144 4x4 for Family of 4 (and a dog)

Yes. I bought a non-ferrous metal blade.https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00LFCMSKC/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I also bought some wax for the blade https://www.amazon.com/Relton-STICK...=stick+wax+for+chop+saw&qid=1610420544&sr=8-9 I applied it to the blade every 5-10 cuts I think.

Aluminum cuts nice but make sure to 1) clamp down the aluminum you are cutting. 2) cut slowly and once the cut is complete let the blade stop before lifting the blade 3)have your shopvac ready...that fine aluminum dust sucks. I vacuumed pretty much after every cut. 4) Eye and ear protection doesn't hurt. Much louder than cutting wood. I also wore gloves while cutting in case the aluminum got away (less likely if you stop the saw before lifting.) I'm not usually as focused on safety as I should be, but in the case of aluminum I was pretty dialed in.

I also think for the angle brackets, I marked my cuts and pre drilled the holes before I cut them. I don't have a drill press so I found this easier than drilling the smaller pieces. Not sure if that makes sense.

Feel free to ask any more questions. I am no expert, but if I my experiences can help, I am always happy to share.
Side Cubbies/Drawer System/Floor

Yet another design, re-design, re-re-design item in the van. Ultimately I second guessed myself in the end and changed my design a little bit...which I regret. Eventually, I will rip this part out and re-do it.

When you are fitting three rows in a 144 and want to regularly seat/sleep four (and a dog), there isn’t a lot of room for a kitchen and bathroom inside the van. As tent campers, we are used to cooking outside anyway so this wasn’t a problem. My main concern was being able to store our stuff in the van and make it convenient to use at all times...and to get away on a quick trip without having to pack much. I knew I wanted a kitchen that could pull out the back. I knew I wanted a small water system (removable jugs), and I knew I needed a pull out for the fridge (Dometic CFX 75 DZ). I also knew my wife and I would sleep on a platform bed above this and the kids would sleep above that too. Lastly, I knew we would need a place to store food and our other things (fishing gear, tent, etc).

First things first. I needed 48 inch heavy duty locking drawer slides. My word these things are expensive. I ended up finding them online out of a place in Minnesota. I ordered what I thought were two pairs. This pair was slightly cheaper (not a lot cheaper, but every penny counts) than everywhere else. They arrived. I wasn’t ready for them yet as I hadn’t even started to build the structure yet. I was still in the midst of the plywood vs. 80/20 debate (Spoiler alert...I ended up going with plywood just because I didn’t also want to have to learn how to use a new product/material I hadn’t used before).

When I finally got around to opening the box I was excited to learn it wasn’t two pairs, but just two slides. Who sells individual drawer slides???? Is that a thing? Are there drawers out there that use just one slide? So, I then had to order a pair of non locking slides (at least they were cheaper than locking slides) to pair up with my locking slides. That was frustrating. I guess I should have read that website more closely. I thought I was saving a bit of money...ended up spending more.

In addition to the plywood vs 80/20 debate I also went back and forth between putting my water tanks on driver’s side and passenger side. I was thinking of weight distribution, convenience, layout etc. Each time I thought I had it right, I would think of something else that would change my mind.

In the end the layout ended up like this:

Next to the third row/battery box, I built a cubby for the Dometic porta-potty. Because of the second row seat in front of it, I couldn’t have it pull out, so the box opens in order to use it. I later amended the top to have a double hinge due to the bed design (see later post).

Water on the passenger side. Two Sceptor tanks. I build a cubby wide enough to fit them side by side. Said cubby was divided and extended up towards the front for additional storage. I will write more about my water system later (spoiler alert: It was inspired by OurKaravan).

On the driver’s side I built a cubby as wide as the wheel well. This cubby is used to store our folding chairs, etc.

Driver’s side I have a drawer that contains my fridge (Dometic CFX 75 DZ...love this thing) and has a bit more storage behind it. On the passenger side I have a drawer that is essentially my kitchen. My stove pulls out from a drawer within the drawer, and all pots, pans, dishes, etc are in the rest of the drawer. This worked out as well as I expected. In addition to the old school Coleman campstove I also bring my backpacking stove. I leave this outside the van at night so I can make coffee in the morning without leaving the doors open. I would say this is the only downside of the design for our uses. And, if one day I decide to be more of an A$$h*le and not worry about my sleeping wife and kids this won’t be an issue at all.

My first plan was to have access to the cubbies from the top. I changed my mind and made the access on the side through an oval shaped hole. MISTAKE!!! Because the bed sits on top of this, it is very difficult to get into them. I should have done with my initial plan and hinged the top for access. The tops of the cubbies act as part of the bed platform. The remainder of The bed platform sits between the cubbies. More on the bed in a later post.

I fabricated some mounts (and by fabricated I mean measure and drill holes in)for the cubbies to connect to the L-track on the walls, then used a couple screws through the ¾ inch plywood floor. I ended up building a box for the drawers and the walls for the cubbies sit on top of said box. In hindsight I might have done this differently...making the cubbies out of one piece. It works just fine as it is though.
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Top L-Track.

Alright. I have been stalling over this project for so long. I don’t know why this intimidated me. In order to build my bed system, and finish off my wall and ceiling panels, I have to figure out how to install my top L-track. At the end of the day it is not that hard.

I had some ⅛ x 2 inch bar steel kicking around. Using a combination of plus nuts and steel pop rivets I mounted it to top of the van. I kind of just guessed at the best place to put it. I cut a few notches out of it to work around some little annoying sticky outy bits in the van. On the driver’s side I also removed the wire chase and pulled all the fasteners out for the factory wire run. I then stuffed the wire up into the little cubbies out of the way wherever I could. The reason I needed the steel reinforcement at all is, of course, because there is a lot more air than sheet metal in that part of the van and I wanted my L-track to be secure and be able to hold a decent load.

I took my time with this process. My steel became very familiar with the route between the inside of my van and my workbench in the driveway. Clamps were my best friend. There were two sets of holes that needed to be drilled. The set that I used to fasten the steel to the van, and the set that I used to fasten my L-track to the steel. In a few spots these ended up being the same hole. After all the holes were drilled, all bare steel was painted and I mounted it with no issue. It ended up being a very easy process. It would have been soooooo much easier had I just done it in order, while I was making the rest of the panels.

After completing this, I now knew the exact size of my remaining panels. I cut them to size and upholstered them (same process as last panels). This meant I had to get my spray gun out and deal with adhesive again. Ugh. All that could have been avoided.

PROJECT 15B (out of order)

Oh, while I am thinking about it, I realized another job I did before. I don’t think I mentioned it yet because I think I actually completed this before putting my other panels up. I used 3M90 and my same marathon fabric and put fabric on the D-pillar. This was also relatively simple and makes it look soooo much cleaner. I debated how I deal with big square holes in the D-pillar. After covering the pillars with fabric I ended up cutting the fabric at the holes. I don’t know why I did this. In hindsight I should have taped over the holes before covering them. So then I started shopping for the plastic covers and could only find them on ebay for like 16 British pounds each. No thank you. Luckily my buddy got a 3D printer for xmas. For about 6 cents each he printed them up for me. Fit like a glove
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Bed system

Holy Crap. Time is ticking. I have stalled and changed plans so often that our road trip is only weeks away, and we still have no place to sleep in the van. I had a buddy who promised to teach me to weld aluminum while also helping me fab the bed frames. Only he kept flaking. Finally, I had to go to plan B and pay a guy to do it. Bummer as I was looking forward to learning and doing this myself...but sometimes...that is the way it goes.

Sleep four. You have heard me say it before. I love the Adventure Wagon Monk Bed. I DO NOT love the price. Beautifully designed, beautifully made. Can’t argue with that. It is amazing. If I had the money...I would totally go there. I also dig the Outside Van bunk bed. I took inspiration from a combination of those two. Their bracket that fastens the bunk to the L-track is super trick. I tried to buy a couple from them. They didn't even dignify my inquiry with a response.

The plan is, two folding bunks. They are fastened to the vertical L-track with some sort of bracket. I uses straps to both hold them tight to the walls when not in use (using my newly installed top row of L-track) and also to hang the beds from the ceiling L-track when in use. The bunks would be 25 inches wide which is the same width as their thermarest mattresses. Since we still tent camp I don’t see the need to bring two sets of mattresses...we will all use our thermarests whether in the van or in the tent. The beds, being 25 inches wide, would then have to be mounted 25 inches down so they can fold flat. I also wanted them away from the wall a bit so I can leave the mattresses and sleeping bags on the bed when I fold it away.

For my wife and I, I decided on a three panel platform bed. It would mount between the two cubbies, using the tops of the cubbies as part of the bed. Not sure if that makes sense. And because I like to make things difficult, I also wanted the bed to function as a couch. My plan was the front and middle panel (both about 40 inches wide I think) would both be in place the vast majority of time (but also easily removed), while the front panel, (full width of van) would be removed and stored the majority of the time to create space in the van. The front and middle panels could both flip up and be fastened in an upright position. This would mean if you flip up the middle panel, you have a couch facing backwards so you can chill and enjoy the view out the back of the van. If you flip up the back panel you can turn your van into a vibing soul lounge with smooth jazz and hipster cocktails….alternatively, you could just sit there and make fart jokes with your kids. Either way, it seemed like a good idea to use the space well.

I loaded up my van with all the aluminum I had bought for the bed and all the aluminum I had bought for other things, and all the L-track I had left. I brought it to my fabricator, explained what I wanted, and gave him artistic license to get after it.

I couldn’t be happier with the frames he made for the bunks. Angled the corners like outside van. I completed them with some ½ ply, ¼ inch foam I had left over from insulating my floors, and the tweed left over from the wall panels. Lovely. Comfy. I fabricated the mount by using a piece of hefty angle aluminum, bolting a piano hinge along the length and fastening it to the L-track. Works great. The only change to the bunks in the future is powder coating them so they look super cool.

The platform bed. Love the 40 inch panels.

Clever design for the couch mechanism. He ended up welding L-track to the angle aluminum I was planning on using for the rails. I use the L-track to both fasten the bed down and to lift it up and fasten into any angle I want to make it a couch, chaise lounge, etc. Pretty cool. I finished those panels off with left over ⅛ inch foam left over from my wall panels and speaker carpet. (MISTAKE: I would probably also use tweed for this as the speaker carpet pills up...but it is much softer on the skin). I also drilled holes in the panel to allow access to the L-track so I can move it into a couch position easily.

That third panel. This is the one I can’t seem to get right. First he welded the brackets right onto the bed frame, so you work the whole thing into position then fasten the bracket to the L-track. Tough to do solo. This is not too bad in an empty van, but I learned in a van loaded up on a road trip it is a bit more difficult. At first we took that panel off every morning and strapped it to one of the bunk beds to get it out of the way. Eventually that got too annoying and we left it in place. This led to problems accessing the toilet and gear.

I later ended up modifying the bed by adding a folding support leg in the middle, adding a hinged portion to allow access to the toilet, and no longer having the supports welded to the frame. It works better but I will be modifying it again as I am still not completely happy with it. It definitely works well. Again, when trying to cram all of this into a 144 van, there are going to be some inconveniences. I recognize that. I also recognize that my mind doesn't work that way. I will keep reinventing my design until I get it right.

As I read this over, I am not sure if any of it makes sense. As I have been terrible at documenting my build with photos, I am not even sure if my photos will help...but here is hoping.
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Window Covers.

So while I was working on the beds, my wife busted out her sewing machine to get to work on the window covers. Now before you go all 2020 on me and cancel me for my sexist ways, know this….We aren’t the traditional “pink jobs” and “blue jobs” kind of people. I am no stranger to the kitchen, the vacuum, or the washing machine just as she is no stranger to the lawn mower or the trash bins...but we also know where our talents lay (or don’t lay). I am a bit better with a chop saw and she is better with the sewing machine.

Like the rest of the van, the University of Google/Youtube was consulted. We compiled the best of a whole bunch of resources and did our best. For the outside (facing the window) we used black ripstop nylon. For the inside we chose a fun fabric. We love us some black and red plaid. Many call it buffalo plaid. We call it Canadian plaid in our house. We also managed to find some with little tents and moose on the red squares. Best fabric ever! For the insulation portion we used EZ Cool insulation. Lastly, she used edge tape to finish them off, and neodymium magnets to hold them in place when installed.

Now I wasn’t a big part of this process but I know this. She made a lot of trips back and forth to the van while making templates. She used a few techniques but I think the one she settled on was using a roll of tracing paper to make a template. She then traced that template onto cardboard for some of the windows and directly to the EZ Cool on others. Once she was happy with the fit of the EZ Cool she cut the fabric to appropriate sizes and shapes. She then cut the EZ Cool into 8 inch strips. This will allow the covers to fold for storage. She sewed up the fabric. If memory serves she used blue tape to make little pockets for the magnets and held them in place with more blue tape, then sewed around them. I might be wrong. I also think I remember the magnets wanting to stick to the sewing needle being a problem, but I might be making that up. If any of you have tips on a better way to do that please share.

Overall, these things are awesome. We will be adding a couple more magnets to the larger windows (sliding door) as those ones slouch a bit, but overall they are amazing. They keep the van perfectly dark and you can’t see any light sneaking out of the van. Mission accomplished.

I think this is the only pic I have of them….

Wheels and Tires

Roadtrip just a few days away. I made a last minute decision to change out my wheels and tires. With a three week roadtrip coming up and a sense of adventure, I figured we might as well get the tires that will inspire confidence if we wanted to get off the beaten track. My first inclination was to go with KO2 and Method 301s like so many others. Then the KO2s were sold out and I fell out of love with the 301s. After a lot of deliberation I ended up choosing the Toyo Open Country ATIII and Black Rhino Warlords in gray. After even more deliberation I chose 265 70 17. Almost went with the 275. My buddy did. They look cool. I can switch to those in 60,000 miles or so.

Got them mounted up and installed and drove home. They look so much better. I no longer look like the Amazon Prime guy so that is pretty cool. As expected, there is some rubbing on left turns. That brings me to….

Not to spoil my next post, but I am sooooo glad I changed out the tires to something more off road worthy. It totally changed our mindset. The new tires gave us the confidence to take some roads (and some not roads) during our roadtrip that we wouldn't have otherwise. These all led to amazing camp spots and experiences. Perhaps the stock tires would have been just find on those roads...but I probably wouldn't have had the cajones to try them out....totally worth the price of admission for the mindset change the tires afforded us.

Cut Fender

This was another debate. Agile Offroad No Rub Fender. Looks easy. A bit expensive. Van Compass has another version. Also cool. University of youtube...what should I do, what should I do? I decided to just do it myself and make a bracket. I think it was PNW Van or something like that who did it himself with a homemade bracket from angle aluminum. I used that video as well as an Owl Van Engineering video as guides on how to do it.

Worst case scenario, I mess it up and end up buying one of the above products. Absolutely no downside to trying it myself. Glad I did. This was a very easy job. I took off the plastic piece inside the wheel well. I used a sharpie to mark out my cut then used a die grinder to trim back the fender about an inch and a quarter. I cut some angle aluminum to length (maybe two or three inches), marked out holes in appropriate places and screwed it into place. The new bracket is just a place to screw the mudflap to since you cut off the part it used to fasten to. Don’t forget to paint the bare metal.

I think it took me a total of two hours to do both wheels. Easy!

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Is there a reason placing the L track between the 2 holes rather than using existing hole already there? Thanks again for entertain write up :)

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Yes. Basically it was because i was trying to emulate the Adventure Wagon build, and judging by the videos that is where they put them. My instinct was to use the pre-drilled holes and I thought it was strange I was drilling new holes right next to perfectly good holes...however, I wanted to leave myself with the option of buying the AdWag MuleBags in the future so wanted it to be as close to their build as possible. Spoiler Alert: I later ended up buying said mulebags (awesome bags, quality....again overpriced...but so is everything else in the sprinter world). If I hadn't put the L-track in the same place the mulebags definitely would not have fit. If you have no intention of using them, you put the L-track wherever you want to suit your build. There is no right way or right place. It is whatever works for you and your build.
Why is your thinsulate black side out/ white side in? Never seen it installed that way.
If you are referring to the walls, it is because I knew they would be exposed for a while....I figured it would be pretty likely the insulation would be contacted by a lot of things and people and I didn't want white insulation fuzz all over everything...My theory was the black side out would be better for that. And I was right. As you will note I put the ceiling stuff white side down...it got pretty dirty and ugly before I put up the ceiling panel and occasionally transferred lint onto stuff. Other than that there is no scientific reason. Fact Checkers verified this information so you know it is true.
Colorado, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana

I love a good roadtrip. My wife loves a good roadtrip. My dog loves a good roadtrip. Even my pre-teen and teen age kids love a good road trip. We always take a good three week (or so) roadtrip in the summertime. Before this year we did said roadtrip in a Nissan Armada...which was cool...but it was going to be soooooo much cooler in our badass sprinter van.

My son really wanted to go to Mount Rushmore. To be honest, I really had no desire to, but if your pre-teen son has an interest in some form of history, damnnit you would be a fool to not stoke that fire. So we planned out our trip with that being the primary purpose. What else is in South Dakota. Nothing right? WRONG! I read a bit and learned there seemed to be some cool stuff. Alright. A few ideas. Then I planned backwards...We had just hit Wyoming, Montana, etc the previous two summers in a row. Maybe we explore something else. Colorado? Don’t mind if I do. Arizona? Been there a lot, but why not. New Mexcio? Hell Yeah!!! So I tell my kids a general idea of where we want to go. I tell them to do some research and they can pick what we do/see, where we camp, etc. Or at least have some input. Let’s be real. They aren’t going to make all the choices. Stupid kids. Are you crazy? But at least it made them feel like they had some power.

So anyway...of course we are planning this with an eye on Covid. I mean global pandemic and all that. So at first our plan was to hit New Mexico. Then, um, COVID. 14 day mandatory quarantine. Ya...that just won’t work. Plan B. Hit north rim of grand canyon on the way to Colorado. Explore Colorado a bit, sneak into South Dakota, explore, then re-assess where we go with whatever time we have left. Genius. The beauty of having the van is we no longer had to worry about reserving campsites or hotel rooms or whatever. Usually we would reserve some campsites here and there just to make sure we had a place to pitch the tent, then on long travel days we would reserve a hotel room. While we still loved our trips, those restrictions didn’t leave a lot of room for spontaneity. The van...that would. We always had a place to sleep.

So for those of you who haven’t been there, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is just under a million times better than the south rim. It starts with the long aspen lined road on the way in, and continues beyond that. This was our first night sleeping in the van AND our first night boondocking. We ended up finding a spot on a fireroad. SUCCESS!

Next on to Colorado. Mainly in the San Juans and that whole area. I won’t bore you with details...but we loved it. We tent camped a few days, slept in the van a few days….we had a week of straight rain….but it didn’t matter. We loved every minute. And those tires….wonderful. Muddy. Steep. Narrow. Bumpy. Washed out. Roads. Even a small river crossing. I didn’t even switch it into four wheel drive. I was surprised how capable it was. Definitely a learning curve to driving it...the river crossing...I allllllmost backed out..but then another vehicle came in behind me...so I thought i would try it. So easy. Don’t even know what I was afraid of. I learned that it is important to have a solid combination of cajones and caution. I think we found good balance on this trip.

As for the van build...very few squeaks or rattles. Beds were working out fine with the exception of that third panel. Drawer kitchen was great. We did have to time our cooking for between heavy rains. I rigged up a tarp over the back doors at one point which worked ok. I will throw in a pic here if I have one

The whole time we were on our trip we were making lists of things we need to add, subtract, modify, change, etc. Awning of some kind….lets add that. Bed modification...for sure. More storage (headliner shelf, overhead shelf of some kind), change the cubbies, center console of some kind….but overall I can’t complain. Oh...and I wish I had got my water pump hooked up. We have two 5 gallon sceptor jugs. (Also bought the ridiculously overprice spout for it…$30!!!! But worth it in the end). They are perfect. We tended to go through about one a day between drinking, cooking, and washing dishes. We never had trouble finding a place to fill them. But it would have been convenient to have a pump. In our past trips we did a lot of swimming, and also had hotel stops mixed in to shower. This trip...was cold and rainy for the first 10 days or so. We didn’t do as much swimming (or any really) and had no hotel stops. Not to get too graphic...I’ll just say it...my butt stunk. Gotta set up that outdoor shower….make that a priority.

One of the funniest moments of our trip was driving from Colorado to SD. We decided to stop in Cheyenne on the way for some lunch. For those of you near there, if you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and eat at 2 Doors Down in downtown Cheyenne. My word. We have made that a must do on our roadtrips if we are in the area. Anyway, I digress. Global pandemic and all that, and we have California plates on the van. Media is talking about how Covid is nuts in Cali. So we are trying to be extra cautious, and respectful and wear our masks all the time. We walk into 2 Doors Down. Record scratches. Everyone stares at us. Literally the only people wearing a mask. The nice lady at the front door says, “Oh Honey, you don’t have to wear those here.” Man...I think I found my new home.

South Dakota...AMAZING!!! Black Hills, Rushmore, etc etc. So damn cool. Onto a bit of Wyoming and Montana on the way home. I won’t bore you with details but it involved a lot of backroads, a lot of dirt roads, and the trend of about half and half in the van and in our tent. And we found some campsites we never would have found without getting off the pavement as much as we did. About 5000 miles in all.

So for a family of tent campers who are used to long road trips in a Nissan Armada...was it worth it to buy an overpriced van, buy overpriced components, spend hundreds of hours on youtube (and this forum) researching, hundreds of hours planning and re-planning, countless hours building, changing, building all to have it not even complete before the inaugural roadrip (well...long roadtrip...we had done short ones). Hell Ya it was. I don’t regret it for a second.

Oh...and Mt. Rushmore...soooooo much better than I expected. If you haven’t gone...do it.
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Overhead Shelf/Mule Bags

Alright. When we got back from the trip we had a full list of things we wanted to do with the van. What I didn’t have was motivation to do it. I had been going pretty hard before our trip to try get everything done...and I think I needed a break.

I don’t remember how long of a break I took, but eventually I got back at it. After completing my outside ceiling and top roof panels (I think I already wrote about it, but it turns out we took our roadtrip without them completed) I went on to the headliner shelf. There are lots of options of premade shelves out there but as is my trend...i just felt they were overpriced. I thought about buying one of those template/brackets packages for $120 but even that seemed expensive for what you get. So what would any man in this predicament do? That’s right. OurKaravan. Ken to the rescue again. I bought the brackets he used from his store page situation, heated them as he did in his video and bent them in my vice. It was actually quite easy to get the angle right.

I installed the brackets as they came (90 degrees). I put them in place and used some cardboard to make a template for the shelf itself. Using the template in place I removed one bracket and bent it to accommodate for the angle of the side of the van so the template would sit flush. Once I got one perfect I did the second one. Once I had both a front and a back bracket, I bent the other two to the same angles. Was actually quite easy.

I traced my template onto ½ inch ply. Cut it out a bit larger just to be safe,and slowly worked it until the fit was to my liking...making sure it was a bit smaller to leave room for material. I then glued a couple of ½ inch scraps together to make a long one inch by one inch piece. I glued and screwed it on to my shelf to make a lip. I covered the whole shelf (top and bottom) with left over ⅛ foam from the walls and covered the whole thing in tweed. Why did I cover top and bottom in foam? My theory is to a) protect my head a bit for when I inevitably bump it on the shelf and 2) to have less rattles if something hard is placed on the shelf. EDITOR’S NOTE: Shockingly, to date I have not bumped my head on it. Oh...and I just used 3M90 to glue the foam and fabric on.

Now...for my other top storage shelves..drivers side above the window. My plan was to make an overhead shelf there. I had done the research and made templates and everything. I was deciding whether or not I make it an open shelf or add doors. Whether I was burnt out from building or what... I had a moment of weakness. I saw Hodakaguy’s post about buying AdWag Mule Bags and how much he loved them. I don’t know if that validated my feelings and made me realize I wouldn’t have to turn in my man card if I bought something rather than building it, but after reading it I ended up buying a set too. Just one, since that is all I have room for (and my kids might decide to go to college so I wanted to keep some money around). I also don’t regret that decision either. They are quality. They are convenient. And I didn’t have to build them.

Since then we have done a couple short roadtrips in the van. WORLD OF DIFFERENCE. We are able to keep things so much more organized with the additional storage options. So great
Water System/Shower Platform

This is going to shock you, but my water system was inspired by OurKaravan. I know right? I say “inspired by” because I don’t have a sink in my van, so it won’t be exactly the same. I just don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel. Especially when Ken makes it so easy with his shopping lists. I didn’t even have to think about the components. I just blindly trust him and go on to his site and order stuff. He hasn’t let me down yet and I just don’t think he will.

I bought a Shurflo pump. Quick releases. Foodgrade reinforced tubing. I fastened the pump down in the cubby I had prepared for the water. Cut the spout off one of the Sceptor water containers (left the other one on so it can be used as is, without the pump). Drilled it out with a step bit to the right size and attached the quick connect. Hose inside the tank, same style hose from tank to pump.

Great. But with no sink, where is this water going to be pumped to. I bought one of those expandable silver bullet style garden hoses. This would allow me to wash dishes, fill water bottles, shower, or rinse off surfboards or sandy feet up to 25 feet away from the van. Again...we are tent campers. I am fine doing my dishes in a basin outside. I felt this was the most versatile way to hook it all up. It is such a simple system, and works great. I, of course, wired it all to a switch to turn it on and off on demand. I think what amazes me most is how quiet the pump is. Great stuff.

Speaking of showers. I had planned ahead when building the drawers and had made some rails under the fridge drawer to store the yet unbuilt shower platform. Since this is just a prototype piece I bought some cheap redwood from the local big box store and made an inexpensive, yet handsome, shower platform to stand on. As I said, it gets stored under the fridge, slides in nicely, and keeps our feet clean when showering.

Crap. I just realized I don’t even have any pics of either the water system or the shower platform. I really suck at this. But...just to say I’m sorry, I have a special treat for you. I don’t think I posted pics of my fancy toilet box yet. So I will post them here. Oh, and where I store my table too. I know. Makes no sense. Write about a shower, post pics of a toilet. It’s all I have for now. I will post the water pics another time. (Side note: I hate where I store my table. If any of you have ideas I am all ears.


‘17 4x4 Moto Camping Van
I once had thanksgiving dinner in cheyanne (I was moving from Chicago to Cali)...will never forget that experience. I can only imagine what your stop was like 👍🏻


Great write ups and nice outcome on the build. We are in the tail end of ours which has a similar objective -- extend our tent camping range/flexibility and provide a place to go if you get stuck in bad weather.

If you don't mind, I'd love to hear any thoughts or lessons learned planning the road trip. Interested to understand how much you had a sense of target areas planned based on google maps searching and then found a forest road when you were in the area, or if you had a more precise target destination? Any advice on what worked (or didn't) is greatly appreciated.

We are looking to do something similar this spring/summer (socal to CO and UT for the first trek). Definitely going to check out the north rim of GC based on your comment.

Great write ups and nice outcome on the build. We are in the tail end of ours which has a similar objective -- extend our tent camping range/flexibility and provide a place to go if you get stuck in bad weather.

If you don't mind, I'd love to hear any thoughts or lessons learned planning the road trip. Interested to understand how much you had a sense of target areas planned based on google maps searching and then found a forest road when you were in the area, or if you had a more precise target destination? Any advice on what worked (or didn't) is greatly appreciated.

We are looking to do something similar this spring/summer (socal to CO and UT for the first trek). Definitely going to check out the north rim of GC based on your comment.

@kper, Thanks for the comment. We have been doing those extended road trips for years. They are literally the highlight of my year, every year. My kids have been doing them since they were babies...literally and even though they are 12 and 13 now, they still look forward to them as much as my wife and I do. I think I mentioned this in the write up but as my kids get older I allow them more input into what we do/where we go and I like to have them do a bit of research as well. This year was a bit more of a challenge than usual due to Covid...something simple like the van not fitting in drive-thrus made us get a bit creative. It also forced us to be a bit flexible (which is never a big problem for us...especially with the van. That is definitely one of the perks of the van. Never have to worry about where you are sleeping. Might not be scenic. Might be at a freeway rest stop, but it is a place to sleep.

Alright...the planning process. We generally start with an idea of something specific we want to see or an area we want to go...or even an event. For example, last year it was Mt. Rushmore. The year before that was Glacier NP. Before that was Yellowstone, and before that was a friend's wedding in Oregon. From there, I spend some time on google maps. I look at multiple routes to our ultimate destination. Based on those routes I look up great things to see/do, nice camping spots, etc. My kids will do the same. The whole trip kind of evolves from there. I know how many days we have for our trip and I basically assume approximately three to five days in a general region. I write out the days on a piece of paper and start google mapping our route from there. For example...Day 1. Home to North Rim. 8 hours. Day 2. North rim. Day 3. North Rim to Mesa Verde NP. Day 4. San Juan Mountains/Teluride. day 5. Same. Day 6 Same. Day 7. Ouray/Silverton. etc etc. Multiple incarnations of these routes occur as we do our research until we have a rough idea of our route there and back. We research hikes, good spots to paddle board, fish, etc. We end up with a rough outline...but that is all it ends up...a rough outline. We don't feel any obligation to stick to our plan. When the kids were younger we did. We reserved campsites and hotel rooms along the way and stayed pretty close to plan. We learned on an early roadtrip when we struggled finding a campsite...they were all full. Now that the kids are older, and especially that we have the van, we don't worry about that anymore.

I'm not sure if that makes sense. Please feel free to ask any further questions you may have. As far as the locations you are planning on going. Utah is amazing. Many people skip Capitol Reef National Park. Don't. It is amazing. Look up Kodachrome Basin State Park. If you have young kids they will love it. Lots of natural rock slides. Bring extra old shorts for the kids. They will rip a lot of holes in their shorts. :) The pinnacles is another family favorite. Hide and seek for hours. Dead Horse Point State Park too. Of course Moab and the other national parks. All amazing.

So I guess, to answer your question, we have an idea of a general area and a general time line a go from there. We seek adventure around where we are going. It is not uncommon to stray off a chosen path, or take a different route based on what we learn during our trip. We try to keep a full tank of diesel and water, and lots of food on hand to allow for that.
Door Panels/Insulation, Front Door Speakers

I’m not even sure what to write about here. I guess the hardest part of this is getting the door panels off without breaking any clips. Four doors...only one broken clip. Not bad. I ended up buying a four pack of Nissan clips from Autozone that were pretty much the same...and they worked.

Back doors...just start at the top, pull out sharply a few times. It all comes off. Some of the clips stay in the door. For these ones I used my trusty Harbor Freight trim removal tools and popped them out. Mind those little paper thin washers. They like to walk away. Double and triple check them to keep them in your general vicinity. Oh...and to get the rear passenger panel...you have that pesky handle...you can work the door panel over the plastic shroud that holds the handle without removing it...much easier than trying to take that piece off and breaking it, and ordering a new one from Mercedes for $250,000 (with a groupon).


I ran speaker wire and wires for LED lights in the back doors. Getting it through the rubber gasket situation was a bit of a pain in the butt, but once I realized you can stick a little screwdriver to move the tabs and remove the plastic rubber gasket holder from the door itself it changed my life. Became much easier after that. I inadvertently taught my kids a few new words that day before I understood the plastic retainer clips come out. I then used my electrical fishing tape to run insulation in the skinny bits and cut appropriate sized insulation chunks for the other bits. Oh, I also sound deadened these too. Don’t forget that.

Lastly, I made panels for the tops of the doors out of ¼ inch birch ply (same as all other panels). I mounted some LED lights and speakers similar to...you guessed it...OurKaravan. These LED lights are AWESOME!!! Having those lights with the outdoor kitchen is amazing. As for the speakers...they are still just a decoration. I still haven;t figured out how to activate rear speakers in a 2019 Cargo. I went to one dealership and they said it wasn’t possible. I respectfully disagree. Will try another dealership at a later date. In the meantime, they break up the monotony of all that gray fabric which is half the battle. That is what I tell myself to make me feel better. That isn’t half the battle at all. The battle involves getting music and better sound in all parts of my van. I am losing said battle.


Front doors. Super convenient since there are three different sized screws to remove the doors. Worse than that is getting some of the little plastic filler plugs out (especially in the door handle pocket) without mangling them. I think there are six screws in all (but I don’t honestly remember as I write this). Pull off panel. Disconnect the door lock cable as well as two other quick connects. There are a couple videos on youtube that illustrate it pretty well.

Sound deaden. Insulate...be sure to insulate the backside of the plastic panel and not inside the door where it will interfere with the window...I did actually put some insulation inside the door itself where the window doesn’t touch. We will see if I regret that at some point, but I thought I would give it a shot. (Hein has a youtube video on the insulating process...not difficult).

Oh...also changed out the door speakers. I bought Hein’s speaker adaptor rings...call him up and let him know which speakers you have...he will make sure you get the right rings. And since I was out of thinsulate I also bought the ring with the perfect amount of thinsulate for doors option. Glad I did.

Side note…. What a joke the Sprinter speakers are. I get it is a cargo van, but man, they could have spent more than 39 cents on the speakers. I put in some Rockford Fossgate three in one speakers..don’t remember which ones but I bought a four pack on Amazon for less than $100. These aren’t topline speakers by any means, but the sound difference was immense. How much of that can be attributed to the speakers themselves and how much to the sound deadening and insulation I don’t know but the whole thing made a big difference. (Oh, I also disconnected the center speaker like everyone else on this forum).

Old Speakers on top (recycled egg cartons and tiny magnet), inexpensive rockford fossgate speakers on bottom...worlds of difference


super helpful -- thank you for the detailed response. Especially the specific locations, we'll have to check that stuff out. Similar situation to you guys (2 kids -- 8 and 5, plus dog) so the advice is very applicable. Much appreciated
Fishing Trip...

Spontaneous fishing trip last weekend. Kernville, CA. For those of you who haven't been, it is a pretty cool spot. It is like a little slice of America in the middle of California. Nice scenery too. Eastern Sierra. River. What's not to like?


Thought it would be nice to get away, and also to test the van in some cold weather. It dropped down to 31 degrees F overnight. A bit chilly outside. I wanted to see how cold it would get inside the van...do we really need an Espar or Webasto heater? I'm not sure my question was answered. After dinner we all adjourned to the van for some board games. We all wore our jackets and were fine...as the night progressed we got chilly so covered our legs with our down blankets. I checked the temp before bed, and if memory serves it was 51F. I didn't have any windows cracked or the fan on at all....should have though, because there was a fair amount of condensation on the windows already. At that point I turned the fan on...just at 1 (exhaust). The next morning there was condensation on the windows and any exposed metal....not sure how it looked under my wall/ceiling panels...but this is what it looked like on the outside of my van.


I stupidly didn't check the interior temperature in the morning...which was a big reason for the trip.

Oh...and the other reason for the trip...fishing...didn't catch a damn thing.

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