If you're even remotely tuned in to the outdoor world, you will know that van life took off faster than Jeff Bezos' rocket to Mars this year. Since 'the staycation' became the norm and not just something your nan did before people could fly, campervans have become the new coolest thing, with every adventurer and their dog wanting one.
Maybe this is your 1843rd research article. Maybe you're just gently entertaining the possibility (spoiler alert: it won't die down). Either way, a smaller campervan is a great way to get started in the van world. For convenience, price and versatility, there is no better adventure partner in crime. So settle in, grab a cuppa and get reading, because we've done all the hard work for you.
If you want to dip your toes into van life before taking the plunge check out our partners Goboony or Camptoo to rent one first (it's like Airbnb, but for campers) Check out 'What's van life really like?' for an honest view from van life veterans.
Own a campervan but not living in it full-time? Letting people hire it through Goboony could be a way of funding your future adventures.
The mighty small campervan
A multi-tasking hero, a small camper is both your means of transport and your shelter for the night (perfect for chilly winter trips when a tent might be a bit of a push). Small campers are compact enough to take you anywhere you fancy, from narrow mountain passes to clogged-up city streets, and they're cheaper to run than larger options, too. Oh, and they're super-easy to park (because who wants to spend 3 hours looking for parking after a long drive?).
If you've always wanted to try out the van life for size, but just haven't had the opportunity to put in the research, there's no time like the present. To help you find your new adventure buddy, we've put together a run-down of the main types of small campervans, and what you might want to look out for when buying yours.
So, let's get stuck into the best small campervans.
The best small campervans with removable fittings
Small camper vans are, well, small (obviously). So, when trying to maximise the space in yours, have a think about what your preferred small campervan layout might be. Some models come with furnishings and fittings that are easy to take out and rearrange (a bit like Tetris) so you can get your camper set up just how you like it and use it for different occasions (rumour has it VW are still working on the dinner party setup).
Jokes aside, have a think about what you'll be needing the space for. Storing wet kit and sandy surfboards? Consider a drying area. 6ft tall? Think about a van with a pop top roof. 6 kids? Think about a bigger van. (See, it's this kind of invaluable advice you came here for, isn't it?)
The best kinds of camper van will have removable fittings, so you can go from surfboard storage room to cosy bed in no time. Here are some of the top small campers with removable fittings:
Jerba's J-Pod : Choose to configure your van in one of four ways: full camper, family car, half-in, half-out or awning living.
Bilbo’s Space Van: Firstly, what a name! Oh and the vans pretty great too. The removable pods in this van are blocky and modular. Easy to move = ultimate flexibility. You’re free to experiment and see what works best for you.
The best small campers with twin doors
Twin doors (one on each side) help make the van seem bigger and more spacious(you'll definitely appreciate that if you plan on being in it for over a week at a time). Twin doors that you can fling open also help to ventilate when you're cooking, because no one wants to wake up to the smell of stale stinky tuna from last night. You can also create an outdoor area when the weather's warm, making it feel like your living space has been extended. ‘Inside, outside kitchens' do what they say on the tin: they can be used from the outside, but also the inside when you open the door behind them.
Here are some of the top small campers with twin doors:
Auto Campers: These models have two opening sides to create more space, as well as a kitchen that can be used in or outside the van.
The Hembil Drift: This clever camper has a swing-out kitchen, complete with double burner gas hob and sink: perfect for those al fresco dinners.
The best small campers with rising roof design
Another easy way to create more room is to opt for a small camper van with rising or side roof (ideal for all the tall peeps out there). They're functional and versatile: pop them up when you're stationary, and down when you need to park in a low-level garage or sneak into that car park for a bit of incognito overnight camping. If you're travelling in a hot country (lucky you), choose one with zippable roof canvas, which means you can effectively transform your camper into an open-top vehicle. Breezy.
Here are some of our top small camper vans with rising roof design:
Jerba: These campers have a pop top canvas that's completely removable, making it much easier to clean or repair.
Bilbo Celex: This bad boy won MMM’s (Motorhomers Magazine) ‘Best Elevating Roof’ award for its sturdy high-top roof – need we say more?
The best small campers with toilets and bathrooms
When you've simply got to go on the go, historically you'd have used a portable toilet or had to pull over. But an increasing number of camper vans are being made with built-in toilets and bathrooms for the ultimate convenience. Of course, it's a bit of a trade-off, because the more room dedicated to a bathroom inevitably means less living space.
But if you're going on a long journey or don't like the idea of consistently using a portable or public toilet, this could be the option for you. You'll also be able to choose quieter pitches further away from the toilet blocks at campsites, which is always a bonus.
Here are some of the top small camper vans with toilets in 2022:
Jules Verne: The Jules Verne by Westfalia has a sleek and modern-looking bathroom with toilet, shower and sink.
Karmann Danny: This small campervan offers comfort and convenience with its fully equipped bathroom. No more midnight dashes to the toilet block – win.
The best small vans for a camper conversion
Fancy doing a custom job on your own dream campervan? With an increasing amount of guidance and resources out there for transforming your van into a camper, there's never been a better time to get hands-on and try. This gives you access to the van on a budget, as they're cheap to run and sleep two people comfortably. You can also configure your van exactly how you want. If you're thinking about a van conversion, here are some vans you might choose to start with:
Vauxhall Combo Cargo: Multi-award-winning and with great fuel economy. It’s spacious and sleek-looking, too.
Ford Transit Connect: Tough and durable, with drive-assist technology and hands-free voice control options. Hello fancy-pants.
Here's another good bit of inspiration if you're considering the DIY option
Fancy renting a camper to try out a bit of van life? Check out our partner Camptoo if so - they are like Airbnb but for campers.
Check out 15 of the Best UK Campsites in the UK.