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.
In this post, we’ll look at some DIY campers, custom pop tops, and even conversion kits so you can get your Element camper going in no time.
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Why the Obsession with Honda Element Campers?
The Honda Element is a popular choice for converting into a campervan because it offers several unique features that make it well-suited for such a conversion. Even though the Element was discontinued in 2011, it’s still a highly desirable vehicle for camping excursions and other hobbies with outdoor enthusiasts.
Some of these features include:
- Spacious interior: The Honda Element has a boxy shape that maximizes interior space, creating a comfortable living space within the vehicle.
- Easy customization: The Element’s interior is easy to customize, thanks to its removable rear seats, flat floor, and large cargo area. This makes installing various campervan features, such as a bed, kitchenette, and storage cabinets easier.
- Reliable and affordable: The Honda Element is known for its reliability and affordability, making it a popular choice among van life enthusiasts on a tight budget. Since you’ll have to buy one used, be sure to ask for maintenance records.
- Good gas mileage: The Element gets good gas mileage, which is important for those who plan to travel long distances in their campervan.
- Cuteness factor: Let’s face it – the Honda Element is cute! Boxy yet aesthetically pleasing, it has just enough personality to make it stand out while still being able to stealth camp when needed.
Overall, the Honda Element offers unique features that make it an ideal platform for a DIY campervan conversion. This, coupled with the rising popularity of vanlife, has contributed to the current obsession with converting the Honda Element into a campervan.
How to Turn a Honda Element into a Camper
Now that you understand why people are so obsessed with Honda Element camper conversions, how, exactly, do you convert one into a camper?
There are several options to choose from, and you might be surprised by how easy it is to start your Honda Element camper conversion process.
- Basic setup: The simplest and most affordable way to convert a Honda Element into a campervan is to remove the back seats and throw a mattress in the back. This creates a basic sleeping area and leaves plenty of room for storing gear. While this option is very basic, it can be a good starting point for those who want to try out vanlife before investing more time and money into a more elaborate conversion.
- DIY conversion: Many people choose a DIY camper conversion of their Honda Element, which involves adding features such as a bed platform, storage cabinets, a kitchenette, and other amenities. Depending on your skills and budget, a DIY conversion can be as simple or complex as you like.
- Pop top conversion: Another more expensive option for converting a Honda Element into a campervan is adding a pop top, essentially a raised roof providing additional headroom and sleeping space. A pop top can be a great option for those who want to maximize interior space and create a more comfortable living area.
- Conversion kits: There are also conversion kits specifically designed for the Honda Element, including everything from a bed platform and kitchenette to insulation and electrical components. Conversion kits can be a good option for those who want a more professional-looking conversion without doing all the work themselves.
Ultimately, the choice of which conversion option to choose will depend on your individual needs, budget, and DIY skills.
A basic setup may be sufficient for short trips, while a more elaborate DIY conversion or a pop top may be more appropriate for those planning longer trips or living in the SUV full-time. Conversion kits can offer a good balance of affordability and a professional-looking finish but may require some DIY skills to install correctly.
Check out the DIY builds and camper conversion kits below to get some inspiration!
The Pros and Cons of a Honda Element Camper Conversion
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.
- Symmetrical interior. The box-like shape makes building living space inside easier.
- Roof rack-ready. The Honda Element’s roof is designed to easily add a roof rack, so you can quickly add additional storage by installing one and purchasing a rooftop box.
- 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. You can’t stand upright inside unless you go for a pop-top conversion.
- 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 more than one traveler. Due to the small space, if you have a bed big enough to accommodate two people, you will most likely have to give up on other amenities that would otherwise fit in the bed space.
Our Favorite 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:
Katy’s DIY Honda Element camper conversion that sleeps two
Katy lives full-time in her self-converted Honda Element and dogsits to make her income. She doesn’t mind the smaller space of the SUV because she gets to take advantage of the amenities of homes wherever she has a gig. Sometimes these include luxurious homes with pools and hot tubs!
Her build is super efficient and comfortable, with a bed that converts to a bench seat and an “office space” for her to sit comfortably while she does the backend work for her gigs. She has ample storage under her bed platform and a dedicated vanity with a mirror and space for toiletries.
Katy loves inviting friends on her adventures, so she updated her build to accommodate room for a second person to fit on the sleeping platform. Now she and her friends can conveniently camp without the hassle of setting up a tent for a second person.
She got her build layout inspiration from @dayswespend.
Greg’s ’05 DIY Honda Element camper conversion variations
Greg has been traveling with his dog, Sassy, in his DIY camper for years. After trying different layouts and discovering what worked best for his lifestyle, he’s rebuilt his conversion various times.
He started out with nothing more than some plastic storage boxes and has since tried out a few different bed layouts. At one point, he had a bed-to-bench conversion setup. He recently transitioned to a fixed smaller bed with a pull-out kitchenette accessible from the rear doors.
Greg also has ample storage throughout the SUV, including built-in cabinets and fisherman’s netting on the ceiling. He likes to get off the beaten path, so he’s added lots of external upgrades, such as a front bumper, an awning, a storage container on top of the SUV, and mounted recovery boards “just in case”.
Mindy’s DIY design for full-time van life
Mindy designed her Honda Element camper conversion herself and had a friend who is a custom cabinet builder help make it all come together for her.
With tons of storage space, she has space for food, clothing, hobbies, and even a toilet! She has a plush bed, and her driver’s seat is on a swivel, providing a recliner so she can work comfortably in her Honda Element, even on a rainy day.
Mindy has a solar panel on top of her micro camper connected to a battery inside so she can charge her electronics and run a refrigerator.
Set up for true overlanding, Mindy added a lift kit, new suspension, and rhino lining to the exterior of her Element so she can get to the most epic camp spots possible.
Follow Miny’s adventures on YouTube to see where she’s been and where she’s going.
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 lived 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 inconvenient than a comfort. Whenever he needed something out of storage, he’d need to get out of the van and start unpacking the storage space.
He went for a pull-out bench and side wall storage space with different shelves and cupboards for his new Honda Element conversion. The bench turns into a long bed thanks to an additional box behind the passenger’s seat.
Everything you store in the cupboard or under the bench is easily accessible. Some 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 that he can live off-grid for a while. We love this setup 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 built 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 build a working, affordable campervan conversion.
John’s Overlanding Honda Element Camper
John didn’t just sit around during the pandemic – he slowly built his dream overlanding vehicle by converting a Honda Element into a camper.
He chose to mount a rooftop tent above the van and to install a big awning to the side. This way, he has an inflatable mattress inside, a foam bed on the roof, and a shady area outdoors. The awning extends from the right-hand side and the rear of the vehicle.
On the left-hand side of the vehicle, John can create even more space by adding a “room” to the rooftop tent on the ground level. This area allows him to get changed in privacy while standing.
The kitchenette is at the back of the Element. It’s attached to the bottom of the vehicle and swivels out, together with the spare tire. This allows him to use the back of the van as storage only.
The van lifer picked all his favorite bits of gear from various brands to create the ultimate overlanding Honda Element camper.
You can see more pictures of John’s build on his Instagram profile.
Ellie’s super simple conversion
Ellie is adventuring around the US in her Honda Element part-time. She decided not to install anything permanently just yet, so she can experiment with different set-ups.
She just took the back seats off and hung a hammock to sleep in. This extra minimalist solution allows her to store her bike inside the van, so it doesn’t get stolen during the night.
When Ellie wants more comforts, she just slides in some wooden platforms, so she has a place to sleep and some organized storage space.
Honda 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
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 $999.99 for the bare wood platform to $1,399.99 for the stained and varnished platform, mattress, and cover.
Find out more about the Freeway Element Camper Kit.
Ursa Minor ECamper Conversion
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.
Fifth Element Camping
Looking for a modular kit, which allows you to pick and choose the gear you want to install in your Element? There’s a new conversion kit around the block. It’s by Fifth Element Camping.
Every piece of furniture is made of light plywood and looks modern, functional, and minimalistic. You can buy single components, or choose between two packages. Going for these saves you quite a bit of money, so it’s worth it if you want to go for a full-on conversion.
There are four main components to the kit: a bed/bench system, a cabinet with a pull-out table, a kitchenette with a side table, and a console with trays for the driver’s seat. If you don’t install the cabinet, you can fit a passenger seat in the back of the van. You can still use the bed when the seat is fitted.
Among the options are a bike mount and custom cushions that fit the couch/bed perfectly. The full kit weighs 150lbs. If you take out the rear seats, which weigh 85lbs, you’re only adding 65lbs to the van.
They all work independently and with each other and are plug and play. The installation takes 10 minutes and doesn’t require any permanent modification.
The company headquarters are in Asheville, NC, but they do ship, so you won’t have to make the drive.
If you’re on a budget but you still want to add a solid structure to your build, look no further than the Camp N Car Home On Wheels Furniture Kit. This consists of a single or expanding bed platform, surrounded on two sides by shelving units.
The furniture is made of plywood and can be removed and reinstalled. If the floor of your Element is uneven, purchase the leveler legs. These have up to two inches of adjustability on all points of contact.
This kit was designed in collaboration with Bob Wells from Cheap RV Living and his nonprofit the Homes On Wheels Alliance.
The kit is very easy to assemble and comes with all the components you need to assemble it. All you need to build it and install it is a screwdriver. If you prefer, the Camp N Car team can assemble it for you in their shop in Port Townsend Washington for an extra $500.
CampNCar delivers to the lower 48 for free. The kits are made to order; the lead time at the time of writing is five to eight days.
Do you just need a double bed in which to sleep on weekends away? Check out this cheap universal platform made out of aluminum by Compass Camper. The bed is lined with rugged waterproof indoor-outdoor carpet upholstery, so you won’t need to add a very thick mattress on top.
There’s no furniture or drawers; however, you can organize the storage space under the bed by boxes. If you like, you can ask for a split bed extension, which divides the platform in two and allows you to have a back seat raised when you only need one side of the bed.
The aluminum framing comes partially assembled with a 5/32” Allen key for assembly. To attach the camper to the vehicle’s trunk space, use the four turnbuckles.
The lead time for this rig is usually around 12 weeks – it’s very popular because it’s cheap and minimalistic.
Honda Element Platform Bed Frame on Etsy
A product engineer in Denver, CO saw the demand for Honda Element camper conversion kits and designed a platform bed that can be assembled in only 5 minutes with no tools!
He’s selling them on Etsy, and is shipping them out in batches due to the high demand for the product.
Made from Baltic Birch plywood, he’s designed it with a slot-and-hook design to make assembly easy for anyone, regardless of your carpentry skills.
Designed with functionality in mind, it has an extendible bed frame, hinged storage hatches you can access from inside the vehicle, and space allocated for popular brands of camping fridges/freezers.
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.
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.