It’s been 20 years since Honda launched the Element and 12 years since it ended the model’s production. However, the boxy compact crossover lives on through enthusiasts, some of whom are capitalizing on its spacious design, converting the vehicles into overlanding campers.
This 2008 Honda Element EX AWD goes a bit further than removing the rear seats and adding a mattress. On top of the Element is the Ursa Minor ECamper rooftop tent. It starts at $7,500 and is made of a lightweight composite construction to keep the weight down.
It accommodates a seven-by-four-foot mattress and has low-current interior LED lighting. Gas springs make opening and closing easy, while the zippered screen windows on all four sides allow for panoramic views.
Inside, the owner takes full advantage of the Element’s boxy design. The rear seats are gone, and swivel front seats turn the cavernous area into a living space. Between the front seats is a Fifth Element center console ($795) and a Lagun swivel table ($199), while a wall-mounted cabinet ($2,195), another item from Fifth Element, provides additional storage space.
A large table with additional storage underneath is at the back of the interior space. The lower portion of the Element’s hatch that folds down is home to extra storage space for tools, road flares, and other miscellaneous items. The hitch holds a modified Yakima bike carrier that anchors a table behind the spare tire, creating an easily accessible cooking space.
The 2008 Element EX sold with Honda’s K24A8 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. It made 166 horsepower, but that’s not the engine powering this modded crossover. The owner swapped it with a 2.4-liter K24A2 engine from the first-generation Acura TSX, added a new header, and installed a 2.5-inch exhaust, upping the output to an estimated 225-230 hp.
A roof rack on the rooftop tent holds a 100-watt solar panel, a Pelican V700 case, and a lightweight awning. Chunky Toyo Open Country tires sit at all four corners. The owner also upgraded the suspension and borrowed the brakes from the TSX to improve the crossover’s stopping power, adding stainless steel brake lines.
The Honda Element might not be the largest overlanding vehicle available, but it’s hard to overlook its spacious design wrapped in a reliable Honda package. If adding a rooftop tent to your Element seems too expensive, you could pick up Honda’s OEM tent that attaches to the hatch. You can find it online for around $300 and begin your adventure cheaply.