How to convert a Van in to an Off-Grid Camper in 17 Days!

How to convert a Van in to an Off-Grid Camper in 17 Days!

This to this in 17 days This is the Transit
van I have bought its not too old – 80,000 miles just need to convert it so i can live for free – everywhere. And inside it is pretty filthy Just got to give it a good clean up I have taken off all of the wooden panelling
from the ceilings floors and walls. Just taking out all of these bolted attachments,
pretty hard to get out. So I have taken out the bulk head from the
front which really opens up the van. I am going to have a divider in here anyway
which will make things a little nicer. [Saw noise] I have cut the window out and I have run a
file around the edges to take off the sharp bits. But on this van there is some metal sections,
so I have taken a pair of molegrips and, with a piece of wood behind it to support it.. I’m just closing them up to take away the
gap. Got the window in. I am just letting it cure with tape and some
bits of wood underneath. Just to hold it in place. I am putting in batons and they sit within
the runnels in the van. It leaves 2.5cm which is perfect for insulation
board. And I will put the ply in on top. I am putting in the insulation. Day 2 I have been putting in the conduit this will
all be for my wiring. I have wires for back LEDs, Front LEDs, more
LEDs and extractor fan and two more LEDs! We are going to town with LEDs! And also I am going to have these side-light
LEDs so I have another conduit coming all the way around the side. I have also put on the solar panel. I made a hinging bracket which is attached
by one bolt and the other one is a hinge. That means I can lift the solar panel up,
only one way, if I need to, if maybe in winter it is not getting enough light. Hopefully it is tight enough to the roof. And, underneath, you might be able to some
rubber tap washers just to make it a little better with vibration. On the other side of the solar panel its just
connected by one bolt so if I undo this bolt I can lift the whole solar panel up. This is one of the one things I was kind of
worried about. It was a bit of an effort to do but it took
the best part of half a day to engineer these brackets and yeah, I got them on with a bit
of help from my mum! So I have 50 meters of 1.5mm squared wire
and I will use this for all of my smaller stuff like my LEDs and extractor fan. I am going to start pulling it through the
conduit and labeling the wires so I can remember what they are later when I come to wiring
it up to the battery and all the other electronics. Glue gun is an easy way to keep the conduit
in place. This conduit is amazing! Shove the wire in! And it comes out the other end! I know that is what it is meant to do but,
there it is! It came out the other end. So good! Now I am putting in the batons and these are
what I am going to attach my cladding to. Its kind of a difficult form its slightly
curved these beams are slightly tapered. And theres some parts I have had to cut out. To help it flex a little bit I have put some
cuts all the way along the wood. And I have bolted it in two places and I will
glue and seal around it just to give it additional support. I have got in the four batons in all bolted
up. I have had to make a load of shaped parts
to fit in. It is kind of annoying with this van because
basically every single one is a different shape and different dimensions because of
how the van has been constructed. Day 3 With parts of the insulation in I have been
squirting foam gun which is a very enjoyable activity. All around the edges in the side. Filling in some of these ducting in the van. It should hopefully make it nice and warm! Most of the insulation is now in. I will give you a top tip for when you are
using expanding foam. If you are doing a six foot high ceiling,
and you are six feet tall, wear a hat! I might have to give myself a haircut a bit
later! Day 4 Taadaaa! And now I just fill it with spray foam. It is a bit like putting cement in. I have put in this 50mm Celotex insulation
board up AND THEN.. I am covering it with this foil insulation
which is technically another 4 centimetres so by the time this van is finished it will
be the equivalent of 9 centimetres of insulation so it should be pretty good. It is the end of day 4 now. And all of the insulation is basically completed. Put this foil and some gaffa tape around. This will all be trapped behind stuff anyway
so it will be well fixed in. And I have got little holes, flaps cut for
my lights and fan. Now I can start putting in some of the frame
work for the base and the bed and cabinets. That will be quite cool! Day 5 I am adding some cladding and I have made
the window just the right size to put some wood in and I will have a nice window sill. I have some redwood pine which will look a
bit better here. Because there are some parts where I cannot
actually attach it with screws because I want it to have a flush finish I have been using
these clips, cladding clips. They are really good because you cannot see
where I have attached it in a line here. So it looks really clean, which is quite nice. Continuing putting on the cladding. To give an example of how I am putting the
cladding on some of the box metal work, I have put ply wood on, all the way around and
up the middle. This means I can bridge it all the way along
with the cladding and I can use those clips so it does not mean I will have any screws
on the face of the wood. Day 6 I have put in a cut off part of the old bulkhead
which gives me a really stable thing to attach things to And now I am going to build my own wooden
bulkhead with a slider here which I will cover up with an insulated screen. On the other side it will just look like it
is just a builders van because it will have auto carpet on it. I didn’t realise that the seats would project
back in to the van so when I was doing my plans I did not really account for that. Unfortunately it is probably going to add
a day to the build to work out how to make the slider and I am probably going to have
a shelf at the top of that now. But hopefully I will get it done today. So this is the extractor fan and I have just
cut a bit of wood that will fit in behind there It looks a little rough, but when it is behind
the edge it will be completely fine. These labels are a test of patience. If you go to fast you have a sticky mess! This is the end of day 6 and I am almost fully
clad. I still need to clad those back doors but
I have the walls done, ceiling, there is a little gap here
just because of the distances and lengths and the fact I had to line things up to fit
the fan in. but I need to get that filled. It should not be too bad, just a slither of
cladding or something. Day 7 And I am going to try and put in the batteries. Or find out their position. Ive drilled a hole in the floor in the most
messy way possible for this power box. I am going to have the power inlet on the
underside of the vehicle so it is much more stealthy. So it does not look like a camper van anywhere. And also I am starting to build the bed frame. As you can see here I am blocking it out,
trying to make sure it is completely parallel to the other side The van is not really straight And it curves in all directions so it is kind
of complicated to make sure it is completely perfect. But I do not want to have several different
lengths of slats as I go backwards along the bed. But otherwise, once this is blocked out, I
can start the electronics. Which I do not have a clue about. But, I can read the internet, so its OK! A mini tour of van being done. This is my bulkhead where I will have a sliding
screen here which will cover up and insulate more. In this top corner you can actually hang a
hammock across to these points in the roof. Nice big window. There is going to be a bench at the back of
it. Kitchen unit here, in this side. And I have just put in some of the frame stuff
in for the bed. I have just put the bed in, the bed is just
here so I can kinda measure off it basically and make sure I have got things right. I have just put in a load of slats underneath. Eventually they will be screwed in and it
will mean that because there is nothing between here and the back if I want to take out these
parts then I can still use the van as a big space Right now I am trying to work out the electronics. I will just run you through it. So we have the main plug which will go underneath
the van in to the MCU and RCB. This is a battery charger which goes in to
my two batteries and this is my inverter. From the inverter will go to the plugs. That is the only thing that will come off
the inverter. And then from the solar panel on the roof
it will come down to the Solar Charge Controller which will go in to the battery. Also from this we have the remote monitoring
thing. And it will go off to the fuse box and from
the fuse box it will go to my lights, other 12v applications. I will have these two cut off switches for
the battery, one between the car battery and the split charger, and also one which will
essentially sit between the battery and the fuse box. And also, all the lights which will go on
the roof. And this is a roll of LEDs which will go in
my side lights. AND.. Also off the battery will go to the Heart
Source heater and off the heater will go the thermostat. Its quite a lot. But it is not too bad. I think it is figureoutable. Lazy dog. Yes! You are on your feet. As you can see my panelling is almost completely
finished. Now I am going to be using some sand paper,
not too heavy sand paper, I don’t know what this is, P150 and basically going to smooth
it all down and going to use some danish oil to bring out a bit of a sheen which should
look nice. Um and I have to do that to the whole van. You leave the danish oil for 6 hours, let
it set, and you do it again, and you just rub it on with a cloth. So in a day in a half it should be done. In terms of getting the cladding sorted anyway. These are my two leisure batteries I have
made it so that they cannot move anywhere, they are quite heavy and they would shift
around with the vehicle. I have screwed blocks all the way around them. This is going to be the panel, accessed through
under the bed. I will have this fixed up a little bit better
and these are also connecting to these two cut off switches. Day 8 Danish Oil, now done, first coat. I have to do that three more times. But it is not too bad. I have used about two thirds of a can, so
two cans should do the whole van. So that is not bad. So, evening of day 8, and I have battoned
both sides of the van. I have got these pieces of ply which will
eventually be covered in a thin layer of foam and then fabric which will go each side of
the sleeping area. I am going to try and hang them now so I can
build everything else around them to make sure it fits. I got this arrived, this is the Gaslow 11kg
bottle. Its basically refillable LPG gas which means
I can get gas anywhere in Europe or anywhere in the world I guess. Which is good! And I will be able to start marking out the
kitchen a little bit better now. Also my kitchen sink and cooker has come so
as soon as I have finished most of the sleeping area stuff, or blocking it out, I can start
working on the frame work of the kitchen and the chair and stuff. End of day 8! So I have got the panels up which will have
the under lit LEDs. I have build out some frame work around the
battery housing. It feels like I have not done much today but,
quite a lot of planning, I know how I am doing of things. I can start to build some of these separaters
here which will kind of fill in that gap. I am just really not looking forward to have
to build the cupboard unit. Its going to involve too much detail, too
much accuracy two things I am not a massive fan of. So yeah, roll on day 9! Day 9 And I am making kitchen block work, just put
the block work in and I will put panels on the back and sides which will give it a lot
of strength. On the front side it is going to be painted
so I will screw it from the back. And I will need a peice all the way along
the back to block in the bulk head. There is the sink in place and how it is going
to look. It has got this like fold up lid – which is
kind of cool. And underneath it has the gas bottle and two
jerry cans [water], so it is a bit of a snug fit but it should be ok. Right now I have got stuff from and old conversion,
parts of when I converted my estate car about a year ago now. And it is nice to be able to recycle it into
the new van. So, end of day 9, still yeah I got a lot of
block work done today, but I am tired! I have been doing like, twelve or fourteen
hours on this and then in the evening working to order more materials and I am actually
pretty tired. I think maybe tomorrow I will have a long
lay in or maybe have a day off. I am just tired and starting to get a little
bit stressed about things when they are not going right and not having the patience to
do things the way they should be done. So probably a good time to have a break. So for the kitchen top I could spend a lot
of money on something or I managed to find these two pieces of Mahogany, they are slightly
bowed but if I put them both together they should make quite a nice kitchen top. Just glue them together, sand them down a
lot, they should look really good. So this is the reclaimed wood – I have just
sanded it down and now I am going to clamp it up with a lot of glue so we have two parts
that become one. It will be romantic. Day 10 And I have boxed in the cupboard units. It has been a real pain, I have done some
complete screw ups here to try and make this. I am going to have four flaps coming across
here. It will be a long cupboard beside the bed. I’ve made this little shelf here. I have cut these angles out here and sanded
off the back of them to make the window profile, otherwise it is quite difficult to do. Other than that, I have re-done the roof with
danish oil – so I can put the lights in finally. Stuff them in. And I have done some work on the kitchen sink
thing so that should be dry tomorrow. Two parts become one. And then I can cut it out and turn it in to
a sink bench with a lot of sanding, hopefully it will look good. And, tomorrow I need to buy gas stuff, I have
no idea what I am doing with gas but I have to connect up the bottle to the gas cooker
and also the gas heater. And this stupid thing here the MPPT which
is bust, I am going to get a new one tomorrow, hopefully, else I am really behind. Because everything, all the electronics, go
through it. So until that is working, I don’t know if
anything works. My flooring has arrived. Two packs of kind of greyish oak. Some family were getting rid of this futon
which happens to be made almost entirely of foam, so I can use that in the seats, harvest
some foam from it, which will save me from having to buy some foam. It is day 11 and I have been shopping for
more wood. This van eats wood like nothing else! My kitchen top I cut down the sides and this
should be ready to cut a hole in so hopefully its going to be OK. So trying to get the scratches out of this
wood. It is quite deep. I am just using this scraper thing. But the grain is coming up really nice! It is half past 12 on day 11 and… We have lights! All coming through the solar controller. And stuff looks pretty! Its kind of working! I mean there is nothing coming through the
solar panel right now because it is night time but that was working earlier this morning. I just couldnt get any load out, but for some
reason there is a short in the heater so I do not know why that is but I will have to
check that out. But it is just really exciting to be able
to turn on and off a light with a switch. Its cool, very happy now. So it is day 12. I was really ill yesterday so I took a day
off but now, feeling a little bit better, and just putting in the gas tank. Ratchet strap, a good idea from the vandog
website, using that to basically fix it in. Because it is LPG you have the filler nozzle
on the front which should work quite nicely. And I have a regulator and stuff arriving
so I can start putting in the gas pipes and hopefully connecting most stuff up. But I do not know what I am doing so I have
a friend who does and I will ask him to check it when it is done.. because I do not want
to blow myself up! Day 13 I am just working on the slider screen. Which will separate the cab from the main
part and shut it off. And on the back of this I have put the insulated
foil. In the end I will put some auto carpet on
the back of it so it just looks black in the back of the cab. Which should be a bit more subtle. So put this other seat in. With a mechanism underneath which means this
chair can fold down as well. My grey fabric still has not arrived so I
can’t do the top panels but I have been sorting out the set-up for it. And now we have.. side lights! These are these 3M LED strips kind of a warm
light colour. The fabric I ordered 10 days ago has finally
arrived. It is a little more blue than I thought but
I think that will probably be better anyway, a little bit of colour. I have just put the foam on the boards. Now just smoothing it down and I will turn
it over and staple it. So end of day 13 and I have got to go to London
tomorrow so I wont get much done in the next few days so basically I will have a few days
off. One other bit of learning has been the Solar
Charge Controller. I just bought one, yeah, got a solar charge
controller.. that is awesome.. but my panel is 300 watts and essentially, really, with
a bit of margin I need a 40Amp one and the one I have is 10Amp. So it does not take long for it to get over-voltage,
I mean it is charging the batteries but after a point it is too much for it, it can’t handle
it. So basically I have got another one in the
post, arriving in a couple of days. I have to leave the panel unplugged at the
moment just to be safe. Day 14 So, I am back from London, started to do a
bit more work and day 15 I guess in terms of working on it. I got these IKEA trays which work quite nicely
as slide out drawers. Also down here I have got this bin, which
I will build in – which should be nice. My new charger controller, 40Amp version is
in, which is very cool and I have also plugged in the external monitoring unit, which is
useful. I wont have to lift up the bed to see what
is going on. Pissed around with my gas stuff, that is basically
finished I think. Now I just need to make a big drawer. I am going to have a big draw above these
which will have some art stuff or other flat stuff in. And the other big bit to do is just this area. I have ordred a bathroom cabinet, I couldn’t
find one in like, I went to like 5 different shops, DIY and home store shops. None of them had a small bathroom cabinet. I managed to find it on Amazon. And I need to insulate this. Because I was living in the van in London
for a few days I really realised how hot the cab gets. It gets so hot and even just the metal work
here, above the cab. It doesn’t get any direct sun light but it
gets roasting hot. And obviously the roof does as well. You can just feel the heat trying to get into
the main body of the van through here. Apart from that the van is quite cool but
as soon as you realise how much heat is coming through from the cab I realise that I am going
to double-down on insulation. All around this bulk-head area, I am going
to put another layer on the slider unit. And i am going to ‘go to town’ for the top
of the cab because it gets so hot in the cab, and if I can isolate that from the main body
of the van I think, even in a really hot summers day, I think it would be OK. So, it is either day 15 or 16, I would have
to look at my videos to remember. Basically it is time to sort the cab out. It has been a great tool store. But now I can store my tools in the tray,
in the big art drawer I made. So it is back to foaming and insulation. Remember how much I love this stuff. I have filled up the ducting, you can see
it is oozing out – but not in to my hair this time. Then I am going to put a layer of foil because
this thing gets so hot. And above the cab, it roasts! I’ll make it really well covered up! Then I have this mirror unit that I will put
in the middle. And then basically… Oh, you can see it, it is basically snowing
foam. Such a beautiful thing! So this is the cupboard unit I made yesterday. Yeah, I mean it is such a beast! It is so heavy and cool but like, as you can
see inside here I tried to have four hinges as I was thinking of having two doors on each
side. It just doesn’t work you can only have two
else it just really f**ks with it. So yeah, I just need to fix this in and I
can start blocking out the sides but it is nice to see it in place. It is kind of starting to look like it is
getting close to finish. Which is pretty cool. I am making the drawers. I am using some spare flooring. It is just tedious, making drawers. But I just need to cut out the bases, I have
the sides, backs, fronts all sorted. Cut out the bases, put in the runners, sand
it all down, then put blocks in the corners to glue it together. And yea, just got to make the base. So much fun. So it is late, and I have just put in the
drawers. These handles I got from IKEA. The fronts are flooring which I had spare. It is nice to get these in. Boring to make but I am quite pleased with
the general effect. Looks kind of swish! I have added this little bin area. The bin pushes in and wedges. Also, because it is right by the door, I have
added a little light so as you come in you can very quickly find your way around the
van. Incase you do not have light. I have put in the bathroom cabinet. Really pleased. It works really well. It has a magnetic push button, directly over
the sink, so it works well for having a shave or whatever. Day 16 Just upholstering the cushions using some
staple gun. Way easier than sewing. It is actually the end of another day. I have been too lazy to film today but I have
discovered auto carpet. Oh my god, it is so good! It kind of just really fills in those gaps
and takes al those weird edges. I can just put some random crap behind it,
cover it up with auto carpet and it looks great. So just got to do that to the ends here. As you can see that is a bit dodgy. Other than that I have included a nice matt. Lovely. With this auto carpet, I have just been using
a screwdriver and shoving it into the corners. That means it is right behind the panelling
and should just be secure. Day 17 This is the panel. And I a going to put it on the door. Just glueing this panel on. Its got some pretty bird pictures on it. And basically I am finished, apart from these
two cupboards. Just got to make some doors. And I have been putting on auto carpet and
it looks really nice. Happy. Basically finished! Cabinets in, Solar monitor, extra USB, another
USB in the middle of the bed, got the drawers, the kitchen the water tanks, the gas thing
works, the water works. Basically I just need to put some knobs on
these cupboards. I got this bathroom thing, its pretty cool. I can have toiletries or whatever. The seat is mostly upholstered, just one cushion,
the back cushion to finish. But year, f**king sweet, got this panel. And now I just need have this thing with a
picture of Yosemite and then almost done! We have these side lights, which when it is
dark like this it gives a really nice glow. And when you compare it to how bright it is,
and white, with these ceiling lights, suddenly you realise how nice LED side lights are. These LEDs actually eat quite a lot of power
because there are loads and loads of them – and they are not really super low energy but the solar panel can handle it. And in comparison we end up with a really
nice feel to the van.

100 thoughts on “How to convert a Van in to an Off-Grid Camper in 17 Days!

  1. TAX ran out over a month ago! Shame. ๐Ÿค” Beautiful conversion though. ๐Ÿ˜Ž The electrics and insulation I could work out, however all that woodwork / carpentry takes professional skills. While I'd love to spend time building + using something like this, can only accomodate a couple or someone on their own. Once kids are added to the family, this won't transport everyone (showing my age)! Fantastic video! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  2. Youtube recommended this video to me…. Youtube didn't disappoint. Awesome skills and great project.. Well done!

  3. this will be a very rough task for beginners , im sure u gotta some back ground at this kinda work !

  4. Might have an issue down the line with condensation…good effort though! What's with the pull ups? ๐Ÿ˜‚

  5. The moment you used that expanding foam i left. After 18 months it starts to shrink, heat, cold, moisture. heat, cold, moisture. and it burns real quick.
    PLEASE i implore you all stop using this shit. My van rusted to shit. and that includes celotex. It's all expanding foam.

  6. this might be a stupid question but , where does the water from the sink go to ?when u wash something , where does the water that goes in the drain go ?

  7. Nice van. Hard to keep up with everything. I don't think I can just watch one instructional video and get it right away. It will be a combination of several video's. You kinda lost me when you ran the wires thru the pipes in several different location. That left wires exposed on both ends in several different areas of the van but I never saw them all get tied back in together or get ran to the solar but its a start.

  8. I did a cargo conversion BUT now I'm go2 do a van and I just got a TON of ideas from this video! THANK YOU!!๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Why doesn't he installe two captain chairs and leave the freakin front connected with the entire van, why separate the front form the rear compartment. If he does it his way, he'll have to get out of the van in order to enter the rear compartment of the van. ๐Ÿ˜จ๐Ÿ–๐Ÿ˜  ( smack)

  10. Myself, I'm all thumbs – but enjoy watching such videos… I would have have given up in despair halfway – to be honest: I wouldn't even have made it that far and would have been left with a wreck of a car in my yard. Well done!

  11. Oh no itโ€™s a white van. Hey kid want some popcorn huuuh anything this is like a house *kid runs away oh because itโ€™s white huh *

  12. Nate: did you pay anybody to do the electrical work? you must have some background as a carpenter, electrical or something. Or you are definitely a handyman. LOL

  13. This makes me want to buy a thimble and turn it into a warehouse, meaning there's no way around small spaces. A human needs a certain amount of livable space not to feel claustrophobic. My parents sold their house and bought a fairly big mobile home to travel and live in and after a couple years they hated the small size. Now imagine a van.

  14. Here's a few tips for you Nate. 1) Take a speech class; 2) Take a class in how to make videos; 3) Use safety equipment; 4) wearing sandals and having a cast on your leg while doing construction is not smart; 5) that insulation is subpar..

  15. question….where is the fresh water tank…where do you poop….no refrigerator…where is the heater…where are smoke and monoxide alarms…where is a fire extinguisher….just curious

  16. Top job! Useful links and video too. Only feedback is to give us a total price of conversion each time you post a project. This way, people can budget properly for a particular build. Thanks for the possibilities ๐Ÿ™‚

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