Automotive

Flexible Backroad camper van beats Mercedes Weekender launch and price

Flexible Backroad camper van b...
The Backroad's sleeper tent has three windows for better ventilation and views outside
The Backroad's sleeper tent has three windows for better ventilation and views outside
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At 77 in high, the Caravan Outfitter Backroad rolls easily into a garage with 84-in (7-ft) door
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At 77 in high, the Caravan Outfitter Backroad rolls easily into a garage with 84-in (7-ft) door
The standard pop-up sleeper roof and folding rear bench create a four-sleeper layout
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The standard pop-up sleeper roof and folding rear bench create a four-sleeper layout
The Backroad is based on a Mercedes Metris Passenger Van with 208-hp turbo four
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The Backroad is based on a Mercedes Metris Passenger Van with 208-hp turbo four
The Backroad's sleeper tent has three windows for better ventilation and views outside
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The Backroad's sleeper tent has three windows for better ventilation and views outside
Caravan Outfitter offers the Backroad as its larger, more family-friendly camper van alongside the two-person Free Bird mini-campervan
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Caravan Outfitter offers the Backroad as its larger, more family-friendly camper van alongside the two-person Free Bird mini-campervan
The basic Backroad sleeper van with four berths, swivel table, leisure battery and lighting starts just over $67,500
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The basic Backroad sleeper van with four berths, swivel table, leisure battery and lighting starts just over $67,500
Caravan Outfitter Backroad Mercedes Metris camper van
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Caravan Outfitter Backroad Mercedes Metris camper van
The rail-mounted three-seat bench adjusts in position and folds into a bed
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The rail-mounted three-seat bench adjusts in position and folds into a bed
Under-bench storage drawer
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Under-bench storage drawer
The Backroad offers dual sliding doors and plenty of headroom below the pop-up roof
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The Backroad offers dual sliding doors and plenty of headroom below the pop-up roof
With a couple of moves, the double bed folds down in the rear cabin
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With a couple of moves, the double bed folds down in the rear cabin
Caravan Outfitter's conversion includes a 90-Ah leisure battery and LED lighting
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Caravan Outfitter's conversion includes a 90-Ah leisure battery and LED lighting
The leisure battery stores below the driver seat
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The leisure battery stores below the driver seat
Both doors include sliding camper windows
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Both doors include sliding camper windows
The available kitchen stores neatly below the bed
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The available kitchen stores neatly below the bed
Another look at the downstairs bed
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Another look at the downstairs bed
The face of the kitchen folds down to create a tailgate-like worktop and provide access to the drawers
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The face of the kitchen folds down to create a tailgate-like worktop and provide access to the drawers
The kitchen includes a central fridge drawer
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The kitchen includes a central fridge drawer
In addition to the Dometic drawer, the kitchen has a stove slide and two storage drawers
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In addition to the Dometic drawer, the kitchen has a stove slide and two storage drawers
The compact kitchen doesn't have a sink, but Caravan Outfitter offers an optional swing-out indoor/outdoor sink unit in front of the rear bench
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The compact kitchen doesn't have a sink, but Caravan Outfitter offers an optional swing-out indoor/outdoor sink unit in front of the rear bench
Standard on the Backroad, the Blind Spot Assist package also brings a leather-wrapped multifunctional steering wheel, heated electric side-view mirrors and other upgrades
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Standard on the Backroad, the Blind Spot Assist package also brings a leather-wrapped multifunctional steering wheel, heated electric side-view mirrors and other upgrades
Caravan Outfitter is based in Edmonds, Washington
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Caravan Outfitter is based in Edmonds, Washington
Rear blackout curtain
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Rear blackout curtain
Front and window blackout curtains
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Front and window blackout curtains
The swivel table can be used inside ...
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The swivel table can be used inside ...
...or outside
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...or outside
The table stores in the under-bench drawer
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The table stores in the under-bench drawer
The optional Yeti Tundra 45 cooler comes with tie-down system
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The optional Yeti Tundra 45 cooler comes with tie-down system
Not only does the available Yeti cooler offer always-useful cold storage, it doubles as an extra seat
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Not only does the available Yeti cooler offer always-useful cold storage, it doubles as an extra seat
View gallery - 29 images

Those waiting for Mercedes to launch its all-new Weekender pop-up camper van need not wait for a four-sleeper Metris pop-top if they don't want to. Washington's Caravan Outfitter isn't a major automaker recognized the world over, but its Backroad camper van is every bit as efficient and versatile as Mercedes' own camper. And the Backroad is available right now ... for a few thousand dollars less than Mercedes' planned base price.

Caravan Outfitter's Nissan NV200 Free Bird camper van ranks among the cheapest brand-new camper vans you can buy in the United States. As a 186-inch-long (470-cm) two-person mini-camper, though, the van isn't suitable for every profile of camper van traveler. So Caravan Outfitter reached for the German-engineered Mercedes Metris and developed the Backroad as a larger family-sized alternative more similar to the classic Westfalia pop-tops that still ramble through the road trip daydreams of the American collective consciousness.

Caravan Outfitter Backroad Mercedes Metris camper van
Caravan Outfitter Backroad Mercedes Metris camper van

The Metris Passenger Van that Caravan Outfitter starts with measures just over 202 in (513 cm) long, providing the extra room needed for extra passengers and a comfy camper layout. Another advantage: German RV equipment specialist Reimo already offers a pop-up roof and other conversion hardware for the Metris and its sibling from the Old Continent, the Vito/V-Class (and even e-Vito). In fact, Reimo also supplies parts for the Mercedes Weekender and camper vans sold directly by Weekender partner manufacturer Peace Vans.

The Backroad conversion takes advantage of Reimo's folding three-seat bench, which drops down into a double bed. The bench mounts to floor rails and slides to three different locked positions. The bench base houses a storage drawer.

With a couple of moves, the double bed folds down in the rear cabin
With a couple of moves, the double bed folds down in the rear cabin

Up above, the sleeper roof includes a bed for two more people, making the van a nice option for a family of four. The Backroad seats five on the road, and without an interior kitchen block or wardrobe eating up space, doubles as a functional everyday family car with plenty of cargo space. With the roof dropped down, it measures 77 in (196 cm) tall, able to easily fit through a 7-foot (213-cm) garage door.

The table that stores in the under-bench drawer sets up on a swivel base in the seating area, creating a dining space. Caravan Outfitter does not offer swivel cab seats, but the van seats three on the rear bench, and the optional cushion-top Yeti Tundra 45 cooler creates a fourth seat in the central cabin.

The swivel table can be used inside ...
The swivel table can be used inside ...

In terms of a kitchen, Caravan Outfitter opts for a simple rear kitchen to stay true to the dual-purpose nature of the Backroad design. The optional kitchen can install and remove as needed and includes a drop-down counter, removable butane single-burner atop a slide, 29-L fridge and two storage drawers. Drivers who need to bring long, slim cargo can remove the kitchen drawer and under-bench drawer to create pass-through storage.

The kitchen noticeably lacks a sink and water system, but Caravan Outfitter plans to offer a swing-out indoor/outdoor sink as an option. Completely separate from the kitchen, that model mounts to the floor rails just inside the sliding door.

The compact kitchen doesn't have a sink, but Caravan Outfitter offers an optional swing-out indoor/outdoor sink unit in front of the rear bench
The compact kitchen doesn't have a sink, but Caravan Outfitter offers an optional swing-out indoor/outdoor sink unit in front of the rear bench

The Backroad also comes with a standard 90-Ah leisure battery stored under the driver's seat to power onboard LED interior lighting, USB ports and the available kitchen fridge drawer. Sliding RV-style side windows provide ventilation inside. The base Metris includes two sliding doors, comfort front seats with lumbar support, comfort suspension, and a blind spot assistance system. It's powered by a 208-hp 2.0-liter turbo four mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Caravan Outfitter prices the Backroad at US$67,511 to start and offers financing through its affiliate Campbell Auto Group. Add the optional $3,400 kitchen, and you have a full camper van with sleeping and cooking amenities for $70,911. Other options include a 130-W solar roof panel, portable toilet compartment with bench seat, and Fiamma awning.

Not only does the available Yeti cooler offer always-useful cold storage, it doubles as an extra seat
Not only does the available Yeti cooler offer always-useful cold storage, it doubles as an extra seat

For comparison, Mercedes estimates the Weekender's base price in the "low $70K range." That price is for the sleeper van (with swivel cab seats) and doesn't include the optional rear slide-out kitchen with dual-burner propane stove, sink and storage. We don't yet have Weekender option pricing, so it's not clear how much the kitchen will add to the price. We'll compare the two vans more closely, along with other available US-market Metris camper vans, when Mercedes releases additional details.

Caravan Outfitter's seven-minute video provides a detailed Backroad walkthrough.

Caravan Outfitter Backroad - METRIS BASED CAMPERVAN

Source: Caravan Outfitter

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1 comment
guzmanchinky
This is a great little van, especially for Europe and for nice weekends. That said, I'm glad I live in the US where a 144 Sprinter isn't impossible to park and drive like in most European cities. The smaller vans are just too small for me, and if the weather is bad or there are mozzies there is no showering or cooking outside, it all needs to happen inside.