For our trip to Banff and Jasper, we opted to rent a campervan as we wanted to cover quite a bit of distance and we were hoping for a close-to-nature vibe without going the tent route. Read on for details on which company we chose to rent from, our overall experience, and some of the top things I think everyone should be aware of before renting a campervan for a trip of their own.
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After much searching, I found a campervan rental company based out of Calgary called Karma Campervan Rentals. Compared to all the cheesy, commercial-feeling RV & campervan companies out there, I really liked the look of Karma’s fleet (no 1-800-RENT-ME tattooed on the side of the vehicle!!) and their presence on social media. That might sound very millennial of me, but I loved how I could flick through their posts to see others that had rented their vans and where they had taken them – this helped me feel confident when making my booking.
Looking back, this was the best rental experience I could have asked for. The van was super clean, well-equipped and modern, and when we ran into a slight issue with the van, the customer service team was super responsive and friendly. Hearing so many horror stories of customers of other rental companies who had their vans break down on the road and receive zero help from the company from which they rented, it was a relief to deal with such a human, helpful company.
I had also been a little nervous about living in a van for a week in general, especially since one of the campgrounds we were to stay in didn’t have showers. Would I crave the comfortable amenities of a hotel room after a couple nights in the van?! Turns out that a campervan rental was exactly what we needed for this kind of trip – it was so fun to just get up and get on the road every morning, to have that camping “one with nature” feeling (lol) without having to wake up in the middle of the night on a half-inflated air mattress, and even to be able to run to the van to take a nap in the parking lot post-hike. Our van was always with us, which meant our stuff was always with this, and this was super convenient especially given unpredictable weather conditions. I can imagine a campervan would be less than ideal for a city break, but for trips geared at hiking and really enjoying nature, this was perfect.
That being said, there are a couple things to keep in mind, especially if this is your first time going on a campervan trip:
1. BE SURE YOU’RE COMFORTABLE DRIVING SUCH A LARGE VEHICLE
This sounds like an obvious one, but I had not driven anything larger than an SUV before, so driving a campervan was a completely different experience. You’re a lot higher off the ground and the interior set-up is different vs. your average vehicle as well. Of course, it might be a little trickier to manoeuvre the vehicle and park, especially in tight spaces or small parking lots. I think you get the hang of it quite quickly but driving in the camper van does feel foreign at least for the first little bit. If you’re a nervous driver or are curious about what driving in the campervan will be like, I’d recommend trying to find a friend or family member with a large vehicle (a pick-up, a campervan or RV, or even a U-Haul truck if anyone you know is moving ahead of your trip) and taking the vehicle for a spin just so you can test the waters.
2. FORGET THE HIGH-POWERED ELECTRONICS (SORRY, BLOWDRYER)
If you’re like me and bring your blow dryer everywhere you go, you’ll unfortunately be out of luck in the campervan. At least in the one I rented, the power in the van was not sufficient to support such a high-powered electronic. That being said, if you have little to no shame around blow-drying your hair using your campsite’s outdoor power outlets at 8am, then your hot hair tools might still come in handy. I fortunately don’t care how crazy or high-maintenance I looked doing this, especially after seeing how nice my back-of-head Lake Louise canoeing pictures turned out. No regrets.
3. THERE’S A DEPOSIT MUCH LARGER THAN WHAT YOU WOULD PAY FOR A HOTEL ROOM
One thing that came as a bit of a surprise was the size of the down payment required when renting out the campervan. Whereas a hotel room deposit will set you back a couple hundred at most, the deposit for a campervan was CAD $1,000. This does make sense and is reasonable given you’re taking out an expensive, completely redone van, but is just something to keep in mind when looking at costs for the trip. The deposit should be refunded roughly 7 days post-returning the vehicle.
4. GET READY FOR HOT DAYS AND COLD NIGHTS
Much like any other vehicle, the temperature of the camper van is subject to the weather conditions outside. At least when we visited the Rockies in late June, the days were hot, and the nights were cold. Accordingly, the van does get very warm during the day, and the temperature seems to plummet overnight. Make sure you pack layers so that your daytime t-shirt/shorts outfit can quickly be transformed into leggings and a hoodie for overnight. Thankfully, the van is equipped with a nice, heavy blanket as well to help you stay warm at night in bed. You’ve also got sunshades for the windows to help deflect the sun’s hot rays during the day (and also double as a way to obtain some privacy during the night). As Karma's fleet can be rented out throughout all four seasons, the vans are equipped with heaters should you start being unable to feel your toes.
5. IT CAN GET CLUTTERED & DIRTY QUICKLY
Just like any other small space, the van can get messy very quickly. And given it’s your living/cooking/taking off hiking shoes space, it will likely get dirty as well. We made a conscious effort to keep our space clean by removing our shoes before getting into the van (at least in the living area) and using the dustpan to sweep it out daily. We also made sure to place any extra belongings (i.e. yesterday’s clothing) in the back in our suitcases to keep our living space as uncluttered as possible.
6. A VAN IS NO MICHELIN STAR EXPERIENCE
This is an obvious one to anyone who’s familiar with camping, but your meal options will be limited given the minimal nature of your cooking tools. The van does come equipped with a two-burner Coleman stove and a cooler which is great, and you have the option to add a mini-fridge to your rental (at an extra cost). We did opt for the fridge just so we would not have to keep stopping for ice, and so that we could do some meal planning and just do a single grocery shop to keep us fed for the week. I did some Pinterest digging to find camping-friendly recipes ahead of the trip, and we opted for easy meals like fajitas and pasta that required minimal cooking time and clean-up.
7. DO YOUR OWN SPRUCING UP
The van we rented was freshly redone and felt modern and clean (just like the whole Karma fleet). I’m sure this is not the case for all campervan rentals across the different companies. If you do want to make your space feel super cozy and IG-worthy, I’d recommend bringing along battery powered fairy lights and maybe a cute throw blanket for the bed as well. I actually only thought of this once we had picked up the van, but unfortunately our Canadian Tire runs were not fruitful. I think just the fairy lights would’ve made the interior feel super magical at night.
8. INVESTIGATE BEFORE LEAVING THE VAN
Again, this is a super obvious tip to anyone who’s ever lost something in their car, just to find it had rolled under a seat months later, but things can get very easily lost in a vehicle like a campervan! We actually found a La Mer facial spray hidden under one of the seats – given one of these costs $80 USD, I felt the pain of whoever must have forgotten this in the van before us. When you’re cleaning up the vehicle prior to returning it, make sure you do a super thorough investigation of the whole interior, lifting up blankets and looking under seats, to make sure you’ve packed all your belongings.
Knowing these things, you should be super well prepared for your #vanlife trip! Oh, and if I could add a #9… get ready for the fact that you won’t want to leave the van at the end as it will probably end up feeling like your own little home, and there’s a risk you might already start planning your next campervan road trip ;)
✧ fairy lights to deck out your campervan
✧ eco-friendly travel toothbrush set (this one is made of bamboo & is biodegradable)
✧ the north face puffer vest for chilly evenings
✧ carhatt hat, for reason above!
save me to Pinterest for later!
Have any other must-knows for a trip in a campervan? Share in the comments below :)