Winter might not be the most obvious time of year to start thinking about owning a leisure vehicle, but the colder months actually present a good opportunity to get started on a campervan conversion. If your social media feeds have been swamped all summer with pictures of beaches and stunning scenery taken from the open doors of a campervan, and you're anxious to get stuck into your own conversion project, then why wait until Spring?
Winter can be the perfect time for converting a van into a camper for several reasons. Firstly, you are more likely to have more time on your hands during the winter, because the colder, darker nights often mean you can't take part in your usual leisure pursuits. Secondly, if you start a van conversion project in the winter, you can be ready to hit the open road without delay when the better weather arrives. And thirdly, even if the weather is so bad that you can’t get cracking on the actual conversion part of the project, you can use this time well by drawing up plans, sourcing materials and working out budgets - all from within the cosy warmth of inside with a cup of tea
Of course, you could just buy a ready built conversion, but where’s the fun in that? Campers can be quite expensive and limited in terms of the changes you can make to the interiors, so converting an existing van into a camper gives you complete creative control to develop a space that will perfectly suit your needs.
Things to think about before you start your camper van conversion
Exciting as it may be, this is not a project to enter into lightly. Whatever stage of the project you’re ready to crack on with, from planning to actual conversion, it is wise to do some research and make sure you’re fully prepared before you begin.
- Deciding on your camper van needs: Understand your specific needs for the camper van. This may include basic amenities like bed, cooking facilities, and seating and additional requirements based on your lifestyle like a shower, toilet, and renewable energy systems.
- Setting a Budget: Campervan conversions can be costly. Be clear about your budget before you start. The expense can range from £6,000 for basic conversions to five figures for complex ones.
- Choosing the Right Van Size: The size of your van will depend on how many people will be using it and what additional uses you may have for the van when not camping. Smaller vans are easier to park, while larger ones offer more space.
- Ventilation and Layout Design: Plan a suitable layout for your van. This includes deciding where to fit campervan conversion windows and skylights, and installing a ventilation system to keep the interior fresh and comfortable. You’ll want to consider windows that open and close easily and ensure you locate these in the best places according to the rest of your conversion layout. You’ll also need to make sure that you measure the apertures correctly so that you can order the right sized windows to perfectly fit the space and consider opting for Plastoform windows as these offer the benefits of being lightweight, double glazed and feature integrated fly screens.
- Professional Services for Electricity and Gas Installation: Certain tasks like electricity and gas installations require professional expertise for safety reasons.
- Insulation: Insulation is critical for maintaining an ideal temperature inside the van. Consider adding sound deadening materials for privacy and comfort.
- Fresh and Waste Water Storage: If your campervan will have facilities like a shower or sink, plan for fresh and waste water storage. This might include installing tanks and pumps.
- Furniture Requirements: Think about the type of furniture you want in your van. You can build your own or buy pre-built units designed for specific van types.
- Re-registering the Van: After your conversion, consider re-registering your vehicle from 'van' to 'motor caravan' with the DVLA. This can lead to benefits such as reduced insurance costs and higher speed limits.
- Consider the Time Frame: Converting a van into a campervan can be time-consuming. Plan well in advance, especially if you are hiring professionals, as they often have long waiting lists.
- Choosing the Right Van Model: When looking for a base van, consider popular models like Volkswagen Transporter, Mercedes Sprinter, Fiat Ducato, Ford Transit Custom, and Renault Trafic. They each have unique advantages and are popular in campervan circles.
- Weighing up the Pros and Cons: Finally, consider if building your own campervan is worth the effort and cost for you. Alternatively, ready-made options are available, although they may not be tailored to your exact preferences.
Remember, converting a van can be a rewarding project and a great investment if done well!
Materials you’ll need for your camper van conversion
When converting a camper van, your individual requirements will depend upon the type of van you are using and your planned layout, but in general, you should consider that you’ll need the following materials:
- Insulation materials: necessary for temperature regulation
- Plywood or other panelling materials: to cover the insulation and provide a clean finish
- Wiring and electrical components: for installing electrical systems
- Campervan conversion windows: opting where possible for those with a completely flat outer frame as these are ideal for flat sided camper conversions
- Bedding and seating: for comfort and functionality
- Kitchen and bathroom fixtures: depending on your need and design
Useful tools for campervan conversions
Some of the tools you might find useful when converting a van into a camper include:
- Tape measure - for accurate measurements during the conversion process.
- Utility knife - useful for cutting various materials.
- Drill with bits - for drilling holes and screwing in screws.
- Circular saw - to make clean, straight cuts.
- Straight edge - assists in making straight lines and cuts.
- Jigsaw with various blades - required for cutting intricate shapes in wood, metal, cork, and other materials.
- Kreg jig - useful for building cabinets, shelves, and a bed.
- Square and level - essential for ensuring structures are aligned and level.
- Clamps - essential for holding things in place.
- Screwdrivers - invest in good screwdrivers for installing various components.
- Multi-tool - useful for removing old adhesive materials, slicing thinner pieces of wood or sanding down any unwanted surfaces.
One final consideration, which it pays to be aware of throughout your conversion project is making your campervan safe. If it doesn’t adhere to the necessary safety regulations your hip campervan conversion will never experience life on the road, so it makes sense to consider the safety requirements right from the start. This will include fitting all seats that will be used during travel with safety belts, having fire extinguishers installed, checking the vehicle’s load carrying capacity and being mindful of this when adding heavy items to the interior build and ensuring your van has been reclassified with DVLA as a motorhome.
If you’re ready to embark on converting your van into a camper this winter, you can visit Caravan Crazy to stock up on the items you might need for your camper van conversion including Plastoform windows which offer great security and durability.