It’s been awhile since I did a post on a van conversion so I guess it’s time especially since this one fell into my lap! I was at the Grand Tetons NP and I’d parked off the road and was wandering around taking photos of wildflowers when another nice van pulled up and parked and the driver got out. I didn’t think much of it because there were lots of van in the Park. We exchanged pleasantries about how pretty the flowers were and then he took some pictures.
After a bit he asked if he knew me and if I had a website, of course I answered I did and he said he thought so and introduced himself as a reader. He said his name was Jason and he had just bought this nice van and converted it and was on the road full time now. He offered to let me take a look inside and, of course, I said I’d like to. He did such a nice job that I asked if he would be willing to let me take some pictures and do a post on it. He liked the idea so we were agreed. I told him where I was camping and he left to see more of the park and joined me that evening in my camp.
Unfortunately I lost the notes I took so I don’t have many details, but the pictures will tell the story anyway. The main thing I liked about it was the drawers he installed under the bed and the very nice shelves he built around where the high-top attaches to the roof. Because he is from the south, he installed a powered Fantastic Fan Roof Vent and had a nice portable fan to use inside the van. Honeywell Turbo-Force Fan
The single largest storage space in most conversions is the area under the bed. The problem is that it’s hard to make good use of that space. If you just shove layers of things under the van, the space above the initial level of things you put under their is wasted. One way to use the whole space is to pile a bunch of stuff in a plastic tote, which let’s you fill the whole space right up to the bed. But, piling everything in a tote makes it really hard to find anything. Unless you are really organized you won’t know which tote it’s in, and even if you do, you still have to take everything out to find it. Either you waste a bunch of space or you make it a pain in a butt to find anything–both are far from ideal!
The drawers he built-in under the bed solves both problems, it makes excellent use of the space and makes it all totally organized. It’s a little unhandy to only be able to reach the rear drawers from the back doors, but most of us have enough outside stuff like camping gear and tools that it’s not a big problem.
Another thing I really like about his build is the wonderful shelves he built around the high-top. Most of us have enough stuff that we need to make use of every bit of available space we can in the van and where most of us go wrong is by not using vertical space. By building the shelves around the top, he gets back a whole bunch of space and it takes no living space. It’s a really good idea!
Another thing Jason did that I highly recommend is install a powered Fantastic Fan Roof Vent. He is from Tennessee so he had to be able to cope with some high heat and nothing helps more than installing a powered vent. Most of us aren’t familiar with working with the fiberglass in the high-top but it really is not more difficult than working with the normal steel roof. Search YouTube for videos and go on my forum for specific advice. You can get the vent from Amazon here: Fan-Tastic Vent with Reverse Switch
As you saw in a picture above, he also has a portable fan he uses inside the van. If you are a tight budget and can’t afford a powered fan you can save money by getting a non-powered vent and getting a portable fan (or two) instead. It’ll work nearly as well and cost a third as much. A combination of both is best, but just a vent and a portable fan will work extremely well. My favorite 12 volt portable fan is also made by Fantastic Fan, you can get it from Amazon here: Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze Portable Fan or here: http://amzn.to/1DDT4iQ
Nearly all of us need some electrical power, especially if you want to run one or two fans and use your phone, laptops, cameras and have some lights at night. For that, your very best solution is a small solar panel and a house battery. Jason bought the Renogy 100 watt kit from Amazon and it has been working very well for him. It has met all his small needs without a problem and cost very little. You can get the Renogy 100 watt kit here: Renogy 100 Watts Monocrystalline Solar Kit or here: http://amzn.to/1KXXsfm
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Jason’s van and have gotten some ideas for your next conversion! Here are some of the things in his van available from Amazon. If you click the link to go to Amazon I’ll make a little money on any of your purchases, even if its a different item. Best of all, it won’t cost you anything:
Igloo 6 Gallon, Blue Water Container
Fan-Tastic Vent Vent with Reverse Switch
Fan-Tastic Endless Breeze Potable Fan
Renogy 100 Watts Monocrystalline Solar Kit
Honeywell TurboForce Fan