We bought Bruce the “great white van” in March of 2018. He is a 2010 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 3500 dually (170” wheelbase). It was previously a cargo van, so we started from scratch and were able to customize it exactly the way we wanted. We spent 3 months to complete the build, working on it night and day as if it was our second job. Transforming a van into a home is no easy task, but it was worth every second of hard work in the heat of the Phoenix summer. If you want to see the details of our build, keep reading below!
We opted for a larger kitchen so that at least two people could comfortably stand a cook without being in each other’s way. We make most of our meals at home so it was important to us to have a good setup!
We mounted a 5 lb propane tank underneath the van for safety purposes
While it may not be a full bathroom, it certainly does the job…and stealthily. We use a Nature’s head composting toilet and avoid the hassle of a black water tank. Most people have no idea that we have a toilet in the van because it is hidden in what looks like just another storage cabinet. And no, it doesn’t stink!
To access the toilet, we lift the countertop (which is hinged) and hook the loop on the underside of the countertop to a hook on the wall. Then we open the cabinet door and have full access to the toilet.
There isn’t much privacy with our setup, so we usually just step outside the van when the other person needs to use it.
Why don’t we have a shower?
In order to maximize the open living space in the van, we decided to not put a shower in it. While it would definitely be a luxury, it also means we would have to sacrifice kitchen space. For us, it is just as easy to shower at the gym, and it gives us some extra motivation to go work out.
Since installing our roof rack, we would like to get a solar shower to mount on it. This would be primarily used when we are camping (not in the city) so that we can have a nice warm outdoor shower heated by the sun!
The back area of the van converts between “day mode” and “night mode.” This makes the space more versatile depending on what we are doing. To convert to bed mode, the table comes down and sits on two “lips” that extend from the benches. An additional piece of wood completes the length of it, and then the cushions come down to form nearly a king-size bed.
3/4 birch/maple plywood stained with a dark walnut finish
Our lagun table mount allows the table to swivel in all directions, and move entirely to one side to allow us to move freely through the back of the van.
5 dimmable warm LED ceiling lights provides plenty of light throughout the whole van, and being able to adjust the brightness is a huge bonus as they are very bright when turned up all the way.
We lined the underside of the upper cabinets on the driver’s side with an LED color-changing light strip, which is perfect for mood lighting.
We also love decorating with small battery-powered rice lights that we hang with small inconspicuous command strips.
Everything inside the van is powered with our solar/battery setup except for our Dometic A/C unit. Because of the amount of power it draws, we plug into shore power when we need to use it.
2 Renogy 100 watt monocrystalline solar panels are mounted to our roof rack
The size of the charge controller allows us to expand to up to 400 watts of solar
Save power by wiring a 12v USB port to charge phones instead of using a 120v socket, as power is lost through the inverter
2 120v outlets
We have 2 6-gallon fresh water jugs mounted under our sink
1/2 inch braided nylon hose feeds into the water jugs
Our dual-stage water filter allows us to have safe drinking water even if we fill our water tanks with unfiltered water
These pneumatic hinges hold up the upper cabinet door for easy access.
Drawer latches are key to prevent them from coming open while driving.
Magnetic latches keep cabinet door shut while driving as well
Kensie custom made curtains using blackout material on one side, and decorative material on the other
Laminate wood flooring (from Costco)