But first, you’ll have to put a lot of thought into your campervan build.
There are so many options for living the van life that it can become overwhelming, which is why we wanted to put together a list from van life experts to help you with your journey.
Choosing the right van for a DIY van build
Choosing a van for a DIY van build is the most important part of living the van life. You’ll need to think about size, gas mileage, and whether you need to stand up in your van.
These articles will get you started with picking the best rig to live in:
Insulating your DIY van build
Insulating your DIY van build is an important aspect of your van build. Insulation isn’t only important for van life in cold weather climates, but can also work to keep the warm air out.
Proper insulation can also increase ventilation and reduce condensation and airflow.
Some vans don’t need insulation, like if you buy a conversion van which is sent to a third party to turn into a luxury-style van. My Chevy Astro currently doesn’t need additional insulation.
But if you’re doing a DIY van build on your own, you’ll have to put some type of insulation into the walls and sometimes floor and ceiling. Here are the top resources for insulating your van build:
Adding electrical and solar to your DIY van build
Many van lifers choose to install some type of electrical system in their vans.
Sure, you can get away with your 12-volt cigarette lighter for simple things like charging your computer with an inverter or temporarily running a portable refrigerator or heater.
But if you want a more sustainable setup, you’ll have to put some sort of electrical system in your campervan.
There are a couple of ways to do this. You can use a portable solar generator to power your devices off the sun, or you can build an integrated system into your van with solar panels and an external leisure battery.
Here are some articles to help you with your electrical system:
Putting a kitchen in your DIY van build
Anyone living in a DIY campervan will want some sort of campervan kitchen. Whether you put a kitchen inside your van or install it in a pull-out drawer is up to you.
Some people choose to put the whole 9 yards inside their DIY van- a sink, water, portable refrigerator, burners and even a stove. Others choose a simpler setup with a pull-out drawer with a propane camping stove.
The awesome thing about van life is you can get creative when designing your campervan.
Here are some campervan kitchen setup ideas for your new ride:
Putting a bathroom into your campervan
There are various opinions on whether you should put a bathroom in your campervan. Some love the convenience of having a toilet indoors, but others don’t like to deal with the mess. Some choose to go just in campgrounds, rest stops and in nature.
What you want to build inside your van is entirely up to you, which is one of the main draws of van life.
Personally, I don’t want to put a toilet inside my Chevy Astro van because its so small and I don’t want to deal with the stink, but I know plenty of van lifers who choose to go that route.
But if you absolutely need a toilet in your van, here are some articles you should read:
Learn how to build your own van with this detailed van build sourcebook. While the title reflects Sprinter vans, the concepts can be used on any DIY campervan conversion. You'll learn design considerations, how to plumb your van, choosing solar panels, installing water tanks and electrical and wiring systems. A great resource!
Sleeping comfortable in your DIY van build
Adding a bed to your van is an important part of your DIY campervan layout.
In our Chevy Astro, we just fold the back bench seat down and put our feet on a couple stools.
Although in a perfect world, we’d have a folding campervan bed with storage underneath.
Here are some ideas for your DIY van build’s bed!
Tips for living in your new DIY campervan
Once you convert your van into a camper, you’ll have to learn how to start living in it. Where do you sleep? Where is legal to park? How do you get away with parking on city streets?
For more intel on living the van life, check out these articles:
How to legally insure a campervan, tips from a van lifer – via The Wayward Home
How to find health insurance as a van lifer – via The Wayward Home
How to get internet in your campervan – via The Wayward Home
Is it illegal to sleep in your car overnight – via The Wayward Home
14 secrets to stealth camping in your van without getting caught – The Wayward Home
How to find public showers when living the van life – The Wayward Home
30+ ways to make money from your campervan – via The Wayward Home
Conclusion on DIY van builds
Building out a campervan if you don’t have any DIY skills can be daunting, but plenty of people do it. You can find campervan build videos on YouTube that can teach you most everything you need to know about building a van.
If you need a little help, you could always hire a van build company or purchase a pre-made campervan conversion kit.
You can also purchase campervans from sites like Craigslist or Class B Campervans for sale on Facebook.
Good luck on your van life journey!
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Kristin Hanes is a journalist who founded The Wayward Home as a place to learn about alternative living. She currently lives on a sailboat and in a Chevy Astro van, and has written articles about alternative living published in Good Housekeeping, Business Insider, Marie Claire and SF Gate. Read more about Kristin here.