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We finished our buildout of a 2020 Promaster. I chose the RAM because it has front wheel drive, less overhead than 4WD, 15 to 18 mpg and it was waay less than the MB and some less $ than Transit. We have a F150, love it, but the Transits didn’t do it for us. Did all the sourcing of components, all the grunt work and had my van guy (@remoteadventuredesign) cut holes inthe box, put in windows and fan. Plus, he made it nice with cabinetry, storage and covered up all the infrastructure — inverter, battery, water tank, drain et el. Can’t wait to tie on to the Star Outlaw and go ‘splorin!
 

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You sir just opened up a whole new world for me! Why have I never thought of this??



Well if you need more than 5000 lbs you’re gonna want a different vehicle to tow safely and more efficient anyways. I could have used my wrangler to take the motor boat out today, but used the f350 instead. My trucks mpg didn’t drop at all, where the jeep would have dropped lower than the truck. We all know every mile counts now.

Another huge plus
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@MNichols I'd love to trade my econoline for a Sprinter, but they are just too expensive. I hear maintenance is not cheap on them either. That being said I just spent north of $3k to replace four injectors so I can hardly say its maintenance is cheap, lol. My next adventure rig will likely be a 3/4 or 1 ton truck with a custom box on the back.
You're pretty set up with that ambulance though.. I thought it was a pretty sweet ride for you guys..
 

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My feedback is like the perfect all around (insert canoe, kayak, raft, truck and so on) there is no perfect all around camping/travel vehicle. But a person can do custom work themselves and use what ever vehicle they have to do a pretty good job that fits their requirements.

Early on in my outdoor sports game I got into Ford Econoline standard vans. I had two, one very basic OEM and the other the plush OEM version. Both were small V8 engines. Two wheel drive with posi traction and heavy duty shocks etc. I installed wall/roof panels with insulation. Built up the areas around the rear wheel wells into storage with a rail on the insides so I could slide in and lock in place a foam mattress. If I needed the space to haul what ever, just slide out the plywood and mattress. High enough to easily sleep on top with storage below for gear. Trailer hitch and I could easily tow either my motorcycle trailer or boat trailer. Made so many trips in these standard vans that I cannot list them. I also used these vans for daily transportation.

Bottom line Sprinter vans are awesome. I know several folks who own and love em. But for most of us a standard Ford, Chevy, Dodge Econoline type van serves us outdoor types very well.

For many years now I drive 4 WD pickup trucks with cab high camper shells. Racks on top of the shell to carry canoes, kayaks etc. Now I have a custom designed raft trailer and little teardrop trailer to use depending on the type of trip. Bottom line here is a standard pickup with shell does not give you the interior space a van does but is a good alternative. If you want to carry people inside, a van gives you plenty of space to set up extra seats or sleeping space or what ever.

For the OP, my advice is keep that paid for pickup or look for a good standard Van to customize to fit your needs. You can check out the Sprinter Vans and if you feel that is the way to go, do it. Every Sprinter Van I have looked at is pretty expensive when compared to standard USA made work vans. A few weeks ago I camped next to two retired couples both had the fully decked out Sprinter Vans. Expensive but basically fully equipped homes on wheels. Full kitchens, A/C, Solar etc etc. They were kayak and mountain bike fans and had both along. Like me, both had easy up type outside shelters to set in and cook. But at night they had full size beds along with A/C to relax with.
 

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2003 E350 one ton 15 passenger van with 20’ car hauler. Double axel is far better for Idaho back roads. Box on trailer stows a ton of gear. Rocket box and basket on van do as well.
Last year had three boats, all of our gear and ten people from three families loaded up for the Main. Vans were a hard sell for me until I stumbled into this one, with 100k miles for $2k. Now I’m hooked. On solo road trips I remove all the back seats and set my cot ip. Super easy. Versatile. (Have loaded thirty sheets of oak ply into it with no problem.). A car hauler is far more versatile than a raft specific trailer, as well. And not much more expensive.
 

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I have a Transit AWD. Bought it in 2020 and built it out in '20 and '21. Use it to camp in while traveling to/from MTB and paddling trips. We have magnetic screen doors across the slider and rear doors such that we can have a nice breeze flowing through at camp without letting a single bug inside.

35k miles on it now. Lifetime fuel economy = a hair under 18mpg.

Can confirm I've never owned a more surefooted vehicle. Our access road/driveway in ID is steep, slightly off-camber, and gets 15+ feet of snow every winter, plus a little bit of freezing rain to make it extra sketchy.

I have a Honda Element AWD and even with a shitpile of added weight in it I frequently lose momentum, spin the tires, and have to back down and try again. Have had to park it at the base and walk home a few times -- truly the walk of shame.

My wife has a Tacoma 4x4 and even with a shitpile of weight in it she is forced to get down into 4LO and beg her way up the hill many times each winter, and often back down and start again.

In the Transit I've never, not once, done anything other than drive straight up and park. Doesn't spin the tires, doesn't crab walk, just goes. Worst situation we've had was 3' of snow overnight on top of a packed snow/ice base. Xmas day '20. We'd been gone for a few days and when we got home the plows hadn't yet been out. Wife was so gripped I stopped at the base and asked if she wanted to get out. She thought hard about it and then stayed. Van just went right up. One of the most impressive vehicular performances I've ever seen. Wouldn't have believed it had I not been in the van.

We have Blizzaks on all three vehicles. Would not be possible to get home 4+ months of the year without them.

Can't speak to towing because I don't.

I had two Promasters before this Transit. Wouldn't wish them on anyone. Loved the idea of FWD and inexpensive, but they never delivered on anything other than constant check engine lights and dealer visits. If I have to say something positive about the Promaster it has amazing turning radius.

I have a few friends with 4x4 Sprinters, and two with 2WD Sprinters. Don't envy them their maintenance/service costs. Don't believe I'd be getting home most of the winter with the way that system's 4WD works.

My wife has a Go-Fast camper on her Tacoma. It's nice, and handy, and utterly lame when I want to make coffee from bed, or cook dinner out of the rain, or not have to unpack/repack bikes/boats to have usable space.

I've had two truck/camper setups in this lifetime. Standing at the tailgate to cook -- or having to climb inside to fetch anything -- while feeding bugs or getting drizzled on just got old.

Vans are not for everyone. But they're certainly the ideal for the way I like to car camp.

Tire Snow Vehicle Car Motor vehicle


Wheel Tire Vehicle Automotive tail & brake light Car


Wood Door Wood stain Rectangle Plank
 

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Montet202's solution may well be the best one yet to solve the OP's problem.
It’s a sweet, easy setup. Though the van does get parked all winter with only 2wd. Then it’s time to run the 1996 F250 in the snow. Another great find with only 50k miles for a dirt cheap price. Less $$$ on vehicles = more $$$ on boats. Though they all run and are maintained very well, and I don’t have that fancy lane assist thingy.
 

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I’ve been looking for the epic 4x4 camper raft towing van, with some clearance, room for 2+ to sleep, a potty/shower (chics dig that), mini kitchen, and a slide out would be awesome. Not a Super C, just single, like a B+ with 4x4. We have a 1990 VW Syncro and it’s close but I want something more roomy and with AC that kinda works in the Summer. I found Nexus RV Rebel International 4x4 but that’s a bit too moster trucking. Airstream Atlas 24’ but I don’t want Mercedes Sprinter, nor the
Smile Motor vehicle Vehicle Tire Automotive tire

maintenance $$$. I don’t want a slide in camper or a pop up. Suggestions welcome! I’ve been looking for years.
 

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I love the Express! The 5.3 liter growls and is pretty bad ass for a quarter ton. The stock clearance is great. I fit a nice bed/platform behind the second row seat, so it can seat five or sleep two (three if I'm lucky!). I don't live in it, I just set it up for boating, skiing, and road tripping - so I don't need the height. Plus I like to put boats on the roof and I like drive through restaurants. I also wanted one last, classic, American-style van with a V8. It stands out in the current sea of European vans!

You can get a '13 or '14 AWD with mega low miles from Good Guys like I did, and it's not cheap, but it's a lot cheaper than a 4x4 van or a Mercedes! It's also relatively cheap (these days), for what it is - a work truck version of a Suburban with a van body. Mine has rubber flooring, and very basic features, which I prefer. I know that I can get it fixed anywhere.

If you plan to tow, I'd get a transmission cooler. I wouldn't tow more than half the recommended weight with a 1500 van that costs this much - it's a lot of wear and tear on engine, transmission, and brakes just so you can have AWD. But for a raft trailer or small camper, it would be perfect. I pass vehicles climbing steep passes at highway speeds, including a lot of Transits. Power is not an issue.

It was fun to be recognized near the river by my Attack Van by a fellow Buzzard last week - nice to meet you Jeffro! Sweet ambulance!


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Nah, just leaving it stock for now and keeping the sweet running boards on it...which actually keep a LOT of mud off the van when you're driving a wet backroad.
How do you keep the wheels on the wrecker from throwing up mud in the radiator of the van?

Or do you have one of those fashionable "bras" on the front ?
 
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