When you type #vanlife into Instagram, 3,504,656 (and counting!) posts reveal transformed vintage vehicles, couples cozied up in sleeping bags, jaw-dropping scenery and epic outdoor adventures.
A profile in The New Yorker last year traced its roots back to 2012 and coined it a "bohemian social-media movement." Since then, the idyllic lifestyle for freedom-chasers has only grown in popularity.
Social media makes the transition from real life to the simple life look way too easy and way too tempting. But lucky for Coloradans, camper van rental companies are popping up across the state, so you can take a vacation in one before making a major life decision. There's also Outdoorsy — the Airbnb of RVs — which has listings in almost every major city.
Few adventures compare to taking a good old Rocky Mountain road trip, so we've rounded up the five best options to try living your best #vanlife without the commitment. Bonus: They're all open year-round, so you can tackle multiple mountains and/or score first tracks on your next ski trip.
Pickup location: Highlands Ranch
The longtime Reykjavík-based outfitter for exploring Iceland on wheels added a stateside outpost in 2017. Signature sayings like "Don't Worry Be Sexy" adorn its inventory of multi-size vans, which are often also emblazoned with hand-painted murals. In addition to arming renters with solid customer service and a long list of supplies, the self-proclaimed "world's craziest camper van rental company" also offers Colorado or multi-state itinerary planning. From $89/day, kukucampers.com
Rocky Mountain Camper Vans
Pickup location: Lakewood
Calling all vintage Volkswagen fans: This husband-and-wife duo took their first vacation together exploring the Big Island of Hawaii in a rental 1986 Vanagon Westfalia. Four years ago, the two started a company of their own to share their passion for VWs and car camping. From Eurovan Full Campers and Weekenders to Tin Tops and Vanagons, their fleet is stocked with all of the essentials needed for life on the road during any season with add-on options, such as a portable hot shower, outdoor grill and bike rack. From $145 per day, rockmountaincampervans.com
Native Camper Vans
Pickup location: RiNo
Memory foam mattress? Check. Potted succulents? Check. French press? Check. Take your adventure up a notch in any one of Native Camper Vans' styled-out, luxury vans. The OG and Smalls, which are more compact in size and more affordable, are also in their rental rotation along with gear extras like an inflatable stand up paddleboard, hammock or GPS device. This tight-knit team of six also has a "Head of Builds" on staff who is available to make your own custom van. From $99 per day, nativecampervans.com
Pickup location: Curtis Park
It's not technically a van, but longtime Denverite Bill Ward was way ahead of the game when he started his adventure mobile company in 2014. Launched as Living Airstream, Ward crisscrossed the country in search of the classic aluminum campers to fully restore for rental and has since amassed an inventory of more than 20 Airstreams with models from as early as 1951 to as new as 2018. And if you don't have a car that can carry the weight, tow vehicle rental options include a Toyota Tundra, Chevy Suburban, GMC Denali or Dodge Ram. Plus, they'll even deliver the vehicle "just about anywhere in the West" if you're located outside of Denver. From $220/day, livingmobilerentals.com
Aspen Custom Vans
Pickup location: Aspen
For adventures in the High Rockies, head for Aspen, where you can pick up "Blue," the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. Equipped with four-wheel drive and powered by solar panels, it's the new company's first rental van, with more vehicles (and an outdoor shower!) on the way. Built out from scratch by Aspen Custom Vans owner Jason Schirato, which he operates with his wife, Kimbo Brown-Schirato, the couple is also implementing a fractional ownership program come winter and takes on custom van projects for clients ready to buy. From $220/day, aspencustomvans.com