Life on the Road in Style

Here is another van into home conversion done right. It was designed and created by builder, architect and entrepreneur Ross Lukeman who wished to enjoy the digital nomad life in style. He completed his van home about half a year ago and now lives in it full time.

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He used a non-descript white cargo van for the purpose, which he first stripped down completely. The mobile dwelling is barebones, and features a bed, an office space, a sink and closet/storage space. The twin bed flips up to reveal ample storage space. All the amenities and utilities, such as a water tank and batteries, are also hidden out of sight. The office space is very well thought out too. It features a full-size computer that’s mounted on the wall, and can also be used as a TV. All the other office components, including the keyboard, can be safely and neatly tucked away when not in use.

For insulation, Ross opted for a sustainable approach using UltraTouch recycled denim insulation instead of spray foam, which is often seen in projects like this. He also used very little protective polyurethane coating, which he only added in the kitchen. Another great sustainable feature is the solar panel, which provides all the needed electricity for the van. It is a 300-watt LG panel, which is connected to a 200 amp-hour battery bank. The van also features a roof vent fan, as well as an interior box fan. For heating, a propane heater is used.

Ross has been living in his van home for the past eight months and has travelled across most of the west coast in this time. He finances his nomadic lifestyle by helping other people design and covert vans into homes. He also teaches an online cargo van conversion course.

Rent a Van Home to Test Van-Life

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.

Cargo Van Home

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Mobile homes are great for those who do not wish to be tied to one place all the time, especially in this day and age when more and more people are choosing to go the digital nomad route when it comes to employment. But mobile homes require permits and can’t just be parked anywhere. This freelancer couple from Hungary found a solution to this by turning a white cargo van into a cozy tiny home on wheels. Norbert is a photographer and Dora is a writer, and they both love their new home.

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Their journey began by purchasing a 16-year-old van, which they since named Debella. They chose it because it blends in and can easily be parked practically anywhere for the night. They began the conversion by first stripping the interior, and then using wood paneling to make the space warm and cozy. They also installed a multifunctional unit, which acts as a sitting space when folded up and a bed when unfolded. It also conceals a storage space and the entire electrical system.

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They also installed a kitchen unit that features a gas cooktop, an 24 lbs (11 kg) gas cylinder, sink and a 18.5-gallon (70-liter) water tank that is fitted with a pressure-sensing pump. The tank also has an additional hook-up, which can be used to shower in the rear of the van. There is also space for a fridge inside an L-shaped cabinet, which provides even more storage, and also has a fold-down dining/working table and sitting space attached to it.

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They used mostly inexpensive materials for the conversion, such as OSB (oriented strand board), MDF and reclaimed wood. For insulation they used spray foam. The van is also fitted with a 250-watt rooftop solar panel, which charges the vans 12-volt electrical system. The latter can also be charged via the engine’s generator, or through a regular 220-volt power source. There is also a bank of 200-Ah batteries, equipped with a 220-volt inverter, for storing power.

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The total cost of the conversion came to $7,200. Norbert and Dora are already travelling through southern Europe in their van, with their ultimate destination being Morocco.

Couple Creates Cozy Home in a Van

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.