Van Conversion: Converting A Van Into A Camper

Van conversion. A white 2003 E-250 Ford van parked on the side of a street in a neighborhood. The road is white from the snow. There's also piles of snow on the side of the road.

Converting a 2003 E-250 Ford van into a camper was something I never thought we’d do, however, I’m glad we took the plunge and did a van conversion . . .

. . . But at the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around how we were going to fit a bed, a sink, a booth, a refrigerator, and our composting toilet inside the van.

I was a bit nervous. 😬

One of the first things we did was decide on a floorplan. Kevin drew it out on paper, and we continued to discuss our ideas until we came up with a plan.

We both agreed to not install a hot water heater or a furnace.

The less complicated the better.

If we’re cold we can use Mr. Buddy if we have to. If we want hot water, we’ll do it the old fashion way.

We’ll boil it.

It’s kind of funny because years ago I was adamant about having those things while we embark on this lifestyle, but now I’m indifferent about it. 🤷‍♀️

I guess I like simplicity more than I had thought.

When we started our build, we kept in mind what other van life people have said, which was to not make the build permanent. The reason why is because as you travel, you’re going to discover what works and what doesn’t work.

-So, when you do your van conversion, build in modules because than you can move things around if you want to.

Make the build simple.

A big pine sink cabinet inside the van. This was at the beginning stages. Nothing was hooked up. The sink was away from the wall and gives you a perspective of how big it is compared to normal van sinks, which are tiny.

Kevin did build a big ass sink that I absolutely love, but it takes up a lot of space in the van. Normal van sinks are tiny.

But this allows us to store more water, and in the future, we might be glad we have a huge sink to use.

I’ll letcha know once we’re full-time nomads.

Becki cutting insulation outside.

For the insulation, we used carpet padding and attached it with three-M spray adhesive because it was cheap and very effective. We did do our research on what was the best type of insulation to use and ran into all kinds of different opinions on the subject. It got ridiculous, so we took matters into our own hands, and we’re happy with our decision.

Becki helping install the insulation.
Before and after insulation picture of the inside of the high-roof.
A picture of burlap inside the van by the sink.

Once we were done with the insulation, we had what we thought was a brilliant idea and put burlap on the walls.

It looked cool, but not too long after Kevin discovered that burlap is a fire hazard.

Oops!!!! 🤦🏻

By accident, he almost burned down our van.

Learn from our dumbass mistake and do not use burlap on the walls of your van or RV!!!!

After tearing down all the burlap Kevin installed, we decided to carpet the walls instead of trying to cut plywood in the same shape of the curved walls in the van, which is tricky and a pain in the ass to do.

By no means are we carpenters. I wish we had that skill, but we don’t, so we took that route instead.

Btw, this is a backyard build. We didn’t have a shop or a lot of tools to work with. Kevin basically used a circular saw and Dewalt for our van conversion.

For the ceiling of the van, Kevin put our mandala tapestry up, which looks pretty fucking cool.

Picture shows part of the Fantastic Fan on the van's ceiling. It also shows the big ass pine cabinet about the bed.

We also bought a Fantastic Fan, and Kevin installed it on the roof of the van.

The barn doors are open in the back of the van, showing the wooden bed platform and storage beneath it. Two marine batteries sit on the bottom left, beneath the bed frame.
Picture taken inside the van of a wooden platform in the back next to the barn doors.
Picture of the wooden grooves on the bedframe beneath the mattress.

The bed we decided to put in the back of the van. Kevin made the bedframe and was even mindful about potential mold growing beneath the mattress, so he took care of that problem by adding strips of wood lengthwise to allow airflow under the mattress.

Picture of a white mattress pad beneath the red futon mattress.

It’s a full-size bed with a futon mattress and padding beneath it.

We’re not tall so we can sleep comfortably on the bed, however, I’m wondering once we’re full-time nomads if we’re going to end up moving it the other way so Kevin will have more legroom.

Inside the van, a picture of the bed made with blankets and pillows. The walls have tan carpet on them. Above the bed is a big wooden pine cabinet.
Picture of a thick flip up pine table off the center of the bedframe and two seats opposite of it.

Kevin also built a flip-up table off our bed and two seats, opposite of each other. We now can do our work there, eat our meals, or whatever.

Pretty slick, eh?

Picture of a thick pine flip-up table off the edge of the sink cabinet, towards the passenger's seat.

He also built a flip-up table off the sink, just in case we’ll need more counter space.

When we started this build, I wanted cabinets across the top.

Well, it didn’t work out that way.

Like I said, this is our first van conversion.

We do have a couple of cabinets and some shelf space that Kevin made, and I think he did a pretty damn good job. He also managed to do something that’s considered a gamechanger in van life . . .

Picture taken outside near the passenger's seat of a small stall behind the driver's seat. All made out of pine with a curtain in front.

. . . He built—remember he’s not a carpenter—a tiny room to put our composting toilet in!

Picture of  the composting toilet inside the tiny stall Kevin built.

How cool is that?

Yes, it’s a tight fit, but hey, it works. Now we won’t be reliant on public restrooms or taking a dump in the forest.

Picture of our black Dobinsons fridge that sits beside the booth seat and toilet room. It looks like a miniature deep freezer. It's badass and actually holds a lot of food.

I do love our composting toilet and refrigerator, which runs off of solar.

Picture of 2 solar panels on the van roof.

Speaking of solar, we have two solar panels that work great and powers everything we need.

Picture of batteries and solar controller.

We built our van for off-grid living, and we accomplished it.

We’re totally self-sufficient.

Where there’s a will there’s a way. 💪

I have zero carpentry skills but helped where I could in this build.

Where Kevin lacks in carpentry skills, he excels in the creativity department. So, he meshed the two together, along with my creative input, and this is what we got.

Inside the van. Picture of the mandala on the ceiling, the pine shelf with books stuffed in it, the cabinet above the toilet room, the shelf above the cockpit with branches to hold stuff in. Record covers above it of Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles. Prayers flags on the wall. A pine board is across the van walls near the ceiling with pictures, trinkets, mirror, and other eclectic stuff on it. This would be considered a hippy van, and wait until you hear about the front of it. LOL It's pretty cool.
Van conversion. Inside the van at night with fairy lights on.

The van has an awesome, cool vibe that’s totally us, and we’re digging it.

Remember, we don’t have carpentry skills, we didn’t have a shop to use to convert this van into a camper, and the only tools Kevin mainly used was a circular saw and a Dewalt.

-So, if this is something you’d like to do but are apprehensive about it because you lack the skills to take on a project like this, I say go for it! If we can do it, so can you!

If we could do the van build all over again, would we change anything?

Honestly, we don’t know because we’re not traveling full-time in it yet. We’re still waiting for our house to sell.

But we’ll letcha know once we’re full-time nomads. 😉

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