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I am trying to find a used Metris (there are some cheaper 2016s coming available) to convert into a pop top camper van. Are there options that are real must haves that I will be kicking myself for not getting?

I am looking at the cargo (not passenger) van with the liftgate rear door. Likely I would pay GTRV to put in a pop top. I might fit out the rest myself or pay them to, but would want to end up with something like a "westy" style conversion.

I'd like to run solar and have a house battery (lithium would be fun). It would be nice to have the option to charge off shore power or the engine as well. Probably a small electric fridge and probably a gasoline powered heater. Maybe go all electric with induction instead of gas for the stove.

*cruise control - a must

Questionable
*body builder connector
*Cutoff relay for additional battery
*Auxillary Battery - 100 Amp
*Alternator 14V / 190A
*Rear window
*Trailer hitch - why not aftermarket?
*Parametric Special Module - What the heck?
*Heating and Cooling Ducts to Rear Compartment

And likely there are more that might matter that I am missing.


Thank you for your advice!

Pete
 

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I am trying to find a used Metris (there are some cheaper 2016s coming available) to convert into a pop top camper van. Are there options that are real must haves that I will be kicking myself for not getting?

I am looking at the cargo (not passenger) van with the liftgate rear door. Likely I would pay GTRV to put in a pop top. I might fit out the rest myself or pay them to, but would want to end up with something like a "westy" style conversion.

I'd like to run solar and have a house battery (lithium would be fun). It would be nice to have the option to charge off shore power or the engine as well. Probably a small electric fridge and probably a gasoline powered heater. Maybe go all electric with induction instead of gas for the stove.

*cruise control - a must

Questionable
*body builder connector
*Cutoff relay for additional battery
*Auxillary Battery - 100 Amp
*Alternator 14V / 190A
*Rear window
*Trailer hitch - why not aftermarket?
*Parametric Special Module - What the heck?
*Heating and Cooling Ducts to Rear Compartment

And likely there are more that might matter that I am missing.


Thank you for your advice!

Pete
Anything going on the roof I'd confer with the pop top converters first, like the solar. I just installed a Maxxair Deluxe 7500k roof fan in the far back near the rear doors, I don't know if that will effect if I can get a pop top later down the road.
You'll want to make battery 'plural' as in batteries, because a single 90-125Ah unit will not sufficiently cut it for the consumption needs you listed. ESPECIALLY induction. Lithium LIFEPo is great and the battery chemistry the industry is turning to. We're working on becoming a distributor for 12v 100Ah LifePo4 batteries in near future. I'll be doing a lot of comparison and other tips tricks vs AGM counterparts.

I have a cargo van and it will be a work/camper van life double duty build. (Bed, sink, stove all portable)
My personal opinions:
*body builder connector - aka EK1 option. Even with aux batt, it's still physically wired to the START battery...and it just three 12 v multi-amp 'connectors' in the passenger footwell. Hardly convenient when all 12v hookups will be in the rear of the van. I vote NO!
*Cutoff relay for additional battery & *Auxillary Battery - 100 Amp - This will depend on your power consumption needs when dry camping. If you'll be only powering a few phones and ipads over the course of a day or two the factory aux battery should be fine. REMEMBER ALL lead acid batteries should only be discharged to 50% for good life span. The Metris electrical charging system , by design, does NOT charge the start and/or aux battery to 100% (typically 12.8v+ for AGM) so you'll never start off your camping with a full 'house' battery with the factory gear only. Mercedes recommends only ONE additional battery...anything more you'll need some sort of DC-to-DC charging hardware. We're installing a Sterling Power charger made specifically for Regen Braking/VOA vehicles like the Metris. So if you needs require 200Ah +, then I vote NO on the aux batt option.
*Alternator 14V / 190A - This is going to help with your DC charging needs with the appropriate aftermarket hardware for camping if you'll be gulping down lots of Ah's and you'll be on the road moving to different locations. Especially if you have a cargo van optioned out extensively with factory electronics. Vote YES!
*Rear window - This is my first vehicle (and van, for that matter) with no rear windows. At first I was 'must have' but when I thought about the extra security and privacy no rear glass brought I took a unit out for over 1 hour and my Dad (who drove AT&T vans for 20 yrs) said it's no big issue. With the aftermarket 'camper-style' windows coming out... its great to have this option in the future. If you get factory glass on the back or sides, you're pretty much stuck static glass (ie. no fresh air venting). I will say Back up camera and Blind Spot Assist is valuable options to have with no rear glass. Too subjective personally, so not voting either way.
*Trailer hitch - why not aftermarket? - The aftermarket has been lackluster so far from those who have installed. One member here had his bumper melted due to exhaust heating up the hitch and it's going to sit lower than factory option. Technically more important is the features the factory electronic options the factory option brings... like 'trailer sway' ESP stability control and back up camera 'guide lines'. Even if you not towing...one time I wanted to back up into the same exact point to connect to a tent and I put down a piece of white gaffer tape and lined up perfectly on return from the store. Easy peasy. I think its a great investment also for resale value given the Metris significant 5000lb towing capacity. If you can get it/find it, Vote YES!
*Parametric Special Module - What the heck? Not going to go into the specifics. If you read up on it and you still cant figure it out, then you probably don't need it. In laymen's terms, its a way for the Metris ECU 'brain' to communicate with things you add on ( want to activate aftermarket upfitted LED strobe lights when you turn on harzard lights? PSM makes that easy) and vise versa when you want your add-ons to send 'data' to the ECU. For a campervan? Probably vote NO! Though I can think of some 'cool' tricks one could do that make camping out with a 'wow factor'. Only option I wish I could still have as a tech geek.
*Heating and Cooling Ducts to Rear Compartment - One reason many go with the cargo van for campervan conversion is you get a 'clean slate' to work with. This again is a personal call. I dont see it as advantageous for day-long camping. Great insulation job and a roof fan should suffice for most who are truly camping in a van. Vote No!

Not listed: Active Safety Package - well worth the $,$$$ for what you get bundled in.
Hope that helps.
 
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Tolachi- I'm in the process of doing exactly what you're planning. I bought a used 2016 cargo van. It did NOT have the body builder connector, aux battery, PSM module or rear heating ducts. The rear heating ducts are only available on the passenger model.

As with MOWO, I need a bigger battery for my Webasto furnace so the factory aux battery was not worth considering. I too am using a Sterling battery to battery charger. I will be installing a Trojan J185 AGM battery near the driver side rear wheel. I have a solar panel to help charge the aux battery.

I have the rear windows and definitely like them- more light and better visibility when driving.

A factory trailer hitch was a key feature on my shopping list since 2 dealerships and an upfitter told me that an after market hitch was expensive to install and would not have all of the safety features of the factory installed model. The "trailer swap" is what I'm referring to. I was told that the most difficult part about the after market hitch is the electrical harness. There are several threads on after market hitches so you can judge for yourself.

My van also had the active safety package. It does have a lot of good things but I am a bit concerned about the cost of fixing things when they start to break.
 

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- I would have all windows if possible. They will not make you feel depressed in a small van

- factory aux. battery and cutoff-relay are okay if you have very limited consumption (such as a couple of LEDs and water pump etc, and maybe a small compressor fridge if you charge w/ solar or drive a lot), or else you need a bigger one/set. LFP4 is better, but you need to pay extra for BMS, cell balancers, and charger (for high C). I don't think it's a good option unless you need 150-200ah+ (which is the effective rather than nominal AHs), or else AGM should be better. Don't forget the good AGMs can only be discharged to ~50-60% and they need to be ventilated if you put it inside the van
Blue Sea Systems' ACR is way better than the dumb cutoff-relay (it can be a long story about how you will charge your house batteries)

- I will go with factory trailer hitch unless it's not beefy enough for my application (which usually means I'm over what my car can tow)

I will add comfort (sb1 & sb2) and heated (h15 & h16) seats (Metris has NO telescopic steering column). Anything that can improve driving comfort is good to me. Premium safety w/ parktronic (c04) is the must-have for me too. It contains safety and convenient features that other commercial vans don't have. I believe people need it if you choose Mercedes brand, or else a small version of Ram Promaster or Ford Transit might be better if these advanced features are not necessary.

These options are not popular in common cargo version of Metris, but the good news is you can retrofit most of them once you get your van.
 

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One constant I here over and over from those in their first year or two with solar is their misstep in reliance on solar power generation. Unless you live in a part of the country with an abundance of daily sunshine, you should calculate you consumption needs along with solar electric generating...THEN cut those expecations by 25% to HALF.

Probably one thing that is missing in the conversation here is not only your average consumption draw, but also the duration of your dry camping. Heading to the mountains or beach after work on Friday 7pm, sight seeing and arriving back at the campervan around 11pm to dry camp to 8am (9 hours total) before heading back home -vs- a 'typical' camping van weekend warrior where you off-grid for up to 36 hours. The former would give you little if no sunlight for solar charging so you mainly relying on your factory aux battery or aftermarket add-in. As I and others have noted, as far as our testing has shown, the Metris 'smart' alternator and electrical system does not charge either battery to 100%, so that 'overnight' camping is already starting at only a 80% SoC maximum. As far as I see, factory aux battery option was never designed for camper van conversion... more for the small business owner operator to hook up a few 12 volt DC working tools and a 200 watt inverter to charge his tool power packs a couple time over the course on your typical work day. That's far off from running a constant power draw such as a 'small compressor fridge', roof vent fan, heater, and TV. Like many wear & tear items, the effects of constant abuse won't rear it's ugly head until after some time has passed. So while camping trips 1 -9 might get you by unscathed... 10 trips + and a year later that same camping power consumption 'routine' might just leave you short due to battery sulfation. With that said, it's not all doomday outlook because if you can keep to roughly 20-30 Ah usage for your entire camping trip as a worse case scenario then the factory option should suffice and give a a good couple years of service.
 

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@MOWO, good points!

As to supporting a small compressor fridge w/ the factory aux. battery, it depends. It should be doable if that AGM is the true deep cycle AGM, or else it's not. The hybrid or starter AGM battery has thinner lead plates and cannot support the constant discharge as deep cycle one does.

- MP camper's specs mention that its aux. battery is only 12v/80ah, while VW California's is only 72ah (but it has two, AFAIK, the 2nd is mainly to support the parking heater). Both have the top-load built-in refrigerator (w/ ~40l capacity) standard though I don't know if they're Gel or AGM
http://tools.mercedes-benz.co.uk/current/passenger-cars/e-brochures/v-class.pdf

- a small compressor fridge (such as Dometic/Waeco CFX40, which is the biggest I would put in Metris) consumes ~0.74ah/h based on AU's specs sheet. Details are as follows:
"Power consumption Average current draw x running time. Average 0.74 Ah/h (DC 12 V) (@12 V, 5 °C interior, 32 °C ambient temperature)"
5c => ~40F & 32c => ~90F

- Consumption still depends on the env. temp. etc. A ~100ah deep cycle AGM is not enough for hot weather and/or 1+ day boondocking, no matter to mention if you run it in freezer mode.

So, in these years, based on what I found, we, American, don't think 100ah battery is big enough to support a small compressor fridge, while European say yes (I'm talking about the 12v dc powered fridge/freezer rather than 2-way or 3-way gas powered one)

If the factory aux. battery is the same as the chassis battery in Metris, it might not be the true deep cycle AGM that a camper demands. In this case, I would pass it.
 

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I don't put it pass manufacturers to put in the lowest possible battery (keep cost down/maximize profit margin) in these factory and aftermarket campervans. Even in the Class B & C RV you'll see the 'cheapest' inverters and chargers installed just so they can pass the 'self sustain' standard.
Mercedes seems to do the same with their additonal battery factory option. It's available but who is it targeted to. Yes, the aux battery is the same as the starting battery (ie a dual-purpose AGM by Varta) .

That 12v DC fridge , like most in that size I hear run 1-1.2 Ah avg in REAL WORLD instances. Like you said, it really depends on interior, ambient and settings. That is actually one fridge I was looking at.

I think a big part of camping is getting away and relaxing as much as you can. Having to constantly worry and being mindful of every minute use of power consumption due to a limited aux batt reserve sure can take some 'fun' out of dry camping. I don't want to constantly scanning my battery monitor. for the SoC (which is never a true representation anyway) Everyone will have a different look on this, but personally I'm glad to be 'rolling my own' aux batteries and charging system.
 
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