Brunswick, Maine USA: Camp and car – a hotel on wheels – all rolled into one vintage vehicle, a VW Vanagon. “Glamping” in the original hippie van is a growing market. Old is hot and people want nostalgic VW campervans of yesteryear for “throwback” road trips. Many folks have fond memories of these vans. Either they owned one (and now we know how old you are.) or their parents had a family camper van.

People also want unique, different adventure road trips with upscale convenience. But not in a monster RV as driving one is a daunting for the uninitiated and just parking one is high stress. Even before you turn on the key, you need education in plumbing, septic, and generator systems, navigation, and jacking and setting up. So, RVs are not the “arrive and drive” they’re looking for and no, you don’t just park it. Further, many parks restrict big RVs because their noisy generators, big TVs, and boom boxes pollute the campground.

So many are opting for less stress in a simple vintage VW van which is arrive and drive. There’s no restrictions on them; they go anywhere a car can, are easy to operate (and turn) and get excellent gas mileage. Perfect for State and National Park “glamping”: Remote biking, kayaking and canoeing experience camping right on a lake or stream in a “primitive” campsite – just a fire ring; no outside facilities. For these activities, these vans are killer.

Folks, especially Millennials, are opting off the grid. The more committed are living and traveling the world in their Westy even if they have full-time jobs. — trending 2017 (NewYorker)

European tourists are very familiar with VW Westfalias, Vanagons, and older Eurovans. In Europe, they and other vintage vans are plentiful and going on holiday in these niche vans is common. So they like renting a VW van in the USA because it is familiar and inexpensive. They make up a growing part of the U.S. market and they lean toward fully provisioned vans because they don’t like bringing bags of camping equipment.

American users are typically adventurous couples, newlyweds, young families. They want to get away from the grime and grind and gadgets of today’s world – especially cell phone & email. But they are not inclined to tent. Like the Europeans, it’s too much stuff.

Even deadheads seek them out and celebrities like Tom Hanks love them. Toronto Blue Jays Daniel Norris lives out of his van full time (USTODAY).

Unusual, unique and nostalgic and slower pace experiences. You get that in these pop top campervans. (60 mph tops) Finding them is easy. In the Northwest, (Washington), try Harley Sinter’s Peace Vans Rentals. In Mountain states, it is Scott Quinnett’s Dragon Fly Vans(Montana). Anywhere in New England or the Canadian Maritimes, it’s Bob Muller’s Vintage Van Adventures (Brunswick, Maine). Other vintage Vanagon rentals are in California (GoWesty), Florida, Minnesota and the Southwest. One van rental owner known as “Van Nazi,” a reference to Seinfeld’s “the Soup Nazi.” Except here, “Van Nazi” is an endearing term for a super passionate, “all things Westfalia” owner who loves the old vans.

Most Vanagons, aka Westies, hippie vans, love vans or peace and plain old V-dubbs, are 30+ years old. Production stopped in 1991. But they remain The Iconic Van and symbols of another time. More rare and expensive than ever, they are still one of the best designs with a few sold for $280,000+.  A lot of money for something 30 years old. But well restored vans are good for another thirty and keeping them running means a low carbon footprint.

Vanagons comfortably sleep four people comfortably on mattresses, include a stove, storage closets and drawers, refrigerator and onboard water and a sink. And, they have relaxed seating for four with two built-in swing out tables. They are “Swiss Army Knife” vans.”

Rental firms offer a variety of provisioning levels. Maine’s Vintage Van Adventures vans are “arrive and drive,” fully provisioned vans for weekly rentals.  Included is an all locally sourced, “farm-to-van” welcome basket of coffee, jams, energy bars and gourmet meals in a bag. Pickup is at Brunswick’s Crystal Spring Farmers Market. “We loved van pickup at the farmer’s market; we found local goods we would not have found otherwise.”

Fully provisioned vans lack nothing: sleeping bags, pillows linens, outside grill, extra shelter, towels and wash clothes plus a lot more. Just pop the top and it’s bedtime.

According to Bob Muller, “it is about a truly different exploring, “glamping” experience and convenience in out of the way places. It is different, fun and unique when adventure camping in these rare vans”. Couples with kids love the outdoor experience, made easy with the vans. After withdrawal from their electronic gadgets, many kids (and parents too) learn to explore nature, and a little self-sufficiency by making their own fun and games from seashells, sticks, or wood whittling, or making rocks and wood forts. Swift streams become amusement park slides and curiosity guides the kayaks. “The kids never made a slingshot from a tree fork before. Now it is their most prized possession.” One young “gadget fiend” learned he loved making the cook fire and creating s’more recipes.The best trip are ones with no agenda where you let the trip take you. The fun is the adventure; finding remote sites near the lakes, oceans and streams and trails and being camp ready in minutes.

 “best camping trip ever,” and “the most fun we’ve had in a long time” and “camped right on the ocean fell asleep listening to waves.” And of course, “my cell phone did not work and I had no internet.”

ccording to an article in the Financial Times, Europeans sometimes have a “stress elimination” transformation with their vans. The same is happening in the USA. One repeat client has standing orders with the rental owner: “Reserve a van for the same weeks every year. If I don’t show up, I’m dead.” He’s shown up for seven years.

Families rent vans for their “see America” road trips, picking a new region every year. These trip become family treasures. One family had such wonderful Westy experiences (without gadgets), they bought their own.

VW Vanagon “glamping” – all the amenities, different, comfortable, relaxed, convenient and a nostalgic experience is rapidly trending niche. You never know if you like it until you adventure in one of these old-style vans.

These and other companies book up quinckly so you may want to contact them for reservations early.

Dragon Fly Vans – Montana & Rocky Mountains
Peace Van Rentals — Washington & British Columbia
Vintage Van AdventuresNew England and Canadian Maritime Provinces