Choosing the Right Camper: A Guide from Vans to Motorhomes

Choosing the right camper has become a buzzword with the rise of the vanlife and camper mania trends. However, selecting a vehicle that suits your idea of a vacation or lifestyle requires expert insights.

The camper phenomenon, thought it has always been popular in Denmark, Sweden and Norway, has experienced a significant surge in the past two years, fueled by the popularity of open-air itinerant vacations that the camper lifestyle facilitates. This trend has been further accelerated by the smart remote work mode that many Scandinavians have embraced and still embrace, allowing for more flexibility in terms of time and space.

The increasing demand poses a challenge with no one-size-fits-all solution. Campers come in various forms, from vans and pop-tops to semi-integrated and motorhomes. It’s not just about the year of registration, size, or color—camper is not a universal label. The market offers a wide range of products to cover almost every need and budget.

However, making the right choice is crucial. As advised by professionals, the first step is to “try before you buy.” Professional rentals provide an excellent opportunity to test different models and sizes, ensuring a safe travel solution with the guidance of an informed advisor, even if you eventually decide to make a purchase. Let’s delve into the various types of campers to understand better which one might be the perfect fit for your needs.

1. The Van

Often, what captivates newcomers to the camper world is the small “van,” constructed on the basis of standard commercial vans. It is also commonly referred to as a “campervan” or “pure camper.” Agility and maneuverability are considered great advantages, especially for mid-sized vans like those built on the Fiat Ducato or Ford Transit platforms, which are currently popular.

However, it’s essential to carefully analyze what “traveling small” truly means. While it may be rewarding for a couple, it could be more challenging for families due to limited space. Even with pop-up roofs, the interior space may not be ideal on rainy days. Couples or outdoor enthusiasts might find this option suitable, but it may not be the best solution for those who plan to spend more time inside the camper.

2. The Pop-Top

When thinking of a camper, the classic “pop-tops” often come to mind. These vehicles retain the original van cabin, but they are topped with a foldable bed, creating a pop-top. For decades, they were the best-selling campers, especially before the rise of semi-integrated and van models. Pop-tops are still an excellent choice for families with children, offering separate sleeping areas, possibly with bunk beds.

Camper
Image: Bürstner Lyseo

Pop-tops can be surprisingly compact in length and are the only campers that can comfortably accommodate up to six (rarely seven) people. Although they may appear somewhat awkward and less enjoyable to drive due to their height, they have their advantages.

3. The Semi-Integrated

Then there are the semi-integrated campers, also known as profiles. They share similarities with pop-tops but lack the pop-top itself. Therefore, they often come with a dropdown bed, descending from above the dining table, catering to families with children. However, compromises may be necessary in terms of space.

Semi-integrated campers are a great solution for both couples and slightly larger groups. They usually have a rear storage compartment, referred to as a “garage,” allowing for the stowing of outdoor tables, chairs, bicycles, sports equipment, or even a scooter (as long as the overall weight limit is not exceeded!).

This type of camper is also available in a reduced width (sometimes inaccurately labeled as “vans” by manufacturers), serving as a middle ground between vans and standard vehicles. This configuration facilitates parallel parking and enhances agility in curves.

4. The Motorhome

And then, there are the kings of campers: motorhomes (or integrated). Their bodies are entirely built from scratch, abandoning any visual connection with the vans they derive from. They almost always feature a dropdown bed above the driver’s seats and a rear bedroom.

Motorhomes are suitable for couples or families with children, ensuring optimal living conditions in any situation. They come in various sizes, ranging from compact ones around six meters to enormous and luxurious vehicles—referred to as “liners”—that compete with “grand touring” buses. They are often considered a pinnacle by enthusiasts, and their popularity is such that they have no rivals in movies and TV.

Movies like “Ella & John – The Leisure Seeker” (2017), “From Dusk Till Dawn” (1996), or the famous TV series “Breaking Bad” (2008-2013) have featured motorhomes. The ideal crew for a motorhome: those who refuse to settle and seek the maximum in a vehicle.

5. The Caravan

Last but not least, we shouldn’t forget about caravans (or trailers). They lack an engine but boast a significant advantage: unparalleled interior space utilization. They are typically used in campsites, allowing the towing vehicle to remain free for exploring the surroundings while a “home” awaits after a day at the beach, a city tour, or a long hike.

Image: Romotow

Caravans are suitable for a style of tourism that emphasizes in-depth exploration of specific areas, as opposed to campers that provide more flexibility for daily travel. They also tend to have more budget-friendly prices compared to campers. The habitable trailer played a significant role in the film “The Hills Have Eyes” (first in 1977 and then in the 2006 remake). The ideal crew for a caravan: those who prefer in-depth exploration and a more “stationary” holiday.

Whatever vehicle you choose, campers (or caravans) promise comfort, practicality, and a connection with nature. To find the right one, it’s crucial to focus on your own needs, avoiding being dazzled by the richness of features or misled by size. Happy camping!

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