Kitsune 4x4 camper van flexes for 4-season gear carry and cozy living
Just two weeks after we looked at the fast-transforming "ultimate gear head" camper van from CoPilot Vans, we have another Mercedes Sprinter conversion that can seriously vie for the same title. The Kitsune from Quebec conversion shop Norva packs a highly flexible interior with bed panels that double as shelves, sofas and workbenches and a collapsible shower that works inside or out. Whether it's a boys' weekend or a couples' retreat, the Kitsune carries bikes, skis, boards and more, cutting trail deep into the wilderness any time of year.
Look inside through the rear doors of the Kitsune, and it feels almost like you're looking at a pop-up outdoor gear shop, backpacks hanging from the wall, skis stacked on side racks, bikes stored in the wide-open center aisle, and sleeping bags and other miscellaneous kit stored away neatly on the hanging shelf. Along with floor and sidewall tie-down track, a key element of that gear storage capability is Norva's Chameleon bed, a five-section rear bed that can break down to clear out the center aisle completely for cargo while its panels serve other purposes.
The high gear shelf in the photo is merely one of the Chameleon bed panels attached via the wall track and straps secured to the ceiling rings. The custom bed panels and cushions also combine to create a comfy dual-bench or U-shaped sofa rear lounge, a day bed, or a rear-facing sofa looking out at the view through the load doors. A removable Lagun table completes a flexible rear dining lounge and workstation. Bed panels can also serve as workbenches for tuning equipment, making coffee and performing other common tasks.
At night, the panels are equally versatile in creating a bed or two, dropping in and sliding into various layouts using the custom wall support rails. The panels can build a double bed down at bench height or up higher on the second set of supports, or they can split into bunk bed configuration. The Chameleon Bed lives up to its name and is one of the most versatile bed solutions out there, putting to shame the common swing-away European rear bed (though that's still a very handy design in its own right).
Camper van shops have been increasingly moving toward flexible bathroom layouts, and Norva takes that route with the Kitsune, starting with a collapsible shower. Even more flexible than other collapsible showers since it's not plumbed into a drain, Norva's shower includes a slatted floor inside a pan and a wraparound curtain that clips to the ceiling rings. The shower hose attaches to the water hookup just inside the load doors, so it's as good for outdoor showers on the beach as it is for window-fogging indoor showers on the side of snowy mountains. Campers will be especially thankful for the Webasto hybrid air/water heater during the latter type of situation.
Farther inside, Norva breaks the kitchen into two separate blocks. The driver-side block holds the glass-cover sink, stainless steel fridge/freezer, drawers and work space. The smaller block across the aisle has the diesel cooktop, flip-up worktop and extra storage. A portable toilet slides out of the lower compartment of the cooktop block, completing the deconstructed bathroom.
Up front, Norva blends driving and camping spaces by placing a rear three-seat bench behind a second removable table and swivel cab seats. It looks a little more cramped than other camper van front lounges, and we'd be more inclined to eat in the spacious rear lounge, but the design gives the van a five-passenger layout while adding extra dining and work space.
Depending upon how the bed is laid out, the van itself can sleep two or three people. Outside, Norva tops its custom roof rack with a Tepui HyBox hardshell tent to sleep two more. The HyBox is a great partner for a flexible camper van like the Kitsune. It adds two extra berths for trips that involve four or five people. When there are fewer people, the canvas removes and the HyBox becomes a roof-top cargo box, adding even more gear-hauling capacity.
The HyBox and solar panels prevent the roof from shouldering long gear like paddleboards, but Norva straps its house-built paddleboard carrier to the driver's sidewall. Also included are two Thule rear bike carriers and bike fork mounts compatible with the inside floor rails, providing more than enough space for a bike for every man and woman on board. Ski/board racks install on the interior side rails; a bike repair stand hangs at the ready on the load door; and an ARB air compressor sits available for inflation needs. The van carries and supports four seasons' worth of adventure gear like few others on road or trail.
To support off-grid missions, the Kitsune has no less than five 110-Ah lithium batteries, 310 watts of solar charging, a 2,000-W inverter/charger, and 80-L fresh and gray water tanks. The heater keeps things comfy in winter with help from a four-season insulation package, while the A/C and ventilation fan take over in summer.
This particular van just wouldn't feel right with only two drive wheels, and it is indeed based on a Mercedes Sprinter 4x4. Adding a little extra capability are a Van Compass suspension upgrade, Agile Offroad no-rub front fenders over BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires, a house-built rear step bumper and a power step at the sliding door.
The Kitsune is an extensive and meticulous conversion package (it even includes a keycode safe), and it's certainly not an inexpensive one. The van was a custom project, but Norva tells us it would run roughly CA$160,000 (approx. US$114,225) for the conversion alone, van sold separately. A bring-your-own-van build would be good news for American buyers, who could source a US-market van and drive it to Norva's location north of Quebec City to enjoy the favorable US-Canadian dollar conversion rate, perhaps starting #vanlife out with a trip around the province or country.
The three-minute video provides a quick but thorough tour of key Kitsune components and features.