Ford camper van - pic1

The Ford Transit is a popular camper van model. Accessories can be added for camping comfort.

Ford camper van — pic1

In recent years, camper vans have substantially increased in popularity, a trend Ron and Lisa Rasch see everyday at Ron’s Mobile RV Service and R & L Van Builds in Milton.

“It started as a hobby for winter work, but we found out that the demand on van builds was crazy,” said Ron, who attributed this increase in demand to a combination of COVID and downsizing.

“It started in California and on the West Coast where people didn’t want to or couldn’t afford to pay for apartments,” he explained. “People would get these camper vans so they could be remote and go and live anywhere.”

As for the increase in local interest, Lisa said most are using camper vans recreationally.

“We only know of a couple where people are living in their vans,” she said. “Most use them to go places and be off the grid.”

According to Ron, the versatility of a camper van is unmatched, as he noted people can park one anywhere.

“No one knows you live in it, and it is all self-contained,” he said. “It is a world in itself that is just growing and growing that we got into at the right time.”

Ron listed Ford Transit, Mercedes Benz Sprinter and RAM Promaster as the most comman vans. He said they have also converted a couple of school buses and an ambulance.

“You tell us what you want,” he said. “You design it how you want — shower, bathroom, stove. We also custom build all our cabinets by hand.”

Camper vans feature many customizable options, including solar powered appliances. There are also numerous options related to air conditioning and bathrooms, the latter of which can feature compost toilets.

“You have the choice to go off the grid with camper vans,” he said. “You can be in the desert for 14 days with no issue or you can plug it in so it gives you much more capability than an RV.”

Lisa said they can even install WiFi so people can have an office.

“You can go to the beach, mountains, wherever,” she said. “Just get behind the wheel and drive.”

They have completed more than two-dozen camper van builds since opening the van build portion of their business two years ago, and Ron remembers a couple as his favorites. There was one that came from Seattle where the customer works for Amazon and his father lives locally in Sanbornton.

“The first one I ever did is also a favorite,” he said. “It was for a bank manager who lived in Portland.”

The man initially wanted to buy a boat but purchased a van instead.

“It went from just a box to what we did with it,” he said. “I understand how artists feel, because I look at our vans the same way … They start out as just a blank canvas. What we do with them and can create for people, and it makes you feel good.”

The only thing that might make him not feel so good now relates to supply and demand.

“There are not enough people to move (camper van builds) along quicker,” said Lisa, who said a complete build takes anywhere from between 8 and 12 weeks. “We are still one of the faster places for camper van builds, though.”

To learn more, visit rlvanbuilds.com.