Tinycamper’s Tiny Camper Van

tiny diy camper van entrance

The side entrance. The little storage unit on the right was a tiny kitchen cart for $49 from Amazon. Non-skid mats keep the baskets in place.

Over five years ago I posted about my dream of building my own tiny get-away camper van.

I never really expected that dream to come true, but I kept occasionally checking used van ads– just hoping.  But I had my heart set on one particular model.  I wanted a 2013 Ford Transit Connect cargo van for the extra height, with side and rear windows.  And it had to be in great condition and at a price I could afford.

Kitchen view of tiny campers van interior

The little wash stand was originally a $99 table with 2 slatted shelves, also from Amazon. Since it wouldn’t fit over the wheel wells, I cut it up and used the pieces to build the sink stand with fresh water underneath, and a gray water container on the bottom. I covered the gray water bottle with a slipcover,so I wouldn’t have to look at the dirty water. I used the extra wood for the top and shelf, and had wood left over to frame the refrigerator and build a small shelf behind the wash stand.

Finally my dream came true! I immediately had a shop remove the cargo cage, then started tearing the interior apart and rebuilding it.  I completely removed the headliner, but later cut out pieces to frame the cargo side windows, since I had trouble fitting anything else there. Then I installed the Maxxair fan and the paneling.

I insulated the sides and cavities with Thinsulate, and the ceiling with foil faced polyiso.  I am going to have to add a portable air conditioner to the passenger seat if I expect to use the van in our sweltering Southeastern summers.  Fortunately I usually have access to hookups when I camp.  I do have a portable 120 watt Accopower solar panel stowed between the little storage unit and the passenger seat to keep the lights, refrigerator and fan running in an emergency, along with my one 125 amp AGM battery.

Interior view of small diy camper van from rear

I have built camper beds before, but I hated sleeping on a plywood slab. This time I went with a cot that had springs and added a cushy mattress. The narrow width doesn’t bother me as I was used to sleeping on the dinette bed in our Casita. I had to add riser legs so the porta pot would fit under the bed.

I was going to have someone do the 12 volt wiring for me.  But I didn’t really have the money for that after buying the van.  So I combed the net for the most basic tutorials, and finally learned enough to attempt it.  What a feeling of accomplishment when I finally got it done, and it worked!  Later I added a 4 stage converter charger that would power my 12 volt things and charge my battery at the same time.

Under bed storage in camper van

My only A/C wiring is a power strip that attaches to an extension cord through a hole I cut in the floor behind the driver’s seat.

At night I cover the cargo area windows with Reflectix covered with silver grey fleece on the inside.  I keep them in place with magnets.

tinycampers_van5

With the van shut up at night there is no ventilation. Static Camper Van on YouTube gave me the idea of putting a ventilation hole in the floor. So I installed a deckplate in the only place where there was space under the van for a hole that large. With the deck plate open and the fan on exhaust, the ventilation is awesome!

Hole cut in camper van floor for ventilation

Here’s a picture of the open deckplate. I am still deciding how I will attach screening to keep the bugs out.

Hole in van floor for electrical cord

Here’s the hole behind the driver’s seat for the electric cord. I plan to stuff one of those plastic mesh pot scrubbers around the cord to keep out bugs. Update: Linneth, a dear reader, suggested using a pool noodle around the wire, stuffed into the hole. Eureka!

It’s been so long since I’ve blogged (3 years?) that I’ve forgotten how to write coherently, so forgive the choppy writing.

BTW, the baskets are “Rattique” (plastic) instead of real rattan because they are water and mold-proof.

–Sharon

I’m saving a copy of this post as a permanent page so the van build won’t get buried.

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30 Comments

  1. Linnith Arnold

     /  March 12, 2019

    Sharon, I have so missed your blog! Always enjoyed seeing your camp sites and all the modifications you did on the Casita. I’m glad you got your van and it looks great. I really admire how handy and creative you are! I hope you are well and maybe someday we will cross paths! My husband and I still have our 2003 Casita and I still love it. Best wishes for all your endeavors. Linnith Arnold

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    • Linneth, how wonderful to hear from you. I figured by now I would be long since forgotten!

      We still have our Casita, too, but have a few leaks. I need to reseal around all the rivets.

      Ron and I have slowed way down on our travels. We didn’t feel like making the trip to Florida this winter. But I did get out for one night with a girlfriend Sunday night. Then it turned too cold to stay another night.

      It looks like I might be able to get away for 3 nights next weekend. Then I have to really buckle down on getting the Casita ready so hubby and I can travel together.

      It would be so wonderful to meet up someday! 🙂

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  2. Gail Page

     /  March 12, 2019

    AWESOME! I’m so happy for you!!

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  3. Ann

     /  March 12, 2019

    Wow! Incredibly creative, pretty and cozy!

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    • Mikkey and I camped with Cindy Sunday night, and it was surprisingly comfortable. I bought a new screen room to give us an outdoor bug-free living room!

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  4. YOU DID IT! And it’s gorgeous!!! Congratulations, Sharon!

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    • Thank you — but YOU are the one who is working miracles with your tiny house in the desert! I am in awe of your skills and your tenacity.

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  5. EmilyO in southern NM

     /  March 12, 2019

    Wow, that is super GREAT and so glad to see you back here. Fantastic concepts and ideas. Gonna have to remember what you have done.

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    • Emily, I had just not felt like blogging for so long. The new project was what I needed to kickstart me back into action. Thanks for the welcome, and I really am glad to be back.

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  6. Darla in New Mexico

     /  March 12, 2019

    Wow! It is adorable ! Enjoy your travels!

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  7. Was wondering how you were getting on. I would see your old blog in my “referers” once in a while, and would click on it. Glad to see you back in the swing of it. The van looks nicely appointed! Good job!

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

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    • Judie, I’ve had some tough times. Was hospitalized once for a COPD exascerbation I wasn’t sure I would survive, and another time for scary vision problems when I thought I was going blind and no one could find a reason for it. Turned out to be one of my med’s side effects! And I fought a round with severe depression. But thank God, I must be related to the Energizer bunny. I just keep bouncing back.

      How is your husband doing? I apologize for being out of the blogosphere and not keeping up.

      Thanks for still being here with your virtual hugs!

      Liked by 1 person

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      • Being no stranger to this sort of thing, you have my deepest respect and regards. Life can be truly scary – and tenuous – but we must grasp, hold, and enjoy as much of it as is humanly possible.

        Glad to hear you are back among us for good! ;->

        Hubby is not doing as well as previously, but still hanging in there. Thanks for thinking of him. ;->

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        • So sorry to hear hubby is not doing so well. I have also learned to live one day at a time. Revel in the good times, do things when I have the energy, and just try to stay grateful and positive in the bad times.

          It looks like you are way ahead of me in class. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          Reply
  8. Linnith Arnold

     /  March 12, 2019

    Sharon, how about a piece of pool noodle to go int the hole for the electric cord. Could put a slit in the piece for the cord and it would be really bug tight!

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    • Linnith, that would be perfect! Pool noodles should start appearing in our Dollar Stores any time now. Thanks for giving me the missing piece in my plan!

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  9. Bill Brown

     /  March 12, 2019

    Welcome back. I’ve missed your blog!

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  10. horst kelly

     /  March 13, 2019

    What a terrific surprise to see your post! …..and what a magnificent “van build”. I am looking at other options to traveling rather than towing the Casita, and your build has given me inspiration into giving that some serious thought!

    Hope to see lots more post of your adventures and maybe some “mushroom” posts. :)) Horst sends

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    • Horst! How great to see you here! I am still admiring that lovely photo you gave me every day. The little van is way too small for most people, but I truly love it. It’s my daily driver and allows me to be much more spontaneous if I decide to detour by a park or someplace else to spend a little time enjoying the scenery. The Casita is still our little micro condo, but the van is such a fun little thing!

      I’m moving a little slower now and am no good at finding morels. But the main mushroom season is on the way!

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  11. You have no idea how delighted I was to see your post. Tinycamper has always been my favorite blog. It’s no surprise that you have engineered yourself a new camper – you are one gutsy woman. Hope to see more posts on at least a semi-regular basis. Happy camping.

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    • Judy, what a lovely welcome back! I am still amazed by your genuine fondness for my blog, and it is so very much appreciated.

      I am planning to go to one of my old favorite COE campgrounds this weekend, and hoping the weather behaves. The forecast looks decent.

      I discovered that my sweet little Mikkey turns into a ferocious guard dog when anyone approaches the van when I am in it. My neighbor is his dearest friend. He gets so excited when she visits and has unique squeals and whines of ectasy when he sees her. But when we camped together Sunday night, he turned into a snarly, vicious sounding little thing every time she came near the van — and snapped at her hand when she reached in to pet him!

      I was stunned at his protectiveness — and Cindy was delighted, knowing that I have such a fearsome protector! 😂

      How is sweet Jezzie?

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      • Jezzy aging gracefully, unlike me. She’s pretty much deaf now, but still anxious to ‘lead’ John and me on a walk of any distance. We had her DNA checked a year ago, and found that she’s 50% Boxer, and 50% Old English Sheepdog. Surprise! At her age (13), we’re just happy to still have her along for the journey.

        We are still camping in our T@DA, currently at a COE park in Toad Suck, AR. I definitely remember how much you loved the COE campgrounds. Generally terrific, but this one might be a shade away from the really top-shelf units.

        Mushrooms! How could I have forgotten about that?

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        • I would expect Lady Jezz to age gracefully. I am both going deaf and not aging gracefully! 😀

          Boxer and Old English Sheepdog! I would never have guessed! She wears her genes in a very classy manner.

          Most of the Georgia COEs are lovely. I have been to others that did not live up to my expectations either — I think Louisiana and Mississippi. At this point they start to get crisscrossed in my memory!

          Ah yes, mushrooms. My enthusiasm is waning a bit. I only get excited when I run across choice edibles now. Of course, the next time I stumble across some interesting looking ones, that will probably change!

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  12. Forever Fermenting

     /  March 13, 2019

    I thought I had commented but my WordPress giving me fits. Perhaps user error, maybe not so I’ll try yet again as I was so elated to see you dream come true. My friend always reminds me of the devine timing and yours has arrived. It’s just perfect. I’ve so miss your tales, when ever I’m strolling in the woods seeing forage of all kinds, you always come to mind. Missed you. I’ll be following along. Welcome back! Carla

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    • Carla! Are you Casita to big rig Carla on the Gulf Coast? I can’t tell from your email.

      It IS divine timing! For the first time ever, I didn’t jump into getting the van in an excited rush like I usually do things. I saw the van on CarMax, then waited a week to make sure it was the right thing. I figured if it was supposed to be mine, it would still be there. It was! Another guy had tried to buy it but couldn’t come up with the money.

      What was cool is that my mechanic called it a “sweet driving little thing.”. 🙂

      I can’t believe how excited I am to be blogging again. For a long time I didn’t miss it, but the urge started building several months ago. The van was the perfect excuse to jump back in.

      Would add a lot more if I was sure which Carla you are. I had another sweet commenter named Carla, too. 🙂

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      • Forever Fermenting

         /  March 13, 2019

        Yep, Casita, cozybegone, still whopping it up in lower AL girlfriend. I started a blog for my stagnant existence then deleted it. Most ride on Instagram occasionally. Long story of course but grateful for each day. “Sweet driving little thing” SDLT… might have to name it that. Always and forever glad you’re doing what you love! What a, dream come true! You might need to drive down and see me. I got a huge big driveway just for you. 😉💟🤗

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        • I checked for the cozy-be-gone site a long time ago and was sad to see it was gone. How awesome to be back in touch with you!

          I would LOVE to drive down there, but am not up to long trips anymore. We didn’t even feel up to going home to Florida this winter. We were thinking about trying in Spring, but, again, didn’t feel up to it. So my adventures this year are pretty well limited to a 100 mile radius. I turn 71 in a few weeks and the COPD is taking its toll.

          But there are still an infinite number of nature discoveries to be made, and photos to take. And glorious sunrises and sunsets to revel in! And lakes and rivers and streams and critters and flowers. Oh my! 💟

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