From luxury travel to modular adventure: The best American camper vans of RVX 2019
Big RVs still rule the American market, but there's been some measurable movement toward more compact camping and travel, with some innovative camper vans launching in hopes of keeping that movement rolling. Camper van offerings from major brands still aren't anywhere near as diverse as those in Europe, but the recent RVX trade show demonstrated that the van market is alive and well, churning with new and exciting products for world travelers, thrill seekers, family road trippers and others.
Sure, we didn't get row after row of camper vans of every size, shape and badge, the way we did at CMT Stuttgart in January, but camper vans were definitely in the mix, ranging from luxurious coaches to multifunctional adventure-seeking machines.
Boundless adventurer: Storyteller Overland Mode 4x4
Virtually every RVX exhibitor not dealing exclusively in half-million-dollar Class A luxury buses was trying to grab the attention of the proverbial youthful adventurer. While many simply slapped on a pair of all-terrain tires or dropped a mountain bike on the roof, newcomer Storyteller Overland impressed by weaving dust-flying adventure into seemingly every design decision and spec of its Mode 4x4 camper vans.
Storyteller gets started by giving buyers their choice of fuel type, building its campers on both gas Ford Transit (Quigley 4x4) and diesel Mercedes Sprinter (factory 4x4) vans. From there, it optimizes its build-outs for off-grid expeditions, offering features like a standard Volta lithium battery system, solar charging, diesel heat and hot water, and space-optimizing solutions like a flip-up kitchen sink, foldaway rear bed and multipurpose pop-up wet bath/bench/tailgate cooler. The Mode 4x4 seems very much the polar opposite of the show van hastily shod in deep-treaded rubber and topped with whitewater kayaks.
Storyteller has not listed pricing information, but it does mention a no-haggle pricing scheme and customer care app. We'll bring you more details on this startup and its products in a future article.
Family man van: ModVans CV1
The ModVans CV1 could have very easily gotten the nod as the adventurer's choice, particularly the show model with optional Quigley 4x4, roof rack and rear ladder. But the van impresses even more as a family vacation and weekender chariot, starting with the four-sleeper combination of stowaway lower bed and pop-up roof loft.
The big North American Class B brands don't seem to have "modularity" in their vocabularies, leaving that space to innovators like ModVans. Working with a Ford Transit base, the California startup packages in fully removable camping furniture and removable, rearrangeable rear seats so that the CV1 is both a light, nimble camper van and an everyday people/cargo-mover. The CV1 remains as smart and versatile as a production camper as it was when we covered it as a prototype in 2017, all while gaining a bit of polish.
At US$77,000 to start, the CV1 is still a significant investment, but compare that to the six-figure price tags of many other American camper vans, then remember that the CV1 doubles as a regular van, and you'll see it's one of the more affordable turnkey family camper vans this side of the Atlantic.
National park explorer: Winnebago NPF Travato
What better way to put a camper van to use than by touring the incomparably gorgeous protected wild lands of America's national park system? Winnebago isn't ignorant to the natural intersection between its RV lineup and the national parks, and it's throwing its weight behind the Parks' charity partner, the National Park Foundation. At RVX, Winnebago and the Foundation announced a multi-year partnership to spread awareness about the park system and support children's initiatives.
To get the partnership rolling in style, Winnebago also debuted the National Park Foundation Travato limited edition camper van. Electric yellow isn't typically our favorite automotive accent, but we dig the special edition graphics package on the Ram-based van. The limited-edition variant also comes standard with the same Volta Pure3 energy system included on the new Sprinter Boldt.
No word on just how limited the NPF package will be, or what it will cost, but the good folks at The Fit RV, a Winnebago partner, will tour in one of the first models, sharing their stories from the road as part of the NPF initiative. The standard Travato starts at $112,907.
Roaming retiree Class B: Pleasure-Way Plateau
American camper vans in general feel less warm and homey than their European counterparts. While features like fixed front dining nooks for four and fixed beds are fairly common over in Europe, we didn't see nearly as many of them in the vans at RVX. Long story short, if we were looking for a semi/fully permanent mobile living solution for traveling North America during our golden years, we'd be inclined to upsize to a larger Class A or C with a warmer, less automotive interior and furniture that didn't need constant conversion.
But since we're focusing on camper vans here, we'll pick out the one that seemed the best for serious retiree travelers, Pleasure-Way's Plateau. The Plateaus we looked at were built on the all-new third-generation Mercedes Sprinter, offering advantages like enhanced driver assistance and infotainment packages. Inside, the upscale $160,000 Plateau series leans much more toward luxury and comfort, much less toward horizon-chasing adventure. Its two floor plans include full-width rear power sofas for easy nighttime conversion, 24-in LED smart TVs, Bose sound bars, microwave/convection ovens, Corian countertops, Onan generators, dual 100-Ah lithium batteries, and dual 7-in touchscreen control panels.
Pleasure-Way throws in one feature specifically for grandparents – a standard inflatable bed that rests over the driver cab seats, providing space to bring the grandkids along.
Skip to the gallery to dive inside these vans and see the other camper vans of RVX 2019.