Opening Statement

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Planning a Van Conversion

Planning a Van Conversion

My wife and I have been thinking of doing a van conversion for a few years, and 2021 seems like the year to do it.  I'll use this blog to outline the project, some of my choices, and some of the reasoning behind those choices where I have not seen explanations and data commonly posted by others.

If there was a van "off the shelf" that we could just buy that meets our design points, I think we would probably just do that.  But, as usual, we have some unique preferences and it's an interesting project, so we plan to do a DIY conversion.

Some of the topics that I plan to cover over a series of posts:

  • Programming (space and related use planning)
  • Electrical system (production, storage, uses)
  • Water system (storage, uses, heating)
  • Kitchen (refrigeration, storing food, cooking)
  • Hygiene (toilet, shower, laundry) 
  • Ventilation (moisture, oxygen, odors)
  • Insulation (U vs. R and how much is enough)
Many people like to share their progress week by week, so I'll see if that seems like an interesting approach as we progress.

This will be my fourth time creating a camping van, starting with a Dodge Tradesman conversion that I did in my 20's and lived in for some months, a Dodge Caravan camping retrofit, and a Ford Transit Connect conversion with solar and a refrigerator.  So while I have much to learn in the process, this will also be a design based on a fair amount of experience.


Programming is another way of asking the question:  what will you use the van for, and what will be important for you to be happy.  At a high level here are some use cases that I want to accommodate.

  • Guest bedroom or office (parked at our house).
  • Mobile office for day use away from home, returning in the evening.
  • Bug-out van, with provision for a week or more for 5 people (think wildfires).
  • Picnic day at the beach with family.
  • 5-7 day boondocking or campground without services.
  • 2-5 week trip for sightseeing.
  • Driving across the country with two people.
  • Living in the van "full-time" for 2 people.
An ideal design would meet the maximum demand of each scenario.  So with that in mind, here are some design points:

Driving/Parking:  Easy to drive and park, with "reasonable" gas mileage.

Seating:  comfortable seating for two, and additional seating for 4 with seat belts.

Sleeping:  sleep two comfortably, and have emergency storage option for 3-4 additional people at a minimum (tents and sleeping bags).

Refrigerator:  Keep drinks cold and some fresh produce.  Size is not too critical, maybe 65L or more is adequate.

Cooking:  Electric kettle, microwave, toaster oven, and a hot plate.  Portable grill to use outside.

Heating:  Heat for temperatures down to 20 deg F without being plugged in.

Cooling:  Air Con for temperatures up to 100 deg F without being plugged in.

Toilet:  Yes, with privacy from other interior areas.  Supplies for 50 uses.

Sponge Bath or Shower:  Yes, but showers might be outside and require setup.

Water:  40 gallons total, with at least 20 gallons "built-in."

Ventilation:  Continuous and automatic modes.  Extra for toilet and cooking.

In future posts I'll outline how I plan to address these points and others.

I have a "working design" developed and will provide that soon.  Please share your feedback and suggestions.


  1. I love it Kevin. You are such an inspiration. Fearless, visionary, and infinitely capable. Looking forward to following this story. --chuck

  2. Awesome project. Looking forward to following along!