How to Convert a Van for Camping

Motorhome on the road to mountains; convert a van for camping

A camper van is the ultimate recreation tool. You can plan a weekend or a fortnight’s holiday whenever you wish. But owning your own camper is not easy. They cost thousands and many campers rent rather than buy. You could save by buying second-hand. But used campers still cost thousands. You can get one cheap, but you’ll have to spend on refurbishment. So why not convert a van for camping?

Which type of van?

Are you ready to convert a van for camping? For space, some recommend the Mercedes Van, others prefer the Ford Transit. But the size of the van depends on your usage. If you need it for breaks and will use the van in between trips, you can convert a small van into a camper. You’ll spend money on this, but consider the long term gain.

Consider camper van safety

Campervan parked in the rain in Acadia National Park; convert a van for camping
Campervan parked on a misty day in Acadia National Park: Photo © Alex Iby on Unsplash

Converting a van for camping is an adventure. But there are safety considerations. Are you a DIY expert? Or do you have a friend who is? You’ll need a carpenter, a painter, a plumber and an electrician. So unless you plan to do these jobs yourself or have a friend do it, you must set a budget. For safety, it’s better to engage a qualified tradesperson. Or find a camper conversion company.

Consider the law

You’ll also need to change the van description on the form submitted to the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) or local equivalent. While requirements may vary by location, usually you must make an application and show photographs of the conversion, one of which shows the number plate.

Legal requirements for changing your van’s status to a camper may include having a six-foot-long bed, even it converts to seating by day. It may need to have seating and a table (even if detachable). It should also have a water container, a cupboard and a permanent cooking plate. There should be at least one side window. Things seem to go more smoothly if your van was initially a commercial vehicle.

Camper trailer kitchen

If your van is small and you use it when not camping, a camper trailer kitchen might suit. This cuts out some work and helps you maximise your space. If you like camping in the wild, you’ll need to install at least a portable toilet. Your sleeping space will be living space by day. There are self-build campervan parts available to buy. A camper trailer kitchen is a good example. But if you create a camper kitchen, you’ll find a small 12V fridge perfect. You can use a camping hob for cooking. A gas bottle will power it.

Your camper van conversion checklist

Woman standing at the back of outfitted camper van in France
Camping stop in France: Photo © Brina Blum on Unsplash
  • Look at your van and assess the size. Is it big enough for a kitchen and a toilet?
  • Choose a proper mattress that makes you feel the most comfortable
  • You’ll need a friend with whom to discuss your project. Someone who’s handy with DIY would be great, to help with odd jobs.
  • Clean the van.
  • Arrange windows or a skylight for light and ventilation.
  • Keep track of costs.
  • Check insulation needs. Try to retain heat in cold weather and release it in hot weather. If you live in a mixed climate, get cladding that keeps heat in winter and lets it out in summer.
  • You’ll need electrical wiring. You may need another battery. Some people buy solar panels for sunlight to power their batteries. An inverter can charge laptops and phones.
  • For the inside layout, you’ll need a carpenter.
  • You’ll need paneling and appliances installed, including a toilet. Call a plumber and a painter.

A camper conversion company can arrange all this if you choose to take that option. Whatever you choose, your camper will be ready for use in time.

In conclusion

Whether your camper van is standard or small, whether you go DIY or hire a conversion and recreation company, you’ll hopefully soon have an asset of which you can be proud. Put safety before the budget. The main thing is to choose the right options for you and observe safety regulations at all times. Best of luck with your project as you convert a van for camping.

About Emily Lamp


Emily Lamp is a freelance writer, working closely with many aspiring thinkers and entrepreneurs from various companies. She is also interested in travel lifestyle and loves sharing her travel experiences through her writing.

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