These tiny, cleverly designed Japanese RVs make your small camper van look like a palace – The Manual

There’s no doubt that Americans are stereotyped as liking things big. From our lattes to our SUVs to our monster LED TVs, many of us like things jumbo-sized. It’s evident in the RVs we drive, too, which tend to be unnecessarily large. Seriously, have you seen some of the priciest, most palatial, most luxurious motorhomes on the road today? They’re fancier and way more feature-packed than any apartment I’ve ever lived in.
Things in the RV world look a whole lot different overseas, though, especially in places like Europe where gas (or “petrol”) is astronomically expensive, and they just don’t have the same wide-open expanses of land that we do here in the States. A perfect example: Japan. The islands are small, the people are significantly smaller than most average Americans, and the gas prices are outrageous. So, it’s no surprise that the country’s recreational vehicles are some of the most compact and fuel-efficient in the world.
One spin around the RV section at this year’s Japan Mobility Show 2023, and you’ll start to think even the average van life van is way too big. Yet, somehow, these ultra-compact recreational vans pack all — or at least most — of the comforts of home into vehicles that aren’t much larger than a typical minivan. Here are just a few of this year’s standout models.
RecVee pulls a page out of VW’s Vanagon playbook with its one-of-a-kind Solan (Japanese language). It’s an ultra-compact, highly customized campervan built on Toyota’s solid HiAce Van platform. It’s available in a variety of mostly bland color options, but we really dig the retro vibes of this powder blue version with old-school “dog dish”-style hub caps and contrasting white-on-black tire lettering. The sleek, two-tone design features dual sliding passenger doors that open to reveal a surprisingly bright, upscale interior.
Inside is a generous cabin that’ll transport five but sleeps just three (although, if we’re honest, it’ll be a snug fit) with all of the rear seats folded down. But the space is well-equipped with a flat-panel TV and ample storage, plus a kitchenette with a fridge, microwave, and even a sink with running water. Passengers just need to be prepared to crouch down to use any of it. The only thing noticeably absent? A toilet. But that just means you won’t have to mess with black water tanks and nasty sewer hoses at your next campground. So, there’s that.
For the ultimate in ultra-compact camper portability, nothing beats a Kei-car build. The Japanese microcars are restricted to around 11 feet long by less than five feet wide. Somehow, Japan’s Oka Motors managed to pack a surprising amount of campervan features into that microscopic footprint. The company’s Miniature Cruise is built on the Atrai platform (manufactured by Toyota’s Daihatsu subsidiary) and tuned to just 63 horsepower and 67 lb-feet of torque.
The interior packs a surprising amount of creature comforts, including a thick camp-style sleeping pad/mattress and a TV, plus a pint-sized kitchenette with a microwave, sink, and under-seat refrigerator. There’s even an auxiliary air conditioner. The trick is that campers will need to squat or kneel to use most of the amenities, but an exterior fold-out table does add a bit more living space to “spread out,” if you can call it that. The best part? It’s surprisingly well-priced at just over $31,000.
Another Kei-car-class micro-camper, this model from Japan’s own Nuts RV feels like the product of a one-night stand between a Smart Car and a modern Vanagon. It’s built on Toyota’s compact Pixis platform with whitewall tires pushed to the four corners, which not only make it look smaller (if that’s even possible) but handle better, too. The 0.66-liter, three-cylinder engine is good for just 48 horsepower and 42 lb-ft of torque, so you’re probably going to want to seriously pare down your camping gear loadout.
The equally tight interior seats four for dining but sleeps only two. The latter requires some reconfiguring of seats, and it’s probably best for couples or two campers who really like each other. This small camper van is thin on amenities and feels like the ideal option for light frontcountry camping or long days at the beach. What truly sets it apart, however, is the price. It’s less than $15,000, all-in.
Of course, if a micro-camper van isn’t disco enough for you — if you need an overlanding-ready rig with serious offroad chops — there’s the rugged BR75-G Adventure Camper from LAC Group/Direct Cars. It was among the most extreme driveable RVs showcased at this year’s Japan Mobility Show in Tokyo, and, frankly, it’s probably overkill for touring most of the country. It’s built on Toyota’s very capable Hilux platform, which, sadly, isn’t available in the U.S. For this model, the pickup’s bed was swapped with a generously sized in-bed camper that extends nicely over the truck’s double-cab body. An additional pop-top roof adds even more interior standing room.
Inside, this small camper sleeps two on the permanent mattress, while the dining area converts to a bed to sleep two more. What’s most surprising is the long feature set, including tons of storage, a legit shower stall, and a decent-sized kitchenette with a sink, fridge, and plenty of cabinetry. This camper is a bit pricier than the other more compact models on this list. The starting sticker price is around $73,000, while the flagship model tops more than $82,000. You can opt to recycle the pickup bed into a matching lightweight towable trailer, though, which is strangely cool.
Yellowstone National Park is one of our most beautiful national treasures, and for good reason. The park sees about three million visitors every year, every one of them aching to see the breathtaking sights. But what happens when visitors make alarming choices that put themselves and wildlife at risk? Recently, visitors witnessed yet another alarming incident that shed light on the disregard some visitors have for park safety guidelines. This man’s reckless act of dangling his baby in front of an elk for a photo op has sparked outrage and concern among park enthusiasts and conservationists alike.
Stay at least 25 yards away from elk
The incident unfolded when a visitor, oblivious to the inherent dangers and proper etiquette around wildlife, approached a grazing elk. Disregarding the National Park Service’s recommended safety distance of 25 yards, the individual turned his back to the elk and extended his baby towards the animal, presumably for a snapshot. The heart-stopping moment was captured by another park visitor. The content was then reposted via Instagram on the account TouronsOfYellowstone—a platform dedicated to highlighting irresponsible behavior within US National Parks. See the video below.
While the man in the video calls this animal a moose, it’s an elk. While typically docile, elk are wild animals with unpredictable behavior. Encroaching upon their space can provoke defensive responses, potentially leading to attacks and severe injuries. The National Park Service has emphasized the importance of maintaining a safe distance from wildlife to ensure both human safety and the well-being of the animals themselves.
When capturing the big moves in life, you need a camera that will keep up with the pace. If you want that jump out of the plane, the views as you climb up that mountain, or the speed of that player to not be a blurry mess in every shot, an action camera is a must-have item. The GoPro has been the dominant choice on the action camera scene, but the new Insta360 Ace Pro is here to give it a run for its money. With a similar look and almost identical specs to the GoPro, thrill seekers and capturers of adventure have another option to make sure they get the shot to match the energy of the activity.
Insta360 Ace has entered the chat
The specs that make it top-tier
Camper vans and lightweight travel trailers are cool and all, but most are built for comfort, easy towing, and leisurely road trips. They aren’t fit for venturing off pavement. So, when you’re looking to get far, far off the beaten path, you need a rugged rig that’s built to go just about anywhere. You need a rig like 27North’s ridiculously overbuilt F550 Ascender overlander pickup truck camper.
As the name implies, every 27North F550 Ascender starts life as a Ford F550 Crew Cab. Straight off the showroom floor, it’s already a very capable pickup with a 6.7-liter Power Stroke V-8 diesel mated to a 10-speed TorqShift auto transmission. The commercial-grade combination is good for 475 horsepower and a whopping 1,050 ft-lbs of torque — perfect for towing just about anything or ripping stumps out of your backyard on the weekends.
The Essential Guide for MenThe Manual is simple — we show men how to live a life that is more engaged. As our name implies, we offer a suite of expert guides on a wide range of topics, including fashion, food, drink, travel, and grooming. We don’t boss you around; we’re simply here to bring authenticity and understanding to all that enriches our lives as men on a daily basis.

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