After five years on the road, we looked back at our van conversion and identified everything we loved about our camper van build. Many of the things we’ll point out in this post have dramatically helped increase the viability of long-term van life.
Yes, we have van build regrets, too, but in this article we want to point out 12 of the best things we love about our camper.
- 1. It’s A High-Roof Van
- 2. Cedar Plank Ceiling
- 3. Small Rear RV Windows
- 4. Maxxfan Instead Of A FANtastic Fan
- 5. 20 Feet Long Is Perfect
- 6. We Love Not Having A Bathroom/Shower Room
- 7. We Love Our Convertible Bed!
- 8. Our Walls (Horizontally Space Efficient)
- 9. Upgraded Suspension With SumoSprings
- 10. We Love Our Van’s Internal Lighting
- 11. Overestimated Battery Bank
- 12. Kitchen Setup
- Learn From Our List To Improve Your Own Van Conversion
1. It’s A High-Roof Van
This is perhaps the thing we love the most about our camper van.
When planning which van we wanted to buy, we read multiple accounts from people saying they wished they had gone with a high-roof vehicle. They were tired of always having to crouch inside their vehicle and that being able to stand inside their camper would increase the livability of their van.
We took that advice to heart and purchased a high-roof Ford Transit. After over five years on the road, we can definitively say that a high-roof van was one of the best choices we made for van life.
Not only can we fully stand up straight inside, but a high roof has dramatically increased the internal space of our van, which has done wonders for long-term livability. If we’re being honest, if we had chosen a low-roof vehicle, we don’t think we would still be doing van life to this day.
Bonus: Having a high-roof van has allowed us to build full-size upper cabinets, which gives us lots of storage space for our clothes and dry food.
2. Cedar Plank Ceiling
The cedar plank ceiling is our pride and joy for the entire van build.
We love everything about our van’s ceiling, from how we attached the planks to our furring strips to the custom stain color. We planned the heck out its installation.
In fact, the ceiling is usually the first thing that people notice when they enter our van.
To learn more about our ceiling installation, read: How To Install A Beautiful Cedar Plank Ceiling In A Camper Van
3. Small Rear RV Windows
Did we want windows? Where would we put them? Which style of windows did we want?
These were the questions we asked ourselves, but they were difficult to answer since we had never lived in a van.
We knew we wanted windows to enhance internal livability but shied away from installing full-size windows due to privacy and insulation concerns.
So we compromised and went with smaller windows. This way, we still get lots of natural light from the outdoors, but we can still keep our privacy and maintain better insulation in our van. We also like these smaller windows because they’re more discreet and don’t scream CAMPER VAN everywhere we drive.
To learn more: How To Install Windows In A Camper Van
4. Maxxfan Instead Of A FANtastic Fan
We firmly believe that the Maxxfan is a significantly better choice for camper vans than the FANtastic fan. But when we were first planning our camper build (and had ZERO van life experience), the choice wasn’t so obvious.
The biggest draw of the FANtastic fan was its lower profile, which made it less visible from the street side and, therefore, better for ‘stealth camping,’ in theory. But ultimately, stealth camping is much less important than you might think. So, the FANtastic fan’s lower profile isn’t that critical.
What’s more critical, instead, is being able to use your fan when it’s raining outside. Seriously, when it’s pouring outside, the first place you’ll want to be is inside your van.
And when it’s raining, the air inside your van gets humid, sticky, and uncomfortable. There isn’t any airflow, mainly because your sliding door will likely be shut to keep the rain out.
A high-quality vent fan is a top van life essential. It exhausts stale, greasy, & musty air and promotes fresh air flow into the van. The Maxxfan's unique rain cover allows you to continue operating the fan even when it's raining hard outside.
Using our Maxxfan, which has a rain cover when it’s raining outside, has helped tremendously to circulate air in our camper and maintain sanity in our small living space.
If we ever build another van, we’re 100% going with the Maxxfan again.
5. 20 Feet Long Is Perfect
If we were to buy a second van in the future, we’d make sure our next van would also be 20 feet (6 meters) long. Not any shorter or longer.
We love the length of our vehicle. That’s because we’ve found that this is the maximum length to drive and park virtually anywhere you want in urban areas comfortably but still provides a large enough internal area to live comfortably.
Though we didn’t choose van life to live and travel in cities, there’s no escaping urban life for at least part of your travels. Throughout our time, we’ve been able to eke through some of the smallest parking spaces, narrowest roads, and tightest corners imaginable with our 20’ long van.
On the other hand, we enjoy having more internal living space compared to some of the smaller, more compact camper’s we’ve seen, like the VW Combi. We can still have a full-size bed, living space, and kitchen with our length.
6. We Love Not Having A Bathroom/Shower Room
When we first drew up our camper’s floor plan, we sketched a room for a small shower stall. We had seen some YouTube videos of vans with shower stalls that conveniently fit an RV toilet inside.
But later on, we backed out of having a shower/toilet stall, and we’re super happy we did.
First, accounting for a bathroom stall made everything else in our van more cramped. Our sleeping area, living space, and kitchen area all became smaller. Also, building a floor-to-ceiling shower stall drastically took away internal air space and, thus, livability.
When it came down to it, we preferred maximizing our living space and kitchen area to having an indoor bathroom solution.
Secondly, we’re perfectly fine with our current bathroom/shower solution. It mainly involves utilizing public toilets and showers whenever we see them. But when no public facilities are nearby, our solution also involves old water bottles, a pee funnel, and a poop trowel.
We also use a solar shower bag, which we love and is 100% a van life essential, in our opinion.
Forget the plumbing, this solar shower bag is the perfect solution for minimalist van life. Fill the bag with water, lay it out in the sun, and several hours later you have hot water. No sun? Boil some water and mix it with half a bag of cold water.
To learn more about our van life bathroom solution, read: Van Life Toilets: Do You Need Them? We Don’t!
7. We Love Our Convertible Bed!
Ah, yes, the age-old debate about whether you should build a fixed or convertible bed in your camper van.
Currently, it seems the “permanent bed” crowd is winning. But we’re here to say NOPE! We’re die-hard convertible bed enthusiasts. They’re the best options; don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!
Convertible beds are more space efficient, which is essential in smaller camper vans. Instead of having a small bed space, a small workspace, and a small kitchen, you can combine the first two areas into a single space. The result is a larger, more comfortable sleeping area and a living/dining space where you can move around and accommodate visitors.
Second, making and putting away your bed daily forces you to keep your bed area clean and tidy. No longer can you throw stuff on your bed and keep them shoved in the corner for days on end. Keeping your camper organized is critical for long-term van life.
Learn more: Why We Love Our Convertible Bed
8. Our Walls (Horizontally Space Efficient)
The aspect we love the most about our camper van walls is that our middle plywood wall panel is placed virtually right up against the thin, metal side wall. This has allowed us to maximize the horizontal space of our van, which has been huge for us.
We’ve seen countless camper van builds fail to utilize this middle area and install a single plywood wall from ceiling to floor simply because they couldn’t add furring strips onto the thin metal panel.
Furring strips are pieces of wood that allow you to attach your plywood walls instead of drilling directly into the van’s metal frame.
But in our camper van wall installation post, we discuss how to create horizontally space-efficient walls and how to DIY your own furring strips for a strong & durable wall installation.
Learn More: How To Install Walls In A Camper Van
9. Upgraded Suspension With SumoSprings
Even if you don’t consider yourself a vehicle suspension geek and plan to drive with your van’s factory suspension, please let us convince you to make one tiny upgrade.
Get SumoSprings, especially if you plan to drive on unpaved forest & BLM roads.
Of all the suspension products you could get for your van, SumoSprings is one of the most affordable upgrade products you can get. And they make a massive difference to your van’s off-road driving experience.
Since installing our Sumos, we have experienced much less side-to-side rocking when driving on uneven roads and have much more control behind the wheel. The value you get from them is huge.
Bonus: If you have an overweight camper van, SumoSprings can help you regain your clearance to factory levels. We recovered ~0.5″ of clearance all around the underside of our camper.
SumoSprings are our #1 value pick for upgrading a camper van's suspension. They stabilize sway, decrease vibration, and reduce rear-end sag. Best of all, they are easy to install yourself. Click for Ford Transit models.
Also, SumoSprings are easy to install yourself. So you don’t need to pay an expensive mechanic to put them in for you. We did the installation ourselves in 2 hours in a Walmart parking lot.
10. We Love Our Van’s Internal Lighting
Camper van lighting is an underrated part of the van conversion process.
Have you ever been in a nice hotel room, but the lighting was generic or inadequate? Don’t make the same mistake when building your van.
When we sketched our camper layout, we planned to have lots of light from different light sources. And now, how we light up our interior is one of the best things we love about our camper van.
Our camper’s total lighting solution comes from three different sources.
- 12 LED Puck Lights
- Two 12V reading lights
- Fairy lights
With the LED puck lights, we can partition our van by putting different lights on different switches. Therefore, we have two puck lights directly above the kitchen area when we cook or do dishes. When we want to work, we have four LED lights directly above our table.
When we want to chill out and watch a movie just before bedtime, we turn on our fairy lights to change the ambiance and atmosphere of our van.
And, at night, when one of us wants to read before sleeping, we have a 12V reading/spotlight on either side of the bed.
Learn more: Camper Van Lighting
11. Overestimated Battery Bank
Running out of battery power seems a common theme among the van life community, at least for the YouTube channels and blogs we’ve seen online.
Electric power is such an essential part of our lives, and just because we move into a camper van doesn’t mean we’re any less reliant on electricity. We still need electricity to power our lights, fridge, fan, and computers.
Sometimes, we’re shocked when we see camper vans with undersized battery banks. And it’s no wonder problems with prematurely dead batteries are so common.
Though it involved an added investment, we overestimated our daily energy use and installed a larger battery bank than we could have otherwise. We have three 100Ah LiFePO4 (Lithium) batteries, and since Day 1 of van life, we’ve never been without power. It’s made life on the road less stressful and has made long-term van travel easier.
For a breakdown of how we calculated our battery size (and daily energy requirements), check out our post: How To Calculate Your Camper Battery Bank.
12. Kitchen Setup
We love to do dishes. Just joking! Who does?!
But washing our dirty dishes and cookware is easy with our sink and faucet combo.
With a large sink, we’re never banging our dishes on the sink edges. There’s plenty of room. And with our goose-neck faucet, we can direct water to exactly where it needs to go.
We’ve seen some camper vans outfitted with tiny bar sinks and even tinier faucets. We get it; space is valuable in a small van. But we don’t believe trying to save space by sacrificing your dishwashing space is a worthwhile trade-off.
We also love our kitchen backsplash. Though we were close to installing natural tile, we decided at the last minute to get a peel-and-stick vinyl backsplash and are grateful we did. It looks great and is easy to wash.
Learn From Our List To Improve Your Own Van Conversion
We hope you enjoyed our post on all the things we love about our camper van build. Though we didn’t get everything right in our build, we do have van build regrets; there are so many things we love.
So we hope you found this post informational and that it helps to improve your van conversion.
Lastly, we can’t stress this enough: proper layout planning is essential to getting everything you want in your van. We even discuss how to sketch your digital floor plan without paying for expensive layout software.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comments section below.
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