Micro Campers are the natural evolution of the tiny home ethos, applied to van life. And in a materialistic world where the price of literally everything is rising, a dash of minimalism really helps to further justify the leap to an alternative lifestyle.
Today, we’re taking a look at this hot new trend of building and living in micro campers. We’ll cover some examples and archetypes currently seeing lots of love on the road (and social media). Hopefully, we’ll get those wheels turning so you can start planning your own van conversion, and living the life you’ve always dreamed of!
What Are Micro Campers?
First, what are micro campers? We generally are referring to campers which can be squeezed inside an MVP (multi-purpose vehicle). Think: smaller than a short wheelbase van, more often seen being driven by parents on the school run. That’s pretty small!
Why Are Micro Campers so Popular?
With the van life movement gaining in popularity younger, outdoorsy people are looking for a home base for their adventures. Similarly, weekend warriors are more likely to get out there when they don’t have to waste time and money renting an RV.
Whatever the case, micro campers allow you to grab your off-grid adventuring by the horns, without a million logistical hassles getting in the way.
However, large solutions like the ever-popular Mercedes Sprinter conversions can be expensive, and usually come as a second vehicle after your everyday car. This means you’ll need space to park both vehicles, and you’ll need double the budget for gas, maintenance, insurance, etc.
Well, this is where micro campers come in. By adding a camper conversion to your everyday vehicle, you can have your very own tiny home at a fraction of the price.
RELATED READING: Our Favorite Tiny Homes Reviewed
Affordability Is Key
Price is a huge factor as to why people might choose the micro campers over a larger RV or campervan conversion.
Even the cheapest of battered, second-hand campervans or a savvy self converts are likely to set you back by upwards of £10,000. For a brand new campervan, you can expect to spend anything between £30k-£50k. That’s a lot of money to have sat on your driveway for 70% of the year.
Don’t forget the costs associated with your off-grid home: tax, insurance, upkeep and fuel. The fuel consumption of a large RV is going to be much higher than that of a micro camper.
Compared to a large van, the cost of buying a micro camper is usually minimal. In fact, the point of micro campers is that you can just use your existing people carrier. (Alternatively, you can trade in your current whip for a slightly larger one first for minimal investment).
This allows you to drastically cut the cost of buying and maintaining a second vehicle. Thus, your only upfront cost to create your own off grid home is the conversion cost. And there are some cost-effective ways to turn micro campers into affordable tiny homes, which we are going to explore below.
Another factor in why adventurers are choosing micro campers is ease. They are simple to drive and park–because they are just a car. Yes, even in those pesky underground car parks that most campers won’t fit in (excellent if you plan to do any city exploring).
As well as being easy to drive they are easy to pack–unlike your tent. Going camping with a tent requires planning and preparation; with a micro camper, everything you need is already in your car! You can even leave other essentials such as sleeping bags and outdoor shoes in the storage compartments within the conversion.
Moreover, your micro camper is just as good for driving to work or the supermarket, as it is for adventuring. Nobody is going to look twice if you drive your stealthy micro camper to work. This means you can set off for your weekend exploring as soon as it hit 5:30pm on a Friday. I can’t think of anything much better than that!
Our Favourite Micro Camper Conversion Ideas
If you’re thinking about getting your own micro camper, then check out the five different options below!
1. The Nest Box
Micro campers don’t have to be a permanent fixture in your car. If you need that space during the week to carry belongings or more people, then a removable camper might be the best option for you. In comes The Nest Box.
Created by EGOE, an innovative Czech furniture design company The Nest Box features a sublime design that is both stylish and practical. It is small enough to be inserted into just the luggage compartment of your vehicle. Simply lift it in and secure it with straps–it can be done in a matter of minutes.
There’s a 2-person bed that unfolds from The Nest Box, and extends over the passenger seats to be spacious and comfortable.
Also included in the unit is a kitchen area accessible from the back of your vehicle. This kitchenette area includes two cooker heads, storage for food and utensils, a collapsable sink and water unit and space for a fridge or a cool box.
A fabric storage case can be added between the bed and the kitchen unit, also acting as a blind if your vehicle has a back window. This gives you more privacy as well as space to store small items and clothing.
The only negative point here is the price. Depending on the size of your car you’re looking at spending €3000-3500 on just the unit alone. You then have to pay extra for the mattress, cooker unit, water unit, fridge and fabric storage unit. Fully loaded, you could be looking at spending about €7000.
With a price tag this high, you’re starting to look at the price of a second-hand RV or of doing your own self conversion, but if you love the micro camper and have the money, then this is the ultimate design.
2. Dream Case
If you’re looking for something a little cheaper in the micro campers market, then the Dream Case could be for you. Much simpler in design, the Dream Case allows you to turn certain cars into campers by unfolding to be a comfortable multi-layered memory foam mattress.
Stored in a small, zippable unit (not much larger than a suitcase), the Dream Case can make transform the modest of cars into a good night’s sleep. And really, getting your z’s is one of the most important elements to enjoying your micro holiday!
Just keep in mind, the Dream Case is just the mattress. You’re still going to need to bring an alternative cooking set up with you on your adventure.
While this is one of the more basic Van Life ideas out there, at $700 the Dream Case does make camping and getting outside accessible to everyone.
3. Oasis Camper Vans
If you are based in the US and are looking for someone that has experience in building micro campers, then Oasis Camper Vans are worth checking out. For $8.5k they can turn your minivan into the perfect tiny camper with all of the Van Life essentials you need for an adventure.
Oasis’s conversion has a smart layout, with enough space for a kitchenette, bed, seating area and even a table. The bed folds out, so when extended it does take up most of the room inside. But during the day, it folds back to make a nice bench seat and allows room for the table to go up.
Beneath that bench is plenty of storage which can be accessed from both the inside and the outside of the van–perfect for storing clothes, shoes and sleeping bags. You can also charge phones and tablets from the van with 12V sockets at the back, meaning you can keep your gadgets charged on the go.
The kitchen area of the conversion is accessed from the rear. We think this is the perfect design, as you can cook standing up, while outside allowing any cooking and gas smells to escape. The kitchenette includes a sink, plenty of storage areas and a flip-up work-surface for more preparation space. It does look like you’re going to need to bring your own burner though.
The Oasis micro camper’s design, with its dark wood and grey furnishings, looks stylish as well as being practical. This conversion has everything you need for a weekend adventure, and comes with a reasonable price tag.
4. Rockin Vans
On the other side of the pond in the UK, you can buy or rent a larger micro camper from Rockin Vans. They’re known for their perfectly formed tiny homes, complete with everything you would need for a micro adventure. But better yet, Rockin Vans come with a vandweller-favourite amenity: the all-important pop top.
The pop top on this VW Caddy Maxi creates so much more space inside your camper. You can even stand straight up! This allows the kitchen to remain inside the van–perfect for unpredictable British weather. Included in the camper’s kitchen is a chest fridge, sink and water storage and a single burner hob–compact but practical.
Micro campers may be small, but this one also includes a pull-out bed to sleep two, plenty of storage under the bed and in cupboards, Bluetooth media system and leisure battery. The leisure battery can be charged while driving via the split charge relay, or using the mains plug in if you’re staying at a campsite.
This camper is going to be at the higher end of the price scale, but you do get more luxury (some would say necessity) for your money!
5. Self Conversion
We’ve shown you how the professionals create their micro campers, but they all still come with a rather hefty price tag. Most of these micro campers cost $7000 and upwards, I’d consider that a rather large chunk of money. To me, the point of a micro camper is to be able to get outside every weekend without spending a massive chunk of money.
I bought and converted my 2003 Vauxhall Movano Camper for about £6500. This is a large van (Long Wheel Base, maxi roof) that includes solar power, a fridge, and heater. These are all expensive build elements that you wouldn’t necessarily need in micro campers. And that does not even touch on the sheer amount of wood and insulation I used–you would only need a fraction of that in a small vehicle.
If you’re looking for for a camper on a budget, then self conversion is the way to go. I reckon you could create a micro camper with everything you need for somewhere in the region of £1-2k, if not less.
It is so easy to get lost in the world of van life influencers, but it is important to remember the main feature of van life: Getting outside. And even the most minimal micro camper will tick this box.
We can see why micro campers are becoming so popular with adventurers, they’re more affordable than a large camper van and allow you to spend more time outside, perfect for the keenest of adventurers. Micro Campers can be stylish and cool, and there are some affordable option out there to make it work for you. Let us know what you think of micro campers and if yours helps you get out there by joining the Van Clan on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.