Six Ultimate Adventure Vehicles
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
The iconic Volkswagen Bus, vehicle of choice among wanderers for more than 60 years, was discontinued at the end of 2013. But that doesn’t mean the adventure is over. After all, you can convert anything with wheels into a tiny home—if you have the capital. Here are six of our favorite vehicles (and add-ons) to help you find freedom on the open road.
The gold standard of campers, Sportsmobile (starting at $65,000) has been turning vans—from Ford, Chevy, Mercedes, you name it—into luxury travel homes for 52 years. Trick yours out with generators, awnings, roof racks, sound systems, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms—the sky’s the limit, as long as all your add-ons fit inside the van.
According to the company, 98 percent of Sportsmobile owners use their van as an everyday vehicle. (Gas mileage ranges from 12 to 20 miles per gallon.) Want more info? There are more than 103,000 Sportsmobile forums. But you’ll only get an invite to their 4×4 rallies if you own one.
Planning to drive to the base of Denali, across the Sahara, or though Greenland? Then don’t forget to schedule an Arctic Trucks modification before you leave. The company pimps out four-wheel-drive vehicles for the world’s most extreme environments. Everywhere from Norway to the South Pole, search and rescue teams, military units, and police forces have used these vans for decades.
Arctic Trucks swaps in large tires and alters the car body and gearing to give the vehicle power and high performance on and off the road. With up to 38-inch tires, these modified vehicles have superior clearance and traction, but they’re still road-ready. Arctic Trucks’ claim to fame? Their rides can venture where no car has gone before. Unfortunately, they aren’t yet available in the U.S.
When the first-generation Sprinter (starting at $36,000) launched in 2001, it immediately gained popularity among adventurers who’d been cramming themselves (and their gear) into VW buses for decades.
The Sprinter is spacious enough to allow those taller than six feet standing room. And with 543 cubic feet of space, it’s larger than some city apartments. Owners claim it’s maneuverable, and the standard turbo-diesel V6 engine offers relatively good fuel economy. Also available with four-wheel drive.
Ursa Minor Jeep Wrangler Pop-Top
Ursa Minor gained fame with its E-camper Honda Element pop-up—a conversion that cost much less than other options on the market. When the car was discontinued, Ursa started making modern pop-tops for Jeep Wranglers (starting at $5,700).
The flatbed-camper design minimizes noise, maximizes fuel economy, and adds only about six inches to the Jeep’s height. When fully opened, the space is large enough to accommodate a seven-foot mattress, interior LED lighting, and zippered screen windows. You’ll be comfortable, no matter the campsite. A fold-over version holds four people.
This pop-up truck-bed camper (from $33,000 to $75,000) is designed for backcountry adventures. With the push of a button, the top electronically expands in less than a minute. The seamless monocoque shell, light and strong, is made from a fiberglass-reinforced carbon-fiber sandwich over closed-cell foam.
That construction makes this camper warmer and quieter than its competitors, but it’s still ready for rough terrain. Unlike traditional campers, there’s no wood, staples, caulk, or chopped-fiberglass insulation to fail during off-road jostling.
Once called the sports car of motor homes, Chinook went out of business in 2005. Guess what? The company is back, after being acquired about a year ago. Prototypes of the first new wagons ($200,000) debuted in February at the Chinook RV Club’s annual rally in Pahrump, Nevada.
The new model (not shown here) is a refreshed version of the 25-foot Glacier, built on a Ford E-450 commercial-van cutaway chassis. It’s a luxury vehicle that has more guts than your average RV. Available this December.