Welcome to Module 2 of the Van Life Roadmap. In Module 1, we learned all about choosing the right vehicle for your version of van life. We compared Sprinters, Promasters, Transits, and more and also talked about the pros and cons of different approaches to building out your van.
In Module 2, we are going to help you determine your priorities for your camper van conversion layout so you can plan a smart, functional floorplan that accomodates your needs. We’ll talk about how different floor plans accomplish different goals and the critical systems that make the difference between car camping and van living. We will also go over all of the major components and parts that are used in van conversions, from flooring to insulation to electrical systems and more, so you have the necessary information you need to make decisions about your own conversion. In the resources sections at the end of each lesson, you’ll find a list of some of our favorite products and components.
First, two of the essential things you need in order to be able to live off the grid are water and power. So, in this module, you’ll also figure out how much you want of these two things and then you’ll plan your van around that.
Before we dive in, let me remind you why this is so important. In Module 1, I shared a bit about the company that built out my first van. As I mentioned, we designed the entire layout first without discussing how much water I wanted in the van. After we got too far along in the build, we then realized that we could only fit 10 gallons inside the van. Considering my van had a full indoor shower, 10 gallons didn’t seem like enough. So the builder put another 15-gallon tank underneath the van outside. This made the plumbing overly complicated, and that exterior tank didn’t have any climate protection, so it was pretty useless in the winter.
My van conversion layout also didn’t have extra room for me to store additional 5-gallon jugs inside without them being in the way. This was a huge lesson that taught me what key aspects of the van build to think through before diving in, and what decisions are important to make before starting your van build. We’ll be walking through each of these aspects and considerations for your own van conversion in this Module.
Here is an overview of all of the Module 2 Lessons:
- Lesson 1 (current lesson): Determining Your Layout Priorities
- Lesson 2: Van Payload & Weight Considerations
- Lesson 3: Walls, Insulation, Sound Dampening & Infrastructure
- Lesson 4: Van Flooring
- Lesson 5: Van Solar & Electrical Systems
- Lesson 6: Van Heating, Cooling, & Temperature Control
- Lesson 7: Van Bed Styles
- Lesson 8: Van Bathroom, Water Storage, & Plumbing
- Lesson 9: Van Kitchen/Galley
- Lesson 10: Tables, Cabinetry, & Storage Ideas
- Lesson 11: Van Upholstery
- Lesson 12: Add-ons & Accessories
Let’s get started
Determining Your Priorities for Your Camper Van Conversion Layout
Let’s start by talking about your priorities for your own campervan conversion.
Before you dive into planning your conversion, first you’ll need to rank your priorities and decide what’s important to you. You already started to think about this in the “Evaluating Your Lifestyle Worksheet” in Module 1, Lesson 1, so if you haven’t filled that out, now would be a good time to do that, because in this module, we’re going to get even more specific.
With less than 100 square feet of living space, you need to decide what gear and other items you want to have in the van, and what you will be using the van for. By narrowing down your priorities, you’ll ensure that your build will accommodate everything you need and want while efficiently using the space.
Think about your current day to day lifestyle and make a note of what’s important to you. Living out of a van on the weekend or traveling and living in it full-time does mean you’ll have to sacrifice some creature comforts, but not all of them. If waking up in the morning and having fresh espresso is something you savor, make that a priority. If having a designated toilet area is a must, add it to the list.
What’s important to one van dweller might not be important to another. It helps to visualize your ideal day from start to finish – what do you do upon waking up? How does the rest of the day go? What sort of living space will you be comfortable in, not just for a couple days, but for a long time? Do you care more about storing mountain bikes or having an enclosed shower? A permanent bed or a big dinette where you can entertain? A nice big galley or a big workspace? A shorter, more maneuverable van or more interior space?
Storage for Van Life Gear
Now, let’s move onto storage space. Gear takes up a lot of room in the van, so as part of the van conversion planning process, you should make a list of everything you want to bring with you. Yes, everything. Then, ask yourself, “How often do I use these things at home?”
If you never kayak at home because it’s a hassle, you probably won’t kayak much in the van. Sure you’ll have more access to places to kayak, but it still requires shuffling things in your van around and taking the time to make it a priority. For instance, last summer we had two big inflatable paddle boards in the van. Every time we wanted to go paddleboarding, it took an hour to pull the boards out, inflate them, get ourselves situated, and then carry them down to the water. As it turns out, we didn’t end up using them all that much, and those big boards took up valuable space that could have been used for something else. So you really need to think hard before you add every idealistic item to your list.
Below is a starter list of gear you might want to bring along to get you pointed in the right direction. Be selective about what’s truly important to you that brings the most joy to your life. You’ll be surprised how quickly gear and even clothing can add up in your van, so make a list of your own and start narrowing it down.
Van Life Gear
- Backpacking Gear
- Camp Chairs
- Camp Table
- Cooking Stuff
- Computer / Camera / Electronics
- Fishing Gear
- Yoga props
- Trash cans – which are commonly forgotten about, but take up a lot of space
As a bonus, I’ve included my full packing checklist which is available to download at the end of this lesson in the Resources Section. I encourage you to go through that item by item and create your own packing checklist based on your priorities.
Deciding on Your Van Conversion Floor Plan
Now that you’ve thought about some of your campervan conversion priorities and what you’ll potentially want to bring along in the van, it’s time to think about your floor plan. Deciding on your ideal floor plan is one of the biggest choices to make in the early stages of planning. One floor plan is not superior to another – it’s truly a matter of preference and what will work for you based on what sort of lifestyle you’ll be living. For inspiration, check out the @Vanlife_Roadmap on Instagram.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help you decide which van conversion layout will work for your everyday needs:
- Will you be traveling solo, as a couple, or as a family?
- Do you have a pet coming along?
- Is maximum storage a priority for you or do you prefer an open floor plan with a more spacious living space?
- Do you want a designated sitting area or workspace?
- Will you have a built-in bathroom with a shower or do you just need space for a toilet? Or maybe you don’t want a toilet at all?
- Do you want an interior galley or do you plan to always cook outdoors?
- Do you want a permanent bed or a convertible one?
- Do you want a large garage to store gear?
Selecting a bed style will influence the rest of the van conversion layout, so we will spend some time weighing the pros and cons of different bed styles before planning the rest of the floor plan. Decisions about your bed will be closely followed by whether or not to have a bathroom and the size of your galley.
The common questions that come up around a van’s floor plan usually revolve around storage, bed style, number of people, and personal preferences. So, spend some time visualizing your day to day in different floor plans and decide what will be best for you. When thinking through your campervan conversion priorities, I suggest prioritizing a functional floor plan over an aesthetically pleasing one.
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