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 more than 4 million 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 a small but growing number of vans. Its three retro Westfalias (with upgraded Ford Zetec engines) and two modern Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans 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 specializes in Volkswagen camper vans outfitted with new or rebuilt motors. Its fleet includes nine Vanagons—Westfalias and Weekenders—each of which is named after a Washington lake or river and features the classic shape and big windows everyone will recognize. The Westfalias are equipped with a small kitchen setup, a double bed below, and pop-up top bed. What the Weekenders lack in built-ins (like a kitchen area and cupboards) they make up for in space, which means you could squeeze in a fifth travel companion. While only a few of the company’s eight Eurovans have the onboard sink, stove, and fridge, they all feature the pop-up bed, creature comforts like air-conditioning, and larger engines ideal for longer trips. Peace Vans Rentals recently began adding shiny new Mercedes-Benz Metris campers, built out by their sister company Peace Vans, to their lineup. From $680 for four nights.
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. Mercedes Sprinters from $200 per night.
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 10 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. Group tours from $399 per person for a weekend; vans from $169 per night.
Colorado, Utah, and Nevada
Denver, CO, Salt Lake City, UT, and Las Vegas, NV
Native Campervans–based in Denver, Salt Lake City, and, beginning in April 2019, Las Vegas–offers Ram ProMasters in two sizes (The Biggie and The Smalls) and a Dodge Grand Caravan (The OG). The camper vans are cleverly outfitted to allow two passengers (the OG sleeps four) 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 $79 for eight nights.
Las Vegas, NV, and San Francisco, CA
Instead of expected VW vans, Pacific Overlander offers a variety of 4x4 SUVs and pickup trucks, including a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, a Toyota 4Runner TRD, and a Tacoma TRD. Each expedition vehicle is outfitted with a two-person rooftop tent that can be assembled in minutes. Your penthouse tent is outfitted with a three-inch queen-size foam mattress, roof-mounted lighting, and mosquito netting. An aluminum ladder makes getting in and out a breeze. A variety of camping equipment—a camp table and chairs, a dual burner stove, a large cooler or fridge, cook- and dinnerware, a five-gallon water can—is also included and extras like sleeping bags can be added. From $150 per night.
New York City
From the outside, Wayward Campers’s camper vans are simple ad discreet. But that’s exactly the point. A flashy or vintage van with a Technicolor paint job and colorful logos screams “Look at me, I’m on vacation!” It’s not for everyone. Sometimes all you need is a reliable ride that will get you where you want to go and keep you comfy when get there. This company took the rugged Ford E-350s platforms and created a fleet of roomy and comfy sleeper vans filled with all you need—bed linens and pillows, a kitchenette with a gas stove, refrigerator, pots, pans, and utensils. Check the glove compartment and you’ll find a map of the United States, which means you can literally take this van wherever adventure calls. From $95 per night.