UPDATED APRIL 2020: We purchased a Ram Promaster City van and the Wayfarer Conversion Kit in January of 2018. Many of you have written us emails and left us comments about our set up. Thank you! We have written articles about Why We Chose the Van and Why We Chose the Wayfarer Conversion Kit and are finally ready to share our thoughts on both after living and traveling in it for over a year and a half. This article is a review of the Ram Promaster City with a Wayfarer Conversion Kit.
Pros of the Wayfarer Conversion Kit
The kit for our small van is just under $5000. Though everyone’s budget is unique and everyone’s idea of what is affordable is relative, this van conversion kit is hard to beat price-wise. A quick internet search will bring up lots of companies who will help you build out your van but very few are able to deliver something under $5000.
We like to buy things that are made well and then we use the hell out of ’em. This conversion kit is no different. We lived out of the van for a good portion of the year. Four months was our longest stretch in it without a break. And, for the most part, it has stood the test of time. The floor had lots of foot traffic, the kitchen boxes got lots of use opening and closing for three meals a day and the bed was made many, many times. (We make the bed each night and break it down each day so that the space within the van is usable.) In the beginning we were super careful with everything but then after a while, like a lot of people, we just kind of got used to it and forgot to be as gentle. It wasn’t necessary. The kit is durable and can stand up to any adventure you throw at it.
UPDATE AUGUST 2019: We had to add a layer of varnish to the wood. We found that parts of the wood were starting to buckle up from water and that other parts were becoming lighter in color where the varnish was very thin. We didn’t want the water to penetrate the wood so we sanded down the area and added more varnish.
Unlike other van builds-outs and customizations, this kit comes out. We’ve been toying with the idea of upgrading our van to a standup Ram Promaster with a 136″ wheelbase. (More about that whole thought process can be found here.) During that journey we considered selling our van. We found ourselves thankful that we could sell the van “as is” with the Wayfarer kit in it as well as without the kit. Numerous people have e-mailed us inquiring about our used kit and we’ve also had a good number of inquiries about those looking to buy the van both with and without the kit. As my dad has always said, “It’s good to have options.”
Both of us can be a little nerdy when it comes to design. We were pretty sure that the Wayfarer kit made sense to us but we weren’t 100 percent sure. Ian has done a great job working out the small details that make this a great kit. It’s the small things we appreciate the most: a place for the water, a place for the stove, shelving that is adjustable in the kitchen boxes, a bed that folds up, etc.
Things We Wish the Wayfarer Kit Offered
The ability for us to sit on the front facing kitchen box door
If I could upgrade one thing to this kit it would be the option to sit on the front-facing kitchen box door. (The one that folds down.) We thought about maybe changing the nylon cord that keeps the kitchen box in position with a chain in the hopes that maybe it would support our weight but we never got around to it. We often sat on top of the kitchen boxes themselves with the doors open but we had to hunch over.
An opening in the side storage boxes with a latch
There were numerous times we would set the bed up only to realize that we needed something in one of the storage boxes behind the driver or passenger seats. It wasn’t the end of the world to get in there, but it often required two people: one to hold the Exped SIM Comfort Duo 7.5 Mat up and the other to reach into the box. We think that if there was a way to access each box from the side it would save a lot of hassle.
The desk extended further out
One of the things we’ve started to wish is that the desk, when in the “down” position, extended further out. In other words, we wish the desk was deeper. The reason for this wish is that when we go to actually use it for writing or working on our laptop, we have to sit on our cooler rather than the bed. That makes for quite a cramped cabin area. The original Wayfarer kit setup may work for people who are taller than us (we’re 5’4 and 5’6) but it’s not the best fit for us.
All of these things are pretty minor wishes to an otherwise good design. None of them are dealbreakers for us. All in all, after a year and a half of travel in this camper van conversion kit we’re still big fans.
Pros of the Ram Promaster City
Good gas mileage
We do a lot of driving. Almost 60,000 miles of driving in a year and a half. And all in all, we get pretty great gas mileage. We average 26 miles a gallon on the highway, a bit less around town (21-22 mpg). Not bad!
The backup camera
We love this camera more than we thought we would. Neither of us had ever had a vehicle with a backup camera in it but honestly couldn’t live without it (our van does not have windows in the back.) Occasionally when I have heard a noise I have turned it on when we are in motion (I am not doing this while driving but from the passenger seat). Most often this is to check on our bikes when they are on the bike rack. Believe it or not you can get a good visual without having to pull over. The picture won’t stay up there but you can re-trigger it as many times as you need.
Cons of the Ram Promaster City
The size of the van makes for some interesting compromises as far as space is concerned. We have a rule that anything we put in the van must serve at least two purposes. There are very few exceptions to this rule (shoes being the one thing we cannot share). Be sure that you can travel with very few possessions if you are going to get this van.
You can’t stand up
The inability to stand up in the van goes hand in hand with the size of it but we thought it was worth it’s own mention. At the outset of our van life journey, it made more sense for us to get into the smaller van rather than the stand-up, high roof van that Ram offers. Primarily it was a financial decision because we just didn’t know where our work would take us. Caroline is 5’6 and I am 5’4 so for the most part, we can make do crawling in and around the van hunched over. It’s a huge step-up from the even more cramped Toyota 4 Runner that we had done some travel in. That said, we recently got to take one of sCAMPer van’s high roof vans out for a few days and it so freaking comfortable! The difference was like night and day. We could stand up and move about and just be in our van.
One of the first things we noticed about this van was the extremely low clearance that we have underneath. It’s not a big deal in town but we like to do a lot of activities in parks which often take us down dirt and gravel roads. Before you purchase this van or even the high roof van (it has a similar clearance issue), stick your head under the van and give it a look! Roads with big potholes and rocks are kind of scary…
Overall Review of the Ram Promaster City with a Wayfarer Conversion Kit
Would we buy this van and conversion kit again? Yes.
Overall we think it’s perfect for one person and great for two small people. If you’re on the taller side or looking to travel with more than two people, you probably want to look elsewhere. We think a weekend or weeklong adventure is an ideal amount of time to travel in this setup. You can obviously travel longer in it. Our longest stretch so far has been four months. You have to be willing to sacrifice some comfort and be able to endure small spaces. There’s obviously way more to consider when choosing a van. We’ve written about DIY Van Conversions, Custom Van Conversions and Conversion Kits as well as How to Choose a Van for Van Life.
Also, be sure to check our post on what we’re sleeping on. We’ve written an entire write-up on why we think the best van life best is a DIY bed. It’s complete with instructions.
Update: After 2+ years in our vehicle we are ready to share our Problems with the Ram Promaster City (2018).
Are you considering a Ram Promaster City with a Wayfarer Kit? Do you currently have one? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below. Not in one of these setups but have some other van life advice? Please drop us a line!
Additional Camper Van Resources
Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley are travel writers, photographers and the authors of Authentic Asheville.