The road to vanlife is different for everyone. That's one of the things we like most about it. Everyone finds their own reason to move into a home on four wheels. What would lead us to move from a comfortable house into a van you might ask? Well, one of our cars was stolen and we decided to replace it with a Sprinter. Then came the novel thought, why don't we move into the van for the final year of my residency? We've been renting for the past four years and the idea of being able to put that money towards our crushing student loans sounded pretty good. To make a long story short, we'll jump forward to where we converted a FedEx Sprinter van into a home with the help of our families. While we can't wait to be free and wandering the roads of various countries, for now we're working full time and saving money on rent to put towards our loans. We hope that wherever this finds you, you're pursuing a life of purpose and won't be too afraid to consider going down an unusual path. To vaguely quote Robert Frost, choosing the road less traveled can make all the difference. From our tiny home to yours, we wish you a meaningful journey.
Mini Van Tour
What’s In Our Van
Renogy 300 Watt Monocrystalline Solar Kit - We decided to go for a kit versus getting all the individual components as it seemed like the easiest way to ensure we had all the right things. This kit comes with three 100 watt panels, the Adventurer Li 30A PWM flush mount charge controller, MC4 Connectors, MC4 adapter kit, tray cable, and corner bracket mount.
3M Permanent Double Sided Extreme Mounting Tape - We didn’t want to drill holes in our roof to mount our solar panels so used this mounting tape from 3M instead. We used the corner bracket mounts that came with the solar panels, attaching them to the roof with the mounting tape, which is much stronger than those little 3M mounting strips with hooks people get for their houses. We did it on a warm day and warmed up the metal a little with a heat gun to ensure a good bond. We finished things off by caulking around each bracket. Two and a half years and thousands of miles later, I’m happy to say that our solar panels haven’t budged an inch and are still as firmly attached as when we first mounted them.
Blue Sea Systems CableClam - We used this to create a waterproof seal where we dropped the cables from the solar panel down through the roof.
Renogy Deep Cycle 200Ah Battery - Designed specifically for solar energy storage applications.
Blue Sea Systems Automatic Charging Relay - We installed this to enable us to charge our battery via the alternator when the van is running. It’s proven to be very useful when we’ve been in cloudy, rainy, snowy weather that leaves us with minimal or no charge from the solar panels.
TEMCo 1/0 Gauge AWG Copper Wire - We purchased this to wire the charging relay to the alternator and battery at the back of the van.
VertaMax Pure Sine Wave 1500 Watt Inverter - Converts DC to AC so we could put standard 120V outlets in the van. Features three grounded AC outlets and handles surges up to 3000 watts so we can use a blender.
Maxxair MaxxFan - We installed this fan above our bed and it’s been a life saver in hot weather. It features a vent, fan, and rain shield all in one so we don’t have to worry about leaving it open when it rains (we’ve done it many times and can testify that it doesn’t leak). It has ten 12 inch blades with two fan speed settings and the ability to be switched to vent mode. Even though it doesn’t create a big wind current like house fans we’ve used, it still cools us down nicely when we’re hot and sweaty.
Planar 4kW 12V Diesel Heater - Russian made diesel heater similar to ESPAR and Webasto. We opted to go with it because we found it for a significantly better price then the other two. It features 13,600 BTU/hour and definitely gets our van very toasty very quick even in super cold temps. The two downsides in our opinion are that the manual is poorly translated at times and therefore difficult to follow, and the control module is confusing. If you can get past those two things it does exactly what it’s suppose to.
Camp Chef Outdoor Oven - A very handy oven/range combo. The oven has two racks, fits a 9x13 inch pan, and can be heated to 400F. There are two 7,500 BTU brass range burners. Matchless ignition.
Camp Chef Bulk Tank Hose Adapter - The Camp Chef oven comes ready to use with 1 LB disposable propane bottles. We wanted to use a much larger refillable tank so purchased this handy 5 foot hose with the proper adapters to do just that. The appliance end features a 3/8" female flare while the inlet has a 250 male quick connect.
Flame King 20 LB Steel Propane Cylinder - This is the size we decided on for our oven and even though it’s much larger than the disposable bottles, it still fits neatly under the counter. Features an overflow protection device and gauge so you at least know to some extent how much propane is left. And just in case you’ve been wondering, it’s super cheap to refill this size of tank ($10 or less in our experience) and it lasts us for many months.
Houzer CS-1407 Undermount Prep Sink - We wanted a sink that didn’t take up the whole counter but was still large enough and deep enough to wash pots and pans. This sink has worked great on both accounts. It’s stainless steel with inside dimensions of 12.5" wide X 14.375" long X 6" deep.
KES Z501C Faucet - A dainty faucet to fit our kitchen’s smaller proportions.
Seaflo 12V Water Pump - We decided to install an electric water pump versus a hand pump and this one is nice and compact.
LED Under Cabinet Lighting Kit - We installed these 3000K warm white puck lights under the upper kitchen cabinets to shine down on the counter and like the way they look more than the Ikea puck lights we installed in the rest of the van, even though they have a slightly bulkier profile. They’re brighter and don’t have the little exposed wire loop that the Ikea ones have.
ARB 50 Quart Fridge Freezer - This chest style fridge/freezer (depending on what temp you set it to - it can go as low as 0 degrees Fahrenheit) has two compartments, one with a handy removable divider, to keep things organized. My favorite feature though is the drain at the bottom so you can wash the whole thing out if something spills, which unfortunately has happened several times. Even though it may be a lot smaller than a regular house fridge, we’ve found we can put quite a lot in it. The main internal compartment measures 13.27" deep, 11.22" wide, and 15.79" high while the second compartment measures 5.95" deep, 11.22" wide, and 8.11" high.
Fulterer 5400 Heavy-Duty Drawer Slide - We got these 50 inch heavy duty drawer slides for our pull out table, which we made quite big to fit my keyboard and have room to eat and cook. We got the heavy duty ones so that we could have the table fully extended without the need for some sort of support at the end.
Linenspa 5 Inch Memory Foam Mattress - I like firmer mattresses so we got this queen sized mattress which has 4 inches of firm foam topped with 1 inch of gel infused memory foam. We finished it off with a mattress topper and honestly have to say it’s one of the more comfortable beds we’ve slept in.
Seat Swivel - We decided to put a swivel on the passenger seat so it can be turned around to add to the seating in the back. The link will take you to a page with a number of Sprinter seat swivels for different years. We purchased the 2001-2006 Sprinter swivel and it fit perfectly with the factory drilled bolt pattern in the floor which made for a pretty straight forward install.
TrafficMASTER Indoor/Outdoor Carpet - We bought a roll of this carpet to trim a number of surfaces in the van, such as around the side window, back doors, and seat bases. It’s similar to an automotive carpet but thinner so it can easily be cut to size with scissors or a razor blade. What we found worked best was cutting it to basically the right size and shape and adhering that to whatever surface we were covering, then coming along and trimming it in place to an exact fit with a razor blade.
3M Super 77 Multi-Purpose Adhesive Spray - This is what we used to stick down the carpet trim. It doesn’t drip when sprayed on vertical surfaces and bonds to foil, paper, cardboard, fabric, plastic, metal and more. It’s done an excellent job in most of the carpeted areas of our van, but the carpet has peeled up a bit around the sliding side door twice, requiring me to stick down the edges again.
TrafficMASTER Vinyl Flooring - When we were building out our Sprinter, Justin took care of a patient who’d spent his entire career doing flooring and he recommended we put in vinyl flooring in the van. He felt it would be the sturdiest most weather resistant option, so that’s what we did. We messed up though and didn’t install it with a heat resistant adhesive, just something normal that usually works for residential flooring because it doesn’t reach triple digits inside most homes. It was winter when we installed it and so we weren’t even thinking about the fact that it would turn into an oven in the van at times during the summer. When we reached summer and it was 100F+ in the van at times, the floor began to buckle and got all lumpy looking as the adhesive gave way in places due to the heat. As soon as the weather got cooler it settled back down and became flat again, but we’re planning to pull it all out at some point and put in some new flooring with the proper adhesive.
EuroCampers Ladder - This high roof driver’s side back door ladder for Sprinters hooks over the top of the door (you can screw it in at the top if you so desire) and bolts on at the bottom of the door.