Looking for an affordable camper conversion that is equal parts simplicity and comfort? A Honda Element camper conversion might be right up your alley.
This cult SUV camper has conquered the hearts of many campers and van lifers in the past decade because it’s an excellent, roomy sleeper and easily converted.
Some models come with four-wheel drive, so you can take the Element on some fun off-grid adventures. Just imagine cooking a hot meal off the tailgate in the middle of an aromatic pine forest or in front of a sandy beach.
Honda Element camper conversions are so easy to carry out; you could just order a kit and go out camping on the day you receive it.
Or, you can easily build a DIY Honda Element conversion.
Excited? Find out more in this article. We look at Honda Element campers in-depth and give you plenty of inspiration for your own conversion.
Why Choose a Honda Element Camper?
The Honda Element is a quirky crossover SUV built by Honda using a modified CRV platform. This cute model combines the features of a pickup truck and an SUV and it’s available both with front-wheel and all-wheel drive.
The Honda Element is easy to recognize, thanks to its “boxy” styling and the bi-parting side doors, which open up the cab completely. The Element’s design was inspired by a lifeguard station – the curved roof recalls the shape of a surfboard.
Over the past decade, right after Honda stopped manufacturing the Element, the vehicle has experienced a surge in popularity and gained a bit of a cult following, with more and more people converting it into a camper.
While the Element is out of production, there are plenty of used ones on the market all over the US. This means it’s cheap to buy: you can get a 2003 model for as little as $3,499. Not bad!
Thanks to its boxy, open design, all-weather rubber floor and removable seats, you’ll have lots of fun using it as a Honda Element camper. The cab is quite big and can be expanded to provide standing headroom by adding a pop-top.
A Honda Element camper can take a lot of weight, so you can take your favorite adventure gear with you. It’s also economical to run.
The clamshell tailgate and outward opening side doors allow you to easily load and unload your gear and make the Element a great camper. You can open the side doors and set up an awning with a table and chairs and you can use the tailgate as an outdoor kitchen.
The Pros and Cons of a Honda Element camper
Undecided on whether to go for a Honda Element camper conversion or not? Let’s look at the pros and cons – there are some good and bad points to be considered.
- Reliable engine. The Element has one of the most reliable engines out there. This is important when buying used.
- Tall cab. The cab is tall enough that you can get changed in it without having to sit down.
- Bi-parting side doors. They give excellent access to the cargo area.
- All Wheel drive. Some models come with all-wheel drive, which is perfect for venturing off-grid.
- Low price. If you go for a simple set-up and an older model, you could get a finished camper for very little – around $4,000, depending on how you go about the conversion.
- Great for stealth camping. No one will notice you’re sleeping inside the Element because it looks just like a car.
- Headroom. Unless you go for a pop-top conversion, you can’t stand upright inside.
- Outdoor kitchen. You’ll need to cook outside no matter the weather.
- No sink. Installing a sink isn’t very practical, as you need most of the cab space to create a double bed.
- Not ideal for long trips. Due to the lack of a permanent bathroom and sink, an Element camper isn’t a great choice for extensive traveling.
Check out these Element Camper Conversion Kits
Want an easy way to do a Honda Element camper conversion? Buying an Element camper conversion kit is the quickest and easiest way to do it.
These are great for busy people who don't have the time to put into a DIY conversion or those who aren't very confident around power tools.
Is that you? Then don't think about it - just order a kit and install it. It's easier than building an Ikea cabinet.
Take a look at these super cool conversion kits.
Freeway Honda Element Camper Kit - From $749.99-$1299.99
The Freeway Honda Element Camper Kit will turn your Element into a camper in no time. It's a simple but clever wooden platform that serves as a bed and storage space. You don't need to install it permanently, so you can still use the Element as a car.
The platform's panels either extend for sleeping on or fold away to make room for your gear. Fully extended, the bed measures 48 by 78 inches.
The huge storage space can take a water tank, cool box, and a portable toilet. You can access the storage from the tailgate, the sides of the van, or by lifting the bed panels.
This Honda Element camper conversion kit is made of Russian cherry and comes either as bare wood or stained and varnished. You can add a three-piece mattress to complete the set.
The best bit? You don't need any tools to assemble it - it's like a big 3D wooden puzzle. All parts slide in together easily. Once you're done camping, just disassemble the platform and store it away at home.
If you're on a budget and you plan to use your Honda Element camper for stealth camping a lot, this conversion kit is perfect for you. Prices go from $749.99 for the bare wood platform to $1,299.99 for the stained and varnished platform, mattress and cover.
Find out more about the Freeway Element Camper Kit.
Ursa Minor ECamper Conversion - From $7,000-$11,000
Want to be able to stand up in your Element? Then the Ursa Minor Honda Element conversion kit is what you're looking for.
This kit features a pop-top sleeper for two adults. The lightweight roof is made of carbon fiber and features a streamlined design, which adds only six inches to the height of the vehicle and 130 pounds to its weight. This reduces windage and keeps fuel consumption down.
When open, the pop-top on this Honda Element camper offers 6ft 6in standing headroom and a comfortable 7ft by 4ft mattress. The sleeper is accessible from both inside and outside the vehicle. The pop-top walls are made of water-resistant and breathable Sunbrella fabric.
The pop-top installation doesn't entail any cutting or drilling if your Element has a sunroof. If it doesn't, Ursa Minor will cut out that area only.
The space inside the cab will be untouched, so you can either add a galley and portable toilet to complete your conversion, leave the seats in or use the cargo space for carrying your gear. It's entirely up to you, which is why this kit is so versatile.
Among the options are LED lightning, 12V outlets, a 60watt solar charging system, an external ladder, rack mounts and mounting points.
Ursa Minor's conversion facilities are based in Portland and San Diego, so you'll need to travel there to get it done. On the plus side, you won't have to lift a finger!
Read more about the ECamper by Ursa Minor.
DIY Honda Element campers
Would you rather get involved in a DIY Honda Element camper conversion project? Doing your very own Honda Element camper van conversion has a big advantage: you can customize it exactly how you like.
And shall we mention the satisfaction of putting the finishing touches on, after all that hard work?
Plus, it can be as cheap or as expensive as you want!
Here are some ideas to get you inspired:
Phil and Vanessa's DIY Honda Element conversion
Phil and Vanessa opted for a campervan bed-storage platform with some side cabinets and a folding kitchen area at the rear. This is accessible through the tailgate. When the kitchen surface is folded out, you can get to the storage under the bed to reach for kitchen appliances and a water tank.
This Honda Element camper van conversion is great because it allows you to get changed directly in bed - you just sit up, open the cupboards and get dressed. No need to undo your bed or get out of the van.
The bed is permanently in place but it folds up to offer access to the storage underneath it or to act as a sofa. One of the closets can be used as a table when open, which is very clever.
Phil and Vanessa have been living full-time in this DIY conversion since 2016, so this conversion must be comfy enough for weekends and holidays.
For more ideas, check out this post: Campervan Interior Ideas for a DIY build
Sage Roddys' DIY Element conversion
Sage went through two Honda Element conversions, so he knows what he's talking about. As a solo camper, he realized that a platform double bed was more of an inconvenience than a comfort. Every time he needed to get something out of storage, he'd need to get out of the van and start unpacking the storage space.
For his new Honda Element conversion, he went for a pull-out bench and side wall storage space with different shelves and cupboards. The bench turns into a long bed thanks to an additional box that goes behind the passenger's seat.
Everything you store in the cupboard or under the bench is easily accessible. Some of the closets are accessible from behind when the rear doors are open, so you don't need to climb inside to get your gear.
For the galley, Sage kept things simple - he uses the tailgate as a surface and places his portable cooker and plates on top of it when he cooks. Then everything packs neatly into the storage under the bench.
Sage's Element camper van also has a 100W solar system with a flexible panel mounted on the roof, so he can live off-grid for a while. We love this set-up for a solo van lifer.
Elaine and Vincent Neal's 2006 Honda Element Camper
Elaine and Vincent wanted a simple camper for their outdoor adventures, so they settled on a 2006 Honda Element camper.
They chose to build a series of custom wooden boxes that would serve as storage space and a platform for a comfortable bed.
On their website, TravelsandCuriosities, the couple details exactly how they built out their Element camper with barely any construction or woodworking skills.
Elaine and Vincent found plans within the forums on ElementOwnersClub.
They say you don't have to be a professional to built a working, affordable campervan conversion.
Honda Element Camping Accessories
Ready to plan your conversion? It can be overwhelming to decide what gear to buy. We've put together a handy list of essentials to help you plan your gear shopping.
- Memory foam mattress, full size. You could go for this budget option, or this more luxurious one.
- Pillows. These foldable ones are ideal for storing away when the bed isn't made up.
- Bed sheets or duvet. Depending on the season, you'll need a set of bed sheets or a twin duvet.
- Sleeping bag. If you prefer to stow away the bed or need to use the van as a car a lot, go for a sleeping bag. We recommend the mummy-style ones, like this one, to save space and keep warm.
- Camping stove. If you're converting to live in the van for long periods of time, opt for a two-burner stove. If not, why not go for a Jet Boil? You can also use it to wild camp and it takes up less space. Don't forget to buy the correct propane bottle. You can also read about our top campervan stoves here.
- Nesting pots and pans. This set has both pots and pans.
- Cutlery. We like how these Sea To Summit sets can be hung up.
- Plates and glasses. We recommend this cheap Preserve set - with it being made of recycled plastic, you can be sure it won't rust even if you spend months camping by the sea.
- A portable 12V refrigerator. We love this one. You can read our full review of best refrigerators for a campervan here.
- Storage boxes. You'll need a few, sturdy ones like this one. Make sure you check the height is smaller than that of your bed platform before buying.
- Clothes organizer bags. Something like this will help you keep the camper interior tidy.
- A flexible solar panel like this one.
- A 12V battery.
- A solar charge controller.
- 12V USB sockets.
- USB plugs. You'll probably charge everything off USB sockets, so get a few.
- A portable toilet. Check out our list of the best toilets for the van life. If compact enough, you can store it under the bed.
- Camping chairs. Choose super compact ones like these, so you can easily put them away.
- An awning. This one would allow you to cook in the shade and serve dinner right by the kitchen. Check out our entire roundup posts of best campervan awnings.
- USB fairy lights to light up your camp at night. You can also use them inside the camper.
For more gear inspiration, check out this article about Kristin's favorite van life gear.
Ready to convert your Honda Element into a camper?
If you're looking for a camper conversion that will allow you to venture into the wilderness at the weekend or on holidays, a Honda Element camper won't disappoint you.
You can even opt for a temporary conversion that slides out, leaving the car free to use during the week.
Other posts you might like:
- Campervan Interior: Building out your van
- Campervan rentals: Vans for an epic road trip
- 11 ways to find public showers when living in a campervan
I spent my childhood holidays exploring Europe on my parents’ motorhome. Now, I live, work and travel on a sailboat with my husband Ryan. If you like, you can follow us on our YouTube channel, where we’re documenting refitting and cruising on our Tayana 37.