#blog #stories

The Story of our Van Conversion

Our first ever published blog post was about How we started the vanlife thing. We described the whole story of getting a van and fitting it out.

Now, we want to focus more on our concept and ideas of the van conversion. We show you more detailed pictures and try to explain what our idea was behind all this.

On one hand we had some aspects and ideas before we started with the conversions. On the other hand we came across changes we did when we already were on the road. When you live in a van you will get a lot more ideas for optimisations and little tweaks.

A basic Concept

We bought a Ford E-350 as extended Version. It used to be a 15 passenger van and we decided to convert it into a camper van with one important point in mind. We had the plan not to mount a single screw into the body of the van. That way it would be possible to undo everything without any remains.

After we removed all seat belts that were left we placed OSB plates at the floor of the van. Then, we built everything else on top of the wooden floor. The seat belts were fastened on bolts directly under the ceiling. We used these bolts to attach cabinets from the inside.

Sleeping and Sitting in the Van

Probably, one of the most important things for living in a van is a bed. It needs the most of available space in the van and has to be integrated very smartly. That means, we wanted to be able to convert the bed into a bench. And, we actually made it convertible into two benches.

The slatted frame of the bed is foldable. We are able to make a bench in the front and at the back of the van. And, we can lift both ends of the bed. That way, we can reach the stuff under the bed easily and we can lift the part under our heads when laying in bed. It’s very comfy and we are very happy with that solution. And the best is, that it is not hard to build. See the pictures below.

A lot of Storage

Very important to us was having a lot of storage as we have so much equipment. We mentioned the advantages of our bed frame above. Another point is the space underneath the bed. It offers a height of one foot. That’s enough space for our gear on one hand. On the other hand it is not too high. That means, we are able to sit on the bed without touching the ceiling with our heads.

Under the bed we have three plastic boxes that are mainly used for food and some stuff for cooking like bigger pots. Further, we store some things under the bed that we do not need too often. For example, our clothings for winter are stored under the bed during the summer.

Another space to store things are cabinets on one side of our van. Each of us has as an own cabinet for personal stuff like clothings. In a third cabinet we have space for shoes and electrical equipment (see below).

Inside the cabinet doors we installed grid boxes. They are made of simple grids which you can get at a hardware store. We bent the metal and attached the boxes in the cabinet doors with screws and washers (see pictures). They are pretty handy to store some smaller things that would get lost in the cabinets.

At the beginning of our trip we did not have a cargo box. That’s why we stored our skis inside the van. Under our personal cabinets we have a long compartment that is long enough for skis. As it is pretty long, we made it accessible from the top also. With a little door in each of our cabinets, it is possible to get things fixed if something gets stuck.

Later, we bought a cargo box. Now, we use the ski compartment for stuff like camping chairs.

Our Camp Kitchen

Preparing warm food and coffee is another must have for us. The first days we had a simple stove with a propane bottle. Setting it up all the time was a pain. And storing it properly in the van was another difficulty. It was always laying around.

We made some plans, bought wood and built up a camp kitchen within two days. It contains the stove, has a compartment for cutlery and coffee equipment like cooker and grinder. And, under the stove we have enough space for storing food, plates, a pan and small pots.

Our beautiful camp kitchen is stored under the bed. We can pull it out at the back of our van and set it up in several ways because it has legs (see also pictures):

  1. Without legs just hanging below the bed at one edge,
  2. pulled out and standing on one leg and
  3. on two legs wherever we like to set it up.

So, we are very flexible with it!

In addition to our camp kitchen we built a sink for our water tank. The sink used to be a metal salad bowl in which we installed a drain. The sink hides into a drawer and the water tank is placed on top of that.

What about Electricity?

Above we told you about a cabinet for electricity. As we have some filming equipment, we have a lot of batteries that have to be loaded from time to time. So, we decided to have a second car battery and an inverter. The inverter gives us 110 Volts and is made for a power of up to 1000 Watts. That makes it easy to load two laptops at a time.

The car radio runs on the second battery, as well. That way, we don’t get in trouble when listening to music while the engine is not running. We are still able to start the engine with the main battery when the second is flat.

Another idea about having a second battery was that we are able to heat and dry our ski boots at night. We have put a cord from the front to the back of the van. After having a ski session we can we put the boots into the back of the van and plugin some boot heaters. It prevents our ski boots from getting stinky even and we have dry boots in the morning even while being off the grid.

A Roof Rack

We started our trip in winter and at the beginning our skis were stored in the van. But, for us it was obvious that we would get some surfboards for the summer. The sequel was to get a roof rack. When we were staying at our friend Henning, we had the chance to make our own custom made rack.

Henning has a workshop including welding equipment. We bought some metal pipes and a grid and built the rack. Now, we can put our surfboards on the roof rack. Further, we got a cargo box and our skis moved from the inside of the van to the roof. That gave us even more space in the van!

An Outdoor Shower

A little helpful thing that we had from the beginning but just started using frequently is an outdoor shower. We built a simple mount that attaches to our roof rack. All it needs are two carabiners and the shower does a pretty good job.

The whole van conversion was not that expensive. We used a lot of OSB wood which is really cheap and still looking good. If you have any questions about our conversion let us know. Write a comment or drop us a line at hello@bergandocean.com!

3 thoughts on the Article

    1. Hallo Lothar,
      vielen Dank für deinen Kommentar! Im Moment planen wir die Wintersaison. Und in der kommenden Woche werden wir endlich wieder unsere Ski aus der Dachbox laden. Dann geht es in die Berge. Weiteres und konkreteres steht noch in den Sternen ;)

  1. Wow! Very apparent there is an engineer in the midst;) Such clever use of the limited space of a van!

    Happy trails,
    Shane

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