February 21, 2018

Van Life 1: Defining Needs and Wants

I want to buy a cargo van and convert it to a camper. I am a single female, and plan to travel by myself and/or with a friend.

Utility Van high top


  • To save hotel costs when travelling so I can travel longer (boondocking free; $20-50/night campgrounds; $100+ hotels)
  • To have what I need with me in the vehicle so I don’t have to tow a trailer
  • To get decent mileage to keep travel costs down (keep van as lightweight as possible)
  • To mainly travel to cities and parks, on paved roads
  • To travel through Central America: Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, etc.
  • To travel from Canada to South America (Pan American Hwy trip) if the Darian Gap re-opens


  • Do I want a stealth van?  (YES, just to say I have one!  lol)
  • Seriously, probably as “stealthy” and commercial looking as possible since I want to travel Central America and don’t need to invite trouble with a luxury looking vehicle.
  • Do I want to have a bulkhead/partition with door between passenger area and the back of the van?
  • I live in Canada, so in winter it is easier and cheaper to just heat the passenger area and not heat the back unless it is in use.
  • (NOTE: Batteries must be easily accessible for winter removal)
  • With bulkhead, you can’t swivel the seats to create more seating facing into the camper side.
  • The bulkhead allows for commercial organizational accessories to be installed on it.
  • The bulkhead would make the camper side feel more closed in with no view out the front window.  Then again, most people cover the front windows up for privacy anyway.
  • Do I want windows in the camper side, or be stealth.  I plan to visit Central America a lot.  So probably stealth would be safer for a single female.  Probably want to install some sort of security alarm, just to scare off potential intruders.
  • Do I design it to make bed platforms, kitchen, etc removable to leave the van multifunctional?
  • Do I go with solar panel system?  or generator?

I’m thinking to keep the bulkhead with a door for easier winter use; to maintain “stealth” look while travelling; for greater privacy.


  • RVs
  • Camping
  • Semi truck sleeper cabs
  • Yachts/boats
  • Horse Trailers


  • 2 single beds, possibly bunk beds
  • Twin bed size is 39″ x 74″ (or 39″ x 80″)
  • Double bed (full) is 54″ x 75″.  A memory foam mattress cut in half would be 27″ x 75″.
  • Queen bed size is 60″ x 80″.  A memory foam mattress cut in half would be 30″ x 80″.
  • Preference is for 2 single beds with no climbing or crawling.  (not young anymore)
  • DECISION:  A queen bed memory foam mattress, cut in half.  Bed size 1) 30″ x 80″, 2) 30″ x 80″
  • Layout options:
    • 1) lengthwise side by side,
    • 2) lengthwise end to end (along one wall)


  • Use stationary bed for a couch
  • Really want to have a couple chairs and a table.
    • Could have one bed a fold up against the wall, and two jump seats and a table that become the base for the bed when it folds down.

Must haves:

  • My must haves:  Tablet, laptop, wifi booster
  • Options:  TV & DVD player, NOAA weather radio, my digital library
  • Fan, venting, air conditioner, heater (all 12 volt?)
  • Ultra Low Profile Air Conditioners- Coleman Mach 8 – 8″ Tall (13.5K BTU is $733, 15K BTU is $900)
  • Automatic Deluxe Fan-Tastic Ceiling Fan Vent ($369 would need 2)
    • built in thermostat
    • auto open/close
    • rain sensor
    • reversable airflow
  • 12 v heater $250-$350
  • System for charging batteries
  • Yacht style table pulled up from floor to create a table/desk area


  • Legal boondocking and camping in campgrounds will be the most common overnight spots. ($20-$50/night)
  • Campgrounds have washroom and shower facilities. ($7/shower)
  • In van, only need toilet for overnight/morning; or if the need arises while on the hwy somewhere.
  • Many toilet options, but leaning to the Dry Flush Toilet ($595.00) + Floor Mount Kit ($58.50) + 3 refill cartridges ($54.99)
  • In van, sponge bath as needed.  Mosturizing wipes, or soap and water.
  • (I like the Olay Wet Cleansing Cloths and are facecloth size.  Adult wet disposable wipes are body size–8″x13″ more or less.)
  • Shower requires clean water supply and grey water tank
    • Adds much weight to vehicle which reduces mileage and affects the vehicle balance
  • TO CONSIDER:  An exterior shower setup for campgrounds/off-road:  5 gallon tank, portable waterless hot water heater, long hose, hand held shower with low flow head, shower screen.  An average shower uses 17 gallons of water, and this is 5 gallons.  Turn on, wet, turn off, wash, turn on, rinse.  That’s it.


  • Option 1:  get one of those all-in-one ‘modular campervan kitchens’ that have a couple stove burners, a sink, a fridge and some storage
    • Need to assess water and power needs and how to supply that
    • Fridges need to be level to function properly; cooler style fridges are more forgiving
  • Option 2:  Go simple with 12 volt appliances and gravity fed water system from 5 gallon (20 L) containers
    • Water is simple; Need battery system for 12 volt appliances
  • Leaning towards a 20L gravity fed/hand pump water system for clean/dirty water, a 12V single induction burner, a 12V fridge/cooler, and one standard kitchen cabinet to house water/sink  PRIORITIES: simple, light weight.

Kitchen Sink

  • Need a sink with 2 jugs under the sink:  one for clean water, one for dirty water
  • Use a hand pump to get clean water from jug to sink
  • Gravity drain for dirty water from sink to dirty water jug
  • Use the Companion Pop Up Dish Tray and Tub (15 L) and counter sink it (has a nice lip to rest on counter)
  • Keep sink removable so if water doesn’t fully drain (parked at an angle) it can be tilted, or even taken outside to use at campsite
  • Option to have hot water for sink as well as cold water:
    • a Coffee Urn under sink to heat water (electrical) with hand pump
    • Use aquarium heater(s) to heat water jug (electrical) with hand pump
    • Use portable hot water heater to heat water for both sink and outdoor shower (plumbing, shared water storage or two separate systems, electrical)


  • Restaurants are everywhere; grocery store deli with prepared foods; take-out food
  • Probably eat out for breakfast (least expensive meal)
  • If we eat in, need coffee maker, kettle, fridge
  • Prepackaged frozen skillet meals are easy.  Need a frying pan.  (stove top or 12 volt electric pan?)
  • Microwave?  or a Microwave convection oven?
  • Soup/sandwich.  Fridge.  Stove (or use the 12 volt pan?)
  • Need a 12V fridge/freezer
  • Truckers say you MUST HAVE a fridge (inexpensive drinks) and a crock pot (inexpensive food) to make life on the livable.


  • Tent for campgrounds (existing)
  • propane stove for campground cooking
  • fold up chairs (existing)
  • bicycle(s):  storage while on road?
  • screens for van doors


  • Solar Fire Starter ($2)
  • DVD player
  • NOAA weather radio ($30 – $300)
  • my digital library  (music, movies, etc.)
  • ipod system through vehicle stereo
About Angela

Angela Fiebelkorn is a non-denominational minister, and a New Consciousness Teacher affiliated with the Crimson Circle. She has been teaching classes on spirituality and metaphysics since 1996.

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