Essential Steps for a Successful Camper Van Conversion
Van life has become more and more popular over the last few years. And while it certainly has its highs and lows, overall, van life is an amazing experience. If you’ve seen van life surge in popularity, you might even be dreaming of purchasing a camper van conversion or transforming your very own. Converting a camper van is one of the most exciting DIY projects you can take on. But it’s also one that requires careful planning from start to finish.
To help make the process easier, we’ve put together the ultimate checklist for your camper van conversion. We’ll guide you through every step of the process to make sure you’re prepared to build your dream van.
Choosing the Right Van for Your Conversion
The first step in your camper van conversion is to find the right van to convert.
There are a variety of options, but there are three main vans that are most commonly converted:
- Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
- Ford Transit
- Ram Promaster
Besides these three main options, less common options include older E-series vans, vintage VW buses, and box trucks.
When deciding which is right for you, there are a few things to consider:
- Budget – Vans can vary from $10,000 to $40,000 or more, depending on the van and its condition.
- Size – A larger van gives you more space but is also a bit harder to drive and park, as well as being more expensive.
- Weight – Every van has a GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating), which is the maximum weight a van can reach. The higher it is, the more you can fit into your van build.
- Maintenance – While Sprinters are great, reliable vans, they’re also the most expensive to service, with relatively few service centers. On the other hand, Transit and Promaster vans are easy and typically affordable to service.
Planning Your Camper Van Conversion
Once you’ve decided on your van, the next step is to plan out your conversion.
You’ll want to plan your van layout carefully. You’ll need to factor in things like how many people will be in the van and exactly what amenities you’ll want to include.
The most typical layouts have the bed in the rear of the van and the kitchen by the door. However, a variety of layouts are available.
There are three main ways to get a layout for your van:
- Make one yourself using resources like Pinterest and YouTube.
- Get a premade layout from sites like Van Life Academy.
- Work with a van conversion company that will handle the layout and build for you
Essential Elements of a Camper Van Conversion
There are a number of essentials that you’ll want to include in your camper van build:
- Proper insulation is essential for comfort in your van build. Without it, your van will be blazing hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter.
- Explore bed solutions that make smart use of space to give everyone a place to sleep.
- A bathroom in your van lets you avoid having to use gyms and rest stops.
- Make sure to include kitchen facilities like a sink, cooktop, and sometimes a fridge or microwave.
- Smart storage solutions can help maximize limited space.
Power and Electricity in Your Camper Van
Unless you’re doing an extremely minimalist van build, you’re going to want a power system. This lets you charge your devices, as well as power electronics like AC, fridges, and more.
The heart of your system is your battery bank. This is a set of batteries (ideally lithium batteries) that stores electricity to power your devices. To go along with the battery bank, you’ll need things like an alternator, generator, breaker, and battery monitor.
The most common source of charge for your batteries is a shore power connection (that is, a connection to the municipal power grid). However, solar power is also a popular option. Your camper van conversion solar power system will consist of solar panels and a solar charge controller in addition to the other parts of your electrical system.
There are a number of things you’ll want to do to keep your camper van conversion safe. That means being safe both on the road and from potential thieves when parked.
It’s smart to have a variety of tools in your van to be ready for anything that might go wrong. These include:
- A jack and wheel wrench for flat tires
- A multimeter for diagnosing electrical problems
- Jumper cables and a battery booster for dead batteries
These are just a few examples. You’ll want to have a full toolkit to be properly prepared.
For protecting your van while parked, there are a number of items that can help you, such as:
- Security cameras
- Wheel locks
- High-quality mechanical locks
- A GPS tracker
You’ll also want to follow safe practices, like:
- Storing valuables in a lockbox
- Parking in secure areas
- Keeping loved ones informed about where you’re going
By following practices like these, you’ll keep yourself and your camper van conversion safe.
Living in a Converted Camper Van
The freedom of van life is fantastic, but life in a van can take some time to adjust to.
One big adjustment is balancing work and life while you work remotely on the road. You’ll want to stick to a consistent schedule and practice self-care and other techniques to make the switch easier.
Another big adjustment is adapting to the reduced space in your camper van conversion. This is especially the case if you want to travel with your pets. Keeping your furry friend happy with the limited space can be challenging, but it’s worth it to have them with you on the road.
If you’re new to van life, embarking on your first van build might be daunting. But there’s no need to worry. With the help of our checklist, the process will be so much easier.
When you do your camper van conversion, you’ll want to:
- Choose the right van.
- Plan your conversion and van layout.
- Include essential elements like a bed and kitchen.
- Build a power system for your van.
- Include safety measures to keep you and your van safe.
- Adjust to life in a camper van.
A camper van conversion isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth it. There’s a lot you’ll learn along the way, and before long, you’ll be a van life pro. Here’s to a life of freedom and adventure in your brand-new camper van conversion!