Roadtrip With A Native Campervan
When we started planning for our five year wedding anniversary, we quickly knew that we wanted to try out the #vanlife that we spend a lot of time daydreaming about. We could easily list off a couple of companies who rent vans and RV's, but we knew we really wanted to try to get a Native Campervan into our plans. We have spent a lot of time reading and looking at their website, and just felt that the vans were a top-notch fleet of well-designed vans. What better time to splurge and live that #yolo lifestyle than on a big anniversary trip?!
We contacted Native and requested a booking, and very quickly had a confirmed date and plan. Native operates out of Denver and Salt Lake City. We chose the Salt Lake City location since we were planning a trip up to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Flying into Salt Lake City was easy, and the van office is very close by. James runs that shop and that guy is on the ball. He contacted us a couple of days beforehand to let us know he was taking care of a couple of issues that had come up, and he never let us down. He handled everything with a calm and positive attitude, and made sure to have us on our way as soon as he could. He was so great to work with, over the phone and in person, and really just made trying out the van life a great experience. He gave a great tour of the van, and sent us on our way stoked for our adventure ahead!
We had a Biggie + named Vanis Joplin. She was an absolutely perfect rental, and we still miss her! Here are some details that we loved about the van:
The bed was one of our bigger concerns. How comfortable could a thin little mattress in a van be? Well, it can be really dang comfortable. We slept very well every night, and the bed was plenty big enough for us. Being allergic to feathers and down is always a nuisance when travelling as so many hotels and such have gone to feather bedding. I always have to check in beforehand and request synthetic pillows and blankets, or we just travel with bedding. James was very receptive to this issue and made so sure to give us a feather free van! We slept great and will likely request some info from Native when we decide to get our own bed in a van!
Fully Functional Kitchen
I don't mind cooking with a Jetboil or camp stove, but when it comes to living #vanlife luxury, this van has it down. Running water and a two burner propane stove made life just a lot easier for a longer trip. Making coffee was so fast and simple, cleaning dishes was in the privacy of the van, and being able to cook anywhere and at anytime was a perk that we won't soon forget. The van comes with a pot, pan, skillet and lots of utensils, and a percolator for making coffee or boiling water. It's a fully functional kitchen just rolling down the highway with you, and it is amazing.
This is a magical feature in a van. We typically camp with a cooler and have to meal plan around what we can keep fresh on the longer trips. A fridge made meal planning options open up and let us have a little more variety in what we ate for a whole week. Also, it kept the beers icy cold!
I knew the van had a power supply, but being an over-planner, I still packed along two power bricks, just in case. We were going to be out in the wilderness without access to any electrical outlets for 7 days straight. I didn't expect the power supply in the van to provide power to cover that, with two outlets, and a solar supply. Turns out, I didn't use my own bricks even once. The van never even got low on power, despite cloudy, hazy, and rainy days. We charged phones, watches, cameras, an iPad, and a gimbal - and literally never made a dent in the power that was availabl.
A Well-Stocked Van
We actually overpacked for our trip, not knowing how well stocked the van would be. It has the obvious essentials like dishes and utensils, but it also came with bottle openers, lights, lighters, soap, paper towels, and more. We packed quite a few things that we could have left at home, because this van was completely outfitted and ready to go. The only things we really needed to add were our personal belongings and clothes, and some food! They include a big propane tank, a 7 gallon tank of clean water, an empty 7 gallon tank for grey water, and a hideaway table for sitting/eating in the van. There are also two folding chairs and a table included to eat outside the van!
The storage space was surprising to us. We expected to feel cramped some of the time, but it really never happened. The storage area in the back is huge, under the bed, and we didn't even come close to filling it up. There are two big drawers in the van that held almost everything we had out for use, as well as a third seat which folds up and has a big storage area. We didn't come close to running out of space for stuff, including clothes, shoes, lots of camera equipment, and just "stuff" that we had out to use.
This is super simple, but was a great feature. The fan pulls air in or out, so it helps keep things cool, and also keeps air flowing while cooking. We had a couple of rainy days on our trip, and the fan shut down and closed itself automatically. When we were cooking, it was great to have the fan running to keep air circulating. The best part, we loved sleeping with is on a low, so we had that background noise and a little bit of airflow, but not too much! It had a remote control which came in handy from the bed, too!
This is another simple thing, but we were camping in busy, crowded campgrounds and we were so grateful to have privacy and light blocking shades. The front windows have silver reflective panels to install when you park, and the back side window has light blocking curtains. Together, those features managed to block out headlights shining right at us and a camp neighbor who really liked to have a very bright campsite. They also keep it private for changing clothes!
This was a small detail that we enjoyed. The lights are indirect overhead and along the floor, and have separate on/off controls. The buttons also work as dimmers, so you can set the lights as low or as bright as needed, and to set a cozy vibe in the van.
Native does their own builds in their campervan rental fleet, and they are very good at it. Lots of storage and functionality, but the van also looks great and has great decor. The styling is very well put together and makes it feel like a little house, and less like a van!
The Van Itself
We had a nearly new 2018 Dodge Ram Promaster. It is a BIG vehicle, with lots of space... but it drives like a much smaller vehicle. It was peppy and reliable, and very easy to park and maneuver. We never felt like it was too big to handle. The inside is tall, so you can stand easily and move around. We had no issues whatsoever with the vehicle and it felt like a new van that had been very well maintained and cleaned.
The Best Camping Experience Ever
We love tent camping, but this was absolutely perfect for a long trip where we wanted to get up and go every morning. We didn't have to deal with tent setup or getting things ready to leave behind everyday, or even all of the bear box stashing. We got to camp very late the first night, and it was perfect to just show up and go to sleep. It was also amazing to have coffee and meals by the side of the road, with amazing scenery, rather than being tied to our campsite everyday!
Be sure to check out nativecampervans.com to see their list of details on the vans, including two other styles - The Biggie and the Smalls. The company has great vehicles with great comforts, but also the company itself is great. We had a fantastic experience with the rental process, the actual vehicle, and the whole process of getting and returning the van. The interactions with James were all top-level customer service, and he clearly takes pride in helping people hit the road and have a blast on their trips.
Native also provides insurance to add to your rental, which just helps with some peace of mind and really doesn't cost much. They have a few extra that you can add on, but truly, the van had everything we needed.
We made a video to show you a little more about the van:
The bottom line... we cannot wait to rent from Native again. We had a fantastic experience and loved every bit of our first outfitted van life experience. We find ourselves just daydreaming about it all even more now. We'd highly recommend that anyone looking to rent a campervan go check out Native. If there are questions you may have, feel free to reach out to us and we'll gladly share what we experienced on our trip.
We are not endorsed or sponsored by Native in any way - we booked and rented a vehicle as a normal customer - but we loved the company and the van so much, we felt like it was worth sharing. We can't wait to hit the road with Native again and we hope they come to California soon!