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.

The best surge protector and EMS

For most owners of Class B camper vans I recommend the Hughes 30 Amp Bluetooth Surge Protector with Auto Shutoff. Another good choice is the Progressive EMS-PT30X. For vans with the Volta Lithium system, a standard surge protector such as the Progressive Industries SSP-30XL may be a better choice (see our Lithium discussion below).

Van 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.


In your house, you connect devices directly to your outlets. You plug in a floor lamp or a cell phone charging cable. However, instead of directly plugging a device into a wall socket, many people protect their expensive televisions, computers, and audio systems by using a surge protector. As the name suggests a surge protector protects against surges, or power spikes.  A spike is a temporary increase in voltage above what is normal. These spikes can come from lightning strikes, the power company, or even devices within your home. Normally, your house is supplying 120 volts to your devices but when a surge occurs, it may deliver a 1,000 or 5,000 volt spike. What can happen without a surge protector? In a demonstration reported on in this wirecutter article, they sent a 5,000 volt spike to a Dell LCD monitor protected by a surge protector. The monitor worked fine after the spike. When they repeated the test with the surge protector absent, the monitor was destroyed “never to be turned on again.” You can imagine how bummed you would be if your $2,000 OLED 4K television was destroyed by a surge when you could have protected it with a $40 device. Now imagine how bummed you’d be if the electrical system of your $200,000 van was fried by a surge. Hopefully, this avoidance of possible future suffering will convince you to tolerate the immediate slight pain of buying an expensive (~$200) surge protector that does not make your average van trip any more wonderful.  Also, remember that a surge protector only protects the van when connected to shore power. There is no need to use a protector if you are on battery power. 

The measure of how much protection a particular surge protector provides is called a joule. A joule rating is a measure of how much energy can be absorbed by the surge protector before it fails. Everytime your surge protector absorbs energy, it uses up joules. Eventually, after doing its job and absorbing surges, the surge protector is used up. The average lifespan of a home surge protector is three to five years.

Electrical Management Systems (EMSs)

Surge protectors only protect against voltage surges–when the voltage exceeds the limits of your device. They don’t protect against brownouts which is a decrease in voltage below the normal level. Not that long ago I lived in an apartment in Northern Virginia, whose lights would dim when the fan for my apartment heat would come on and also dim when my laser printer started up. So I invested in a system that protects against both occurrences. Anyone who crucially depends on their devices working should protect their gear. For example, in advice given to musicians Ikes Taylor writes “Never plug anything straight into the house electrical system, other than your power conditioner. Remember, you may be on the same circuit as the bar refrigerators.”

In a van, or for that matter any RV, if either a voltage spike or brownout occurs there could be damage to the components in your rig. Here are a few actual reports:

“We were in Mobile, Alabama during Hurricane Lee. The RV park power was hit by lightning and we had a MAJOR power surge melting our 50amp power line and burning the 12VDC and 110 VAC wiring in the coach–2007 Pace Arrow–as well as ‘doing in’ all the electrical appliances and controls.”.    Roger Allen Phoenix USA RV.

“Two weeks ago I posted a note regarding the 220 volt power surge that occured at Tampa East RV park due to the parks faulty underground wires. The spontaneous power surge caused damage to several RV’s in the park. Ours was one of them. We lost our main AC, our microwave, a bedroom television and a convertor.” –RN Enigma

I don’t want to stress you out by suggesting that it is inevitable that you will experience one of these conditions. Having your van damaged by surges and brownouts is extremely rare. That said, a house fire is rare but we protect ourselves with smoke detectors so it might be wise to protect your van from these electrical anomalies.  

While a surge protector only protects against surges, an Electrical Management System (EMS) protects against surges, brownouts, and other anomalies. What are some other anomalies? Some electrical pedestals in campgrounds may not have been set up or maintained by professional certified electricians, or even competent amateur ones and in non-technical language, the wiring may be messed up. For example, in one condition known as reverse polarity, wires are swapped. The electrical systems in your van would work normally but metal surfaces of your van, including exterior surfaces, could be energized which could cause a potentially lethal shock hazard (on the good news front, all RVs manufactured after 2020 are required to have reverse polarity protection). Yet another way of getting a lethal shock is through an open ground. In household plugs the third rounded part of the plug is the ground. For example, if your toaster has an exposed wire, this ground prevents you from getting shocked.  An open ground is when the ground part of an outlet is actually not connected and it doesn’t provide this protection. Again, such events are extremely unlikely.


General Information about an EMS

All the recommended Electrical Management Systems (EMSs) below offer protection against these hazards. Keep in mind that some advanced Lithium systems, such as Winnebago’s Volta system, are not compatible with EMSs and for those it is recommended that you use a standard surge protector, which we describe further below. 

All the units are surprisingly large–about the size of a yoga block, weigh around 4-5 pounds and cost around $200-$250. Each model comes in several configurations. You can get a 30 amp version or the 50 amp. Again, all the Class B vans that I am aware of are 30 amp but please check your manual. You can also get either the portable or hardwired version of these devices. The hardwired version is one that is directly wired to your van’s electrical system and it requires a bit of electrical prowess (or knowing someone who does). The portable version is similar to surge protectors for your house. You plug one end into the plug on the power pedestal, dangle the EMS unit downward, and plug the other end into your van’s power cord. People typically get the portable version. The EMS is both an analyzer and a protector and the steps of using a portable unit reflect this. This is the typical pattern (please consult your EMS/Surge Protector manual for details). 


  1. Make sure the breaker (the power switch) on the pedestal is in the off position.
  2. Plug in your EMS
  3. Wait for the EMS to analyze the power (depending on the EMS this could take from a few seconds to a few minutes).
  4. If the EMS detects a problem, do not plug in your van, instead, report the problem to the park manager.
  5. If the EMS says everything is good, move the breaker to the off position.
  6. Plug in the power cord from your van into the EMS, and switch the breaker to ON.
  7. Now you can use the electrical devices in your van while the EMS is providing protection.

The key point here is that you first plug in the EMS to the pedestal without having your van connected. Only when the EMS says that the power is good, do you plug in your van.

My Pick - The Hughes Power Watchdog + EPO

The EMS I recommend is the Hughes Hughes Power Watchdog + EPO.  It was introduced in 2019 and won second place in the RV Industry Association’s Aftermarket Product of the Year Award. One thing that sets it apart from others is its IP65 waterproof rating.  As you may have learned from shopping for a rain parka, the term ‘waterproof’ can mean different things and the IP rating is an industry standard measure for electrical devices. The IP65 rating makes the Hughes similar to outdoor street lights and it can survive being out in severe thunderstorms (a good thing since one of its primary jobs is to protect against lightning strikes).  In comparison, the new iPhones have an IP68 rating meaning they can survive being under 13 feet for 30 minutes. This Hughes is not rated to sit in a pool of water. In fact, all surge protectors and EMSs are designed to hang from the power pedestal and not lay on the ground and be susceptible to puddles.

The other novel feature of the Hughes is that it has Bluetooth connectivity and a companion iPhone/Android app. This app provides detailed information about power including the energy consumption of your van. Finally, this unit features a replaceable surge module. Recall the surge protectors can get ‘used up’ and when this happens to other brands, you need to replace the entire unit. With the Hughes unit, if the surge component gets used up you just replace a $20 module. 

The startup time is also faster. The startup time of some other brands exceeds two minutes whereas the startup time on the Hughes is 4 seconds! 

The other features are comparable to other EMSs listed here. It protects against surges, high and low voltage, open ground and reverse polarity. The surge protector component is rated at 2,400 joules.

The one drawback this unit has is it only has a 3 year warranty when other brands feature a lifetime warranty.

Also Good - Progressive EMS-PT30X

The Progressive EMS-PT30X has long been considered the gold standard of surge protectors and is by far the most commonly mentioned EMS in various RV forums.  A big plus to this unit is its lifetime warranty and a number of people have mentioned this in their forum posts. Their EMS-PT30X would go bad, they would call customer service, who would ship out a new unit. Unfortunately there are an equal number of people that express difficulty in reaching the 24/7 customer service hotline. 

It offers the same basic protections as the Hughes. Its surge protector component is rated at 1,790 and its startup time is 136 seconds.

The main reason this isn’t my top pick, is that numerous people in various forums and on Amazon report water intrusion into the unit. For example, one person on the Airstream forum  writes “Our Progressive Industries EMS-PT50X quit working after a storm yesterday and I realized it was full of water!” and a user in the Forest River forum says “So upon inspection my unit was full of water. More than a cup, and it really didn’t rain that hard. These units are not water tight as represented.”  Many of the people who had water damage received a new unit under the lifetime warranty, but some did not.

Even with this defect it is perhaps the most recommended in the Class B forums..

Runner Up - Southwire 34930 Surge Guard 30 amp

While not as full-featured as the Hughes, a solid choice would be the Southwire Surge Guard. The protection it offers is similar to both the Hughes and Progressive. Like the Progressive, the manufacturer states that it is weather resistant but some owners report water intrusion. At one time they were the budget pick for good EMSs, but now their price seems comparable to the others. Unless you can get the Southwire for a greatly reduced price, the Hughes or the Progressive are better options.

Winnebago Pure3 Volta Lithium Systems

There are rare reports of problems with using an EMS unit with the Volta Lithium System found on some Winnebago vans. The Volta system already checks for conditions like open ground and over/under current and some users report problems with connecting the Progressive EMS-PT30x to the van and the problems are resolved when using a standard, non-EMS, surge protector. I have not seen reports of problems with other lithium based systems and most people still recommend the more comprehensive EMS units. If you are worried about compatibility, the following non-EMS surge protectors are recommended.

Photo at head of article by Frank Cone from Pexels

Custom Camper Van Builders

As the phrase suggests, custom camper van builders build a van to a customer’s specifications. What the word “custom” means in this context varies. Sometimes ‘custom’ means that you can choose from a limited number of options. Or it could mean that the builder works closely with a client to build a van that exactly matches that client’s vision (Advanced RV is the quintessential example of this). In addition to the varying meaning of the word ‘custom’, there is great variation in what is meant by ‘builder’. Some builders on this list are “mom and pop” ones building vans out of a garage (or more likely, ones run by a young couple who developed their building skills by constructing their own van). Others are large operations employing 50 or more people. Some have been in the van conversion business for over 50 years and others are just starting out.  This provides you with many choices. You can support a local start-up or go with a large established builder. You can get a van built whose interior looks like a cozy log cabin or one whose interior displays a non-wood gray-scale industrial chic featuring powder coated aluminum. 

Above photo by Alfonso Escalante from Pexels

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA)

As opposed to custom camper van builders, most manufacturers of Class B vans are members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. To be a member requires that all the recreational vehicles they sell comply with over 500 safety requirements for electrical, plumbing, heating, and fire. For example, if you buy an Airstream or Winnebago van, you know that it passed those safety requirements. Obviously this is a good thing. However, getting the RVIA seal just means they passed this minimal set of criteria. It is like knowing someone passed medical school. If you are trying to decide on a surgeon, that might not be good enough. Instead, it would be nice to know whether that doctor passed with a ‘D’ or with an ‘A’. The RVIA seal is like that graduation certificate. We don’t know whether it is ‘A’ quality or ‘D’ quality. We just know the van passed its inspection. 

For a company that isn’t a member of RVIA and this includes nearly all the companies on the following list,  we don’t have that minimal assurance. Their vans could be triple-A quality — much much better than any van built by a major manufacturer, or the vans they produce could be unsafe. The onus is on you, the shopper. When buying any Class B, you can’t skimp on the research, but when buying from a smaller company be particularly diligent. Some customizers are RVIA members and that designation is indicated in the following list.


The List

Advanced RV

If you want the absolute best quality van possible and you have a large amount of money to buy it (~$300,000), look no further than Advanced RV. This Willoughby, Ohio based company was formed in 2012 by Mike Neundorfer, who has managed to attract a team of extremely talented designers, engineers, and craftspeople. The results are stunning.  (RVIA member)

Benchmark Vehicles

Benchmark, based in Portland Oregon,  builds custom vans on the Mercedes Sprinter and Ford Transit chassis. Their moto is “Vehicle optimization for outdoors enthusiasts.”

Blue Ridge Adventure Vehicles

Blue Ridge Adventure Vehicles, in Fairview, North Carolina, builds custom vans on all the major chassis. Their website features some pricing guidelines so you can get a ballpark estimate of your build. 

Creative Mobile Interiors

Creative Mobile Interiors, based in Grove City, Ohio, is a vehicle conversion company that modifies “all makes and models of motor coaches, RVs, mini-buses, vans, trailers, campers, and specialty vehicles – new or used.” They create vehicles for mobile marketing, mobile offices, and mobile homes.

Custom Crafted Vans

Custom Crafted Vans is based in Boise Idaho was formed by two former business coaches and yoga instructors, Sara and Alex James. Their typical builds range from $40,000-$90,000 not including the van.

El Kapitan

El Kapitan is based in Huntington Beach, CA. They were formed in 1984 and are a certified Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Van Master Upfitter, which speaks to the quality of their builds.  According to their website they offer conversions for shuttles, mobile offices, limos, mobility and wheelchair vans, and upgraded passenger vans. (RVIA)

Embassy (SVO Group)

SVO group, in Elkhart, Indiana was originally an upfitter for commercial vehicles. In 2015 they introduced Embassy Buses, a line of executive class shuttles, and Embassy RV, a line of Class B vans. Instead of using wood and wood-based products in their builds, they use high density polyethylene sheets. They will do conversions on the Ram ProMaster, Ford Transit, and Mercedes Sprinter chassis. They appear to create innovative quality builds.


Esplori, formed in 2017,  is based in Bend, Oregon, and specializes in “Environmentally conscious Sprinter conversions.”  The conversions feature powder coated aluminum walls, ceiling, and cabinetry. Esplori is another company that advertises their vans as “built for adventure.”

Glamper Vans

Glamper Vans, based in San Francisco, builds non-custom vans built on the ProMaster 136 high roof chassis (18 feet long). Their standard build costs around $50,000 (above the price of the van). The term glamper is a portmanteu of ‘glamorous’ and ‘camper’. These vans don’t match that aesthetic.  They are more of a Scandinavian design.  


GTRV originated in 1994 in Sabastopol, California. They customize a variety of vans ranging from minivans such as the Toyota Sienna and Mercedes Metris to full size Sprinters.Their primary area of focus is pop-top conversions.

Heartwood Custom Vans

Heartwood was formed by Adam and Vanessa Hickey who built their first van in 2018.  It is based in Nova Scotia, Canada. Their vans have a very wood oriented interior (probably not surprising given the name of their company). They also sell a “how to build a van” ebook.

Humble Hand Craft

Humble Hand Craft started in  2012 by Ryan O’Donnell as a builder of ‘artisanal’ tiny houses.   In 2018 they expanded to building camper vans with a decidedly cabin look. They are based in Ventura, California. Some of their website examples look like tiny cabins in a van.

Land Yacht Motor Werks

Land Yacht Motor Werks is located in Magnolia, TX. It was formed by Michael Alpha in 2016 to convert Mercedes Sprinter vans to luxury shuttles, tailgaters and camper vans. The designs looked geared toward traveling on interstates. Indeed, their motto is “It’s not just about where you’re going … but how you get there.”

Nomad Vanz

Nomad Vanz is located in North Vancouver, Canada and only converts Mercedes Sprinter and Metris vans. Prices start at $120,000 for converting a 144 WB Sprinter. Adding in the price of a Sprinter and you are close to $200,000.

Outside Van

Outside Van, based in Portland Oregon, was founded by Erik Ekman in 2007.  They are one of the larger van conversion companies employing around 65 people and doing 100 conversions annually. In addition to custom conversions they offer prebuilt one-off vans.


Sportsmobile is a van conversion company that has been in business since 1961 (not a typo!) and have four locations (Austin, Fresno, Huntington, Indiana and Reno).They will do conversions on Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Transit, Ram ProMaster, Chevy Express and Ford E Vans chassis.  The price for a Sportsmobile Classic is $175-$225,000. Other models are less. (RVIA)

Sync Vans

Sync Vans was co-founded by Jay Sfingi and Josh Shetler in Hailey, Idaho. Conversions start at 32,000. The majority of their builds are on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis. Their designs veer toward an industrial chic aesthetic.

Titan Vans

Titan Vans was formed in Boulder Colorado in 2017 and specialize in “off-the-grid vans.” They primarily work with Sprinters but will do conversions on other chassis. Their vans have an industrial chic vibe. Prices range from $50,000 for a Titan Classic conversion (on top of the price of the van) to $75,000 or more for a custom conversion. They tout their 3 year/ 36,000 warranty.

TouRig Custom Vans

TouRig was formed in 2015 and is based in Golden Colorado. In 2017 they partnered with the German company Terracamper to bring Terracamper interiors to the U.S. market. The focus on builds for the “outdoor adventure enthusiast.” Their builds are on the Mercedes Sprinter and Metris chassis.

Van Specialities

Van Specialities is based in Tualatin, Oregon just south of Portland. They have been in business since 1973.  Their designs are industrial chic and feature a grey-scale color palette. They build on a variety of chassis. Some people have complained about the wait time reporting deliveries 9 months or more after ordering..


VanDOit is based in Blue Springs Missouri. They are part of  Kline Van and Specialty Rental which rents and leases vans and VanDOit mostly does conversions on existing vans in their fleet. The vans they convert are Ford Transit 350 XLT passenger vans. The converted vans start at $50,000 (that includes the van).


Zenvanz was founded by Jen and Bryan Danger and has been building vans in Portland, Oregon since 2012. They convert Mercedes Sprinter vans using modular aluminum/bamboo components.


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Class B Manufacturers

Are you ready to start shopping for a Class B van and you are wondering if you are missing some dream van?  This annotated list of manufacturers of Class B vans runs the gamut from large, multinational companies to small family-run ones. 

In the descriptions, I list prices in parentheses. These are the base list price for that model and the typical selling price may be 30% or more less. While many companies are transparent on their base list prices others are not and in those cases I make a best estimate from available sources.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA)

Nearly all manufacturers of Class B vans (not including conversion companies) are members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. To be a member requires that all the recreational vehicles they sell comply with over 500 safety requirements for electrical, plumbing, heating, and fire. Of course, this is a good thing. However, getting the RVIA seal just means they passed this minimal set of criteria. Its like knowing someone passed medical school. It would be nice to know whether that doctor passed with a ‘D’ or with an ‘A’. The RVIA seal is like that. We don’t know whether it is ‘A’ quality or ‘D’ quality. We just know the van passed its inspection. 

For a company that isn’t a member of RVIA we don’t have that minimal assurance. Their vans could be triple-A quality — much much better than any van built by a major manufacturer, or the vans they produce could be unsafe. The onus is on you, the shopper. When buying any Class B, you can’t skimp on the research, but when buying from a smaller company be particularly diligent.

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

Top Manufacturers

Airstream (a subsidiary of Thor)

Airstream was formed in 1936 and, along with Winnebago, is an iconic American RV brand. They started making Class B vans in 1989. Their current Class B lineup consists of the Interstate was introduced in 2004.  It is built on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis with the 3.0L V6 engine. 4 wheel drive is an option.  Both the Interstate Lounge EXT ($190,000) and the Grand Tour EXT ($190,000) are built on the 3500 extended frame with an exterior length of 24.5 feet. The Interstate 19 ($161,000) is built on the shorter 2500 frame with a length of 19.6 feet. I think the name “Interstate” is an apt name for this van. Its sleek, private jet looking, interior makes it look at home cruising the nation’s interstates, and to my eye wouldn’t look quite at home on forest service roads. Airstream also offers a Class B+ Atlas ($238,000), which in their words offers an “expansive floorplan.” (RVIA member)

Coachmen RV (a subsidiary of Forest River)

Coachmen RV started in 1964 as a manufacturer of travel trailers and truck campers. It was bought by Forest River in 2008 (Forest River in turn is owned by Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway). Coachmen builds three lines of Class Bs. Both the Nova ($120,000) and Beyond ($135,000), known previously as the Crossfit, are built on the 22 foot long Promaster 3500 chassis.  The Galleria ($145,000) is built on the 24 foot Mercedes Sprinter. Coachmen is known for its solid wood cabinetry. They offer Lithionics Lithium batteries as an option. (RVIA member)


Pleasure-Way was formed in 1986 to build Class B vans and that continues to be their sole purpose today. The company is headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. They offer numerous vans. Their smallest is the Tofino ($71,000) which is built on the Ram ProMaster 1500 low roof chassis and is under 18 feet long.  It has a pop-top that creates an overhead bunk. Their Lexor models ($118,000) are built on a Ram ProMaster 3500 chassis and are 21 feet long. The Ontour ($132,000) is built on a Ford Transit 2500 chassis and features a whopping 78 inches of head room.  Their Ascent ($141,000) is built on the short Mercedes Sprinter chassis and is under 20 feet long. Finally, their top-of-the-line Plateau ($151,000) is built on the Mercedes Sprinter chassis and is 23 feet long. (RVIA member)

Thor Motor Coach

Thor Industries is a ginormous company which was formed in 1980 when two entrepreneurs bought Airstream from Beatrice Foods (yes, Airstream was once owned by a company best known for Tropicana and Playtex. Go figure). Since then they have been on an acquisition spree, acquiring Jayco, Dutchman, Keystone, Hymer (the largest RV manufacturer in Europe), and dozens more. Two of these acquisitions were consolidated in 2010 to form Thor Motor Coach, which released its first Class B van in 2019.  This Class B, the Sequence ($92,000),  is a plagiarized copy (is that redundant?) of the Winnebago Travato. At a time when the Class B market could use some innovation it is particularly disheartening that Thor designers took this easy path. The Sequence is built on the Ram ProMaster Window Van, with a gasoline V6 3.6L engine and front wheel drive. It is 21 feet long. While it does offer a few minor improvements over the Travato, it has some major defects including the sparsity of opening windows. Thor also offers the Tellaro ($91,000), another ProMaster based build with an optional pop top sleeping area.  (RVIA member)

Winnebago Industries, Inc.

Winnebago, based in Forest City, Iowa,  was founded in 1958 to build travel trailers and began manufacturing its iconic motorhomes in 1966. They offer a range of vans and is a company known for its innovation. Perhaps the most popular of their vans is the Travato ($118,000) which has been manufactured since 2013 and was the first Class B from any manufacturer to be built on the Ram ProMaster chassis. It is under 21 feet long. It is offered in two floor plans and Lithium is an option. Their Revel ($163,000), built on the 4 wheel drive Mercedes Sprinter, is under 20 feet long and is built for the rugged outdoors.  The Boldt ($199,000), a Mercedes Sprinter diesel build, is 23 feet long and features a whooping 12,800 watt-hour lithium system.  Also in their lineup is the Era ($170,000), a 25 foot long Mercedes and the diminutive Solis ($101,000), a Ram ProMaster build under 20 feet which features a pop-top. Winnebago accounts for over 30% of the Class B van market share and for good reason. (RVIA member)

Other Manufacturers

5 Mars RV

5 Mars RV was founded in 2009 in Joliette, Quebec. They  offer an unusual assortment of Class B vans. Several pop-top models are built on minivans. Perhaps the most unique is the Illusion LX ($72,000) which is built on a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. Their Imagine line ($93,000) is a 16 foot long ProMaster pop-top and features a removable interior.  

Advanced RV

If you want the absolute best quality van possible and you have a large amount of money to buy it (~$300,000), look no further than Advanced RV. This Willoughby, Ohio based company was formed in 2012 by Mike Neundorfer, who has managed to attract a team of extremely talented designers, engineers, and craftspeople. The results are stunning.  (RVIA member)

American Coach

American Coach is owned by REV group (see its separate entry in this list) and is principally a manufacturer of luxury Class As. They make two Class Bs. Their Patriot Cruizer ($160,000) is a 24 foot Mercedes Sprinter luxury Class B “devoted to the open road.” And their Patriot ($153,000) is built on the 20 foot Sprinter. (RVIA member)

Chinook RV

Chinook began as a family run business back in 1938 making it one of the oldest RV manufacturers. From its inception until the mid-1970s it was one of the most innovative manufacturers on the planet. They started with travel trailers and truck campers but their initial claim to fame was the introduction of sleek fiberglass Class A motorhomes in the 1960s. They started producing Class B vans in the early 1970s, Because of a recession, the company gradually declined. It was bought out and gradually again became a leader of RV innovation calling itself “the sports car of motorhomes.” Then the company hit financial difficulties attributed to mismanagement and closed in 2006. In 2013 the intellectual property (primarily the name) was bought by the owner of several RV dealerships. This new “Chinook” makes Class B vans on the Mercedes Benz chassis. The Bayside “executive travel van”  ($134,000)  has seating up to 10 (6 seats with 3 point seat belts and upgradeable to massage and heating). It is not really a van to sleep in and, without a table, it isn’t one to work or eat in either. Also, there are no windows that open.  The Countryside ($127,000)  is a more traditional Class B built on the 19 foot Mercedes Sprinter chassis. (history)  (RVIA member)

Coach House

Coach House is a family owned business based in Venice Florida  best known for their Class C (B+) RVs. They make one Class B, the Arriva ($161,000), built on the 24 foot Mercedes chassis. It features a (rare in a B) large dry bath, and some exterior storage.  If you are a person who really likes watching tv this van is for you since it offers two televisions. Coach House RVs are sold factory direct. (RVIA member)

Fleetwood (a subsidiary of REV group)

Fleetwood started in southern California in 1950. Its primary focus was mobile homes but it also manufactured Class A RVs. In 2009 the company went bankrupt and the motorized RV division was acquired by a private equity firm, which in 2010 combined the company with other acquisitions to form the REV group (see the REV entry in this list). The current Fleetwood division primarily produces Class A RVs but they do produce one Class B, the Irok ($114,000). The Irok is on a Ram ProMaster chassis which is 21 feet long. It is offered in two floorplans.

Gala RV

Gala RV is based in Quebec. They offer several Class B vans in their Montecarlo line ranging from under 20 to 21 feet and based on the Ram ProMaster chassis. One interesting model, the FB21, has an all fiberglass and composite interior. Gala does not sell vans in the United States. However, they will convert a van that you provide them. The base price for that conversion is $70,000.


ModVans is based in Ventura, CA. Starting in 2019, they offer one van, the CV1 ($99,000), which is a pop-up camper built on the low roof Ford Transit. It features removable components. For example, the entire kitchen unit is removable. They claim “CV1 is a full-featured camper van, family van and work van all in one.” (RVIA member)

Midwest Automotive Designs (REV Group)

Midwest Automotive Designs was formed in 2003 in Elkhart, Indiana and in 2013 was bought by the REV group (see REV entry in this list). Midwest manufactures luxury vehicles for shuttle vans, limousines, executive transport, and recreation. It offers Class B camper vans on the Mercedes Sprinter and Ram ProMaster chassis. The Weekender ($142,000) is built on the Mercedes Sprinter 23 foot chassis while the Passage ($114,000) is built on the shorter 19 foot Sprinter chassis. The Legend ($135,000) is their ProMaster offering built on the 2500 chassis. Some manufacturers call their vans “adventure vans” and others “luxury vans.” Midwest is definitely in the luxury camp using descriptions such as “private jets on wheels.” At least that is what it looks like on the surface. They don’t appear to use high quality components (for example Truma or Alde) in their builds. Their website also has this odd statement “Midwest Automotive Designs Reserves the Right to Change any STD, or Optional Features without Notice. Photos may Not depict the Actual product.”

New-West V.R.

New-West is a Quebec company building Class B vans since 1999. They offer 9 models built on a variety of chassis. Their lowest priced offering is the bare-bones Bo-M ($65,000) built on the GM Express regular length chassis with a length of 18.5 feet. It does have a sink but it has a manual water pump. The Altitude ($124,000) is based on the Ford Transit chassis and the Grizzly ($154,000) is based on the Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 chassis. All models feature alcohol stoves. New West vans are not available in the United States although you can have them convert a van you have.

Panoramic RV

Panoramic RV is an RV manufacturer out of Montreal, CA that started in 2019. They have only one model, called the Panoramic ($172,000),  and it is built on the Ram ProMaster chassis which is 21 feet long. The focus of the design is large windows and a skylight. They state their vans are available in both the Canadian and U.S. markets.

Regency RV

Regency RV is based in Fort Worth Texas and began manufacturing Class B vans in 2015. They offer two models. The National Traveler ($120,000)  is built on the 21 foot Ram ProMaster chassis and, perhaps unique to a Class B, offers a raised roof fiberglass cap, that offers a whopping 7’4” interior height.  However, the bed is only 73×54. So if you are tall but like to sleep scrunched up, this van is for you.  The interior height of the shower is 5’10”. The Xalta ($160,000) is built on the 24 foot Mercedes Sprinter chassis. 

REV Group

REV group was formed in 2010 and since then has acquired numerous companies. They manufacture busses, fire trucks, ambulances, and recreational vehicles.  Most of their RV focus is in luxury Class A motorhomes, but they also produce the Lance campers (truck campers and travel trailers) and the Midwest Automotive Designs and American Coach Class Bs which have their own entries in this list.

Roadtrek (Rapido Group)

The Roadtrek story is a rise and fall and potential rebirth tale that has some scandal thrown in. It started as a family run manufacturer of class B motorhomes in 1974. And in its early days the vans they built were considered fairly well-built.  In 2016 it was bought by Hymer, a large RV manufacturer in Europe. (If you are thinking of buying a used Roadtrek or Hymer please do your research to know the issues involved.) In 2019 Hymer was bought by Thor. When Thor was analyzing Roadtrek before the acquisition it discovered some anomalies that lead to Roadtrek division to  not be included in the sale. Later in 2019, Roadtrek was acquired by Rapido. This new Roadtrek subsidiary currently offers only 2 Class B models: the Zion ($102,000) and the Zion SRT ($95,000). Both are built on the ProMaster chassis. The Zion SRT is under 20 feet in length and the Zion is under 21 feet. Don’t be confused by the plethora of models shown on their website. At this point they only have one assembly line running which produces the Zion line.

Safari Condo

Safari Condo is based in Quebec Canada. Their initial claim to fame was an innovative aerodynamic travel trailer with a tempered glass poptop. They introduced a line of Class B vans in 2019. They offer over 10 models based on three different chassis. The pop-top Savana line  ($90,000)  is based on the low-roof GMC Savana which has an estimated 24 MPG. It is sort of retro-cool from a reliable company. The ProMaster offerings ($101,000) have 19 foot and 21 foot options. Finally, the Mercedes Sprinter line ($123,000) also comes in two lengths.

Storyteller Overland

If you are looking for a premium adventure van that is at home on forest service roads and are willing to pay a premium price the Mode 4×4 ($200,000) built by Storyteller Overland may be for you. offers one van, the Mode 4×4 built on the 20 foot Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 chassis. They call it an adventure van and that is an apt description. 

Camp Gear

For most owners of Class B camper vans we recommend the Hughes 30 Amp Bluetooth Surge Protector with Auto Shutoff. Another good choice is the Progressive EMS-PT30X. If you have a lithium-based van, a more generic surge protector such as the >>>> may be a better choice. 

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. 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 have larger energy needs and typically have a 50 amp service.