How To Convert A Van: 1st step - layout planning: things you should consider

Uncategorized Jun 30, 2021

One of the first essential steps to building your dream van is choosing your layout. Whether you plan to live in your van full-time or use it as your weekend getaway, it pays off to do your research before building your new van home. This article will share some tips and tricks and some serious questions to ask yourself before deciding on your layout.

What to consider before planning your van

Part-time or full-time vanlife? 

Suppose you are going to be full-time in your campervan. In that case, having the ability to store your belongings is necessary. On the other hand, if you're using the campervan for just weekend trips to campsites, having space for your hobby equipment might prioritize more space than space for groceries.

Do you need a space to work remotely? 

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Being able to work on the road is now becoming even more of an option. With the ever-growing prospects of working remotely, having a comfortable workspace might be something to consider. This space can also be used as a dining table or storage space when not working to maximize the benefit. If you plan on working full time, it pays off to have a dedicated workspace. 

Are you traveling with others? 

How many people will be using the van? The more people that use the van, the more space will be dedicated to sleeping, eating, and traveling. Some countries don't require back seat passengers to have seat belts on; however other countries do. These restrictions are something to consider if you intend to take the van across different countries. 

Are you traveling with pets?

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People traveling with pets also have to consider the space their pets require to be comfortable on the road. Planning this in advance will make your vanlife way easier. 

Are you going to travel with big dogs? Consider some storage for their food, possibly a place that you can keep closed (to avoid bugs invasions).

Where are they going to sleep? Well, if you allow them to sleep on the bed with you, that won't be a big problem. Otherwise, save some space where to place a kennel.

Last but not least: are they used to doing their business outside or inside? The first option is the easiest, but for example, if you're traveling with cats, you may have to consider saving some space where to put a litter box.

Will you be primarily off-grid, at campgrounds, or in cities? 

Knowing this will determine the kind of van and layout you need. 

If you plan to spend a lot of time off-grid, you need to be as self-sufficient as possible. You'll need electricity and extra storage for all the batteries. It would be best if you had larger water tanks, more storage for clothes, and a decent size fridge so you can stay off-grid for more extended periods. 

If you choose to spend most of your time in campsites, you will find most amenities at the campground. For example, you may not need to add expensive batteries to your campervan because the campground has electric hookups, and your water tanks can be smaller because you have water access at the campground.

However, if you are a city dweller and spend most of your time in and around cities, you might want to prioritize space for other things because your needs will be different. For example, you can go food shopping as often as you like to have a smaller fridge. In addition, you can shower at gyms or recreational centers, which reduces the need for a full bathroom. And you'll have access to water more frequently, so you can have smaller water tanks, and you can wash your clothes at launderettes more often, which will reduce the space you need for clothes. 

How important is cooking for you?

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Cooking is something that most people enjoy, and it is definitely possible to cook up a storm in a van. It comes down to how much you prioritize cooking and how much space you want to dedicate to the kitchen. 

Cooking in the van can get quite hot, so if you're in a hot area, it may be a good idea to have the kitchen in the back so you can open up the van. But this is very dependent on the weather and how likely it is to rain in your area. 

We recommend you allocate a place in the van for cooking, especially if you live in an area where it rains a lot or is cold most times of the year. You can opt to use a camping burner and cook outside to save space inside the van, or you could go all out with a burner, microwave, and oven. 

How much storage space do you need?

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Storage is a commodity in vanlife, especially if you are in a shorter van. Bringing all the necessary items you can't live without is the key, so most people prioritize storage space to suit their lifestyle. Some may consider installing a few things under their van to free up storage space inside the van. 

It is also a good idea to know the environment where you may use the van. It will determine what items to install outside; for example, having the water tank under the van in a hotter climate is a good idea, as it frees up space inside the van for storage. In colder weather, having the water tank inside the van is a good idea because there is less likelihood of it freezing. Also, having a roof box on top of the van to store winter items during summer and summer items during winter is an excellent idea because it frees up space for storage inside the van.

Can you fit your bed sideways?

Most vans have a maximum width of 1.8M or 6 feet. Therefore, people taller than 6 feet will usually have to place their bed lengthways, which takes up more space. 

Double-check: Weight distribution

Building a campervan is not just as simple as putting everything wherever you like. It is vital to plan your layout ahead of time to determine the best weight distribution solution while maintaining your desired design. Most vans have a maximum weight, often referred to as GVM ( Gross Vehicle Mass), and each axle has a maximum weight it can hold. Plan your layout carefully not to overload any of the axels while also staying below the GVM. It is possible to be under the Gross Vehicle Mass and overload an axle if your weight isn't distributed equally. 

Tip: Focus on creating multifunctional spaces

Source: Unsplash

With the van having a smaller surface area than most people in houses are used to, maximizing the space is key to having your essentials with you on the road. Multifunctional items are very desirable because they would save a lot of space in the van. Using a space in the van for multiple uses is also a desirable option when designing your layout. 

An example of this is converting the seating/ dining area into a sleeping area is a popular option because it frees other space in the van for different functions.

Our advice: Try before you commit

Vanlife is a way of life, and you'll learn valuable lessons about what you need and want in your van, trialing vanlife first before committing to a complete build. 

When you buy the rig that suits your budget and lifestyle, do a test run first. Throw a mattress in the back, bring an ice cooler and a camping stove and take some weekend trips to get your first vanlife experiences and learn what it is that you need on the road. 

You will learn whether you like to hang out in the city, or rather be off-grid in the woods, or maybe stay in a campground. This first experience will help narrow down which things to prioritize and what type of layout you would like. 

Feeling inspired? 

The beauty of designing your own camper van is that you can customize it exactly to your needs. Design your custom camper with vanspace 3D and visualize your van plans. Or check out our Facebook and Instagram page for some layout inspiration. 

Already built your van? Tag us @vanspace3d to get featured with your van build


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