Van Life is getting more and more popular but not everyone can spend everyday on the road. For those who are looking for the flexibility of “Van Life” but still have to live a real life, the Adventure Wagon is a flexible and highly customizable option. I was allowed to take out the Adventure Wagon for a couple of weekends to put it through its paces and really enjoyed it. Here is my breakdown of the Adventure Wagon van camper.
As a disclaimer I would like to mention that I was given the Adventure Wagon for two weekends so that I could write this review. All opinions on this page are my own and based on my own experiences with this van. I am not compensated for the opinions on this review. Your experience with the shoes may be different.
Editor Note: This post has been updated to talk about the kitchen system.
What is the Adventure Wagon
The Adventure Wagon was once called, “Van Life for Real Life”. A van that can be used for everyday life Monday through Friday and then shifts to the ultimate adventure vehicle for the weekends. The Adventure Wagon I tested came on a Mercedes Sprinter platform and is modified with a rail system that makes it completely customizable for the plans of the day.
The Adventure Wagon I tested also came with two rooftop fans. As well as side windows that opened to get a great breeze through the van and small porthole windows on either side of the back of the van that are perfect to lookout to see what the morning light will bring.
The Sprinter is built up with a high clearance system and beefy tires as well as winch to get you out of any trouble you may find. The Adventure Wagon is built tough enough to get you down the best backroads but is flexible enough to be set up for any situation. Here is some ore info on the Adventure Wagon directly from their website.
From Adventure Wagon
Before I get into my opinions I wanted to share some of the specs on the Adventure Wagon. The Adventure Wagons are very customizable so it is hard to narrow down all the options here but their website shows all of the options for each custom selection.
Variable based on custom build.
- Sprinter 144
- Transit HR Long
- Sprinter 170
- Transit HR EXT
Custom Build Selections*
- Van Model
- Model Type
- Upholstery and L-Track
- Flooring and Seating
- Ceiling Configuration
- Sleep Systems
- Storage Systems
- Climate Control
- Sound Dampening
- Certified Installer
All information from AdventureWagon.com. Check the website for full details and options.
What I liked
As someone who had not been van camping I was like a blank canvas. I was really looking forward to seeing the pros and cons of van camping and more specifically the Adventure Wagon. The number one pro of the Adventure Wagon was definitely how customizable it was but there were plenty of other things that I liked. Here is a bit more on each of those things.
Modularity and Customization
The coolest part of the Adventure Wagon and what I think really sets it apart from the rest of the market is the modularity. The interior of the van is built with a rail system in the floor and walls that allow the user to customize the van in several different ways.
The system is run on a series of D-rings that can connect anywhere on the rail system so moving items in and out is a snap. Want a bed in the back? No problem. Need more chairs to take some friends to the airport? Just pop them in. Want to clear everything out and load up some sheetrock for a project? Just a few minutes and you can transform your camper van to people hauler or work van. Or, possibly more importantly, you can turn your weekday van into an instant camper with the help of a few D-rings and rails.
This is what really makes the Adventure Wagon a versatile van. The ability to go from real life to van life in an instant. Van’s are expensive and unless you are living 24/7 in one, it is hard to buy a van you can only use a few times a year. Why not get a van that can adapt with your everyday life and then back to your adventure life in no time.
Space and Storage
Nobody wants to be cramped into a van when they are out camping. It is nice to be able to spread out but also be organized and the Adventure Wagon really excels at both.
I found the room in the Adventure Wagon to be really nice. I do have to caveat that I am not the tallest person but I had no problem standing up and moving around while inside the van. The testing setup I had included a large bed, a captains chair and three mule bags in the main cabin. I could easily get up, on and off of the bed and walk around with no problems at all.
The Mule Bags I had in the set up were also really nice. The bags are attached to the rail system and had a ton of space in them. They also held a surprising amount of weight. In one Mule Bag I kept all of my clothes and camp gear like my stove. In another bag I had some camp chairs. The bags never budged or shifted in travel. There is a firm base to the bags and they kept held up to every challenge I threw at them.
Whisper Quiet Generator
One of the other challenges to living in a van or camping in general is loud generators that rumble through the quiet of the outdoors. The Adventure Wagon model that I was testing had that all figured out by installing a Goal Zero Yeti 3000. The Goal Zero powers all of the interior lights and the series of USB power outlets that line the side the walls of the interior. It also powered the small refrigerator in the back of the van.
There are two really awesome features of the Goal Zero that I wanted to touch on. First is that the Goal Zero is powered by solar panels on the roof of the Adventure Wagon. For me that meant that the power readout never fell below about 90% on the generator even though I had several things plugged in all at once and the interior lights on. It also was during a snowstorm and cloudy day but still had plenty of juice for all of my camera’s and phones to get a full a charge. This also means that the generator doesn’t need to gas and doesn’t pull from the engine, so no surprise empty tank when you wake up.
The other feature I want to talk about is just how quiet the set up is in the Adventure Wagon. The set up I had included the bed directly above the Goal Zero. Normally, sleeping above the generator would lead to a bit of a noisy evening but with the Goal Zero, I never heard even a buzz. The Wagon stayed perfectly silent and allowed for a restful evening with no interruptions.
Comfort and Climate
Power isn’t the only important part when camping out. The nights can get plenty cold in the middle of the woods and it is important to keep yourself and your van comfortable. Adventure Wagon does this with an Espar Heater. Espar Heaters are popular in truck cabs, RV’s and even marine applications.
The Espar is controlled by a small controller, smaller than a credit card, that is simple to use. The heater sits underneath the passenger seat and blows back towards the back of the van. It was actually lined up really well to blow hot air directly on me while I was sleeping and keep me nice and warm as the first night of camping got down into the teens.
The Espar does pull diesel fuel from the engine but it is a very small amount. I read that it is one gallon per 16 hours of continually running the heat. That gives a lot of comfort when you pull up to the campsite with less than a full tank. The only small complaint is that it can take about ten minutes to get the hot air to start blowing. So, hypothetically, if you were out hiking in the snow all day and freezing and looking for instant heat, you may hit the buttons on the controller too many times and actually turn the heat off by mistake. I did that. I am the hypothetically.
For me, the biggest perk is the overall flexibility of the Adventure Wagon. Because it is just a van, it allows for getting to places that a truck and trailer can’t get to. The ability to basically customize the interior for every trip is also what sets the Wagon apart.
The setup that I was testing had two roller bins under the bed that rolled out for easy access. One of the roller bins has a stand/lock for a bike. So you could put your mountain bike on the roller bin and just raise the bed up a little more. You can put your tackle box and fishing poles in a bin to keep them safe and roll them out for quick access to the river.
I used D-rings to hook several bags to the walls so that they didn’t move around when I was driving. Another D-ring and a bungee held my snow shoes in place. They were taller than the bags so it was nice to have that flexibility. The interior can really be set up in anyway to support any adventure.
Technology and Cameras
While this is more of a Mercedes thing that an Adventure Wagon thing I think it is important to mention this point. I am not used to driving such a big vehicle with limited visibility through rear and I was a little apprehensive at first. When I got in I realized that the Adventure Wagon had cameras every to help and all of my concerns quickly were gone.
The Adventure Wagon had cameras to help park that could show how close I was to the cars next to me. There is a top view when I was in reverse to show how I was making it out of long camp sites. It had rearview camera so I could see anything behind me. It really had everything covered and I felt totally at ease driving and backing it into narrow camping roads. I was really impressed that they had made the process so easy and comfortable, even for someone like me who usually drives a much smaller vehicle.
Update: Kitchen Option Available
I was recently at a media event where I saw the Adventure Wagon again. The big new feature is that they now have an optional kitchen structure available that fits directly into the track system.
The System was really well designed in my opinion to not only fit into a small space but also to utilize the space to the fullest. The back of the stand has a pull out cutting board and can also be used for the stove burner to get you more outside of the vehicle. There is a mini-fridge on the side that is tucked under the cabinetry. Then the top has a sink and a place for the stove burner. Under the sink is open storage and then below that is a separate fresh and grey water tank for the sink.
It is a really nice way to incorporate a small kitchen with the essentials in a really small working area without feeling cramped in the van. Adventure Wagon has done a good job on this add-on.
What I didn’t Like
While I liked almost everything about the Adventure Wagon they will take away my blogger card if I don’t come up with a few things that I didn’t like. For me the only things I didn’t like were about comfort. My comfort in driving a larger vehicle and some of the creature comforts that may be important to some and maybe not for others.
As someone who drives a small crossover it took some getting used to sitting so high and having such a high profile vehicle. The Sprinter is tall and narrow and there were a couple of times that I caught a wind gust that had me tighten the grip of the steering wheel. Stretching to nine and half feet tall can also be a bit of a challenge when trying to maneuver in areas with low tree limbs.
These issues took me about two days to get over. While the wind gust thing can happen at any minute, I found my confidence in the higher profile vehicle grew every time I drove it and by the last day I was driving it like my Tiguan.
No Kitchen or Bathroom
(See Above Update on Kitchen Option)
The Adventure Wagon is not meant to be a live your life on the road type of vehicle but instead a get out for a nice trip. For me, it was a load up Saturday morning and get a bit further than I could in a day and be back before work on Monday morning.
That being said, it is currently lacking some modern conveniences. There is no kitchen or running water. This didn’t really bother me at all as I was looking at it more of a roughing it vehicle but I know some people are looking for that full #Vanlife experience so I wanted to mention it. If I was going to stay in it full time I would probably get a portable camp toilet or something to help with that. Like I said, I think the people who are looking for the quick adventures aren’t looking for a hotel on wheels so this probably won’t be a big deal for most but I wanted to point it out.
Video Review of the Adventure Wagon
Before my final thoughts here is a quick video review of the Adventure Wagon. If you enjoy the review make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel to be the first to see my new content.
Wrap Up of the Adventure Wagon
This was my first experience with van camping and I really liked it. Mother Nature didn’t play nice the first of my two trips of testing. Freezing conditions and the snow of a spring storm greeted my first trip on the Adventure Wagon. I was concerned about staying in a van in the bitter conditions but I found myself really enjoying the comfort of the van. It was cozy and I stayed warm and really comfortable. I also had some concerns about driving a new van on the snowy roads but the technology and design of the van made it really easy to handle on the road.
The next weekend of testing was great weather and I got to spend more time enjoying the outdoors with the Adventure Wagon. I made myself to spot by the river through a winding road. The nice weather let me open the windows and really enjoy all the comforts of the Adventure Wagon.
What I like the most is how easy it is customize the van. The rail system makes it easy to set up the van different every day if you want. It is also moves as easily through city traffic as it does through the backroads. If you are looking for a vehicle that can quickly go from life to adventure the Adventure Wagon may be the perfect option for you.
More from the Fatman
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