For outdoorsmen, camping season happens throughout the year. Rain, snow, or sunshine, being able to drive out to your favorite spot in a minivan, is as good as it gets.
So, what are the best minivans for camping? Here’s a list of ten of the best options:
- Toyota Sienna
- Nissan Quest
- Mazda 5
- Chrysler Pacifica
- Kia Sedona
- Honda Odyssey
- Dodge Grand Caravan
- Ford Transit Connect
- Ram ProMaster City
- Mercedes-Benz Metris
In addition to a thorough overview of these minivans, we’ll also discuss what you should look for when buying a minivan for camping and how to convert a minivan into a vehicle that you can camp in.
We also have a post that tells which vans you can stand up in, if you would like to be able to do that.
Which Minivan is the Best for Camping?
1. Toyota Sienna
Toyota is known for producing vehicles that last much longer than its competitors. The Sienna is an excellent example of the dedication to detail and superb craftsmanship that Toyota continues to display. It’s a perfect commuter vehicle, but it also has quite a few traits that make it a top choice for campers.
Some pros and cons of the Toyota Sienna:
- Removing the seats is very easy if you choose to do so, no special tools are required to get the job done, which means you can clear space for a bed and other camping essentials. Even the seat brackets are removable, unlike many other vehicles on the list.
- The side sliding door makes the Sienna easy to access in seconds. You don’t need to climb through the back, although the hatch door is more than big enough for anyone to fit right through. The wide side door is also convenient if you’re hauling large camping equipment.
- The roof of the Toyota Sienna is mostly flat, which is perfect for adding roof racks, solar panels, surfboards, and other outdoor gear. It comes stock with two brackets on the top for you to attach an array of items rather than taking up space inside of the minivan.
- Despite the large interior, this vehicle sits low, which prevents it from scraping low-hanging obstacles and low garage doors.
- The overall 68-inch height of the Sienna makes it impossible for an adult to stand inside of the vehicle. It’s less than 45 inches high inside, so you’ll have to crawl or crouch to move around.
- There aren’t very many interior features. Other than powered windows, the back portion of the vehicle lacks features compared to most other vehicles. While it might not hurt your camping experience, you certainly won’t have a variety of road trip entertainment.
2. Nissan Quest
If you’re looking to cut costs on mileage while still getting a long-lasting vehicle, then you’re in luck. The Nissan Quest boasts all sorts of fuel-efficient features, and even with the reduced weight, it still provides plenty of towing capacity. You can pull small trailers or load up the interior with all of your gear.
Some pros and cons of the Nissan Quest:
- This vehicle is rather large when it comes to its width, which opens up a few options for larger beds and other items. It’s also a great choice if you’re camping with a couple of people rather than by yourself.
- Although discontinued in 2017, there are thousands of them still on the road. They use similar parts of other Nissan vehicles, so you’ll never have the problem of not finding the correct parts to repair it. You might even notice that everything’s a bit cheaper.
- The 27 MPG highway rating is quite impressive for a minivan. It shatters the expectations of most other cargo and passenger vans, making it an economical choice for campers on a budget.
- With three rows of seats, this vehicle allows you to choose which ones stay and which ones will go. If you plan on driving with a couple of passengers, you can still have enough space to lay down a small bed to get a good night’s sleep when you arrive at your destination.
It’s not a problem right now, but if the Quest never comes back, it’ll eventually be almost impossible to find parts. However, as long as Nissan continues to produce repair parts, this won’t be an issue.
The seat brackets are a pain to remove. You’ll need a few tools, but elbow grease is the only way to pull them out without damaging the interior.
3. Mazda 5
The Mazda 5 is another excellent minivan to choose. Much like the above entry on the list, this vehicle is shorter than the average minivan. However, it’s perfect for solo campers who don’t want to deal with driving a large vehicle. It’s also worth noting that it has the option of coming with a sunroof.
Some pros and cons of the Mazda 5:
- If you’re unaccustomed to operating a larger vehicle then the compact size of this minivan is ideal for you. It’s short in height and length, making it feel much more like a sedan than a passenger van.
- The aerodynamic roof is one of the many features that help to improve the fuel economy of the Mazda 5. The 4-cylinder engine starts up quickly and uses very little gasoline.
- Since it’s so small, you’ll be able to fit this minivan in tight campsites that would otherwise limit you if you were driving a large vehicle. In short, you can park in a variety of places that might not accommodate a larger van.
- Depending on the model and options, it may be possible to tow a small teardrop trailer behind your minivan. The combination would make an ideal camping setup, whether you’re sleeping in the minivan or a towed trailer.
- Unfortunately, the small interior prevents more than one adult from sleeping inside. However, you’ll be able to fit your child or a pet along with you.
- The Mazda 5 has been discontinued, but it uses the same parts as the new replacement minivan in their lineup. Although you won’t be able to find a new model, you can still get a great deal without any supply limitations in the foreseeable future.
4. Chrysler Pacifica
The Town and Country was one of their most popular models. However, Chrysler replaced it with the Pacifica, with many of the improvements that customers wanted. The simple body style is a welcomed surprise if you don’t prefer all of the fancy cosmetic changes to modern minivans.
Some pros and cons of the Chrysler Pacifica:
- The rear seats disconnect and fold down, so you’re free to adjust and change the interior however you’d like to. Since the brackets are flush with the bottom, you don’t have to remove them at all.
- There’s even a side storage area that fits into the rear of the vehicle to store small tools and camping equipment.
- In addition to the side storage, you can remove the false bottom near the backside of the minivan to store camping stoves, kitchen utensils, and more. It sits flush with the carpet to make it easy for you to sleep on with a mattress.
- Both sides of this minivan have sliding doors. You can open them both to promote optimal airflow on hot days. If you have a fan running throughout the afternoon, you’ll be able to relax without feeling overheated from the sun.
- The fuel tank only holds 19 gallons, which isn’t a lot when you only get 19 MPG fuel efficiency. Fortunately, the MPG increases to 28 when you’re driving on the highway.
Other Posts of Interest
- Why We Bought A Yeti Cooler
- Camping Gas vs. LPG: Is There A Difference?
- Is it Safe to Sleep in a Van? The Essential Guide
5. Kia Sedona
If you’re looking for a larger minivan for camping, look no further. The Kia Sedona is arguably one of the best choices that you’ll find. Not only is it spacious with plenty of interior room to spare, but it’s also quite affordable. With thousands of buyers each year, the Sedona is unlikely to be discontinued or drastically altered any time soon.
Some pros and cons of the Kia Sedona:
- The large cargo space is more significant than almost any other minivan out there. You and a couple of friends can set up the interior to create a dream of a camping vehicle. Remove the seats in under a few minutes, lay down a mattress, and have a blast wherever you go.
- The flat roof on the Sedona is perfect for camping gear. Instead of using the interior space, add a roof rack and pod to pack some of your equipment.
- The seats in the Sedona fold down, so you can either remove them or lay them out to sleep. If you’re often camping, removal is the way to go. On the other hand, short camping trips would call for simply laying the seats forward.
- The Kia Sedona has more window space than any other minivan. If you love the thought of waking up to beautiful views of nature, then this vehicle will be the choice for you. They come with a light tint on the rear windows as well.
- The size is excellent for interior camping space, but it could be a bit difficult to drive for people used to driving compact cars. It seems long, especially if you’re not used to it.
- The fuel economy isn’t something to brag about either. With a city rating of 18 MPG and a highway rating of 24 MPG, it’s below most of the others.
6. Honda Odyssey
The Honda Odyssey is another minivan that will be around for many years to come. It’s one of the top-sellers on the market across the USA, and repair parts are available at almost every mechanic’s shop. When it comes to camping, the reliability and spaciousness of the Odyssey is something to consider.
Some pros and cons of the Honda Odyssey:
- Much like the Kia Sedona, the Honda Odyssey offers plenty of window space. You can look out from all sides without being limited or blocked by a lot of metal structures or anything else. For camping adventures, there’s not much more someone could want in a minivan.
- The interior space is ideal for campers who want to stretch out. You can remove the seats as well as their brackets in a matter of minutes, or feel free to fold them forward if you don’t have the time.
- Like almost any other Honda vehicle, the Odyssey should last for over a decade. The warranty and the repair manual back up this claim, giving them an excellent rating and respect from families and adventurers alike.
- Most models of this minivan come with a sunroof, which adds to the outdoor feeling that we all crave when we’re camping. Open the top window to let in the fresh air, or keep it closed while still letting the sunshine through.
- Not all of the Odysseys come with roof racks, which can make it challenging to fit your gear on top. To make the roof problems worse, it’s slightly curved, creating a challenge for those who want solar power or flattened surfaces for camping equipment.
- The city MPG is 19, which is near the low-end of the spectrum. However, it’s matched with an above-average highway MPG of 28.
7. Dodge Grand Caravan
Alongside the Odyssey and the Sienna, the Dodge Grand Caravan has remained a leading seller on the minivan market. It’s reliability, toughness, and rugged nature combine with spaciousness and comfort to make the family vehicle, but it’s also perfect for camping. Another feature that keeps this vehicle at the top is the fact that it’s so affordable.
Some pros and cons of the Dodge Grand Caravan:
- This vehicle comes with a 4-cylinder engine or a 6-cylinder engine, depending on which model you choose. Four cylinders offer an excellent fuel economy rating, whereas six cylinders provide quick acceleration and easier speed maintenance.
- The gas tank is 20 gallons, which is more than enough to drive for over 400 miles before you have to fill it up again. If you drive on highways mostly, you’ll get even more fuel efficiency from this vehicle.
- The interior seats up to seven passengers, therefore it’s quite spacious. Instead of being cramped in a small car, this minivan has plenty of room to stretch out and store your camping equipment.
- The large hatchback allows you to access everything from the back of the vehicle, and it also has storage behind the third-row seat.
- Unfortunately, as of writing this post, the Grand Caravan has limited availability. While it narrows the possibility of owning a brand-new minivan, the repair parts are the same as most other Dodge vehicles, so you won’t have to worry about running out any time soon.
The last three vans on our list are considered compact or mid-sized vans.
8. Ford Transit Connect
Although known as a cargo van by most people, the Ford Transit Connect is, in reality, a minivan. This vehicle comes in numerous packages that include seating options for up to 5 people. Despite the 4-cylinder engine, it accelerates rather quickly thanks to the lightweight materials used throughout the vehicle’s frame.
Some pros and cons of the Ford Transit Connect:
- The cargo space in the Transit Connect is incredibly large. With up to 123 cubic feet at your disposal, you’ll have no problem bringing all of the camping gear that you want. There’s even enough space to throw a solar panel on the roof and run the electrical wires to the interior.
- The fuel economy ranges from 24 city to 29 highway miles per gallon. When it comes to larger minivans, you won’t find anything that comes close to the level of efficiency produced from this vehicle.
- You can pick out a cargo version or a passenger version. If you buy the cargo vehicle, you’ll have an empty canvas to create the ultimate minivan for camping. It’s also much taller than most other minivans.
- As mentioned previously in this section, the Transit Connect only comes in 4-cylinder models. While it’s not too much of a restriction, you’ll definitely feel a limitation if you have loaded up the cargo space, then you try to accelerate.
- It’s somewhat shorter than almost any other minivan on the market. If you’re looking for a floor space that allows you to stretch out at night, you’ll need to remove all of the seats behind the front row.
9. Ram ProMaster City
The ProMaster City is available in a cargo and passenger wagon version. The passenger model offers seating for up five. The convenient fold and tumble rear seats are arrangeable into nine different configurations making hauling either people or cargo simple. Dual sliding doors allow you to get in from either side easily, and the split rear doors open 180 degrees to accommodate all of your camping gear.
Some pros and cons of the Ram ProMaster City:
- Base models start as low as $24,600, so it won’t bust your budget. The various models offer a couple of different available window options. All models are front-wheel drive and powered with a four-cylinder engine.
- Side panels are nearly verticle allowing for better customization. It’s relatively easy to get in and out of with its low step-in height. For a small van, it has a spacious 131.7 cubic feet of cargo space.
- You can’t stand upright and move around it, so when you are van camping, this might be an inconvenience, especially on days when it is raining.
- There is no extended wheelbase option, so if you were looking for more room, this van might not be the best choice.
10. Mercedes-Benz Metris
The Mercedes-Benz Metris is what is considered a mid-sized van. The small size and look of the Metris make you think it’s a minivan. However, it has way more cargo space, and the inside is easily customizable for work, camping, and more. With 183 cubic feet in the back, you’ll be able to pack in everything you need for one awesome van camping adventure.
Some pros and cons of the Mercedes-Benz Metris:
- If you aren’t comfortable driving a larger cargo van, the Metris offers a perfect combination of spaciousness and easy operation. Whether you purchase the cargo or the passenger model, you’ll be able to maneuver the van almost anywhere.
- The price is less than what you would think for a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. With a manufacturer’s suggested retail price that’s below $30,000, it’d be hard to find a similar small camping van for anything nearly as comfortable.
- Compared to other compact vans, such as the Transit Connect, the Metris has a payload capacity that’s almost 1,000 pounds more. When you’re trying to fit everything you can for a day in the mountains, the additional capacity is beneficial.
- The Metris also has a somewhat impressive towing capacity of 5,000 pounds, which exceeds what you would expect for such a small van. It also has a much smaller turning radius, as well as a cargo space that beats the Ford Transit Connect.
- The Metris is a little more costly than some of the other van options that are out there.
- Even though it is roomy for a compact van, it still doesn’t have enough height to be able to stand.
What to Look for When Buying a Minivan for Camping
When you’re ready to commit to a vehicle to camp out of, you should make sure that you’re looking for the correct features. As significant as fuel economy and advanced features are, there are many more basic amenities that are required to enjoy camping.
Below, you’ll find a few different things that you should look for when you’re shopping for a minivan that you want to use while camping.
Interior space is the first and foremost important feature to review. If there’s not enough room for you and your camping gear, then there’s no point in buying the vehicle. Take an inventory of everything that you plan on packing, then figure out how much space you’ll need.
Roof options are crucial, as well. Whether you want to add a couple of solar panels or strap your snowboard to the roof of your minivan, you should always check out what the roof looks like before buying the vehicle. Don’t forget to look to see if it’s sloped or flattened for your equipment.
The type of tires that come stock with the minivan is significant. If you want to go off-road, you need to make sure that you have the right tires for such activities. That shouldn’t be problematic, you can always install the proper tires on any minivan, but it’d be convenient if you could find one that already had them.
Windows and doors both have a considerable impact on your camping experiences. Being able to look around in all directions is terrific, but so is privacy. Figure out the perfect balance and find the minivan that matches your requirements. Also, remember that you can always use window tint and covers to block people from looking inside.
Finally, seat functionality is worth considering. Some seats fold, and some may be removable, and many can do both. If you’re just looking for a minivan that has seats that can lay down, then you can choose almost any minivan on the list.
Don’t worry, though; if you keep these suggestions in mind when you’re shopping around, you’ll be able to find the perfect minivan in no time. The only other thing to think about is whether you want to buy a new or used vehicle.
How to Convert a Minivan for Camping
When you’re ready to go camping, it’s important to take note of all of the essentials. Most people throw a mattress, sleeping bag, and a Coleman cooler in the back and call it a day. To truly enjoy yourself out in the woods, you’ll most likely need more than that.
For starters, the bed setup needs to be comfortable and subject to the available room. You can choose between an air mattress like this one or a traditional mattress. Whichever route you go, consider whether or not you’ll be removing the seats or folding them down. If you’re folding them, you’ll need a solid platform to lay across the top, so you don’t sink into the gaps.
Next, think about what kind of hookups you’ll need. Some people love to rough it out in the wilderness without anything, which is also known as ‘dry camping.’ On the other hand, you can use electricity and sewage hookups to get the creature comforts that we’re all used to having back at home.
For electricity, you can use portable or installed solar panels. A good option for a portable solar panel charger is the Rockpals 100 watt foldable, designed for solar generators. Renogy makes a 200-watt panel RV kit that works excellent for vans.
Some people prefer to hook cables straight into the battery of their minivan, but this process can drain it rather quickly. You could also use a battery bank that you charge at home before going on the adventure.
Finally, always figure out what you’ll be doing for trash and bathroom trips. There are hundreds of buckets, cans, collapsible containers, and other options that you can use to collect trash. Many campgrounds come with dumpsters. Even if there aren’t any nearby, you can tie off the bag and place it in the dumpster when you leave.
As far as bathroom trips are concerned, there aren’t many choices when you’re camping in a minivan. Some people prefer the classic bucket-and-bag setup, but others aren’t as comfortable trying it out. Before you book a campsite, locate all of the nearby bathrooms. Building a sewage system in a minivan isn’t viable because it’s too small of a space.
If you aren’t sure if a minivan is right for you, read our post “The 8 Best Vans You Can Camp In” to learn about some other options.
You can go camping out of almost any vehicle if you want to. There are quite a few minivans to try out, but the ten choices on the list above are the best around. You can choose based on body style, interior space, reliability, comfort, advanced features, and more. Try to write down a list of your requirements before you buy anything.
Minivans might be the best camping vehicle because they’re big enough for camping gear and a high-quality mattress, but they’re small enough to fit into tight spaces. You’ll get the best of both worlds without experiencing very many limitations at all. Choose between Ford, Kia, Honda, Dodge, and a multitude of other brands.
Here’s a handful of takeaways from this post:
- Even if discontinued, every minivan on the list is ideal for camping.
- Remember that minivans are only suitable for camping with one to two people.
- Keep an eye out for hidden storage options, such as above the wheel well and below the rear entrance.
- Don’t forget to take advantage of roof racks and flat areas for extra equipment.
- Tires should be one of the first components that you analyze for off-road trips.