May–June 2023

From the Editor

On the Road Again

A new generation of #VanLifers

If the VW bus helped usher in the first wave of #VanLifers back in the 1960s, Instagram has mainstreamed the concept for a new generation of nomads looking for small-footprint campers from which to explore the outdoors. For the unfamiliar, the #VanLife hashtag first appeared on Instagram in 2011, when a guy named Foster Huntington began pairing it with photos of DIY camper setups he encountered while traveling America in his 1987 Volkswagen T3 Syncro van. Many of these rigs had fancy finishes, built-in stovetops and sinks, and sustainable features such as solar panels. Huntington’s hashtag went viral and has since been used millions of times by folks chronicling their roving lifestyles in carefully curated posts. 

The movement was on full display when I visited Yellowstone National Park two summers ago. Driving through the park’s geyser-pocked landscape, I was struck by the number of camper vans on the road—everything from Airstreams to Sprinters. I’d never seen so many baby RVs in one place and wondered if I was witnessing peak #VanLife. But sales trends seem to indicate that there’s room to grow in the segment. According to the RV Industry Association, year-over-year sales of Class B “van campers” increased by 24 percent in 2022. Interest in other lightweight camping rigs has surged as well, including truck campers, which saw 20 percent sales growth in 2022. 

In “Traveling Light," we profile five Minnesotans who’ve embraced the #VanLife spirit by customizing a variety of small RVs and camp trailers. Each vehicle is as unique as its owner, and I think you’ll be impressed—and maybe even inspired—by the ingenuity of these adventurers. Or perhaps you’re the proud owner of a similar setup, in which case we’d love to see what you’re driving. Send a photo and a quick description of your lightweight RV to the email below.

No matter how you choose to get out in nature this summer, I wish you safe travels and new experiences.

Chris Clayton, editor in chief