If you’re passionate about road trips like we are at Backwoods Adventure Mods, then it’s certain you’re on the hunt for the perfect vehicle to take you safely and comfortably everywhere you dream of going. One obvious option is an RV. RVs have been around for years, and thousands of folks can attest to the joys of road tripping in an RV. But these same folks will also tell you that RVs have significant drawbacks. For one thing, RVs are big, which makes them tricky to park and turn around, and they’re an absolute nightmare in a drive-thru. For another, RVs are decidedly ho-hum; their interiors feel cheap, and their colors and styles seem outdated. They’re also heavy, which makes taking them off-road a challenge and keeping them fueled up expensive. The truth is, while RVs can take you a lot of places, their size and maneuverability mean they really can’t take you everywhere, and their style leaves a lot to be desired.
What’s the solution? #vanlife. Converting vans into campers is what all the road trippers are buzzing about. For those in the know, camper conversions solve all the big RV problems:
- Vans are shorter and narrower dimensionally than RVs. Parking and turning aren’t problems, and you can totally take one through a drive-thru at midnight if you need to. (And we all know it happens.)
- Vans get better gas mileage. This varies, of course, depending on the make and model of the van and on the weight of the modifications you make. A new Ford Transit will average 15mpg in the city and 19mpg on the highway compared to 8mpg/city and 12mpg/highway for the typical RV. The additional 7mpg is worth every penny, especially in light of the high cost of gas nowadays. It also means significantly fewer stops for gas to get farther faster.
- RVs are no good for off-roading. If you’re at all tempted to take your vehicle off the beaten path and onto the open trail, an RV is not the answer. First of all, RVs are low to the ground and have a high center of gravity. This combination is no good for traveling over rough, bumpy terrain. On the other hand, vans can be modified to get higher ground clearance and better departure angles, allowing you to maneuver roots, boulders, ruts, and more safely. Adding Transit 2020+ Mods like the Nomad series front bumper with bull bar reinforces your front bumper and improves your clearance. You can’t do that with an RV.
- Vans can go almost anywhere. You’re limited to RV parks with the requisite space and hookups with an RV. With a van, you have no such limitations. If you want to camp with a knock-out view of the Pacific and epic sunsets, you’ll need a camper van.
- Camper van conversions are amazing. Creativity is a large part of the appeal of camper van conversions. If you’ve spent any time researching the #vanlife movement, you’ve surely seen the viral photos of brilliant conversions that have turned stock vans into charming cottages on wheels. Sure, you can get conversion companies to do the work for you and get fairly generic results, but even these are a far cry from the sameness and staleness of RVs.
Are you convinced? We are. It’s camper van life for the folks at Backwoods Adventure Mods all the way. Are you ready for some further inspiration?
The Ford Transit
There are several vans out there that are good options for camper van conversions, including the Mercedes Sprinter and the Ram Promaster. Each vehicle has its own advantages and disadvantages, and we sell the mods you need to convert them all, but for this article, we’re going to focus on the Transit.
We like the Transit for camper van conversions for the following reasons:
- Interior height. The Ford Transit offers the most interior height (77”) of any of the vans in this category. This means more storage space and more headroom if you’re tall.
- Value. You can get a Transit at a great price point. And you can get a Ford repaired anywhere, making it easy to own and repair.
- Rear-wheel drive. The Transit’s rear-wheel-drive can get you out of a heck of a lot of sticky situations out on the trail.
- The EcoBoost. Upgrading to the EcoBoost engine gives you lots of power.
This guide is not meant to be step-by-step instructions but rather an overview of the process and the decisions you’ll need to make to accomplish the conversion.
The Ford Transit is a popular choice for DIY conversions. Any camper van conversion requires careful consideration of the following basics:
- Water hookups
- Floor materials
Your conversion will need to include mods for each of these basics. You’ll need to insulate the floors, walls, and ceilings to regulate temperature, reduce road noise, plan installations for all major systems, and map out your storage, seating, and sleeping requirements. And while your camper van may not be fitted for a shower, you’ll still want to think about how you plan to manage personal hygiene on the road and what role your vehicle will play.
Measure and Create a Floor Plan
You’ll need to precisely measure your van’s interior dimensions, including wheel wells, windows, uneven ribs in the floor—everything; it’s all relevant. If you’re computer savvy, using a 3D modeling tool can really help you visualize the space. Search the web for photos and inspiration to help you decide where you want to put the big stuff like the bed, the kitchen, vents, and all the rest.
Be creative. This is a small space, and everything needs to do double or even triple duty. Transit 2015-2019 Mods from Backwoods Adventure Mods, such as a roof rack, can be part of the plan. Our roof rack is customizable and allows room for a ventilation system, solar panels, and additional storage containers.
Strip It and Clean It
You’ve got to take everything out before putting anything back in. Take it all out – plastic flooring, seats, storage—all of it. Clean it up and get it ready for what comes next.
Your exact installation procedures will depend on your plans, but installation typically goes in roughly this order:
- Ventilation. You must install fans.
- Electrical and water systems. Most van conversions include solar power, fresh water tanks, gray water tanks, a water pump, and a sink.
- Bed. Platform beds double as storage space, and drop-down beds double as tables, desks, or couches. There are lots of options to play around with.
- Finishing. Once your electrical and water systems are complete, you can finish the interior. Add lighting, cabinets, tongue, and groove panels – everything you need to feel at home.
You’re ready! Get out there.