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Why Do Camper Vans Have Ladders On The Back?

White van with ladder on back and a roof rack parked in front of a building

Van camping is a growing pastime all around the world. We are always looking for new ways to make our camping experiences the best that they can be. If you are new to van camping, or a new van owner, you might be wondering why you would need a ladder on your camper van.

Why do camper vans have ladders on the back? Camper vans have ladders on the back to give access to the roof to clean or clear debris. You can also use the ladder for minor roof maintenance issues. The ladder also serves as a tool to use the roof for storage or entertainment.

Not all camper vans come with fixed ladders. Some people choose to buy a portable ladder while others do a permanent, aftermarket option. There are a variety of reasons you might have a use for a ladder, and each one is unique.

Why Do Camper Vans Have Ladders?

Camper vans have ladders for multiple reasons. The main ones are:

1. Cleaning and Repairing the Roof

The ladder on the camper van gives you access to the roof. Cleaning the outside of your camper van or RV is a dreaded task, but having easy access to the roof can make it less complicated for you to keep clean and maintain.

Having a camper van with a ladder on the rear or side can make it easier to climb up to clean the roof and check any fans or vents to see it the caulk or sealant needs repair. It is also helpful to repair any damage that has occurred on the roof and to gain access to the air conditioning unit.

The cost of having a professional maintain your camper van can be expensive but also time-consuming since you will have to take it there to have it detailed. Having a ladder at your disposal will lower the amount you spend on maintenance fees and will save you a trip.

2. Solar Panels and Satellite Access

One of the major things that camper van owners have or add to their roof is solar panels. Solar panels provide an efficient way for campers to have electricity when camping in remote locations. Solar panels just make life so much easier; you can run appliances, electronics, and other items that need power conveniently.

Like other parts of your camper van, solar panels will, at times, need attention. A ladder allows you access to retighten hardware, repair or clean your panels to keep them operating at peak efficiency.

If you have a satellite on the roof of your camper van, sometimes you will need to retighten hardware, clear snow or ice off of the dish or LNB arm if you are a winter camper and a ladder can come in very handy in those situations.

Also, if you went under a tree that wasn’t quite as high as you thought it was, you can use the ladder to clean off small limbs that got stuck somewhere they weren’t supposed to be.

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3. Accessing Storage

A roof rack is a set of bars secured to the roof of a motor vehicle. With limited space in your camper van, a roof rack will give you extra space and room for large equipment and cargo. Roof racks will require you to have a ladder of some type. Otherwise, you won’t be able to stow your gear.

Do you know what kind of equipment you want to carry? To pick the right roof rack, you need to think about the gear you want to take on the road, to avoid compatibility issues.

Some of the items that you might want to carry on top of a camper van are:

  • Kayaks
  • Surfboards
  • Snowboards
  • Skis
  • Cargo

A universal roof rack is an excellent choice if you need a bit more space. Most ladders are compatible with any roof rack you have or buy. But, it is essential when purchasing a roof rack that it is specific to the items you’ll want to carry.

4. The View

Some people use the ladder on the back of the camper van for entertainment, such as a panoramic view of Mother Nature or events like movie nights and sports.

Using the roof for the reasons above may not be a good idea. If you are using the RV roof for entertainment, you may want to think about the number of people the roof will host. Having more than one person on the roof will place pressure over the limit the roof can handle, which may result in damage.

Do All Camper Vans Have Ladders?

Not all camper vans come fitted with ladders. For some vans, you will have to purchase a ladder and then install correctly for the best use—the benefits of having a ladder installed to your camper van outweigh the cost.

It sometimes is essential to have access to the roof of your camper van, and that is hard to do if your camper van is tall and high above the ground. It is safer to have a ladder on the back of your camper van instead of using other items to climb, like a chair that can easily fall over without any support.

Fixed Ladder vs. Portable Ladder

You can install a fixed ladder or purchase one with your camper van. The standard ladder will let you have direct access to the roof for general cleaning and repair of the camper van. However, it also gives anyone walking by direct access to all of your stuff on top. As this is undesirable, many campers opt for a portable ladder instead.

If you are considering purchasing a portable ladder, there are many benefits to them. Portable ladders provide multi-purpose use and fit into small spaces. But, it does mean they will need stored inside, rather than attached to the back like a fixed ladder.

There are two types of portable ladders you can purchase for your camper van: folding ladders or telescoping ladders.

Folding Ladders

These ladders fold in half. The best folding ladders have the following qualifications:

  • Freestanding
  • Compact
  • Expands to A-frame
  • Lightweight – 12 to 25 lbs
  • Single or double-sided
  • ANSI Type – rated for 250-pound hold

Telescoping Ladders

These ladders can slide inward and downward. The best telescoping ladders have the following qualifications:

  • Light and strong
  • No-pinch design to collapse the ladder
  • Three size extension
  • Pro Series ANSI Type – rated for 300-pound hold

The good news is that both a fixed (pre-installed) or a portable ladder will give you access to your camper van roof, no matter what the reason is.

Using Your Ladder: Safety Tips

Whether you are purchasing a portable ladder or already have a ladder, it is essential to be safe. Here are some tips for you below:

  1. Read the safety labels on your ladder to understand proper use. It may take a couple of minutes to read, but if you don’t, the cost will ultimately be your safety.
  2. Maintain three points of contact at a time. Doing this will help keep you from putting all of your weight to one side of the ladder.
  3. Facing the ladder while climbing up and down will help align your body weight to the center of the ladder.
  4. Avoid using the ladder in bad weather conditions.
  5. If using a portable ladder, make sure the feet are on stable, even ground.

Final Thoughts

Having a ladder will make accessing your camper van roof easier. Whether to have a stationary ladder or a portable ladder is a personal preference. You might not even need a ladder if you only will be doing routine maintenance checks, these you can do at home and save the expense of purchasing one. The benefits of a collapsing ladder will allow you to gain access and keep people from stealing things off of your roof.

Anyhow, no matter which route you choose to go, always make sure your ladder is structurally safe and to practice safe ladder techniques while using one.

If you liked this post you might also enjoy reading this one – “9 Tips You Should Know Before Going Camping.

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The western part of the country draws me with its mountains, deserts, and red rock vistas. Still, there are numerous other wonders I'm ready to explore., from Maine's rugged coast to California's Big Sur cliffs and everywhere between.