Travel in a GoneCamper minivan
Camping In Comfort, Traveling Efficiently, Living Frugally
Why choose a minivan as the vehicle for GoneCamper?
My wife, Laurie, and I travel and camp in a Dodge Caravan “minivan” outfitted by GoneCamper. We would like to offer our experience and advice to others that are interested in efficient travel and comfortable camping.
While we like to travel, we are not RVers. We just can’t justify the purchase and ownership costs. And we don’t like to pay high prices for terrible rooms at shady motels. In fact, the areas we like to explore often don’t have motels nearby! Instead, we want to be nimble and efficient. So the GoneCamper is a real problem solver for us. We can travel comfortably while spending less, which means we can travel MORE and go FARTHER.
A self-contained camper - in a MINIVAN!
This is why we feel a minivan GoneCamper makes an ideal traveling and camping vehicle:
1. We wanted a vehicle that was easy for both of us to drive. In our case, we chose the Dodge Grand Caravan. We both find it easy to drive with a raised seating position and total 360-degree visibility. Driving a minivan doesn’t require special skills like many RV’s. It is smaller and more nimble than 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. Because of the standard size, 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 fatigued.
Road trip to the Pie Closet, Wickenburg, Arizona
2. We didn’t want another vehicle or trailer 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.
Road trip to Mt. Lemon, above Tucson, Arizona
3. We insisted on an economical vehicle. Our trips involve thousands of miles crossing the U.S. and Canada. We have driven and camped along the southern border with Mexico. We drove almost 10,000 miles to Alaska and back. The same minivan has been to the northernmost coast of New Brunswick. You would go broke buying fuel for a big RV that gets less than 10 mpg! And if it is too expensive to drive, you simply aren’t going to take as many adventures. 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 routinely gets 30 mpg on the highway. We also like not having to search for diesel pumps. The Grand Caravan has a V6 engine that can also run on E85 ethanol blends. Since it is a passenger vehicle the GoneCamper minivan doesn’t require special registration or insurance. In fact, the minivan 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.
GoneCamper at Whitehorse, Yukon Territory,
from Arizona enroute to Alaska!
4. We wanted the maximum versatility. We drive the Grand Caravan to the store for groceries or garden plants, drive to church, go out to eat, or go to a ball game in the same vehicle. We take the Caravan on day trips in addition to camping trips. 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. In less than ten minutes we can remove the entire camping package and seat seven 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 a canoe. Other minivan owners add a trailer hitch for bike racks or a cargo hauler.
Add a roof rack, roof cargo box or hitch carrier for more gear
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, or even a lightweight motorcycle or scooter or pair of Ebikes on a hitch rack.
Hitch carrier for scooter, bikes or Ebikes
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, powerful and expensive truck. Even modest trailers require more than a small tow car (despite what the manufacture lists as the tow rating.) Plus, even modest teardrop campers can cost over $15,000! Towing a trailer often cuts the base fuel mileage in HALF and adds to drive train wear and tear. The Grand 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 visited McCarthy, Chicken, and Eagle, Alaska and then drove across the Top of the World Highway to Dawson City, Yukon on our Alaska vacation – totaling hundreds of miles off the paved highway!
10,000-mile minivan camping trip from Arizona to Alaska and back!
Towing a bulky trailer is just not safe or fun in high winds on the plains, on twisty mountain roads, or on tree-lined forest back roads. 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! We also learned that many of the most popular destinations ban trailers – like Glacier National Park and the scenic overlooks through Banff Provincial Park.
7. The GoneCamper Caravan is also economical to purchase. Our GoneCamper and Dodge Grand Caravan – fully equipped – costs less than many camping trailers or truck campers ALONE - not including the necessary tow vehicle. We bought our Dodge Caravan new and took advantage of deep discounts and financing and service contract incentives from the dealer. You can also save thousands by purchasing a used minivan. Since their introduction, literally tens of MILLIONS have been sold and you will have plenty to choose from anywhere in the U.S. and Canada.
If we ever decide to trade or minivan, we can remove the GoneCamper package and sell the vehicle in perfect condition. We could back up to a new minivan and transfer the entire GoneCamper package in a few minutes. Our GoneCamper package will also fit in minivans from Honda, Kia, Nissan, or Toyota that have the standard 4’ x 8’ cargo area – you just need to remove and store the seats.
GoneCamper fits ALL minivans with a 4' x 8' cargo floor
You may have different travel and camping requirements. As a couple, Laurie and I can fit everything we need for a weekend or an extended trip in our GoneCamper minivan. If you can’t pack light, insist on satellite TV and an on-board shower - or have a family of four - then the GoneCamper minivan 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. The minivan camper is not designed for full-time “van life” or base camping for weeks at a time. You can, however, make multi-day camps more enjoyable by packing along a compact screen tent and sporting gear. Most minivans have roof racks, and you can buy a soft luggage carrier that will hold any “overflow” from the minivan.
In summary, we find that the GoneCamper suits us perfectly. We love to travel. We can drive almost anywhere economically. We can then choose from a wide range of camping options including less expensive “tent campsites”! Our GoneCamper has all the creature comforts we require, but no room to weigh us down with extra junk that we don’t need and would rarely use. If this sounds like you, too – why not join us on the road!
Traveling Efficiently, Camping Comfortably, Living Frugally