YES! We travel and camp in a GoneCamper minivan. Why? Read on:
The GoneCamper Dodge Grand Caravan now has 70,000 miles. We have traveled across the county, to Alaska and back, taken countless day trips and weekend excursions, and used the minivan as a daily driver for over three years.
In total, we have spent MONTHS camping in the minivan. Would we do it all over again? YES!
Saguaro National Monument, near the Mexico border
Here is why we feel that the GoneCamper (based on the Dodge Caravan and the 2106 and prior Chrysler Town & Country) makes an ideal traveling and camping vehicle:
1. We wanted a vehicle that was easy for both of us to drive. The Dodge Caravan is as easy to drive as any car; you don’t need special skills like many RV’s. It’s smaller than pickups, many SUV’s and full-size cars. Unlike motor homes, you can easily find parking spots on the street or parking ramps. You don’t need to worry about overhangs at gas stations or trees in campsites. And you don’t need to worry about high winds on the open road like boxy RV’s. We can drive through restaurants and take advantage of automatic car washes after trips down muddy or dusty roads. Since we take turns driving, we go farther and neither gets worn out.
2. We didn’t want another vehicle that would require storage. Parking an RV in our yard is not an option. You can spend over $100 per month for RV storage! The Caravan fits easily in our standard garage. Unlike a motor home that only gets used occasionally, the Caravan is our second vehicle. Saving over $1,000 per year in storage fees pays for a lot of travel! And the Caravan is not considered a commercial vehicle so any neighborhood zoning restrictions are also avoided.
Mile Zero, Alaska Highway, Dawson Creek, B.C.
3. We insisted on an economical vehicle. Our trips involve thousands of miles crossing the U.S. and Canada, even venturing to the limits of Alaska. You would go broke buying fuel for a big RV that gets less than 10 mpg! And if it is too expensive to drive it isn’t going to get used as often. This is especially true if you are considering any travel in Canada where gas costs double what it does in the U.S. The Caravan gets over 25 mpg, sometimes 30 mpg – which is impossible with larger RV's. It even runs on E85 gas, if you choose. We also like not having to search for diesel pumps. Since it is a passenger vehicle the Caravan doesn’t require special insurance. In fact, it is actually cheaper to insure than many other vehicles we have owned due to the extremely good crash rating. Finally, the Caravan has been around for a long time and you will find Dodge dealers as well as independent service stations everywhere to help with maintenance or necessary repairs.
4. We wanted the maximum versatility. We drive the Caravan to the store, drive to church, go out to eat, or go to a ball game in the same vehicle. We take the Caravan on family day trips in addition to camping trips and this would not be feasible with a “mini” motor home – or a four-door pickup truck and truck camper, either. We can seat two or four people without removing the GoneCamper package because the second row of seats fold flat into the floor of the van. Yet in less than fifteen minutes we can remove the entire camping package and seat six people by flipping up the third row of seats. If we need to carry more stuff, it is easy to add a car top carrier for bulky cargo or racks for mountain bikes, kayaks or a canoe.
The GoneCamper bed and kitchen fits behind the 2nd row of seats in the minivan
5. The V6 engine can tow a small trailer so we can take a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle or boat with us on trips if we desire. The trailer hitch receiver is also adaptable for rear bike racks or cargo carriers. (The same V6 in our Caravan is also used in the larger Ram commercial vans!)
6.. But most importantly, we aren’t forced to tow a trailer to go camping. There are dozens of different camper trailer choices, but obviously all require a tow vehicle. The big trailers require a big, expensive truck. Even modest trailers require a larger tow vehicle - despite what the manufacture lists as the tow rating. Towing a trailer often cuts the base fuel mileage in HALF and adds to drive train wear and tear.
The Caravan is front-wheel drive, not four-wheel drive, but we can still go almost anywhere you can go with a pickup and a travel trailer. We have driven past many fancy "overland rigs" on unpaved roads, including trips to McCarthy and Eagle, Alaska!
Boondocking on the Kennecott River at McCarthy, Alaska
Towing a trailer is just not safe or fun in high winds on the plains or in the mountains. And towing a trailer is a disaster in summer road construction zones – some of which extend for over one hundred cumulative miles in Alaska and Canada! Vehicles with trailers are prohibited in some of the busiest and most scenic spots like "Going to the Sun" road in Glacier National Park.
The trailer style we considered to be the closest match to our needs was the teardrop because, like our GoneCamper, teardrops are basically a bed and a rear galley. Like a teardrop camper, the rear hatch of the Caravan creates an awning in the rain and even has a light. But unlike the dependable Caravan, most teardrops are constructed of plywood and I worry about leaks and delamination on rough roads. Of course, there are “expedition” models, but we didn’t want to spend over $20,000 for a tin shell around a mattress. And, again, we didn’t want to buy a trailer only to license and insure it and then pay to store it somewhere else.
Picnic lunch on the Mongollon Rim, 7,000 feet elevation above Payson, Arizona
Unlike a bare plywood box, the Dodge Caravan has standard front and rear air conditioning and heat, a full headliner with lights, side panels with storage areas and cup holders as well as carpeting from front to rear. All three windows on each side open for ventilation. Access to the "bedroom" is easy with huge doors on each side.
Finally, the GoneCamper minivan camper allows you to camp in "tent campsites", in public or private campgrounds. These sites are often half price compared to RV campsites for trailers or motor homes.
"Tent-only" campground. Oak Creek Canyon, near Sedona, Arizona
7. The GoneCamper Caravan is also economical to purchase. Our GoneCamper and Dodge Grand Caravan – fully equipped – costs less than many camping trailers ALONE (or truck campers) -not including the necessary tow vehicle. We bought our Caravan new and took advantage of incentives from the manufacturer as well as deep discounts and financing and service contract incentives from the dealer.
You can also save thousands by purchasing a used Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country, or other brand and model. Since their introduction, literally MILLIONS of minivans have been sold and you will have plenty to choose from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada. When we are ready for a new minivan for our GoneCamper, we can remove the camping package and sell the passenger van in perfect condition. We could back up to a new Caravan and transfer the entire GoneCamper package in a few minutes.
Storage under the bed for clothes and camping equipment. County Park near Tucson, Arizona
Obviously, you may have different requirements. As a couple, Laurie and I can fit everything we need for a weekend or a trip lasting several months in our GoneCamper. If you can’t pack light, insist on satellite TV and an on-board shower - or have a family of six then the GoneCamper is probably not the right choice for you. (Although, many families use a small tent for the kiddies and reserve the comfy bed in the GoneCamper for Mom and Dad!)
The GoneCamper is right for us because we are primarily travelers. This means we camp as a part of the journey, as opposed to camping as the goal itself. The GoneCamper provides the bedroom after other activities during the day, like hiking or sightseeing. Here is a recap of our recent trip to Door County, Wisconsin:
Today, most RV owners never take their big and expensive (and hard to drive) rigs anywhere but a local campground, and some are permanently parked at “campsites”. Most “campers” are actually small mobile homes complete with forced air conditioning, flat screen TV’s, and even electric “fireplaces”. Note: we are not criticizing you “Snow Birds” who use your deluxe RV’s as a home away from home for the winter months.
In contrast, our camping destinations are not big resorts with swimming pools, cable TV, and electricity and water provided. These “campsites” can cost as much as $75.00 or more per night! We really like primitive forest campgrounds with 20 or fewer sites. Here we don’t get many amenities, but we enjoy the peace and quiet and pay only $10 or $20 dollars per night for a fire ring, picnic table and outhouse.
Camping on the East Fork of the Black River in central Wisconsin
Sometimes we pay $25.00 or $30.00 to camp at a small private campground or state park to take advantage of shower and laundry facilities, or plug into 120-volt power to charge batteries and access the Internet. We also pay extra for electricity when camping below freezing temperatures so we can run a small ceramic heater.
Most often we will be sightseeing until later in the day and then just find a quiet spot out of sight of the road to camp for the night in the forest or desert. Our GoneCamper is very “stealthy”. Minivans are so generic that they are practically invisible when parked in residential areas, recreation areas or commercial lots. It takes only a few minutes to get set up for the night, and only a few minutes to break down the bed and drive away in the morning. If we want to or need to we can even camp right on the street or in safe public spaces like large rest areas, truck stops or Walmart parking lots. But often we choose to camp in the middle of nowhere, “boondocking” to take advantage of the beauty and privacy found only far away from the crowds.
$10.00 Provincial Park campsite in Yukon Territory
In summary, we find that the GoneCamper suits us perfectly. We love to travel. With an economical and compact minivan we can drive almost anywhere, without much pre-planning. We can then choose from a wide range of camping options. Our GoneCamper has all the creature comforts we require: a comfortable bed and a basic kitchen for camp cooking. At the same time, there is no extra room to weigh us down with junk that we don’t need and would rarely use.
Packed for a weekend, week or month on the road!
Why not join us on the road? Currently the GoneCamper conversion for minivans costs only $1,595.00. This includes the kitchen, bed and mattress - but NOT the stove or cooler. You can spend this much on a tent and camping mattresses! NO OTHER camping vehicle or trailer is as economical - OR versatile!!!
Contact GoneCamper to schedule the delivery of YOUR minivan camper conversion. Then, you TOO can enjoy:
Camping Comfortably, Traveling Efficiently, Living Frugally