van conversion guidance
October 19, 2022 5:59 AM   Subscribe

Friends are planning to convert a Ram promaster van to a rolling living space. There is so much information to sift through online that it is bewildering. Interested in learning which sites others have found to be relatively straightforward and not simply shilling for equipment manufacturers.

Of course, everyone who has attempted this has memorialized their successes with a youtube channel, with links to the various pieces of equipment that they've installed. That's fine, but it often seems there's more chaff than wheat. Looking for sites with credible and straightforward information about process and products.
posted by bullatony to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I would recommend Survival Lily’s series on her conversion project. She is not finished but her use of technology and her attention to detail is what she is good at. Another method of design would be to start living in the unfinished van on weekends and improve the van on the problems encountered.
posted by JohnR at 6:23 AM on October 19, 2022

I would download the body builder manual for the van first off.
posted by sanka at 7:00 AM on October 19, 2022

I haven't bought any of these yet, but my intention is to pick up Nate Murphy's guide, and Sara & Alex James, who do actual professional conversions - but note their plans are probably somewhat Sprinter-specific as far as products. I do think they've got the best handle on layouts, though.

Most van builders are going to be really equipment-specific, because people can't speak to things they don't have experience with plus there's certain decisions or options driven really specifically by the construction of the vehicle and the available components. I've only got two options for seat swivels in the US, not much anybody can do about that.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:28 AM on October 19, 2022 is more specifically Transit focused, but includes Promaster info, and explains their process very clearly and thoroughly.
posted by counterfeitfake at 10:25 PM on October 19, 2022

Andrew Godwin's playlist has pretty high production values and seems thorough.
posted by caek at 10:25 PM on October 19, 2022

I traveled for months in a Honda Odyssey, went to the RTR/ desert gathering featured in Nomadland and toured a bunch of vandwellings, have friends who live in vans and campers. People are quick to build. In my opinion, many builds use space poorly, and are not flexible. Every square inch matters. Take lots of camping trips in the van, cook and bathe in the van, then think about building. Every pound of stuff affects mileage, and gas is expensive.

Ceiling height is extremely valuable so think twice about flooring and ceiling treatments.
Also, insulation is essential, so balance that against the above. You only need flooring in the areas where there is no stuff.
It's easy and flexible to put plywood on top of good storage totes to make a bed.
Some form of kitchen is nice - you can buy a kitchen cart/ island with storage and a nice surface, or build something. Garage furniture is sturdy and efficient.
Solar panels on the roof, house battery, but electricity will still be at a premium.
Keeping phones, laptops, and other stuff charged is a constant effort.
Paint the roof white or silver to reflect heat; AC is expensive.
Ceiling/ roof fan, maybe 2. Ventilation is important in a tiny space; smells and moisture build up fast.
Goodwill is a fantastic resource for camping gear; people go camping, buy gear, throw it in the attic, then donate it.
Read Nomadland, it's genuinely excellent. - lots of info about solar, toilets, staying warm/ cool, cooking and storing food - which are the big things.
posted by theora55 at 5:15 PM on October 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

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