Air travel-ready camper kit trots globe to turn rental cars into RVs
Polish company 123Labs has hit the scene with plans of making van life truly borderless. Its new MiniB camping kit is a slimmer, simpler, more versatile style of camper-in-a-box kit designed to pack up into a convenient carry case designed for checking on airplanes.
After landing, it lets travelers turn a wide variety of hatchback-equipped vehicles into functional micro-campers, allowing globetrotters to avoid high-priced RV rentals while still living van life to the fullest.
123Labs revives an idea we last saw in 2014, when Swiss Roombox, a camper-in-a-box innovator that appears to be defunct, introduced its airline-friendly FreeTech kit. The MiniB lacks the slick, wheeled design of the FreeTech but weighs 2.2 lb (1 kg) less and features an even more versatile set of indoor/outdoor camping equipment.
The MiniB kit measures 43 x 26 x 10 in (110 x 65 x 25 cm) when packed into its included carry case and weighs in at 62 lb (28 kg). That exceeds the 50-lb (23-kg) limit the average coach flier is probably used to, but it's within the 70-lb (32 kg) weight allotment common in business and first classes. Whether or not there are a lot of first class fliers interested in lugging a camper kit from airport to airport to save on RV rental fees, we can't say.
Another way the kit reminds us of Swiss Roombox products is in its puzzle-like design. The waterproof plywood kit comes packaged as a main box and series of nesting components that pack neatly. Upon arrival at camp, the pieces twist and connect together like a 3D puzzle to build several types of camping furniture.
The main configuration of the MiniB kit is a bed platform constructed using a series of frame supports, top panels and legs. The bed fits atop the tailgate floor and folded rear seats of the vehicle, working with the included three-piece mattress to create a 76-in-long (195-cm) double bed capable of supporting up to 420 lb (190 kg). The bed offers 45 in (115 cm) of width at the top, tapering down to 37 in (93 cm) around the legs.
An included slide-out kitchen platform pulls out of the tailgate to create a full-width countertop for holding a stove and preparing food. The kit does not come with cooking hardware, but 123Labs says the carry bag is large enough for packing a small single-burner stove, collapsible bladder-style water container and a few pieces of cookware. The traveler will need to watch the total weight of that package, taking care not to exceed airline limits, but can carry the gear they need, pick up fuel upon arrival and have a functional micro-RV camping setup for their cross-country or international adventure.
A bed and kitchen top would already be a pretty functional go-anywhere camper kit, but 123Labs doesn't stop there. The bed platform is also designed to tilt upward, creating an in-vehicle sofa for reading, sipping a beverage and relaxing in the comfort of the car.
The kit can also build up an adjustable-height outdoor dining table and two stools. There are even soft covers for the stools to create a more comfortable surface. The outdoor love seat repurposes the mattress cushions into a two-person outdoor lounge.
123Labs says the MiniB kit is compatible with a wide range of SUVs, minivans and estates – any hatchback or rear-loader "bigger than a Ford Ka or Fiat 500." It installs using a set of ratchet straps and doesn't require any tools or modifications to the vehicle, making it friendly for use with rented or borrowed vehicles. The vehicle merely needs to have enough flat load space to support the 69 x 37-in (176 x 93-cm) bed frame.
The MiniB camper kit is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, where it's on offer for pledge levels as low as €878 (approx. US$930) – a 35% discount off the planned €1,350 ($1,475) retail price. 123Labs has roughly doubled its goal, with more than three weeks left to go on the campaign. If things continue as planned, it will begin production in May, shipping out the first backer units in June to July. It offers shipping to Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for estimated prices ranging between €100 and €350 ($110 and $383).
The following video provides an overview of the features.
Please keep comments to less than 150 words. No abusive material or spam will be published.