Hammock-topped Cliff 4x4 Adventure camper van opens the floodgates of adrenaline
Germany's Sunlight makes camper vans for outdoor adventure. Its marketing materials and social media are loaded with photos of vans hauling gear against backdrops of big waves, toothy peaks and rushing rapids. The Hymer Group brand cranks the action level up a few notches with the Cliff 4x4 Adventure Van, a concept camper that supports bikers, skiers, climbers, surfers and other escapists, with climbing wall-style roof access, a rooftop wakeboarding winch, inflatable boards that work as extra beds, and a gear-storage system that doubles as a roof-mount hammock stand. This might just be the most fun van on road, dirt or snow.
The Cliff 4x4 isn't the camper van for folks that want to simply drive to a campground and spend the day sitting next to a cooler (though it's pretty good for that, too). It's for those that look at van camping less as the destination and more as prime overnight accommodations for their favorite activities, whether backcountry ski touring, kayaking or surfing. Such restless souls need a big, roomy van to carry various gear throughout spring, summer, fall and winter and provide a sturdy roof and insulated walls in which to relax, possibly between qualifiers and finals.
Sunlight's production Cliff vans are built atop the Fiat Ducato, and the Cliff 4x4 concept takes advantage of an all-wheel-drive Ducato. This adds some extra grip for off-road and winter driving, making the Cliff 4x4 a proper all-terrain, all-weather adventure machine. The four off-road roof lights and all-terrain tires clinging to beadlock wheels help the van push farther into the unknown.
Rather than focus on a single sport, as many custom camper van converters do with individual vans, Sunlight has a more all-encompassing focus – or at least on a handful of popular ones. Mountain biking, in particular, drives the design, with an open center aisle through the load doors offering plenty of space for bikes. There's also a bike repair stand on the door for easy in-field repairs and a special compartment inside for a portable bike ramp. Even if it breaks down in the driveway on the way to the Livigno, the Cliff 4x4 is ready to support all kinds of biking fun.
Easily the coolest feature of the Cliff 4x4 Adventure Van build is the rooftop hammock stand. Not so different from the TrailNest, this stand comprises two poles that secure to the roof rack to string up a hammock. When they're not being used for a high hang, the telescopic poles crank tight against the inner van walls and work to hold gear like skis and boards up over the rear workbenches and aisle.
The Cliff 4x4 roof also packs a winch for wakeboarding and water skiing, unspooling 1,640 feet (500 m) of cable to tow athletes to speeds up to 37 mph (60 km/h). Getting up to the roof to get the winch motor running doesn't involve the usual ladder – instead, it requires climbing up a series of climbing gym-style handholds on the rear doors, a feature that promises to be a fun novelty the first couple times but extremely annoying later down the line when all you want to do is unload some cargo. But since it's just a concept, that kind of long-term thinking need not apply.
Inside, a front bed provides 71 x 57 in (180 x 145 cm) of sleeping space at night, converting over into a sofa next to an adjustable, removable dining table in the day. For those trips that involve a full crew, two inflatable paddleboards work as mattresses, which can be set at just the right height using a choice of the side worktops or gear rack bars. The two extra sleeping berths make the Cliff 4x4 a light four-sleeper, and the swiveling driver cab seats ensure all four people can sit and talk at camp.
The kitchen is located at the front of the passenger-side console, packing in a dual-burner stove and sink below its lids. Two slide-out fridge/freezers provide plenty of cold storage for food and beverage, and a magnetic strip holds knives and other metal kitchenware to the wall. There's even a bungee-cord-secured shelf with Mason jars dangling from its underside, a wall-mounted bottle opener and outdoor fridge access.
A permanent bathroom is a no-go for this busy camper van cabin, but that doesn't mean Sunlight expects athletes to dig their own cat holes. Much like the Storyteller Overland Mode 4x4 van, the Cliff 4x4 Adventure Van includes a built-in toilet compartment. The compartment is integrated neatly in the side cabinetry, unfolding to provide access to the composting toilet. The user can even get a little privacy by dropping the curtain that wraps away around the gear rack bar above.
In a sort of dry bath answer to Storyteller's dual toilet compartment/shower basin, Sunlight splits the toilet from the shower, integrating the shower tray into the van floor. Pop the lid off, connect the shower sprayer to the water hookup next to the toilet, and use the roll down curtain system to close it off – a private shower that doesn't take up any permanent space inside the van.
Since the Cliff 4x4 is designed more to store unconventionally sized gear (think things like bike pumps and kayak paddles) than conventional clothing and provisions, Sunlight doesn't take up all kinds of space with upper storage cabinets and standing closets, opting for more versatile solutions like gear nets, bungee cords and hooks. It uses one set of bungees to hold an included slack line to the wall and packs a JBL Boombox indoor/outdoor Bluetooth speaker above the driver cab. One thing that could make the van's storage even more versatile is some pegboard-style paneling from Austria's Cargo Camper.
Forgetting for a second about all the purely conceptual features like the roof winch and bouldering wall, we really like the Cliff 4x4's functional front sofa-bed/rear workstation layout, an alternative to the popular European camper van floor plan with foldaway rear bed and front dinette. The Cliff 4x4 floor plan offers plenty of interior storage for large gear like bikes and boards, a simple option for sleeping two extra people and loads of worktop space for cooking, gear-tuning and more, not to mention the innovative part-time bathroom.
The floor plan is similar to American adventure vans with rear garages and lift-away/modular rear beds, like the ModVans CV1 or Adventure Wagon RUV, but Sunlight's European sensibilities warm the van up into more of a multipurpose living space, less of a cold, industrial sleep-in garage. We hope the concept previews a production Cliff 4x4 model, but we really hope Sunlight puts the floor plan into the mix, whether on an all-new van or on its existing ones.
Whether or not the Cliff 4x4 Adventure Van ultimately proves a loose product preview or just a fun custom concept, we hope to check out the details at the upcoming Dusseldorf Caravan Salon. In the meantime, you can have a closer look in the photo gallery and thorough seven-minute video walkthrough below. Jump to the 53-second mark to skip over the intro fluff and get right into van features. And if you want to see how the van has already been put to use by Sunlight's factory team of athletes, check out the entire Cliff 4x4 series.