Our 4 Favorite Things About Mercedes Sprinter Vans

Mercedes Sprinter Vans
Mercedes Sprinter Vans
The first time our two Mercedes Sprinter Vans met.

Volkswagen buses hold a special place in our nostalgic hearts, but we are partial to Mercedes Sprinter vans for our personal use and our rental business. The Sprinters have a lot of things going for them. They have plenty of room for everything we need, and there are tons of add-on gadgets that can make life on the road so comfortable. Here are our four favorite things about Mercedes Sprinter vans:

  1. When you drive a Sprinter, it doesn’t feel like you’re driving a massive van. The car-like ride quality makes them a pleasure to drive. Even the big van with 170 inch wheelbase has no problem sprinting (heh) up mountains when she’s fully loaded. It’s true that we can’t see out the back of either of our vans, but backup cameras and double side mirrors make up for that. And yes, the broad side of a Sprinter can catch a lot of wind. The Wind Assist feature is a huge help when the weather really kicks up, like it frequently does here in the Palm Springs area.
  2. Mercedes Sprinter vans have tons of headroom. Geoff is 6′ 2″ and he can stand up straight in the vans. In fact, this was one of the major selling points for us when we were shopping around for a van to build out. We kept thinking back to our beloved sailboat…inside of which we all had to hunch over at all times. After smashing our skulls five or six times a day it became a cursing frenzy. It got old. We didn’t want to recreate that experience in our camper van.
  3. Traveling in a Mercedes Sprinter, with all the personal stuff you need, is super convenient. It’s like having a rental car and a hotel room in one. You never have to drive all the way back to your room, because your room is with you! With a refrigerator, a private toilet, and cooking supplies, life on the road becomes much more enjoyable.
  4. They get great mileage. Both our Sprinters have diesel engines. Our big girl has the 4 cylinder engine (which is no longer available) and averages about 22 mpg. Not bad for a 23 foot vehicle! Our new 140-inch wheelbase van has the 6 cylinder engine and gets close to 20 mpg. When you look at other large passenger vans with 6 cylinder engines, they average 11-16 mpg.

We are excited to get started on our second Mercedes Sprinter van conversion! You should see some updates on that project very soon. We are going to try our hands at video making (pray for us), but if that doesn’t work out so great we will share photos and our best stories and advice.

National Parks in the Southwest

We are about to start the build-out on Creeper2… we are just waiting for a few more elements to fall into place before we can begin. We are excited to try our hands at filmmaking and to share our experiences with you! But in the meantime, we wanted to share some related van life thoughts. One of our favorite things to do on the road is visiting national parks to gather more stamps for our National Parks Passport.

Our National Parks Passport has been all over the country with us

The desert southwest has so much to offer for those in the van life community. Here are our thoughts on some of the region’s national parks.

Joshua Tree National Park

lies just north of Palm Springs, CA off I-10. Joshua trees are really cool, ancient members of the yucca family. They, combined with stunning desert sunrises and sunsets, provide a unique backdrop for creating stunning photos. The park offers lots of opportunities for hiking and rock climbing, as well as van camping.

Our stamp pages are a unique record of our adventures

Petrified Forest National Park

 is on the east side of Arizona. Don’t let the name fool you – there’s no actual forest there. But there’s plenty of hiking and exploration waiting for you, despite the lack of actual trees. The science and history behind the 200 million-year-old petrified wood scattered throughout the park is fascinating, and there are plenty of opportunities to learn about it at the visitor center and exhibits. Unfortunately, there are no campgrounds in this park and overnight parking is not allowed. Several camping opportunities lie just outside the park at national monuments and forests.

The Grand Canyon

is inarguably the mac daddy of all the national parks. When you park your vehicle and walk to the rim for the first time, it is so vast and beautiful that it doesn’t look real. The Grand Canyon is full of exhibits and hiking trails, as well as plenty of campgrounds. If you book your trip in advance, you can even enjoy a whitewater rafting adventure on the Colorado River, which cuts through the bottom of the canyon. You could stay here for a week and barely scratch the surface of this incredible park.

Monument Valley

is not a national park, so we are cheating a little bit with this one. It is a gorgeous Navajo Tribal Park in southeastern Utah, and it’s located on one of our favorite stretches of highway. You will recognize some of the incredible rock formations from their many film appearances. The nearby Natural Bridges National Monument was designated the first-ever International Dark Sky Park in 2007. If you’re lucky enough to get one of the 13 first-come campsites at Natural Bridges, you will enjoy unparalleled stargazing.

Giant sequoias are almost as unreal as the Grand Canyon!

Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks

are not technically in the southwest, but they are only six hours from Joshua Tree and it’s absolutely worth the drive. After all, if you are road-tripping out west, how do you not go see the largest trees on the planet? You could easily spend several days camping and exploring visitor centers and museums, taking guided tours with park rangers, and touring the Crystal Cave. Coming up on September 7-9 is the Dark Sky Festival which promises to be a stunning experience if you can make it.
So there you have it, our feedback on some of the southwest national parks we have visited over the last several years. Keep in mind that there are frequent, and sometimes constant fire restrictions in many of these areas. These restrictions often encompass charcoal barbecues as well. We recommend getting a portable propane campfire and a propane grill for your van camping adventures. These are almost always permitted in fire restricted areas.

Fall and winter are great seasons to visit these southwest national parks. If you just need an adventure van to complete your plan, you can book Creeper1 through Outdoorsy.

Lessons Learned with Creeper1 & Applying them to Creeper2

As we get ready to start Creeper2’s build-out, we have spent a lot of time reflecting on our experiences with our first Sprinter van conversion project. Our goal is to re-apply the good and leave the not-so-good behind. Here are a few thoughts we have had about how we can do better with the Creeper2 build-out.

  1. We live in the desert, and we have dogs who travel with us often, which is why we installed a rooftop air conditioner on Creeper1. This allows us to leave the dogs in the van while we grab supplies or eat a meal on hot days. But the rooftop AC requires a generator, which is noisy and takes up precious space. We are trying to avoid installing either device in Creeper2, for simplicity’s sake (not to mention avoiding the $1500+ cost!). The majority of our Creeper1 renters have reported to us that they never used the generator, anyway.
  2. Creeper1 has a loft bed because we needed to be able to fit full-size dirt bikes inside the van. The loft bed has worked pretty well in Creeper1, but we are going to build a lower platform bed with built-in storage underneath for Creeper2. We think a lounge-type bed will be more accessible and will achieve a more homey, welcoming look and feel. Motorcycles will just have to go on a hitch carrier or trailer.
  3. We love the way the wood paneling looks in Creeper1, and we plan to use it for Creeper2’s ceiling. But we will switch things up a bit and install cabinets and solid white paneling on the side walls of Creeper2.
  4. Creeper1 still has the stock vinyl flooring it came with. We are going to upgrade Creeper2 to rubber coin patterned flooring squares. It looks cool, and seems to be durable and easy to clean or replace. It also offers an easy way to add a pop of color to the van.
  5. We went with no back windows in Creeper2. We are going to cut small windows in the back side walls so we can see outside from the bed, and to add some ventilation to the rear area. This will enhance privacy as well.

So what do you think about our Creeper2 build notes? Please leave your feedback in the comments.

Creeper 2 is Here!

We took delivery of Creeper 2 on Sunday from our friends at Schumacher European in Scottsdale, AZ. She is a new 2017 Mercedes Sprinter 2500 144″ High Roof and she is a blank slate at present. We have a lot of new build ideas running through our heads and a lot of what we learned, right and wrong, while building Creeper 1 will be factored in. Our new place in Rimrock, CA is much more conducive to the build process so that is good. I think this build will be significantly different than C1, much more simple really. With C1 we started with a Crew package and we were working within different time and budget constraints along with not really knowing our ultimate end game for her. Whereas with C2 her end game, we purchased her as a blank slate, and we know what we don’t want to do … let the fun begin! Cheers, Geoff and Kara

Greetings

Welcome to Creeper Vans, no we are not really creepy creepers, just a little twisted when it comes to humor!

We have been renting our 2016 Sprinter Crew 170″ High Roof adventure van for almost a year now and are finding that we really enjoy it and it seems our renters / customers do as well. That said, and after crunching the numbers, we have decided to add a second “Creeper” to the fleet, a 2017 Sprinter that will start the conversion process immediately and will hopefully be available starting late summer. If all goes well we will add a 3rd “Creeper” in 4th quarter 2018 and a 4th in 1st quarter 2019.

Our units will be available out of either Phoenix, AZ or Palm Springs / Joshua Tree, CA and we will offer airport service at Los Angeles, Ontario, San Diego, Palm Springs, and Phoenix.

Please shoot us a note if you have any questions.

Cheers,

Geoff and Kara