Van life is bigger than ever. But which is the right camper for you? Here's the best small campervan for 2021 guide

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Amy S

So, you’re all cooped up inside being an exemplary social distancer, dreaming of all the adventures to come once this all blows over. You want to explore past the city limits, escape into the wild, and get some quality nature time on the go. For convenience, price and versatility, your perfect partner in crime is probably going to be a small campervan

If you want to dip your toes into van life before taking the plunge check out our parter Camptoo to rent one first (it's Airbnb but for campers)

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. Thanks to COVID-19, we’re all stuck inside for the foreseeable future – so what better way to put all that excess time to good use? Converting a van is also something you can definitely do in isolation, and we can guarantee you’ll be super-pumped to get out and explore once all of this blows over. 

To help you find your new adventure buddy, we’ve put together a run-down of the main types of best small campervans, and what you might want to look out for when buying yours. 

Let’s get stuck into the best small campervans. 

friends van life camping with campervan

The best small campervans with removable fittings

Small campervans are, well, small (obviously). So, when trying to maximise the space in yours, have a think about what the best 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. You can take things in and out depending on what you need for any particular trip. You’re going to need significantly less stuff on a weekend jaunt to Scotland, than you are for a six-week trip across Europe, for example.

Here are some of the best 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.  

Bilbo's space van camper van layout

The best small camper vans 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 best 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. 

auto campers motorhome layout

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. 

Hembil Drift motor home layout

The best small campers with rising roof design

Another easy way to create more space 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 best 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 campervans 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 best small campervans with toilets 2021:

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. 

Karmann Danny campervan with raised roof

The best small vans for camper conversion

Fancy doing a custom job on your own 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 best small campervan 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 converting, 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.


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