The newest trend in mobile homes seems to be converting a nondescript cargo van into a tiny home. While space is limited, a van home can be parked practically anywhere that a car can go. But converting a van into a home is not an easy task, nor is living out of one suitable for everyone. But now there’s a solution. A Colorado start-up, Native Campervans is renting out van homes to anyone wishing to test out this type of living or travel solution.
Native Campervans was founded by two friends from the University of Colorado, Jonathan Moran and Dillon Hansen. They specialize in converting minivans, called “Smalls”, and larger-sized cargo vans, called “Biggies” into homes and then rent them out to anyone wishing to experience van-life, but who doesn’t have the skills or the means to convert a van into a home on their own. The Biggies are built using a Ram ProMaster 136” and come in two different designs. This vehicle was chosen because it has lots of interior space and is easy to maneuver and drive.
The Biggie features a very modern interior design, which is very well thought out and flexible, meaning it can be adjusted easily to the renters’ preferences. The van home features a queen-sized bed that is installed in a way that allows for maximizing the interior space. Storage space is placed under the bed, while there is also an additional storage area under the bench in the kitchen/dining area. The kitchen also features plenty of cabinets and drawers, and they even installed a secret in-counter storage caddy. The kitchen is equipped with a sink, refrigerator, a two-burner propane stove, as well as all the necessary utensils. The Biggie also features a convertible dining table, and it is fitted with a 7-gallon water/waste tank.
All the Biggies are also pre-wired for solar, and they will install the solar panels on all of them soon. At this time, the vans get their power from an ancillary battery that is charged when the van is moving. Only one hour of driving is enough to sufficiently charge the battery for a whole day of operation of the lights, refrigerator and inverter, as well as charging other gadgets.
They are renting out the Biggies for $145 a night, and the Smalls for $85, though rates are adjusted based on the season. There is also a discount when renting for a longer period.
Full time traveling, at least for a while, is the dream of many, and artist Kelsey and journalist Corbin of Steps to Wander have made it a reality. They converted an old Ford E-350 El Dorado Encore camper van into a cozy home, which they can easily take on the road. The young couple from Portland, Oregon, are currently living in the van full time as they travel east along the US-Canadian border.
They purchased the van for $3,800. For that price they got one that was mechanically sound, and also had many cool and useful features, such as clerestory windows, a roof pop-up in the center, which offers more headroom, as well as a kitchen with an oven and a shower- and toilet-equipped bathroom.
It took them five months to make this van into a full-time home. They started the process by first stripping everything down, fix all that needed fixing, and clean off the mold and dirt that had accumulated. They also custom built all the furniture for their so-called Wander Wagon. This includes a dinette area with storage in the seats, and a couch that can be turned into a queen-sized bed.
They had some trouble along the way, which also extended the time it took to take their new home on the road. They were struck by a driver making an illegal left turn, and at first the insurance company didn’t want to pay for the repairs, since the Wander Wagon was gutted at the time. They were eventually able to sort it out favorably and finish the renovation.
They spent less than $10,000 on this renovation and the result is a comfortable mobile home, which they plan to live in while they explore the Americas and Canada. They are documenting their journey on their YouTube channel.
Living in a mobile home is a dream for many, and there are many ways of living that dream. Filmmaker Felix Starck and musician Selima Taibi are a young German couple hailing from Berlin, and they recently transformed a yellow school bus into a cozy and quite comfortable home for themselves and their dog Rudi. They plan to live in it full time, while traveling from Alaska to South America.
They used a 39-foot long 1996 Thomas International school bus for the purpose, which they purchased online for $9,500. Once they had it, they moved to the US and began the conversion process, dubbing the entire project Expedition Happiness. It took them 12 weeks to create a home out of the bus. Since they had next to no prior construction experience, they got help from online forums and communities, as well as another couple from North Carolina who had also successfully converted a school bus into a home.
Apart from repurposing a school bus, they also used a number of other salvaged and repurposed materials, such as pallet wood. The interior is nicely spaced out, with a sizable sitting area and dining/work table at the front of the bus, behind the driver’s seat.
The kitchen is also quite large, and features an angled counter, stove, sink and a refrigerator. The cupboards offer plenty of storage space. They split the bathroom into two halves along the middle of the bus, which is quite an interesting solution. The toilet is located in one half, and the shower in the other. They tiled the latter with handmade tiles.
They built the bed themselves, and put large storage drawers underneath it. They also placed it right under the emergency escape hatch in the roof of the bus, which makes for a great skylight. The bus can be hooked up to the grid, but it also features a solar power array on the roof.
The couple has already started their journey and vlog about the experience regularly.
When seeking a mobile home, converting a van into one makes a lot of sense. And that’s exactly what Christine On thought. She completed the entire conversion by herself and it took her 32 months, but the end result is a cozy mobile home, which is exactly how she wanted it.
She used a 2004 Chevy Express passenger van for the project, and went into it with no construction, plumbing or woodworking experience. She had to learn everything from scratch, but that’s not the only reason it took her almost three years to complete it. She also had to take care of her ailing father, renovate her condo, and move house.
She calls her mobile home Gypsy, and apart from being solar powered it also boasts of a number of interesting features. She added a fiberglass roof to gain extra headspace, and the home also features a storage area under the floor, and a large bed that can be converted into a sofa. The home can be used off the grid, and has lots of windows that offer great views and let in plenty of light. She also added curtains to gain privacy when needed.
One very interesting space saving technique Christine used was having the kitchen sink double as a shower. She used a large IKEA sink for the job, and I’m not sure this type of solution will appeal to most people, but it is quite innovative. To further save space, she opted for a projector instead of a TV.
She converted the van in an effort to downsize and live a simpler life. She’s offering a free guide that features advice on how to select a good van, proper insulation techniques, framing and other technical aspects of converting a van into a home. You can download the guide at Defying Normal.
Daniel Venneman, a designer from Holland, has just completed a unique mobile tiny home. It’s called Porta Palace and he built it for his business partner Jelte Glas. The latter wanted a small, affordable home, which would bring him closer to nature anywhere he decided to park it.
Porta Palace measures 194 sq ft (18 sq m) and was built using what Venneman describes as bio-based construction methods. It features a timber and steel roof. The cladding is made of wood, which has been treated with Aquawood, an eco-friendly treatment that cuts down on the needed maintenance and allows the wood to wear naturally over time.
The interior features an open plan living and dining area, which is fitted with built-in furniture and storage space. This space is also equipped with glass doors that let in plenty of natural light, offer great views and open outwards to effectively extend the living area into the surrounding space. The sofa can be extended into a comfy guest bed, while also doubling as storage space. The bed is located in a lofted area. The home is also equipped with a kitchen and bathroom, which features a dry toilet. A clever staircase, which doubles as a cabinet, allows access to the lofted bedroom.
Due to all the clever additions and the large windows, the home feels much more spacious than it is. The owner also intends to install solar panels and a battery array in the near future, which will allow him to produce enough energy to power the home’s LED lights, the fridge, ventilator and still have some left over to charge his laptop and phone. Glas and Venneman are both great tiny home enthusiasts, and they plan to start creating a number of Tiny Villages all across Holland, each of which would consist of approximately 5 to 10 tiny homes on wheels.