How hard is it to convert a van to a camper? (5 steps)

In this article, we will explain: How hard is it to convert a van to a camper? We will guide you to convert a van to a camper step-by-step, and let you decide whether this DIY project is for you or not. 

How hard is it to convert a van to a camper?

Some would say that converting a van to a camper is not hard at all, as long as you have all the right equipment and a good plan to follow.  If your intention is to convert the van into a home vehicle, it must have a good engine, offer great reliability and have spare parts that can be found easily.

To convert a van into a camper:

  • You must have a bed or a seat that can be converted into a bed.
  • You have to have some more furniture for storage; all rigidly anchored.
  • You must have a kitchen.
  • In addition, it is most advisable that the van is not too small and thus avoid space and comfort problems during the trip.

Among the most commonly used models to convert to a camper are the Renault Kangoo or Traffic and the Citroën Berlingo. But you always have the last word.

Convert a van to a camper: Start with planning

If you develop a complete transformation plan, it will be more effective —and economical— than if you equip it on the fly, since you can start from a complete scheme with well-defined spaces for everything.

In case you have a drawing skill, you can start with pencil and paper; Although also 3d software such as Blender, or Google’s SketchUp, can be useful, the latter is easier for beginners and with a few minutes of tutorials you can start designing.

Convert a van to a camper: Starting with the basics

Within your plan, total cleaning and emptying will come first, and we recommend starting with the electrical, water and gas installations since some cables or pipes will take up less space if they pass under the coatings.

Convert a van to a camper: Solar energy

In order to get enough energy in a more accessible way, the solar alternative is the best option. Currently, there are already complete solar power generation units, such as Goal Zero; Although if you want to save a little and make it more personalized, you can also purchase the basic components individually:

  • Solar panel. These are the cells that will be on the roof, and they usually come bundled with your solar charge controller.
  • 12V rechargeable battery. This is where the energy will be stored and connected directly to the controller. The following 2 components must be connected to this:
  • Light box or fuses. This is where it is recommended to connect fixed devices, such as the fan, lights, and refrigerator.
  • Wave inverter. With about 600 watts and an AC control of 12 to 120 V, it can be enough to connect electrical equipment, lamps, laptops and whatever else you need; although of course if you use 220 V devices you will need an inverter with this capacity.

Convert a van to a camper: Water

There are three main reasons to use water:

A sink is the simplest, because with a manual pump, and a couple of 20-litre jugs – one for fresh water and the other for gray water – you can have a place to wash hands, dishes, etc. Sure, you will need some ingenuity to adjust the installation to your space.

In a van, space is very limited to think of a complete toilet, although there are some alternatives of portable toilets, to which chemicals are added that break down the waste and are very comfortable, hygienic and also when not in use, they can be cover and they look like a nice bench or piece of furniture to rest your feet.

To take a shower, with a little creativity you can also adopt a water tank, about 20 litres may be enough, and equip it with a soap dispenser and shower hose; If you place it in the back of the van when you lift the door, you will be able to lower yourself and lean on the floor, and thus be able to take a comfortable standing shower. 

Of course, with a curtain towards the inside and a couple of tarps or awnings hanging from the gate – for example, with magnets, to be easily manageable – you will also have great privacy

Convert a van to a camper: Kitchen

For a van converted to a camper, propane gas — though more expensive than other types of gas — is the best option because of its stability. Even so, sufficient precautions must be taken to the support of a professional for installation.

You can use a tank, either external – behind or below – or also internal, but adapted within special protection. Another lower-risk alternative, although slightly more expensive, is to be using propane gas cartridges; Both types can be connected to a portable stove, so you can cook outdoors in great comfort.

Convert a van to a camper: Isolation

You can use different types of coating to cover the roof and walls, although we recommend using at least one layer of radiant barrier insulation for the thermal coating, which can be easily glued to the vehicle’s structure with a spray adhesive.

It is also suggested to leave a space for the air gap, and then a layer of reflective insulation type Reflectix, and on this, the wall panel of your choice, according to your taste and style.

Convert a van to a camper: Bed

We also suggest you adapt the bed in a special way to take advantage of the available dimensions; Currently, you can order a custom latex mattress, or you can use a sofa bed for a van, and thus have a nice piece of furniture available during the day.

Convert a van to a camper: Ventilation

A fan that rotates in two directions is a great option for your camper van; Since in this way you can dislodge the air from the interior, and also generate a ventilation mechanism that allows cooling the environment.

Although this is a delicate process that requires great care, since you will have to cut a part of the ceiling with great precision, just to the right size; although nothing can be accomplished with sufficient care.

Convert a van to a camper: The floor

There are also several options for the floor, although if you want an easy cleaning system we do not recommend using a carpet; on the other hand, vinyl, laminate or gym-type rubber floors can be a good alternative.

Of course, if you appreciate the aesthetic issues, here you can also use a style according to the rest of your van, for example, an all-wood style, or a minimalist finish, they can also look great.

Convert a van to a camper: Furniture

Finally comes the installation of the furniture, a small cupboard to store food is useful for the kitchen corner. You can buy prefabricated furniture, although if you want to take advantage of every millimetre more efficiently, you can also build your own furniture; for example, wood is very simple.

A refrigerator will also be very useful, you can look for a portable alternative; there are propane, type AC, DC or combined, just check the energy consumption, so that it adapts to your installation.

In the same way, you can install wardrobe furniture or other belongings, and a folding table that becomes a table is also useful, and its ability to fold back saves space.

Final thoughts

Of course, you don’t have to install all these features, it depends on your van, you can use the ones that are your priority, or add any other that you can think of; As you can see, the possibilities are endless, but with a little planning and ingenuity, you can bring to life a very complete vehicle, allowing you to live inside and travel around the world in great comfort.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments or questions about the content.

FAQ How hard is it to convert a van to a camper?

How much does it cost to transform a van into a camper?

Transforming a van into a camper costs from 2,300 dollars to around 6,000 dollars, depending on the materials used and the amount of equipment we want to have in our ‘portable home’.

What must be homologated in a camper?

The regulations say that every element that is fixed inside our van must be approved. This fixing can be with screws or simply glued. … So, if you want to build the interior of your camper without having to approve it, you will have to design the furniture so that it is not fixed.

How to homologate a van as a home?

In order to be approved as a camper or home, it is necessary to install at least the installation and legalization of a bed and a piece of furniture. With these two changes, we can now convert the van to a home van although we usually carry out many more reforms to make the van as comfortable as possible.


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