Beyond the 4x4 off-road adventure vans, this year's CMT show was also exploding with slick, space-optimized 2WD camper vans built for extended travel, leisure and outdoor living. In fact, such vehicles were everywhere. Based on staples like the Fiat Ducato and Volkswagen T6, as well as lower-profile vans like the Opel Movano and Hyundai H350, these vans ranged from mini-campers built for singles and couples to full-size camper vans cleverly stacked for five or six people.

More than just an RV show, CMT (Caravan, Motor, Touristik) bills itself as the world's largest "consumer show for tourism and leisure," with several halls dedicated to travel destinations, tour operations, cruises, resorts and the like. As much as we like a good vacation, we didn't spend much time wandering those areas, as the show's 1,000 exhibited vehicles kept us quite busy. Those leisure vehicles ranged in size from small trailers to car-swallowing liners, but the show's sweet spot definitely fell right in the middle: camper vans. In fact, this year's show had an entire hall dedicated to vans.

After spending three days at the show, we came away with hundreds of photos of camper vans of every make, model and size, and we've trimmed that album down to the most interesting of the bunch, a series of vans that utilize innovative layouts and smart solutions to make living on the road as comfortable as possible.

Tiny living

We didn't see quite as many sub-197 inch (500 cm) mini-campervans at CMT as we did at last year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, but one particularly small, neatly packed mini-camper did pop out. The Caddy, Volkswagen's smallest van, is one of many vehicles that Germany's VanEssa designs all-in-one camper conversion kits for, offering hardware for both the standard 173 in (440 cm) Caddy and the 193 in (490 cm) Caddy Maxi. Its kit consists of a tailgate kitchen module and a fold-out bed. The kitchen unit's various drawers hold a single-burner stove, sink and 35 L fridge, along with utensils, dishes and supplies.

VanEssa offers the various pieces individually, but the full Caddy set-up displayed at CMT, with the kitchen area, folding bed, 16 L water tank, gas stove, Dometic CF35 compressor fridge and hanging storage pouches, starts at €3,660 (approx. US$4,200). The van, of course, is not included.

A family affair

The typical camper van sleeps either two or four people, but a small subset sleep five, even six. The six-sleeper we spent a little time in at CMT was the Karmann Mobil Dexter 555. We've been impressed with Karmann vans like the Danny 530 and Dexter 560 4x4 in the recent past, and the Dexter 555 might just be the most impressive of them all.

It's not even the longest van in the Karmann family, but it's the roomiest overnight shelter, sleeping two on the transverse double bed at the rear, two on the convertible dinette, and two on the drop down bed that hangs over top the dinette bed. It also squeezes in a central wet bath with swing-away sink and a compact kitchen area with stove and 109 L fridge. One caveat: it only seats up to five during the drive.

The Fiat Ducato-based Dexter 555 starts at €51,390 ($58,775), and the model on show was optioned up to €61,580 ($70,425).

Movers and shakers

Most of the camper vans of CMT fell somewhere between the stacked-bed rolling family estate and the tiny couple's van, and several used some interesting sliding, flipping and swinging components to make the most use of their compact space.

The Rapido V55 has what we consider the most interesting dual-use, space-optimizing solution, a swinging wardrobe that stores away in the shower compartment at night and swings over top the rear bed when the shower room is in use. It has doors on both sides so clothing can be accessed easily in either position. With this simple adjustment, Rapido is able to fit separate toilet and shower rooms into the center of its €48,300 (show model: €52,229) camper, a 236 in (599 cm) van that would typically have space for only a combined wet bath.

One 6 meter van that had space for only a combined wet bath was the Mooveo Van 60 DB. Not a very creative model name, but it does show some creativity in the design of its wet bath, which has a toilet that slides away to clear the shower floor. Up above that toilet, the sink folds into the wall, freeing up enough elbow room to properly lather even those most difficult-to-reach body parts. The two-sleeper van starts at €50,990 ($58,300), and the four-sleeper pop-top on show wore a sticker price of €59,166 ($67,650).

Head to the gallery for a look at the many other smart, versatile camper vans of CMT 2019.

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