A heartfelt goodbye the day I left out on the open road. The extremely gracious and helpful parents. Couldn't have done it without 'em.
Welcome to the exciting journey of converting a van into a beautiful and functional camper.
I'll be your tour guide today. Please remember to keep your hands, feet and power tools inside the van at all times.
Depending on your budget, vehicle, or just general requirements your experience may differ considerably from what is outlined in the information on this site.
However, there are many tried and true practices most van conversions follow and my hope is you’ll be able to use my journey as a resource throughout the process.
Testing out the new hole in the roof. Drilling the holes that will be used to start the cut with the jigsaw. Slowly and carefully cutting through the roof. You can see tape was used to make a more distinct outline of where to cut. Testing out the new hole in the roof. Drilling the holes that will be used to start the cut with the jigsaw.
Money spent on conversion The empty cargo van was bought for $4k.
New tires and the several repairs needed (that we mostly did ourselves) cost around $3k.
The cost of materials and tools to convert the van ballooned to around $5k.
This made the total cost of the van conversion around $12k.
If I add in the cost of the things I bartered for (fridge and solar) the total would jump to almost $15k.
That’s a lot of money! And definitely more money than I planned on spending.
However, since I saw this project as more of a personal design exercise and fantastic learning opportunity, I felt like I could justify the cost
It took three people (including myself) to secure this plywood to the ceiling.
Designing the van’s layout, There’s a reason most van conversions differ significantly from one another.
Each person and each van has a unique set of requirements.
While I—being a shorter individual—can manage sleeping perpendicular to the walls of the van, taller folks will need a longer bed and thus a different van layout.
I planned on cooking most meals, so I valued a decent amount of space for a stove, refrigerator and pantry.
Others who plan on eating out or eating simpler could use that kitchen space for something else entirely.
Testing different stain colors with various application methods. Collecting the raw bags of plaster lath from the church. There were several more bags I simply couldn't fit into the van
There is one quality that is true of every successful van conversion: space is used efficiently.
There’s not a wasted inch and almost every part of the van should have multiple uses.
In my case, my bed also functions as a couch and my main place of storage.
My kitchen doubles as a desk and a dining area.
Finding ways to combine functions in a multi-purpose way is the key to squeezing the most out of a small space.
Building a camper van is trickier but a helluva lot more affordable. You can either go the cheap, bare-bones route or opt for the nicest amenities around, but I prefer an approach that strikes a balance between the two.
Sometimes the places you want to overnight at aren't RV friendly. If you need to park in urban areas, a stealthy RV van might be your vehicle of choice.
How to Build a Cargo Van Into Your Personal Stealth RV: Buying and Prepping .... Laying out your rough wiring is better done before you install flooring, wall
While the lights were difficult to squeeze into the tiny light shelves that were built, the effect they produce when turned on is fantastic. A subdued, subtle texture that provides more than enough light when needed.
Designing the van’s look and feel I’ve done design work off and on for the better part of 5 years.
This meant I quite enjoyed the challenge of creating a campervan that was unique and incorporated my aesthetic preferences in a meaningful way.
Using Photoshop I combined minimalist Scandinavian design principles with a tiny hint of industrial style to mockup a look that ended up being surprisingly close to what the final product looked like.
Used more stained lath to match the ceiling. You can see some of the individual pieces of lath had to be split into several pieces to take into account the different doors.
Whether your style leans more rustic, more “hippie” or something else entirely, try to imagine what you want your van to look and feel like when it’s all said and done.
Those broad choices will most likely impact the materials you use and the way you use them.