Easiest quick path to get a “camping” like van

ddunbar

New member
Our family has realized we love sprinter camper vans, but they are in very short supply and we don’t exactly want to wait.

I’m considering buying a new cargo van (144, 4x4) and then just rolling with a portable battery, toilet, solar, fridge etc until time either I can DIY it or get someone to.

Does anyone have tips or references on how well this can work?

Seems like the minimum I would need to do is install some kind of seating option for the kids car seats to go into, which I’m starting to see probably already has a lot of options and opinions.

- Daniel
 

glasseye

Well-known member
Start as small and simple as possible, then adapt as you see needs arise. Everybody’s use case is unique.
My first build in prep for a 2000 mile road trip for two took about two hours, including shopping.
 

ddunbar

New member
Are there existing advice threads like best portable gear to easily use without having to hardwire stuff?
 

MTGJR1

Active member
We are just getting ready to do "little things" to make travel a bit more comfortable to travel with our 2 month old 170 4X4 crew. Consider roof fan early; if you haven't slept in a metal box, it can be pretty uncomfortable. If you are in the States, look at feasibility of adding your solar while the federal renewable energy tax credit is still 26%. We're adding a small high end (probably Engel) portable cooler that will serve as a freezer in our build next year; turns out 15ish liters is plenty of cooler for a couple of days if you don't take up a third of it with ice. If you have kids, or are older, porta potty is real handy. Just traveled with my grand kids and real nice to be able to just pull over when you get the "gotta peeeeee" yell.
 

Bordi45

New member
If you are carrying family, I would strongly suggest starting with a 'Crew' van. The bench seat is already installed that way. Adding safe seating really isn't easy or cheap. You also get the benefit of basic walls and the headliner, which will give you a quieter ride until you get into they build. We started with a Cargo (empty nesters!), and it's a big empty drum until you start covering things up. You could use a Yeti Goal-Zero and a 12v fridge such as a Dometic. We've just had ours strapped into the tie-down points with heavy duty ratchet straps as we build in stages. A good cooler will get you by just fine to start, too. @grantwilson at FreedomVanGo.com does a ready-to-go Goal-Zero battery setup for what you are describing.

Sleeping enough people on the floor may be a small challenge at first depending on what length van you get. But, if your kids are old enough, throw them in a tent outside. They'll probably prefer it anyhow!

I would say get your van, start crawling these forums and car camping sources and go for it!
 

Ferrets

Member
LOL - Planning a camping/glamping/road trip w/ a very incomplete 170 4x4 cargo build. Literally air mattresses, a cooler & a bin to store stuff. Its like a steel tent, so hoping two maxxair fans and no screens will be bearable. Even though it came with the full headliner, not so much headliner right now, so probably will need to keep speeds down. Kids always wear earbuds anyway... Sleeping and seating a family four is a challenge - we chose to install a happijac bed lift, when lifted, the lower area will be a dinette - waiting on a bunch of deliveries though (supply chain...) , so right now, the floor will have to do. Not knowing your skill set and background, DIY or not, installing seating at the very least requires thorough research - its not just bolts and washers. I went with OEM seat rails and OEM three person reclining bench - It takes up a lot of room - I did not want aftermarket. Trip will be an "adventure" for sure, teenagers and all. Taking the trusty tent along as well - just in case.
 

alyx

New member
Bought a passenger van in May.
Built a wooden bed.
Made some window coverings out of reflectix.
Insulated.
Got a Dometic fridge and portable battery (PLB40).
Got a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat.
Been camping and traveling with two kids under 5 ever since.

Wife keeps saying how its been our best decision/purchase ever.
Go figure ;)
 

Kajtek1

2015 long/tall limo RV 2.1l
I used old camper interior for my Sprinter conversion.
But I bought Sprinter bus, with windows all around and dual AC.
Starting with cargo van will make a project who will last way past Coronavirus times.
I will not even try to figure out how to fit 144 WB with toilet, fridge, shower, seating and sleeping for 4 +
 

autostaretx

Erratic Member
I’m considering buying a new cargo van (144, 4x4) and then just rolling with a portable battery, toilet, solar, fridge etc until time either I can DIY it or get someone to.
As others have written: buy the Crew Van or a passenger wagon. (the extra seats are instantly removable... floor clips)
The passenger wagon (like mine!) has windows all around ... and (in the T1N years) *softer springs*. (no effect upon GVW)
(avoids paying dentists for continual cracked-teeth repair).

We don't have kids, but the "conversion" has been a gradual "build" for 14 years. First a porta-pottie, single AGM battery, Peltier cooler (buy a chest fridge, it's far better), and a sequence of bed attempts. Only 3 years ago did we add a MaxxFan on the roof, and 2 years ago 200 watts of solar (still running the same 14-year-old 67 AH AGM battery).

--dick
 

Colorado_Al

Well-known member

Midwestdrifter

Engineer In Residence
Don't Limit yourself to sprinters. There are lots of great class B and class C RVs out there. A moderately used class C RV with the shorter body style may be just the ticket depending on what your needs are.

Fitting the basic necessities for four individuals and sleeping into a short wheelbase van is tricky even with the best of layouts and build skills.
 

pfflyer

Well-known member
My build was pretty simple.

 

IPT

Member
Man, when we bought our we just put our sleeping pads on the floor in the back and rolled! I progressed step by step adding a bed and raised platform (wood) so we could sleep in it and still get bikes in under us.

Down the road I took out the headliner and ran wires for lights and put in an upper cabinet, got the heater done and a bunch of other stuff. We're still using a regular cooler. All depends on your needs and time frame. I waited and insulated my floor later and that resulted in doing a lot twice and having to redo stuff with new configurations. Once you have everything out, if you're going to insulated the floor my recommendation is to do it first. Depending on your build (mine has lots of stuff that require specific distances between the floor and side rails) if you raise the floor later it may (or may not) throw other stuff off.
 

ddunbar

New member
Thanks everyone for the replies, this is so helpful!

I’ve currently almost got a deposit in on a Cargo van despite the advice here, because that seems to be what our local supplier already has in production. Maybe I’ll see if I can find a Crew option instead...
 

81duck

Member
Do yourself a favor and at least invest in some extra sound deadener (put on the floor as well), some insulation (wool or thinsulate would be my rec), and a fan. These vans are VERY noisy when just a big beer can, so at least quiet it down a bit. You can hang a sheet over the walls if the thought of visible insulation bothers you. Now you have a nice metal tent to sleep in if you don't like sleeping outdoors. We like to use a hammock off the rear ladder and a tree to sleep in if the weather is decent. Cook outside, nothing worse than your van smelling like fish or whatever for the next month. Get a decent cooler and go for it.

Like others have suggested, after the first weekend trip you'll have a good idea as to what you REALLY need.
 

Aqua Puttana

Poly - Thread Finder
We love our air lock tent. I'm a bit of town crier for the concept. If partial tent camping is ok with your family, it expands the living space with little effort. When you have a dry place to sleep (the van) tenting becomes much more civilized.


:cheers: vic
 

Colorado_Al

Well-known member
We love our air lock tent. I'm a bit of town crier for the concept. If partial tent camping is ok with your family, it expands the living space with little effort. When you have a dry place to sleep (the van) tenting becomes much more civilized.


:cheers: vic
Totally!
I have a 10x10 swingwall canopy that we put a tent in. It is quick to setup and is great for essentially doubling the space we have with the Sprinter. I just set it up so the tent is next to the rear of the sprinter and the swingwall in the up position at the slider door.
Cooking table, chairs, under the swingwall, cots in the tent.
10+Ft.+W+x+10+Ft.+D+Steel+Pop-Up+Canopy.jpg
41Pj1xAGozL._AC_SY400_.jpg
 

elemental

Wherever you go, there you are.
I’ve currently almost got a deposit in on a Cargo van despite the advice here, because that seems to be what our local supplier already has in production. Maybe I’ll see if I can find a Crew option instead...
If you need more than 2 seatbelts, the Crew van is the fastest/factory-safe way to go. I have 2 adults/2 kids and was dead set on getting a Crew van and don't regret it. Of course, I also wanted the windows in the front of the cargo area that come with the crew (one in slider, one opposite) so that made the decision even easier.
 

ddunbar

New member
Unfortunately I am having trouble finding a crew van option that is timely. I did find a conversion company that can put in seats immediately after the cargo van arrives, now I need to find seats that have LATCH if I’m going to go that route
 

ENMeyer

Member
Add me to the "Crew van is highly recommended" considering the safety of your kids.

I'd want to hear and see how the conversion company is going to install seats. I wouldn't trust just anyone to designing/engineering/installing a safe seat option.
 

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