There’s a little-known existence called “van life” that’s become contagious for those looking to spend more time in nature and reduce their environmental footprint. Van life does wonders for your checkbook, too, as it allows you to bypass hotels and in some cases, camping fees. For a growing number of people, van life has become a full-time activity and they’ve gotten rid of the burden of a mortgage, rent and the other limiting elements that come with owning a home.
Converting a van into a part-time or full-time home is fairly straightforward, but here are some tips to get you started.
Pick a van
A classic Volkswagen Bus is the only choice for van life purists, but these are becoming more and more difficult to find, especially at a reasonable price. Most folks getting into van life today are opting for cargo vans because they’re easy to convert. Try to go the extra mile (pardon the pun) and find one that’s tall enough for you to stand up inside. Overall length is really up to you and what your ultimate design goals are.
Work with a blank canvas
The next step in converting your van into a livable home is to remove all of the old hardware. This includes rear seats, shelving, floor mats, etc. Depending on how rough your project van is to begin with you may also have to remove dirt and rust from the inside of the van.
Design and build your interior
Now comes the fun part–designing and building out the inside of your van. Your first step will be to install floors, walls and ceilings. You don’t have to have these in your van, but it definitely gives it a homier feel. This step will include measuring, cutting and installing wood paneling or plywood. Then you’ll need to think about installing your kitchen, shelving, seating and where you’ll put your bed. You can get really creative here, and there are unlimited photos and YouTube videos about converting vans into campers so spend some time researching what you want to do with yours.
If your camper van design includes a fridge, fan, heater, etc., you’ll need to power all of that equipment and a standard car battery doesn’t have enough juice. You could haul around a bulky generator, but they’re cumbersome and not very stealthy (not to mention not the best for the environment). Most people who are serious about the van life will make the investment and install solar panels on the roofs of their vans. These panels will keep an auxiliary bank of batteries charged up so you can run all of your accessories, worry-free.