Living on the road is the ultimate expression of freedom. If you are ready to take this lifestyle, you know what to expect before embarking on your DIY journey.
Choose your van
The type of van you choose will ultimately depend on your budget in terms of the space you need. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
VW Vanagon is a good choice for those who appreciate its cultural status. It is also for those who are practical tinkerers as it can be a little nice. The Sprinter van can be customized and has a high profile which is good if you are tall. It is also reliable, but is also expensive, and parts are not cheap either. Trucks with old schools are for those who are interested in stealth camping, but there is not much space, and it can be difficult to find one with a low mileage. A high top conversion car can be found that is used at a good price, but is difficult to customize and is not stylish either.
Nomadic accommodation does not have to be in a van. It could be an old school bus, an unused ambulance or even a truck. Choose the one that suits your personality and your budget.
Plan and design
This can be difficult when designing a space for ultimate small living space. Plan the layout with regard to the number of people living in it, your height, the desired storage space, whether you want to cook or a place to sit and work (or both,) space for large objects such as bicycles or surfboards, and your window setting . Also, decide if you are comfortable with public bathrooms or bury your own waste and use public showers at state parks or gyms.
There are a lot of common layouts. Choose a comfortable one for you, or customize and design one that suits you better. The new layout should keep the weight evenly distributed. You do not want to place heavy objects such as batteries and water storage on the same side of the van. Also, try to design components to have multiple uses. Being able to turn a dinette into a base support for a queen size bed with storage underneath is a smart way to save valuable space.
Draw your layout on scale on graph paper to work out which components will fit and which ones will need adjustments. Once you have sketched the plan, block the pieces inside the empty van using paint tape. A scrap of wood scrap or cardboard helps determine any problems that need to be addressed before construction begins.
You live off the grid, but you will probably need electricity for a refrigerator to keep your food from ruining or operating your computer if you need to work remotely. You can either build your own solar system or if you have money in your budget and do not have the time (or interest) to set up the installation yourself, you can buy a standalone system. Either way, you will also need to install solar panels on the roof, secure them and pull the cables inside where you are going to connect it all to each other.
Installing the Essentials
Energy-efficient LED lighting will keep the interior lit when you stay up for the night so you do not have to stop the camp light. Insulation on walls, ceilings and floors helps keep you warm in winter, while reflective window coverings give you some relief from the sun by keeping your van cooler during the summer. Use either sheep wool insulation or foam board. Stay away from fiberglass insulation. It may be cheaper, but it does not insulate as well as the other two products, takes up more space and is dangerous particles are released into your breathing space.
A ventilation fan is important for van living. It will keep you cool, provide air circulation that reduces condensation and helps to suck out cooking odor when using your kitchen. You need to cut a hole in the ceiling for the ventilation fan. In addition, the installation is simple.
The refrigerator is a valuable part of the kitchen and gives you freedom from staying for ice for your cooler for a few days. Isn't freedom the whole purpose of this kind of life? Portable refrigerators are sturdy and do not need to remain on a flat surface like a mini fridge. They are also efficient, can run on 12V current or 110V. Unfortunately, they are also expensive, but the convenience may be enough to help you make a decision on this.
Cooking inside will be a pleasure when you work out and can't go outside to cook a meal under the stars. Many people go with propane stoves, but in such a small residential area there is too much at stake. Another option is a stove that uses denatured alcohol for fuel. It is cleaner combustion, emits smaller vapors and is not stored under pressure like propane. The disadvantages are that it does not burn as hot as propane, and it is more difficult to control the flame. Whichever you choose, it is still a good idea to install a CO2 peace of mind detector.
A water pump system is a convenience you cannot do without, especially if you plan to unpack it and leave civilization for a while. Install a good water filter so you can also drink from the tap. A manual pump and faucet can be placed under the sink to wash dishes, hands and vegetables, and they are not that difficult to handle. Or install an electric pump, but running water on demand can lead to waste, which requires more fillings or a larger tank.
Make it comfortable
Use laminate or cork flooring, install a shag mat (if you "feel nostalgic in the 70s") upholstered bench seating, and get cozy bedding, your books, kitchen utensils and emergency kit. Van living is freedom, so make it your own!