I’ve long wanted a travel trailer or small camper, something Miss D. and I can use for weekend getaways, or even for a week or longer. However, it’s been financially impossible for us, and looks like it’ll be that way for some time.
Nevertheless, I keep my eyes open for good ideas in that area. I was struck by this article about a low-cost conversion of a 2017 Ram cargo van. It’s filled with interesting touches and useful ideas, as well as lots of photographs. Here’s an excerpt.
When we bought her, our immediate thought was to hire professionals to build it for us knowing how little experience we have in building anything! We called a few companies who builds camper vans and realized just how expensive it is. So we’re down to doing it ourselves as our only practical choice!
As I mentioned earlier, my husband and I have zero knowledge in building anything! Well, except for a few Ikea cabinets he’s assembled in the past! So we thought why not use Ikea in building our van?! Not only is it inexpensive but also easy to build and mount!
We had to figure out what we wanted to have in the van based on the lifestyle we plan on living. Aside from the obvious things like the kitchen and bed, we added a desk, shower, cabinets and drawers to our must-have list. We had to assess what things we’re bringing in the van and how much storage we really needed.
. . .
Most floor plans for self-converted camper vans will have the bed sitting on a high platform in the rear by the back doors. The best part of this layout is the amount of space under the bed where some use to install custom drawers and cabinets. For our floor plan, we’ve decided on placing the bed behind the cockpit purely because we didn’t want to have to build a platform. Unfortunately, because of the wheels in the back, a platform is necessary to fit a bed. As it turned out, this made the van seem more spacious with the kitchen the rear! Also, we’ve been able to take incredibly beautiful pictures with this layout! The spacious hallway (as I call it) gives room for incredible photos when the back doors are open! Similarly, we’ve been able to take dramatic photos laying down in our beds when the side sliding door is open! Also, I really like that I can open 2 back doors in the rear kitchen while cooking! It helps aerate the van! Lastly, our bed has the best vantage point whichever side the scenery is! While laying down, depending on where the best view is, we can open either doors to take it all in!
Initially, we wanted to have a small shower for when we are on long road trips but still have to decide if we really need it or not! The space where our fridge is placed is where we intended the shower to be in. So far, 5 months into van-living, we don’t have a pressing need for a shower. We mostly have gyms where we go and have taken showers outside our van using a portable shower when in state and national parks.
There’s more at the link.
The beauty of this conversion is, one can do it to almost any van, not just a more modern unit like the Ram (which I really like, BTW – I just can’t afford one!). The article provides links to the furniture and accessories at Ikea, which was very useful. (I had no idea that a tiny, compact kitchen unit existed until I read about it there. I could build that into a writer’s shed outside. Hmmm . . . )
This is also useful information if you want to put together some sort of bug-out vehicle for the family. A decent-size van like the Ram (particularly a model with a higher roof, and/or in its 2500 or 3500 higher-capacity versions) could tow a 1-ton or 2-ton cargo trailer with no trouble at all. This conversion, plus the trailer, would give you sleeping space for a couple or small family (a lot sturdier and more secure than a pop-up tent-sided camper), plus the ability to take essential supplies with you. That’s not a bad idea at all.