Automotive

Big, burly and often beautiful: Camper vans and adventure Sprinters of Overland Expo West 2019

Big, burly and often beautiful...
Iglhaut turns the Mercedes Sprinter into a more proper off-road-ready 4x4, adding an off-road gear reduction, differential locks and more
Iglhaut turns the Mercedes Sprinter into a more proper off-road-ready 4x4, adding an off-road gear reduction, differential locks and more
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This Metris Tailgater Pro from Automotive Designs and Fabrication features a pop-up roof and serious slide-out kitchen
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This Metris Tailgater Pro from Automotive Designs and Fabrication features a pop-up roof and serious slide-out kitchen
ADF Mercedes Tailgater Pro
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ADF Mercedes Tailgater Pro
Most slide-out kitchens have dual-burner stoves, but the one on the Metris Tailgater Pro brings an oven, too
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Most slide-out kitchens have dual-burner stoves, but the one on the Metris Tailgater Pro brings an oven, too
It's not the prettiest kitchen we've seen, but the slide-out on the Metris Tailgater Pro is one of the better equipped out there
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It's not the prettiest kitchen we've seen, but the slide-out on the Metris Tailgater Pro is one of the better equipped out there
You can't have all that cooking power without a fridge/freezer
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You can't have all that cooking power without a fridge/freezer
Some gorgeous tabletop work from Adventure Van Co
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Some gorgeous tabletop work from Adventure Van Co
Automotive Design and Fabrication is better known for its conversion work on Sprinters, but this Metris Tailgater Pro was one of the more original, little packages of Overland Expo
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Automotive Design and Fabrication is better known for its conversion work on Sprinters, but this Metris Tailgater Pro was one of the more original, little packages of Overland Expo
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Outside Vans shows off one of its Mercedes Sprinter camper vans
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Outside Vans shows off one of its Mercedes Sprinter camper vans
Outside Vans also does nice work on the Ford Transit - does anything say fun like a ruggedized camper van with paddleboard strapped directly to its side?
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Outside Vans also does nice work on the Ford Transit - does anything say fun like a ruggedized camper van with paddleboard strapped directly to its side?
Okay, a Sprinter camper van carrying Ubco's 2x2 electric bikes might just be as fun as Outside's paddleboard Transit 
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Okay, a Sprinter camper van carrying Ubco's 2x2 electric bikes might just be as fun as Outside's paddleboard Transit 
Sprinter Engineering van build
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Sprinter Engineering van build
Getting a closer look
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Getting a closer look
Aluminess picked some particularly nice vans to bolt its bumpers on
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Aluminess picked some particularly nice vans to bolt its bumpers on
You didn't think there'd be only one burly camper van with paddleboard strapped to the side?
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You didn't think there'd be only one burly camper van with paddleboard strapped to the side?
The cozy Metris camper van from Germany's Terracamper
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The cozy Metris camper van from Germany's Terracamper
Colorado's TouRig builds expedition vans out of Mercedes Sprinters
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Colorado's TouRig builds expedition vans out of Mercedes Sprinters
TouRig packs in the sleeping space with dual rear bunks 
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TouRig packs in the sleeping space with dual rear bunks 
Another stout adventure van wearing an Aluminess bumper
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Another stout adventure van wearing an Aluminess bumper
Aluminess Sprinter van
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Aluminess Sprinter van
Another awesomely fun duo: A Sprinter van and a Cake all-electric dirt bike
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Another awesomely fun duo: A Sprinter van and a Cake all-electric dirt bike
Utah's Odin Working Group develops a variety of overlanding parts for the Mercedes Sprinter, including front and rear bumpers and roof racks
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Utah's Odin Working Group develops a variety of overlanding parts for the Mercedes Sprinter, including front and rear bumpers and roof racks
We liked the kitchen on this Odin Working Group van, though we're not sure who built it, since Odin doesn't advertise interior components
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We liked the kitchen on this Odin Working Group van, though we're not sure who built it, since Odin doesn't advertise interior components
SportsRig was showing off its ultralight off-road trailer, which we looked at in a separate article, but its pop-top VW Vanagon was nearly as impressive
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SportsRig was showing off its ultralight off-road trailer, which we looked at in a separate article, but its pop-top VW Vanagon was nearly as impressive
One of our favorite vans of the show, this surfy Sprinter was converted by Oregon's Esplori for Laird Superfood
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One of our favorite vans of the show, this surfy Sprinter was converted by Oregon's Esplori for Laird Superfood
Inside Esplori's Laird Superfood van
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Inside Esplori's Laird Superfood van
Esplori specializes in aluminum-framed furniture faced in bamboo, a light, attractive combination
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Esplori specializes in aluminum-framed furniture faced in bamboo, a light, attractive combination
Oregon's Terrawagen offers parts for the Mercedes Sprinter and other German vans
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Oregon's Terrawagen offers parts for the Mercedes Sprinter and other German vans
Deep stainless steel sink in a Sprinter Engineering camper van
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Deep stainless steel sink in a Sprinter Engineering camper van
A splashy Sprinter Engineering camper van conversion
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A splashy Sprinter Engineering camper van conversion
Mercedes Sprinter camper van from Utah's Sprinter Engineering
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Mercedes Sprinter camper van from Utah's Sprinter Engineering
This little 1994 Mitsubishi Delica L300 4WD adventure van is a European import with rebuilt engine and camper equipment. It was for sale for US$24,000 at the show
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This little 1994 Mitsubishi Delica L300 4WD adventure van is a European import with rebuilt engine and camper equipment. It was for sale for US$24,000 at the show
Few things make us yearn for a road trip like 4WD Delica camper vans, whether brand new or decades old
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Few things make us yearn for a road trip like 4WD Delica camper vans, whether brand new or decades old
Drover Ford E-Series camper van with swivel seats
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Drover Ford E-Series camper van with swivel seats
Drover rear bathroom
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Drover rear bathroom
Inside Drover's Ford E-Series camper van
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Inside Drover's Ford E-Series camper van
Drover said this Ford camper van prices in at $114,000
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Drover said this Ford camper van prices in at $114,000
Drover breaks up the Mercedes Sprinter monotony with a Ford E-Series camper van conversion with digitized graphics
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Drover breaks up the Mercedes Sprinter monotony with a Ford E-Series camper van conversion with digitized graphics
Drover shows the Ford van here, but it's moving to Chevy Express camper van conversions since Ford no longer makes E-Series vans
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Drover shows the Ford van here, but it's moving to Chevy Express camper van conversions since Ford no longer makes E-Series vans
When we looked at Ursa Minor's Transit Connect pop-top last November, it was priced at $6,400 with installation 
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When we looked at Ursa Minor's Transit Connect pop-top last November, it was priced at $6,400 with installation 
One of the cooler little mini-campervans out there, this surfy Ford Transit Connect shows off Ursa Minor's pop-up roof
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One of the cooler little mini-campervans out there, this surfy Ford Transit Connect shows off Ursa Minor's pop-up roof
A pair of off-road camper vans ready to log some serious miles
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A pair of off-road camper vans ready to log some serious miles
This camper van conversion from Oregon Motorcoach Center has a very sleek kitchen area
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This camper van conversion from Oregon Motorcoach Center has a very sleek kitchen area
Oregon Motorcoach Center works with a variety of van models and offers the full range of custom conversions, from camper vans, to off-road vans, to sport-specific vans, to mobile offices and beyond
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Oregon Motorcoach Center works with a variety of van models and offers the full range of custom conversions, from camper vans, to off-road vans, to sport-specific vans, to mobile offices and beyond
Thule puts its products to work on a Sprinter van
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Thule puts its products to work on a Sprinter van
VanDoIt shows off one of its Erector-like build-your-own camper designs
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VanDoIt shows off one of its Erector-like build-your-own camper designs
VanDoIt makes its camper vans extra versatile and modular by lining the floors and walls with T-track and building its furniture out of the same mounting track, making it easier to add and remove components
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VanDoIt makes its camper vans extra versatile and modular by lining the floors and walls with T-track and building its furniture out of the same mounting track, making it easier to add and remove components
VanDoIt fills out the interior of a Ford Transit with all kinds of storage capacity and equipment
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VanDoIt fills out the interior of a Ford Transit with all kinds of storage capacity and equipment
Rather than the double bed more common in camper van conversions, this one sleeps two on a pair of single-person bunks
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Rather than the double bed more common in camper van conversions, this one sleeps two on a pair of single-person bunks
VanDoIt works primarily with Ford Transit vans, but it says it will also convert Nissan NV, Ram ProMaster and Mercedes Sprinter models
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VanDoIt works primarily with Ford Transit vans, but it says it will also convert Nissan NV, Ram ProMaster and Mercedes Sprinter models
Ubco ready to ship out and have some fun in the Northern Arizona wilderness
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Ubco ready to ship out and have some fun in the Northern Arizona wilderness
Rugged Roambuilt Sprinter
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Rugged Roambuilt Sprinter
Oregon's Roambuilt shows off its Sprinter accessories
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Oregon's Roambuilt shows off its Sprinter accessories
As this messy cabin makes clear, Roambuilt specializes in exterior accessories, including Sprinter bumpers, roof racks and ladders, not interior conversions
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As this messy cabin makes clear, Roambuilt specializes in exterior accessories, including Sprinter bumpers, roof racks and ladders, not interior conversions
Germany's Iglhaut Allrad now offers its upgraded Mercedes Sprinter 4WD components to US customers, as well as Europeans and others
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Germany's Iglhaut Allrad now offers its upgraded Mercedes Sprinter 4WD components to US customers, as well as Europeans and others
Iglhaut turns the Mercedes Sprinter into a more proper off-road-ready 4x4, adding an off-road gear reduction, differential locks and more
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Iglhaut turns the Mercedes Sprinter into a more proper off-road-ready 4x4, adding an off-road gear reduction, differential locks and more
Iglhaut Allrad makes the Mercedes Sprinter tougher and more capable
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Iglhaut Allrad makes the Mercedes Sprinter tougher and more capable

As #vanlife has grown from cult phenomenon to almost-mainstream lifestyle alternative for the young and young-at-heart, it feels like van dwellers are constantly on the lookout for more distant roads, tracks and spaces to explore. And with that, the market for ruggedized adventure vans and custom overland campers is absolutely booming. The lifted, armored 4x4 camper vans that just a few years ago seemed the exclusive tools of hardy "most interesting man in the world"-type explorers can now be seen parked at local trailheads, ski resorts and Starbucks all over the map, and they're making the annual Overland Expo West show less truck, more van.

We spent the better part of last weekend pushing through ever-wavering weather that regularly pivoted from potent Arizona sun, to gusting wind, to fast-dropping snow and back again, looking over the best Overland Expo West 2019 had to offer. More than ever before, this year's show made it virtually impossible to walk more than three booths without stumbling on another van towering high atop oversized knobby tires, usually a Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 accessorized with various aftermarket components and recovery or sports equipment. Camper vans served not only as advertising tools for the van conversion companies and accessory makers themselves but also for virtually every type of company at the show, proving once again that #vanlife and overlanding are helping to mold the current ideation of what travel and outdoor recreation are all about.

A pair of off-road camper vans ready to log some serious miles
A pair of off-road camper vans ready to log some serious miles

Long story short, there were a lot of different vans. So without further ado, we present to you the vans of Overland Expo West 2019, from the ubiquitous Mercedes Sprinter 4x4s, to the much rarer Mitsubishi Delicas outfitted for cross-continental exploration.

2 comments
guzmanchinky
I had my 2007 E-150 turned into a 4x4 at Agile Offroad and had Sportsmobile put a pop top on it. I also have a 2020 Sprinter 4x4 on order that I'm going to have El Kapitan vans convert into a camper in September. Yeah, I like off road vanlife...
vince
They would be much better if fully 100 percent electric. Nobody will wake the animals or sleepy campers with electric. Everyone would get to smell the pine trees and flowers instead of a nearby camping van with engine running to keep everyone warm. And all that electricity can power quiet tools and charge electric bikes and cook food without smelly gas burners.