Kei Camper Vans

White cat squeezed into a food jar, similar to kei camper vans

Are kei camper vans even a thing? Kei vans are small, no, they're tiny. So, endeavoring to stay out in kei camper vans for awhile seems to be a tall order. Hahaha, "tall". They're only allowed to be 2000mm (6.5 feet) tall, which includes tires, so their interior height is around 4 feet (exactness depends upon the make and model). A six foot male on his knees would still have to bend his neck to be inside one. There's nothing tall about them!

If you are not claustrophobic, and are agile enough to enjoy squishing yourself into tight spaces like a cat in a jar, then read on...

Measurements of Kei Camper Vans

If you're interested in the microvan craze, you should know and understand what their maximum measurements are allowed to be in order to be classed as "kei". As already mentioned, the overall height of one of these babies, (they are in fact baby vans), is allowed to be a maximum of 2,000 millimeters. Their maximum allowable length of 3,400 millimeters (11' 2"), and width of 1,480 millimeters (4' 10") excluding mirrors. They are limited to the broad definition of KEI to have engine displacement of 660 cubic centimeters or less.

kei camper vans are often converted vans like this Daihatsu Atrai.
'92 Daihatsu Atrai candidate for camp conversion (I love the 4 wheel drive)

Camping in a Kei Van

If you had a 4x4 microvan like this, you could overland in the absolute best places where mobility restricts every other vehicle on the planet except a Sherp UTV. You probably could pick up the back end and swing it around to get in sideways to an optimal view spot, after the 4wd got you into the area. Picture THAT!

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Distance, highway speeds, and steep terrain to the camp destination might be a consideration with only a 660cc engine or less and whatever load you intend to carry.

Here's a video of a 5'9" guy's Suzuki Super Carry Campervan (Suzuki Carry = Bedford Rascal in UK). These were factory made this way, it's not a conversion! Now, if you have a popular Acty, Carry, Delica, Hijet or Atrai, or any other kei van, you could cut a roof hole and install a pop up like these factory ones. That would give you more height for sure. Also, you could consider a roof top tent on a roof rack.

Watch the extremely in depth video embedded above and note the "sleep mode" at around 30:36 to see how these are very much a pup tent on wheels. Maybe yours can be more elaborate!

Does a state park limit of two vehicles per camp site apply to these? I mean, you could park six or ten of these in one typical campsite!

Are These Microvans Still Made?

Yes, microvans are still made with kei limitations in place. Importing newer ones to convert into kei camper vans may not be practical for most Canadians and Americans due to vehicle restrictions. You would not be able to license a newer kei van to drive to camp sites. The best bet for a public road worthy one, is to import a 25+ year old one.

Definitely not luxurious, or even comfortable, kei camper vans are uber cozy fun. Converting one of these is an art form - showing up with one at a car show is a conversation piece - owning one is somewhat of an eccentric oddity - camping in one is a yoga workout.

One of these microvans could be very useful, too.

Old Magazine ad in Australia for Daihatsu Hijet ad states you an pick up more women than a Lambo!
Chick magnet? I think NOT!
White cat squeezed into a food jar, similar to kei camper vans
@sidetrackspro in kei camper vans be like cats in jars

Comment about your kei camper van build below...

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  1. I think one of these kei camper vans would be a very cool next project! Maybe not suitable for van dwelling, but super fun to bring out in the wild sometimes, especially the 4×4 kei camper vans.