What To Consider When Building A Camper From A Van

If you like to travel, but shudder at the thought of expensive hotels, you may have considered camping. Camping with a tent and campfire can be largely dependent upon the weather. If you had a camper, you could be self-contained, not dependent on the weather, and boondock at a camp site (or rough it out in the wilderness). If you’re handy, or have a friend who is, you may consider building your own camper/van. Buying a used van, cargo van, or van body saves tons of money – leaving you more to spend on the interior and ”luxuries”.

The following is a brief list and short explanation of some of the things to be considered when converting a used van into the travel trailer of your dreams.

How To Choose Your Van

Height is an essential consideration for some individuals. If, while changing clothes, doing dishes, or cooking, you want to stand tall, you may opt for a high-top cargo van (maximum indoor clearance 81 inches). This accommodates people well over 6 feet tall. It is a popular choice and provides a comfortable operating area for most RV or camping enthusiasts.

And, though it may seem obvious, you want to choose a vehicle with no significant damage or rust; a sound exterior; and low-ish mileage. You’re going to put some serious cash into this so it should be a sound investment.

If You Will Be “Boondocking”…

This means that you can hook up to a power source. Unless you’re really roughing it, this tends to be preferable because it puts less drain on your batteries. You also can give your cooler a rest because you can run your refrigerator, if you have one.

If you will be connecting to a power source, you can use several electrical outlets and a surge protector to take care of appliances. Some avid campers have gone so far as to install solar panels on the top of the van. This is an excellent idea for running appliances and powering internal batteries.

Renovating the Interior

This will mean making the inside of your van far more inhabitable. On the walls, ceiling, and floor, you can use one quarter inch Styrofoam for insulation. The floor will then be covered with plywood and a sheet of vinyl over that to protect from water damage. If there is room, some people choose to doubleinsulate the roof and then cover the walls and ceiling with vinyl as well. Hide your storage areas with curtains.

The Bathroom

Quick cleanup can be accomplished in a camper shower using a gravity powered jug for your water supply. When it comes to the toilet, a low cost, simple port-a-potty should suffice and is easy to empty at home, parks, campgrounds, rest area toilets, or dump stations.

The Kitchen

Though some people prefer to cook out of doors, the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Frame your kitchen shelves with quarter inch plywood. These will house kitchen utensils, pans, plastic bins for pots, water bins, a small refrigerator, microwave, and camp stove. For the sink, you can check out a 15-inch sink basin (or thereabouts) with water system controls that are hand levers.

Sleeping Space

If you’re lucky, a couple of bunks will suffice here. You can build two single size bed frames with 2 x 2 pieces of wood making sure that there is enough room under each one to store plastic bins for your supplies, clothing, etc. Mattresses can be made from 6-inch deep foam with waterproof coverings. (Hint: poke some holes in the underside of the plastic to allow for an air escape.)

Mickey Genuine Parts has used cargo vans and van bodies for sale, as well as used semi-trailers. Check out our inventory today. Feel free to call one of our specialists with any questions you may have about vans, trailers, or the multitude of parts we carry.


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