After 2.5 years on the road, we look back at our van conversion and identify all the things we love about our camper van build. Many of the things that we’ll point out in this post have dramatically helped to increase the viability of long-term van life.
Yes, we have van build regrets, too, but in this article we want to specifically point out 12 of the best things we love about our camper.
So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!
1. It's A High-Roof Van
This is perhaps the thing we love the most about our camper van.
When we were first planning about which van we wanted to buy, we had read multiple accounts from people saying they had wished they went with a high roof vehicle. They were tired of always having to crouch inside their vehicle and that being able to stand inside their camper would increase the livability of their van.
We took that advice to heart and purchased a high-roof Ford Transit. And after over 2 years on the road we can say definitively that a high-roof van really was one of the best choices we made for van life.
Not only can we fully stand up straight inside, but a high-roof has greatly increased the internal space of our van, which has done wonders for long term livability. If we’re being honest, if we had chosen a low-roof vehicle, we don’t think we would still be doing van life to this day.
2. Cedar Plank Ceiling
Of the entire van build, the cedar plank ceiling is our pride and joy.
From the way we attached the planks to our furring strips to the custom stain color, we love (almost) everything about our van’s ceiling. We planned the heck out its installation.
In fact, the ceiling is usually the first thing that people notice when they enter our van.
3. Small Rear RV Windows
Did we want windows? Where would we put them? Which style of windows did we want?
These were the questions we asked ourselves but was difficult to answer since we had never lived in a van before.
We knew we absolutely wanted windows to enhance internal livability, but shied away from having full size windows due to privacy and insulation concerns. So in the end, we chose to install two small RV windows from Motion Windows.
So we compromised and went with smaller windows. This way, we still get lots of natural light from the outdoors, but we can still keep our privacy and maintain better insulation in our van. We also like these smaller windows because they’re more discreet and don’t scream CAMPER VAN everywhere we drive.
To learn more: How To Install Windows In A Camper Van
4. Maxxfan Instead Of A FANtastic Fan
Two years into van life and we firmly believe that the Maxxfan is a significantly better choice for camper vans than the FANtastic fan. But when we were first planning our camper build (and had ZERO van life experience) the choice wasn’t so obvious.
The biggest draw of the FANtastic fan was it’s lower profile, which made it less visible from the street side and therefore better for ‘stealth camping’, in theory.
What’s more critical, instead, is being able to use your fan when it’s raining outside. Seriously, when it’s pouring outside the first place you’ll want to be is inside your van.
And when it’s raining, the air inside your van gets humid, sticky, and uncomfortable. There just isn’t any good airflow, especially because your sliding door will likely be shut to keep the rain out.
So using our Maxxfan, which has a rain cover, when it’s raining outside has helped tremendously to circulate air in our camper and maintain sanity in our small living space.
If we ever build another van, we’re 100% going with the Maxxfan again.
5. 20 Feet Long Is Perfect (The Goldilocks Zone)
If we were to buy a second van in the future, we’d make sure our next van would also be 20 feet (6 meters) long. Not any shorter or longer.
We love the length of our vehicle. That’s because we’ve found that this is the maximum length to comfortably drive and park virtually anywhere you want in urban areas, but still provides a large enough internal area to live comfortably.
Though we didn’t choose van life to live and travel in cities, there’s no escaping urban life for at least part of your travels. And throughout our time, we’ve been able to eke through some of the smallest parking spaces, narrowest roads, and tightest corners imaginable with our 20’ long van.
On the other hand, we do enjoy having more internal living space then when compared to some of the smaller, more compact camper’s we’ve seen, like the VW Combi. With our length, we can still have a full size bed, living space, and kitchen.
6. We Love Not Having A Bathroom/Shower Room
When we were first drawing up our camper’s floor plan, we sketched in room for a small shower stall. We had seen some YouTube videos of vans with shower stalls, which also conveniently fit an RV toilet inside.
But later on, we backed out of having a shower/toilet stall, and we’re super happy we did.
First, having to account for a bathroom stall made everything else in our van more cramped. Our sleeping area, living space, and kitchen area all became smaller. Also, building a floor-to-ceiling shower stall drastically took away internal air space and, thus, livability.
When it came down to it, we preferred maximizing our living space and kitchen area to having an indoor bathroom solution.
Secondly, it turns out, we’re perfectly fine with our current bathroom/shower solution. It mostly involves utilizing public toilets and showers whenever we see them. But when no public facilities are nearby, our solution also involves old water bottles, a pee funnel, and a poop trowel.
We also use a solar shower bag, which we love and is 100% a van life essential, in our opinion.
To learn more about our van life bathroom solution, read: Van Life Toilets: Do You Really Need Them? We Don’t!
7. We Love Our Convertible Bed!
Ah yes, the age-old debate about whether you should build a fixed or convertible bed in your camper van.
Currently, it seems the “permanent bed” crowd are winning. But we’re here to say NOPE! We’re die-hard convertible bed enthusiasts. They’re clearly the best options and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!
Convertible beds are more space efficient, which is important in smaller camper vans. Now instead of having a small bed space, a small work space, and a small kitchen, you can combine the first two areas into a single space. The result is a larger, more comfortable sleeping area and a living/dining space where you can actually move around and accommodate visitors.
Secondly, by making and putting away your bed every day, it forces you to keep your bed area clean and tidy. No longer can you just throw stuff on your bed and keep them shoved in the corner for days on end. Keeping your camper organized is key for long-term van life.
Learn more: Why We Love Our Convertible Bed
8. Our Walls (Horizontally Space Efficient)
The aspect that we love the most about our camper van walls is that our middle plywood wall panel is placed virtually right up against the thin, metal side wall. This has allowed us to maximize the horizontal space of our van, which has been huge for us.
We’ve seen countless camper van builds fail to utilize this middle area and install a single plywood wall from ceiling to floor simply because they couldn’t add furring strips onto the thin metal panel.
Furring strips are pieces of wood that allow you to attach your plywood walls to, instead of drilling directly into the van’s metal frame.
But in our camper van wall installation post, we discuss how you can create horizontally space efficient walls, but also how to DIY your own furring strips for a strong & durable wall installation.
Learn More: How To Install Walls In A Camper Van
9. Upgraded Suspension With SumoSprings
Even if you don’t consider yourself a vehicle suspension geek and just plan to simply drive with your van’s factory suspension, please let us try to convince you to make one TINY simple upgrade.
Get SumoSprings. Especially if you plan to drive on unpaved forest & BLM roads.
Of all the suspension products you could get for your van, SumoSprings are one of the most affordable upgrade products you can get. And they make a huge difference to your van’s off-road driving experience.
Since installing our Sumos, we experience much less side-to-side rocking when driving on uneven roads and have much more control behind the wheel. The value you get from them is huge.
Also, SumoSprings are easy to install yourself. So you don’t need to pay an expensive mechanic to put them in for you. We did the whole installation ourselves in 2 hours in a Walmart parking lot.
10. We Love Our Van's Internal Lighting
Camper van lighting is an underrated part of the van conversion process.
Have you ever been in a hotel room that was nice but the lighting was generic or simply inadequate? Don’t make the same mistake when building your van.
When we sketched our camper layout, we planned to have lots of light from different types of light sources. And now, how we light up our interior is one of the best things we love about our camper van.
Our camper’s total lighting solution comes from three different sources.
- 12 LED Puck Lights
- Two 12v reading lights
- Fairy lights
With the LED puck lights, we’re able to partition our van by putting different lights on different switches. Therefore, when we cook or do dishes, we have two puck lights directly above the kitchen area. Or when we want to work we have four LED lights shining directly above our table.
When we want to chill out and watch a movie just before bedtime, we turn on our fairy lights to change the ambience and atmosphere of our van.
And, at night, when one of us wants to read before sleeping, we have a 12v reading/spot light on either side of the bed.
Learn more: Camper Van Lighting
11. Overestimated Battery Bank
Running out of battery power seems to be a common theme among the van life community. At least for the YouTube channels and blogs we’ve seen online.
Electric power is such an important part of our lives and just because we move into a camper van doesn’t mean we’re any less reliant on electricity. We still need electricity to power our lights, fridge, fan, computers, and more.
So sometimes we’re a bit shocked when we see camper vans with undersized battery banks. And it’s no wonder problems with prematurely dead batteries are so common.
Though it involved an added investment, we overestimated our daily energy use and installed a larger battery bank than we could have otherwise gone with. We have three 100Ah LiFePO4 (Lithium) batteries, and since Day 1 of van life, we’ve never once been without power. It’s made life on the road less stressful and has made long-term van travel easier.
For a breakdown on how we calculated our battery size (and daily energy requirements) check out our post: How To Calculate Your Camper Battery Bank
12. Kitchen Setup
We love to do dishes. Just joking! Who does?!
But washing our dirty dishes and cookware is easy with our sink and faucet combo.
With a large sink, we’re never banging our dishes on the sink edges. There’s plenty of room. And with our goose-neck faucet, we can direct water to exactly where it needs to go.
We’ve seen some camper vans outfitted with tiny bar sinks and even tinier faucets. We get it, space is valuable in a tiny van. But we don’t believe trying to save space by sacrificing your dish washing space is a worthwhile trade-off.
We also love our kitchen backsplash. Though we were close to installing real tile, we decided at the last minute to get a peel-and-stick vinyl backsplash and are grateful we did. It looks great and is easy to wash.
Learn From Our List To Improve Your Own Van Conversion
We hope you enjoyed our post on all the things we love about our camper van build. Though we didn’t get everything right in our build, we do have regrets, there are so many things we love.
So we hope you found this post informational and that it helps to improve your own van conversion.
Lastly, and we can’t stress this enough, proper layout planning is essential to getting everything you want in your van. We even discuss how to sketch your own digital floor plan without having to pay for expensive layout software.
If you have any questions or comments, please post them in the comments section below. Thank you!