How Do Up a Van as a Camper

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In efforts to save money and maximise space, some hobbyists or travellers convert vans into minicampers. This makes travel to your favourite campsites or remote locations a much simpler process. Plan your van "conversion" by choosing a vehicle and then deciding how elaborate you want your camper to become.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Conversion, high-top or extended-back van
  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Screwdrivers
  • Drill
  • Nails and screws
  • Plywood
  • 2- and 3-drawer plastic storage units
  • Stainless-steel bowl
  • Drainpipe (sink)
  • Plumber's epoxy
  • Potable water
  • Bungee cords
  • Camper stove (kerosene or propane)
  • Mattress or air bed & pump
  • Carpet

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  1. 1

    Strip down the rear interior of the van, removing everything behind the driver's and passenger's seats while leaving those seats intact. Measure the interior dimensions of the van---floor to ceiling, wall to wall, windows and window wells. Remember the differences in the wheel well areas. Note any other curves or non-straight measurements that will affect building.

  2. 2

    Plan your camper elements to doubly utilise tight space where every inch counts. Research how much electricity or battery power they will require. Install wiring for AC units if you plan to use camper hookups at campgrounds, and DC battery units as backup electricity.

  3. 3

    Cut a plywood base for the kitchen, and rivet it to the van floor. Put 3 to 4 plastic 2-drawer storage units on top and attach vertical legs fitting tightly with the storage drawers. Measure the countertop, with the space for the sink fitting over one of the top drawers. Cut out the sinkhole before screwing the countertop to the 4 vertical legs. Cut a hole to match the drain size in the top of the plastic storage drawer. Install the sink unit, and epoxy the pieces to prevent leaks. Affix your camping stove to the countertop, or store it in a stable location with the propane or kerosene tanks secured separately.

  4. 4

    Repeat the same process with the bed frame, either installing it front to back or if, the van is wide enough, side to side. Rivet a plywood base to the floor. Bolt the plastic storage units onto the plywood base. Attach vertical legs (2-by-4s), and secure the top to the legs. Place the mattress on top.

  5. 5

    Install additional items such as tables, closets or bathrooms. If you include a bathroom, make sure you have adequate waste-disposal containers such as a portable toilet lined with a garbage bag. Most converters recommend using campground facilities. as creating a toilet becomes too complex for both space and plumbing reasons.

  6. 6

    Install a vent fan, either by cutting a hole in the roof and securing the vent fan there or by creating a plexiglass fan frame and replacing one of the back van windows. Cover the rest of the back windows with translucent plastic window films for privacy. Make privacy curtains to separate the front seats and back living area.

  7. 7

    Carpet the floor with a whole piece of carpet to add a more homelike feel. Review the cabinets, shelves and spac, securing any potential falling hazards with bungee cords to keep them from falling in transit.

Tips and warnings

  • Install the bases, but build higher units (such as the sink counter) outside the van for more "elbow room."
  • Ask 2 or 3 people with various construction skills to help you efficiently build several sections at once.
  • If you lack circuitry skills, hire an electrician or go to a car audio shop to wire a battery box for you.

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