An inside-out camper van? A wheel-less, expandable camping trailer – again? A truck camper sized for a cargo van? Maybe a simple flip to "van camper" will do the trick? However we classify the ioCamper, it lies just outside the RV categories we're used to exploring. This expanding camper box rides inside a large van, sliding out at camp to grow to four times its packed size. With no permanent van modification necessary, a roomy interior with four sleeping berths, and some glamping comforts, the ioCamper offers some very clear advantages over the average camper van. Is it the next big thing in #vanlife?
Hungarian mechanical engineer Tamas Laczko decided he wanted a unique camping experience for his family, with more space, more comfort and more flexibility than the typical camper van. So he set about designing something different ... very different.
With the help of some local automation, electrical and technical experts, he pulled the camper out of his mind's eye and made it a working prototype in less than a year between 2016 and 2017. This year, he set about patenting the design and is now seeking Indiegogo funding to further his journey toward serial production.
While we can't squeeze the ioCamper neatly into an existing RV class, it's easy enough to understand what the genre-bending design is all about. It's an 8.2 x 4.3 x 5.6-ft (2.5 x 1.3 x 1.7-m) box sized specifically to fit inside L1 H2 and larger vans, which makes it feasible for use with a variety of vehicles, some already quite popular in camper van conversions –pptions include the Fiat Ducato, Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, Volkswagen Crafter, Iveco Daily and Peugeot Boxer.
As to why you'd want to stuff a camper box into a van rather than just create a camper van interior, the main answer is expansion. At camp, the ioCamper expands to four times its packed size and can remain attached to the van or stand on a series of legs as a hard-walled, freestanding camping shelter.
There are a few camper vans that offer some level of expansion, but the average camper van's living space is restricted to the interior of the stock van, whereas the ioCamper lives much larger at camp but still packs in the van for transport. Even camper vans that do offer expansion modules – like the Hünerkopf Sprinter SLO we saw at Abenteuer & Allrad back in June – add some interior space, but nothing like quadrupling in size.
It sounds like ioCamper wants to make the expansion process fully automatic, requiring little more than a touch of a smartphone. But what we're seeing right now in the company's Indiegogo video (embedded at the bottom of this article) is a process that's part manual, part automatic.
With the camper still packed neatly in the van, users drop the structural support beam down behind the van, and the ioCamper auto-extends out on top of it, sliding on rollers out the van's back doors. The van driver can then pull slowly forward to slide the remainder of the ioCamper out, legs folding down for free-standing support. From there, campers manually fold out the two side rooms while the floors lower down automatically.
If you'd prefer to use the ioCamper more like a motorhome, you can keep the front bedroom inside the van, with the two side rooms stretching out behind the rear bumper to create a sort of indoor/outdoor camper van. This "motorhome" configuration offers quicker set-up and breakdown and a slightly smaller overall footprint.
IoCamper says set-up takes about five to 10 minutes, depending upon whether you're using it as a standalone camper or vehicle-attached motorhome. The automatic hardware is activated by a smart device connected to the ioCamper's Wi-Fi network.
The T-shaped interior provides everything you'd expect from a camper and a few things you wouldn't. The main living area houses both the kitchen block (dual-burner stove, sink and refrigerator) and the bathroom (toilet, shower and sink) on a single center wall. A privacy curtain wraps around the bathroom when in use. This living area doubles as a bedroom with a single 75 x 31-in (190 x 80-cm) bed.
The room opposite that main living area is where you'll find the dining area and a second bedroom. There's a dining table for four people, another 75 x 31-in bed, and a 23-in touchscreen control center that doubles as a video playback screen. The touchscreen command center provides adjustments for the lighting, refrigerator and climate controls, along with monitoring of the battery, water level, etc.
The front room – the base of the "T" – is a dedicated bedroom with 75 x 57-in (190 x 144-cm) bed and TV. We reckon this one is the parents' master bedroom, with the other two rooms working as the kids' rooms.
Planned interior features include multi-color LED lighting, heating, air conditioning and an electrical system fed by roof-integrated solar panels. USB charging ports in each room help to power devices.
IoCamper hopes to develop a second prototype and prepare for production in the coming months, starting serial production in June, 2019. However, its Indiegogo campaign is a long way from success. Big-ticket items often have a tough hill to climb on crowdfunding sites, and ioCamper doesn't make things easy on itself. With pledge levels that top out at US$50 T-shirts (and look to be exactly the same as the $25 T-shirts), it's going to take a lot of overpriced Ts to reach the $200,000 flex goal. Hopefully, ioCamper has some other funding sources lined up.
The ioCamper is an interesting design that may or may not find a market niche, but pricing seems like it could very easily be its downfall. A removable, expandable camper box seems like an idea that would appeal most to more budget-minded campers shopping for basic camping trailers or van conversions. But things like the touchscreen command center, full climate control and solar panels lead us to believe ioCamper is developing its camper more for the glamper set who would be considering it against fancier motorhomes and caravans. Would those buyers really want to lose the convenience of a well-appointed, full-time motorhome for the hassle of a removable, expandable van camper?
And the higher the price goes, the more you're looking at buyers who could afford both a dedicated motorhome and separate van or other everyday vehicle, so the ioCamper advantage of being able to remove the box and use the stock van the rest of the year is minimized.
IoCamper might have some trouble getting the price right for the fully equipped model it's currently talking up, but we imagine it wouldn't be hard to stagger features into entry level through premium prices. Still, the large, complicated design and Wi-Fi-activated automation might stand in the way of hitting a low enough entry point.
If ioCamper is able to secure funding and make that next step, it'll be interesting to see the price tag dangling off its first model(s).
The first clip below is ioCamper's Indiegogo pitch, which includes some nice footage of camper set-up and the interior. We've included the second video because it does a good job of animating the greater ioCamper vision.
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