Automotive

Chongo solar camper van gives off condo vibes with its large kitchen

Chongo solar camper van gives ...
Popping the rear doors on the Chongo camper from Freedom Vans
Popping the rear doors on the Chongo camper from Freedom Vans
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Instead of an open under-bed garage like many camper vans have, the Freedom Chongo has a neat, organized stack of drawers along with a smaller cargo space
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Instead of an open under-bed garage like many camper vans have, the Freedom Chongo has a neat, organized stack of drawers along with a smaller cargo space
The Chongo camper van offers more worktop and table space than average
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The Chongo camper van offers more worktop and table space than average
Freedom Chongo dual-burner Dometic stove
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Freedom Chongo dual-burner Dometic stove
Mount Beastmaker finger board
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Mount Beastmaker finger board
The multi-tone, wood-grain look of the butcher block counters and table warm up the white interior
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The multi-tone, wood-grain look of the butcher block counters and table warm up the white interior
Inside the Freedom Chongo camper van
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Inside the Freedom Chongo camper van
Popping the rear doors on the Chongo camper from Freedom Vans
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Popping the rear doors on the Chongo camper from Freedom Vans
The drawers could be used for anything but they look perfectly sized and situated to store clothing
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The drawers could be used for anything but they look perfectly sized and situated to store clothing
The Chongo doesn't include a full bathroom, but with a slide-out composting toilet, outdoor shower and water heater, it packs all important bathroom functions
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The Chongo doesn't include a full bathroom, but with a slide-out composting toilet, outdoor shower and water heater, it packs all important bathroom functions
View gallery - 9 images

The new Ram Promaster-based Chongo conversion from Freedom Vans brings the feel of home to the inside of a van. It supports digital nomads with a solar-powered lithium electrical system and 4G boosting, packs a dual-block expandable kitchen that wraps the chef in food-prep space, and includes other amenities more common in residential living than van life. It's a warm, cozy motorhome that lets you call any parking space or patch of dirt home.

A custom build based on a 2018 Promaster, the Chongo initially caught our attention for its funny name but held it with its extensive use of thick, multi-tone wood surfaces contrasted by clean white furniture and trim. The walls and ceiling feature grooved white paneling and team with the smooth white furniture to bring loads of brightness into the space. The natural-oak laminate plank flooring and butcher block countertops temper that brightness to prevent it from becoming harsh and overwhelming.

Many camper van kitchens are tiny and claustrophobic, offering little more for dicing and mixing than a small square of countertop and a fold-down sink/stove lid. The Chongo expands its kitchen space out as much as we've ever seen, starting with a dual-block layout that splits the stove with flush cover and sink with long countertop onto separate van sides. Flip the passenger-side counter extension up, pivot the matching dining table over from the driver's side, and the chef is surrounded with loads of room to slice, dice, chop, mix and keep food close at hand. There's also an under-counter fridge on the driver's side and a fold-down outdoor counter/table on the outside of the stove block.

The rear load area under the fixed rear bed platform, a space usually reserved for cold cargo garages and hardware storage, is also much homier than average. Freedom Vans fills it out with a stack of drawers ready to serve as a handy dresser. There's also a small open space for cargo.

The Chongo doesn't include a full bathroom, but with a slide-out composting toilet, outdoor shower and water heater, it packs all important bathroom functions
The Chongo doesn't include a full bathroom, but with a slide-out composting toilet, outdoor shower and water heater, it packs all important bathroom functions

The Chongo doesn't have any type of bathroom compartment, but it does have an outdoor shower and a portable composting toilet tucked away in a cabinet below the front side of the bed platform. A water heater delivers hot water at the faucets.

A 300Ah lithium battery system supplies power with help from a 480W solar charging system, shore power hookup and 2,000W inverter. A WeBoost signal booster amplifies LTE coverage in the van. Other nice touches include rows of ceiling lights, gooseneck reading lights at the head of the bed, and a climbing training board hanging over the sliding door.

Mount Beastmaker finger board
Mount Beastmaker finger board

Given how much space Freedom dedicates to everyday amenities like the kitchen and storage drawer stack, the Chongo seems best-suited to full-time van life over recreational weekending. It'll make a homey abode whether out in the middle of the wilderness or parked in a bustling downtown.

The custom-built Chongo didn't roll out with a window sticker price when it was revealed last month, but Freedom says its typical conversion packages run US$45,000 to $90,000 for short-wheelbase vans and $65K to $125K for long-wheelbase variants. The company also offers a more basic structural package with bed platform, insulation, solar power system, lighting and paneling for $20K to $35K. No matter the package, the customer sources his or her own van, so those prices are for the conversion alone. Freedom works with Mercedes Sprinters and Ford Transits, as well as Promasters.

Source: Freedom Vans

View gallery - 9 images
3 comments
guzmanchinky
Very nice build! In my decades of van camping, an indoor shower is a must (if you want to truly live in it in all climates).
History Nut
I don't see the plus in this floorplan. The rear doors are made irrelevant by the rear 'cabinet'. Once you set up the kitchen, you are trapped and there is no space for anything else. I prefer the back being a full service bathroom.
CWClimb
Hello History Nut, the wonderful thing about a custom van is that you can custom-order (or custom-build) it to whatever suits your lifestyle or needs. My husband and I are the proud owners of Chongo and decided to go with this layout to suit our needs. The rear 'cabinet' behind the bed is where we store our rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, snowboarding, mud-loving, and other outdoor gear, so we actually never need to access it while we are in home-mode. Those large storage drawers hold 260 lbs each and we call those life-savers our "garage." For those vanners without the gear-required outdoor recreational hobbies that we enjoy, I'm sure a different setup would be more suitable for them. Again, those are the benefits of having a van custom-built to your own needs.
The advantage of having a small kitchen means that we have a small van, which we can park just about anywhere, make a U-turn if needed, and handles more like a car than a large RV. The kitchen's flip-up countertop near the sliding door is very easy to release when we want to step outside of the van and isn't always needed when we are cooking/prepping anyway.
We do miss having an indoor shower (we have an outdoor shower). For our purposes an outdoor shower outweighed the space-sucking, humid luxury of an indoor shower were we to squeeze it into our small love-able space.