Best Van for Camper Conversion?
Looking for help for some of your van conversion? We fuel our #vanlife by supporting other's conversions and RV electrical upgrades. You can learn more about our business at RayOutfitted.com
A frequently asked question is why did we pick a Sprinter, and why the 170 WB?
It comes down to personal preference, space requirements, budget & availability.
DIY Campervan Layouts and RV Remodel
Do you want standing room height? - this requires commercial vans or RVs
Remodel RVs/Camper Vans
Skoolies & More
2. Do you want a fixed bed, or a hybrid bed/table layout?
We were very interested in a Ford Transit but realized that we couldn't make everything we wanted fit in a Transit. Our desire for a fixed queen size bed, proper workstation desk and a toilet is a lot to fit into a small van. The largest Ford Transit (available in North America) is roughly the same size as the smallest Sprinter van.
Camper Layout Tips & Suggestions
Another commonly asked question is what software we used to create our layout plans. We didn't use any software, rather buying a dotted paper notebook and making to scale drawings. When we purchased our van, we were on draft 5 of our layout.
DIY Camper Conversion: Major Layout Elements
Throughout your plans, we highly encourage you to consider repair-ability. DO NOT bury electrical wire behind insulation or walls.
The first time we shared a draft of our layout with van lifers, their tip was to maximize open space. They warned us we were giving too much space to a closet when we will be so much happier to be able to have 2 people step into our van with us. Make sure your layout suits your life.
Bed Position & Type
Fixed Bed, Folding Bed
Size of bed - We went with a standard queen. Many do a double or custom size foam mattress to maximize space.
Depending on your height, the direction of your bed is also an option
When we get asked for advice on toilet/shower - we ask about climate. Being Canadian and knowing we will experience freezing temps we didn't want any water tanks outside the van.
There are great videos on people who have build awesome showers in their vans. The “wet bathroom” where your toilet is inside the shower is the most space efficient. The space can double as hanging space for wet gear.
Because we didn't want the complexity of large fresh and grey water tanks - we opted for no shower. Gym membership, truck stops, some campsite & kind friends & family make this easy for us to manage.
We seriously debated installing a toilet or not. You can find many videos of van lifers sharing their experience with and without a toilet.
We ended up going with a composting toilet, as this let us avoid the hassle of black tanks
The composting toilet quickly became a critical part of our build - it offers convenience and comfort. No one really wants to go for a walk at 3am on a chilly morning. Stealth camping and general comfort makes it a van life essential.
Your power plans are a big factor. We decided to go BIG with solar, because of our kitchen and other power needs.
Our build has a 950w tilt-able solar panel and three 200 amp hour AGM batteries. After 12 months on the road with progress in lithum batteries and our experience in cloudy/rainy weather we upgrades to lithum.
You'll find lots of van builds with less (and more) solar and battery banks to suit power needs and budgets. There are companies, including ours, that design and install custom electrical systems.
An early decision in kitchen planning is fuel type. Propane is very common but personally, we wanted to avoid adding more fuel sources to our build. Thus, we have opted for an induction (electric) cooktop.
There are pros and cons to each option:
Work & Hobby Needs
The advantage of converting your own van is that you can tailor it to your needs.
Some things to consider:
Computer/ Work Space
Camera & other tech gear (Ideal to build storage that enables charging in place)