How to make a camper van

Written by misty s. bledsoe
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How to make a camper van
Converting a van to camp in does not have to be complicated. (van fano Denmark image by david harding from

The key to successfully making your own camper van is to keep the conversion as cheap and as simple as possible. Determine the budget you are able to work with before you start and think about whether you want to be able to prepare simple meals during your travels. Keeping things simple can help make your van an ideal camper for quick a weekend getaway. Each make and model van will have different dimensions and nooks and crannies that will eventually determine how you set up your sleeping arrangements and store your travel gear. These instructions will give you a good starting point for any make or model van.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Van
  • Broom
  • Crescent wrench
  • Tape measure
  • 6 foot by 6 foot tarp
  • 4 Milk crates
  • ½-inch plywood, 4 foot x 8 foot
  • Hinges (optional)
  • Egg foam toppers
  • Couch cushions (optional)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Pillow
  • Sheet (optional)
  • Plastic tubs (clear), various sizes (optional)
  • 6 to 12 Bungee cords, assorted sizes with metal hooks
  • Ice chest
  • Cutting board, small to medium size
  • Plastic containers, small & water tight
  • Dish detergent
  • Spray bottle
  • Fabric, black, enough to cover windows (optional)

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  1. 1

    Remove the middle seats in the van. Use a crescent wrench to loosen the anchor bolts in the floor. If you are looking to make a more permanent arrangement, remove all of the passenger seating except for the bucket seats up front.

  2. 2

    Sweep the floor clean of all dirt and debris with a broom.

  3. 3

    Spread a 6 foot by 6 foot tarp across the floor of the van to protect the floor while you make your modifications. You can leave it there to protect the floor during your short trips, making cleanup easier upon your return.

  4. 4

    Measure the length and width of the interior of your van and decide which way you want the bed platform to be. If you have enough room, you will want to place the bed so you will be lying across the van.

  5. 5

    Cut the ½-inch plywood wood into two pieces of the same length and width. For example, if you have 72 inches of room for the bed, cut the board 72 inches long, then cut it down the middle so you have two pieces that are 36 inches by 24 inches. To keep things simple, you can have this done at the time you purchase it.

  6. 6

    Place four milk crates in the corners of where you are going to place the bed. If you have to navigate around wheel wells, put the milk crate down the side of the platform so that it does not have the wheel well under it. The crates should be spread a part so that they support the four corners of the bed. Keep in mind, your bed can only be as wide as the van allows. Your measurements will be unique to your situation.

  7. 7

    Put the two sections of plywood on the milk crates so they touch each other and are positioned evenly on the milk crates. If you want to add hinges to the sections, screw those in now, hooking the two sections together. This will allow you to fold half of the bed out of the way if you need more room to move around in the van while you are not sleeping.

  8. 8

    Lay out your egg crate padding or couch cushions on the platform. Arrange your bedding to your preferences.

  9. 9

    Place the ice chest at the foot of the bed or near the rear doors of the van. Secure it down with a bungee cord. You can store the cutting board between the ice chest and the bungee cord so you can reach it easily or store that in a clear tub with the rest of your gear. Be sure to clean the cutting board before and after each use with a drop of dish detergent and a spray bottle full of drinkable water. You can place the cutting board on top of the ice chest while sitting on your bed platform to prepare simple meals while inside your van. Weather permitting, you can prepare the food on the ice chest while standing at the back of your van with the rear doors open.

  10. 10

    Put food you want to store in your ice chest in watertight containers to avoid water getting into your food. Only fill the ice chest halfway with food and beverages so you will have plenty of room for ice.

  11. 11

    Store you travel gear inside the egg crates and clear plastic bins that slide under your bed platform. Secure other travel gear with assorted size bungee cords.

Tips and warnings

  • Keep the seats you removed covered with the 6 foot by 6 foot tarp for protection if you are going to reuse them. Attach black fabric over the windows of your van to protect your privacy while you are sleeping.
  • Never camp in any car park or other area with "No Overnight Parking" signs posted. Do not camp on private property without permission from the landowner.

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