Ford Transit Trail: How Vanlife Went From Hashtag to Showrooms

A new vanlife-focused version of the Ford Transit can come ready for adventure straight from the factory.

Evan McCausland | 
Jun 2, 2023 | 3 min read

Ford Transit Trail in white on a dirt roadFord

If you're looking to heed the call of the open road — and occasionally venture slightly off it — with a camper van of your own, the new 2023 Ford Transit Trail, slated to be at dealerships soon, might be a great foundation for a full-on foray into vanlife or simply your next overlanding expedition.

Here's how Ford transformed the Transit from a cargo carrier into a camper van.

The rebirth of vanlife

Two people at a campsite with a Ford Transit Trail next to them, side door openFord

Vehicle-based camping isn't a new phenomenon. It was already old when Germany's Westfalia created a camper version of a Volkswagen transit van in 1951. But the vanlife lifestyle has regained popularity and momentum, particularly over the last few years. That renaissance may have been furthered by the U.S. introduction of European-style full-size vans, including the 2002 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. European automakers weren't the only ones to spot a trend. For the 2015 model year, Ford replaced its U.S.-designed E-Series vans with the current Transit, which offers taller roofs and vaulted ceilings — styling reminiscent of a VW EuroVan. The result is more interior space, a quality that can appeal to both nomadic spirits interested in building a home away from home and also outdoor sports enthusiasts seeking room for their gear. Unsurprisingly, pandemic-fueled wanderlust appears to have amplified this movement: The RV Industry Association noted that wholesale shipments of "van campers" grew 91% year-over-year in 2021.

Ford Transit Trail gives adventurers an upfit-ready van from the factory

Up close look at a Ford Transit Trail tire on top of a large rockFord

Ford didn't ignore this trend. An Adventure Prep Package option for 2021 Transit cargo vans bundled camper-focused features with a 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6, all-wheel drive, a heavy-duty front axle, and privacy glass.

For the 2023 model year, the new Transit Trail trim replaces the Adventure Prep package and includes vanlife-friendly additions such as drillable areas that allow for installation of shelving, cabinets, and beds.

Additionally, Ford jacked the Transit Trail up 3.5 inches and widened its track by about 2.8 inches, compared with the regular model. The Transit Trail is also equipped with 30.5-inch Goodyear all-terrain tires and a 10-speed automatic transmission.

New additions in the Transit Trail's cabin include Ford's latest Sync 4 infotainment system with a 12-inch touchscreen and a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. There are standard swiveling front bucket seats. And if you don't feel like clambering up top to cut sheetmetal to install a fan yourself, an electric roof ventilation option is now a factory-sourced possibility.

How much does the Transit Trail cost?

Person in camping clothes with mug sitting in reversed front seat of Ford Transit TrailFord

Ford says pricing for the Transit Trail starts around $66,000. That's not inexpensive — especially since living the vanlife means you still need to build actual living quarters after you buy the van. Still, the 2023 Transit Trail might be a decent value proposition, considering that a similar Transit is $54,000 and a third-party lift kit can run nearly $4,000 — and that's not counting what it might cost to match the other vanlife-specific tweaks Ford has made.

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Edited by humans.

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Evan McCausland

Car, truck, train, or bus—if a vehicle has wheels, chances are Evan McCausland is interested in it. More importantly, he’s interested in helping others learn more about cars and trucks, especially when it comes time to make a decision on their next vehicle purchase. For nearly two decades, he’s been fortunate to have the opportunity to do just that, writing for major automotive publications, automotive clubs, and automakers alike.