Vanlife: Camper Conversion Weeks 3-5

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Well, it has been another three weeks into my van conversion.  I’m delighted to now have the exterior complete.  Below are the latest updates in the process.

Week 3

In week 3, Wanderful Wheels added the roof rack, ladder, and nerf bars (steps) from Roambuilt.  I selected Roambuilt because I wanted the ladder in the back.  For anyone who doesn’t mind a side ladder, Aluminess is a very popular, more affordable option. 

For me, the side ladder seemed like a drag on gas mileage, and it looks like I’ll be starting my road trip as gas prices soar.  Sounds about right!  Ten years ago, gas prices were at an all-time high, and that is when I took a year-long road trip in my Eurovan VANilla.  Perfect timing!

Anyway, I’m hopeful to climb up the ladder and sit on the roof rack to enjoy some sunsets in 6.5 weeks (not that I’m not counting).  The roof rack is also important for the solar panels which will be installed so that I may be off-grid more often than not.

The steps will be useful for everyday life, as due to the four-wheel drive, VANgo is pretty high off the ground for a regular height girl, like me.  In fact, I was originally going to forgo nerf bars as they seemed like a “cool” accessory rather than a useful one.  Once I realized I was going to have to consistently hoist myself inside, I changed my mind.

Additionally, after installing the Propex heater in week 2 under the passenger seat, they added in the Scopema swivel kit. Now my passenger seat will swivel toward the back where a removeable Lagun table will be installed. I’ll be able to eat there or write blog posts if I’m not relaxing on my bench.

Week 4

During week 4, Wanderful Wheels added the Dometic A/C and the floor.  The A/C was a bit of a splurge, but since I am normally up early and back by the heat of the day, I thought I might appreciate it sometimes, especially since I plan on sticking to warm weather places.  With my set up, however, I will need to be on shore power to use it.  I foresee this happening at some State and National Parks when I want additional luxuries handy.  

The floor.  What can I say?  I saw it in the van that Wanderful Wheels had on display at a camper van expo.  While this PERGO floor came from Home Depot, their lovely woodwork is what prompted me to ask how long their waiting list was for a van conversion.  I feel so lucky that the wait time was three months rather than one year!

I’ve chosen to add these fancy upgrades so that VANgo feels like a home in case I truly go mobile.  I’ve found even with hotels, I like to come back to a nice room rather than a drab one.  These nice upgrades are obviously unnecessary, but will bring me joy.

Week 5

In week 5, Wanderful Wheels began the rough electrical.  It is still in the process of being completed, so I have no photo show for this, but I will soon.

New Rendering

In the meantime, there was a slight design flaw in the renderings.  Apparently, the software automatically resized the window to fit the closet.  Since the window in only one size, and I wanted it, we had to narrow the closet.  While it isn’t exciting to give up space, I didn’t want the window going into the closet! 

Fortunately, it will still serve its purpose for hanging a handful of button-down shirts and jackets that I didn’t want to cram into a cubby. In addition, with the return to rendering discussions, I got to add in a couple corner shelves over the bed that I had been contemplating but never mentioned.  I’m happy about that!

Power Usage

Our conversation also led to my education on a handful of things that I probably should have asked in advance.  For example, how much battery and inverter power is needed to turn on a toaster.  I planned to rely on a toaster instead of an oven. 

I did not know toasters drew so much power, even more than a microwave! While I knew my set up could not support a microwave, I had no idea it couldn’t support a toaster.  Toasters are so much smaller.  I was so surprised they used so much energy.  The moral of the story is when building a van, ask about every appliance you might use.

For me it is still OK, because I’m not much of a cook and rarely use the toaster oven anyway.  It was just a convenience that would take up some of my storage and not worth the expense of upgrading my power needs. 

In fact, I declined a chance to upgrade my power once already when I asked how much it would cost to run the A/C without being plugged into shore power.  For an A/C it would cost thousands, for a toaster, I didn’t bother asking because I knew there were alternatives.

Omnia Stovetop Oven

Now I know why so many full-timers recommend buying the Omnia Stovetop Oven.  I’ve already ordered mine, along with all the accessories.  Based on what I have read, the silicone trays and trivet are worth it.  I’ve also learned that it is useful to have a BBQ thermometer to monitor the temperature.

Just in case I want to become a remarkable cook while on the road, I’ve even joined a Facebook Page specifically for trading cooking tips and recipes for the Omnia.  I’ll have to get used to pizza and cornbread in the shape of a bundt cake!  Somehow, I think my Omnia will become a novelty.  But we shall see.  I’d prefer having it for convenience sake.

The camper conversion process has been a learning experience, and I suspect by summer I will be a master in watts, power usage, and all the things I should have, would have, could have known!  I’m a little nervous about the unexpected, but “If you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing. There’s a lesson in every experience.” – Inspire Sisters.  ETB


Check out the photographic note cards and key chains at my shop.  Each card has a travel story associated with it.  20% of proceeds are donated to charity.

photographic note card, sunset in mississippi
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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

8 thoughts on “Vanlife: Camper Conversion Weeks 3-5

  1. It’s coming along very nicely! I checked out Omnia and it looks like a great addition to the RV. But more so, this flung me back to my childhood and reminded me of one of my favourite books, The Saucepan Journey by Edith Unnerstad. I this story, a family in sweden is going on the road with a wagon and two horses to sell their father’s invention of a special pan. Now I have to find the book and see if he invented the Omnia 🙂

  2. The toaster makes sense. Resistive electrical heating is power intensive. Maybe you could put a frying pan on the engine block… I don’t see very many power outlets. But I guess you can use power strips as needed. Are you using built-in battery storage or will you just bring batteries to recharge your electronics when you are off the grid? This whole setup fells like a cross between backpacking and living in a house.

    1. Well you know more about electric systems than I do. I have four outlets which feels like plenty to me. I won’t be keeping things plugged in as it will drain power. I have built in battery with solar for off grid, but still thinking about a few battery packs. Yes, the goal is for it to feel homey so it feels comfortable when I get back from hiking. If I didn’t want it home I could have finished it out for a lot cheaper!

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