Types of campervan
Think ‘campervan’ and you’ll probably imagine a VW, and for good reason – campers with the famous Volkswagen badge have been popular for more than half a century. These days there are plenty of alternatives to choose from, though.
All campervans start life as a van, such as you’ll see making your Amazon delivery or carrying the post. A converter turns a panel van into a camper by adding windows (if not already fitted), seats, beds, a kitchen and other features.
There are many campervans built by the major British and European motorhome brands and even Ford, Mercedes and VW offer their own campervan models.
However, a large part of this fast-growing market is also made up of smaller companies who usually sell direct from the factory, rather than through a dealer network.
If you want both a daily driver and a weekend camper, a small pop-top camper is ideal. These are typically based on the VW Transporter and rivals such as the Ford Transit Custom, as well as a few on even smaller vans (Citroën Berlingo, etc).
All should feel car-like to drive and, with lengths around the same as an estate car or SUV, they are easy to park at the supermarket or in town. Some will fit into car parks with height restrictions.
Also known as a rising roof or elevating roof, the pop-top is usually raised manually (with assistance from gas struts), but there are electric versions, too. The pop-top is there primarily to provide standing room, but may also offer a roof bed (either for adults or kids). Remember, though, that with canvas sides to the roof, the pop-top is not ideal for midwinter trips.
Most models have at least four belted travel seats, though some may offer five or six pews.
If you want something a little bigger, then high-top campervans have the advantage of usually offering full standing room all the time, a walk-in washroom and, possibly, a fixed bed.
The vans used (most often the Fiat Ducato) are taller and wider than the pop-top type described above, while lengths usually range from 5.4m up to 7m.
These campervans are less practical for daily duties but are still more manoeuvrable (especially due to width and visibility) than a coachbuilt motorhome. They are also better suited to camping in the cooler months than a pop-top as they should be fully insulated.
With more space comes a wider choice of layouts, but fewer family offerings. There are four-berth layouts with a matching number of belts, but these may fall into the next category.
High-top campervans with pop-tops
Until recently this was a niche sector, but now there’s loads of choice. These campers are usually based on the high-roof Fiat Ducato, so standing room is already available without raising the roof (unlike in smaller VW models).
The pop-top is there purely to provide an additional double bed. Of course, the same comments apply about heat loss through canvas, but these vehicles are ideal for people who may only need four berths on some, not all, of their adventures.
When used with the roof down they are all but identical to high-top vehicles, although they typically cost around £4k more.