For someone who doesn’t live full-time in a built-out van, I sure do know a lot about it. I’m the type of person who’s on the periphery of van life: I have a few friends who have built out (or purchased) vans, some who live full-time and some who don’t. And of course, I work for GearJunkie, so I test a variety of tent camping, car camping, travel, and overlanding gear.
I’ve spent weeks of my life living in cars and vans, too — by renting or demo-ing the van life for myself. I’ve done the typical spring and summer road trips cross-country, National Park circuits, and destination campervan getaways — basically, vacationing in other places and opting for a van rental instead of a hotel. I even lived in a rented van for a week while I was homeless (between living spaces).
Nowadays, I’ve even stayed in campervans and RVs on press trips! Instead of the brands renting out a boring space like a block of hotel rooms — we all ventured outside in our own little campervans. It’s a pretty cool concept that is a great solution for all types of people: families, remote workers, travelers, you name it.
Renting a van gives you a place to stay and a mode of travel, all in one.
For everyone, the draw is an easy adventure. You can get up, pack the vehicle, and go, with your home along for the ride. You get a cozy basecamp wherever you are. And, you don’t have to worry about which campgrounds are open at your destination.
But if the van life surge has taught us anything, it’s that there are a thousand ways to build out and configure, rent, or buy vans. Want a shower? A full bath with a toilet? How about a workshop or ski storage? Extra seats for the kids and fam? Electric hookups? A dog-friendly pad?
There are a lot of options and inspirations out there, and Outdoorsy is home to hundreds of thousands of them. I’ve rented a few over the years just to see what the excitement was about. If you’ve considered renting through a platform like Outdoorsy, here’s how it works.
About the Outdoorsy Platform
Outdoorsy was founded in 2015 by Jeff Cavins and Jen Young, who started out with the idea after moving into their Airstream. Now, it has more than 620,000 users, has booked over 3 million travel days, and is home to rental listings in over 190 cities in the U.S., from Alaska to Hawaii to Arizona to Maine. That’s in addition to more rentals in Canada. Travelers can search rentals by location (city, province, National Park, or general area), trip dates, type of home (RV, Sprinter van, Airstream, or other), and more.
Outdoorsy also has convenient search features like pet-friendly rentals, or rentals under $150 per night. (Both are fantastic features, if I may say so.)
How to Rent
Like with many avenues of travel logistics, the rental process with Outdoorsy is fairly smooth. Its site is user-friendly, and it’s easy to find and browse different types of rentals available. Now, even more so than 4 or 5 years ago given the surge in campervan inventory.
Like booking a flight or hotel room, you’ll first make your selection, and then review things like dates, payment, and details. Similar to the Airbnb platform, you can “meet the host” and chat to ask them any questions. Like hotel bookings, Outdoorsy lists what type of accommodations each campervan or RV provides (i.e., sleeps two, sleeps six).
But that’s where the similarity stops.
Unlike booking hotels or vacation rentals, it also lists crucial info like if the rental is drivable or towable, weight class, vehicle length, transmission type, and more. For renting a vehicle on Outdoorsy (or any van/RV rental platform), you’ll also want to consider things like gas prices, road conditions, and whether extra vehicle or rental insurance is required. And, if the host/rental provides amenities like water, a bathroom, or Wi-Fi.
Renting RVs, Campervans, Campers, and More
Looking back on the most recent campervan trips I’ve taken, I can’t tell you how valuable and enjoyable it was to be able to “upgrade” from my tent setup, especially with my pup in tow. Especially if you are traveling to a new city, or camping a ways outside and then traveling into town — having the little luxuries like a shower, place to sleep, heck, just a place to store your luggage and gear in between adventures — it’s great.
You can rent everything from full-size, kitted-out RV homes to tiny converted campervans on the Outdoorsy platform. And that’s kind of the beauty. It’s similar to what you’d expect at a car rental service: not just full-size SUVs, but also crossovers, vans with off-road capabilities, or maybe electric vehicles.
Outdoorsy has rentals for everyone — whether you’ve spent 100 nights in a tent and want to upgrade, or have never been camping and want to try it out. Renters can ease into the “camping” experience with a campervan (with a sink, lights, running water, and bed), or something more elevated, like an RV with a full bathroom, shower, and TV.
Whatever type of rental you choose, Outdoorsy is there to help get more people outside — which is pretty cool. Best of all, we’ve had lots of great experiences with the platform.
And with the number of vans on the market ever-growing, I can only guess it will get better.