I like camping. I like traveling. I like doing roadtrips. So I decided to exchange my station wagon (Volvo V50) for a small van.
Of course a big van, that stretches the limits of what I’m even allowed to drive with a normal license, is more of a mobile home than a smaller car. But I wanted to find a compromise between a car that doesn’t consume too much fuel, doesn’t cost too much road toll in countries like France, Spain and Portugal and that still fits in parking houses and regular parking spots. I’m honestly not very comfortable driving a full sized truck to go to a dentist appointment or to the supermarket.
In the end I decided for a 2013 Citroen Jumpy that I bought from a private seller. I also found some second hand roof racks, that make it easier to transport surfboards, skis or bikes.
Turning an empty van into a campervan is a project that takes a lot of time. So far I have been maybe a dozen times to the building supplies store to get different drills, wooden panels, carpet knifes and a thousand other things.
The first step was to clean the car and take out all interior parts that the previous owner used to protect the chassis while transporting things. The second step is to insulate the walls, ceiling and the floor.
For insulation I use Armaflex, which is a self-adhesive, flexible insulation material. It’s mostly used in factories to reduce thermal conductivity. An amazing product but not very cheap and not very easy to get a hold of.
For the underflooring I used cheap XPS plates, that are usually used under parquet or other laminate. I don’t want to lose more space, so I decided to only fill the lower parts of the floor with XPS.
On top of this I covered the whole floor with aluminium tape, which acts as a vapor barrier. Vapor barriers are crucial in a small space that will be subject to a lot of moisture through breathing, sleeping, cooking,…
Now the underflooring was taken care of and the real floor could come on top. This one consists of a plywood layer with a vinyl mat in wooden optic on top. The vinyl mat is from a brand called Tarkett and looks just like wood. The advantage is a lower weight and that it is very easy to cut and to apply to the plywood plate. I used double sided Tesa tape, which is incredibly strong.
After measuring and cutting all these odd shapes I can only imagine how easy it must be to do this in a house with right angles. In this car part is ever straight.
After being done with the floor, I also applied vapor barriers to the walls and the inside of the doors. Tape is clearly not the fastest way to go, but it’s cheap and durable. Also it’s way less bulky than vapor barrier plastic film.
So I used tape in the parts where I want to lose the least amount of space possible, as in the doors. On some other walls I used plastic vapor barrier to save some time. This one is called ‘spärra’ and available in Ikea. It’s attached to the wall with aluminium tape.
As you can see, I’m also insulating the wheel housing. For this I’m using 3 mm thick insulation tape, that you can find in the bathroom section of a building supplies store.
Once the insulation and the vapor barrier is in place, it’s time for the wall cover. For this I chose a 4 mm thick plywood, which is treated for outdoors use. So it will not suck up moisture.
After some forth and back about the legal aspects of having a wall between the back of the truck and the front seats, I decided to take out the partition wall. If your car is registered as a truck, this type of partition is mandatory in a lot of countries. For the sake of more space and light and also to be able to get warmth from the parking heater I took the wall out. I’m keeping it and may put it back in for the technical inspection in a year.
I want to exchange the double seat sofa for a rotating car seat but I’m still having trouble to find such a seat for sale. While it’s always easy to find these kind of product in Germany, in Sweden the offer is quite limited.
Ventilation is of course an important aspect. It decreases summer heat, condensation and possible mildew. It also makes it safer to cook and sleep inside the car. My choice fell on a Flettner TCX-2 ventilator. Most ventilators for cars are driven by 12V and therefore connected to the car battery. This one is eco-friendly and cheap by being wind powered!
Drilling a hole in the ceiling of a newly bought van is not a nice feeling but everything worked out nicely and now the fan is in place and constantly rotates while being absolutely silent.
After being done with most of the insulation and the vapor barrier, it was time for the wooden paneling. I chose 4 mm pinetree plywood and fitting strips to make the gaps look smoother. Doing this kind of work on the ceiling is exhausting! I spent hours and hours holding my arms over my head till I had no more blood in my hands. And many, many panels, screws and what not came flying down on me.
With the paneling almost done, I was really looking forward to start with the furniture. By now I had spent at least three weeks only working on the walls and the ceiling and I finally wanted to get to the parts that are more interesting.
The kitchen module is made from a modified Molger bench from IKEA. The bench is 50 cm high and by design there is only a 25 cm high space for boxes etc. So I decided to lower the lower shelf, getting a total of 38 cm space. A successful IKEA hack!
The bench is part of the base for the bed, so all things have to be stored underneath while the bed is open. I applied a drawer mat on both shelves, it makes the surface less slippery and quiets sounds. The multifuel stove is fixed to a white aluminium plate, which also has a support for a gas bottle. The aim is a stable and safe surface for cooking. I got a plastic container with lid and drilled it to the bench. It will be a storage space for small things like matches, cissors and cutlery. I built a little extra shelf to hold the green sink, which also includes a dish drainer.
Above the module I installed a aluminium screen to protext the wooden wall from heat and splashing fat while cooking. To the right there is a fire blanket, which seemed more practical than a fire extinguisher.
Just as the kitchen, also the bed/ sofa is based on IKEA Molger benches. In total, the van is equipped with 5 of these benches. I chose them because they are light (6 kg), very stable (they hold 100 kg each) and provide a lot of storage space.
I was considering building a bed structure myself but figured out that it would be both heavier, less stable and probably also look much worse. I’m not a carpenter, while IKEA clearly knows their stuff. Plus: they’re cheap and easy to modify.
I was looking for a solution that provides storage not directly on the floor, but inside a module. All five benches are modified in the same way, lowering the lower shelf almost to the ground and thus gaining more storage space.
Bed, kitchen and storage space consist of the five benches visible in this picture. Three of them are connected to build a stable base for the non-collapsable part of the bed. The other two parts make up the kitchen and water storage (with a 20 l canister), when the bed is folded up to a sofa. The flap of the storage is made of aluminium and plexiglas. It’s locked with two quite strong magnets.
The bed itself consists of two permanent (light red) and two foldable parts (in wine red). There are made from 15 mm thick OSB boards, which are very stable. I covered them in tear-resistent fabric, which is partly from IKEA and partly from my mother in law. The measurements of the bed are 190 x 140 cm. Since the car doesn’t have straight walls, some parts are slightly wider while others are slimmer. This fits perfectly for the two foldable mattresses from Jysk, which are 190 x 70 cm each. They are foldable in three parts, which makes them versatile and usable for the sofa as well.
Further along in the process, with half of the boards for the bed installed, the lighting in place and curtains as well. My husbands mum made these beautiful curtains by hand. the curtain “pole” (more of a wire) is as well from Jysk and only costs like 3 €. For the lighting I got several battery driven LED lights from Osram, such as LEDstixx and Dot-It Vario. These can be attached with magnets, glue or screws. I also got some no-name spotlights from Amazon.
Other electronics that I installed are a dual inside – outside thermometer next to the bed, as well as a Carbon Monoxide Alarm with a lithium battery that is supposed to last for seven years. So far I haven’t installed a second battery (leisure battery) and no solar panels on the roof. It’s something that I might install afterwards. For warmth there is a Webasto parking heater installed, which is fueled by diesel but also drains the battery. This heating solution was installed by the previous owner of the car. After removing the partition between the back and the front, the warmth should make it’s way to the back and thanks to the insulation hopefully last some time. But of course I’m aware that it will get cold during the nights, especially in the Scandinavian winter. But nothing is impossible with a good sleeping bag, a hot-water bottle and wool clothes.
The storage on the wall is a Thule Countertop, which is flexible and ideal for all kinds of small items you might need during the day or the night. Underneith you can see the thermometer and the Carbon Monoxide alarm.
This is the bed folded up, in function of a sofa. The wool blanket is the cats favorite, so it was impossible to keep her out of the van.
The fully extended double bed, the cat is apparently ready to move in.
5 thoughts on “My DIY campervan project”
Aloha from the other side of the rainbow,Maui Hawaii
My name is Joseph and I’m extending the hand of friendship and opportunities! I was raised in Hawaii and fantasize traveling around
America with in Three years . And would enjoy some idea s of camp vans. And places to visit?
Have you ever been to Hawaii ?
Very impressive and thanks for sharing.
It is very cool, i wanna make the same way, but my car is more old , is a mitsubishi space wagon 1994, I am thinking about , how can I store water for washer, shower etc?
Wow. I live in the U.S., am retired and also want a vehicle that I can handle. You’ve giving me great ideas. Now to find someone to renovate for me.
I do my car camping in my Volvo XC70. It’s doable. Your van conversion is fantastic. Thanks!