None of what you are about to read would have been possible without my parents, yes I know, obviously they birthed me, however, my passion for living a healthy and active life, my innate curiosity to explore and understand my surroundings, my will to finish what I begin, the strength to not settle for anything other than the best and knowing I was able to achieve anything I put my mind to, were all gifts (ha, and curses sometimes) which my parents Ron, Susan and Ann all helped forge into this crazy little thing I call my mind…and thus 33 years later begins the story of Vanderlust...
2012 was a year of trips for me, something like 25. Wow, that’s a lot of driving, considering I made Tampa, Fl my home with the nearest “hill” 7 hours away…10 hours for a real rock face. That equated to a lot of camping, driving, hotels, planning, packing, unpacking, stuff to get wet (if you own a truck, which I did), theft and inconvenience. Epiphany moment...There has to be a better way...What if I could have all the things I like, love and need with me, all the toys and creature comforts with me all the time? No more planning, pre-packing, packing, un-packing, worrying, theft, car camping, uncomfortable seating arrangements, crappy gas mileage, ice in a cooler and just general inconveniences. This idea was now engrained into my mind, I had discovered my passion, now what?
Start to plan for ideal. Yes, that involves looking for a van on Ebay, Craigslist, etc., but planning for your endlessly customizable mobile house is clutch, you really need to know what you want to do with it before you can decide on the right size. Without a plan, a build it will remain a fantasy, unless you’re really good at winging it. Also, consider buying a van that has already been built out or having a company like Outside Van build a custom van for you.
- What do I want to do with the van?
- Will I live in it full time or part time?
- What lifestyle I want, is this just for fun or will I need work space?
- What activities will I being doing and what gear will I want and need to have with me?
- Do I want to rely on external power or be 100% unplugged?
- How long do I want to be off the grid?
- What creature comforts are important to me?
- Will I want AC or fans for cooling? Heating?
- Stealth or camper like, this relates to both size of vehicle and options to the build.
- How likely is it that I may change my lifestyle choice in the future?
The answers to these questions brought me to the next step, planning for the layout. Without a plan, building out my van would be nothing more than a dream. Consider your passion, your dream and your plan, how will your ideal van be built out?
If planning out your van seems overwhelming and never-ending consider buying a van that has already been built out (Airstream, Sportsmobile or used in general), have a company build one custom for you (Outside Van) or consider the challenge and reward of designing and building your own van side by side with the help of a professional van builder. Here's a few more things to consider...
- Lifestyle…play only or work play combo?
- What sports/activities do you want to be able to do at a moments notice, anywhere?
- Do these activities require off road driving?
- Do you want to rely on external power or be 100% unplugged?
- How long do you want to be off the grid?
- What creature comforts are important to you?
- Hot or cold climate?
- Stealth or camper like?..this relates to both size of vehicle and options to the build.
- Might your current state of desire change at some point?
These are the main points that will guide you through the next step, van size & layout. I strongly suggest experiencing as many vans as you are able to at this point. This will help you visualize and feel what yours could look be like. Consider the different size vans in length, width & height. Cross exam with your essentials list. Then draw it out to scale, placing everything you want into the space. Fiddle with it, and repeat and repeat, and repeat. Once you’ve laid it out to satisfaction, you’re ready to find your van and start the arduous build out process.
So here’s how it went for me…
I wanted just one vehicle, screw two cars, tried that once, not a fan. So this meant the ability to run my contracting business as well as travel…from the same vehicle. So this required front-to-back walk through capability and a place to carry my tools while I was in Tampa running my business. I kept coming back to the realization that this would require a custom engineered fold away bed and a shelving system incorporating large bins as storage. The six interchangeable bins would act as my closet/flexible storage space while traveling and construction materials/tool storage while running my business. These were the primary requirements for my design.
Next step, my activities and other preferences. Having up to five bikes with me, not on the exterior where I would have to worry about weather and theft, inside the van. Gear for sport climbing/bouldering/backpacking/camping/frisbee golf/paintball/snorkeling/biking, refrigeration (not gonna deal with needing ice all the time, not interested), interior utility sink (this was an after thought and one of the best things I did), sleeping for two plus one, off the grid power, functional & ambient lighting, hot water shower, water for at least a week for two, an open space feel head room, a “true to me” artistic design, stealth look with parkability pretty much anywhere, on-road driving only, future customizability/changeability and temperature regulation without AC.
What would be a seven month initial build out with many additional mini projects to follow, 300+ installation hours, an equal amount of planning and thinking, the Vanderlust design & build out endeavor began in December 2013. I would soon discover that virtually every thing I wanted would have to be custom designed and built as I would find very few things pre-packaged or even a design pre-existing. The Sprinter Source Book was a huge help in the planning process, not for layout, but concepts and components mostly. This book really really brought the available options that were out there into sight, saving much time.
With all my requirements, as nice as a 158” wheelbase sprinter would be to maneuver and park, I would need the standard 170” to accomplish my plan. With that determination made, so began the, what was fun and exciting at first, hours and hours and hours of endless searching on Craigslist & Ebay primarily. Finally, after bidding and winning a silver van, which fell through…gasp…I found my plain white van in Baltimore Maryland, on Ebay. A 2007 NCV3 170” wheelbase 2500 high roof V6 turbo diesel with 76,000 miles, a gem! A short flight and a long bumpy drive back (bad struts) with my best mate Curtis, we made a trip out of it.
From this point we began finalizing the design & layout. Sketching out the living area, bed system, shelving system, fridge/water tank/water heater/countertop system and the overhead/rear storage areas. Once the general layout was on point, I began the initial installation with the side windows and roof vents (cutting through the exterior skin of your van = scary). Every two weeks or so, I would take a trip with whatever I had installed to that point. This allowed me to field test the concepts and make adjustments as needed. This was one of the key components to the final design, components and layout, clutch.
Vanderlust reached completion of the main buildout phase literally thirty minutes before leaving on her true maiden voyage to Salida, Colorado for a ten day trip with my now ex girlfriend and two of our close (soon to be realllllly close) friends. The trip was a great success and my ultimate test for any modifications that would come.
What the space in Vanderlust like? Well, with four people, it’s a pretty tight, but doable…three makes for a cool trip…two gives you great company and a co-conspirator/partner in crime…one is the most ideal to wanderlust around at will with no strings attached at your own pace, but driving long distance is grueling.
So, that’s the back story to the evolution of Vanderlust, here’s how she turned out…
CONVERTIBLE BED SYSTEM
Since I needed the bed to be removable, I opted to torture myself and design it to fold away as simply as possible with a place for every component. The system is comprised of a 51”W x 72” L x 4.5” thick hinged custom mattress by mattressinsider.com which folds in half onto the passenger side leaf. This piano hinged leaf then folds into the 10” wide “night stand” space against the wall holding the folded mattress and secures into the “L” track mounting system on the ceiling. The two pillows and comforter fold away on the driver side piano hinged leaf into a 4” “night stand” space. Five removable aluminum beams (3/16” walled x 1 1/4” square) are the main supports for the bed leaves and secure onto the back wall of the shelving system for storage while the bed is folded away providing full front-to-back walk through convenience. The bed system takes about 2 minutes to break down and assemble and will support and fit up to two adults comfortably, with minor hanging of feet at the forward edge. The main support beams/columns were done with rough sawn clear 8/4” cypress, giving the storage space a true craftsman feel. The leaves are done with 1/2” sand-ply plywood attached to 1 1/4” stainless steel full length piano hinges. Conveniently, it turned out that I could fit two Metolius crash pads on the drivers side of the bed space without overtaking the space, sweet!
CLOSET STORAGE SYSTEM
Creative storage is clutch in a van conversion, and this system works very well. A 36”W x Full height x 24”D custom wood shelving unit with five open bays with lips for bin retention. Designed around convenient interchangeable access to six IRIS 74 quart Heavy Duty 25”L x 17”W x 14”H clear bins (I analyzed something like 100 different bins to find this perfect version). These are the second component for the “transformer” concept of work and play. Six large bins for gear, clothing, linens, a guests gear/clothing/whatever else you need to store and have access to within the living cabin while playing. Six additional bins at my house are filled with hand tools, power tools, extension cords, caulk, plumbing/electrical supplies, etc. awaiting the conversion from play to work, again, as a contractor for me. The shelf above the six main bins houses two Rubbermaid totes which store pantry type items with toiletries and various other stuff in between as they allow for 6” in between them. The upper most shelf is for loose gear.
A bench seat that coupled as a work station, eating space for two, living room couch and surprisingly comfy bed for a third person is positioned across from the sliding side door as such that whatever I wanted could be my breathtaking living room. The standard conversion van bench seat I found on Craigslist actually folds down into a bed, but alas the additional three inches of clearances needed against the wall for it to fold down were more important as living space. One concept I had as to install track slides on each of the two supports. You would unclip both tracks, slide the bench away from the wall several inches, thus allowing the clearance for the bench seat to fold down into a bed. Due to the structural aspect of how the bench seat attaches to the floor and the decision that space for a fourth person is not all that important, I’ve left that as a potential future project.
Don’t forget this one! Having a garbage “can” that is easily accessible from both the front cab and the living space is key. The perfect place I found was hanging from the back of the passenger seat. We custom made, are you surprised, a colorful bag that situates itself within arms reach while driving and on the bench and within a step while anywhere else in the living area. A 1/8” threaded rod gives the mouth of the bag its form.
DRIVERS SIDE TABLE
Having useful storage for food, water, drinks and various other knick knacks within arms reach while driving was a must for me, over and over I found myself fumbling for things and thought, there must be a better way. I had been using a 12” cubed milk crate previously, but that obstructed the aisle quite inconveniently. I needed a tray type application that allowed clearance to walk between the seats, provided flexible storage for the aforementioned items and it needed to look cool. I came up with a low profile 6.5”x17” custom tray which attaches to the base of the drivers seat…allowing the seat to still slide back and forth unobstructed.
Coupled with the drivers side tray, I repurposed the milk crate into a movable storage unit/padded and upholstered ottoman nestled tightly behind the passenger seat, under the garbage bin. This makes for an excellent foot rest, additional seat and storage for things like suntan lotion, hand wipes, bug spray and anything else you may want while outside or inside the van. It conveniently nestles under the garbage, directly behind the passenger seat base…that is until I add the Webasto diesel heater to the base of the chair soon.
MULTI USE TABLE
The crown jewel of this space, a streamlined table with height adjustment, 360* rotation, removability and multi drink storage, another custom design and build. The table top is situated on a Springfield Marine Thread-lock 9” base plate, 2 3/8” adjustable pedestal (model: 1692700) and the stowable table mount (model: 1660018). The rotating passenger seat mount by sprinteraccessories.com really added a nice touch to the openness and functionality of the living space, especially with an extra person or two. The only downfall to the rotating seat is the noticeable extra height it adds and my garbage bag is way out of reach when the chair is rotated.
REAR GEAR STORAGE
The open gear space under the bed provides 52”W x 40.25”H x 76”L and is capable of fitting five bikes on two back to back Saris Traps Fork-Block Bike Carrier Bases and five Rocky Mount Driveshaft SD Fork Mounts, providing full adjustability to fit virtually any configuration of bikes desired (20mm/15mm/9mm axles). This space provides great flexibility with the option to have full-o-bikes or anything else I wanted in place of the bikes like dive gear, snow boards, ski gear, etc. Above the wheel wells I built in additional flexible storage spaces for paintball gear, snorkel & fins, 150’ slack line rig, backpacks, 2 person tent and 2 climbing ropes. Adjacent to the passenger side wheel well are my indoor climbing gear, two roll out camp tables, 21’ stick clip, bike helmet/shoes, camelback, a tote with all my car camping gear and two burner Coleman stove followed by all my biking gear. Behind the driver side wheel well you will find two camp chairs, wood splitting axe and bike pump. Bike wheels are stored on the two rear doors currently by bungee, but the four front wheels will soon be mounted on axles affixed to a sheet metal interior paneling on the doors (future project).
CENTRALIZED COMPONENT SYSTEM
Having all your water component in one centralized location allows for an efficient, cost saving, compact and creative design. With the layout of the space, you are literally working to the 1/4” or less with everything an effort to maximize the use of the space, it can be very frustrating, no it just is actually. But oh, once it’s done, you will appreciate it more than you know. Here’s how this part goes...
I wanted access to a real fridge, not a cooler that requires ice, with access from both the outside and inside of the van, providing a convenience which eliminated the need to lug dirty shoes into the van or need to remove them constantly in a camping situation. Utensils and “the junk drawer” would need to be a space with access from both realms also…a large drawer above the fridge, check. I found a 2007 un-used Waeco fridge (RPD-0110U), which to my dismay, also had a freezer…another thing I would be very glad for as I tend to defend my ice cream rather ruthlessly, grrrrrrr!, at my local RV Medic in Tampa, Fl. They too were fundamental in aiding me with various obstacles throughout the build, a true pleasure to have on my side, much like a single row of footprints, overkill…?…yeah, maybe… One of the issues I had with my centralized system was the amount of heat that was accumulating from the water heater (essentially on demand, only heated when planning for a shower) and the compressor of the fridge, which runs on heat, ironically. The heat in this compact space was like a bell curve, more heat compounded more heat, so a reduction of the heat was necessary. I upgraded the fan on the little radiator thingy on the fridge and installed a boat style flexible 4” duct to a port in the back of the cabinet, allowing air inside the compartment to evacuate, creating air flow. This has aided the efficiency of the fridge significantly. I would have preferred an exterior vent in this situation, however losing stealth capabilities and adding another exterior penetration were not on my current bucket list.
With the fixed component size of the fridge, this allowed for only 21 1/4”W x 21 1/4”L x 11 1/4H” of space behind it for the 20 gallon water tank from www.plasticmart.com while maximizing bed space. I picked this space for the tank because it was available for one, it kept the heavy water in between the axles and it created this “centralized water/component system” closet which would house the plumbing manifold (1/2” Seatech 35 series fittings), Isotemp SPA 5.3 gallon heat exchanging water heater (SPA20), Flojet quad water pump (4306-500), Flojet accumulator tank (30573-0000), GE water filter (GX1S01R), 10” round Sterling sink and 1/4” standard counter water faucet. All of these components literally fit exactly into this space, each dictating the width, countertop height and length of the centralized system. There is a replaceable Camco Water Filter, positioned inline to the holding tank and just below the sliding door, as the connection point for a standard garden hose for re-filling. I’ve found 20 gallons to be ample water for one person, showering 3-4 times (these are essential showers) and drinking/cooking water for at least a week.
The hot and cold lines feed a Shurflo Trinidad shower faucet with 6’ wand (134-0214-CW) out the rear doors. I custom designed a simple shower curtain system that sets up and breaks down in about 45 seconds and dries super quick, so showering outside is as convenient as it’s gonna get with ample privacy. Fabricated from an outdoor fabric used to make flags and rigid electrical conduit, the system wedges between the two rear doors then rolls down, attaching to each side with rare earth magnets and velcro at the base to ensure wind cannot mess with the curtain. One side folds laterally, magnetically attaching to the electrical conduit, providing a nice 24” walkway out of the shower. Keeping the front doors closed while showering keeps you much warmer in cooler temps.
PANELING & CEILING SYSTEMS
The interior walls are lined with 1/4” luan plywood with a glued on grey standard 1/4” pile exterior carpet. Three L-track Tie Down Rails fashion the ceiling at front, middle & rear providing flexible anchoring and attachment points. Two 3mm black nylon cords run as a pair which are laced through 50 wooden beads creating both a clothesline/cloths pin system and art piece, weaving all over the ceiling.
I opted for the CR Laurence brand of window, non insulated but readily available, functional, affordable and attractive to provide the openness to the outside. I went with front passenger sliding door and front driver side only, providing screened ventilation points on both sides, privacy in the bed, better security and a great open feel in the living area.
Air conditioning was a definite NO for me…way too much power draw or noise of the engine or generator, so an excellent ceiling fan was ideal, I chose to have two. I initially went with Fantastic Vent model 2250 as my fans, and I hate to diss, but of my entire build out this was my worst decision, they are terrible. The Maxxair Maxxfan model 6200K fans that I replaced these with are far superior. From design, manufacturing quality, weatherproof, customer service, functionality and aesthetics this is the only fan I would personally endorse. No AC in Florida is bold…but alas this system works! By keeping both vents open at all times, and the front fan set to “Auto” at 75-78*, exterior ventilated airflow is created when the temperature rises above the set temperature. This, coupled with the Temptrol radiant barrier curtains over the windows and cab, drops the interior temperature 15-20*. During the night, the cool air literally drops on you from the rear fan, positioned above the chest while laying down, as a result of the front fan ventilating to the exterior, displacing the air…it’s amazing! Summer in Florida is not bearable
Commonly referred to as the “house system” in an RV, the electrical infrastructure that makes up your access to the conveniences of electricity while traveling is fundamental to a well designed mobile living space and was by far the most difficult, complicated, thought out, mind racking and intimidating parts of the design process, installing it was one of the simpler. Every system out there is completely customized to what you want incorporated, so there is no book to tell you how to design it, various components, yes, but not YOUR system. Everything from appliance/fixture amp hour usage, duty cycles, anticipated daily use of amps, wire gauge/length, voltage (12v/24v/110v), charging (shore/solar/generator), storage capacity, fuse/breaker sizes & locations, shunts, system monitors, charge controllers to ambient temperature of travel location all have to be determined on some level while designing your electrical system, which btw, all the rough wiring is the first thing you will install…underneath all your panelling (you don’t have to do it this way…but it looks much cleaner). So your electrical design is imperative to be done correctly and thought out completely.
The core of my system are two 12v sealed lead acid 250ah “Universal” batteries (China made) wired in parallel, which combines the amp hour capacity. I couldn’t justify the price difference for a brand name version. I’ll let you know in a few years how that decision goes for me.
*I'm going to mention this once, don't skimp on the core of your system. You can argue your point all you want and I definitely made mistakes with charging that play a role in this, but I wouldn't buy anything but the best batteries on the market. In less than a year I had to replace these "Universal" batteries, which were $800. This time I was taking the risk of crappy made China junk and went with the Lifeline 8d AGM's and this is what I suggest in builds. Lithium batteries offer some amazing stats, but everyone seems to forget to consider the ambient temperature issues with them. Unless they are being stored in an air conditioned space all the time, your lifespan will be dramatically reduced. The best case scenario is to use iron/nickel batteries. They are a lifetime battery that will never need replacing and can be discharged almost completely with no risks, however they are insanely expensive at this time.
CHARGING & WIRING
As I mentioned, my initial approach was to rely on driving for battery charging via the alternator which required a battery isolator by NOCO (IGD-140HP) to separate the two battery systems, some very heavy 00 gauge wiring and a 100amp breaker. I eliminated as many fuses as possible by using breakers. This provided approximately 1amp per minute of driving (a very rudimentary figured number). Power is managed at a Blue Sea ST Blade Fuse Block - 12 Circuits with Negative Bus and Cover (5026) fuse panel protected by a 60amp breaker. I used all marine grade tin coated braided wiring and bumped up the required size by 1-2 gauges just for a little extra efficiency in the system, it can’t hurt to overkill a little, except your wallet. I purchased many of my small wiring parts and got A LOT of advice in designing my system from my local West Marine store. They are quite pricey, but when you need something in stock or just want to touch stuff, they are super valuable.
USB & INVERTER
If I was going to go through the effort of having all these conveniences at my fingertips, why stop at only having one spot for power? Let’s splice in all the places you’d want to find power, in the cargo area, by the bed, by the bench seat and most importantly at the countertop. Using a SAMLEX 2000watt pure sine inverter (PST-2000-12), for sensitive electronic equipment like laptops, on a 250amp fuse, would be ideal. Two usb chargers are located by the bed and above the countertop. Two outlets with usb are adjacent to these, along with another in the gear area and a single outlet available on the inverter itself. I wired the 110v power like an extension cord to be plugged into the inverter outlet. This wasn’t done for any other reason than this unit is not able to be hardwired, sorry that wasn’t exciting. To this day, a few more 12v usb outlets with outputs of 4.8amps, clutch, have been added in, and remember, it’s sooooooo much simpler while nothing is in your van.
*We are considering adding a single burner induction cooktop to the 110v system, which is a fair bit of remodeling. We are using a Bodum 32oz, 1100watt water kettle and 1300watt Walmart griddle cooktop, which if used at the same time overload the 2000watt inverter. In order to convert to a 1600watt (ish) induction cooktop we will have to upgrade to at least a 3000watt inverter, add a 110v breaker panel, run a dedicated 10awg wire to the cooktop and increase the wire & fuse from the batteries to the inverter to keep the system "dummy proof" aaaand also find a place to slickly stow/place the cooktop.
My goal was to be off the grid with power, so shore power was irrelevant to me. I made the mistake of thinking charging solely from my engines alternator (on board generator) would provide enough power. Alas, after several days of my fridge thawing out from low voltage, I realized I needed to retro-fit the solar panels into my completely built out van, yay.
I opted for "better certainty" that I would always have power and went with four 100watt Renogy mono crystalline solar panels (RNG-100D) wired in series and measuring 49”L x 21.25”W, which fit perfectly between my roof vent fans, acting as a thermal break between the sun and around 50% of the roof skin. On average in the Southeast, we have 6 hours of peak sun per day, producing 16-20amps per hour (96-100amps per day in perfect conditions) with this 400watt/80volt array. Solar efficiency varier dramatically regionally and with the seasons, so do your homework.
*Slightly more efficient panels are now offered on the market which I would definitely suggest. Renogy offers a new model, "Eclipse", which are 40.8"x20.8x1.4" in size, put out 6.1amps and 21.2volts per 100watt panel.
The four panels are screwed together on the 49” sides then mounted to 3/16” x 3” x 2” aluminum “L” channel on the 21.25” sides of the panels creating one large 85”x49” mountable panel which fits effin purrrrrrrfectly onto the factory “C” channel tracks on the roof with only a 3/16” shim! I found “C” channel mounting brackets at www.sprinterstore.com which at eight points connect the solar panels to the roof structurally. From unpacking the equipment to watching the amps pour in roughly six hours passed. It was virtually flawless, couldn’t believe it, and this was a retro-fit.
I *initially went with the Renogy 40Amp MPPT Charge Controller to regulate the charging system and their recommended wiring with a 40amp breaker separating the batteries from the controller. The guys at Renogy were so helpful, pleasant to deal with through both the buying and installation process, super smart and their pricing was great, I highly recommend picking their brains on your solar setup along with the brains of any company you are purchasing products from to dial it in more and more.
*I ended up replacing my "No Brand" batteries after they stopped providing full capacity due mostly to over discharging too many times, but also, equally due to the Renogy charge controller not measuring the battery temperature and regulating voltage correctly. I replaced the Renogy controller with a 30amp Midnight Solar "The Kid" variable voltage charge controller with a temperature sensor and have had FAR better success with the solar setup. This is by far the setup I recommend now.
Another item I left out of the initial build was a way to see instantly how the system was performing, a Bogart System Monitor (TM-2030-RV) was employed for the task as it seems to be the best on the market. The monitor required a shunt, what is a shunt you ask? Basically it is a highly sensitive dual lug terminal that allows for the precise detection of electrical changes from one terminal to the other…yeah, wassup. Rewiring all your battery connections because you didn’t factor them into the initial build out was not fun…but finding that I remembered most of what I learned from doing the original engineering and installation of the system was really cool. The system monitor has truly been another excellent addition, the ability to see the system “living” in real time, pretty cool.
www.superbrightleds.com provided the best selection, prices and inventory as I went through way too many different RV and marine lights before I settled on my current configuration. For me, a blend of task and ambient light was essential to allow for both getting stuff done easily and having randomly scattering light about the cabin depending on the mood. I strongly suggest buying warm white as imho it provides a far more inviting and comforting feel.
- One 1440 Lumen Aluminum LED Light Bar Fixture - Low Profile Surface Mount light (ALB-WW1M-SMF) is hardwired in the center of the ceiling on a single pole wall switch accessible from the outside for interior tasks.
- One 21.5" Heavy Duty Swivel Utility LED Light Bar with Rocker Switch (LTA-WHP12) is hardwired at the passenger side rear cargo area with access from the rear doors
- Two Round Dome Light LED Fixture with Rocker Switch (TDL-WW4) are hardwired into the ceiling, one over the bed, the other above the bench seating. These provide more of an ambient light throughout the living area.
- Two Gemini Stick-on Warm White LED Battery Touch Lights from www.Amazon.com make for excellent accent lighting virtually anywhere. I have one reachable from the bench seat and the other above the sink. These are the newest additions to the lighting scene and are welcomed. *The batteries in these wear out way too quickly, a hard wired version is on the horizon.
- One 6" Oval 15W Heavy Duty High Powered LED Work Light (WL-15W-OFLB) is hardwired and mounted to the front “L” track on the ceiling on a single pole wall switch also accessible from the outside for exterior tasks.
- One set of ENO Twilights 23 LED Light Strings entangles the driving cab providing ambiance mostly.
- Super-clutch to any van conversion is a quality back up camera. The best and most streamlined version I found is the Sprinter Backup Camera System (RVS-916619P). It’s like a rear view mirror, used all the time for driving, lane changing and most important backing up and parking. This will allow you to back to within 1” of your surroundings.
- One of my favorite design components, a 2” thick 15* offset plywood countertop that is finished in clear epoxy is centralized in the living space.
- Flanking the countertop is a backsplash comprised of a two year long mission of collecting pedal reflectors on the MTB trails, my second favorite component.
- The “home audio” system is simple, sounds great and is mobile…the Bose Soundlink Mini Bluetooth Speaker, done, that was easy. Situated on the catch all shelf and accessible from outside, it provides quality audio via Bluetooth from any phone and is movable to basically anywhere you want music. In addition to the better quality sound from the Soundlink, I have several highly portable TDK wireless speakers (model A12) that go on backpack, biking and airline trips. I highly recommend this speaker as it fits right in your pocket, connects via bluetooth, is loud and quite clear and also weather resistant.
- The sliding door area was the perfect space to bring in color and the comfort of memories. The perfect solution, deco-paging both upper and lower door panels with clippings, coffee sleeves, interesting magazine pages, concert tickets and all kinds of other random collectables over my last two years of traveling, then lining the metal surrounding with magnets of ongoing travels.
- One of the most consistently noticed parts of Vanderlust is the decorative channeling sanded into the two upper cabinets and junk drawer. I totally lucked out with this unique look as the manufacturer of the sande-ply cabinet grade 3/4” plywood I used off the shelf from Home Depot found it beneficial to use mahogany as filler layers. This allowed for a gorgeous layering effect achieved by routering and sanding varying lines across the panels for a one of a kind look and endless character.
- Using a design for a coat holder that my buddy James Patanio and I came up with, The Carabiner Gear Rack, I incorporated it into the gear area for holding pretty much whatever, coats, bags, a tie, whatever was needed to be hung. We put together a how to video if you'd like to build one yourself which you can find on our Youtube channel, The Urban Crash.
- The flooring was done for a second time with a floating waterproof click n’ lock style. This is NOT as industrial and bombproof as the marine vinyl, but adds loads of character to the space. *I would only go with a single membrane flooring, not interlocking pieces, for any future build out. I will most likely be redoing the flooring for again, yes, for a third time. This is due to expansion and contraction with the individual pieces in the dramatic temperature difference from hot to cold while traveling. The gaps open and close from cold to hot conditions, collecting dirt and breaking the click and lock system that holds the floor together.
- A custom sheet metal drawer/shelf fixture for bike tools & fixings
- The back doors will have stainless steel or aluminum sheet metal with storage pockets and mounts for three bike wheels
- Mosquito curtains (currently being designed & assembled)
- Custom awning (currently being designed & assembled)
- Custom low profile wood baskets that nest into the upper portion of the clear IRIS bins as small and flexible storage spaces
- Webasto diesel heater in passenger side chair base
- Secondary 20-25 gallon fuel tank
- Secondary 20 gallon water tank to help showers feel more like home
- Two cooking burners, ideally electric to not complicate the system
- Measure twice, cut once. My dad taught me that one.
- Plan for solar from the beginning, and put more than you need. Retrofitting them in for me was fairly easy, but it would have been much cleaner and easier in the beginning.
- LVT (luxury vinyl tile) flooring is not engineered to endure the heat generated inside a vehicle with full 360* exposure to heat, and it shrinks, significantly, as much as 5/8” length wise. This was the bane of my build out, bothered me EVERY time I stepped in the van. Let me tell you how fun replacing the flooring is on a completely built our Sprinter, nah, I’ll spare you. Go with a vinyl style or marine grade single membrane floor wall to wall, it's the best option.
- Buy a new well insulated fridge, mine was seven years old, but brand new. I have had seal and condensation issues and almost no parts are made for it any longer.
- Configure your drill with a depth gauge to ensure you don’t punch the outer skin of your van while intending to only drill a hole in the framework.
- Not adding additional USB 2.1amp outlets to the countertop, gear and bench seat areas
- If you have a wood countertop…coat it in clear epoxy, without question. You don’t want to extract it from it’s supports then remove the sink, water manifold, water pump, fridge, drawer, faucet and water filter because water is absorbing into it… Then you get to put it all back in! Not that I know or anything, I’m just theorizing here.