Do I Need a 4×4 Sprinter Van?

By: Scott Adamson
/ February 28, 2020
If you’re anything like I was, you’ve probably asked yourself this question a million times while researching your upcoming van conversion project.

One of the most-asked questions I receive is: “Do you wish you had a 4×4 Sprinter?”

I know what it’s like to spend hours and hours scouring the internet and looking at all of these amazing off-road travel experiences people are having.

Well, I’d say about 95% of them are using 2 wheel drive vehicles (2WD).

Do I wish I had a 4×4 Sprinter?

Of course! Having a 4×4 Sprinter would be amazing.

Do I need a 4×4 Sprinter?

100% no. I have traveled all over with other friends that have 4×4 Sprinter vans and not a single time have I not been able to get where the 4×4 Sprinters can get.

So Why Get 4×4?

After hearing this, you’re probably wondering what the big appeal is to having a 4×4 Sprinter van. Well, the reasons that I am looking to get a 4×4 Sprinter Van are the following.

Peace Of Mind

For me, one of the biggest reasons that I’m looking at getting a 4×4 Sprinter Van is just for the peace of mind that it provides. Since 90 plus percent of my travel is done solo, just having that little peace of mind and one extra tool in my back pocket would give me some extra confidence to travel places I might think twice about in the 2WD Sprinter van.

Like I said above, I have yet to be limited to where I can get to when riding alongside a 4×4.  In saying that I don’t want you to think that the 2WD can and will go anywhere a 4×4 Sprinter Van will. The 4×4 Sprinter Van is definitely much more capable off-road than its 2WD counterpart. What I am trying to tell you is that 99% of the places you will travel will not require all the capabilities that the 4×4 vehicle has.

My Van has traveled 150,000 KM from coast to coast and from Mexico to the Arctic Ocean. Yes, I’ve gotten stuck here and there. But I have always been able to get myself out and keep the adventure moving forward.

Solo Travel

We kind of touched on this one above, but the fact that I typically travel alone in fairly remote places, having the 4×4 would give me more confidence that I’m prepared for almost anything. Who knows, it may lead me down more adventurous paths that I previously wouldn’t have considered in my 2WD.

You always want to make sure you properly assess all the risks involved in a situation before you move forward and sometimes having the 2WD van ensures I don’t put myself in a compromising situation because I properly assess everything ahead of time.

Ground Clearance

If you are familiar with the Sprinter Vans and their off-road capability you will know that a lot of its limitations come from the overall ground clearance of the vehicle. Having the 4×4 vehicle allows you to use larger tires, getting that sought after additional ground clearance.

In my 2WD drive van, I had the Van Compass 2inch lift and suspension upgrade installed, which allowed me to run a larger 265 / 75 / 16 tire and get an additional almost 2 inches of ground clearance from the factory tire configurations.

If you are in the market for a Sprinter van I highly recommend budgeting for one of the Van Compass systems on your vehicle. The guys at Van Compass are not only amazing to deal with and build some of the highest quality overlanding components around but in my opinion, by adding their suspension upgrades you greatly improve the overall safety of your vehicle and driveability.

From the factory, once the vehicle is converted, the suspension feels considerably underpowered and almost dangerous at times.


Winter Conditions

A lot of people who enter into Vanlife will do it to escape to warmer climates and avoid winter conditions altogether. But for me, I find a good chunk of my winter spent chasing snowstorms. This puts me right in the middle of some of the worst weather and driving conditions you could imagine.

There have certainly been times where having a 4×4 Sprinter would have saved me hours of shoveling.


Cool Factor

If I’m being honest with everyone reading this, the 4×4 Sprinter Van does have a certain cool factor that just makes me smile whenever I see one…


Tips and Tricks to Success with the 2WD Sprinter

So now that you’ve heard my take on the 4×4 vs 2WD Sprinter, let’s get into some tips for successful offroading with a 2WD.

Having the right recovery gear is going to be the difference-maker between being able to get yourself unstuck when you’ve pushed the envelope just a little bit too far.


Having a good shovel is a must. I carry with me a small spade shovel and an avalanche backcountry snow shovel.

Max Trax

Max Trax is a type of traction mat that can save the day when you get your van stuck. Paired with a good shovel you will be impressed with just how well they can get you out of a jam when needed.

Tow Strap

It amazes me just how many people travel around without a tow strap. If you happen to get stuck on the side of the road. Pull out your tow strap, hook it up, and stand on the side of the road. You will be amazed at how much faster people will stop when it appears as though you have done all the hard work ahead of time and all they need to do it stop and pull you out.

Tire Chains

Depending on where and when you travel to certain areas, tire chains may be legally required.

One piece of advice is when you buy your chains, make sure you practice putting them on before venturing out. There are 2 reasons for this.

  • You’ll want to make sure they fit.
  • You’ll want to make sure you know how they work. There is nothing worse than sitting on the side of the road in a snowstorm trying to figure out what the heck you are doing. Trust me I’ve seen this all too many times where people buy snow chains and when the time comes to use them they have no idea what they’re doing.

Air Compressor

I highly recommend traveling with an air compressor. Sometimes just being able to air down your tires will get you unstuck. Just having the ability to air down and air back up can be a game-changer.


Carrying a quality jack is a must, and make sure you check your jack because after doing a full van conversion the factory jacks are typically underpowered to lift the vehicle and therefore require you to purchase a new jack that can safely lift your vehicle.

A technique lots of people use when stuck in snow or sand is to jack up the vehicle and fill in the holes created by the tires, place a traction mat in place set the vehicle down and hopefully drive away.

Tire Patch Kit

A Tire Patch Kit is something that a lot of people probably don’t think about but I’ve had to use mine twice. Funnily enough, neither time was on my vehicle. At the end of the day, if one person in a group is stuck or broken down, it’s the same as the entire group being stuck.

Weight is your Friend

In the 2WD Sprinter Vans, the weight is your friend. These vehicles tend to be on the heavy side with a large portion of the weight placed over the rear tires giving you amazing traction. You will be very surprised that good tires, lots of weight, and a bit of speed can get you through.

Air Down the Tires

Whenever you are about to enter soft sand, or mud even stuck in snow airing down your tires will greatly increase your chances of getting through it. Airing down the tires increases the surface area/width of the tire tread and gives the van the ability to hopefully stay on top of the surface, whereas a fully inflated tire will often cut through the sand, snow, and mud causing it to get stuck.

Good Tires

I saved the best for last but this is probably the most important item to ensure that your 2WD is as capable as you can make it. I use and love the BF Goodrich K02 Tires. I run the 265/75/16 and after my first set lasted 100,000KM I know I needed to get these for my second set. These tires are an absolute beast with a super smooth highway riding tread but aggressive enough to tackle gravel and dirt roads accompanied with a super thick sidewall, making them a safe tire to air down comfortably without risking a sidewall puncture.


Hopefully, that information helped you to better understand the difference between 2WD and 4WD Sprinter Vans. Just to reiterate, the 4×4 is, by no means, a must. Consider it a nice to have.

Have a great day!

Scott Adamson
Wanderful Idea Guy
Coffee drinker, adventure seeker, below average photographer.
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