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The 5 Best SUVs & Crossovers That Can Be Converted Into Campers

This post was updated on March 15th, 2024

RVs come in all shapes and sizes, and some are smaller than others. While many RVers prefer to camp in a traditional motorhome or trailer, some intrepid travelers like the challenge of turning an SUV or crossover vehicle into a minimalist camper.

Not only do these vehicles offer high gas mileage, but turning them into campers costs less than a few hundred dollars. These five vehicles (none of them are trucks or vans) not only do the job, but they also tend to have their own cult following.

Photo by Votive Photography
1. Honda Element

Whether for full-time living or impromptu camping trips, the Honda Element has become one of the most popular vehicles to convert into a camper. The boxy crossover was built by Honda from 2003 to 2011. The vehicle is unique in that it features an easily cleanable interior and rear side doors that open outward, offering easy access to the inside.

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Two YouTube stars have made the Element a hot camping commodity. Nate of Element Van Life as well as Phil Chan and his wife Vanessa live full-time in their respective Elements.

Element Van
Photo by Element Van Life

Each of the owners have built their own interiors to include cabinet storage, small kitchens, and beds that can fit two comfortably. Both Nate and Phil have videos on how they converted their tiny homes on wheels.

Unfortunately, the Element is no longer in production, but anyone who wants to convert something similar should look at the Scion XB or the Toyota RAV4.

2. Kia Sportage or Soul

The Kia Sportage and its little buddy, the Kia Soul are both good options for vehicle camping. Both the Sportage and the Soul are four-door hatchbacks and their seats can be folded down rather than removed or permanently altered.

Photo by The Busy Rats

Elise Peregrin and Andrew London of The Busy Rats blog converted their tiny Kia Soul into a weekend getaway camper for around $50. Their platform bed is basic and there is no kitchen, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.

3. Subaru Outback or Forester

Diehard outdoor enthusiasts love their Subarus. Both the Outback and Forester SUVs get great gas mileage and are roomy for their size. They also both have AWD.

Photo by Michael Smyjewski

Because of their lower roof, they can be a bit more cramped when it comes to headroom, but that doesn’t stop some creative travelers from converting this popular vehicle.

Designer and illustrator Michael Smyjewski built out the back of his Subaru Outback to accommodate a foldout bed and tons of storage for camping gear. His cooler sits on the passenger seat.

4. Honda CR-V

Another Honda product is also a member of the quick camper crew. The zippy Honda CR-V is consistently ranked one of the best small SUVs by US News & World Report and it’s still being manufactured.

Photo by Erin Outdoors

For a camper conversion, the seats can easily be removed with a few tools and the interior can be set up to accommodate several designs. Erin of the blog Erin Outdoors turned her CR-V into a cozy camper with a raised bed with some storage underneath for around $200.

Chris of the blog Wild Mountain Echoes records nature sounds while traveling in her converted CR-V with a dog. The dog has its own hammock.

5. Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle is a popular choice for a camper conversion. Not only does the back door open like a hatch, but the seats can easily be removed for a more roomy interior.

Built since 1991 and still being manufactured today, the Explorer comes in both two and four-door options. Egemen Avsar designed a beautiful box system with a full kitchen for his Ford Explorer and posted it on Imgur. YouTube user, drez20001, converted his Explorer into a simple but elegant little camper with minimal materials.

Photo by Egemen Avsar

The camper includes a six-foot-long single bed covered with plywood and foam, and a utility box with a pull-out table and outdoor kitchen. A little portable toilet fits under the bed.

See also:  15 Must-Have Items For Your Next Car Camping Trip