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Hymer-Aktiv-van-life-reviewIf you are looking to move into a Hymer Aktiv van, or you're looking to do a custom van build, read this post thoroughly and watch the video to find out the things that I like and I dislike after downsizing into my Hymer Aktiv van after owning a Class C RV.

And if you want more how-tos on full-time RVing or traveling around North America, then subscribe to my YouTube channel and hit that notification bell, so you'll be notified every time I upload a video each Thursday.

Do You Still Like Your Hymer Aktiv Camper Van?

So when I first started out RVing, I lived in a Class C RV, it was a Winnebago Spirit. And then, after that first year, I downsized into a what I have now, which is the Hymer Aktiv Class B van.

So I've lived in my Hymer Aktiv Class B van now for about six months, and I feel like I've gotten to know it enough to figure out the things that I really love about it, and the things that I feel like could be improved upon and changed.

So I get this question a lot, it's “Do you still like your Hymer Aktiv camper van?

Do you like the fact that you downsized from a Class C into a Class B?” A lot of times that comes with the question, “Why?” Or, “What do you still like about it?” Or, “What do you not like about it?” Or, “What would you change?”

So the broad answer to that question is yes, I love my van, and I have zero regrets about purchasing this particular Hymer Aktiv camper van, or downsizing into a Class B van from a Class C.

Pros of the Hymer Aktiv and What I Really Like About This Camper Van

So while the Class C probably felt a little bit homier because it had the couch and a full bathroom with a shower and a lot more storage, I didn't mind downsizing into the Class B. It felt like a natural progression and I've really taken on the minimalist attitude of purging things I don't need in order to travel more freely.

1. Freedom and Being Nimble

Downsizing into the Hymer Aktiv did give me that freedom to be able to travel wherever I want and get into regular parking spots – which was a huge plus for me. I don't have to research every place I wanted to go to now and make sure that my RV actually fits into that particular spot.

I don't know if you saw my Lost Coast travel video, but that particular quest drive that I did on the Lost Coast, you could not have done in a regular RV, a Class C or above, or anything above really about 23 feet. I'm at 20 feet, (technically 19 feet 7 inches) and that was even pushing it probably a little bit. It worked out just fine, but I wouldn't have been able to do that in my Class C.

So as you can see, there are certain places that you can and can't go if you're in those larger rigs. You have to decide what is best for you in that particular situation. I'm excited to take Atti (my Hymer Aktiv and short for Attraversiamo) to the East coast this next year. The East coast is so much more compact and it was pretty difficult this last year to maneuver around in my 26 foot Class C RV.

2. Ventilation Through Roof Vent

One of the things I really love about this particular camper van is that it has a roof vent that provides a significant amount of ventilation.

It does have a nightshade that you can pull back as well as a bug screen so you can open the roof vent and keep pesky bugs away while still allowing air flow.  It has a hand crank to open up the roof vent all the way. It, however, doesn't have an automatic rain sensor like the Fantastic Fans so you have to be careful if there will be inclement weather and remember to shut the vent.

Hymer Aktiv Roof Vent

It does provide quite a bit of circulation, especially when you open up some of the other windows and turn on the Fantastic Fan in the bathroom that sucks air through the RV. Another great feature of this roof vent is you can actually climb up on the seats and poke your head through the vent and take a look at your solar panels to see how dirty they are. Mine are very dirty right now being close to the coast.

3. VoltStart System Specific to Hymer Aktiv

Another thing that I really love is the VoltStart system. This actually allows you to turn on your AC when you need it and run it as long as you'd like – well if you have enough gas in the vehicle.

There's a toggle button to the left of the steering wheel to engage the VoltStart system. I like to use the VoltStart system to turn the AC on if I need to make sure it's cool in the RV, so that Lily stays nice and comfortable. The other feature is that VoltStart actually monitors your lithium batteries to make sure that they're completely charged up in case something is drawing a lot of power for it, like the AC, or if you're using your water heater or your furnace on electric. It monitors your battery charge remaining and if it the batteries need to be charged more, VoltStart will turn on your underhood generator in your vehicle to charge those batteries.

4. Large Kitchen Counters Compared to My Previous Winnebago

The other thing that I really love about this space is my kitchen counter tops. It's all flat and flush.

The glass for the stove top and the glass for the sink is flush with the countertop. So it just seems to give you a lot more room when you're trying to prep food, and is much bigger than my Class C RV. The only thing that I think I would want to change about it is the faucet placements. It's kind of in the middle of the counter area and it would be nice if it was actually pushed back just a little, so that you didn't have to knock up against it when you're prepping food.

Hymer Aktiv Kitchen Counters

So other than that one thing, I really love my kitchen countertop space compared to my Class C. Just seems to have a lot more room.

5. Nightshades in Hymer Aktiv are Top Notch

So another item to add to my things that I really like is the fact that it has these great night shades. When you pull the shades down it's pretty dark and you can't see any light coming through those the screen at all.

So it does get nice and dark inside of the van when you have all of the nightshades closed. Coupled with the dark tint of the outside windows, you can see any light inside the van from the outside at night. It gets super dark in the Hymer with all the nightshades down so you can sleep at night.

Hymer Aktiv Night Shades

My Class C van did not have these types of nightshades and instead let a lot of light inside. If you were outside, you could see inside and see shadows in here.

6. More Ventilation with Pop-Out Windows

Another thing I love about this RV is the ventilation from the pop-out windows. You can open up the side window all the way by pushing it out and up. There's an amazing breeze that you can get when it's fully open, especially when you open the sliding door and have the Fantastic Fan on inside. It's astounding how cool you can keep the Hymer Aktiv.

Hymer Aktiv Ventilation Windows

So this is what it looks like from the outside. You can see how popped out it is. I have some friends who have Class B Mercedes Sprinter vans, and they want these windows because theirs only pops out a little bit and doesn't fully extend like the Hymer Aktiv windows. Hymer did a great job on these particular windows.

Now, the back windows, for the bedrooms, don't pop out the same as the living room window. It pops out about 1/4 of the way, but you still get some incredible airflow, especially when you turn the Fantastic Fan on to provide more circulation of air.

7. Ease of Emptying the Cassette Toilet

Another huge plus of the Class B camper van, and in particular to the Hymer brand, because it's so new to North America, is the cassette toilet. The cassette toilet is very easy to dump, and you can empty it in so many different places. It makes it more versatile than dumping than the Class C RV because you don't have all of the hoses and everything that you have to store and connect.

Opening Cassette Toilet Door

And it's just much simpler inside the Class B van, because you can literally just take the cassette to a lot of different places to dump, whether it be pit toilets, regular toilets, inside of rest stops, inside of your typical places like sewer dump stations or RV parks to dump your tanks.

Emptying Cassette Toilet

It just gives you a lot more options when you're emptying your cassette toilet on the road.

Also, if you're interested in learning more about the cassette toilet, I did a video that was specific to just the cassette toilet and how to operate the whole thing, the things I liked and didn't like about it, and going through the process of showing you how to dump it.

8. Hymer Aktiv Truma Combi System

Before owning my Hymer Aktiv van, I had never used a Truma Combi system, and I will tell you that I am in love with it. It has some great features to it that make it high on my list of things I love about the Hymer Aktiv.

One of the things that I really, really love about it is that it's quiet.

So with my Class C RV that I had, when the furnace was on, you could hear it. It was loud.

With the Truma Combi, it's not loud at all. You can hear it a little bit when it kicks on and just because it's quiet doesn't mean that it's inefficient. It's very efficient. It gets nice and toasty in here, especially in the bathroom.

So here are the controls for the Truma Combi system.

Hymer Aktiv Truma Combi

So to turn on the furnace, we click the button when it's toggled to the picture of the RV. You have the option of using propane or electric or a mix. I generally use propane to conserve battery power throughout the date. You can turn the temperature gauge to whatever your desired temperature is and then let it go. It's very quiet when on the low speed. I never need to increase the speed of hot air as it warms up the Hymer Aktiv very quickly.

Now let's turn on the water heater. You also have the option of using propane, electric, or a mix.

The water heater temperature setting gives you an option of Eco, which is slower to heat and gets up to 100 degrees and Hot, which increases the water temperature to 140, or Boost which heats up the fastest to 140 degrees.

I discovered just this morning that you can not operate both the furnace and the water heater on propane IF the water heater is on boost. It shut off the furnace when I selected boost mode. So I instead turned the water heater to electric, on the boost mode, and left the furnace on propane. That worked.

It's nice to have the electric option which I didn't have on the Winnebago!

9. Front Swivel Captain's Chairs

So the next thing that I really, really love about this space is the two swivel chairs in the front. Now, it may seem weird that I love these two chairs, because when it's facing forward, but watch what happens when you turn it around.

Hymer Aktiv Swivel Chairs

Hymer Aktiv Swivel Chairs 2

It opens up the living space now. You have two more chairs for guests, and to be honest, I sit in the driver seat a lot when I'm working. You might also be wondering how comfortable these seats are. Well, it's quite comfortable. I've never had any issues with it being uncomfortable, and I've driven for long periods of time, I've sat in it for long periods of time working, and haven't had any problems whatsoever, or any aches and pains.

Even the bench seats have been nice and comfortable. It's very cushiony an even though it sits straight up like that, I love it.

10. Ease of Urban Camping

So one of the other things that I love about Hymer Aktiv is that, as I was saying earlier, it's very nimble, and it also allows you to stay in urban areas a lot more easily. So I've been in Southern California, in an urban area, for probably about a month now, and have no problems getting around.

Stealth camp if you want, or street park if it's allowed. I do make sure that anytime I am parking or stealth camping, that it is legal. Some people look at stealth camping as parking in places where it's illegal to park and trying to get away with it. Maybe that's the technical definition; I don't know. Stealth camping, to me, is parking in particular areas where you just don't want people to see that you're inside.

So again, I make sure that it's completely legal.

11. Bringing the Outdoors Inside with the Backdoors

The other thing that I love about this is this view, opening up the backdoors to the bedroom area. It's pretty incredible. You can't do this in a Class C like my previous RV.

Hymer Aktiv View from back doors

Hymer Aktiv View from back doors 2

The doors open up pretty wide.

Hymer Aktiv Back Doors Open 3

Hymer Aktiv Back Doors

You can lay in bed, watch the sunset or sunrise. Read. Work. It's just a pretty incredible feature to have especially when you're in a gorgeous area to boondock.

Cons or “Needs Improvement” of the Hymer Aktiv Camper Van

So now let's talk about the things that I don't really like about the Hymer Aktiv, or that I would like to see some improvement upon, whether that mean that I do the improvement myself, or whether Hymer will do an improvement in the future on the Hymer Aktiv vans.

1. Refrigerator is Difficult to Get Into

One of the things I don't like about this Hymer Aktiv van is the refrigerator. It's relatively small, which I knew, but what makes it difficult is this is a galley kitchen, and it's a little bit difficult to get in and out of here. The door opens up to the right requiring you to bend down low to the ground to find your food. It's difficult to see anything on the bottom shelf and in the back.

Hymer Aktiv Fridge

It would have been better to install a refrigerator with sliding drawer like the marine grade Isotherms. My workaround for this was to purchase clear organizers that I can slide in and out of the fridge. It made a huge difference and is much more manageable now.

2. Shower Faucet Poorly Designed for the Bathroom

All right, so now we are in the bathroom, and one of the things that I do not use is the shower feature. The faucet/shower nozzle does not have an on/off switch to keep it on or to keep it off to do a military shower.

It also gets everything very wet in here, so even though it has this curtain that you can move over to protect the back wall it gets everything else wet. The other thing is that it has this little hole in the shower curtain so that you can put the nozzle through it.

Hymer Aktiv Shower

So in order to conserve water, which you have to do when boondocking so you don't run out of water, you have to stick your hand through the shower curtain hole to turn the faucet on and off, and then slide your hand out, pick up the shower head, rinse yourself off, put it back down, slide your hand back into the hole in the curtain, and shut off the water.

There needs to be a shut off valve on the head of the faucet/shower head.

So it's just a really poorly thought out design, especially for people who are full-time RVing and would love to use this as a shower. It also would have been better to have a shower head attachment on the ceiling so you could use the same faucet/shower head to latch to latch at the top or down below.

This is probably something I could do on my own and fix it, but I don't even take showers in here anymore, just because it's been such a pain.

Instead, I bought a gym membership, and I go to the gym, work out, and take a shower or I utilize state parks, recreation centers, or any place that has public showers – even truck stops.

You'd be surprised, that truck stops have some nice showers. Some of them are like spas when you go in there. I even took a picture one time to show everybody what it looks like, the caption was, “Is this a spa, or is this a truck stop?” Guess which one they picked? They thought it was a spa.

3. Hymer Aktiv Ground Clearance – Underhood Generator

All right, so let's talk about ground clearance now. When I bought the Hymer Aktiv van, I knew that it was a bit lower than the Mercedes Sprinter van, which is another popular van when you're looking at Class Bs to do customizations. So I was okay with that. I knew that it was a little bit lower, but I didn't think it was going to be too much of a problem.

However, there's a couple of things that I don't like since I've purchased it.

One of the items is the underhood generator.

Here is the underhood generator with the black covering over it and close to the front bumper.

Hymer Aktiv Underhood Generator

It's so close to the bumper that when you pull forward into a parking space, you can hit curbs with it because it's so low – and yes, I have done that! Unfortunately, nobody at the service department clued me into this when they were doing the walkthrough with me. I only discovered it through other Hymer Aktiv owners.

That is a major disaster waiting to happen. You can bust your underhood generator very easily with the placement in the front like this, even with that cover on it.

You would think that Hymer would put it in a place where it wouldn't obstruct your ability to park and damage the underhood generator.

4. Hymer Aktiv Ground Clearance – Propane Tank

So the other item is the propane tank that is low to the ground. The propane tank lives under the right side of the Hymer Aktiv just behind the sliding step and under the black plastic skirting.

Hymer Aktiv Propane Tank

You can see how low it is to the ground, and the unfortunate part is that the valve with the yellow cover is where you fill up the propane tank. That valve — I don't know if you can tell — is pointing at an angle towards the ground instead of straight out.

So what happens is, when they try to fill the propane tank, their hose attachment is hitting the ground. It's very difficult to fit the propane hose onto the intake valve.

The propane tank issue probably perplexes me the most – well, it may be the underhood generator too. I don't know why Hymer put that valve stem where it's at an angle, because it is tough to get the propane fill nozzle onto it.

I've looked at different ways of trying to fix it, so far I haven't figured out a way to do that. But the only manual way to do it, is to one, hope that when you go to fill up, that the concrete is a little bit on a curve or a slant. The other way to do it is to get some small blocks to roll your wheels up onto so that you're a little bit more elevated.

5. Sliding Screen Door – Love/Hate Relationship

So the next item is a pro and a con and it's a little bit of a love/hate relationship.

It is the screen door. Everybody loves this screen door – including me – but it is tough to open and close. So much so that I don't allow anybody to touch it. I'd rather do it myself because it's so hard to open and close. You have to figure out the right way to do it, and I don't want people to damage it accidentally.

It is nice, and it keeps the bugs out and keeps Lily inside.

Hymer Aktiv Screen Door

You would think the natural, and easy place to open the door is at about waist level, but it's not. You have to slide your hand down towards the ground and push or pull it at the bottom where the plastic glide for the sliding door track is located. Then it opens very easily at that point.

This track, for whatever reason, is just challenging. I don't know why it's just so tricky, but it is, and it's not like you can put lubricant or anything on there to make it easier it's just the way that it's made. So yes, it's a love/hate relationship.

6. Bathroom Sink Placement

So the other item that I could do without is this bathroom sink. You would think it would be alright; it folds up against the wall, it's nice and tidy, organized, right? But every time you want to use it, you have to hit a little lever, and it pops down, and you have a sink.

It's great, except that it's very, very difficult to clean. There's this little trough, if you will, down at the bottom of the sink, and to clean it, you have to remove the whole folding down sink to gain access to the trough.

So I don't use it. I instead opt for the kitchen sink where I brush my teeth and wash my hair and face. If I were to customize this van more, I would not have the shower nor the sink, just a toilet. I most likely would also take down the walls to open up the space some more.

7. USB Plugs Use AC Power Instead of DC Power

Okay, so the next item that I wish were different is the USB plugs. Don't get me wrong; I love having USB plugs. However, you have to turn the inverter on to use it since Hymer connected the USB plugs to AC power rather than DC.

That seems a little weird to me, and maybe it's because in my Class C RV, I had USB plugs on DC power, so I didn't have to turn on the inverter to get power to the USB plugs.

Hymer Aktiv USB AC Outlet

There is a USB right over the dinette table, one under the kitchen counter area, and another USB over the corner by the bed, but it's hidden by part of the mattress. Another thing, they should have done is moved that plug up higher, so that it's higher than the bed frame and the mattress.

8. Awkward Kitchen Table Fold Out

So another thing that I would like to see improvement on is the kitchen table. Now, I like this kitchen table. It was one of the selling features because it can either be a half table or extend to a full table by folding it out.

It's great for when you have guests or using it has a desk and workspace.

Hymer Aktiv Dinette table

The problem is that to extend the table from the folding position; you have to raise the folded part upwards which means that anything you have on the table will fall off unless you move it. I always have my table filled with my hotspot, my weBoost antenna, pens, computer, books, phone, and chargers, so it's a pain to extend it.

Once extended it's nice and large, and I love that about it the table. I wish it actually would extend out from either underneath, or it'd be nice if it slid out and then pushed up so that it's flush with the other side of the table, and then locks in place.

That's really just a minor annoyance with the table, but I use it a lot, and so it's just a small thing that I wish would be different, and something that I might also customize later on.

9. Spare Tire Placement

The last thing that I believe needs improvement is the spare tire placement. If you've been watching my videos, you know that I took my spare tire off and many people gave me condemned for it.  It was a personal preference.

I couldn't get into my back door very easily, which I get into them all the time, so I decided to remove it. I don't even carry one at all.

Now, when I had my Class C RV, it didn't even have a spare tire either, and manufacturers are making RVs, a lot of times, without these spare tires. I do have roadside assistance, so if I ever have an issue, I'll call them, or ask for help if I don't have cell signal somewhere and get somebody out there to help me.

So the whole reason why I took the spare tire off, is because the spare tire was sitting in front of the back, left door and mounted to a secondary hitch. To access the left back door, you had to put the spare into its down position. Well, that thing weighs about 70 pounds and is very heavy and awkward to use.

What would have been nice, is if it had a swing-away hitch so that it could swing-away from the door, and you didn't have to put it in a down position. Now, I have seen some hitches that will attach somehow to these door brackets and bumpers; however, I don't think the bumper on the Hymer Aktiv could accommodate a swing-away hitch.

It would be nice if I could find a hitch mounted swing-away arm for a spare tire.

So you see it's not that I didn't want a spare, it's just that it wasn't very manageable for me. So if I could get that swing-away arm and be able to attach a spare tire again, I would really, really love that. So we'll see what happens with that, and I'll let you know in the future if I do get that swing-away hitch and find one that works for that particular area.

So all of these things that I have shared with you about the things that I really love about my Class B Hymer Aktiv, and the things that I would improve upon, are things that I have discovered in my first six months of owning this Hymer Aktiv van, and downsizing from that Class C to the Class B.

I'll probably do another followup in a year, to show you some of the changes and modifications that I've made, and hopefully, have attached another spare tire.

So now that you know the things that I love and want to improve upon in my van, if you're looking to full-time RV and want to learn some more information about how full-time RV, then we're having an event called the Full-Time Freedom Week, where I'm actually going to teach on solo RVing.

Full-time Freedom Week

I get a lot of questions about solo travel and all of the different concerns that people have about solo RVing. I'll be guest speaking on solo travel along with 30 other RVers who are experts in their field. They'll be talking about all the things that you need to know, from what gear to use, maybe what RV you need to get, helping you discover that, and working full-time on the road, how to remote work, all kinds of topics.

FTFW Speaker ExcerptSo if that's something that you're interested in, get signed up and watch all of those videos at any point in time that you want throughout the year. The Full-Time Freedom Week event is also web-based so that you can watch it from the comfort of your home. But again, you can watch those videos at any point in time after you get signed up and registered for the all-access pass.

So if you liked this post and video, please let me know by sharing it with your family and friends, and commenting below, “I like that van” if you're thinking about buying a van and joining the van life community.

 

Video/Audio/Gear Used

Panasonic Lumix G85 Camera – For most still images and vlogging

Sony Action Cam FDRX3000 – For dash cam and walking/talking video

Joby Gorillapod – Used for holding the cameras as a tripod or mounting to just about anything to capture a shot.

Xenvo Iphone Wide Angle (and Macro) Lens – Clips onto your iPhone did give you a wide angle view of your surroundings.

Ulanzi Metal Smart Phone Cold Shoe Mount – Attaches to a selfie stick, but allows you angle the camera and it has a mount for an external microphone.

AllStays app – Use on phone or desktop for finding gas stations, RV parks, campgrounds, propane, and more on your travel route.

Verizon Data Plan – Best nationwide coverage as of this post while traveling.

weBoost Cell Booster – A must have when traveling full-time especially if you work and are staying in areas outside of cities.

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7 Comments

  1. Annie Wynn

    Hi, Amber, good review of the Hymer!

    I have a Truma Combi in my Alto travel trailer and love it. The Travato FB group wrote a Truma Primer that is the best intro to how to get the most out of the Truma and I highly recommend it (link: https://travato.group/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Truma-Primer.pdf)

    For the shower, two mods to suggest: one is a little on/off switch that screws into the handle of the shower, it really made a huge difference for me. And second, for hanging the showerhead from the ceiling, look for a Command Strip broom holder. See if your showerhead will snap into it (mine does). It can change the whole showering experience to have these two things in place.

    Reply
    • Amber Baldwin

      Annie – Thank you sooo much! I'll look into this information and read-up. Good idea about command strips. Dang I love those things! Can you provide a link for the on/off switch for the handle?

      Reply
  2. Ellen

    I like that van!! I just retired, earlier than I expected for health/stress reasons, and am seriously thinking that I would like to do what you're doing as soon as my last child is out of the house (she's a sophomore). I know I want something like a van due to many of the reasons you cited for switching from the Winnebago to the van. I've already learned a lot from reading your blog, and I only just found it about a week ago. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • Amber Baldwin

      Hey Ellen! Woo hoo “I like that van”! Sorry to hear about the stressors, but glad you listened to your body and did something about it. I left my job for some of the same reasons! Good luck to you and keep me updated! Now go out and have some fun! Live!

      Reply
  3. Ellen

    p.s.–look me up when you come to Montana and I will take you kayaking!

    Reply
  4. Sandy Perley

    Really good and thorough video Amber!

    Reply

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