Which Van is Right for Your Conversion?

Which Van is Right for Your Conversion?

Jan 27, 2022

As with any car shopping experience, it’s best to start your search with a few of the most important factors. When you’re considering a van for a conversion project, those factors can most often be identified with a few simple questions.

1) How many people are traveling and sleeping in the van?

2) Where will I go most often? Will I frequently be driving in winter weather or off-road conditions?

3) How much gear will I be hauling?  What type of amenities will I want (kitchen galley, shower, etc).

With those things in mind, here is some basic info on the van models that Adventure Wagon offers solutions for:

Mercedes Benz Sprinter 144

When you think of a converted camper van overlanding through the desert, chances are it’s a Sprinter 144.  With optional AWD (starting in 2023, optional 4x4 in previous models) and a higher factory clearance than vans like the Transit or Promaster, the Sprinter is a natural choice for those wanting to tackle rougher terrain in remote locations. Mercedes offers a factory AUX battery that charges from the alternator for those with modest power needs.  Because of its popularity, after-market add-ons and extras made specifically for the Sprinter are widely abundant. 

The Sprinter 144” wheel base is perfectly suited for two person adventures with lots extras, or four person outings using a more minimalist approach.  The Adventure Wagon Interior System accommodates both Crew and Cargo models in Sprinters, so a factory backseat is an option.  A popular way to sleep four is to set up a bunk bed by stacking two MOAB or MOAB Traverse beds on top of each other.  This opens up room in the van for two rear seats.  When traveling with two, there’s room for most of the amenities you might imagine having in a van, particularly with a space-saving Traverse bed, which is meant for sleeping sideways.  Keep in mind, if you’re over 5’ 7” or so, you’ll likely want to add Flarespace flares to increase the width of your van. 

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Mercedes Benz Sprinter 170

For those folks who like the Sprinter 144 but need just a bit more room inside, there is the Sprinter 170.  It’s a great choice for the family of 4+, the full-time van lifer, or anybody who needs room for their gear and don’t want to leave the comforts of home behind.

The Sprinter 170 is an excellent full-time option for two people with ample space for all of the creature comforts one could need for a life on the road. It’s also a great option for the family of 4-5 as it allows room for passenger seating behind the driver seat while still providing enough space for sleeping and storage options for your weekend or extended adventures. The 170 can handle up to 5 Mule bags, which means you can get A LOT of gear off the floor. This, in turn, opens up the space for a multitude of options. Stack a couple MOAB beds at the back to sleep 4, and you’ll still have some open space in the middle of the van for whatever else you can fit! 

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Ford Transit 148 High Roof

The Transit’s drivetrain options, ample interior headroom, and highway comfort make it an excellent candidate for an adventure van build out. The high roof mode boasts an interior roof height of over 79’’ (before build-out), which is a great feature for anybody who is over 6’ tall. If cross-country road trips are your jam, rest assured that its comfortable cockpit, pleasant highway manners, and powerful engine options (Eco-boost) will make the miles seem like a breeze. In addition, the newly available all-wheel drive system helps you over the snowy mountain pass without breaking a sweat.  It’s a relatively new player compared to the Sprinter, so aftermarket offerings are still a bit sparse by comparison. However, new products for the Transit are coming out all the time.  

The Transit 148’’ is generally compared directly to the Sprinter 144, with floorplans mostly following the same formulas. Just like the Sprinter, a popular way to sleep four is to set up a bunk bed by stacking two MOAB or MOAB Traverse beds on top of each other, providing room in the van for two rear seats.  For the solo or duo travelers, there’s plenty of space for a full-size bed with storage underneath and/or above, and a galley either on the driver side wall, or just inside the sliding door.  

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Ford Transit 148 High Roof Extended

Much like the difference between the Sprinter 144 and Sprinter 170, You get the same list of considerations between the Transit 148 and 148 Extended (EXT). The Transit EXT shares the same wheelbase as the standard Transit 148, but offers more room behind the rear axle. This offers obvious interior space advantages, but makes it less capable on very uneven terrain, as the back can drag on extreme slope changes.  Much like the Sprinter 170, this van is a great choice for families, full-timers, and some of the more elaborate conversions with lots of creature comforts.  

The Transit 148 EXT is Ford’s equivalent to the Sprinter 170. As such, build-outs and floor plans tend to follow the same set of considerations. For the family of 4, there is ample room for “bunk” style MOAB beds in the back, which leaves roughly 40 sq. ft of space in the middle of the floorplan for extra seating, storage, and perhaps a galley. If you’re only accommodating 2 people, you have all the room you’ll need for gear storage, kitchens, and even toilet/shower combos.

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Two people sitting in outdoor chairs around a campfire with their Adventure Wagon modular van behind them

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