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Old 08-12-2013, 05:30 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 51
Why is this a crazy idea?

Okay, I've done a lot of tent camping and am very comfortable with my setup.

Honda Accord v6 (24 mpg city/hwy average)
10X10 Canvas tent.
Cot with air mattress.
duffle bags, plastic bins.
food cooler
Portable pitcher with water filter and water jugs
Portable stove under portable screen room shelter
Use camp facilities for bathroom/showers ("pee jugs" at night)
Good room-fan for cooling hot nights (even Florida in August)
Good sleeping bag & occasional Mr Buddy portable heater for warming cold nights
Camp only where there is electrical for fan and electronics charging

I want to do some extended traveling to parks and cities, but don't like the following drawbacks. Some parks (mainly RV parks) won't except tents. Some that do, have more restrictions with how long you can stay or where you can stay. Setup and takedown can be time consuming. Setup and takedown can be a pain in stormy weather. Out of luck if there is no electricity.

So I'm thinking of buying a 2014 low-roof RB Sprinter with it's estimated 24 mpg fuel efficiency and 15,000 mile service intervals. And then having Sportsmobile put in a coach battery, Pentouse top, fantastic fan and solar panel. I'd leave the rest as a cargo van. The van would replace the Honda Accord and Canvas Tent part of my camping setup. I'd be able to park more places. "Setup camp" easier quicker. And occasionally go without electricity. I could occasional stealth camp if needed. The drawbacks will be the expense and hassle of diesel. The higher depreciation and maintenance costs of a Sprinter. Having to "break camp" every time I want to use the van. Having to use D-rings and cargo straps to secure items before driving. The "creep factor" of traveling solo in a cargo van :^)

So has anyone tried the very limited conversion van route? Are there drawbacks I'm not considering?

As long as I don't wait too long. I think that re-selling this vehicle might be easier as people could pay to have Sportsmobile configure as desired. IE. the configuration would work for anyone patient enough to have Sportsmobile add the extras they want. So I'm hoping I could recoup a lot of the cost of the Sportsmobile work on resale. Is this a bad assumption?

Any other reasons why this idea is crazy?

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Old 08-12-2013, 06:05 PM   #2
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Southern New Mexico
Posts: 10,128
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

Not crazy at all. I always liked the setup I had which was a fairly minimalistic interior, but was reconfigurable. Check this old thread, with a link to SMB's former Transformer model.

viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3449&hilit=transformer+documen t

That said, breaking down camp to drive somewhere was one of the motivating factors in our selling our SMB.


[EDIT: the thread below might be interesting for you to read]

SMB-less as of 02/04/2012. Our savings account is richer, but our adventures are poorer.
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Old 08-12-2013, 07:14 PM   #3
Join Date: Mar 2013
Posts: 58
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

Throw in a 12V TruckFridge and call it good.
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Old 08-12-2013, 07:38 PM   #4
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Location: Philadelphia, PA
Posts: 4,039
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

FYI, you can't put a Fantastic Fan in a Penthouse (or, at least, SMB won't do it, and your warranty will be void if you do it yourself).

If you aren't in a hurry, you might consider waiting for the Ford Transit or the Dodge/Fiat van (whatever it's called), which will likely be at a lower price point than the Sprinter but with similar advantages and form factor.

Just don't hand out candy to little kids from the side door of your van and you'll be able to mostly avoid the "creep factor."
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Old 08-12-2013, 08:31 PM   #5
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Location: Corvallis, OR
Posts: 5,243
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

I don't think your interior plan is a bad idea at all.

But do you drive enough that the Sprinter's MPGs would really be that beneficial? An E250 4.6L will easily get 19-20, and I've done that well with 5.4L E350s fully loaded. $20,000 will buy a lot of fuel....
2000 E450 dually V10 wagon
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Old 08-12-2013, 09:38 PM   #6
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Location: TN
Posts: 9,714
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

You've got a great idea, but it's a slippery slope. In 5 years you'll probably have a full blown SMB!
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Old 08-13-2013, 01:55 AM   #7
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Location: Parker, CO
Posts: 7,640
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

I'd at least have someplace to sit- second row of captain's chairs or a platform bed (like some 2x4 and a piece of plywood). If you don't really need the cargo van to be cargo, having SMB do the PH and outfitting the inside yourself is great- even if it's minimal as heck. Even if you do need the bare cargo, and just throw down a bag, I'd at minimum get insulation and not leave it bare metal.

If you're concerned about getting kicked and funky tent camping rules, you should consider being able to sleep downstairs and leave the PH down- it's a sure sign you're "home" and if part of your idea is stealth camping then you need to be able to sleep with the PH down.
it was good to be back
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Old 08-13-2013, 10:07 AM   #8
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Location: Newark, CA
Posts: 795
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

My only comment is to talk to SMB first...they can probably buy the vehicle you want at fleet prices cheaper than you can.
'01 Ford EB50p Quigley 4WD
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Old 08-13-2013, 10:53 AM   #9
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Join Date: May 2012
Location: West Lafayette, Indiana
Posts: 190
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

Originally Posted by yvrr to SMB first...they can probably buy the vehicle you want at fleet prices cheaper than you can.
My experience with SMB Indiana is that they had a processing charge for ordering a Sprinter for me, and I ended up getting a better price and better service by going directly to a dealer myself. SMB had no problem with that.

Vanessa: 2012 Sprinter 3500 170 EB now being replaced by Savanna 2020 3500XD 4x4 lithium
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Old 08-13-2013, 11:46 AM   #10
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Bay Area, CA by necessity - Sun Valley, ID if I had a choice.
Posts: 55
Re: Why is this a crazy idea?

This is a great idea. Almost like a modern version of a Westfalia Weekender. I would look into starting with the Sprinter Crew version instead of Cargo. It has a second row of seats and a few additional amenities.

I'd love to see you do this and the resulting product!

Best of luck,

1998 Pleasure Way Excel with serious SMB envy
2014 R-Pod 182G
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