of project. The Vauxhall Vivaro is a medium sized van that is perfect for conversion and offers enough space to install a decent sized kitchen as well as sleeping space.
However, if you wanted something a little larger, then the Mercedes Sprinter is a good choice. This is on the extreme end of what you might call a small campervan but is ideal if you are travelling as a family. These are also incredibly robust vans that are great if you want to get off the beaten track.
Converting your van can be done within a few weeks if you really dedicate yourself to the project. But most importantly, you’ll need to take the time to plan what you are going to do. It is crucial to set a budget and stick to this as best as you can but you’ll also need to make decisions on what you’d like in the van. At the very least, you’ll need cooking facilities and beds but some people also like to install seating areas and a toilet. Of course, the more you install, the more expensive the conversion will be.
Turning a panel van into a camper requires you to install windows and this should be the first thing you do. Next, you’ll need to make sure that there is a good ventilation system as this will ensure that moisture does not build up inside your camper. This is even more important if you are going to be fitting a bathroom.
But as well as ventilation, you’re going to need insulation so it is vital to get the balance right. A lot of people also choose to install soundproofing to make the camper’s interior a little more private.
For those of you that are fitting anything that requires water; sinks, toilets, and showers, for example, you will need space in the van to store water. You’re going to want separate storage for waste and fresh water, so it’s imperative to take this into account. Usually, these water storage tanks will be fitted underneath the van and can be operated using a 12 volt pump.
When it comes to installing any electric or gas components, we would strongly suggest hiring a professional. While this will incur additional costs, it is vital for your safety. Want to see something impressive, check out this converting a truck into a campervan.
It is then a case of installing furniture and fittings which is where you can let your creativity run wild. Of course, make sure that the van is practical but since this will be your home away from home, there is no harm in adding a little personal flair.
One more important point to consider when converting a van into a camper is that you should re-register the vehicle with the DVLA. This isn’t compulsory but it will afford you many advantages such as lower insurance and higher speed limits compared to other types of vans.
Buying Second Hand
The internet and local classified ads are littered with people selling second hand compact campervans. The price you will pay for one of these will vary dramatically according to the model of the van, its age, its condition and many other factors. But when buying second hand, you must be mindful and savvy to avoid being ripped off. While we don’t like to admit it, there are plenty of folks out there who will be willing to charge you over the odds for an unreliable van.
One of the most crucial things to do when choosing a second hand van is to go and see it in person. Ask if you can test drive it and be sure to get paper copies of its service history.
Furthermore, you will need to consider whether you are going to buy a ready converted small camper van or one that you can work on yourself. This will depend on the level of convenience you want and how quickly you want to get out on the road.
If you do choose a van that is already setup for use as a camper, it’s worth checking out what fittings are included. Each van will be completely different from the next and it’s also a good idea to consider what you want from the van. For example, how many people will be sleeping inside? Do you need toilet facilities? Do you want cooking facilities? These things usually come as standard but this isn’t always the case. Moreover, some of the more luxurious small campervans may have other amenities such as hot water, a fridge and a built in water tank.
Twin Door Small Campervans
We particularly like the Hembil Drift which not only has those all important double doors but is perfect for people who are just as passionate about food as they are camping. It comes with a swing out kitchen including a fridge. What’s more, with the rising roof, you benefit from even more space.
If you are going to be spending a longer period of time in your campervan then having twin doors is a great way to make it feel more spacious. Not only this, but you’ll find that the ventilation in the van is vastly improved with twin doors, especially in warm weather or when you’re cooking. For anyone who is taking a longer excursion, your twin doors can be used to make the space flow much more, blending the outdoors with the indoors.
Small Campervans With Bathrooms
One of the biggest inconveniences of some older camper vans was that they didn’t have a toilet. This meant that you would need to either use a public toilet or a portable one and neither of these options are as comfortable as using your own private bathroom.
The great news is that many modern camper vans come fitted with their own bathrooms and toilets. This is great for longer trips away and of course gives you that all important privacy and comfort. However, you should keep in mind that when choosing this option, your sleeping quarters will likely be smaller.
The Ford Transit Campervan is one of the most reliable vehicles out there and it has everything you’ll need for a convenient trip. The toilet is built into the back of the van so your living space is not massively eaten up, which we think is a huge bonus! The only real drawback is that everything is a little bit too compact and the bathroom sink is a fold down unit. That said, this is more than enough for a quick midnight visit to the lav when you’re on your latest adventure.
The Rising Roof Campervan
The Bilbo Celex is a great choice for couples and as part of the VW Camper Van range, you know this is going to be the very best quality. This award-winning van comes with everything you need for a weekend getaway such as a burner and hob, sink and a porta potty.
One of the things that can put a lot of people off buying a small campervan is that the roof is very low and if you’re tall, this isn’t great. Nobody wants to spend their break hunched over with a sore back. But that’s where the rising roof campervan comes into its own. Even if you’re not tall, the added head height will make the van feel so much more spacious.
The roofs are easy to operate and can quickly be collapsed when you’re on the move. What’s even better is that there are some designs that open up as well, giving you a view of the stars and some glorious fresh air for those hot summer nights.
Campervans With Removable Fittings
If you’re in the market for a small campervan then you have to be prepared for the fact that the inside is not going to have a lot of space; that’s the whole point, right? But there might be times that you need a little more room in the back of the van and choosing a campervan with removable fittings can allow you to do this.
Many of the best small camper vans come with furniture that you can remove and set up in a way that suits you. This might mean removing some furnishings when fewer people are going on a trip or rearranging things for sleeping and during the day.
The J-Pod from Jerba is an incredibly versatile little camper van that gives you plenty of options when it comes to the layout of the van. It gives you as many as four options depending on the number of people travelling and what you will need.We really love The Pod from Cambee which offers some amazing customisation options as well as producing durable camper van units that meet an excellent range of needs. They have a range of beds and seating that comes in a choice of fabrics and colours as well as kitchen pods that have everything you need for that full English in the morning. Just to complete everything, the company even supplies curtains and accessories so nothing is left to chance.
If you want to get away for a weekend in Bristol or a week-long trip exploring the depths of Italy or anywhere else, a small campervan is a great way to explore without the need to haul a massive motorhome around the country. For more in depth reading check out Our Guide To The Best Campervans And Compact Caravans.
One of the greatest things about these vehicles is that they are far less expensive to buy and don’t come with excessive running costs. You can buy a brand new small camper van that is ready to go and might include an array of interesting features like a private bathroom, double doors or a rising roof. However, if you’re feeling like a bit of DIY, it is also possible to convert your existing van into something that is vacation ready!