My Ford Transit van conversion for road trips

Van Living Forum

Help Support Van Living Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-known member
Aug 8, 2020
Reaction score
This is a post I also posted in the "new members" board...

[size=small][font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]I guess I [/font][/size][size=small][font=Tahoma, Verdana, Arial, sans-serif]have always had a dual life....I need to live in an urban area to work, and also really need a stable home, which for me means a brick and mortar residence.  I like the protection, security and stability this offers, and I also need the storage space it offers, LOL!   
 .  On the other hand, what brings me the most joy and fun in life, is going out on road trips.  I've done this since my early 20's, I'm now in my late 50's.  Most of these trips have been 3 to 14 day outings, though I did take one 6 week long road trip around the whole USA, about 25 years ago.  I'm hoping to make more 7 to 10 day road trips during the next year, and more short weekend trips away.  

It didn't take me long, early in my 20's, to realize the limitations and problems of camping in campgrounds.  I began to avoid them like the plague.  Though they were conveniently located right in the areas I intended to go hiking (have long been a hiker), the campgrounds were often noisy, and often were completely full.  Thus, I learned about boondocking in the days when it was little known, over 30 years ago.  I began to seek out places to vacation that would allow boondocking style camping.  

In my first years, I boondocked in a Honda Accord hatchback!  Would put the seat down in the vehicle or set up a tent.  Then I got a small Toyota Pickup truck, and build a homemade camper on it out of wood and asphalt roofing.  (I had experience working as a carpenter).  I camped in that for over 20 years.  More recently, as I have gotten older and wanted more comfort, the small 4 by 6 space inside the Toyota pickup was no longer adequate.  I then began renting minivans (Dodge Grand Caravan) when I went on my road trips.  This was a new level of comfort, especially having cruise control and air conditioning, and space to lay out a whole twin size mattress.  

After a few years of minivan road tripping, I began making plans to buy my own van to do a van conversion in.  This is my blog post describing my van conversion process, including stories of my early years of boondocking and then how I decided which van to buy.  I ended up buying a Ford Transit medium roof long wheelbase cargo van for the conversion. The conversion is a relatively simple one that does not include an indoor shower or hot running water, or indoor stove, but does include a sink cabinet with "running water" that comes from a water storage container above the sink with a spigot on it, small counter area/workspace, power and power inverter to run 120V LED lights and power a laptop or fan, twin size bed and lots of storage space in multiple cabinets, including truly "whimsical" cabinets of quite small size, "recliner/easy chair" created by turning passenger seat around, "writing table/desk/dining table" that can be stowed under the counter when not in use, ability to carry 16 gallons of freshwater, ceiling insulation, no wall insulation but uses wall space to create cabinets/niches inside the van wall instead, interior solar panel installation to power a lithium battery while I drive without needing a rooftop solar panel, privacy curtains, composting toilet, van security measures such as kill switch and more.

I've always been busy with work and creative projects, but have realized this last year that I want to get out on the road more often, since exploring the country via road trips has always been so much fun.  In some ways, it's the most fun thing i can do in life: allowing me to listen to music as I drive (meditation), go on hikes, and stop for interesting photos and sights, and meet people along the way.  Having my own van rather than having to rent a vehicle for trips, would help a lot with this, particularly because I'd be able to set it up in a way that worked for me.   My general pattern is to select one or two primary destinations (parks, national monuments, other areas of interest) and then figure out the boondocking sites by the seat of my pants as I go along.   This often means my boondocking site is little more than a parking spot on the side of a rural road or forest road.  I don't tend to end up with a lot of spiffy sites: my goal is to have fun in outdoor adventures rather than spend a lot of time in campsites.  
I plan to retire next spring. Like you, I am planning to take trips accross the USA to visit all the national parks, monumnets, and historic sites. I layed out 17 trips lasting from 7-16 days, each taking me through different states and regional areas. I am lucky in that I live in Nebraska which is centrally located in the USA. In order to be able to do all of these trips, boondocking is major asset. It will save me about $100 a night. I can't wait to get started.
Boon docking is the best way to go. Mooch docking isn't bad either. I'm in the process of building out a 2023 Promaster high top van. I've taken it on a number of trips while in this process learning what I want to do with it and what I don't want to do. You might want to look into membership in things like Harvest Host and some others "free" or "boondocking" groups you join and then as you use their facilities make purchases at their businesses, such as farm produce at a farm, wine at a winery, etc. It is costing you some but, you are in a safe place and on private property with permission. When I travel back east (mostly east of the Mississippi River I am considering them because of the lack of BLM, state and federal forest to boondock in. I don't want any part of camping in cities. I'm a farm girl and love the great outdoors and feel comfortable and safe in it.
Since making my last post in this forum, a lot has happened. I retired in May of 2023 and made trips all over the east coast, north west, and states surrounding Nebraska. I recently gave my converted cargo van to my pass along the dream. I bought a 2019 Ford Transit high top and have been busy converting it. I just finished installing the bed and cabinets. Waiting for the windows and maxfan to arrive. I hope to be on the road right after labor day. I will either be going to the north east (up to Maine) or south west, depending on the weather. Both are two week trips.

Sage......we have several things in common. Like you I don't like staying in the cities......if fact I do what ever I can to avoid them....even if that means adding miles to go around them.
Yes, Tony's Dream, I try to avoid them. Just times I can't like when I visit my daughter. Denver and the suburbs are huge. I learned quickly not to trust google navigation and other navigation apps. I had suspected it had not improved much from 6-8 years ago. Sure enough. My experience was worse. I'm better off with a map of the town, city where I am.

Sounds like you are making plans for more adventures. I hope to be on the road by the first of November. I'l head to states east of me to see family and friends then hope to spend some time at Quartz Site before returning home to take care of things here. Related to thinks in common, I hope to see many of the interesting historical sites, national & state forests, national monuments and the major sites such as Yellow Stone, Zion Canyon, etc.

Latest posts