The camper van is the ultimate all-in-one adventure vehicle; it can take you wherever you want on a whim—no itinerary, no route, no destination in mind. With that kind of freedom, it’s no wonder many burned-out Gen-Xers and Millennials have traded their nine-to-five jobs and pricey apartments for the chance to live in the unbridled freedom of #vanlife. (Just do a quick search of the hashtag on Instagram; you’ll find millions of photos of life on the road.) Vanlife-curious but not quite ready to give up your apartment yet? Across the continent, companies rent tricked-out campers so you too can join in on the adventure—without committing to buying and refurbishing a van yourself. Get your Instagram filters ready.
This Vancouver-based company has retro Westfalias (with upgraded Ford Zetec engines) and modern Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Metris vans that are each lovingly outfitted with the kind of essentials only someone who’s done a fair amount of camper van travel would think of. Mini fridge and propane cooktop? Check. Board games and scented candle? You betcha. Stashed away in the built-in cabinetry you’ll find linens and the basic utensils, pots, and pans you need to cook up classic on-the-road dishes like breakfast burritos and pasta primavera. At bedtime, the little dining/living space converts to a bedroom for two and, in the Westfalia, the roof pops up to reveal a bunk bed with peek-a-boo windows, through which you can watch the moon rise. From $150 per night.
Peace Vans Rentals
Peace Vans Rentals specializes in Volkswagen camper vans outfitted with new or rebuilt motors. Its fleet includes various Vanagons—both VW buses and Mercedes Metris Campers. The VW options are equipped with a small kitchen setup, a double bed below, and pop-up top bed, whereas the Metris Campers have all that, but are a bit more modern. All of the company’s vans feature a pop-up bed, and creature comforts like air-conditioning and larger engines ideal for longer trips. From $265 per night.
Road Trip Oregon
Road Trip Oregon has an eclectic collection of modern Volkswagen Eurovan campers and Land Rovers that are each artfully designed and kitted out, but if you want a van with a bathroom, a shower with hot water, and AC, one of its Mercedes Sprinters is the way to go. The Sprinters have solar panels on the roof that keep the 12v house battery charged, a 30-gallon freshwater tank, an entertainment center with a TV and DVD player, blackout shades, and an electric awning that creates a shady outside patio. Home really is wherever you park it. Volkswagen Eurovan Camperas from $150 per night.
Vintage Surfari Wagons
Costa Mesa, CA
There’s arguably no better way to road-trip across Southern California than behind the wheel of a Bay Window bus—the iconic camper Volkswagen developed in the mid-20th century, popularized in the groovy ’60s, and updated in the ’70s. Vintage Surfari Wagons has a fleet of them in colors like Fanta orange, cactus green, and turquoise blue. Each is lovingly restored and features a fridge, sink, propane stove, and USB hookups. This is the kind of camper van that will stop people in their tracks to snap photos as you roll by. Keep in mind, though, these beauties were not meant for speed or distance, so if you’re looking to explore a little deeper, consider one of the company’s ’80s-era Vanagons or Eurovans. Whichever van you choose will be furnished with cookware, flatware, toilet paper, dish-washing essentials, cooking fuel, a Southern California campground directory, and maps. Vintage Surfari Wagons also offers group tours, like a Girls Surf Camp and a Happy Trails Desert Campout. Vans from $137 per night, with a three night minimum.
Colorado, Utah, and Nevada
Denver, CO, Salt Lake City, UT, and Las Vegas, NV
Native Campervans–based in Denver, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas–offers Ram ProMasters in three sizes (The Biggie, The Smalls, The Squad (the first two of which sleep, two, the latter sleeps four). The camper vans are cleverly outfitted to allow passengers to comfortably sit, sleep, and prep a meal in the kitchen. Most are equipped with a sink and water tank, a fridge or cooler, a propane or gas stove, and a variety of cooking utensils, cutlery, meal serving essentials, and foldaway table. What they may lack in exterior flash (the vans are simple white, black, or silver and adorned with the company’s minimalist logo), they make up for on the inside with wood paneling, tile features, and cozy blankets and pillows. The Biggies even have clever touches like solar batteries to help power the three-tier lighting systems and charge phones. From $69 per night