Camper van glossary

Glossary text

3-Way Refrigerator

Refers to a refrigerator that can run off of LP gas, 12V battery power, and shore power. Also called an absorption refrigerator. While being able to run off of LP gas is a plus, it is not as efficient as an electric compressor refrigerator. Moreover, the van must be level in order for a 3-way refrigerator to run correctly and safely.

AGM Battery

Absorbed Glass Mat battery, so named because there are fiberglass mats between the plates of the battery. They are spill proof, tolerant of vibration, and they do not give off any hydrogen gas. They were developed in the 1980s for military aircraft and are perhaps the most common battery for Class B camper vans. The main disadvantage is that they can only be discharged to 50% meaning a 100 amp hour battery only has 50 amp hours of usable power.

Black Tank

The black tank is primarily the sewage reservoir for the toilet. It may also contain the waste water from sinks or showers.


Bureau of Land Management. It manages over 12% of the land in the United States including over 200 wilderness areas. Many boondocking sites are on BLM land.


The term is used for free camping. Under most uses it is synonymous with dry camping meaning camping outside of an established campground without any electric, water, sewage hookups and without any amenities like toilets, showers, or a camp store. In its prototypical use it means camping isolated from others in a forest or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Some have expanded the use to include any camping without hookups such as at a Walmart, Cracker Barrel, or Harvest Host site. 

Cassette Toilet

In most RVs, the toilet is positioned over a large permanent holding tank (called a black tank) of ten gallons or more, which is under the floor of the RV. When the time comes to empty the tank, you drive the RV to a dump station where the contents are emptied using a sewer hose. In a cassette toilet, the toilet includes a small removable holding tank (the cassette). When the time comes to empty the tank, you remove it (typically accessed from a small door on the outside of the van). You then carry the tank to a public toilet or to a dump station where you can empty it. That is the advantage the cassette toilet has over the more traditional toilet: you can empty it anywhere. The disadvantage is that you have to empty it more frequently since it only holds five gallons. Another disadvantage is that it is heavy to lug around, although many cassettes have wheels and telescoping handles. As opposed to a portable toilet, the cassette toilet is permanently installed in the van. The cassette toilet includes a small fresh water holding tank which is used for flushing.

Chassis Battery

The battery that is similar in function to your car battery is called the chassis battery. This battery powers the drive train, the instrument panel, the dash radio. Basically anything involved in driving the van. See also house battery.

City Water Connector/Inlet (aka city fill)

The city water connector on your van allows you to connect your van to an outdoor water faucet using a drinking water safe hose with standard garden hose type connectors. This connection bypasses your fresh water holding tank and the water pump in your van. In your everyday experience, when you turn on an outdoor faucet, water gushes out of it, and we say the water is pressurized. The city water connector transmits water under pressure to your van so when you turn on a faucet in your van water gushes out of it without needing your water pump. It is highly recommended you use a pressure regulator for this connection to prevent damage to your van’s water system. Some van travelers never use this connection, opting to use the tank fill.

The city water connector on your van allows you to connect your van to an outdoor water faucet using a drinking water safe hose with standard garden hose type connectors. When you turn on an outdoor faucet, water gushes out of it, and we say the water is pressurized. The city water connector bypasses the 

Driveway Surfing

A concept similar to couchsurfing but instead of staying on someone’s couch, you park your van in someone’s driveway (or somewhere on their property). Typically the driveway’s owner is a relative, friends, or fellow traveler. No money changes hands. This is also known as moochdocking.

Dry Bath

A dry bath is similar to what you have at home. The shower is in its own space in the bathroom. The toilet is not in the shower stall. This contrasts with a wet bath is where the shower encompasses the entire bathroom space. When you shower in a wet bath you will get the toilet and possibly a sink  wet. A wet bath is designed for this and is not a big deal. Most Class B camper vans have a wet bath.

Dry Weight

The dry weight is the weight of the van from the class B manufacturer not including any liquids (gas, water, etc). For example, a  ProMaster 3500 commercial van weighs 5,070 pounds and the manufacturer may add 2,260 pounds (interior cabinetry, refrigerator, heating, coolling, etc). So in this case the dry weight is 5,070 + 2,260 or 7,330 pounds. (see GVRW)

Dump Station

A place for dumping your black and gray tanks. Dump Stations are most often found in campgrounds. However, some rest areas, truck stops, and municipalities have dump stations as well.

Full Hookups

At a campsite, the ability to hook up your fresh water and sewer lines and your electric power cord.


Gross Axle Weight Rating. These will be specified for both the front and rear axle. This is the amount of weight that axle can safely carry. (see GVRW)


Gross Combined Weight Rating. This is the combined weight of GVRW (everything including the van itself, passengers, food, water, gear) and the weight of what can be towed.

Gray Tank

The gray tank is the waste water holding tank for one or more sinks and possibly the shower. It does not contain sewage.


Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. This is the weight (typically in pounds). This represents the maximum weight of everything. The van itself, the passengers, dogs, food, water. Everything except what you are towing. The dry weight is the weight of the van from the class B manufacturer not including any liquids (gas, water, etc). For example, a  ProMaster 3500 commercial van weighs 5,070 pounds and the manufacturer may add 2,260 pounds (interior cabinetry, refrigerator, heating, coolling, etc). So in this case the dry weight is 5,070 + 2,260 or 7,330 pounds. The GVRW minus the dry weight is how much you can carry in your van. So, if the GVRW is 9,350 and the dry weight is 7,330, that means you can carry 2,260 pounds, which includes water, passengers, and any gear you carry. If you are carrying 20 gallons of water in your tank (160 pounds), a full tank of gas (144 pounds) and you and your passenger weigh 150 pounds each that would leave you with 1,656 available for gear.  

Holding tank

The reservoir for waste water. (See entries for black tank and gray tank.)

House Battery

The battery that is similar in function to your car battery is called the chassis battery. This battery powers the drive train, the instrument panel, the dash radio. Basically anything involved in driving the van. In contrast the house battery (or coach battery) powers everything that makes the van a camper van: the interior lights in the living area, the ventilation fans, the refrigerator, and other electrical devices. If you have solar panels on the roof of your van, they charge the house battery.


An inverter is an electrical device that coverts battery power (usually 12V) to house current (120AC) so you can run normal household devices like laptop chargers and a small coffee maker.  It is recommended that you use a pure sign wave  inverter because it better mimics the 120AC current that appliances expect.


See driveway surfing.

Portable Toilet

As the name suggests, a portable toilet is one that can be completely removed from the van. It is not permanently installed. This differs from a cassette toilet which is permanently installed (see glossary entry). Often you can get a mounting plate which will secure the toilet to the van while traveling. The toilet consists of a small tank of fresh water for flushing and a small detachable waste tank of around 5 gallons which can be emptied in a public toilet. Portable toilets are super easy to install since there really isn’t any installation. Plus they are easier to empty than a traditional black tank since they can be emptied in any standard toilet. The disadvantages are that they need to be emptied more frequently than a standard RV toilet (since they only hold 5 gallons) and the portable tank you need to lug to the toilet can weigh over forty pounds (since they hold 5 gallons).

Pure Sine Wave Inverter

An inverter is an electrical device that coverts battery power (usually 12V) to house current (120AC) so you can run normal household devices like laptop chargers and a small coffee maker. A sine wave is a smooth undulating curve. Imagine part of the curve representing by a smooth gradual hill. Now imagine we are trying to approximate this gentle hill by stacking shipping containers. From a distance it may look sort of like that smooth gradual hill but upon closer inspection we see that it is made up of gigantic steps. This is what a modified sine wave inverter does– it approximates a smooth sine wave with large steps. A pure sine wave inverter exactly mimics the sine wave of normal household current. Some sensitive electronic devices such as CPAP machines and monitors require a pure sine wave inverter.

Shore Power

Most class  B vans have 2 electrical systems. One is commonly 12 volt and runs off of a bank of batteries. The other is commonly 120 volts AC (the same as house current) and runs off of a glorified extension cord connected to an outlet that supplies power to your van. This is called shore power. (The term originally applied to the electrical system that supplied power to docked boats.) At a campground, shore power is typically provided by an electrical pedestal that has different shaped outlets for 30 amp and 50 amp service as well as a switch (circuit breaker) to turn the power on. A Class B van typically uses 30 amp service. WIthout going into the weeds, an amp is, very roughly, how much energy you are using. For example, a typical RV air conditioner uses around 10 amps and a microwave another 10. When you are running both at the same time you are using 20 amps. Since you are using a 30 amp service, the total of everything you are concurrently using in your van must be under 30. Bigger RVs, such as Class As,  have larger energy needs and typically have a 50 amp service.

Tank Fill

The tank fill connector on your van allows you to connect your van to an outdoor water faucet using a drinking water safe hose with standard garden hose type connectors to fill your fresh water tank. Some vans offer a second method to fill the fresh water tank, called a gravity fill, which enables you to fill the tank from water jugs or other sources.

Wet Bath

A wet bath is where the shower encompasses the entire bathroom space. Effectively, the toilet is in the shower stall. When you shower you will get the toilet and possibly a sink wet. A wet bath is designed for this and is not a big deal. This contrasts with a dry bath which is similar to what you have at home. The shower is in its own space in the bathroom. Most Class B camper vans have a wet bath.

Quality of class B camper vans

This is a post with a simple message

There is no van from any manufacturer that is 100% problem free.

If you look at a forum or Facebook group dedicated to any Class B model, from the Airstream Interstate to the Winnebago Travato, you will see numerous posts reporting van defects and lamenting poor build quality. Keep in mind that people who have a problem are likely to write a post about it. Maybe they want help, solace, or just a place to vent. If someone doesn’t have a problem they are less likely to post, and are out enjoying their van. I’ve never seen a post where someone out-of-the-blue writes “I am so grateful I have never had a problem with my Dometic cooktop.” So if you see post after post about awning failures in a Winnebago Travato, remember that probably the majority of owners don’t have this problem. If you are a new subscriber to a model’s forum, you are likely to come away with the impression that the model is riddled with problems and the build quality is horrible. Keep in mind that you are seeing a skewed sample of owners’ posts.

Comparing camper vans to cars

With rare exceptions, the quality of modern automobiles is very high. Worldwide, there are over 90 million cars produced each year and in the U.S., about 2.5 million. With that volume of production, a substantial amount of automation makes sense. Most of the work is done with precision robotics–robots that are as precise at 5am Saturday morning as they are at 10am Tuesday. The auto industry accounts for 30% of all the industrial robots.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The world, and how you view the world

Let’s agree on a few facts:

  1. The Recreational Vehicle industry could do a better job with build quality
  2. Dealers could do a better job with checking the van and doing good prep work and in general, being better at being nice and wonderful people. This, of course, is true of everyone. It would be great if everyone was 10% better at their job and compassionate and caring to everyone they meet.

There are two positions you could take: 

  1. For the price I paid for this thing the van should be of high quality and the dealer experience should be wonderful.
  2. I know there are going to be some problems with the van when I get it and the dealer experience may not be perfect but I will deal with it and I know everything is figureoutable. 

While position 1 may be 100% true (vans should be of better build quality)  it will also, with 100% probability, lead to frustration and suffering. I can nearly guarantee it. Position 2 leads to more happiness. There are going to be problems; we’ll deal with them. Let’s get out there! It doesn’t let people off the hook. We wish things were better, but they are not and are beyond our control.


Here is one couple’s list of issues with their new van:

  • Warped bottom drawer underneath microwave (need to replace entire panel and latch)
  • Crinkled window shades (possibly from water damage) needs to be replaced.
  • Crooked window shade frame above galley
  • Broken fan. Motor doesn’t work
  • Shower head stopper trigger doesn’t entirely stop water from flowing out
  • Galley power outlets not working. Fuse must have tripped.
  • Truma heater does not work

Here are another person’s:

  • Poor dealer prep or in fact no prep
  • Awning didn’t work (new motor ordered)
  • Truma not working — no hot water

And finally, “The Fusion infotainment system failed withing the first 500 miles. The replacement of this unit took 3 weeks at a large Airstream service center in Phoenix. Then the top fridge failed followed shortly by the furnace. Some of the automatic blinds then also stopped responding to the remote input controller. All the above failures with less than 2000 miles on the unit”

There is no van from any manufacturer that is 100% problem free.

It is figureoutable!

It is easy to feel it isn’t fair that you encountered build problems but remember everyone does.   It is easy to feel that it is someone’s fault–someone is to blame. It is okay to feel that but don’t dwell on it on it and build up those feelings until you get angrier and angrier and more and more frustrated. Life is too short.  You will find problems when you initially get the van. You will encounter more problems in the first 6 months of ownership and yet more in the first year. You will diminish your dissatisfaction if you expect them. 

The good news is that most of the components in a van build are not that complex.  A piece of lamination separates from a cabinet.  Fixing it with a tube of liquid nails is a more productive use of your time than posting a screed to the van’s Facebook group (and there is a nice element of satisfaction in making a van repair). (To be fair, you might get satisfaction from a good Facebook screed.) Almost anything in a van that is broken you have the capacity to fix. If you can’t fix it, buy some beer and invite a friend over to help. To quote Marie Forleo “Everything is Figureoutable

The best class B camper van

The title of this article, “the best class B camper van” is a bit of a click-bait one but it attempts to address a question people often have of what is the best Class B van. There is no one right answer to this question. If you were to hire an expert RV consultant to help you find the best class B van, she would probably start with an extensive interview with you. This post is designed to help get started being your own consultant with a set of questions to ask yourself (and any fellow travelers on your adventure). Before giving you this guidance, let’s look at the opposite question.

Above image courtesy of Winnebago Industries, Inc. Unauthorized use not permitted

What is the worst Class B camper van?

Arguably, one of the worst Class B camper vans in terms of build quality and design is the Carado Banff. According to the CEO of the company it was designed by “mostly newer engineers and people“ “without any Roadtrek or Hymer engineering influence” and one design criteria was that it had “to be built in 45 minutes of labour time.” That seems like a recipe for a not great product. Even knowing the design and quality problems, it was the first van I considered getting. Why? The price was great and there were parts of the design I liked.

Unlike me, there are a large number of people who actually bought that van. I am still a member of a Facebook group for the van (Carado & Sunlight Owners Group) and I can tell you that the owners of the van are as happy as the owners of vans from other companies. The group is a collection of resourceful individuals who help one another with the quality problems, but those problems don’t seem to diminish their joy of vanning around. The Carado Banff was a good match for these people and it enabled them to venture out.

So the point is— keep your eyes open and be aware of the pros and cons of the vans you are considering, but also keep your mind open to the possibility that a van that didn’t get stellar reviews on a YouTube video might still be a good match for you.

The reverse

The reverse is also true. Just because a couple on YouTube is using van X doesn’t mean it is the right one for you. Maybe it is and maybe it isn’t. You need to do the research. On the other hand, don’t get intimidated by the myriad of van choices. You will quickly start narrowing down your list when considering the following questions:

  1. How do you intend to use the van?
  2. Who is going with you?
  3. What are you bringing along?
  4. What are your sleeping requirements?
  5. What is your budget?

As you can see, these questions are common sense and perhaps you have already done this analysis. If so, congratulations. For the rest, let’s get started.

How do you intend to use the van?

Your vision of how you intend to use the van may be fully formed and based on years of experience.  Perhaps you’ve owned a travel trailer and now with your children gone you want a smaller, more nimble rig. Or perhaps you are an avid mountain biker and want to get a van as a support vehicle. Or you’ve done dog agility for years and you want a camper van to travel with your dogs to competitions in your region.  

But maybe your vision of how you would use a van is more vague. You have a dream of visiting National Parks but the last time you camped was as a child with your family. Maybe you have dreams of an epic road trip or a trip to Alaska or weekend trips to the state parks in your area. Regardless of how solid your vision is, before looking at all the different types of vans it is worthwhile to sketch out both your general vision and  a few future trips. For example,

“We are celebrating retirement by spending some time exploring the national parks. We’d like to head to Yosemite and then on to Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Arches, Grand Teton and Yellowstone!  We are really looking forward to connecting with nature. Do some hiking. We don’t want to be driving long distances everyday. We want to stay at a spot for at least a few days. It would be nice to camp in a remote area but we don’t see ourselves traveling on rugged jeep trails. During the day we might drive somewhere to hike and then come back to our camping spot in the afternoon to relax, read outside, maybe cook by a campfire. We are in our early and mid 60s FYI.” – Ann M.

My husband and I want to get a van so we can visit family and friends. We are first time RVers.  We intend to travel from Northern Virginia (home) to San Francisco CA where our son and daughter in law live and at some other time, travel to Vancouver to visit our other son, and to Florida to visit my parents. Our plan is to either stay in relative’s driveways or at established campgrounds.  We want the van to be comfortable–sort of like a hotel room substitute.” – Abigail B.

I am a software developer and my company allows me to work remotely. My girlfriend is in a similar position. Our plan is to get a van and travel the country while we work. For example, boondock in a nice spot in Oregon for a few days to a week, work 8 to 10 hour days and then relax the rest of the time. I need a workspace and storage for work gear (laptop, tech etc) and then all the fun stuff, kayak, bike, SUP, chairs, table, plus clothes for different climates.” – Brandon O.

Get as specific as you can about the trips you envision. You want to start fleshing out your requirements. For example, Brandon and his girlfriend would benefit from a van with a dedicated lounge/work space, which is something Ann doesn’t necessarily need. For Abigail a lithium system would not be a high priority. 

A related question is on a very rainy cold day when you are stuck in the van for the day, what do you see yourself doing? 

Watching YouTube camper van reviews is fun but you don’t want to clone some YouTube couple’s vision of van life. What is it that you <insert your name here> want to do? Imagine going out to dinner with a friend and you are conveying your dream with passion and excitement! What would that dream be?

It helps to write it down (as well as writing the answers to the rest of these questions).

Who is going with you?

This is an easy one. Are you going on your van adventures alone? With your partner? children? Pets? If a partner is involved what are their requirements? If you have a dog, how big? Are there times when the dog will stay in the van and you venture out?

What is going with you?

Aside from the gear and clothes you need to live in a van for the span of time you trips last, what other gear are you bringing? Mountain bikes, paddle boards, kayaks, photography equipment? There is limited space in a van and it is helpful to get an understanding of your needs before looking at individual vans.

Sleeping requirements

A Class B camper van is primarily a place to sleep and because of this importance, you want the bed to be as comfortable as possible. If  the van fails on meeting that requirement, it is not the van for you. So what are your requirements (both the ‘must haves’ and desirables)?  Are you 6 foot 1, and need a long bed? Will two single beds work for you or do you need a full size bed or bigger? For example, my spouse and I were looking at the Winnebago Travato 59k which has two twin beds each 30 inches wide and the longest is 80 inches. Fortunately, we have a studio sofa at home that folds out into a 80×30 bed, so I was intimately familiar with how comfortable I was with that size and know that the Travato 59k would be a good match. Don’t skimp on this requirement.

How much can you spend?

You can get a new Class B camper van from a major manufacturer starting in the mid $70,000. If you buy a used commercial van and have it converted by a custom van builder you cost could be even  less. (I’ve recently seen a 2018 Ford Transit with a minimal conversion for $26,000) Or you could spend $200,000 or more. How much do you have to spend? What is your desired amount and what is your absolute limit.

The van as a tool.

Starting with the answers to  these questions will help you see the van as a tool that will help you do things before getting distracted by the aesthetics and coolness of any van. Granted aesthetics and coolness are important and you can probably make any van work for almost any purpose but it is best to go into this decision with eyes open. 

Don’t start with a list of requirements. “I need lithium.”, “I need a Mercedes Sprinter build” That is putting the cart before the horse (or some other more van oriented metaphor). Starting with your answers to the above questions you can build a set of requirements that is tailored to you. Keep in mind that …

Looking at vans before having a clear vision is letting
the Class B manufacturer push a vision on you

For 99.99% of us, it is too late. We already have been watching van YouTube channels, Instagram posts, and review sites and have other people’s opinions of an ideal van stuck in your heads. To balance this, do the suggested work above in outlining and detailing your vision and from that narrative generate a list of requirements.

If you are buying a car things are a bit different. Your requirement list is fairly short. You need some transportation to get to work and back and to go shopping. Maybe it needs to fit your two dogs or your young children. So a Ford F150 or a Toyota Prius would fit your needs equally well and you can get what you think is cool. Vans are different. If your desire is to go on forest service roads to remote sites, and you get a heavy rear wheel drive van that gets stuck on wet grass, you’ve made a decision that will make your life more challenging. 

Making a requirements checklist

From all this imagineering work you have done, you can now create a requirements checklist that is tailored to you. Here is the start of one person’s list

  1. Sleeping/bed requirements: need something 80 inches long, could get by with 78
  2. Need an indoor storage space for my bikes.
  3. Need an office space where I could work comfortably on my laptop for a few hours.
  4. I probably don’t need lithium (I am only running my laptop 2 hrs max per day and don’t have any other big energy needs)
  5. Don’t really need a microwave or a freezer part of the refrigerator.
  6.  …

With this you have a solid basis for evaluating which van is the best for you. Good luck!

Galley Gear

“Looking for cookware recommendations for the Travato – any ideas?”

“Hello Group! I am buying an Airstream Interstate. I want to buy dishes and pots and pans before I pick it up. Any ideas?

“We are bringing our new 2018 K home in a few weeks and I’m preparing to outfit the galley. Any suggestions. I’d like to use real dishes, but I’m afraid they’ll rattle around. Very excited.”

If you ordered a van and need to wait weeks to pick it up it is easy to get carried away and order the ultimate set of kitchen items. On the other hand you can resist that urge and once you get the van head over to a big box store to get the basics. Or you can go the middle way, which is what I did, and order the key items that were important to me. 

Keep in mind that cooking in a van is nothing special. If you have a cookset and dishes from your car camping days you can use that. A simple frying pan, one sauce pot, and some picnic plates from Walmart will also work. There is nothing fancy that you actually need. That said, there are some kitchen/galley items that repeatedly get recommended in the various vanning forums. I am simply consolidating those recommendations here. 


Magma Nesting Cookware

By far, the most recommended cookware mentioned in van forum posts is the Magma Nesting Cookware. They sell a number of different models. The 7 piece consists of a 2 qt. sauce pan, a 5 qt. pot and a 10 inch frying pan (plus lids and a handle). The 10 piece adds a 1.5 qt. and  a 3 qt. sauce pan. There are sets that are induction ready and some with a non-stick coating. People love the fact that they all stack together in the stock pot making the set easy to store. They also like the quality and durability. Many people with the 10 piece set leave part of the set at home (“ordered the Magna set, but found it had way more pots than I actually needed for two of us”) People with the uncoated sets report that the pans stick when sauteing. “I have a separate ceramic non-stick pan for pancakes.”

Keep in mind they are expensive (typically, $150-250)!

Magma Nesting Stainless Steel Colander

A nice addition to the set is the Magma Nesting Stainless Steel Colander which people use both as a colander and as a  steamer. It can nest inside the cookware set but it raises the lid increasing  the overall height and preventing the set from being stored in some overhead van bins

Stansport 7 Piece Stainless Steel Cookware Set

This nesting set is a fraction of the cost of the Magma (around $55). In contrast to the Magma 7 piece which has 2 pots and one frying pan, the Stansport 7 piece features 4 pots: 1 qt. 2 qt., 3 qt. and 4 qt. and a 10 inch frying pan. This set is stainless steel and has a triple ply bottom, similar in quality to my home pots and pans. For some reason this set is not mentioned much on van forums. Common complaints are that it only has one common lid for the 1, 2, and 3 qt pans and only has one handle shared among the pots and frying pan. This is the set I own

Lodge Cast Iron Cookware

As nature photographer and YouTuber  Mandy Lea says “Number one in any camping situation has got to be cast iron pans [and] the number one brand in cast iron pans … is Lodge.” Cast iron is equally at home, cooking in your van or outside on a Coleman stove or campfire. In fact, there is no better choice for cooking on a campfire than with cast iron. The frying pans in the Magma and Stansports sets mentioned above are great, but when you need more space, for example, for a stir fry, a cast iron skillet is the way to go.  I have the Lodge Combo Cooker, which is a 3.2 quart deep skillet and dutch oven. It has plenty of room for making stir fries for two. Others prefer  having a traditional Lodge skillet and an adorable yet functional small Lodge Dutch Oven. Don’t forget the extremely useful Lodge Pan Scrapers. If you never cook outdoors, you might not find having cast iron cookware useful. 

Carbon Steel Skillet

Like the cast iron concept but don’t like the weight? You might consider its lighter brother, carbon steel. Carbon steel is thinner than cast so it doesn’t retain heat as well, but the benefit of that is that it adjusts to temperature changes faster. Carbon Steel cookware tends to be more expensive than cast iron. That said, I’ve had a cheap $20 carbon steel wok for years and it has been my go to pan for stir fries, Thai fried rice, and green curry. I love the thing. The wok is small by wok standards — 12 inches by 3 inches high. Still it is a bit too bulky for me to carry in the van. My solution is an 11 inch carbon steel skillet. I prefer the BK Cookware Black Carbon Steel Skillet, which I like because it has high sides (easier to cook stir fries in). Others prefer the Lodge 12 Inch Seasoned Carbon Steel Skillet (better for searing meats). The Lodge has lower sides, which might be fine for your style of cooking. It has a rough finish, reminiscent of cast iron and unlike my wok. Carbon Steel is definitely not as popular as cast iron among the Class B camper van crowd, so you will be in the forefront of the carbon steel crowd.


There are wildly different opinions about dinnerware in Class B vans. And there are a lot of trade-offs. Some opt for paper plates to conserve cleanup water, but that is not an environmentally friendly choice. My preference is with enamelware but here are the most popular options mentioned in van forums.

Nordic Ware

A popular choice among van owners is to use reusable plastic plates such as those from Nordic Ware. The benefit of plastic is that it is unbreakable and they don’t rattle when traveling. However, there is some debate as to the health safety of any plastic so some avoid it.


In a YouTube video, photographer and RVer  Mandy Lea, a person I mentioned in the cast iron section above (and who I think is absolutely fantastic), recommends Melamine dinnerware and, in particular this set, saying that melamine is durable and virtually unbreakable. Both of these are true and melamine is an extremely popular choice for any RVer including those in a van. If melamine makes you happy, go with it, but here are my concerns.  Melamine dishware is made from a resin of melamine formaldehyde and. When you eat food from a melamine plate, some amount of the chemical melamine migrates from the plate into your body. While the E.U. is considering banning melamine dishware, it is considered safe by the United States FDA with this caveat: “Foods and drinks should not be heated on melamine-based dinnerware in microwave ovens.”[FDA] This is because the amount of melamine that migrates from a dish to a person increases as heat increases and as the food becomes more acidic. In an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, Dr. Chia-Fang Wu found that the dinnerware released high quantities of melamine into people who were using melamine bowls to eat hot soup [2013]. Melamine is not a benign chemical. An article in the journal Science describes a case where 53,000 children were hospitalized due to melamine tainted infant formula powder [2008] and there are adult cancer risks according to the International Agency for the Research on Cancer [2017][WHO]. In addition, the manufacturing of melamine is bad for the environment [2010]. In summary, why risk it when there are much safer options such as enamelware described below and silicone dishware for microwaving. I apologize for this long rant. 


Another very popular option is Corelle, which from a health safety perspective is significantly better than plastic. People like Corelle  because they are “real dishes”, are break resistant, thin,  and lightweight.  Plus you can use them in a microwave.  Although they rarely break, when they do it is a mess “Corelle dishes were a disaster in our RV. They are made of glass, not ceramic or porcelain. Every time we broke a dish we would find small, very fine shards of glass throughout the van for weeks after. We broke most of them. On one notable occassion [sic] the cupboard door sprung open in hard cornering, the dishes hit the floor and all but one shattered.” – Murray, Lorri, and Clara.  Others have echoed this experience although most say they are unbreakable.


Since the 1910s, enamelware has been associated with recreational vehicle camping. (For a fascinating glimpse of early RV days see George Lorando Lawson’s “An Automotible Praire Schooner” Country Life June 1908). From the traditional speckled pattern to more modern designs, enamelware is a great choice today. Healthwise, it is safe to use and it is unbreakable. Enameled dinnerware is thin and attractive. The drawback is you cannot use them in a microwave. Also since metal transfers heat better than other material, an enamelware bowl of hot soup will be, well, hot. You can buy a lower quality enamelware 12 piece set for under $30 online or at a big box store, or, expensive elegant enamelware from Falcon, one of the original manufacturers. The best from a price-to-quality perspective, and the one I recommend is Crow Canyon.

Blue Highways

Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon is one of the best American road trip stories. The story starts on February 17th, 1978 when Heat-Moon learned that his position as an English professor at Stephens College, a private women’s college in Columbia, Missouri. This was nine months after he was separated from his wife, and when he called her with the news that his teaching position was ending she let slip that she was now with “Rick or Dick or Chick. Something like that.” (p. 3)  So here he was, 38 years old, lost his job and his wife. What should he do?  That night was when the road trip idea formed. “A man who couldn’t make things go right could at least go,. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity.” (p 3). A month later, on March 20th, he began his epic 13,000 mile journey. 

A few years earlier,  he sold his 4 cylinder Austin and bought a new 1975 half ton Ford Econoline Van for $3,647. “It came equipped with power nothing and drove like what it was: a truck.” (Heat-Moon 1982 p 9). He converted the “clangy tin box” himself. He put carpet down, added some insulation, used plywood paneling for walls and ceiling, and built a cot sized rustic platform for his foam mat. He named his van, Ghost Dancing. He mentions the van build in only two sentences of his 400+ page book. It is merely a raft that will take him on this adventure. Nothing more.  

 His supplies were equally minimal. A Sears portable toilet, a  sleeping bag, Coleman cooler, backpacking stove, a small sack of a kitchen pot, skillet,  and utensils, and a trunk with clothes. His luxuries were a 35mm camera, a microcassette recorder, notebooks, pens, and two books: Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks. He had a paper atlas, a little over $400 in cash and a few gas company credit cards and off he went traveling 13,000 miles in 83 days. He slept in the van all but 3 days of the trip.. 

The title of the book, Blue Highways, comes from the route he took, he eschewed the interstate highway system and instead traveled on secondary highways which were marked in blue on his map. (Granted his trip started on Interstate 70). This is a journey of landscapes and small towns. But at a deeper level this is a journey of studying the self and what connects us as people living in America, and more broadly, as humans on this planet.

Class B camper vans for tall people

Class B camper vans are typically built from high-roof commercial vans and the  interior height for these commercial vans range from 77 inches in the ProMaster to 81.5 in the Ford Transit.  Once you add in an insulated ceiling and floor those heights diminish to around 74 to 75 inches. Before the advent of high roof vans, Class B manufacturers often would cut through the roof of a standard height van and add a fiberglass extender or, as in the case of the iconic Volkswagen Westfalia, a canvas pop-top roof.

Photo by Shelby L Bell. Some rights reserved.

Today, most Class B van manufacturers don’t make these modifications and they stay within the confines of the pre-existing shell. If you are 5’11” or less, most vans will accommodate you fine, but if you are a taller individual the design choices manufacturers make will directly impact your comfort level.

In this article we are going to look at three aspects that most directly impact your comfort level in the van: driver’s seat, bed dimensions, and the one we just mentioned, interior height. Before we start, keep in mind that human beings are amazingly adaptive and that includes human beings that own vans. There are people over six feet that thrive in a Ford Econoline build with an interior height of 50 inches, There are tall people that don’t mind being scrunched up in a tiny bed or being cramped in a too small driver’s seat.  These people don’t feel ‘scrunched’ or ‘cramped’; they feel totally happy. The point is that what you find comfortable is highly personal. The goal here is to provide you with some general information and impressions from taller individuals to help guide your search for a van.

For those of you 6’4” or over, you may also want to consider Class B+ RVs (really van-ish looking Class Cs).  For example, the popular Class C Winnebago Navion has an interior height of 6’8”  and the Leisure Travel Unity has one of 6’5” and both offer a more spacious interior than any Class B van. That said, let’s get started looking at the Class B options. 

Driver Comfort

Driver comfort is the most subjective of the three areas we cover, but, fortunately, it is the easiest one for you to personally evaluate. Class B manufacturers rarely interfere with the full range of driver’s seat adjustments that are provided in the base van. So if you are interested in the Winnebago Revel, which is built on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis, you can pretty much sit in any Mercedes Sprinter build or even the commercial van and gauge your comfort. Based on a survey of forum posts people find the Mercedes Sprinter driver’s seat to be the most comfortable and most adjustable compared to the Ford Transit, which people rate second. The ProMaster is rated third. Everything else being equal, the Sprinter is the way to go. Unfortunately, other things are not equal. For example, if you don’t want a diesel engine you would be eliminating all the Sprinter builds. One reason the ProMaster is rated the worst, is that the seat is difficult to adjust. Once those adjustments are made, many people find the seat comfortable. Here is what owners say when asked about comfort:

  • One person 6’9” says that while the seat is a bit too short (hip to knee), he can put in 12+ hr. drives without a problem.
  • A number of people 6’4” say the ProMaster seat is comfortable. One, with a 36” inseam,  said it took about 20 minutes to adjust the manual controls to find a comfortable position. Another mentioned that he needed to play “with the adjustments on the seat and steering wheel” and that afterward said he never had “the least bit of discomfort.”
  • People 6’2” rate the driving position as “very comfortable.”  One mentioned he prefered driving it over his Chevy Silverado and Subaru Forester. 

You should also keep in mind that the driving position in a van is different from that of other vehicles. The driving position in a van is much more upright than even the driving position in a full size pickup truck and this takes a period of adjustment.

Interior Height

Nearly all Class B camper vans have an interior height of 74 to 75 inches. I am 6’1”. I’ve been in a wide range of vans but know the Winnebago Travato the best and it is listed as 75 inches. Wearing running shoes I sort of just fit — If I stand up super straight my head nearly touches the ceiling. As with many vans, the air conditioner protrudes down from the ceiling and in that part of the van I need to be careful. That said, there are plenty of people who are taller than me that are perfectly happy with a 75 inch interior height. One person who is 6’6” says with humor that he’s been that height for years and he learned how to compensate. Several 6’4” individuals say the interior van height is not an issue but another admits that the interior height is the biggest negative of his two years of van ownership but “the plusses outweigh that negative.”

There are several Class Bs that have expanded interior height. Regency RV offers an optional fiberglass raised roof cap to their National Traveler van which gives a whooping interior height of 88 inches.  (However, the bed is only 73×54) The Pleasure-Way Ontour 2.2 has an interior height of 78 and the Sportsmobile Classic Pop Top also offers an interior height of 78 inches in part of the van. 


First, let’s start with the dimensions of standard mattresses.

  • Twin  75×39
  • Twin XL 80×39
  • Full 75×54
  • Queen 80×60
  • King 80×76
  • California King 84×72

The mattress sizes of Class B vans vary greatly but from this chart of standard mattresses you should have a good idea of what your desired length and width requirements are.  As I mentioned, I am 6 foot 1 inch. I sleep on my back and my feet stick out from a standard twin but I am fine with the twin XL. So, even though, technically, I should fit on a 75 inch mattress, because my head isn’t jammed against the headboard, I do not fit comfortably. I am very happy with my van’s 80×30 mattress and that sentiment for the 80×30 inch mattress is shared by a 6’6” person on a Travato forum.  A person in one forum has very different requirements than me. He is 6’6”, sleeps on his side with legs curled up and “those legs need to go somewhere.” For him my 30 inch wide mattress wouldn’t work and he is happy in his van with a 77×48 inch bed. 

A Class B camper van is small and nimble and because of this size constraint, there are going to be compromises in the layout.  You can’t fit everything you want: the true queen sized bed, an expansive lounge area to work at, a kitchen with ample counter space and a full sized refrigerator and an oven. For many van owners, the majority of time spent in the van is spent sleeping. They got the van to be out and about in nature, and to explore. When it is nice out they are outdoors. So while there are necessarily compromises in a Class B van, the space you least want to compromise on is the bed.  Keep in mind that in many vans, the length of the bed spans the width of the van–similar to the position of laying down in the backseat of a car.. This provides the most space for other functional areas but it does severely limit bed length. For example, the bed length of the Airstream 19 is only 73 inches because of width-wise orientation. The longest width wise bed  (79 inches) is in the Winnebago Revel which accomplishes this with innovative window flares. Once you change the orientation of the bed to match the lenghwise orientation of the van you get the option for a longer bed but it cuLorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.ts down on other space such as a front lounge. In this configuration you can find vans with a bed length of up to 81 inches (the Wnnebago Boldt).

Vans to Consider

Pleasure-Way Ontour 2.2 - A solid choice

Photo from Pleasure-Way website

If you or your companion are tall, you might consider putting the Pleasure-Way Ontour 2.2  on your shortlist. It is based on the 22 foot long Ford Transit chassis, and offers 78 inches of interior height. This is awesome in a Class B camper van.  The dimensions of the bed are 79×68. The layout of the van is a rear-lounge configuration. At the touch of a button the rear sofa flattens to form part of the bed. The rest of the bed is formed by moving a few cushions. So while  you get a 79×68 bed, there is some work involved in converting the lounge to a bed. The solid maple cabinetry is beautiful and it has some great standard features like dual 100 amp hour lithium batteries and 300 watts of solar. The Ontour has a very similar layout to Pleasure-Way’s Mercedes Sprinter based models, the Ascent and the Plateau and one could view the Ontour as an incremental improvement of these builds on a different chassis.  The MSRP is $133,000. 

Photo from Pleasure-Way website

What is not to like? Well, if you are an outdoor adventure person who travels on forest service roads hauling mountain bikes and associated gear, our next choice might be a better fit

Winnebago Revel - a rugged alternative

The Winnebago Revel is based on the 4 wheel drive Mercedes Sprinter chassis.  It is slightly under 20 feet in length and features modern safety features like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring. The  interior height is 75 inches. The bed measures 79×49 and rises to the ceiling to allow for storage of bicycles and other gear underneath. The Revel provides a nice contrast to the Ontour above in that it is geared toward the active outdoor adventurer. In contrast to the Ontour you wouldn’t call the interior beautiful but it is functional and features easy-to-clean and easy-to-maintain surfaces. It has a front lounge  and a small galley that features a sink, an induction cooktop and a small refrigerator. The bathroom again is a functional space with a shower and a cassette toilet and the space doubles as a place for wet gear. The MSRP is $163,000.

Above images courtesy of Winnebago Industries, Inc. Unauthorized use not permitted

Winnebago Travato - The middle way

I have a bit of a bias here as I own one. The Winnebago Travato, built on the 21 foot ProMaster chassis with an interior height of 75 inches,  comes in two layouts. The 59G has a 77×48 rear murphy bed and a front lounge The 59k which features twin beds (one 80×30 and the other 75×30) which can be converted to a 54 inch wide full size mattress.  There are Class B vans with similar layouts to the 59K. The Winnebago Boldt has dual twin beds (81×26 and 74×26), the Coachmen Beyond (76×28 and 72×28), and the Thor Sequence (80×30 and 76×30). I like the 30 inch width and find 26 or even 28 too narrow. The 59k features a rear bath and a driver’s side galley with a propane cooktop, sink, convection microwave and a 4.3 cubic foot refrigerator. It comes standard with 200 watts of solar and a 1,000 watt inverter. There is a model that offers a large 9,500 watt hour lithium system. The MSRP is $118,000.

Above images courtesy of Winnebago Industries, Inc. Unauthorized use not permitted

Other vans to consider

If your goal is to travel the interstates in comfort you may want to add either the Airstream Interstate Lounge EXT or the Grand Tour EXT. Both are built on the 25 foot Mercedes Sprinter chassis with an interior height of 74 inches. However the beds are a luxurious 82×70. If your journey involves much more rugged paths you may want to consider the Sportsmobile Classic 4×4 which has an interior height of 78 inches.  One layout of the Sportsmobile features an 81×55 bed. While the Sportsmobile is ruggedly handsome, it has a hefty starting price of  $140,000

Image at head of article and above are from Sportsmobile.