Dive into the online world of camper vans, and it’s easy to find yourself lost in an endless feed of high-end, super-opulent rigs. But as much as we all dream of luxurious vans decked out like Brooklyn apartments and off-road RVs as large as houses and as capable as military transports, you don’t need nearly that much capability to enjoy the best part of what the Instagrammers call #vanlife. All you really need is a van that offers up a great place to sleep and a spot to cook.
Which is exactly what Caravan Outfitter’s Backroad camper van delivers.
Now, if this particular van looks a bit familiar, well, that’s likely because it looks and seems an awful lot like the Mercedes-Benz Weekender that the Bavarians unveiled earlier this year. Both vans are based on the Metris platform, both feature a Westphalia-style pop-top roof for sleeping and added airflow, and both offer a simple-yet-elegant entry into the camper van life. (Indeed, as New Atlas pointed out, Caravan Outfitters sources some parts from Reimo, the same German RV manufacturer that supplies Mercedes with pieces for the Weekender.)
The Backroad, however, has the added benefit of not only being already available, but being slightly less expensive than the Mercedes, which is expected to start in the mid-$70K range. A new one will set you back $67,511, according to Caravan Outfitters’s website, although that’s before buyers are tempted by such options as the $1,450 solar roof package that feeds electricity into the 90 amp-hour accessory battery beneath the driver’s seat or the $1,840 Fiammas 45 side awning.
Like the Weekender, the Backroad is less for semi-permanent residency than it is for short-term vacations — which, to be fair, is how most of us would likely use a camper van anyway. During the business day, there’s tons of cargo space and seating for five people, thanks to twin captain’s chairs up front and a three-person bench in back; come camping time, though, the rear bench folds out into a double bed, while the pop-top roof reveals a second double mattress. (The upstairs bed can also be folded up to create standing room for shorter people inside the van.)
A swing-away table inside provides a place to eat, drink and be merry, while you can also grab a Yeti Tundra 45 cooler specially outfitted with tie-down straps and a padded lid for use as an extra seat. And while some may be content to fire up the fire pit when it comes time to dine, the rest of us will likely want to opt for the $3,400 kitchen add-on, which brings a 31-quart fridge, a slide-out butane stove and several storage drawers in a compact package that fits into the back of the van. It can even be removed and left at home for those times where you don’t think you’ll need it.
Buyers can also accessorize the Backroad out with a roof rack, a trailer hitch (to take advantage of the diesel-powered van’s 5,000-lb towing capacity), a swing-away hitch-mounted bike rack, among other add-ons. Still, the base price does include a Metris packing official Mercedes-Benz options like the Driver Comfort package that adds comfier seats and a softer suspension, the Cold Weather package that brings heated front seats and the Blind Spot Assistance package that helps warn you of vehicles hiding behind and off to the side, so even if you go for a basic Backroad, you’re still getting a great van for the money. (We’d still probably spring for the kitchen, though.)
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