Well, it has taken a few months and what creativity I had in me to finish it but, The van is about 90% Finished. It is not hard to see on social media, magazines, outdoor articles that there is a trend of people wanting to sell everything and buy a camper or a van and hit the road. Although we are not selling all our stuff and moving into a van, we did want a way to pack up some food and drinks and take a weekend adventure. I have always owned a van but, for 2 years I have owned a Chevy Tahoe and though it has taken me on some pretty cool adventures another van was the direction I wanted to go. However, I did not want to build something that looked similar to all the other vans you might see. I wanted to build something that fit my personality, Of course, most van lifer’s vans do tend to reflect their personalities “Vanny” was going to be as unique as I could make it. I wanted to do the build as reclaimed as I could, I wanted to keep the entire build around 200 dollars to show that you can build something very comfortable and unique with not a ton of money. Even though I was able to use some of the things I had in our boat, everything else was reclaimed or repurposed.
I did not draw up any plans, there is no straight lines or level surfaces but, for some odd reason, that is the way I wanted it. I do not have the best construction skills, I just figured out what worked and tried it. The van was never intended to look like it came from a conversion factory, it was meant to be a piece of art in a way. I used scrap wood, pallet wood and salvaged parts off of unrepairable kayaks. Why throw something away when you can reuse it in a cool way. For example, I used a hatch off of a Jackson kayak for a shoe storage cabinet. I was able to cut the plastic around the hatch so I could still pop the lid on. I was able to repurpose Hobie’s rubber pouches to use for small item storage. Once I started thinking of ways to utilize this type of stuff everything just fell together. It may not be the best layout but I don’t really think there is a perfect layout when you build something like this. Every person and personality is different.
Some of the unique features or at least THE most unique feature is the section of Hobie Pro Angler 17 kayak used as a shelf and storage cubby. We took a section out of a damaged pro angler and I just had to make it work and thanks to a little after work engineering, my friend Jason Russell was able to mount it on the back wall and it fits perfect. This was what I was wanting to incorporate things like this in the van that you won’t see anywhere else. Even though it is a little on the heavy side it allows for a large amount of storage including my felling ax, because all paddlers need to have an ax in a white cargo van…..
Jumping back and forth, the flooring was out of luck. Even though most people would want a vinyl or some form of waterproof flooring if they were building a float trip themed van. I was able to get my hands on some new carpet tile, it is rubber backed and the blue shades added a beachy look to the van. The rubber backing will help when we have wet feet, however, carpet always feels warm and soft when you want to dry off and relax. The best thing is if it gets damaged or dirty I can peel it up and replace it in seconds and you can cut the corners with a simple razor blade.
Another thing I needed to address was paddle storage, I mean, I am a paddler so I need a place to store them and paddles are not cheap so I wanted to keep them inside the van. This is where the ceiling came in handy, and what better way to hold them up then a few pieces of kayak deck rigging and bungee. I carry two paddleboards OR two kayaks from time to time so I needed to be able to store 4 paddles total. Little did I know, the Aqua-Bound and Bending Branches paddle would make for a great look and addition to the theme of the van.
Everyone adventurer or camping enthusiasts have to eat, sometimes the weather does not cooperate, this is where I put a lot of thought yet simplicity to the galley. I don’t live in the van full time and I have no problem using a cooler with ice blocks over taking up a bunch of space for a fridge. The galley needed to do a few things, Store, Cook and prepare food and make coffee. I was able to use a couple army surplus boxes as cabinets, yes they are small but I have plenty of food storage under the counter as well. I was able to take a large 88 cent mixing bowl and put some plumbing fittings at the base of the bowl, Yes, I made a sink out of a mixing bowl. Since the entire galley was made from old pallet wood the countertops were not going to be level. I decided to purchase a commercial cutting board from Sam’s club and it worked out perfect.
The last two things that were huge to me was 1. A bed and 2. lots of clothes and gear storage. I am slightly taller than the van is wide so I needed to be able to figure out a way to make the bed longer. I was able to make a bench on the side of the van where I have the Jackson hatch and make an ottoman that would be upholstered and be the same height as the bed. I now have a bed that is about 6.8 ft long and the ottoman is a great storage box for cold weather gear like coats and fleece as well as spare bedding.
I did not want to use cheesy plastic storage bins under the bed because I was not going to be putting anything hard under the front side of the bed. Everything that is stored under the bed would be clothing and towels so I decided to use Sealine Dry Bags. I mean, after all, it is a float trip themed van. I use dry bags for everything in the van, this makes it easy to grab what I need to take with me on my paddleboard and not have to worry about forgetting anything.
The ottoman adds two foot to the length of the bed making it super comfy and gives plenty of room to stretch out. the 4-inch memory foam gives me a super comfy sleep. I did not get crazy with the insulation because I was not going to be living in the van 24/7 and I also sleep cold anyways, if I get cold I just add a quilt. I did, however, insulate the ceiling and walls.
For the most part, the main build of the van is complete. All the is left to do is the crazy lighting I am going to install, Solar and more charging outlets. In my eyes the van will never be done, there will always be something to add to it.
You can easily do a quick search on youtube and find hundreds, if not thousands of videos of single people and couples living in vans and small campers. Do I have the ability to do this full time, no but, I do have something I can take on the road and don’t have to worry about hotel rooms, I have my own bed, kitchen, and even Netflix. The best part about traveling in a van is you get to wake up with a new view every day if you choose. Most people would look at a full-time van lifer and think they are lazy and poor. This is far from the truth, in fact, some of the richest people on the planet live in vans. When you look at the mortgage most people have, or rent, a car, and a place for of stuff you tend to be consumed by all this. You get up you go to work, you come home and do it all over again. It does not take a billionaire to live like a king. Van Lifers are rich because they are free, “for the most part”. When I say rich I don’t mean money coming out of their ears, but they are living their lives how they want to live and they don’t want to conform to the normal roots style living of society. Many people don’t get this lifestyle but the best part about it is showing people the crafty ways you have built essentially a micro tiny home.
For people like me who have a home but want to take some adventures and do it comfortably, the van life is perfect. I am able to take my boards, my food, my drinks and have my own bed to sleep in. Below I will have a gallery of photos I took during the build, they probably will not be in order because I am tired and the calypso music I have playing in the background and giving me dreams of sandy beaches and paddleboarding.
More articles about Vanny DeVito coming soon. He is a work in progress, I hope you enjoyed this little look into my van life. I will also be listing all of the cool products I used in the build to.