Lennart & Julian are two mates from Germany who are on an amazing Vanlife Adventure in North America. Thanks for sharing guys.
How we started the Vanlife Thing
Buying a van, fitting it out and traveling through North-America - a once in a lifetime road trip. That was our dream before we took a plane and left Germany. Our story is about making plans come true. Read, how we came to our rolling home by getting a passenger van and converting it to a camper.
Finding a Car in a Country you have never been before
Our project started in Denver, Colorado. Luckily, we were able to stay in an apartment for the first couple of weeks from which some friends of us just moved out. Pretty early, we found out that a lot of used stuff gets bought and sold on Craigslist. So, what we did was a lot of searching the internet. On one hand we checked Craigslist daily. On the other hand we checked websites of local dealers.
We decided to look for a Ford Econoline. These vans are pretty common in North-America. A Volkswagen Vanagon could have been the ultimate vanlife vehicle for us. But we decided not to get one for several reasons:
It is already outfitted
It's small compared to Econoline (E-Series)
It’s way easier to get spare parts for E-Series in North-America
we grew up with VW camper vans and wanted to experience a real american car :)
Two weeks after our flight to Denver we checked out a van at Denver Fleet, a car dealer who had advertised a van on Craigslist. It was the first and the last van we inspected in person. It was an extended 15-passenger van with windows. We did a test drive, talked to the dealer and discussed with him what our plans are.
In the end we bought it and became proud owners of a Ford E-350. We left the seats at the dealer and started to plan the conversion into a rolling home.
About fitting out a Van
Because of the fact that we bought a passenger van there was no need to built in any insulation. That saved us time and work.
As foundation for our upgrade we built a flooring made of OSB. That gave us the option to build up the whole construction on a wooden base. As a consequence we did not have to put a single screw into the body of the van. A back conversion to a regular passenger van is possible without any remains.
After the flooring we built the bed and cabinets. The whole interior is made of OSB as well. It is cheaper compared to plywood and we like the rough look of it. Furthermore we didn’t have to treat the wood with paint or varnish.
The bed frame is very versatile. It has four independent moving parts. As a result we can convert the bed to a bench in the front, a bench in the back and we can lift the head section if we want to. Also, we can access our storage under the bed easily.
Furthermore we have a second board battery and an inverter to run our electrical equipment on 110 Volts. For example, we can dry our ski boots overnight and off the grid.
As soon as we hit the road and lived in our van we figured out that we needed some improvements. Our stove had to be set up with all it’s hoses and connectors every time we wanted to use it. The cutlery and dishes were flying around in different boxes. We decided to build an all in one kitchen.
The portable Camp Kitchen
Our kitchen is made of pretty lightweight and thin plywood. It is pretty portable and fits under our bed. We can pull it out at the back of the van. It’s possible to place it right behind the van or everywhere else.
The kitchen holds cutlery, a pan, pots, a month’s supply of spaghetti, pesto, spices, all kinds of cans and other groceries. It also features a custom compartment for our coffee utensils like beans, coffee machine and a grinder.
Another device of our van interior is a nice tiny sink. We made of a salad bowl which we found at a grocery store. It catches the water of our water tank and even has a drain. We are now able to clean our dishes easily.
We have a lot of storage in our van. Nevertheless we were sure that we needed more. Each of us has two pairs of skis and a whole bunch of winter equipment. In summer we want to go surfing. Where would we put some surf boards? We needed a roof rack.
Our custom made Roof Rack
We tried to get a nice roof rack for our van. Luckily, we stayed for a while at a friend in Oregon. He handcrafts training carts for sled dogs and they are made of steel.
So, we had the chance to weld our own custom made roof rack. It will fit our surf boards, a cargo box when we want to add one and also doubles as a platform for videography.