The VW Swamper look is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. A Swamper is a more aggressive look for your VW Transporter. Generally, you’re trying to make the van look more rugged and mean and use it for more extensive, muddier adventures!
What is a Swamper Van?
People who convert their van into a Swamper usually use it more adventurously. Oversized, chunky, all-terrain tyres are a must when looking for the Swamper look. Ideal for your T6 Swamper!
We like to think of it as converting your Transporter into a Land Rover Defender.
How to achieve the Swamper look
We’ve put together your swamper shopping list. You’ll need the following to nail the swamper look:
- 4-motion Volkswagen Transporter
- Swamper Alloys
- Roof racks
- Wheel arch covers
- Solar panels
- Aluminum engine guards
- Rear skid plate
- Bike racks with heavy-duty gas struts
- Lifted suspension: Either with Coilovers, Springs or Air Suspension
Sometimes these two get mixed up. But they're very different. Overlanders are vehicles that have been modified for serious adventures only. If you're looking for something more hardcore, check out our guide on Overlanders.
For larger vehicles like the VW Crafter and the MAN TGE, consider installing Side Flares to add extra space to your conversion.
Swamper Base Vehicle
Swampers can be made out of most base vehicles. To be a true Swamper conversion, you need to purchase a 4-motion base vehicle or have some 4x4 functionality.
We’ve seen fantastic Transit Custom Swampers. However, overall we recommend the T6.1 4motion. It has a fantastic 4x4 drive option and is ideal for overland adventures! You’re able to convert any of the VW range into a unique Swamper conversion:
For a VW Caddy Swamper or a VW Crafter Swamper, you can also buy a 4-motion base vehicle straight from VW. This is ideal for doing your Swamper mods!
We've noticed a real trend towards the MAN TGE panel vans. They come in 4motion and could be a great base vehicle for a Swamper conversion. A great alternative to the Volkswagen brand and well worth looking into.
The rear differential lock can be used if the terrain gets hardcore. Meaning the rear wheels of the van will keep driving you forward. Even when you’re off-road and on dirty and rugged tracks.
Check out one of our previous adventure ready Swamper upgrade projects.
Swamper Alloy Wheels
A VW Swamper needs a very particular alloy. It would be best to have something durable without worrying about looking mint. You don’t want shiny, easily scratched rims. You’ll want a raised stance to give greater ground clearance.
We recommend the BF Goodrich All Terrain tyre to go with your VW Swamper Alloy Wheels. Tough rubber means you don’t need to worry about sidewall punctures, even on the most challenging terrain. They also look wicked! You might want to look for packages including Swamper Wheels and Tyres. This will mean you get a suitable kit.
Check out our full range of VW Transporter Swamper Wheels with BF Goodrich tyres.
Lifted Suspension for your Swamper
You'll want to raise the suspension if you plan to go off-road with your VW Transporter Swamper. To do this, we use the Desert Lift Kit from Seikel. This can give you a lift that’s around 30mm to 60mm. You notice the extra clearance based on our experience taking VW Transporter on 4wd drive tracks. The handling is heaps better both off-road and on the tarmac.
Depending on the weight of your van, you’ll get a different lift. For example, a campervan will weigh much more than an empty panel van. So keep this in mind when shopping for suspension lift kits.
You might want to consider Air Suspension. VB Air Suspension is an aftermarket upgrade for campervans that uses air springs to absorb shocks, resulting in a smoother and more comfortable ride, improved handling and stability on rough terrain, and increased load-carrying capacity, with adjustable ride height options to suit your needs.
Ideal for Swampers as you can adjust the ride height as and when you need to.
Swamper Light Upgrades
Light upgrades are a total must for your VW Swamper. These are usually mounted on the top of your van or the front grille. They add to that aggressive Swamper look. You need to be able to rely on high-performance lighting when travelling during the night, especially if you're planning an off-road adventure.
We love Lazer Lamps. They are manufactured in the UK and produce very cool-looking lighting for the VW Transporter. Make sure whatever you choose is road legal and made for heavy-duty use.
Fitting a snorkel to your van is a pretty cool kit to add to your Transporter.
Your engine sucks in air; if you go through deep water, it will get sucked in through the air intake. It’s called a snorkel because it extends your air intake above the van to the top of the snorkel. Which means you can drive through a greater depth of water.
A snorkel is a permanent piece of kit you’re installing. If you wanted to remove it, you would have to have the pillar filled and repainted. You have to cut holes in the front wing and then drill two holes for the top mount in the A-pillar, which you don’t want to do.
As you know, the space in the Transporter can be limited. Roof racks are an essential part of your Swamper build. For an expedition swamper, you’ll want to take kit with you. For example, paddle-boards, kayaks, tents, additional tyres, power systems etc.
There are roof racks that are made for a Transporter that has a pop-top roof. You need to check out the load capacity of your roof to ensure you don’t overload it. You might want to use your roof rack to store your tread boars, an essential part of your off-road kit.
For a roof rack where you can keep the items on the roof when raising your pop-top, Wildworx recommends the Karitek System.
A Swamper makes a great Campervan Conversion. Better ground clearance and more durability mean lots more adventures. These off-road campers are great for getting off-grid and muddy.
A swamper campervan needs to be entirely off-grid. This means you need a leisure battery system, an inverter and solar. You can survive fully without being plugged into mains (240v) electricity.
You’ll need expedition-worthy kit to survive (in a bit of luxury) while on these adventures. Excellent leisure systems are a total must. You need to be able to rely on your power when you’re off-grid. Understanding the voltage and drawer on your different appliances is essential. Making sure you don’t overload your batteries. Your fridge is going to be one of your biggest power drains.
Take into account your diesel heating system. Ensure you have enough fuel and power in your leisure system to get the system. You will still need good carpet lining and insulation to keep you warm. And a solid Campervan Mattress to make things comfortable.
Solar panels are a must to top up your power on the road. Fitting a permanent solar panel to the roof of your campervan is a great way to top up your leisure battery system. Ensure you have a suitable MPPT Controller to convert the power to your batteries.
If your campervan conversion has underslung tanks, you must consider these when going on your off-road adventures. The last thing you want is to damage your LPG gas tank bottoming out your van!
Swampers can have all the usual campervan upgrades. Add awning rails and wind out awnings. Just ensure they have been fitted by a professional so you know they're installed correctly! Install table kits, blinds and a campervan fridge to bring luxury to the road!
Add a bike rack to the rear of your van. Bikes are a great way of exploring the local area without having to take down camp. With the ability to easily transport bikes, you can access areas that would otherwise be inaccessible and experience more of what the great outdoors offers.
To Swamper or Not to Swamper
The most important thing is to decide what you want your VW Swamper van for. Do you want the Swamper look, or do you want to go off-roading in the van?
If you want to go off-roading, you’ll need to consider a few technical elements with the tyres and alloy set-up. You will also need to protect your chassis and underslung tanks. As well as raise the vehicle to give better ground clearance.
But if you want to get the Swamper look, don’t worry about it! Ultimately, does it matter? How many 4x4 Land Rovers have never seen a lick of mud?!
VW Swamper For Sale (UK)
When buying an off-the-peg Volkswagen Swamper, you need to remember what you plan on using the van for. If it’s just to look awesome, then great! If you want to take it off-road, you must ensure it's a 4-motion base vehicle with sufficient modifications to protect the chassis.
It depends on what you’re looking for - there is nothing wrong with a 2-wheel drive adventure van! You see many VW T6 “Swampers” for sale built on standard VWs without lifting or chassis protection. They look the part but won’t last long off-road.
More grip and extra clearance will give you confidence on tracks and across campsites, which is usually enough for most people. Especially in the winter or on European trips.