OUTSIDE VAN SPRINTER CONVERSION TOUR & REVIEW
I joined the Sprinter Van community back in 2015 when I purchased my first 144” Sprinter Van. I had my first Bearfoot Theory Sprinter Van converted into an awesome mobile tiny home, and traveled from California to Canada in it. During those two years, I learned a lot about how I was using the space. My last Sprinter had a full indoor bathroom, an open aisle all the way to the back doors, and a convertible sofa bed across from the slider door (you can check out the video tour of my first Sprinter Van here). In some cases, it worked – particularly when I was solo on shorter trips. However, I found myself never using the bathroom, wanting a more dedicated workspace, and needing more indoor storage for camping gear and bikes. In addition, I learned a lot about materials, the importance of building light, and having weight properly balanced across the van.
With the knowledge I gained, I decided to sell my first Sprinter and put what I learned into Sprinter Van #2. This time around, I went longer with a 4×4 170” wheelbase and hired a Portland-based Sprinter Van conversion company that you may have heard of called Outside Van.
So far, I’m absolutely loving my Outside Van Sprinter Van. I’m going to write another blog post soon detailing my experience and my reasons for choosing Outside Van to convert my fully-custom Sprinter versus one of the hundreds of other companies out there. But first, I want to give you the full tour of my new Outside Van Sprinter Van, a review of my experience, and more details about why I decided to switch up my floorplan.
In this blog post, you’ll find a YouTube tour and a full walk-through with details about my new Outside Van Sprinter Van conversion.
Outside Van YouTube Tour
First, watch this video and get the full inside tour of my 4×4 170″ Mercedes Sprinter camper van.
My Sprinter Van Galley
Starting at the slider door when you walk in, Outside Van put in their medium sized galley. I wanted to leave the space open near the door and the galley so Ryan (my boyfriend and I) could be cooking together or brushing our teeth at the same time without having to sneak around each other.
Outside Van’s galley is made of marine grade plywood which is treated so it won’t expand in heat or distort over time. Marine grade plywood is the standard used in boats and is made to withstand a bumpy ride. Outside Van builds their drawers using dovetail construction and are made of bamboo, which is antimicrobial and eco-friendly. Overhead cabinet and drawer faces are covered using a high-quality laminate, which gives all of the wood in the van a nice finish while protecting the marine grade plywood underneath. Laminate is lightweight and way more durable than regular wood. I chose a reclaimed look for the overhead cabinets and a deep blue for the galley.
The white galley counter-top is made of a material called avonite. Avonite is an acrylic material, which is lighter than granite and quartz and more durable than corion – the other materials you can make a white counter-top from. The avonite is also very easy to clean, and I love the modern look it gives the van.
In my last Sprinter Van, I had a permanent two burner propane stove inside the van. I loved being able to cook in the van when the weather was crummy, but I prefer to do a majority of my cooking outside. In my new Sprinter, I have a one-burner induction stove for morning coffee, very simple meals, and bad weather days. The rest of my cooking, I’m doing outside with a two burner, portable camp stove.
While you need a powerful battery bank and inverter to run an induction stove, they have a lot of benefits. The induction stove in my Sprinter Van heats up and cool down fast, so you aren’t likely to burn yourself. Induction stoves are also easy to clean and safer since you aren’t combusting gas inside the van. One other thing Outside Van did is made the induction stove completely flush with the countertop, so when the stove isn’t on, it basically serves as normal counter space for chopping, etc.
I wanted a large fridge with enough room to carry several days of fresh food, plus beverages on occasion. I chose a 4.6 cubic foot fridge by Isotherm. Isotherm is one of the premier marine and RV fridge companies with a lot of experience, and their fridges are designed to survive shaking, vibration, and rigid movements that you have in vans and boats.
For the sink, we have a nice pull-down faucet and a large, round stainless steel under-mount sink. I wanted a sink large enough that would make doing dishes very easy.
Drawers & Storage
The push locks keep the drawers and cabinets from opening while I’m driving, and Outside Van used a custom powder coat so the push locks match the other metal features in the van.
Lastly, for storage near the galley, there is a large 5’ long overhead cabinet for food and other essentials. I also opted for Outside Van’s overhead cab shelf which adds a lot of additional storage for oddly shaped items.
Sprinter Van Dinette
In my last van, my sofa converted to a bed. That meant when the bed was out, I couldn’t set my table up. This became a problem for my working productivity because Ryan and I have slightly different sleeping habits sometimes. I’m an early riser, and it’s the time of day I get most of my work done. Therefore I wanted a dedicated workspace that was always ready to go and didn’t have to be set up and taken down every day.
Behind the galley, Outside Van built me a custom dinette that comfortably seats two people (four if you squeeze). In my last van, Ryan and I had to sit next to each other on the sofa if we wanted to play a game or eat dinner. In this van, the dinette allows us to sit across from each other, which I prefer and feels more comfortable on my back.
I wanted the bench seats to add a pop of color to the van, so I choose fun fabric made by Sunbrella, which Outside Van uses as it’s stain and fade resistant. The two bench seats have ample storage in them and the bench seats also pull out to make a full lounge that spans the width of the van. It’s very easy to set up and could easily sleep a child or a Great Dane.
The table in the middle is on a Lagun swivel mount and serves as a desk and dining table. It’s 30” long and can be used width or lengthwise. The Lagun mount allows the table to be pushed all the way to one side, making it easier to access the storage underneath the bed. If I want to pull the bench seats out, I can remove the whole table from its mount and place it in a second mount next to the galley.
The table was constructed in-house by Outside Van. I had the idea to have a US map placed on the table top, and not only did they pull it off, but it looks fantastic and is one of my favorite parts of the van.
Outside Van Sprinter Three-Panel Bed
Next at the rear of the van is Outside Van’s standard three-panel aluminum platform bed that goes all the way to the back doors with Outside Van’s exoskeleton cabinet for clothing storage. The bed has a capacity of 500 pounds and is almost a king-sized bed (we sleep the long way down the van even though the pillow placement suggests otherwise). All three panels are secured to the bed rails via a spring-loaded threaded fastener. The bed panels can also be removed if I was moving, for example, and needed to be able to store bigger things in the back of the van.
Mattress & Bedding
I chose the medium firm mattress with memory foam and added a latex topper for additional comfort. Outside Van’s mattress cover is made from Sunbrella, which is stain resistant, tear resistant, and easy to clean. I can even take the cover off and throw it in the washing machine.
My comforter for those who are curious is made by Rumpl.
Discover my top 17 must have van life gear essentials.
On the passenger side of the van, I have what Outside Van calls an exoskeleton cabinet which is open with no cabinet face. They put it on the opposite wall as the galley overhead cabinet to help balance out the van’s weight. This style of cabinet is stuffable, removable, modular. and more lightweight than traditional cabinets. We use this exoskeleton cabinet to store packing cubes containing all of our clothes.
Sprinter Van Garage
Underneath the bed is a ton of storage. Right now we have room for two Specialized e-mountain bikes, all of our camping, fishing, and outdoor gear, shoes, and even a couple of inflatable stand-up-paddle boards. There is also 25 gallons of water, a Webasto Dual Top Evo 6 for heat and hot water, and a very powerful battery bank.
Everything gets secured in the garage using Mac’s Versatile Tie Down System – basically a version of L Track. Using Mac’s tie-down rings, we cinch all of our bins up using straps so nothing moves while we are driving. The bikes use the same system. We simply take the front wheel off of our bikes, put the bikes in facing the opposite direction so we can get them as tight as possible together, and then mount them to the Mac System using fork mounts. It takes a few minutes to unpack and restore the bikes, but I’m very happy being able to store our electric bikes inside the van to prevent them from getting stolen and to minimize the number of things that are hanging off of the van and causing drag.
We can access the garage via the back doors or from the inside of the van. Outside Van makes a softwall that attaches to the front of the bed frame and drops down to the floor. The middle of the softball has a zippered doorway that you can leave open to get in and out of the garage without having to go outside.
You may be wondering how easy it is to stay organized in here without a robust drawer system. In my Outside Van Sprinter, I opted to keep storage simple. A big drawer system, especially if it’s made of wood, is very heavy and is just another component of the van that you have to worry about breaking if you like to drive off-road. Instead, I wanted to store my gear in lightweight plastic bins and duffel bags. That way it’s easy to pull everything out of the van together in the bins/bags, rather than having to take each individual item out of drawers to transport my stuff in and out of a house.
Sprinter Van Electrical System
My last Sprinter Van had high performing electrical components, and in this van, I opted for many of those same components but a beefier system overall. Running low on power is stressful, and if you drop below a certain point, it can damage your batteries to the point of needing to replace them $$$. We plan on living in the van full-time for 6 months a year, and with electric bikes, my computer, camera, induction stove, the heater, and other electronics, I wanted to never have to worry about running out of power – especially in the winter.
I almost doubled my battery bank in my new Sprinter. In my last van, I had 375 amp hours of batteries. In this van, I have 660 amp hours. I opted for AGM batteries because they perform better in cold weather than Lithium Ion, and they are also more cost-effective. The batteries are stored in a cabinet in the garage. The batteries charge off of the solar on the roof, and they are also hooked up to my engine’s alternator, so the batteries are constantly charging while I’m driving.
On the roof, I have 445 watts of solar panels made by Zamp Solar. They are the same brand I had on my last van, and Outside Van uses Zamp because their panels are made right here in the US, and out of the companies they’ve tried, they’ve found their panels to be the highest performing. I have four 80 watt panels and one 125 watt panel. One of my single 80-watt solar panels should cover the consumption rate of the fridge, while the rest run the other things in the van. Now that I’ve been in the van one month, I can say that I should never have to worry about running low on power with this system.
Learn more about my Sprinter Van electrical setup in this blog post.
My solar setup on the roof is secured to a custom-made Outside Van roof rack. The rack is very low profile, so you can barely see it from the ground, and it has a walkway down the center of the van that I use to hang out or access the solar panels for cleaning.
The final piece is the inverter. I have a 2000 watt Magnum Pure-Sine Inverter which converts power from the batteries to AC power that I use to run the induction stove and other things that plug into the 110 outlets. I have 6 USB outlets and 6 regular 110 outlets, including two 110 outlets in the garage that we use to charge our e-bikes.
Sprinter Van Temperature Control
I didn’t want a rear AC in the van. They draw a ton of power and didn’t seem necessary. We don’t plan on camping in the desert in summer, and when it gets too hot, we flock to higher elevations.
Outside Van did do a few things though to keep the interior of the van comfortable, even on hot sunny days.
First, they replaced the front side factory windows with CR Laurence Windows that vent. Next to the bed, we also have small slider windows that open up.
I have two Maxx Fans. One above the galley and one above the bed. They each have a rain sensor and create really nice airflow in the van. Compared to my Fantastic Fan in my last Sprinter Van, the Maxx Fans seem superior.
All of the window shades in the van are made of a ripstop nylon with a layer of closed cell foam in the middle which helps insulate the van from the heat in the summer and prevent warm air from escaping through the windows in the winter. The shades are very simple to put up and take down via the snap buttons and most of the time, we find ourselves driving with them in place to keep the sun out.
The curtain that leads to the front of the van is the same material and has a zippered walkway in the middle. We keep this attached to the overhead shelf when we are driving since it keeps the cab cooler with the AC.
For heat in the winter, I have a Webasto Dual Top Evo 6. This equipment produces hot air and hot water and runs of the diesel in your existing diesel tank. Outside Van generally installs these Webasto units inside the van in the garage which improves their performance in the winter versus having them on the outside.
Sprinter Van Plumbing System
In my new Sprinter, I wanted my entire plumbing system contained inside the van, so I don’t have to worry about anything freezing in the winter.
I have a 25-gallon water tank inside a cabinet in the garage, alongside the Webasto Dual Top which stores an additional 3 gallons of hot water in the boiler. The BPA-free water tank is permanent, but it can easily be filled using a hose or 5-gallon jugs if I can’t find a spigot with potable water. Water that runs through lines to the sink goes through a three-stage charcoal water filter that ensures the water we are drinking is clean.
For showering, Outside Van does build lightweight indoor showers for those of you who truly need a regular indoor shower…but based my experience with my last indoor shower, I decided this wasn’t a necessity for me or worth the sacrifice in space. For showering, we can quickly hook up a shower hose to the back of the water tank, which allows us to take hot outdoor showers. When we travel in the winter, we’ll have to find other ways to shower – like gyms, community centers, campgrounds, or houses of family or friends.
In my last Sprinter Van, I had a Thetford portable toilet. It did the trick, but I hated using it for #2 because dumping it was gross. Plus, finding a dump every 5-7 days to empty the toilet was a hassle. In my new Sprinter, I do not have a toilet. I’m going to write an entire blog post about going to the bathroom when you don’t have a toilet…but so far, it’s working out just fine for us. The space we save by not having the toilet is more than worth it, and I enjoy not having the toilet-related chores.
Sprinter Van Floor
In my last Sprinter, I found that the dark wood floors looked great, but they were very hard to keep clean. Dirt shows very easily on dark colors and with our dog, all we saw was footprints. The wood also didn’t provide any traction.
The first thing Outside Van does when building their floors is to remove the factory floor. They then build a new floor out of marine grade plywood and adhere a layer of high-density vinyl to the top. This is a slightly heavier than the factory floor, but its a little thicker and way more durable, so there’s no flex in the floor when you place heavy features on it.
In my Outside Van Sprinter, I choose two different types of flooring – both made of a high-density vinyl. In the front, I wanted something that would provide a balance between durability and easiness to clean, which led me to a lighter colored vinyl weave with a hint of black that ties in with other black features in the van like the window shades.
In the back, I chose a diamond plate style vinyl floor, which is one of the most durable floor types you can put in a Sprinter Van. It doesn’t scratch, so it can withstand bins and bikes sliding across it.
Sprinter Van Walls
One of my favorite features of my last Sprinter Van was the white walls. It made the van feel so bright, open, and airy. Outside Van had never built a van with white walls, so my van is a completely new look for them. They found a synthetic leather product that is eco-friendly, VOC-free, easy to clean with a damp cloth, waterproof, and fade proof. It’s perfect for people with dogs, as dog hair doesn’t stick to it.
Behind the walls, is insulation, a really powerful sound dampening material, and a custom infrastructure that Outside Van has developed to reduce the twisting and flexing of the van interior, making the build more durable. The van is incredibly quiet when I drive. There are no rattles or other noises from the cabinets or other components, making for a very peaceful ride.
Sprinter Van Bathroom?
So where is the bathroom? If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that the bathroom in my last Sprinter Van didn’t get much use. So in my new Outside Van, I decided against a bathroom and opted for more storage instead. I recently wrote an entire blog post dedicated to this subject detailing my reasons why I decided not to have a toilet and how I go to the bathroom on the road. I also share a list of the best campervan toilets for vanlife for those of you who definitely want a toilet.