After many months of traveling the U.S. in our car, popping up the tent every night, and enduring all that Mother Nature dumped on us, WE UPGRADED! Transitioning from tent life to van life is not as complicated as one may think! You don’t need to buy a top of the line cargo van while spending months of time and $$$ gutting it and rebuilding it to perfection (don’t get us wrong, appreciate all 4-wheeled works of art). Converting the minivan into our road home was cheap and easy, just the way we like it. Below are the simple steps we took for the conversion.
Step 1. Gut the Van
This was easy as pie. We took out all of the seats and floor mats behind the front cockpit. At this point we also detailed the entire van to clean the interior up.
Step 2. Figure out your platform dimensions
Finding the right dimensions for your platform is key for stability as well as being able to get it in and out of your van! You can assemble your platform in your van but we would not recommend it because once it’s in, it may not come out without having to be disassembled. You can find all sorts of diagrams and platform measurements online. Our advice? Spend the extra time to take your own dimensions, draw a diagram up for your final platform and customize to your own needs.
Step 3. Build the platform
Time to break out the power tools! Once you are confident with your measurements and platform plan – get hammering! We built a very simple but effective platform which was all we needed. Keep in mind you can make these quite complex if you want to. This is what our material list looked like. Read more from this article!
- one sheet of treated plywood 4’x 8′
- one 8′- 2″ x 4″
- one 8′- 1″ x 4″
- twelve 3/8″ -16 x 3″ carriage bolts (twelve nuts and washers to fit bolts)
- one adjustable double bed-frame
This was our outcome!
Step 4. Pack it. And pack it again.
Before we built our little bed on wheels we took the bins/packs we planned on using for storing our gear into and used them as a guide for how much space we would need. We stacked and packed the empty van until we were sure that we would have right amount of space for our needs and space under the platform. After we had set up the van, we then packed it many times again to cut out the non essentials and space killers.
Step 5. Finishing touches
Lastly, we went over all of the vans vitals and gave it a tune-up. Months on the road can be wonderful but the last thing you want to be burdened with is van troubles and break downs! This is our tune-up list:
- New all weather tires
- New front breaks
- Oil change
- Top off break + washer + power steering fluids
- Tint back windows
- Transmission + coolant flush
We were able to purchase and get our little dream machine road ready for about $3,000. All of the planning, building and maintenance (minus the transmission/coolant flush) was done by our hand which saved some time and money.
It’s been 9 days since we hit the road in our humble abode and we cannot describe how awesome it has already been. Our van runs like a champ and sleeps us like a baby. No more scrounging for camp sites and wet rainy nights for us! We have already fallen in love with van life and will likely continue this style of travel for years to come. It saves time, money, and we find it’s an effective way to live seamlessly on the road for extended periods. If any of you reading this are in need of more detailed information or have questions feel free to ask! Welcome to dirtbag van life friends.