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Aluminum Vs. Wood For Camper Van Builds

When you start researching your camper van conversion options, you may notice that our builds look a bit different than most vans you see on Instagram, Pinterest, or anywhere else on the internet and there's a reason for that.

Why do we utilize aluminum?

The answer to this question is multi-layered, and it showcases our strengths as engineers, van-builders, outdoor enthusiasts, and thought-leaders in the industry.

Durable Campervan Adventure Rigs from Off Highway Van

1. Overall Weight

Aluminum is utilized across many different industries for its lightweight properties including the aerospace industry, the outdoor industry, and the automotive industry. These industries primarily use aluminum because the material can achieve so much while remaining extremely lightweight.

Why It Matters

In your camper van build, this means that we can build out a van that achieves everything a wood built van achieves in a package that puts less overall strain on the transmission, motor, suspension, and chassis of the vehicle. We typically see our camper van builds come in over 1,000lbs lighter than many of our competitors.

This weight reduction helps to maximize the performance of the Dark Star Offroad lift kits and suspension we install on the vans, as well as assisting with fuel efficiency; something all road and off-road warriors can all agree on is a welcomed benefit.

Engineering for Campervan Adventure Rigs from Off Highway Van

2. Fabrication Quality Control

While we do love woodworking and appreciate its beauty (See our countertops and cabinet door covers), we find it far easier to both work with and control the quality of aluminum in our camper van builds.  

The bends and elaborate shapes used in our builds to maximize space needed throughout the van are also more easily achieved with aluminum. Similarly, we can add unique features that might not be possible with wood.

Space + Strength of Aluminum

3. More Space & More Strength

Wood is a great material for many different applications. To achieve a certain strength, however, it has to get thicker, and the fasteners or screws utilized to hold it together must match that increase in thickness and weight. All in all, this means your total volume of storage area decreases compared to an aluminum interior build out.

While it may seem small, these incremental differences in cabinetry, wall panels, and kitchen galleys make up huge amounts of room when applied to the inside of a van where space is already at a premium.

With aluminum, we’re also able to achieve a thinner wall inside of your cabinets and wall panels, and even share walls of adjoining cabinets again avoiding the use of unseen screws or fasteners. This means less total weight in your van, and more overall space for your gear.

Gear Hauling Adventure Rigs from Off Highway Van

4. Longevity & Durability

To withstand the rigors of thousands of hours of travel and vibration makes it an incredible building material. At OHV, we utilize 5000 series aluminum throughout the van.

This type of aluminum is more resistant to vibration, corrosion, and heat. This makes it ideal in camper vans, and particularly off-road adventure vans where it’s subjected to vibration from gravel roads and trails, as well as the salt, snow, sand, and dirt that gets tracked into the van from your outdoor pursuits that you love.

OHV adventure vans in turn become a true base camp capable of taking abuse. We're so confident in our aluminum build structure, that we back it up with a lifetime warranty!

5. Noise Reduction

No highway or interstate is perfect - and backcountry gravel roads even less so.

Your van is subjected to a lot of vibration. In these instances, wood of any type squeaks. There’s no denying those squeaks can become annoying and over time, downright irritating.

With aluminum, we reduce the instances of those squeaks and can mitigate places where friction areas occur during the engineering process that could potentially create unwanted noise during your adventures.

Overall - There’s a lot of reasons why we use Aluminum. Within a van, it’s a force-multiplier of benefits in use. All in all, it equals a better camper van build that’s ready for wilderness exploration, and that’s why it’s an important OHV build element.


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