10 Van Life Conversion Tips

Jordan Tarver
April 19, 2020

With a few van life tips, your van conversion process can be less stressful. Before getting your hands dirty, understand what you're getting yourself into and learn how you can set yourself up for success. Converting a van is by no means easy, however, it can be made easier with help from other van enthusiasts.

Here are 10 van life tips that can help your van conversion.

1. Go On Trips During Your Van Conversion

Before completely building out your van, it's crucial to go on trips throughout your van conversion to help understand what features you should build. It's important to include features that fit your type of adventure and will benefit you while on the road. During my own van conversion, I went on one trip in between building each feature.

For example, the only features I had complete on my first trip were my walls and flooring. After my first trip, I realized I wanted a bed that could convert into a table. After I built my dinette, I went on another trip and decided I wanted to build a kitchen cabinet piece for extra space. Use this method to help shape your build in a way that supports your wants and needs.

2. Maximize Your Storage

Storage in any van conversion is key. When you're designing your build, be sure to keep extra space at the top of your list. Some of the best features to build that increase your storage are benches that double as top-loading containers and cabinets that you can use for kitchen supplies and extra camping essentials.

3. Utilize Multi-purpose Features

Multi-purpose features can help you maximize the space in your van conversion. In my own build, I included a table that converts into a bed and a pullout stove that easily stores away when we aren't using it. Be creative and think of ways you can build features that have multiple uses.

4. Use a Foam Mattress

Finding a mattress that fits your exact van model and dimensions can be a giant headache. You'll never find one that works perfectly, so it's best to create one yourself. For my own build, I bought a full-sized foam mattress off of Amazon. I measured the size of the back of my van where the mattress would live and prepared to cut the mattress. Using sharp scissors, or sheers, I cut the foam mattress to size. Use this van life tip to make a bed that fits your van conversion perfectly.

5. Cover Your Mattress With Canvas

Once you've cut your mattress to size, it's time to cover it with fabric. Duck canvas is an excellent fabric to use because it's affordable, durable, and long lasting. You can buy a hefty roll at a general fabric store like Joann's for cheap. Once you get your canvas and cut it to size, wrap your foam mattress and use safety pins to secure the canvas. I used safety pins on my mattress and it has held up for over two years with no issues.

6. Ask for Help

Converting a van is by no means easy. Having extra hands on deck can not only make the process easier, but it can also help you finish your build more quickly. While you can probably do a lot of it on your own, I advise against it. Save yourself from an injury and ask friends or family to offer a hand. You won't regret it.

7. Take Your Time

I'm sure you'll be so thrilled to have your own van that you'll want to convert it as quick as possible. But refrain from doing so. Learn to enjoy the process. While it can be frustrating at some times, it's a much better idea to take your time and not rush through it just to get it off your plate. You have one shot at converting your van, so don't run the risk of making mistakes.

8. Watch Build Videos for Your Van Model

There are an infinite amount of ways you can convert your van, which can be understandably overwhelming. Instead of looking at all the ideas in the world, focus on your specific van model. There are tons of van conversion walkthroughs on YouTube and Google that can set you off in the right direction. Simply search this to find some quality information on converting your van: "[Van Model] van conversion".

9. Use a Workbench

Use me as a bad example. I chose to not buy a workbench for my van conversion and use two cinderblocks for the entire build. Hurt back you say? Yeah, me too. This was easily the biggest mistake I made. So, save yourself a lower back injury and invest in a workbench. This van life tip is going to elevate your overall build process.

10. Have Fun!

Converting a van should be fun. While it can be challenging and frustrating, the grand scheme of things should be enjoyable. I mean you who doesn't get stoked about converting a van to fit their adventure? Not me. Use this opportunity to express yourself in van form and enjoy building something that will open up life on the road. Your greatest adventure is just on the other side of your conversion.

Van Life Tips Video


Bottom Line

Van life tips and hacks can save you tons of time and frustration, especially when you're converting your first campervan. It's always a good idea to watch videos of your specific van model and go on trips throughout your build to help you choose features that will support your adventure. To get started, invest in a workbench, tools, and ask for help to make the process easier on yourself.


Jordan Tarver is a lead editor at Forbes, a keynote speaker, and the bestselling author of You Deserve This Sh!t.
He’s transformed over 30,000 lives through his book, amassed more than 200,000 devoted followers, and garnered over 60 million views online. Jordan is on a mission to empower people and organizations to unlock exponential growth and expansive possibilities.

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