At first, you might think a 4x4 campervan is only needed if you like to camp off-grid. Similarly, you might think a 2WD van is all you need for cruising highways and camping in RV parks.
But the choice between a 4x4 or 2WD van goes far beyond their on-road or off-road applications. Instead, the choice really comes down to functionality and potential.
What does that mean, though? Let’s find out!
4x4 Campervan or 2WD Campervan?
When thinking about the build for your campervan, one of the first questions you need to answer is this: Do I need a 4x4 campervan or a 2WD campervan?
For most of us, the answer to that question is very clear. If you spend any amount of time off-road, a 4x4 van, like the Chevy Express 3500 shown above, is a must. But, if you enjoy the open road and staying in established campgrounds without ever venturing off the pavement, a 2WD campervan is a perfectly fine option.
But, you should consider factors other than the terrain, too. Weather, for example, should play a large part in your 4x4 campervan vs 2WD campervan decision. If you travel exclusively in warm climates and have little worry about driving in adverse conditions like snow and ice, a 2WD van fits the bill just fine.
If your adventures take you to locations with harsh winters, though, a 4x4 campervan is a good choice, even if you seldom venture off-road. There’s no doubt that having a 4x4 or AWD van will help you navigate snowy, icy roads with much more confidence and capability. One Texas ice storm in a 2WD van can make you a lifelong 4x4 campervan enthusiast!
OPTIMIZE YOUR CAMPING EXPERIENCE NOW
Weighing the Pros and Cons of 4x4 and 2WD Campervans
Exploring whether you should invest in a 4x4 campervan or a 2WD campervan necessitates a look at the pros and cons of each.
Pros of 4x4 Campervans
The primary advantage of a 4x4 campervan is its enhanced off-road capability. A four-wheel-drive system enables these vehicles to navigate challenging terrain, including dirt roads, mud, snow, and uneven surfaces. This opens up a world of possibilities for you to find more remote and secluded camping locations.
Versatility in Terrain
A 4x4 campervan provides greater versatility in choosing camping sites. Whether it's exploring national parks, accessing backcountry trails, or traversing rugged landscapes, having a four-wheel-drive system ensures that you can reach destinations that may be off-limits to traditional two-wheel-drive vehicles.
Increased Traction and Stability
The additional traction a four-wheel-drive system provides enhances stability and control, especially in challenging weather conditions. This feature is particularly valuable when driving on slippery or uneven surfaces, offering a higher level of safety and confidence on your off-road adventures.
Cons of 4x4 Campervans
One significant drawback of 4x4 campervans is their higher upfront cost than their 2WD counterparts. The addition of a four-wheel-drive system, along with other off-road enhancements, can substantially increase the overall purchase price.
Reduced Fuel Efficiency
The fuel efficiency of 4x4 campervans might be a concern, too. Typically, 4x4 vans offer lower fuel efficiency compared to their 2WD counterparts. The additional weight and mechanical components associated with the four-wheel-drive system contribute to increased fuel consumption. This should be a consideration for you if you prioritize fuel efficiency and plan to embark on longer journeys.
Complexity in Maintenance
A four-wheel-drive system also introduces added complexity to the vehicle's mechanical components. While modern systems are designed for durability, they may require more maintenance and attention than simpler 2WD setups. Depending on the model and modifications, this complexity can result in higher maintenance costs and potentially more specialized service requirements.
Pros and Cons of 2WD Campervans
A 2WD campervan essentially offers the opposite pros and cons. For example, these vans are generally more affordable than their 4x4 counterparts, have a simpler drivetrain, and better fuel efficiency. Where 4x4 campervans have complex systems, a 2WD campervan has a simpler setup that contributes to easier and potentially less expensive maintenance.
The drawbacks of 2WD campervans include their limited off-road capability, reduced traction in adverse weather conditions, and the inability to reach off-the-beaten-path locations. As such, the potential for outdoor adventuring is somewhat limited. With a 4x4 campervan, you simply have more options for different types of adventures in differing environments and weather conditions.
So, taking all of these pros and cons together, it’s hard to argue against a 4x4 campervan as the better option. In our opinion, the functionality of a 4x4 campervan is simply too good to pass up. And, fortunately, since our purpose is to help you make the better choice (our name is BTR Outfitters, - pronounced better - after all!), we have many different 4x4 options to choose from.
Chevy 4x4 Conversion Van: A Prime Choice for Your Adventures
For the purposes of this article, we’d like to focus on one of the best 4x4 campervans in our inventory: the 2022 Chevy Express 3500 campervan with a 2023 professional conversion.
Why are we so high on this rig?
For starters, it comes loaded with features that make it a capable van whether you’re navigating a snowy pass in the Sierra Nevadas, getting deep off-road in the Smoky Mountains, exploring the forests of Arkansas, or points in between.
Under the hood is a 6.6-liter V8 that gives this van ample power whether you’re on road or off. What’s more, you get plenty of power for towing a cargo trailer with dirt bikes, quads, or a side-by-side, if you desire (the van has a heavy-duty towing package specifically for this purpose).
And when you aren’t towing a trailer, you can use the engine’s power to crawl up difficult off-road trails or pass slower-moving vehicles on the highway. It’s the best of both worlds!
Additionally, this Chevy 4x4 conversion van has room for four to six people, making it a prime choice whether you’re hitting the road on your own, with a travel partner, or with the whole family. The pop-top roof (which we’ll discuss in more detail a little later) is a key component of making this van roomy enough to sleep that many people.
This van is all about convenience, too. Features like rear park assist, remote start, cruise control, and Bluetooth connectivity make the Chevy Express all the easier to use. Throw in a 220-amp alternator, and you have a recipe for a 4x4 campervan that can do it all!
Exterior Upgrades Make This a Highly Capable 4x4 Campervan
Beneath this 4x4 campervan is a Quigley 4X4 conversion with a 3-inch lift, providing you with the capability to venture off-trail and discover the best-secluded camping spots. It also boasts a locking rear differential and a 3.42 rear axle ratio. These features ensure optimal performance, making it an ideal companion for your off-road adventures.
The front and rear Fox shocks, complemented by an aftermarket progressive rear leaf spring, give you a smooth and controlled ride, too. Mounted on matte black Method race wheels are 33” BF Goodrich K02 tires, further enhancing this van’s off-road prowess.
Adding to its robust exterior, the front of the van has a WeldTec tube winch stealth bumper, while the rear is equipped with a WeldTec tube bumper featuring dual swing outs, a spare tire mount, and an Aluminess box. This comprehensive setup means you get a highly capable and functional off-roader that seamlessly transitions between on-road and off-road environments.
But, this van isn’t just rugged and capable off-road. Instead, you get something that also boasts luxury features that make any adventure - on-road or off - well worth your while.
Rugged and Comfortable: This 4x4 Campervan is the Height of Luxury
No one ever said a rugged 4x4 campervan couldn’t also be luxurious…
Foremost among the interior highlights of this van is the roof, which lifts up to create a remarkably comfortable cabin - a cabin in which you can stand up straight! This innovative design (courtesy of Colorado Camper Van) not only provides ample headroom but also incorporates a sleeping space for kids in the forward part of the van, cleverly positioned away from the main living area. The rear bed is ideal for two adults for a restful night after a day of exploration, while an additional two can crash in the upper bed at the rear.
On top of the roof sits a Dometic TRX 1000 12V rooftop A/C unit, ensuring a cool interior. For warmth, the van is equipped with a diesel heater and hot water system, including an outside shower. Essential amenities include onboard fresh water and gray water tanks, a shore power hookup, and a Maxxair fan for ventilation. It’s a true home away from home!
The power system is robust, featuring a 540 ah lithium battery paired with a 2,000-watt Xantrex inverter. Adding to its eco-friendliness is a 200-watt solar panel with a 20-amp controller and a REDARC battery management system. This system ensures ease of use and the ability to quickly monitor the van’s electrical system performance.
In terms of a functional kitchen setup, the van is equipped with a sink, a fridge, and an induction cooktop—everything needed for life on the road!
Now, turning our attention to the finishes inside, this Chevy 4x4 conversion van is undeniably impressive…
The cabinetry and galley countertop combine functionality with aesthetics, offering a pleasing and durable interior. Wood-paneled exterior walls contribute to a cozy, cabin-like atmosphere. LED lighting illuminates the van effectively, and the numerous windows provide scenic views, each equipped with a built-in shade for undisturbed rest.
Storage is everywhere throughout this 4x4 campervan, with drawers, cabinets, and cubbies seamlessly integrated throughout the cabin. Even accommodating a family of four poses no organizational challenge for this well-equipped 4x4 campervan.
Altogether, these elements combine to create a luxurious experience within the van. Far from a bare-bones off-roader, the 2022 Chevy Express 3500 campervan allows you to venture almost anywhere while relishing the comforts of home—a true combination of adventure and luxury!
We’re Here to Help!
Everyone has their own specific needs and wants when it comes to outdoor adventures. And those needs and wants necessitate a different approach to gear for virtually every person.
As fellow outdoor enthusiasts, we want to ensure you get the gear you need to make the most of your time outside. Whether it’s informational articles like this, customer support over the phone, or in-person customer assistance, you can rely on the BTR Outfitters team to make your outdoor adventures a reality.
No matter what you need, we’re here to help you make the better choice!