With vacation season fast approaching, you could spend what little free time you have researching plane tickets, Airbnb’s and rental rates on a minivan, or you can pack the family into a vehicle and set off in search of somewhere to sleep under the stars. Car camping of generations past brings to mind faux-wood-sided station wagons or the senior citizen distribution system known as an “RV.” But, these days, your options are decidedly more awesome — here are 5 new takes on the Family Truckster that are built for comfort, convenience and the ability to drive to the ends of the earth with a few kids in tow (plus 2 concepts that will hopefully go into production soon).
If the occasional car camping adventure sounds fun but shelling out tens of thousands of dollars to own the means seems like overkill, don’t worry — this is America, and you can rent just about anything. If you foresee off-roading in your family’s immediate vacation future, here’s a list of 4×4 camper van rental services across the Rockies and West Coast. If you’d rather cruise the great wide open in style, Airstream 2 Go can set you up, provided you can get to Los Angeles, Vegas, or Bozeman, Montana — all 3 of which are totally worthy places to start driving with nothing but 2 weeks and a map.
If You Want To Get Seriously Off The Beaten Path2015 Mercedes Sprinter ($39,995)
Why would you forgo something cool and classic like a VW camper in favor of what, at first blush, looks like a delivery van? One word: Options. The latest Sprinters let you customize everything from the interior seating configurations to the van’s clearance. With available push-button 4WD and up to 586 cubic feet of interior space, you can pretty much turn the Sprinter into whatever you want it to be, and then drive it anywhere you want it to be.
If You Still Regret Getting Rid Of Your College VW Van Dub Box Camper ($22,000)
For proper RVing without the social suicide of driving an actual RV, the standard Dub Box comes with a sink and stove, an outdoor shower, a 25-gallon water tank, an L-shaped couch that converts to a bed, storable dining table and wardrobe. Shade awnings and a kid’s berth bed are optional, as are solar panels and pretty much any paint job you want. There’s also a mini version (the Dinky Dub), which starts at $12,800
If Your Wife Isn’t So Sure About This Car Camping ThingAirstream Land Yacht ($146,363)
Yes, they still make Airstreams and, yes, they’re still best in class when it comes to camper trailers. The company’s flagship was designed by the guy who did arguably the most plush yacht of all time and comfortably sleeps 5 people within it’s specialty wood paneled interior. The couch is leather, the 2 TVs are flat screen LEDs and the bed’s a queen. It’s called the Land Yacht, and it’s as luxurious (and subtle) as the name implies.
If You Have An Old Pickup In The GarageJay Nelson’s Handmade Camper Tops (Price Varies)
Jay Nelson is an artist and woodworker who is prone to applying those talents to customized camper tops for trucks. They don’t feature much in the way of amenities, but they’re plenty functional — so functional that when California surf vagabond Rob Machado needed to turn an old VW into something he could take his family on south-of-the-border overnight beach missions, he commissioned Nelson.
If Your Family Camper Needs To Be Prepared For The Zombie ApocalypseMercedes-Benz Zetros ($1.13 million)
The love child of a Unimog industrial truck and a Mercedes-Benz mobile home, the Zetros can climb straight up most ski slopes and cross 4-feet of water while toting a luxury apartment on its back. Under the hood, its 7.2-liter diesel inline-6 produces 326 horsepower; over the hood it’s equipped with a satellite dish with internet connection and a Bose surround sound stereo. If the Zetros can survive the apocalypse (and it can), it can handle a week-long road trip with your kids.
If Your Mobile Home Might Wind Up Being Your Actual HomeDe Markies Camper (Unavailable)
De Markies (Dutch for “The Awning”) was designed for a “temporary living” competition in 1985. Thirty years later, the seemingly unremarkable mobile box still blows minds as the only camper that can expand 300 percent in size. Despite winning awards at the 1993 Rotterdam Design Prize for its timeless brilliance, this sucker never went into production, which is weird because you can get pretty much everything else in the Netherlands.
If You Want To Frown Disapprovingly At Gas-Powered Cars During Your VacationHemispherio Nimbus e-Car (TBD)
The Nimbus features a 180-horsepower electric engine paired to a small generator to keep its batteries powered, but it keeps gas use to a bare minimum with on-board solar panels and regenerative braking. It has 4 drive modes, including energy saver and 4WD, plus 360 degrees of visibility, a refrigerator and enough roof storage for family camping gear. The only thing it doesn’t have? An on-sale date.