As the idea of van life becomes increasingly popular, we’re seeing a wide range of people who are choosing to give van living a serious try. Some might be drawn to full-time van life when rent becomes unaffordable; others are doing it to pursue their creative dreams after retirement; while others might be doing van life in a hybrid way. Whatever it may be, people’s most often stated reason for choosing van life is ultimately a love of travel.
That love of adventure was certainly the rationale behind one woman’s choice to try out van living. Sam, who works a full-time corporate job, wanted a reliable way to get out into nature, in order to escape the stress of work on her days off. That desire led her to collaborate with Colorado-based van builders Dave and Matt Vans, who could convert a van that was tailored to her specific needs, and which could be regularly used as part of a weekend getaway.
We get a tour of Sam’s beautifully streamlined van via Tiny Home Tours:
As Sam explains, flexibility was key in her choice to convert a van, because she wanted a ski-cabin-inspired “adventure camper van” that could go wherever she wanted to go:
“So with my love of travel and huge desire to get out into nature more often, buying something or going in and renting [a ton of] Airbnbs just wasn’t feasible. So this [van conversion] was actually an amazing alternative that gave me the freedom to bring my ‘condo cabin’ with me wherever I go. So when I want to go travel to Washington or Utah, or to any of all the amazing national parks around here, I have everything I need in this, and it was a huge component to finding more joy in life.”
Sam’s all-season van is built out of a RAM 2500 Promaster with a high-top, a popular model for van conversions because it allows occupants to stand up fully inside.
The interior layout is deceptively simple but fulfills a lot of Sam’s needs. For instance, the kitchenette that takes up most of the central zone of the van may be compact, but it nonetheless has all the basic amenities like a sink, storage for freshwater and greywater, a mini-refrigerator, plus some storage above and below for dried goods, utensils, and more. All of the drawers are securely fastened at all times, as they use push latches to open and close.
The pull-down sink faucet can do double-duty here; not only can it wash dishes, but it can also be pulled out the window to act as a shower head, in combination with a shower tent.
To ensure that she can fit everything she needs in the kitchen, Sam opted for stackable, collapsible, and multifunctional equipment, from a collapsible kettle to pots and pans that use a single interchangeable clip-on handle.
Above the driver’s seat, there is a convenient nook to store some extra equipment, like sleeping bags, magnetic window covers, and a portable dehumidifier that Sam says is a great help in reducing overnight condensation in the van. Yet another feature that Sam loves is the Webasto gas heater, as it’s programmable and efficient.
Next to the kitchenette, Sam has an upholstered bench seating area that is laid out on both sides of the van. Between the benches, there is a table on a height-adjustable Lagoon arm that can swivel around, allowing Sam to use it as an extra space for preparing food, or as a workspace.
One side has this longer bench, which has storage underneath the seat, while the other side has a shorter bench, which hides Sam’s cassette toilet. For Sam, cassette toilets are the most convenient way to go, as they don’t smell, and are small enough to hide under the seat. According to Sam, it was better for her to opt for a toilet only, rather than to have a full shower built out, as it takes up much more space.
Past the seating area, we have the bed at the rear. It’s elevated up on a platform, and has some extra storage cabinets above.
Looking in through the rear doors, and under the bed, we can see there is ample room for all the van’s utilities like its 340 amp-hour battery and 2,000-watt inverter (with 320 watts of solar on the roof). The battery can also be recharged while driving the van.
For those looking to work with a builder, rather than building out a van themselves, Sam advises having a good idea of your budget, preferred aesthetic and needs, as well as timing (ie. when the van needs to be completed), will help people narrow down their choices when it comes to selecting a builder. Ultimately, going through the process was worth it for Sam, who says:
“I didn’t want to look back and think I wasted my time; this was something that was really important to me — to get out and go explore, and to be able to look back and to say that I did everything that I wanted to do.”
When Sam isn’t traveling in her van, she also rents it out to other adventurers, so to find out more, you can visit Sam’s Instagram.