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A Planning Guide To Converting A Van Into A Camper

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Having your own camper van gives you the independence and freedom to explore your favourite places like Mitchell Falls or Lake Eyre whenever you want. But many purpose built campers can be as expensive as $70,000, are known to be greedy with fuel and can be large for storing when not in use.

An alternative is to build your own camper at a fraction of the cost, giving you the opportunity to customize it. You can even spread the cost by adding features in between trips.

Many vehicles, such as the Toyota Sienna can convert successfully but one of the most versatile and reliable is the Cargo van. A used vehicle that's travelled around 100,000 miles is ideal. An all-wheel drive is essential for travelling through the rugged terrain of the Outback.



Converting a Cargo van into a camper is great fun, but it takes time to prepare a workspace, either a large garage or your driveway. One of the most vital tasks you'll ever do is planning. You need to maximise the space inside by creating compact living quarters with adequate seating, storage and kitchen space so experiment on paper first to ensure everything is exactly where you want it to be.

Remember that you will be cutting holes for windows, air vents and pipes, so it is helpful if you've got your blueprint worked out properly, checking that the sizes of the interior fittings you'd like, can be accommodated. You'll need all the regular tools such as hammers and drills, but a nutsert kit will be extremely handy. Unc nutsert installation provides one of the most secure fixings as it tightens really well. As a general rule, always match metals together, steel to steel for instance, as mismatched metals become weak links and rust quickly.



Start by cleaning your van thoroughly, rectifying any spots of rust or dents. Before you start cutting holes, time spent double checking all measurements for accuracy is time well spent. Installing a pop top elevating roof to add extra height when the van's stationary, is one of the first tasks. This must be fitted well to ensure it does not affect the van's balance and must be sealed with a waterproof product to prevent any rainwater seeping in.

When you cut the window spaces, you can also cut any holes needed for pipes. Camper van windows are available in a variety of sizes and shapes but they can be difficult to install unless you have someone to help. Adding the windows is the defining moment when your van actually begins to look like a camper.


The whole interior needs to be insulated against heat and cold and to provide a layer of comfort. There are a variety of Styrofoam products on the market, but choose one that's flexible to work with and can deal with the fluctuating levels of humidity and condensation. This is one reason why you should invest in a good quality glue for fixing the insulation as a cheaper product won't respond well to different temperatures and will quickly become unstuck.

Always work from the top of your camper, insulating the ceiling first, followed by the walls then the floor last. Do the same when you add the next layer, a flexible, lightweight plywood that's waterproof.



This is the stage where all your hard work at creating a solid shell begins to pay off. Fix wooden battens into the appropriate places for fixing seating and units such as a kitchen sink. You will need to add a water supply. Usually, a tank or two beneath the sink is adequate. Include a submersible pump to direct the water to the taps.

Using propane gas for cooking and heating must always be fitted by a qualified professional otherwise it can be hazardous. And always seek advice on installing electric points, lighting and battery chargers.



When adding the seating, remember to include safety seat belts on any that may be used when travelling. Include convenient storage beneath, which you can construct yourself to your exact sizing. This is where you can be really creative, designing compact features such as beds that lift down or fold out and a table that can be conveniently stowed away if need be. Sliding doors on cupboards are space saving and more reliable in keeping the items inside secure. Add vinyl flooring, comfortable upholstery, curtains to the windows and your camper is ready to go!

Related Article: Tips on How to Prepare Your Camper Trailer for Outback Travel

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