If you’re here for the very first time, welcome! We’re Kevin and Taylor and absolutely love to travel! We created our DIY Camper Van over the course of 12 months while working full time and put together a 45 van build video series for you to enjoy.
On July 26th, we took a leap of faith and decided to fly to Michigan to check out a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter Van. After inspecting it and giving it a test drive, we decided to buy it. That same day we drove it back to New Jersey and started converting it right away.
We documented our entire Van Build journey turning the van into a true home on wheels and plan to share each step with you along the way.
Our Van Build Journey is broken down into 3 main sections below. If one section appeals to you specifically click the link below and jump right to it!
The desire to own a van started when we lived in the Pacific Northwest in the fall of 2017. We were driving out to Mt. Hood on a search for a natural spring when we first saw folks living out of their vans and it made us curious. Then we stumbled upon the #vanlife hashtag on instagram and the realization of what van life offered as an alternative lifestyle striked us.
It took sometime for Taylor to get fully on board but she was more and more open to the idea, after camping in Crater Lake National Park at the end of September. It was 28 degrees outside and we were sleeping on top of the snow. That camped next to several converted vans and we knew the night would have been much more enjoyable if we had a warm cosy van to sleep in.
From then I was hooked even more and continued to do more and more research. One thing for sure is that the idea of being out on the road intrigued me deeply. The ability to take your home with you would enable so many more opportunities and we could see the continent at a rate that would otherwise be pretty difficult.
So almost two years later from first seeing a converted van, we finally purchased a van of our own with plans to convert and explore North America to see experience more of its natural beauty. ,
For many van owners, the question comes down to what is my price point and what’s the best van or vehicle for me? If you’re looking in the cargo van category there are three popular options available.
I will write a more in depth blog post as to what van is right for you, but here’s a quick summary for why we chose the a Mercedes Sprinter van. This is soley based on our opinion since some of the pros for us may be cons for you.
Based on the pros and cons listed above for each van, we really prioritized the best resell value and most reliable vehicle we could find. We know van life isn’t going to be forever and there will be a time when we want to sell our van. So the Mercedes Sprinter made the most sense for us and we were fortunate enough to find one with only roughly 15,000 miles on it without breaking the bank.
So now that you know why we chose to buy a van and why we chose a Mercedes Sprinter van, it’s time to get into our van build journey. We’ve been documenting our van build via blog posts and youtube video tutorials to help share the knowledge we’re learning through this process. By no means are we experts in this matter and welcome any feedback from the community on best practices, and what to do vs what not to do for particular projects!
Below is the current status of our van build with an end goal of May 8, 2020 (June 1st, worst case)!
Reader’s Tip: Use the tabs for each part of the van build journey to learn how we did each individual project.
Our van is a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter Cargo Van, which means it didn’t come with any windows. So the first project we did on the van was cutting directly into it and installing 5 windows!
Installing back door windows is an absolute game changer when it comes to driving. Having the ability to see out your review view camera is something I took for granted when we first bought this van and drove it back from Michigan to New Jersey
Check out our post, How to install back door windows on a sprinter van, to learn more
We built a custom roof platform deck for additional storage and a neat place to sit back relax and watch a sunset! The deck is built out of 8020 Aluminum Extrusions and PVC Composite Decking, which is really strong but still very light. This is a lot cheaper than the roof racks available for purchase.
We wanted to have 3 sources of power for our home on wheels. The 3 sources include, Solar, Vehicle Battery Charging, and Shore Power.
If we are ever in a situation where we need a quick charge but it’s cloudy and we do not want to run the engine for awhile, then we can plug into shore power and charge up!
Check out the post, How to install a shore power inlet on a sprinter van, to learn more.
The goal for our van’s electrical system when building our van was to make the van feel like home. We wanted to run household appliances like a blender, hot water for our shower, a hair dryer and more.
For this to be possible, we have 3, 100 Amp Hour Battle Born Batteries with 400 watts of solar on the roof and a 3,000 Watt Victron Inverter. We also have the ability to charge our house batteries via the vehicle’s alternator.
To learn more check out out our electrical system overview.
I do not know if I am completely sold on sound proofing a van, since we never drove a van without it to compare however we added it anyway. Our van, which is a 2015 Mercedes Sprinter 170″ wheel base, did have some soundproofing from the manufacturer already and we added more Rattle Trap sound proofing to further deaden the sound.
We added Truck Bed Liner to the lower section of our van’s body. We did this for a few different reasons, most importantly to protect it from the rough elements of the road. This will help prevent rust, scratches and chips from the paint.
We also love how it looks!
Check out the post on how to apply truck bed liner to your van to learn more.
We want a garage in our van so we can store our surfboards, snowboards as well as other out door gear inside the van without any worry of it getting stolen. Our garage will be underneath our bed/bench area next to our water/plumbing compartment, in the back of our van. We are using steel studs for our framing and foundation. We got this idea from Sara and Alex James and love the layout they call the “Outdoorsman Layout”.
We have a shower in our van and we couldn’t be happier. A critical requirement for Taylor to join the vanlife movement was a shower. We like to be clean before getting in bed and without having a shower in our van this would become a major challenge.
There are multiple options for building out a shower.
We used the following:
We built our upper cabinets with 3/4″ Birch Plywood.
We installed 400 Watts of solar on our roof of the van building a custom DIY solar panel roof rack out of 8020 Aluminum that connects to our roof rails.