How to Convert a Van to a Mobile Camper

Converting a van for the great outdoors can be a lot cheaper than buying a camper van. And you can customise it just the way you want. There are some basic steps that need to be undertaken when converting the average panel van.

When buying the van, remember you are trying to save money. Compare the price of the fittings and the van itself with a ready made camper van. There is no minimum or maximum budget. If all you want is a bed, seat and a cupboard, it won't cost much at all.

Next, you can put rubber mounted windows in your van. Cut a hole in the van with the jigsaw. Put the rubber onto the metal. Put the window into the rubber. Put the bead into the rubber. Seal it with windscreen sealant. Other types of windows can be installed, but these are the ones recommended by enthusiasts because they're relatively easy.

To insulate and line your van, first remove existing panels from the van. Slot housing insulation behind these, then add polythene and replace the existing panels. You may need new plywood panels for questionable areas and where you need something stronger to bolt the furniture onto.

When you install the heater and electrical system, remember a second 'leisure battery' should be installed either in the engine, or nearby, if you plan on using lights or listening to music in your van. The leisure battery can be charged from the vehicle's alternator and can be used as an alternative main battery should the other one fail. A heater may also be an essential and should be fitted before putting any cupboards or beds in.

You'll need to fit the furniture to your van. Furniture can be custom made, in kit form, or constructed by you - depending on your carpentry skills. You will usually require a bed platform, bench seat, cupboards, a table and a sink and stove.


  1. You might have to reclassify your vehicle with the road authorities to make sure it is legal.
  2. Make sure you fit the electrics, heaters, etc. before the final step of fitting your bed and cupboards as they are very difficult to install once the interior has been kitted out.
  3. Look at how other self-build enthusiasts have achieved their results by checking out at the many blogs on the subject. Their experiences can help you avoid any mishaps and provide inspiration


  1. If you are unsure of your electrical engineering abilities, it is best to get a mechanic or electrician to do the wiring and installation of a second battery and the heater for you.
  2. Ensure you work safely with power tools. Read the instructions and practice before you start carving holes in the side of your van.
  3. Double check your measurements before ordering custom made interior furniture or kits.

Things You'll Need

  • panel van
  • a jigsaw
  • carpentry tools
  • furniture and fittings
  • rubber mounted windows
  • housing insulation
  • polythene (vapour barrier)
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About the Author

Roz McKenzie started working as a journalist in 1997 at National News Press Agency, followed by the News of the World. Areas of expertise include showbiz, crime, courts, culture and travel. Roz also works part time as a journalism and media law lecturer. She has an Honours Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the University of Warwick.