Before you start touring the world and posting the details of your exciting #vanlife on Instagram, you need a live-in van. And that's not necessarily cheap or easy to acquire. Just look at the prices of camper vans we've covered recently – Knaus Boxdrive: US$94,500, Winnebago Revel: $134,800, Mercedes Marco Polo Horizon Edition: $65,600. Sure, you can always build out your own dream van, but not everyone has the right combination of time, skills and patience for that. Just as tent camping out the back of an '03 Pontiac Aztek starts to look pretty good, Portland's Adventure Wagon arrives on the scene to offer another solution: a simple, more affordable off-the-shelf van conversion that turns the Mercedes Sprinter into a versatile, modular adventure van. It's van life made cheap(ish) and easy.
Modular camper vans and conversion kits have been having their moment in the US, as we've seen with the TouRig Terracamper and the ModVans CV1. And why not, they make sense. If you're going to spend that much money on a vehicle, you might as well get to use it for everyday trips and chores, as well as vacations and adventures.
Adventure Wagon attempts to make the modular camper van more accessible, splitting the difference between those full modular conversions and something like the Wayfarer ProMaster kit. Its RUV kits are a bit more involved and permanent than a modular camper-in-a-box system like the Wayfarer but simpler and more DIY-friendly than a full interior conversion with kitchen, pop-up roof, etc.
Adventure Wagon's kits include the foundational pieces to turn the interior of a 144- or 170-in (3,658- or 4,318-mm) wheelbase Mercedes Sprinter into a cozy overnighter and gear hauler, leaving plenty of opportunity for further upfitting (or not). The centerpiece is the MOAB Elevator Bed (yep, Mother Of All Beds), a three-panel folding bed for two that secures to lateral supports mounted along the interior van walls. Those lateral supports are secured with two bolts to vertical L-track strips on the walls, meaning they can be quickly moved up and down to reposition the bed.
To solve the problem of the contoured van walls, which decrease overall width as you approach the roof, Adventure Wagon's bed panels use telescoping cut-outs to adjust overall bed width between 59 and 69 in (150 and 175 cm), allowing the bed to be set anywhere between 26 and 60 inches (66 and 152 cm) above the floor of the Sprinter 144 High Roof. A built-in gas strut keeps the bed panels pushed firmly against the walls to ensure they remain in place with no additional mounts or hardware necessary.
Long story short, Adventure Wagon has done some intricate design work to make your life easy. Once the interior mounting hardware is installed inside the base van, you can quickly and easily adjust the bed height to better accommodate various cargo loads. The bed can also be completely removed in seconds, freeing up the entire cargo area.
Made from light bamboo plywood and aluminum, the MOAB bed is available on its own for $3,500 plus either $500 (Sprinter 144) or $700 (Sprinter 170) for the mounting hardware. Adventure Wagon's installation partners will do the work for you for around $420, giving you a versatile bedding solution for under $5,000.
Of course, that bed is going to run pretty cold when nighttime temperatures drop below comfy. Those who want a more comfortable, weather-resistant interior build-out can step up to Adventure Wagon's full RUV (recreational utility vehicle) kit, which drops in thermal insulation, fabric wall paneling over plywood panels, buyer's choice of 12 V or USB plugs, six marine-grade ceiling LED lights, two remote-control MaxxFan ceiling fans, cabin stereo prewiring, and an electrical harness with fuse box and wiring kit. Adventure Wagon wires the electrical hardware to the Sprinter's battery as standard but can also use an auxiliary battery (either its own or a customer supplied unit) for those who want a dedicated power source.
The MOAB bed is included in the RUV kit, along with more tie-down track around the interior for securing additional furniture, accessories and gear, including the two overhead storage lockers that come with the package. Those "Mule" storage lockers are designed to balance the advantages of a soft-sided storage bag and a sturdier, hard-framed cabinet. Each unit can secure and detach in minutes, holding up to 150 liters of gear. Plywood inserts add structural integrity when the lockers are in use, and the water-resistant nylon ripstop packs flat to save space. These lockers seem like an ideal cabinetry solution for a quick-convert modular adventure van.
The RUV kit costs $13,800 (144) or $14,800 (170) for the DIY version or $19,800/$20,800 fully installed. Adventure Wagon currently has installation partners in Portland and Seattle and is working to grow out its installation network nationwide.
Adventure Wagon also offers a floor kit, a multilayer combination of insulation and bamboo that can be topped with natural bamboo or vinyl. That kit also adds L-track to the floor, good for tying down bikes and other gear.
The MOAB bed and RUV kit are how Adventure Wagon caught our eye, but the start-up is hoping to become a one-stop supply shop, helping camper van DIYers and conversion businesses fill in the voids of their builds, selling pieces like insulation, mounting hardware and interior accessories. Its plans also include expanding beyond the Sprinter, offering solutions for the Ford Transit and other vans.