5 Useful Suggestions for Your Camper Van Conversion, from a Vanlifer

When you’ve got goals of touring and tenting in a photoshoot-worthy campervan, you’re not alone. A number of individuals are impressed by the gorgeous campervan conversions they see on social media. However do you actually need your camper to appear to be one thing out of a list? Or do you merely need to reside and camp comfortably whereas touring?

The fact of changing a van right into a campervan is that every thing you add has the potential to create extra work and extra points while you’re on the highway—to not point out the upfront money and time you’ll want to put in each fancy function you discover on Pinterest.

After I purchased my GMC Vandura and began dwelling in it part-time, simplicity was my focus. I wished to significantly downsize my life, so I didn’t need to fill my van with too many extras.

The Key to a Profitable Campervan Conversion? Hold it Easy.

The “van life” motion is rooted in minimalism. The VW van-dwellers of the 60’s didn’t have Pinterest to supply concepts from. They lived and camped of their camper vans as a technique to escape the confines of too many possessions. And the current resurgence of van-love, now replete with a hashtag (#vanlife), grew in tandem with the tiny home obsession, together with the concept much less is extra. Folks wished to reinvent the “American Dream,” with out costly mortgages and dealing their lives away to pay the payments. They wished to get outdoors extra. Cellular dwelling (together with tiny properties, vans, RVs and many others.) supplied a less complicated model of consolation, together with mobility, freedom, and low-cost dwelling.

inside a camper van conversion

Kelly S. is holding it easy along with her 2002 Chevrolet Specific camper van conversion.

However as this different life-style has became mainstream clickbait, the “minimalism” is typically overshadowed by costly Sprinter van build-outs and elaborate rigs.

Now, don’t get me unsuitable. I like a gorgeously curated inside. I wager you do, too. However the actuality is I don’t have the price range or the time for all of the bells and whistles. And once I’m sleeping at campgrounds, I actually don’t want them. In the event you’re trying to flip your van right into a camper van, you may not have an interest within the fancy build-outs both.

Whether or not you’re parking at campgrounds or boondocking, you don’t need to spend tens of hundreds of {dollars} in changing a van right into a camper van.

Let’s break down the stuff you do want in your easy camper van conversion…

5 Issues to Give attention to for a Less complicated Campervan Conversion

I spoke to some fellow vanlifers — a few of them reside of their vans full-time, others camp of their vans on weekends — to spherical out my very own recommendation on what you want for a easy van conversion.

M personal camper van conversion is a 1986 GMC Vandura. It’s outdated and creaky and barely unreliable, however (more often than not) I adore it, and it’s good for tenting.

gmc camper van conversion

A Mattress

The mattress is the foundational distinction between a van and a campervan. (Associated: after getting a mattress in your van, it’s formally an RV, in accordance with AAA, and also you’ll want their RV protection for those who ever need a tow. I found that on the facet of the freeway in Seattle.)

I’ve seen vans with the backseats eliminated and a mattress thrown in. I’ve even seen a hammock strung up within a van, which could be simply eliminated to maximise dwelling area while you’re not sleeping.

My van got here with a mattress that folds into itself to create a bench seat. It’s much like this one, constructed by @gnomad_home:

However I maintain mine out like a mattress on a regular basis, and discover the mattress works effective for sitting and sometimes engaged on my laptop computer. If I did a camper van conversion myself, I wouldn’t hassle with the fold-up function.

The vanlifers behind Two Wandering Soles constructed a brilliant easy platform mattress at the back of their Chevy, they usually supply detailed directions on learn how to make your personal.

In the case of bedding, I’m an enormous fan of an extreme variety of pillows. And I’m form of in love with my Pendleton wool blanket. However now that the climate is warming up, it’s a lot too sizzling. I like the idea of the Rumpl blanket — it’s made out of sleeping bag materials which stays good and funky, but in addition retains you heat. Plus, my canine’s hair gained’t persist with it, prefer it does with the wool blanket. I don’t have one but, nevertheless it’s on my listing for summertime van tenting.

Energy + Gentle

power in a camper van conversion

There’s one thing particular about being within the van at night time. I drove miles up into the coastal mountains of Oregon to achieve Horse Creek Campground on my first van tenting journey. The darkish tunnel of grime highway was eery, as I drove additional and additional away from civilization. However then I reached the almost empty campground, turned on my assortment of Christmas lights, strung across the van’s ceiling, turned off the headlights, and felt proper at residence.

The factor is, if you wish to do something in your van at night time, you’re going to want gentle. I’ve amassed increasingly Christmas lights, which I plug in to The Lycan Powerbox from Renogy. If I need to learn, I additionally activate somewhat lantern I’ve hanging over the mattress.

inside a camper van conversion

My lights, pc, and fan can all run without delay from The Lycan Powerbox. So I’ve energy for tenting or working in a Starbucks car parking zone (as I’m doing, right here).

I’ve a foldable lantern within the storage compartment over the driving force’s seat in my camper van conversion, so I can see to seek out my garments. And some smaller lights scattered across the van, so there’s all the time one in arm’s attain once I climb in and have to see earlier than I by accident step in my canine’s water bowl.

The UCO Gear Sitka Lantern is one other interesting possibility. The extendable arm can provide you gentle from above, which is very helpful when cooking or studying.

I’m additionally an enormous fan of battery operated twinkle lights. They’re not nice for studying, however they provide my van a comfy vibe for nighttime leisure.

jackson hanging out inside a camper van conversion

My canine, Jackson, likes the twinkle gentle vibe. He doesn’t prefer it once I shine my headlamp in his face to take a photograph.

As a result of you’ll be able to by no means have sufficient choices in relation to your potential to see at midnight, I additionally maintain a headlamp available. Ledlenser Headlamps are a lot brighter than most headlamps I’ve tried. Stick one behind your gallon of water for a makeshift lantern when it’s not in your head.

Fellow van camper Kelly S. additionally retains it easy in relation to lights: “I didn’t need to fiddle with wiring a van, storing an additional battery, determining learn how to cost an additional battery, and many others, so I’ve hooks on the ceiling for battery powered LED lanterns. This manner, they’re transportable too, and you should use them outdoors of the van!”

Econoline-dweller Rachel loves her LED lights for holding issues easy, too: “For lights I’ve an LED strip that plugs into USB and I simply use these little backup cellphone batteries and change them out and cost them via my lighter whereas I’m driving.”

Shelly S. is hooked on LUMINAID. “I get the Cairn subscription field, which is how I acquired the preliminary run of this superior little lantern and have been caught to it ever since.”


Rule quantity #1 with any sort of tenting: Carry extra water than you assume you’ll want. This isn’t exhausting while you’re van tenting — there’s loads of room! However you will have a bunch of choices in relation to water storage.

Kelly S. shares how she sourced her finest van concepts from conventional tent tenting, together with water.

“For water I’ve a 7-gallon aquatainer. In the event you want consuming water? There’s a spout proper there! Coupled with a bath on the ground beneath the cut up, you will have a sink to clean your palms, too! Having it bungee corded in place for transport works nice, after which if you wish to unfold out someplace you cease, you’ll be able to take it out!”

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In the case of water storage, you actually can’t beat the basic huge blue jug. The Reliance Aqua-Tainer 7 Gallon holds loads of water for a summer season weekend of water consuming, dish washing, and the occasional foot rinse after a barefoot stroll across the campground. Simply ensure you have a technique to safe it to the ground while you’re bouncing down grime roads.

As for showers, in case your van is strictly for tenting, then you’ll be able to normally depend on campground loos for bathing — or just embrace the grime when you’re on the market.

If you wish to get somewhat artful, you’ll be able to add a makeshift out of doors bathe to the roof of your van with ABS piping and a hose.

Since I generally spend a number of weeks in my van, I wished to have a spot to clean my face and brush my tooth. I relied on disposable face wipes and health club loos for the primary few months. However then my buddies at Wooden Intimations constructed a stunning sink that’s tremendous easy and appears nice — and it’s been a recreation changer.

sink inside of a camper van conversion

The pump faucet attracts water from a 4 gallon jug beneath the sink, and grey water drains down right into a gap within the van ground, so I don’t need to empty something.

It additionally supplies some a lot wanted counter area, and somewhat shelf for storing these tiny issues that all the time get misplaced within the van, just like the distant to my twinkle lights and my chapstick!


Group is so necessary to your sanity when dwelling or tenting in a camper van conversion. Even for those who’re a minimalist guru who wears one outfit and lives off protein bars, you’re going to handle to gather extra stuff than you assume.

And in case your lighting isn’t nice, it’s going to be much more tough to seek out that stuff.

Staying organized will make you are feeling like you will have a deal with on the entire #vanlife factor. Group could be so simple as just a few plastic bins that may slide beneath your mattress. Simply ensure you know precisely what you’re storing in every of them. (Clear storage containers are ideally suited so you’ll be able to see what’s in there while you inevitably neglect.)

Shelly S. camps in her 4Runner. “It’s not a van, however the identical ideas apply,” she tells me. Group is necessary for her, too. “Mountainsmith has some good storage cubes — gentle sided and stuffable. That being mentioned, you are able to do about the identical with these free fabric buying totes, saved in both a cardboard field or a plastic bin.”

Leah W. recommends as few belongings as potential for staying organized. “My largest advice is absolutely paring issues right down to what you NEED. I had one set of primary utensils, one pot, plate, and bowl, a one burner range, and many others. A small toiletry bag, one duffel bag of summer season clothes, one duffel bag of winter clothes.” She agrees with Shelly about utilizing baggage for group. “Whereas most individuals are followers of making containers for group, we discovered that sturdy-ish baggage labored finest.”

I went to the Container Retailer and acquired a few gentle containers with connected lids. As a result of the construction of the containers is cloth, they’re simple to stay into locations the place they barely match, just like the storage space above the driving force and passenger seats of my GMC Vandura.

Hooks have additionally been a sanity saver for me in my generally not so organized camper van conversion. I maintain a jacket and a few shirts that I don’t need to be all wrinkly, hanging on a hook by the door. I all the time know the place they’re, and I can attain further layers if I get chilly at night time. I even have a hook for my headlamp, as a result of that’s one thing that all the time will get misplaced.

In the case of meals storage, you’ll want to consider uninvited home guests.

“Retailer your meals in closed containers or bins, ” advises Leah W. “We began our journey with our meals in an open crate, and rapidly had mouse buddies additionally having fun with our snacks.”

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