With the van life movement sweeping across the globe, we thought it was time to share our tips on how to DIY your own campervan conversion. Many people are saying goodbye to packing their suitcases once or twice a year, and are taking their holiday on the road. In this article, we will be looking at what the van life is truly like, and our top five tips on how to start your very own campervan conversion to hit the road like many others.
The Van Life Movement
First things first, what is the van life movement? Over the years, we have seen a massive rise in people taking to their campervans, and living out of them. Before, campervans were seen as holiday homes, where many people used to take to the beaches, surfboards in toe, and head to the waves in the summer, or bung their bikes in the back and head to their favourite cycling spot - whereas now, these vehicles are being stripped down and made into homes. After the pandemic, many people have reassessed their priorities and found that having access to the outside world at all times is a must. Residing in a van is one of the best ways to do this, as it's cheaper in the long run, and creates a much more simplistic way of living. People have begun living in vans that come in all makes and models, from weekend holidayers to full-time dwellers. So, how do you get started on your own van build?
1. Set a Budget
When planning out your van life journey, it’s vital that you start with a budget. The van life movement has really taken off due to it being affordable for many in the long run, but in the short term, whilst you are building, this can be an expensive venture. You have so many things to think about - furniture, basic necessities, and that doesn’t even scratch the surface if you are thinking about converting a campervan yourself. First things first, set out in-depth spending parameters for your van conversion, including all the materials you will need, and what you may want to make the space more liveable.
2. Ventilation Is Key
Another important first step is looking at the ventilation of the van. For this, you will need to have a design ready for the interior of the vehicle. Whether you are doing this from scratch or you are looking at pre-designed layouts, you will need to find one that suits your needs. For example, if more than one person is living in this space, it’s important that you think about the airflow, and how much two people breathe! Windows, skylights and general ventilation are one of the first and most important things to decide on early into the campervan conversion process.
We also recommend considering a ventilation system. As well as adding plenty of windows which open for a fresh air supply, a ventilation system will ensure that all the water vapour and heat in the air is removed, and cycled to create a much cleaner experience. A ventilation system also becomes even more important if you are planning to have a shower or toilet on board your van. A shower can clog the surrounding areas with steam and more hot air, so it’s vital that you have a way to drain this moisture from the atmosphere. If not, then you may find it hard to breathe in the vehicle, but also, you are inviting mould, mildew and other bacteria into the space as well.
3. Insulation To Keep You Toasty Warm
As well as fresh air, another must is warmth. Much like a house, insulation for your campervan conversion is a must! Balancing your ventilation and insulation can be difficult, you want to let in enough cool air, whilst also trapping that all-important warmness to keep you toasty throughout winter.
We recommend looking into rubber matting for your van conversion. Not only will this prevent any moisture from being trapped, and prevent any unnecessary drafts from wafting in, but it also keeps any sounds out. This creates a much more comfortable and quiet environment - making you feel right at home!
4. What About Water Storage?
If you are planning to be on the road for a long period of time, you may need to consider where to store your water. Now, we aren’t just talking about the water you drink, but also what you use to bathe with and go to the bathroom. There are two components to consider here - fresh water and wastewater.
Depending on what appliances you will have in the campervan, you will need to ensure you have enough water. For example, if you are living in this space for a long period of time, and have a shower, then you will need a lot more water. This can be done in two ways; by using an external portable container, or fixing internal tanks to your van. Internal tanks are far more convenient, and are one of the most popular options van lifers use! However, you will have to consider where you are going to put these during your build, as they will need to be accessible for cleaning and refilling purposes, but also, out of the way.
For the wastewater, you will also need a plan for where this will go. Many people who live and holiday in their van collect their waste in an external tank and then go to specific locations to dump it once it’s full. We recommend making the pipes to the external tanks accessible as well, in case of any blockages which may need to be fixed on the road.
Finally, you need to think about how long this build is going to take. If you are completing this conversion completely from scratch, it will take you a much longer period of time, than if you were to take inspiration from a pre-designed van. However, many people choose this way, as it means their van is completely personalised to them, and their specific needs. Before embarking on this project, try to give yourself a specified timescale, so you can plan your time accordingly.