How to build it right, the FIRST time!

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CosmickGold

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Last night in the vanlife chat room (held Tuesday evenings from 7pm to 10pm), I was talking with someone who hired a carpenter that used everything from a table saw to a router, to help him build out a flawless van interior. And he told me the van that resulted is truly BEAUTIFUL inside.

But now that he's been living in it for some time, he doesn't like it at all. The kitchen is in the wrong place to be practical, and a lot else needs to be different. In fact, he's thinking of tearing the whole thing out and starting all over again!

That's a problem you can avoid ever having.

I avoided this problem by creating a mock van in my bedroom first, including every furnishing -- even the solar panels -- and actually lived in it for several months before purchasing my REAL van. Bob Wells had suggested doing this in one of his videos, and I decided he had a great idea.

Following his advice really paid off, for during the months of living in just the mock van, I found I needed to change the design THREE TIMES before I was fully content with it as my total living space. Then later, I basically just moved that final design into the empty real van I purchased.

I've now lived in that final design for three years -- in my real van -- and have never even thought about changing anything, for it was already perfected in my bedroom.

I highly suggest you do the same, saving yourselves a lot of money, time, and frustration. To start with, you can watch the video Bob Wells and I made, showing my mock van. Then clear out some space in your bedroom, and create your own!
 

Sofisintown

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My van lay-out is the same Bob had in his Savana. I just copied almost everything with some personal touches, and an extra sink. I thought if it worked for him, it will work for me too, And it did. Reinventing the wheel is not my thing.
 

jacqueg

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Last night in the vanlife chat room (held Tuesday evenings from 7pm to 10pm), I was talking with someone who hired a carpenter that used everything from a table saw to a router, to help him build out a flawless van interior. And he told me the van that resulted is truly BEAUTIFUL inside.

But now that he's been living in it for some time, he doesn't like it at all. The kitchen is in the wrong place to be practical, and a lot else needs to be different. In fact, he's thinking of tearing the whole thing out and starting all over again!

That's a problem you can avoid ever having.

I avoided this problem by creating a mock van in my bedroom first, including every furnishing -- even the solar panels -- and actually lived in it for several months before purchasing my REAL van. Bob Wells had suggested doing this in one of his videos, and I decided he had a great idea.

Following his advice really paid off, for during the months of living in just the mock van, I found I needed to change the design THREE TIMES before I was fully content with it as my total living space. Then later, I basically just moved that final design into the empty real van I purchased.

I've now lived in that final design for three years -- in my real van -- and have never even thought about changing anything, for it was already perfected in my bedroom.

I highly suggest you do the same, saving yourselves a lot of money, time, and frustration. To start with, you can watch the video Bob Wells and I made, showing my mock van. Then clear out some space in your bedroom, and create your own!
Alternatively, go ahead and live in your van with a bunch of totes and with a temporary placement of everything.

Sofi, I'm glad that copying someone else's design worked for you. But that's not a guarantee that anyone else would have the same experience. As smart as Bob is, his experience is his own.
 

CosmickGold

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My van lay-out is the same Bob had . . . . I thought if it worked for him, it will work for me too, And it did. Reinventing the wheel is not my thing.
Sofi, I'm glad that copying someone else's design worked for you. But that's not a guarantee that anyone else would have the same experience. . . .
A agree totally with jacqueg. No need to "reinvent the wheel", but wheels come in so many different sizes and types, with different treds intended for different purposes. For me, I have no need for a frig, or a cook stove, or a built-in sink; so I don't have them. But I love working in water; so I installed a small clothes washer/spinner, along with 60 hooks in the ceiling for the final dry from a fan in an outside wall that blows fresh dry air across them. I think most people would not be so happy with my design, but it's absolutely perfect for me.

Sofi, I also am happy that Bob's plan worked out just right for you. We both have perfect "wheels". :)
 
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eDJ_

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I've answered numerous private messages here in the past from new people who have ambition but lack in imagination. Most of them never traveled anywhere in a Van for one and have very limited if any experience with camping, sleeping overnight in a tent, and doing much outside of their house or apartment. In Bob's case, if you have watched his videos or read his book, he was driving to work and noticing a box Van on a Car Lot each day and musing at that rig while pondering if he could live in it as if it were a house. It's size shared with an RV but was empty and so available to his creativity. Once living in it
he was able to map out a design environment that would work for his needs. Also he figured he could afford it as it had been sitting there for some time. (Hint: a lot of RV's & Camper Conversion Van's do more sitting in the driveway than they do actual traveling which seems to owe to fuel cost or family losing interest. Grand kids love it when they're kids but when they discover boys/girls as young teens, the interest fades fast)

A person could find a space where they live and rig some clothes lines to hang old bed sheets on in a corner so they have a rectangle about the size of a Van. In this "test area" they could outfit a future Van with a cot and some other furnishings. Just a mock up.

Today there are more and more used flat screen TV's that can be had for cheap. If this were mounted to the narrow wall (which defines the front of the Van)......then they could hook up a laptop to it with the HDMI cable and use the Google Street View with the Orange Peg Man to "virtually travel" (a small computer desk against the wall would be their dash board and their mouse serve as a steering wheel. The Big Screen TV or large Monitor being the windshield/view of the road ahead. As you virtually travel you can get a better idea of the features you would want in your rig.

Free Campsites Net could be a good site for this:

https://freecampsites.net/

If a few people did this (mentioning the Tuesday Night Chatroom) they could "Zoom" with each other as a Caravan. Something like a Computer Game (if you like) and travel together with the Zoom serving as a CB two way radio.

But this could be a way go to get beyond the "imagination block" while building a sense of community in virtual travel.

In the bottom link below in my signature lines, I've mapped out what works for me in a simple Rig layout. The vehicle you have to travel in will influence a lot of the choices of features available to you.

Now, think back to when you were a little kid and someone made you a tent in your bedroom and all the fun you had with it. ;)
 

CosmickGold

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I've answered numerous private messages here in the past from new people who have ambition but lack in imagination. . . .
I'm one of those people who lack imagination. So for me, it's largely a matter of relying on the rule: "Necessity is the mother of invention." I knowingly put myself in situations where "necessity" is going to occur, and usually "invention" shows up on its own without much coaxing. If it doesn't, then I'm driven to go out and find it. I can almost say "Works every time", but it does require being willing to step away from the "tried and true" and confront "necessity" face-to-face. Too many people aren't willing to do that, remaining bound to the "tried and true" in their lives, missing wonderful adventures that are waiting for them just over the horizon.

Also, some great ideas in your post! 👍
 

eDJ_

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For those who would like to have a "frame of reference" like they would see in Do It Yourself Magazines......here's a sketch of what I propose. From here they could find "stuff" in yard sales & flea markets that could be used to outfit this virtual space.

The dimension of using the "virtual highways" of Google could afford those without the funds (at this point) to buy a Rig and get going the simulation of it could get whatever they need to pursue doing it.

Glad you like the ideas Cosmic :)

I can imagine a lot of women enjoying this kind of "computer simulation".....stimulation too.

Virtual Rig 2.jpg
 

afblangley

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Mockups only go so far, its not only layout, but also determining the features/amenities needed. Nothing beats the experience of using the real thing. Thanks to YouTube, far too many people think the real thing has to cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.

The process can be really simple.
Step 1: Obtain a vehicle- use your current vehicle if necessary or buy a suitable vehicle if able.
Step 2: Build it out to suit your anticipated needs as fast, simple, and cheap as possible
Step 3: Hit the road and gain experience.
Step 4: Modify based on that experience.

A well equipped van build can be completed in a few days for $1000. My initial van build took a week and cost less than $4k even though it had almost everything that a factory built RV has.

Life isn't a dress rehearsal, nor should a van build be.
 

CosmickGold

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Mockups only go so far, its not only layout, but also determining the features/amenities needed. Nothing beats the experience of using the real thing. Thanks to YouTube, far too many people think the real thing has to cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours.

The process can be really simple.
Step 1: Obtain a vehicle- use your current vehicle if necessary or buy a suitable vehicle if able.
Step 2: Build it out to suit your anticipated needs as fast, simple, and cheap as possible
Step 3: Hit the road and gain experience.
Step 4: Modify based on that experience.

A well equipped van build can be completed in a few days for $1000. My initial van build took a week and cost less than $4k even though it had almost everything that a factory built RV has.

Life isn't a dress rehearsal, nor should a van build be.
Here is the best video I've ever seen that takes your totally simple approach:

HOW TO BUILD A STEALTH VAN IN ONE DAY

Great video, and he explains he did it in one morning, with no mechanical tools!
 

eDJ_

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CosmickGold's OP reads:

That's a problem you can avoid ever having.

I avoided this problem by creating a mock van in my bedroom first, including every furnishing -- even the solar panels -- and actually lived in it for several months before purchasing my REAL van. Bob Wells had suggested doing this in one of his videos, and I decided he had a great idea.

Following his advice really paid off, for during the months of living in just the mock van, I found I needed to change the design THREE TIMES before I was fully content with it as my total living space. Then later, I basically just moved that final design into the empty real van I purchased.

I've now lived in that final design for three years -- in my real van -- and have never even thought about changing anything, for it was already perfected in my bedroom.

Whether it's sketches on paper or a mock-up environment to simulate within, it gives a person a chance to THINK first. As an old carpenter once told me, "I measure twice and cut once". (speaking of building it right the first time) Constantly building & rebuilding would make a good Rig builder out of you but who wants to go on the road with a Rig they're constantly rebuilding ? But to each their own.
 

CosmickGold

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Whether it's sketches on paper or a mock-up environment to simulate within, it gives a person a chance to THINK first. As an old carpenter once told me, "I measure twice and cut once". . . .
I agree with you wholeheartedly. I started out with "sketches on paper" 'cause you really do need to "THINK first", not just jump blindly into building.

But you are missing the main point of my first message that began this thread, which is that one needs to physically experience living in those thoughts and sketches first, before one can actually KNOW what the final build needs to be. Both thoughts and sketches leave out too many details that actually living in them does not.

For example, in my first bedroom build, I made the center aisle too narrow to comfortably get tools out of my tool chest. Only repeatedly struggling to reach for tools taught me that. And who'd of thought having the inverter close to my pillow would be so annoying while trying to sleep? It had seemed perfect in my thoughts and looked good on paper; but, discovering that to be a problem saved me considerable re-wiring and cabinet changes later in the real van, when it would not have been easy to fix.
 
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I started with a cooler, a bunch of crates stacked two high, with boards on top to support the mattress and allow me into an individual crate, and a mattress on top of that.

Then: Camp. Learn. Build. Repeat.

I'm glad I did. My build has moved to aluminum angle and square tubing and it's coming along nicely, but it's not done! It's easy to modify.
 

jacqueg

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Here is the best video I've ever seen that takes your totally simple approach:

HOW TO BUILD A STEALTH VAN IN ONE DAY

Great video, and he explains he did it in one morning, with no mechanical tools!
Yup, he's absolutely correct - don't overthink it, just get in the damn van and go.

BTW, his van has changed A LOT in the 4 years since this video. But he always followed the principle of "don't build it until you need it", which is, IMNSHO, the single best piece of advice on this subject.
 

CosmickGold

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Yup, he's absolutely correct - don't overthink it, just get in the damn van and go.

BTW, his van has changed A LOT in the 4 years since this video. But he always followed the principle of "don't build it until you need it", which is, IMNSHO, the single best piece of advice on this subject.
That really makes sense, "Don't build it until you need it." I like that line. Otherwise, you're only guessing.
(And I'm very good at guessing wrong).
 

LargeMarge

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Last...

That's a problem you can avoid...

I avoided this...
.
I grow and evolve, my vehicle needs change.
.
During about a half-century of camping, we lived in a vast variety of rigs.
Each was ideal -- and here is the 'kicker' -- for us during those years.
.
The problem, and we humbly admit our addiction, is our curiosity:
* how are 'they' doing the commode, commodore?
* how are 'they' doing the batteries, Betsy?
* how are 'they' doing the fridge, Frankie?
* say, Gracy, how are 'they' doing the galley?
.
A couple decades ago, we threw-up our hands... we said 'NO! NEVERMORE!' to anymore tours of rigs, watching YouTubers and their 'ultimate' 'extreme' rigs, going to RecreateVehicle shows.
That resolve lasted most of the day.
.
Our ExpeditionVehicle -- introduction link below -- serves us excellently.
And yet...
I am fabricating its replacement as we speak.
.
.
.
And our next rig, mid-engine crew-cab:
 

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afblangley

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Here is the best video I've ever seen that takes your totally simple approach:

HOW TO BUILD A STEALTH VAN IN ONE DAY

Great video, and he explains he did it in one morning, with no mechanical tools!
I love his philosophy, but his build is bare bones. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a build can be fast, simple and cheap without being minimalistic. There are essential amenities needed for a vehicle to feel like a home on wheels instead of a luxurious tent. Like being able to wash hands or a piece of fruit, not having to go outside to use the toilet, or the ability to power/recharge devices, lights, or appliances.

Here’s a list that covers what I’d consider the typical essentials, executed in a simple way and requiring minimal skills or tools. The total comes to $1,125 with everything bought new and a total build time of 9 hours:
BED- sheet of plywood with wood or metal pipe legs, foam mattress; assembly takes no skill and requires only a screwdriver; est 1 hour time $125
KITCHENETTE- cabinet, countertop and sink (eg. Ikea Sunnersta); requires basic carpentry skills and a few simple tools; est 3 hours time $175
PLUMBING- water dispenser faucet, 2 water containers, misc parts; requires tiny bit of plumbing knowledge and a few simple tools; est 1 hour time $100
TABLE- generic Lagun mount + top; requires knowing how to use a drill; est 1 hour time $125
WINDOW COVERS- reflectix mounted to cardboard; requires 4th grade arts & craft skills; est 2 hours time $25
FRIDGE- 12v cooler style; est 30 min mounting time $200
TOILET- Portapotti; est 30 min mounting time $75
COOKING- camping stove and microwave; est 30 min mounting time $100
STORAGE- totes/crates; est 30 minutes mounting time $50
HEATING- Mr Heater Buddy $75
SHOWER- portable camping shower, bucket, dog bath $50
LIGHTS- usb powered $25

The biggest item not listed is a power station, which could cost $300-1000 depending on needs. But it is an appliance that will survive any layout changes or even vehicle changes. It is useful even outside of vanlife. Everything else in the build is cheap enough that it can be replaced/upgraded/gifted without regret. Some items are applicable to any layout (eg. heater, microwave, toilet).
 

jacqueg

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I love his philosophy, but his build is bare bones. There’s nothing wrong with that, but a build can be fast, simple and cheap without being minimalistic. There are essential amenities needed for a vehicle to feel like a home on wheels instead of a luxurious tent. Like being able to wash hands or a piece of fruit, not having to go outside to use the toilet, or the ability to power/recharge devices, lights, or appliances.

Here’s a list that covers what I’d consider the typical essentials, executed in a simple way and requiring minimal skills or tools. The total comes to $1,125 with everything bought new and a total build time of 9 hours:
BED- sheet of plywood with wood or metal pipe legs, foam mattress; assembly takes no skill and requires only a screwdriver; est 1 hour time $125
KITCHENETTE- cabinet, countertop and sink (eg. Ikea Sunnersta); requires basic carpentry skills and a few simple tools; est 3 hours time $175
PLUMBING- water dispenser faucet, 2 water containers, misc parts; requires tiny bit of plumbing knowledge and a few simple tools; est 1 hour time $100
TABLE- generic Lagun mount + top; requires knowing how to use a drill; est 1 hour time $125
WINDOW COVERS- reflectix mounted to cardboard; requires 4th grade arts & craft skills; est 2 hours time $25
FRIDGE- 12v cooler style; est 30 min mounting time $200
TOILET- Portapotti; est 30 min mounting time $75
COOKING- camping stove and microwave; est 30 min mounting time $100
STORAGE- totes/crates; est 30 minutes mounting time $50
HEATING- Mr Heater Buddy $75
SHOWER- portable camping shower, bucket, dog bath $50
LIGHTS- usb powered $25

The biggest item not listed is a power station, which could cost $300-1000 depending on needs. But it is an appliance that will survive any layout changes or even vehicle changes. It is useful even outside of vanlife. Everything else in the build is cheap enough that it can be replaced/upgraded/gifted without regret. Some items are applicable to any layout (eg. heater, microwave, toilet).

Part of Chrome's back story is that he was tired of being in debt. The first couple years he lived in his van and lived off his part-time DJ business, he threw as much money as he could at his red ink. IIRC, he had something like $30K in credit card debt, and paid it off by his third year even though he quit his day job, which he pretty much hated. His van is considerably more upscale now.
 

Carla618

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I love his philosophy, but his build is bare bones.
BED- sheet of plywood with wood or metal pipe legs, foam mattress; assembly takes no skill and requires only a screwdriver; est 1 hour time $125
That video of Chrome's build is five years old. It's a video of someone just getting started.

Curious on your bed price. What size/type of foam (and plywood) are you referring to? Didn't realize you could get it done for $125
 
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