Automotive

Gallery: Impressively packaged mini-camper vans that live surprisingly large

Gallery: Impressively packaged...
Camper van equipment company Reimo shows the Nissan N-Vane camper van package. Not only is this camper van tiny at 4.6 m (15 ft) long, it's all-electric, based on the e-NV200
Camper van equipment company Reimo shows the Nissan N-Vane camper van package. Not only is this camper van tiny at 4.6 m (15 ft) long, it's all-electric, based on the e-NV200
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The Caddy Beach is a tiny camper van available from Volkswagen 
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The Caddy Beach is a tiny camper van available from Volkswagen 
Like the larger T6 California "Beach," the Caddy Beach is a simple camper van that comes standard with a folding bed, storage and camping accessories – it doesn't include a kitchen
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Like the larger T6 California "Beach," the Caddy Beach is a simple camper van that comes standard with a folding bed, storage and camping accessories – it doesn't include a kitchen
Coming in just under 5 m (16.4 ft) long, the Ford Transit Custom-based Dreamer Cap Coast Select pictured features a flexible, floor rail-based interior. It wore an "as shown" price of €56,130
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Coming in just under 5 m (16.4 ft) long, the Ford Transit Custom-based Dreamer Cap Coast Select pictured features a flexible, floor rail-based interior. It wore an "as shown" price of €56,130
With its floor rail system, the Dreamer Cap Coast Select is designed to go from a six-seater to a four-seat camper
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With its floor rail system, the Dreamer Cap Coast Select is designed to go from a six-seater to a four-seat camper
Karmann-Mobil bills the slick, little Danny four-sleeper camper van the "everyday motorhome," offering it in the ultra-compact 5-m (16.4-ft) version shown here and the larger 5.4-m (17.7-ft) version
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Karmann-Mobil bills the slick, little Danny four-sleeper camper van the "everyday motorhome," offering it in the ultra-compact 5-m (16.4-ft) version shown here and the larger 5.4-m (17.7-ft) version
Inside, Karmann-Mobil packs the Danny with a kitchen block, removable dining table, swivel front seats, folding rear bench bed and a pop-up roof bed, creating a cozy camper for four
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Inside, Karmann-Mobil packs the Danny with a kitchen block, removable dining table, swivel front seats, folding rear bench bed and a pop-up roof bed, creating a cozy camper for four
Karmann-Mobil leaves the popular Fiat Ducato for its larger camper vans, basing the Danny on the 120-hp Fiat Talento
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Karmann-Mobil leaves the popular Fiat Ducato for its larger camper vans, basing the Danny on the 120-hp Fiat Talento
Karmann-Mobil Danny 490
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Karmann-Mobil Danny 490
There were plenty of retro and surfy VW camper vans around the Caravan Salon, but this T6-based FreeNature Eco from Reisemobil Manufaktur was easily the most memorable thanks to its colorful exterior and gorgeous interior furniture and trim
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There were plenty of retro and surfy VW camper vans around the Caravan Salon, but this T6-based FreeNature Eco from Reisemobil Manufaktur was easily the most memorable thanks to its colorful exterior and gorgeous interior furniture and trim
The Reisemobil Manufaktur FreeNature Eco's upholstery blends nicely with the flooring and furniture design
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The Reisemobil Manufaktur FreeNature Eco's upholstery blends nicely with the flooring and furniture design
Reisemobil Manufaktur doesn't go for the kitchen block right inside the sliding door, the way many camper conversions have, instead installing the kitchen behind the rear bench
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Reisemobil Manufaktur doesn't go for the kitchen block right inside the sliding door, the way many camper conversions have, instead installing the kitchen behind the rear bench
The key component of the "FreeNature Eco" package is the natural wood interior
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The key component of the "FreeNature Eco" package is the natural wood interior
This stylish conversion doesn't come cheap – it wore a price just under €91,400 at the show
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This stylish conversion doesn't come cheap – it wore a price just under €91,400 at the show
Campmobil does some camper van work on the super-compact VW Caddy. It was closed our first trip to the booth, but we found it open later on
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Campmobil does some camper van work on the super-compact VW Caddy. It was closed our first trip to the booth, but we found it open later on
We were impressed with the SpaceCamper LightOpen's compact interior layout last year, but it's even more impressive in person
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We were impressed with the SpaceCamper LightOpen's compact interior layout last year, but it's even more impressive in person
Where the SpaceCamper LightOpen differs from the average camper van is in its simple, low-profile kitchen and dining area solutions
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Where the SpaceCamper LightOpen differs from the average camper van is in its simple, low-profile kitchen and dining area solutions
Swivel seats and a collapsible table inside the SpaceCamper LightOpen - the table is designed to hold a tabletop cooker for a different type of camp cooking
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Swivel seats and a collapsible table inside the SpaceCamper LightOpen - the table is designed to hold a tabletop cooker for a different type of camp cooking
SpaceCamper shows off its uniquely packaged LightOpen VW Transporter
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SpaceCamper shows off its uniquely packaged LightOpen VW Transporter
The Pössl Campster is a super-flexible 5-m-long (16.4-ft), 1.96-m-high (6.4-ft) camper van that can switch between a cargo van, seven-seat people hauler and four-person camper van with its floor rails, removable seats and removable kitchen block
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The Pössl Campster is a super-flexible 5-m-long (16.4-ft), 1.96-m-high (6.4-ft) camper van that can switch between a cargo van, seven-seat people hauler and four-person camper van with its floor rails, removable seats and removable kitchen block
Pössl Campster on show at the 2018 Caravan Salon
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Pössl Campster on show at the 2018 Caravan Salon
Pössl shows how the flexible Campster can be rearranged into a bike-hauler camper van
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Pössl shows how the flexible Campster can be rearranged into a bike-hauler camper van
The Campster still manages to pack four seats in bike-hauling configuration 
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The Campster still manages to pack four seats in bike-hauling configuration 
The Campster features a removable kitchen
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The Campster features a removable kitchen
Inside the Pössl Campster
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Inside the Pössl Campster
One of our favorite camper vans of 2017, the Pössl Campster 
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One of our favorite camper vans of 2017, the Pössl Campster 
Inside the Pössl Campster
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Inside the Pössl Campster
The Citroen-based Campster starts at €37,999, according to the pricing published in the van's online brochure
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The Citroen-based Campster starts at €37,999, according to the pricing published in the van's online brochure
We get a look inside the Campmobil Caddy Tramp mini camper van 
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We get a look inside the Campmobil Caddy Tramp mini camper van 
By making its furniture and equipment flexible, Campmobil manages to squeeze a functional camper into the VW Caddy. The sofa folds into a bed; the stove cover attaches to the rear cabinet for dining; and the portable stove can be used indoors or out
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By making its furniture and equipment flexible, Campmobil manages to squeeze a functional camper into the VW Caddy. The sofa folds into a bed; the stove cover attaches to the rear cabinet for dining; and the portable stove can be used indoors or out
Relying on an ultra-compact camper van will save you money up front and money on gas and travel in the long run. Prices on the Campmobil Caddy Tramp start under €30,000, according to its website
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Relying on an ultra-compact camper van will save you money up front and money on gas and travel in the long run. Prices on the Campmobil Caddy Tramp start under €30,000, according to its website
Many of the camper vans here measure roughly 5 m (16.4 ft) in length, but the Campmobil Caddy Tramp is even smaller at 4.4 m (14.4 ft) – truly a mini-camper van
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Many of the camper vans here measure roughly 5 m (16.4 ft) in length, but the Campmobil Caddy Tramp is even smaller at 4.4 m (14.4 ft) – truly a mini-camper van
Camper van equipment company Reimo shows the Nissan N-Vane camper van package. Not only is this camper van tiny at 4.6 m (15 ft) long, it's all-electric, based on the e-NV200
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Camper van equipment company Reimo shows the Nissan N-Vane camper van package. Not only is this camper van tiny at 4.6 m (15 ft) long, it's all-electric, based on the e-NV200
Reimo doesn't try to squeeze a kitchen inside the N-Vane, instead relying on a load area camper box to provide kitchen amenities and support for the bed
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Reimo doesn't try to squeeze a kitchen inside the N-Vane, instead relying on a load area camper box to provide kitchen amenities and support for the bed
A simple sink, stove and small refrigerator in the Reimo Nissan N-Vane's rear kitchen box
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A simple sink, stove and small refrigerator in the Reimo Nissan N-Vane's rear kitchen box
A simple water jug and collapsible bucket work as a sink, while a single-burner stove provides cooking
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A simple water jug and collapsible bucket work as a sink, while a single-burner stove provides cooking
You might want to bring a separate cooler along, as the Nissan N-Vane's refrigerator is rather limited
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You might want to bring a separate cooler along, as the Nissan N-Vane's refrigerator is rather limited
A look at the back of Reimo's Nissan N-Vane electric camper van
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A look at the back of Reimo's Nissan N-Vane electric camper van
Earlier this year, Nissan came out with its own all-electric NV camper, and it's currently showing it once again at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show
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Earlier this year, Nissan came out with its own all-electric NV camper, and it's currently showing it once again at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show
From what we can tell from its display and website, Reimo doesn't offer the N-Vane as a full conversion, but it does offer components like the camping box
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From what we can tell from its display and website, Reimo doesn't offer the N-Vane as a full conversion, but it does offer components like the camping box
Reimo doesn't limit its compact camper van skills to electric Nissans, showing also the pop-top VW Caddy Maxi Camp mini-camper
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Reimo doesn't limit its compact camper van skills to electric Nissans, showing also the pop-top VW Caddy Maxi Camp mini-camper
Reimo offers several bed options, allowing buyers to squeeze up to four sleeping berths in the VW Caddy - two on the folding bed that extends from the driver-side wall over to and around the rear cabinet and kitchen block and two in the pop-up roof
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Reimo offers several bed options, allowing buyers to squeeze up to four sleeping berths in the VW Caddy - two on the folding bed that extends from the driver-side wall over to and around the rear cabinet and kitchen block and two in the pop-up roof
The Reimo Caddy Maxi Camp's multi-piece rear bench offers a variety of functions. The mid-section pulled back here can drop down to create the long bench or work as part of the bed. With it pulled up, you can secure the removable table to the cabinet and dine on either side
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The Reimo Caddy Maxi Camp's multi-piece rear bench offers a variety of functions. The mid-section pulled back here can drop down to create the long bench or work as part of the bed. With it pulled up, you can secure the removable table to the cabinet and dine on either side
The 4.9-m (16-ft) Caddy Maxi Trendline that serves as the basis of the Reimo Caddy Maxi Camp is longer than the Caddy used for the red Campmobil Caddy Tramp
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The 4.9-m (16-ft) Caddy Maxi Trendline that serves as the basis of the Reimo Caddy Maxi Camp is longer than the Caddy used for the red Campmobil Caddy Tramp
Tonke shows its slick, little VW T6-based camper van
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Tonke shows its slick, little VW T6-based camper van
The Tonke Van looking sharp in a dual-color paint
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The Tonke Van looking sharp in a dual-color paint
Tonke's folding rear bench can slide back and forth and easily remove completely
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Tonke's folding rear bench can slide back and forth and easily remove completely
This looks like a little floor-integrated garbage can in the Tonke Van
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This looks like a little floor-integrated garbage can in the Tonke Van
Tonke Vans were looking good – and pricy – at the show. This one wore a price tag of €82,107
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Tonke Vans were looking good – and pricy – at the show. This one wore a price tag of €82,107
NordVan VW Transporter camper
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NordVan VW Transporter camper
Slovenia's Bravia Mobil shows its sleek, stylish 5-m-long (16.4-ft)-long, 2-m-high (6.6-ft) Peugeot Traveler-based Swan 495 camper van
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Slovenia's Bravia Mobil shows its sleek, stylish 5-m-long (16.4-ft)-long, 2-m-high (6.6-ft) Peugeot Traveler-based Swan 495 camper van
Bravia Mobil Swan 495
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Bravia Mobil Swan 495
The Peugeot lion looks pretty good against the black of this Bravia Swan 495
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The Peugeot lion looks pretty good against the black of this Bravia Swan 495
Like the Tonke Van, the Reimo VW T6 Weekender features a moveable indoor/outdoor kitchen
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Like the Tonke Van, the Reimo VW T6 Weekender features a moveable indoor/outdoor kitchen
Compared to its e-NV and Caddy campers, Reimo's T6 Weekender was downright large
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Compared to its e-NV and Caddy campers, Reimo's T6 Weekender was downright large
A look in the back of the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo
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A look in the back of the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo
Mercedes shows its own Marco Polo camper van
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Mercedes shows its own Marco Polo camper van
The Peugeot Rifter is roughly the same length as the VW Caddy, but Peugeot didn't get so ambitious as to shoehorn a camper van inside. Instead, Peugeot brings the camping to the roof with the Rifter 4x4 Concept it first revealed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show
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The Peugeot Rifter is roughly the same length as the VW Caddy, but Peugeot didn't get so ambitious as to shoehorn a camper van inside. Instead, Peugeot brings the camping to the roof with the Rifter 4x4 Concept it first revealed at the 2018 Geneva Motor Show
The Volkswagen California has been celebrating its 30th birthday throughout the year. The celebration was subdued outside, but there was much more energy inside at VW's booth, where the all new Grand California was making its debut
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The Volkswagen California has been celebrating its 30th birthday throughout the year. The celebration was subdued outside, but there was much more energy inside at VW's booth, where the all new Grand California was making its debut
Westfalia's retro-tastic Kepler 60 was a runner-up in the "most stylish VW Transporter camper van" category 
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Westfalia's retro-tastic Kepler 60 was a runner-up in the "most stylish VW Transporter camper van" category 
Westfalia shows its throw-back VW T6 Kepler Sixty
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Westfalia shows its throw-back VW T6 Kepler Sixty
The Westfalia Kepler Sixty's interior reminds us of a 1950's diner
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The Westfalia Kepler Sixty's interior reminds us of a 1950's diner
We didn't get hands on with all the Campmobil Caddy Tramp's equipment, but here's a company photo of the kitchen area, portable stove resting atop the sink
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We didn't get hands on with all the Campmobil Caddy Tramp's equipment, but here's a company photo of the kitchen area, portable stove resting atop the sink
Converting the Campmobil Caddy Tramp's sofa to bed
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Converting the Campmobil Caddy Tramp's sofa to bed
Campmobil Caddy Tramp bed
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Campmobil Caddy Tramp bed
Caddy Tramp dining set-up
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Caddy Tramp dining set-up

You don't need to spend six or seven figures to enjoy a comfy motorhome meticulously furnished for quick or extended road trips. This year's Düsseldorf Caravan Salon revealed that, with a little strategy and technique, even the smallest vans can serve as comfortable, well-equipped motorhomes. You won't find stretched, tower-roofed Ducatos or Sprinters here – these compact to downright tiny camper vans stretch no more than 5.3 m (17.4 ft) long, with many are under 5 m (16 ft). Despite the limited dimensions, each one is able to live much larger than its small footprint might suggest.

Tiniest motorhome

The iconic Volkswagen Transporter camper van is compact in its own right, and some might say just the right size for camping. But the Transporter is actually the mid-size van in Volkswagen Commercial's lineup. If you want to go smaller, you have to wedge your camping equipment into the VW Caddy, which looks more like a high-roof station wagon than a cargo van.

Volkswagen itself offers the Caddy Beach, but that's less a full camper van, more a sleeper van. A few brave aftermarket conversion shops have managed to create full-blown mini-camper vans from the Caddy, though, adding sleeping, dining and cooking amenities into the tiny rear cabin. The smallest we saw in Düsseldorf was the Caddy Tramp from Campmobil.

Campmobil does some camper van work on the super-compact VW Caddy. It was closed our first trip to the booth, but we found it open later on
Campmobil does some camper van work on the super-compact VW Caddy. It was closed our first trip to the booth, but we found it open later on

Starting at just €28,850 (approx. US$34,000), this cozy, 4.4-meter-long (14.4-ft motorhome charges its equipment with clever multitasking to get the most out of its snug interior. The longitudinal driver-side sofa drops down to work as the rear bed and can also be removed to make room for two rear vehicle seats.

The cover over top the stove removes to work as an outdoor worktop or indoor dining table. When used outside, it can mount at working or sitting height, serving as either an outdoor stove/prep counter or outdoor dining table. Inside, it secures to the wardrobe and works as a dining able for the sofa bench. When used indoors, the single-burner stove can sit over top half the sink, since there's no real counter space atop the kitchen block.

By making its furniture and equipment flexible, Campmobil manages to squeeze a functional camper into the VW Caddy. The sofa folds into a bed; the stove cover attaches to the rear cabinet for dining; and the portable stove can be used indoors or out
By making its furniture and equipment flexible, Campmobil manages to squeeze a functional camper into the VW Caddy. The sofa folds into a bed; the stove cover attaches to the rear cabinet for dining; and the portable stove can be used indoors or out

The Tramp really looks best for a solo camper or petite couples who get along very (very) well, but it's a pretty cool, little option if you want to go small. And if you need more interior space down the line, there's always the available hatch tent.

Something even greener

No matter what engine and transmission you equip it with, the Caddy Tramp's emissions will look pretty insignificant next to larger motorhomes – particularly road-monsters like the Volkner Performance S. But if you really want to drive your tailpipe emissions down to zero, you'll need something like the Reimo N-Vane.

Earlier this year, Nissan came out with its own all-electric NV camper, and it's currently showing it once again at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show
Earlier this year, Nissan came out with its own all-electric NV camper, and it's currently showing it once again at the IAA Commercial Vehicles show

Presented more as a showcase of Reimo components than as a turnkey conversion, the N-Vane starts with Nissan's e-NV200, which is nearly as short as the Caddy at just under 4.6 m (15 ft). Reimo goes with a very different interior layout than Campmobil, dedicating the entire rear cabin to the folding bed while storing the kitchen in a box below the rear of the mattress. Pop open the hatch, drop the Camping Box's cover, and slide out the sink, stove and refrigerator. It's everything you'd expect from a camper kitchen, but each component is miniaturized or simplified – the slim fridge looks better suited to cooling a couple of drinks than a long weekend's worth of food, and the sink is a collapsible bucket and water jug.

A simple sink, stove and small refrigerator in the Reimo Nissan N-Vane's rear kitchen box
A simple sink, stove and small refrigerator in the Reimo Nissan N-Vane's rear kitchen box

Still, the N-Vane works nicely as a fun look at how an all-electric mini-camper van could work, and it seems like it could be every bit as functional as Nissan's own electric NV camper.

Speaking of Reimo, it also did some conversion work on a VW Caddy Maxi, the longer Caddy variant that measures in at just under 4.9 m (16 ft). Its Caddy Maxi Camp manages to sleep up to four people thanks to the extra bed in the pop-up roof. Like the Tramp, it has a side bench, but this one has a flip-away mid-section that creates two individual dining seats on the sides of the removable tabletop secured to the cabinet.

The Maxi Camp starts at €33,580 (US$39,575), but the show model pictured was equipped up to €54,283 (US$64K) – a cool, little build-out, but we'd definitely want something bigger and more spacious for over €50K.

The 4.9-m (16-ft) Caddy Maxi Trendline that serves as the basis of the Reimo Caddy Maxi Camp is longer than the Caddy used for the red Campmobil Caddy Tramp
The 4.9-m (16-ft) Caddy Maxi Trendline that serves as the basis of the Reimo Caddy Maxi Camp is longer than the Caddy used for the red Campmobil Caddy Tramp

A new wardrobe for an old icon

We were originally hoping to do an entire gallery of just Caddy-size mini-campers, but we ran out of options pretty quickly – we just didn't find that many camper vans based on Caddies or comparably small vans. Mid-lineup vans around 5 m (16.4-ft) long and above are where the camper van market really starts to get lively, and many of these campers are still quite compact and rely on some strategic packaging to support two to four people on the road.

There were plenty of retro and surfy VW camper vans around the Caravan Salon, but this T6-based FreeNature Eco from Reisemobil Manufaktur was easily the most memorable thanks to its colorful exterior and gorgeous interior furniture and trim
There were plenty of retro and surfy VW camper vans around the Caravan Salon, but this T6-based FreeNature Eco from Reisemobil Manufaktur was easily the most memorable thanks to its colorful exterior and gorgeous interior furniture and trim

The standard-bearer of this class of camper base van is the Volkswagen Transporter, which measures between 4.9 and 5.3 m (16 and 17.4 ft) long, depending upon version selected. There were innumerable Transporter T6 vans around the show, but one stood out above all others: the FreeNature Eco from Reisemobil Manufaktur.

This 5.3-m (17.4-ft) model drew us in with its vibrant, super-surfy graphics and fully accessorized pop-top exterior, and things only got better when we looked inside. The "FreeNature Eco" package brings with it a natural wood interior that looks like a rustic lodge on wheels, complete with nicely paired upholstery.

Reisemobil Manufaktur doesn't go for the kitchen block right inside the sliding door, the way many camper conversions have, instead installing the kitchen behind the rear bench
Reisemobil Manufaktur doesn't go for the kitchen block right inside the sliding door, the way many camper conversions have, instead installing the kitchen behind the rear bench

The nicest clothes don't often come cheap, and that's as true of the FreeNature as of a fine Italian three-piece suit. This model wore an "as displayed" price of €91,394 (US$107,675), well above what you'd pay for less stylishly appointed T6 camper vans.

Take a look at our photo gallery for more angles of the above vans and to see the rest of the compact camper vans of Düsseldorf 2018.

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