For a large slice of the cycling public, the American dream includes a quiver of bikes, a fully loaded Sprinter van, and a job-free lifestyle traveling the country – riding by day and making s’mores by night. Sure, it’s a bit of a tall order, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach.
With full custom vans easily topping $100,000 and DIY builds still running more than $50,000 to be comfortably livable, you might want to taste test life on the open road before ordering the complete meal. Now that the vanlife movement has legitimized itinerant living, a number of companies have set up shop renting finely appointed backcountry vehicles. One of the first was Tonto Trails of Durango, Colorado.
After spending five years wandering around North America in their Sportsmobile, Julie and John Hartley decided to create a rental company specializing in 4×4 vans and campers. As avid mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts, Southern Colorado seemed like the ideal place to base their operations. Both are active members of the local mountain bike scene and can recommend the best places to camp and ride.
As a riding destination, Durango is within short striking distance of some of the best paved roads and singletrack trails in the country. The mountain biking opportunities in the immediate area include alpine trails near Silverton and ribbons of flow in the high desert outside Cortez. Short drives to Crested Butte, Grand Junction, Fruita, Moab, and St. George, Utah connect the rest of the iconic ride destination dots. The options within range of a tank of gas are limitless.
As is so often the case, premium trails are usually cut near beautiful camping spots. Tonto’s 4×4 Sportsmobiles and truck-based Tiger camper are capable machines and can access remote sites without much fuss. John and Julie outfitted their vehicles with all of the necessary essentials – including recovery gear should your backroad ambitions exceed your driving skills. Pop on a bike rack and you’re set for adventure.
Other Options for Renting a Camper Van:
Along with Tonto Trails, camper van rentals are quickly becoming a hot commodity across the county. Depending on your location and your needs, there are a number of other options to get you in the driver’s seat for a few days or a few weeks to give the adventure life a try.
Adventure Travel Sport Rentals
Skewing towards the more adventurous side of vanlife, Adventure Sport Rentals features rugged vehicles equipped for anything you can throw at them. That includes a new Winnebago Revel 4×4 Sprinter Van for the California market.
Mercedes RV/Roadtrek Rentals
Another place to check out the decked out Winnebago Revel 4×4 Sprinter, Mercedes Sprinter RV Rental (which is also Roadtrek Rentals) has a ton of location on the west coast and allows you to try out the finer side of van life.
If you want a taste of the big life, smaller outfits like Native Campervans offer tricked out full size cargo vans – in this case a Ram Promaster 136″ wheelbase with a high roof. Based in Denver or Salt Lake City, Native offers competitive rates for some very nicely appointed vans, big or small.
Another option for the full size cargo van experience, TIMBR Basecamps offers a fleet of Mercedes Sprinters with high roofs and full build outs. With locations in Long Beach, CA, Jackson, WY, and Denver, the vans start at $292 a day and have options for things like bike racks, SUP racks, and more. If you end up loving the ride, you can also have TIMBR build out your very own cargo van since they do that too.
With a fleet of Mercedes Sprinters built out by Sportsmobile, Venture Vans of Jackson Hole, Wyoming is also worth a look. Starting at $300 nightly, the vans come stocked with kitchen supplies, bedding, and camping gear to make it easy to hit the road.
Featuring five different campervans of various sizes and platforms, Campervan North America is a great option – and one of the few with locations on the east coast. Well, south east is more like it with a spot in Orlando that will open this November.
Peace Vans Rentals
If you’re in the Pacific Northwest and have a thing for VWs (or the Mercedes Metris), Peace Vans might be the answer. From Vanagons, to Eurovans, and even vintage VW buses, Peace Vans offers it – fully equipped for your next adventure. They’ve also branched out into modern camper vans with the 2018 Mercedes Metris with a pop top and posh interior. Start your trip in Seattle, and explore from there.
You’ll find that most adventure van rental companies are based out West, but there are a few to be found on the Eastern half of the United States. Atlanta, GA based sCamper Vans offers small vans with a pop top and plenty of amenities. Calling themselves a camping concierge service, they’ll help make sure you’re dialed for adventure.
Sort of an Airbnb for RVs, Outdoorsy allows individuals (and companies) to list individual RVs, campervans, campers, etc. for rent. Not only is this a good way to find a rental close to home, but it also could be a way to make some extra cash if you end up buying a camper van of your own in the future.
Should You Rent or Buy a Camper Van?
With weekly rates starting around $2,000, a rented van seems like a splurge—and it is. That can add up to 1.5 to 2 months worth of car payments and insurance. But, after you use it, the van is someone else’s problem, and you don’t have to worry about where to park it. For folks still anchored to a day job, buying a van that’ll see limited use may not make sense.
The whole idea behind van travel is to leave the tent at home and roll with a few more amenities. For people contemplating a van purchase of their own, a week in a van similar to what you’re contemplating might be money well spent to see if vanlife is for you. For a group of four, the price is more tenable. Imagine waking up within feet of the trailhead, beers cooling in the refrigerator while you shred.
And that’s not the only perk – a week is plenty of time to annoy all of your friends back home with your own endless stream of #vanlife Instagram posts. Remember – “Don’t bleed the feed.”