Travel can be expensive. Flights, hotels, transport costs, not to mention the fact that you have to cover your rent back home while you’re away, essentially paying for an empty apartment. In recent years there’s been a massive movement towards van travel (a resurgence, some might say, as it was popularized during the 60s and 70s); that is, converting a van into a mobile home and hitting the road in an endless pursuit of travel.
With rising rent costs, crowded urban areas and the opportunities to work remotely more prevalent than ever, this is an attractive option for those looking to transition from a city life to one of travel without losing some of those creature comforts. It’s an ideal way of exploring an entire continent such as North America or Europe. If you’ve ever thought about converting a van into a travel home and living on the road, then you’ll need to ensure you’ve taken a few essential steps before you set out.
A reliable sleeping space
While the space inside a van is minimal, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice when it comes to a comfortable bed. In fact, raised beds – a wooden platform with storage space beneath – is one of the most popular options that allows for a double mattress (depending on the size of your van). In terms of mattresses you’re going to need something that breathes and is temperature regulating to ensure that you don’t overheat. After all, humans generate a lot of heat, especially in confined spaces for long periods of time.
A solar panel
A good solar panel setup is indispensable – it’s the lifeblood of any successful travel van. Not only will it power your lights, fan, small refrigerator (if you choose to have one) and water pump, but it will also provide an outlet for charging your phone, laptop and any other small electrical appliances you might need to keep juiced while on the road. There’s a more detailed explanation here, but the essentials boil down to an appropriately-sized solar panel (or panels) for the roof of your van, an invertor to supply 120V and a battery to retain that power for another day.
Pro tip: make sure that nothing is obstructing or casting shade on your solar panels. Unless they’re equipped with bypass diodes that allow current to “flow” around the shaded cell, there’s a chance it could completely nullify the output of the solar panel.
This is quite a contentious discussion, as everyone has their own methods for insulating. What everyone agrees on, however, is that it’s an essential step, especially if you plan on sleeping in your fan during winter. Insulate wherever possible: beneath your flooring, on the van’s sides and under the ceiling panels. The objective is to make your van as resistant to heat loss as possible, and there are various types of insulation, such as spray foam and Thinsulate, that can help you do this.