The dream of many people: go on a journey of discovery with your own, self-converted camping van and do it as spontaneously, independently, and individually as possible. The keyword here is van life, which is becoming a trend, especially among young people. Not least because it makes traveling sustainable and yet individual.
The mini campers are mostly made from used commercial vehicles that are converted with great attention to detail. In the end, they resemble a mobile home but are more compact, maneuverable, and all-terrain. In this article, you will find out what needs to be considered when customizing your camper. There are also great camper expansion ideas.
Another advantage is when you convert your own van into a camper van, you can save a lot of money by converting the van exactly how you want it and adding exactly the features you need.
Many self-converted camper vans are almost as comfortable as a camping trailer. Because here you can determine exactly which materials are used and which functions and features are installed.
Table of Contents
The dream of a self-built camper
The van life is becoming more and more a trend and with it the topic of camper expansion. Last but not least, this is also due to the fact that independent travel has received a special status. What could be better than a mobile home that you can use to shield yourself from the outside world even on vacation?
Vanlife is a trend that seems to be growing in popularity. Once it was the surfers who dealt with the camper expansion because they are dependent on being self-sufficient. Exactly where the best waves are. In the meantime, van life has basically become a popular form of vacation, especially among younger people.
Many people don’t even want to buy a large RV or camping trailer. Many people simply want to implement their own ideas.
With a used van and some creativity and time, that’s not a problem for most people. There are also many handy guides on the internet that can help you turn your ideas into reality.
But if you are not that creative, I can recommend >this book< to you. There you will find many different ideas and practical instructions for converting your van.
A few important considerations first
There is no question that the vehicle interior of a campervan is a big dream that, if everything goes well, is rewarded with a great result. However, it should be made clear beforehand that this is a long-term project. The time required to remove a van is often underestimated.
Count on at least 150 working hours here, this also applies to professionals. Absolute beginners should double or triple the whole thing. In principle, this is not a problem, because long-term projects are the most fun anyway. The time investment should just be planned. Also consider whether you have enough time to expand the van in addition to work, studies, training, or family without getting too stressed.
Especially if you don’t have much experience with the necessary machines or materials, the conversion will definitely be delayed. You will succeed, but you still have to keep in mind that you need more time than is given in the various instructions on the internet or in the books.
Another important point is the cost. Of course, these are significantly lower compared to the purchase price for a finished vehicle, but of course not equal to zero. Here, too, it pays to plan carefully.
The best way to do this is to set a budget and plan for spending. Also, think carefully about what kind of vehicle you want to buy and expand. Anyone traveling with children or friends needs more space and, of course, a second seat in the campervan.
It is not possible to retrofit additional seating options in every vehicle at a later date. The electrics also need to be considered when converting the vehicle, this applies to the charging capacity of the battery as well as the performance of the solar system and more.
Convert your campervan yourself – let’s get started
On average, full-time employees invest two full days a week in the campervan conversion. That would mean that you are busy with the expansion for the next six months. In addition, you should seek professional advice for two to three hours, because it takes a certain amount of knowledge and experience to convert a van yourself. The following points therefore only serve as a guide for the interior design of the vehicle.
Here campers have the choice of insulation with “Foam Insulation Shield” or “Self Adhesive Cork“, with the first method clearly winning. Here the walls, floor, and ceiling are insulated across the board with Foam Insulation Shield.
This is an insulating layer that provides very good protection against cold and noise. Another insulation option is with cork sheets. The cork panels have the advantage that they are a bit cheaper and are already self-adhesive.
If you want to expand your campervan yourself, you usually come to the conclusion that windows have to be retrofitted. After all, you want to have daylight in the bus and of course also ensure a supply of fresh air. In addition, the windows make the mini camper look bigger and the interior no longer looks so stocky.
You can usually install a small skylight yourself, but larger windows require professional skills. If you also want to cook in the van, you definitely need at least one window to ensure sufficient ventilation when cooking. A window is also a must-have for the sometimes very warm summer nights.
One window each in the wing doors plus a side window in the sliding door. The air can circulate so well and at night, together with the windows in the driver’s compartment, a draft can be provided.
Expanding a van also means taking care of a suitable electrical concept. After all, you want to be mobile and well taken care of when you are out and about. However, the concept must be planned individually, there is not really a universally valid for all campers. Rather, the electrics must be specially adapted to the setup and to the travel behavior or the needs of the campers. To do this, you can ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you only travel in summer or also in autumn and winter?
- Which electrical devices are included?
- Do you stay mostly on campsites or do you prefer to travel independently?
If you tend to be on the road in the summer months, have hardly any energy-guzzling consumers on board and are not self-sufficient all the time, you can rely on a simple and cheaper method for the electrical system.
When running cables in the van, installing and connecting solar panels, or working on the electrical system, you should always think about safety. If you’re not very knowledgeable about electrics, you should let a pro run the cables and connect the appliances!
The vehicle equipment
There is usually not too much space in a van, so only the most necessary pieces of furniture can end up here. The most important thing is a bed to get a good night’s sleep. A small kitchen or kitchenette is also included in order to be able to cater for yourself. A table with chairs or a bench can be installed on other furniture, as well as a camping cupboard to store the most important things.
Camping boxes are also very practical and space-saving. One of the most practical camper expansion ideas are swivel brackets for the driving seats. These can improve the sense of space enormously and create additional seating options without taking up valuable space. On the Internet you can find numerous pictures and expansion ideas that have realized exactly this with great fabric covers and accessories.
The water supply
Water management also plays a role if you want to expand your camper yourself. The main issue here is the connection between the number and size of the water canisters and the time that you want to be self-sufficient.
Of course, a large freshwater tank is great in itself, but it also means additional weight. If this volume is then not needed at all, this makes no sense. Therefore, decisions should be made based on necessity.
It is important that the waste water tank holds at least half the capacity of the fresh water tank. More is always better.
Converting your own van into a camping van is incredibly fun. If you convert your own camping van, you can also decide exactly which features the van should have.
You also have full control over the quality of the work and the materials used.
You can plan everything exactly as you need it. So you are not dependent on buying a ready-made campervan.
You can also save a lot of money by converting your own camper van.
But I can recommend you to get help if you are not an expert in electronics or mechanics. Maybe you have an acquaintance or friends who are familiar with it. Otherwise you can also give the camper van to a workshop for the complicated tasks to have this work done.
Especially when it comes to electronics, gas, or important mechanical components, you should rather play it safe.
I can also recommend you to buy a book that can help you to plan and implement certain work.
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