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My Goals for the van:

  • To have a traveling home that is as non-toxic and environmentally/human-friendly as possible.

  • To have everything I need to camp remotely for up to 7 days (I have far exceeded that!)

  • To be able to prepare real food wherever I am

  • To have as comfortable, non-toxic bed as I possibly can

  • To be able to park just about anywhere – specifically any of the little parks along the Oregon Coast

  • To work remotely and see the country

  • The van...

    …is a 2015, 4 cylinder, Mercedes-built Sprinter cargo van (branded Freightliner) with a 170″ wheelbase and a hightop roof in Aqua Green.

    Customization (aka build):

    Cabinets are made out of ApplePly which is from Eugene (where TheGalavan was built), although they are made from 3/4" ply and, because Appleply is SO strong and so heavy, they really should be made from 1/2" ply.

    Countertops: Paperstone in Leather) which are from WA state – was able to get remnants!

    Flooring: Marmoleum (in Red Copper) also a remnant.

    Drawer and cabinet pulls: I decided on the Southco Stainless Pulls which are all metal. Pretty sure they’ll last! The only problem with them is that the manufacturing variances were great and a lot of the screws didn’t fit. Many failed.

    I got these great bamboo drawer organizers that fit perfectly for utensils and “junk drawer”.

    Walls and ceiling: Maple plywood with Tung Oil finish. I didn’t really have a strong opinion on this, although I think I’d choose Aircraft-grade Birch Ply if I were to do it over to cut down on weight.

    FRESH WATER:

    40-Gallon tank plastic tank made by Custom Roto-Molding

    Travel Berkey for drinking water and it is awesome! I purchased belt webbing and buckles at the fabric store and screwed them to the wall to keep it from moving while driving. I have to unstrap it to refill my water bottle, but it works fine.

    Water heating: 4-Gallon Electric by Eccotemp – Trevor ended up doing the research on this one. It works well. I would recommend the Rixsen's Espar hydronic system instead, as this does take a lot of electricity.

    Water Pump: 12v ES Aquajet II 55 AES water pump by Aquatec. 3.5GPM

    Grey Water: 15 gallon tank with a garden hose connect to dump. I never have very much so it doesn’t take too long to dump.

    ELECTRICAL SYSTEM:

    500 amp hours of Elite Power Solutions Lithium Ion battery bank with Victron MPPT.

    Magnum 2800 watt 12v Pure Sine Inverter

    4x 100 watt Renogy Monocrystalline solar panels

    LIGHTING:

    Dimmable reading lamps in both B pillars and on both sides of the back door

    Recessed ceiling lights – one on either side of the forward fan

    Floodlights at both doors on a swivel that can shine in or out of the van

    Orange LED strip light at the sliding door

    RGB (all colors) LED strip lights below each upper cabinet

    White LED strip lights under the bed (closet) and under the sink 

    KITCHEN:

    Refrigerator:
    Isotherm 130 = 4.6cf refrigerator/freezer – decided on this one for many reasons (after agonizing over this decision!). It has a compact footprint, looks amazing, super efficient – 430w/day, and eliminates the need for a separate freezer which saves about $440 and 160w/day. After using it for my first trip I’m SO impressed. The blueberries stayed frozen solid and the eggs just below the freezer were cold but not too cold. If you can afford it, I highly recommend this fridge. Another benefit is that it doesn’t care about being level.

    Cooking:
    Duxtop 7100MC from Amazon. I use the power level setting. It comes on at level 5 and I turn it down to 2 right away, otherwise it's too hot. It draws around 60Ah while running. It's a little like cooking on gas - instantly hot and when you turn it off, it cools quickly.

    3qt Instant Pot! OMG – this thing is amazing! I almost never use my induction burner anymore. I can even bake in it (technically, I’m steaming, but the result is baked things). It draws 63Ah while coming to pressure. Once it's at pressure it doesn't draw power, so it's really easy on the batteries.

    BATHROOM:

    Toilet:
    I use a pStyle and bottles for pee. I also use the pCase for the P-Style for storage. This is very easy to manage in the van.

    The toilet is an oval bucket under a standard split toilet seat in a box my builder made. I use paper pet bedding and bags from Ikea to deal with the waste - one bag lasts one or two weeks (depending mostly on how warm it is in the van, the cooler it is, the longer I can go). I drop a few drops of DigestZen essential oil to help it smell better. The box keeps the smell in and by separating pee from poo, it doesn't get a sewer smell. Using a split toilet seat allows me to use my P-Style as a separator. After four years living in the van full-time, this system is simple and works well.

    I have an external shower off the back. I found an awesome looking shower mixer and handheld shower head, similar to this one. This works really well. The showerhead gives a GREAT shower and the mixer valve allows me to use very little water – you set the temperature (in celcius) and there’s a separate knob to turn the water on and off. I supplement that with sponge baths in the sink, showers at friends’ homes, and rec centers and gyms.

    COMFORT:

    Window Coverings – I’ve made insulated window coverings with a dark purple felt on the outside, an inner layer of Warm Window fabric, and a cool raw silk from 1950s Korea on the inside.

    Insulation – this seems to be the most controversial topic in van conversions! I used Thinsulate. I don’t know if it’s the “best” option, but at some point, you just have to go with it! I loved working with it and highly recommend it. I was able to simply use a rotary cutter and cutting mat from the quilt store to cut it. For the floor I used Cross Linked Polyethylene from the Foam Factory.

    Camper heat – Espar D2 diesel heater. It is great! It’s installed under the passenger seat and is pretty quiet and really heats up the place.

    Ventilation – Fantastic Fan 1250. I was wanting the Maxx Air and do wish I’d gotten that, but the place I was having install it used the Fantastic Fan. My builder has now installed a cover over the Fantastic Fan so we’re all good, but still… hindsight! I had an A/C but I’ve pulled it out and now have this Maxx Air 4500 Fan in its place. It’s not the ideal placement for a second fan, but it was the cheapest way to plug the roof whole left by the A/C!

    Windows – CR Laurence OEM look tip outs from Van Specialties in Tualatin. It’s really the only thing I’m glad I had Van Specialties do, and even then, I had to take it back up because the one on the drivers’ side leaked.  And now after four years, the passenger side no longer opens, and the rear window on the driver's side barely opens.  If I were to build another van, I'd probably get the windows from Tern Overland.

    A note on links. All of the links are for your convenience in sourcing your own things for your build. If the link is an Amazon product, I get a small thank you for putting this all together for you in the form of a small commission.  As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.