A long camper van lead time, whether for a home build or paid-for conversion, can make the dream of van living seem unreachable. New Colorado operation Contravans looks to streamline the whole process, filling your small van or minivan with all the essentials of mobile living within about two weeks. The experienced industry craftsman behind the new brand who know plenty about van lifers' needs and are stepping in to make those needs easier to fulfill.
Contravans is the result of the meeting of minds between two staples in Colorado camper vans – Denver-based custom builder Vanlife Customs and Denver/Salt Lake City-based rental shop Native Campervans. The two identified a big gap between them, a market for a van that's simpler than full-blown custom conversion but more permanent than a holiday rental. They saw a need for a quick, hassle-free and affordable prefab conversion alternative and set to work to fill the void.
What the Natives and Vanlifers at Contravans have come up with is the light, plug-and-play Contra-Kit. A little bit larger and more involved than camper modules like the Ququq or Buddy Box, but not nearly as expensive or complex as the typical custom conversion, the custom-fit Contra-Kit fills out a Ram Promaster City van with a two-person bed, kitchen, auxiliary battery power and organized storage, turning it into a functional camper van for on/off-grid travel and adventure. The kit is crafted from materials like Baltic birch plywood and steel.
The Promaster City is more compact than the full-size Promasters that tend to feature in camper van conversions, so Contravans pulls the kitchen out of the interior and uses a rear slide-out with single-burner stove, cooler and 5-gallon (19-L) water jug. It's not the fanciest kitchen around, but that's part of the beauty – simple, quick and cheap.
The kitchen also includes storage for utensils and cookware, and the slide-out drawer next to the kitchen adds more storage space. Contravans fills the kitchen drawers and cabinets out with pots, pans, utensils and dishes so that it's stocked and ready to sizzle and fry.
Up above those slides, the full-size memory foam mattress on the bed platform plays host to the included Rumpl blanket, sheets and dual pillows. To give the interior an ambiance warmer than cold van metal, Contravans adds wall paneling with integrated cubbies and slatted ceiling paneling. There's also a 100-Ah auxiliary battery, charger and 400-W inverter for running the LED lighting, remote control ceiling fan and dual 12-V outlets. A set of table and chairs completes the package.
In including all the gear and accessories, the idea is that you roll out of Contravans' Denver shop and head straight for the Rockies or beyond, no extra shopping or fussing on the way. Well, maybe a quick stop for food and drink ... beef and bourbon appear to be a couple of the things sold separately.
Even more impressive than Contravans' kit is the ordering process. Instead of a "call for quote and build time," you can hop on its website, customize the color of the wall panels, kitchen counter and drawer panels, schedule the installation for 2+ weeks out, and put in your down payment for half the US$13,500 price (installation included).
In those 2+ weeks, Contravans gets to work cutting, welding and building up your kit. You drop your Promaster City off at its shop on the scheduled date; it does the install within two days; and you get on your way, embracing the alluring mystery of the open road.
The Contra-Kit won't be for every breed of van lifer, but Contravans does seem to be onto something, particularly if the rampant excitement behind #vanlife continues. There has to be a pretty big market of people just drooling at all the van build and touring photos and videos flooding social media thinking, "What if?" – before expense, time, obligations, and other life considerations set in and burst that thought bubble.
But a camper van build-out you can order on the internet, pick up in less than 2.5 weeks all equipped, and start living in the same day for an all-inclusive $13,500? That seems like it could get a lot of people moving from "What if?" to "Let's do it." Sure, you still have to buy the van, but at $24,000 to start, the Promaster City is an affordable foundation. The Contra-Kit will fit all Promaster City vans from 2015 to 2018, so you could also go used to save more money.
Contravans isn't courting this market alone. The company need only look a little south to find some competition. Colorado Springs-based Wayfarer Vans offers its own lightweight camper kit for the Promaster City, for under $5,000. The Wayfarer kit is of course a different set-up and involves a little more accessorizing, but it's another option for those that want to go cheap, simple and light.
Contravans is working on expanding out to kits for other small vans and even minivans, including the Ford Transit Connect, Mercedes Metris and Toyota Sienna.
The video clip below does a good job summing up what the Contra-Kit is all about.
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