We love custom vans at Motor1, especially when they’re mini motorhomes that can go off-road for extended off-grid adventures. The crew at Denver-based Vanlife Customs did just that with this 2016 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, affectionately calls Pops thanks to a cool motorized pop-top roof that allows occupants to stretch out after a long day of hiking, biking, and general adventuring.
Vanlife Customs “Pops” By Vanlife Customs
The build was completed at the request of Red Bull for its 2019 Vanlife Experience contest, where a couple won a week’s worth of adventure travel in the American West. Now, we’re given an up-close tour of the van, and it’s an impressive piece of work to say the very least. It’s small enough to easily maneuver down a city street, yet it boasts a large bed and has impressive off-road chops thanks to a Fox suspension upgrade. Trail lights, a grille guard, and an awning round out the van’s exterior upgrades.
Power-wise, the Merc is equipped with a lithium battery good for 200 amp-hours of juice. In this application it should be enough to keep things running inside for two days, but 160 watts of solar charging capability on the roof can charge the battery in one day of sunny skies. The engine alternator can also charge the battery, and a 2,000-watt inverter supplies 110-volt AC power to the interior for plug-in devices.
Of course, the crux of this van is its living accommodations. There’s a full kitchen with a two-burner induction stove and a small sink that can be covered with a cutting board for more counter space. 20 gallons of fresh water is carried in the back, with 20 gallons of gray water storage found under the sink. Behind the kitchen is a wall of storage cabinets and drawers that can double as a pseudo workspace. A flat-screen TV is hidden inside, which can also be used as a monitor for a PC or laptop.
Opposite the storage is a small sofa and a swivel table, and for extra sleeping arrangements, the sofa extends out to form a small bed. Just in front of that is a repurposed set of bus seats that are DOT-approved for passengers, but can also fold down to a table or simply be folded out of the way entirely.
With a push of a button, the motorized roof lifts up to reveal a queen-size mattress that serves as the master bedroom. It’s a four-season canvas setup with zip-out screen windows, and the sleeping area is lit with LED lights controlled by a simple touch system. With a diesel-powered heater keeping things warm, the Sprinter stays cozy in winter whether the top is up or down.
The only thing missing from this setup is a bathroom, but a simple cassette toilet can remedy that situation. Given its size and off-road ability, having a comprehensive kitchen with a queen-size bed makes this a very cool, capable, and comfortable overlanding machine.