My $999 Sprinter Basic Conversion for W/E adventure

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My super awesome $999 RV Conversion

I have a 2011 2500 passenger that we use 99% of the time for daily family stuff with the 3 benches installed… But I love solo camping and biking and spontaneous outdoor adventure and wanted to a “QUICK SNAP - IN” conversion for weekend trips.

My primary design goal was to keep everything easy to build, lightweight, rugged, simple to use, affordable and quick to add and remove.

I started my design with a trip to the container store to buy the bins to use to store my gear - I went with the clear cube bin design to maximize internal volume with the vertical walls. This bin had hand holes at the top of each side to allow easy grab and pull. I bought about a dozen of each size and headed home. I laid out all my gear from clothing to food to cooking stuff to winches, chairs, water etc. and started packing the bins. I quickly noticed I liked the larger sizes and that determined the next step which was design of the shelf height and shelf depth. The bin I went with looks a lot like traditional milk jug crates, but smaller.

I made two racks (drivers side and passenger side). I did not add any doors to the front of the racks to keep access to the clear storage bins easy. The clear bin idea was intentional to show the goods inside each bin without having to pull out the bin. I built the racks with 1" ESTO aluminum tube that had a 1/4" drop lip on one side to allow 1/4" plastic to drop in to form the shelf. I ended up using a thinner material than 1/4" for the shelf bottoms and this nested in perfectly, resting on top of the lip on the tubes and providing a slight negative edge preventing the bins from slipping out of the racks while driving. I used 6mil white plastic for the shelf bottom custom cut at a plastic wholesaler. White keeps the van brighter with a cleaner look than black. I used the ESTO plastic connectors for weld free assembly.

The overall height of the racks was determined by the vertical height needed to clear my bike below the bed. The bed mattress was a $99 Amazon foam “mattress in a box” and spanned the width of the van - I added drop in C channel between the drivers side and passenger side racks to support the mattress and then added drop in spans to support the mattress. The mattress was placed all the way in the back of the van, right against the rear doors. The foam mattress was designed to lift out of the way during the day and store against the side wall - but I never did this, I just left it in place each day as it was only about 40" wide and turned into a nice big storage area for day use. The Sinus brand mattress is possibly the most comfortable bed i have ever slept on - top reviews on the mattress in every measure.

I used the rack on the passenger side as a ladder to access the bed. The passenger side rack ended at the sliding door but I made the drivers side rack longer for food prep and portable butane single burner stove. I Left a small area behind the drivers side open to allow a folding chair to be set up during bad weather - this turned out to be an excellent idea - as I retreated to this protected area (shade) often to just chill out. I initially had the ice bin in the bottom of the rack, but decided to just leave it on the floor as a foot rest and quick bench. I left the bottom shelf area of the rack open without bins for heavy and big stuff like winch, folding chairs, water jugs, etc.

I added AA battery powered LED lighting (from Costco) for instant lighting. I added velcro so could just stick them to the existing fuzzy roof liner. They had a remote for all on / dim / off - perfect and only $20.

The neatest feature of the conversion is it only takes about 30 minutes to add the conversion, it takes about the same amount of time to remove the seats as it does to insert and secure the racks - I added blind buts to the bulkheads and use 1/4" hardware to simply fasten the tube to the bulkhead in 2 spots on each side. It takes longer to pack the sprinter than it does to convert it from passenger to camper.

I added 4 water jugs near the back door and simply opened the doors for hot shower and toilet privacy (I camp in BLM, not Walmart). I used the Zodi propane hot shower and love it - this thing is compact (about the size of 12 pack of corona beer) and beyond awesome - takes about 10 seconds to heat up and provides 5-10 minute long hot showers anywhere with just a few gallons of water. I use the foldable Reliance gel bag toilet.

For night time privacy I cut roll up window covers from a roll of aluminum insulation I got at Home Depot. I added velcro for instant snap in placement.

The part that made this all possible was the super lightweight aluminum tubing and connectors I use to build the racks. The company will even custom cut every tube and send it to you as a complete kit - wow! I used the ESTO brand and love everything about them.

At the end of the day I probably spent about $1000 on the conversion. The end product is very professional, minimalist, and lightweight. It is easy to secure and remove and provides absolutely 100% of my outdoor adventure needs.

I later added a skirt to the back doors sealing the area below the bed to the floor to allow keeping the rear doors open at night (preventing ground animals from climbing in - mice). It was a very tight fit using trucker adjustable freight bars from harbor freight.

My suggestions include adding the 1/4” threaded inserts to the bottom of each tube column to allow fine leveling adjustment at floor level by simply screwing the small rubber foot in or out. Keep all risers away from the floor seam and do not run horizontal beams at floor level to allow rack to sit flat on legs instead of wobble on full length tubes (floor is not flat). I added the soft side of double stick velcro to under each of the bins to prevent rattle noises. I added clothing to the top of the food bins to prevent noises. I also added a $10 door mat at the sliding door to wipe off dirty shoes before entering, and added a 6x2 spot rug inside for quick shake clean up.

My meals while camping are pretty simple, fruit and yogurt for breakfast with an espresso latte from a French Press. Lunch is basic hard roll and cheese and diner is my signature 10 minute tacos made from pre-cooked Costco angus burgers - secret - just heat up and cut the patties in half for a perfect half moon shaped meat insert into the taco shell…

There are endless ideas for converting a sprinter. For me, the inexpensive, Snap In rack design and clear bins fulfilled all my needs. Total cost with Zodi instant hot shower and Zinus mattress was under $1000.

The racks were so light you could pick them up with 1 finger - way lighter than 2x4's.

Tubing and connectors by ESTO

Hot shower by Zodi

Mattress from Amazon
Zinus Ultima Comfort Memory Foam 6 Inch Mattress

Ice bin is a 5 day Pelican

I will take photos next time I convert it ands post.
I'm interested in more feedback on the shower- it only flows 0.4 GPM according to the datasheet. For a van, this low rate is good! With my eccotemp based setup, I must maintain 0.9 (0.8? I forget the exact number) GPM or the heater will cut off, creating intermittent cold flow. A 4 gallon shower goes from 4 minutes to 2 minutes, not so good.

With the Zodi, how long does it take to from startup to reach 100 degrees, if you start from, say, 50F water tank? Any idea if it can bring a 33F tank to 100F in one pass? If you turn on and off (to further conserve water, Navy style), do the controls do a good job maintaining a steady temperature output?

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I have been using my Zodi hot shower for years - they actually got their start in Military gear so this think is built like a tank. It is very basic, connect the D Cell battery operated pump, put the pump in a bucket or lake and turn on the heater. Heating is instant, just seconds. The trick is to use a bucket and to put the shower head and the pump together in the same water bucket and recycle the water for a minute or two. Using this trick it does not matter how cold the water is it heats up quick. I bought the one with the plastic case - the top pop off and holds the propane and heater and the cases doubles as a 5 gallon water container - this gives me about an 8 minute shower - more than enough. Unlike the eco temp that has min-pressure shut off and 18 minute run time and cannot use lake water, this thing is built tough for use anywhere. There are no limit sensors like the eco and no filters to plug and no time limit - just don't run it out of water. The pump does have a foam filter to keep dirt and bugs out etc. Zodi also builds a hot air unit but good luck finding one of the smaller units. Most of these are now the big ones used by industry and military. Unit is amazing - 100% sealed so no CO gets inside, just clean hot fresh air. That was my first Zodi product, the Hot Vent, I used it to pre heat my engine in my plane. Once the engine was warm I put the tube inside the cabin for a few minutes (keep heater outside - only the air tubes go inside). The original video showed a guy in swim suit in a tent in a snow storm in the rockies and it was like 75F inside the tent. Good luck finding the consumer grade stuff, most of what they do now is back to the military stuff. If you have a chance to buy one get it, used prices on ebay are more than double original new price. I have not seen my hot vent in a few years but I use my Hot Tap Instant Shower every summer - awesome! Hot shower in a box. The trick is to buy one without a pump and connect it into rig cold water.

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Ill take photos of the racks in the warehouse. The only reason I posted was a buddy who has seen it asked me for the company who makes the tubes and connectors. I figured I would do a quick write up and share the idea. Think simple but refined.


currently vanless :-(
We're not gonna get those pictures :(

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