Recon Campers’ Envy is the mini RV to lust for

We don’t get the Volkswagen California camper van here in the United States, and that’s a damn shame. Thankfully, a modern day Westfalia is possible though with the Envy from Recon Campers.

Van life is a booming trend and one that’s undoubtedly dreamy for some. Hitting the open road and having everything you need to live (and for some, work) all in one fun, box on wheels. But the choices for adapting to this often sought-after van life are somewhat limited. Surveying Craigslist for a decent iconic Volkswagen Vanagon can be a gamble, and finding a Mercedes-Benz or Dodge Sprinter that isn’t a rust bucket can be even trickier. If you want to avoid the used van scene, even the smallest new camper vans and RVs are atrociously expensive, leaving wanderlust addicted millennials who are drowning in debt, out of luck.

The donor for the conversion is Nissan’s NV200 which you’ll need to purchase brand-new from a dealer and lists for a relatively low $22,000 MSRP. Due to the, at times, sketchy liabilities used cargo vans possess, Recon Campers only outfits new NV200s. As production continues to rise, plans are in the works for the entire buying-then-converting process available through Nissan dealerships, including the financing of fully finished Envy campers through Nissan, which will cost about $28,500 in addition to the price of the NV200.

interior of the Recon Campers Envy

So what does $28,500 get you?

A ton. And everything is built to the highest degree of quality. A sliding door opens way to an insulated living space complete with a gorgeous wooden floor with a small kitchenette featuring a stainless steel sink with a 10-gallon tank, fridge, fold-out table which can also be attached to the exterior of the Envy, plenty of cabinet space with sliding covers similar to a garage door, hidden storage, and six USB inputs for charging devices. One fantastic innovation in the Envy’s kitchen, is its two-way cupboard, which allows one to load groceries from the outside of the van and then later access them from inside.

The back seat contains two deep storage drawers underneath it as well as large cargo box and locker near the rear door.  Out back is also a hot water, outdoor shower. Two adults can sleep comfortably on the seat once it folds forward flat into a 42 x 72 bed, unlike the typically backwards like you’d expect in a shaggy ’90s conversion van. The seat’s been safety tested and can also be deployed in a tailgating position. Its “pop top” roof easily rises to create more than seven feet of standing room plus a 40 x 88 berth with three large zippered window for two additional sleepers.

rear cargo box and bike rack on the Recon Campers Envy

Proper on-the-go tech

You can be envious about the tech too, as the Envy features a 110 Ah AGM+ house battery that can be charged in a few hours by an optional thin, 100 watt roof-mounted solar panel that also powers the shower and stink’s water heater. A slick 7-inch touchscreen LCD mounted on a wall near the kitchenette controls all of the Envy’s dimmable lighting, switches for the water heater, fridge, DC outlets, and water pump, and shows readouts for the house battery, temperature, and capacity of the fresh water tank.

Other options for for your overlanding adventures include roof rack cross bars, a bike rack for two bikes, a fantastic assortment of rocker panel decals, bug screens, a black diamond-plated rear cargo box that mounts to the hitch, and a solar-powered ventilation system.

the "pop top" tent on the Recon Campers envy

It’s styled for a vagabond too, as the Envy camper on display at Nissan’s exhibitor display had a set of tiny, knobby Yokohama Geolander A/TS all-terrain tires wrapped around bronze aftermarket Method wheels that were staggered just slightly. Recon Campers also installs a set of black, protective side rails to prevent rock damage when off-roading, nature-themed graphics, a blacked-out grille, front tow hook, and some rally-inspired mudflaps.

Recon Campers also offers a conversion kit for the NV200, minus the “pop top” roof, called the Stealth, which starts at $21,750. Hopefully we can get our hands on either camper sometime soon to take on a national parks endeavor. Looks like I’ll need to draft a pitch to their PR department for a two-week test loan.

Learn more about California-based Recon Campers here.

some rad, outdoorsy art work the optional side awning which mounts to the side of the van. a rear 3/4 of the Envy the optional solar panel atop the Recon Campers Envy's "pop top" tent inside the Recon Campers Envy the smallest Geolander A/Ts!

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19 responses to “Recon Campers’ Envy is the mini RV to lust for”

  1. nanoop Avatar

    This is a very small car for an RV, the bed is not very wide for two, and once it’s put up there is not much accessible space to leave your stuff. The roof won’t pop up if there is actually stuff on the rack, say, two spare wheels and a canoe.

    Such a vehicle is certainly full of compromises, but I would put mine elsewhere. This might be perfect for you, but if you want speedy touchdown/takeoff, a proper roof tent on the same base vehicle, with a well organized “lounge and packing” area in the rear and a kitchenette outside in the rear, would be quicker, cheaper, and more versatile when you are using the vehicle as primary DD, too.

  2. SlowJoeCrow Avatar

    Cool, the knobbies seem a bit ambitious but the overall package is neat and initially appear reasonably priced. HT to smalleyxb122 for pointing out that $28,500 is the cost of the conversion plus $22-25k for the van. I’d like to see something for the RAM Promaster city and Ford Transit Connect LWB. Somebody makes a basic conversion for the Ram (Fiat Doblo) and I’ve seen campers based on the old TC but not the new one. I’d also like to see a pricepoint closer to van + $10k

  3. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    “As production continues to rise, plans are in the works for the entire buying-then-converting process available through Nissan dealerships, including the financing of fully finished Envy campers through Nissan, which will cost about $28,500.”

    … in addition to the cost of the van. That should be clearer here.

  4. salguod Avatar

    $50K seems rather steep for a little rig like this, nicely executed or not. But, I’m not familiar with the market for these kind of things. Perhaps it’s the going rate.

    1. smalleyxb122 Avatar

      It’s in the right ballpark. The VW California mentioned in the first sentence starts at the equivalent of around $51k, but it’s not sold in the US and European prices don’t generally directly correlate to exchange rate. The best comparison in the US would probably be the Sportsmobile conversion of the Metris, which starts at ~$27k+the cost of the van ($10k more for the equivalent pop-top). So $65k-$75k? B class campers based on full size vans are mostly $100k+.

      $50k is a lot of money, but it’s as cheap as a new motorhome can get. If you can give up the all-in-one convenience of a motorhome, a trailer is usually the more cost-effective option. Sure, you need a vehicle capable of towing it, but that vehicle can also be your DD, and is then your errand runner when camping. Do you really want to have to pack up your house to run to the store for milk?

      There is still something appealing about a B class, and I will probably own one in the near future. It certainly won’t be a new one, though.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        A B -class motorhome makes a lot of sense. This Nissan is more like a motor closet.

      2. Zentropy Avatar

        A B -class motorhome makes a lot of sense. This Nissan is more like a motor closet.

  5. Zentropy Avatar

    When I was in my 20s, my then-GF and I took my parents’ class-C RV to the beach for a few days. Even in a vehicle of such size, the trip was pretty much the beginning of the end of that relationship. The NV200 might be a nice substitute for a tent, and I could enjoy it solo, but it’s far too small for me to realistically use with another person. Recon Campers could wisely deliver mine with vinyl graphics that say “pending divorce”.

    1. salguod Avatar

      My family of 5 plus the dog camped in a ~15 year old Jayco popup for several years, pulled by a Saturn Outlook. It was definitely character building.

      1. Zentropy Avatar

        You are a much, much better man than I. I could tolerate such quarters only with my dog.

    1. mrh1965 Avatar

      and here’s an 86 model, with subaru engine (and the world’s tiniest tires), in my area for 18.5K

  6. Karol Avatar

    I see the author does not have any idea about this vehicle,just repeats what owner of recon campers repeats everywhere.Try to sleep comfortably on a 42 inch wide bed or pack gear for w week trip to this small rv. Another worthless article.Did recon paid for it?

    1. Maymar Avatar

      Back in the fall, my wife and I did a week in a converted Toyota Hiace (fixed tall roof rather than pop-up), which wasn’t much bigger than this, and had about the same amount of storage, and did just fine (although we’ve also gotten really good at travelling carry-on, even as far as surviving 2 weeks ranging from sub-freezing to 30C with one bag each). Admittedly, the bed in ours was full-vehicle width, rather than the 42-in in this. It also seems right on par with Vanagon Westfalias – that said, from what I can tell, they came out to about $40k USD, adjusted for inflation – considering the NV200 isn’t the first word in modernity (and I’m not sure if I’d expect the CVT to last decades), the price is a little steep. But, the basic idea of second car/weekend getaway machine for a small family is appealing.

    2. Harry Callahan Avatar
      Harry Callahan

      Whoa there fella. Take a deep breath.

      This piece provides a sneak peak at something most of us have never seen. It is not a full review, not a road test. If you want to learn more, go track one down yourself. Very likely Recon did not offer one to DeGraff for a test, so blame them!

      1. Karol Avatar

        I’m the owner of one of their products for about six months and made several camping trips. I can tell you that many things in this article are taken from marketing info that recon publish through different medias.Todays writers do not bother to verify any data before publishing,for ex. author states that on 42 in wide bed two adults can sleep comfortably.Has he ever tried it?

        1. Alistair Avatar

          For reference, a normal double/full mattress is 54″ wide, or 12″ wider than the Recon.

          And a VW Vanagon Westy mattress is 46″ wide, or 4″ wider than the Recon. VW Eurovan Camper bed is 43″ wide. And VW Eurovan Weekender (no side cabinets/kitchen – bed is full width of interior) bed is 58″ wide.

    3. Extwo Avatar

      Coming from a backpacking/mountaineering point of view, most of my alpine tents are 42 inches wide and me and my 6’3′ climbing partner fit. We also can go 10 days out of a backpack. So this Recon actually is not that small. Just a matter of perspective.
      Also, 45 years ago my wife and I converted a VW into a camper and lived well with a 2 year old. Just a matter of perspective.

  7. Harry Callahan Avatar
    Harry Callahan

    I like camping at the Hilton, as I did this past weekend in Santa Barbara. Lovely.