Monday, October 3, 2022
HomeRoad TripCustomized 4x4 Outdoors Van – Bearfoot Principle

Customized 4×4 Outdoors Van – Bearfoot Principle


In July 2022, I acquired a brand new {custom} camper van – a 4×4 Sprinter Van conversion constructed out by Outdoors Van in Portland, Oregon. That is my third Sprinter camper van since 2016, and through the years I’ve realized loads from every van construct about what works and what doesn’t. I’ve realized the professionals and cons of getting a rest room, the significance of getting sufficient storage for giant AND small gear, and I’ve gotten to experiment with three totally different layouts which provides me numerous perspective to share with you right here.

On this weblog put up, I give a full tour of my design, structure, and materials decisions in my new van and the way it compares to my earlier Sprinter Van conversions. I additionally share extra particulars about why I made a decision to modify up my flooring plan and embody an Outdoors Van overview of my general expertise.

Watch the total video tour of my third Sprinter Van conversion right here!

My Earlier Sprinter Van Conversions

Again in 2015, I had just lately launched my weblog and was doing numerous solo journey within the Western US. On the time, I used to be touring out of my Subaru, however after a creepy expertise tenting in Nevada, I made a decision I wanted a car that I’d really feel safer sleeping in. I additionally needed a car that I might extra effectively work out of since my new profession path as a full-time blogger had me spending numerous time on the street. That led me to the Sprinter Van.

My First Sprinter Van Conversion

My first 144″ Sprinter Van was constructed by an inexperienced builder in southern California and had a full indoor rest room, an open aisle all the way in which to the again doorways, and a convertible couch mattress throughout from the slider door.

In some situations – notably once I was solo on shorter journeys – this van labored effectively. Nonetheless, I discovered myself by no means utilizing the toilet, wanting a extra devoted workspace, and needing extra indoor storage for tenting gear and my bike.

As well as, I realized loads about supplies, the significance of constructing gentle, and having weight correctly balanced throughout the van. This van construct included heavy supplies like tile and reclaimed barnwood – each of which appeared lovely, however when it got here to driving off-road, issues weren’t as sturdy as I had hoped. Since I wasn’t loopy in regards to the structure or the construct high quality, I bought that van and realized some arduous, costly classes within the course of.

Watch the full video tour of my first Sprinter Van right here:

My Second Sprinter Van Conversion

In 2017, I employed the respected Portland-based van conversion firm Outdoors Van to construct me a 170″ Sprinter Van conversion. With the longer wheelbase, I had extra room to include a everlasting platform mattress, a dinette for working and consuming, and a spacious galley. I additionally needed to go away some open house within the doorway since we do van life with two canine.

I had this second van for 4 years and drove it practically 70,000 miles. The standard of my second Sprinter Van conversion was world’s above the primary. The van was able to driving virtually wherever due to the sturdiness of the conversion. The battery system was additionally a extra sturdy and allowed me to remain off-grid for so long as I needed.

Watch the video tour of my second Sprinter Van conversion right here:

My Third Sprinter Van Conversion

After 4 years and practically 70,000 miles, I made a decision I needed to experiment with a brand new structure. Additionally…shock! Our household can also be rising….child bear is due February 2023, so we wanted one other seatbelt which is the first cause for this new van.

So I went again to the drafting board with Outdoors Van to construct out a brand new 2021 170″ 4×4 Mercedes Sprinter Van with a design that centered on incorporating a 3rd passenger seat, extra storage to maintain the litter at bay, an upgraded lithium battery system, in addition to most of the options I liked in my second van, like the massive galley and platform mattress. 

We usually spend 6-8 months a yr dwelling full time in our van, and my new Outdoors Van turned out fantastically with many {custom} options that had been designed to accommodate van life with a household of three plus two canine for prolonged durations of time. I additionally work from the van so having a cushty work house was key.

With including a 3rd passenger seat, we did lose a few of our open house so freely shifting in regards to the van takes a little bit extra finesse. Nonetheless, we gained much more storage for the entire small issues will has dramatically helped enhance our group.

Now that I’ve spent a while on the street in my new Outdoors Van, I’m prepared to enter the main points.

Missed the video tour within the introduction? You may take a full tour of my third Sprinter Van conversion right here on my YouTube channel.

4×4 Mercedes Sprinter Chassis

I selected a Mercedes Sprinter Van as a result of in 2021 once I bought the chassis, it was the one panel van available on the market that provided 4×4 with ample clearance for off-road driving. The Ford Transit has an all-wheel drive mannequin, however the Sprinter Van has practically 2″ extra of floor clearance, which was essential to me for it’s off-road capabilities. 

My third Sprinter Van is the very same chassis as my second, which we had been actually pleased with and by chance encountered only a few points with. My associate Ryan and I’ve pushed over rocky 13,000 foot passes in Colorado, chased powder, camped off tons of of grime roads, and extra. Over the course of 4 years, the Mercedes 4×4 Sprinter allowed us to journey practically in every single place we needed to go, proving itself to be one unbelievable beast. For these causes, I selected one other Sprinter.

 

Exterior of 4x4 170" Sprinter Van Conversion built by Outside Van
My third Mercedes Sprinter Van is a 170″ 4×4 2500 cargo van with upgraded tires, wheels, and suspension. Photograph by Outdoors Van

My third Sprinter Van is excessive roof cargo 2500 170″ wheelbase, once more the identical as my final van. The 170″ offers us loads of room to reside comfortably for 6-8 months at a time, and retailer all of our gear with out feeling cramped with two canine. I’ve written a comparability of the 144″ vs 170″ wheelbase and the professionals and cons of the totally different chassis for those who’re attempting to determine what car is correct in your van conversion.

Why I selected Outdoors Van for my Sprinter Van Conversion

In the event you’ve been following me for some time, you already know I acquired burned on my first Sprinter Van conversion. I employed a “van builder” based mostly on some fairly photographs I noticed on Instagram with out actually doing my homework on their background or expertise.

Seems, the man talked speak however didn’t actually know what he was doing. I used to be left with a model new van construct riddled with points – resembling a leaky bathe flooring, warped cupboards, and defective wiring for my photo voltaic panels. These issues took me months to cope with, which definitely wasn’t the introduction to van life I used to be in search of. 

For my second conversion, I needed to work with an expert van conversion firm that had numerous expertise, a wonderful popularity, and will construct me a van that was made to go off-road. Throughout that point I met a fellow van lifer in a car parking zone in Moab who had a Sprinter transformed by Outdoors Van and had nothing however good issues to say.

This time I deliberate to do my analysis, so I scheduled a visit to Portland to tour their facility, and it was clear that Outdoors Van was a prime notch operation. After interviewing quite a few different well-liked firms, I made a decision Outdoors Van was going to be the best choice for my second {custom} van. 

Insulation in a Sprinter Van
The within of my second Sprinter Van throughout the conversion course of at Outdoors Van. The infrastructure and wiring is all very clear.

Over time, we put that second Sprinter Van to to the check, driving her over a number of the roughest roads the chassis might deal with in Colorado, together with Cinnamon Go and Stony Go.

4x4 Sprinter Van at the top of Stony Pass in Colorado
My second Sprinter Van on the highest of Stony Go in Colorado.

After 70,000 miles, my cupboards and drawers labored precisely as they did on day 1, proving the construct to be extraordinarily sturdy. I by no means had any points with my electrical or different methods, and the van functioned precisely as promised.

woman sitting at a Lagun table working on a laptop in her campervan with a fixed bed in the background
My second Sprinter had 65,000 miles on it on this photograph and it nonetheless functioned like new

I by no means felt held again by my van, which is the way in which it ought to be for those who’re dropping cash on an expert van conversion. Additionally once I went to promote the van in late 2021, I used to be in a position to get prime greenback for its resale. For this reason I employed Outdoors Van as soon as once more for my third Sprinter construct. 

No matter what firms you might be contemplating, I extremely advocate you learn this put up that will help you display and select the appropriate van builder. There are such a lot of unqualified individuals on the market able to take your cash, and I’d hate to see you get screwed like I did the primary time round.

And for full disclosure…Outdoors Van is now certainly one of my model companions, and so they had been certainly one of my title sponsors at Open Street Fest.

Customized Sprinter Van Conversion Particulars –

Sprinter Van Partitions

The partitions in my Sprinter Van conversion, together with the closet door proven beneath, are made out of Sileather. Sileather is an artificial, eco-friendly materials that’s vegan, VOC-free, and fade proof. The very best half is it’s waterproof and with a view to clear in, you simply must get a humid material and wipe it down – even bloody mosquitos wipe proper up. It’s good for individuals with canine, as canine hair doesn’t stick with it. I additionally used Sileather in my second van…that’s how a lot I appreciated it. 

DOT Approved seat with seatbelt provides a third passenger seat in a Sprinter camper van.
The partitions on this Sprinter Van are manufactured from Sileather – an eco-friendly, waterproof materials that simply wipes clear. Photograph by Outdoors Van

Behind the partitions you’ll discover insulation, a very highly effective sound dampening materials, and a {custom} infrastructure that Outdoors Van has developed to cut back the twisting and flexing of the van inside, making the construct extra sturdy. The van is extremely quiet once I drive. There are not any rattles or different noises from the cupboards or different parts, making for a really peaceable trip.

Sprinter Van Seating Space & Workspace

In my second Sprinter van conversion, we had a dinette with a Lagun desk simply in entrance of the mattress. This was my main workspace and likewise the place we ate our meals. I liked having this devoted workspace, and the Lagun desk labored completely as we might simply swivel is out of the way in which when it wasn’t getting used. 

Nonetheless, as you already know every little thing in these vans in a tradeoff for house, and a should for this third Sprinter Van was to have a further passenger seat behind the motive force to soundly transport a toddler. With a purpose to make house for this captains chair, we’d must forgo a dinette and devoted workspace like we had in our final van.

4x4 Sprinter Van Conversion built by Outside Van with a third passenger seat that doubles as a desk and dining area
Our DOT-approved passenger seat with a pop in desk that additionally serves as my desk and our eating space

On this new van, after we aren’t driving, now we have a desk that shortly pops into the ground. When it’s time for me to work, I can use that extra captains chair as my workplace chair. Although it takes me a bit extra time to get arrange with my laptop on this van, I’m actually liking having a extra ergonomic chair to sit down in whereas I work in comparison with the dinette cushions in my final van that all the time bothered my again after some time. We additionally make the most of the swivel seats to and the desk to create a 3 particular person eating space.

The desk stows proper behind the captains chair towards the motive force’s aspect galley cupboard so it’s out of the way in which when it’s not in use.

I’m not fairly positive in regards to the sleeping preparations as soon as the kiddo is larger, however at the very least at first, a bassinet will simply slot in entrance of this captains chair the place the desk pops in. By the point he’s sufficiently big for a mattress, I’m positive there will probably be quite a few options based mostly on the tempo this business is innovating.

Cupboard & Galley Supplies

All the cabinetry within the van is manufactured from 13-layer marine grade plywood which is handled so it gained’t increase in warmth or distort over time. Marine grade plywood is the usual utilized in boats and is made to resist a bumpy trip.

All the cupboard and drawer faces are coated utilizing a high-quality laminate made by Wilson Artwork, which provides the entire wooden within the van a pleasant end whereas defending the marine grade plywood beneath. Laminate is light-weight and far more sturdy than common wooden. I selected a the Monarch Alona Grain for the decrease cupboards and the Traceless Snow White Velvet for the overhead cupboards. The Traceless is just not supposed to point out fingerprints, however being white, it nonetheless exhibits grime very simply, so I’m unsure I’d go together with the white up prime sooner or later.

Outdoors Van makes use of dovetail development for his or her drawers that are made out of antimicrobial and eco-friendly bamboo. All the drawers have a gradual closing mechanism to forestall them from slamming shut and have push locks to maintain the drawers and cupboards from opening whereas I’m driving.

Cabinets in Sprinter Van converted by Outside Van
The cabinetry in my third {custom} Sprinter Van construct. Photograph by Outdoors Van

Passenger Aspect Sprinter Van Customized Galley

In my third Sprinter Van, I selected to have the {custom} galley come out into the slider door to maximise using house within the van.

The passenger aspect galley has the next parts:

  • Massive rectangular sink
  • One burner induction range
  • Fridge
  • Large compartment for a trash and a recycling bin
  • Slide out outside cooking desk

The white galley counter-top is manufactured from a fabric referred to as Corian within the glacier white coloration. Corian is a sturdy materials that may stand up to regular put on and tear, though I do discover a couple of scratches already. The Corian can also be very straightforward to scrub, and I really like the fashionable look it offers the van.

Want inspiration in your personal van kitchen? Take a look at these inventive van cooking areas.

Large galley in a 170" sprinter van conversion built by Outside Van
The galley in my third Sprinter Van conversion has a ton of counter house making it straightforward to cook dinner on. The view out the slider door additionally makes it extra enjoyable.

Induction Range

In my first Sprinter Van conversion, I had a everlasting two burner propane range contained in the van. The fuel range was an enormous ache to scrub, and it took up a ton of counter house that was in any other case unusable. Since then I’ve switched to a one burner induction range which I a lot desire. The mannequin in my present van is the True Induction single burner range which requires 1800 watts to function at most temperature. 

Having a one burner induction makes it very handy to organize easy meals and boil water with out having to arrange our propane and two burner fuel range outdoors, which we nonetheless cook dinner on for extra advanced meals. 

Large galley with an induction stove in a 170" sprinter van conversion built by Outside Van
Cooking on the induction range in our Sprinter Van

Whilst you do want a sturdy battery financial institution and inverter to run an induction range, they’ve numerous advantages. The True Induction range in my Sprinter Van heats up and funky down quick, so that you aren’t prone to burn your self. Induction stoves are additionally straightforward to scrub and safer because you aren’t combusting fuel contained in the van. One different factor Outdoors Van did is made the induction range fully flush with the countertop, so when the range isn’t on, it mainly serves as regular counter house for chopping, and many others. The induction range can also be particularly helpful in winter or after we are stealth tenting.

Fridge

The fridge in my Sprinter conversion is the Isotherm 4.6 cubic foot Cruise Class 130. Isotherm is without doubt one of the premier marine and RV fridge firms, and their fridges are designed to outlive shaking, vibration, and inflexible actions that you’ve got in vans and boats.

Isotherm refrigerator in a Sprinter Camper Van
Our fridge in our Sprinter Van earlier than filling it up.

Whereas it takes a little bit of tetris, we are able to match a few week’s price of meals within the fridge which is sweet for minimizing journeys to the shop. I do have two complaints in regards to the fridge although. First is that after about 6 weeks, the freezer begins to ice up and the complete fridge must be turned off and defrosted. It is a ache if you find yourself touring with out entry to an actual fridge the place you may retailer your meals throughout this defrosting course of. The second subject is that produce appears to go unhealthy much more shortly than it does at house. I believe that’s as a result of the fridge will get packed so tight that there isn’t a lot air circulation in there. I just lately purchased a few of these produce keeper bins, and whereas they’re a little bit cumbersome they do appear to be serving to a little bit bit. 

For a comparability of upright fridges vs prime loading chest type fridges in your van conversion, see this weblog put up

Sink

For the sink, now we have a pleasant pull-down faucet and a big, spherical stainless-steel under-mount sink. I needed a sink massive sufficient that might make doing dishes very straightforward. Outdoors Van additionally created a canopy that sits flush with the sink and creates a flat floor for added prep house.

Sink and Faucet in the galley of a 170" Sprinter Van conversion
The pull down faucet and huge sink in our Sprinter Van conversion make doing dishes very easy. Photograph by Outdoors Van

Trash Can Compartment

When many individuals are changing their Sprinter Van, trash storage is an afterthought. In my first Sprinter, I believed, “I’ll simply hold a bag someplace off a hook.” Effectively, as soon as I noticed that 1) that allowed smells to permeate the van, 2) it wasn’t dog-proof and three) it was ugly to have a look at, I made a decision having a devoted place for trash cans was important.

In my third Sprinter Van conversion, I had Outdoors Van construct a enclosed trash can compartment that was personalized for 2 tall kitchen trash cans – one for rubbish and one other for recycling. Having all of it behind a closed door retains the smells extra contained and it additionally prevents the canine from sniffing round and moving into bother when they’re left alone. I actually like that the 2 trash cans within the compartment are massive. It means we are able to go fairly a very long time earlier than we have to discover a dumpster to throw our rubbish away.

Trash compartment in a Sprinter Van conversion
The trash can compartment. Photograph by Outdoors Van

Slide Out Out of doors Cooking Desk

On the skin of the galley, now we have a slide out cooking desk for outside cooking. This enables us to go away our transportable camp cooking desk at house.

Slide out table that comes out from a galley in the slider door of a sprinter camper van
The desk that slides out from the galley is massive sufficient for our Camp Chef Everest transportable fuel range plus cooking provides

Driver’s Aspect Galley

On the motive force’s aspect of the van behind the captains chair, there’s a smaller cupboard with 4 drawers. That is the place we retailer our cooking utensils, spices, and tupperware, and there’s additionally a junk drawer for random gadgets (one other important in my view). This space is sweet not solely due to the extra storage, but it surely additionally supplies further counter house. 

Storage and closet in a 170" sprinter van conversion built by Outside Van
Driver’s aspect galley with desk storage on the entrance aspect

You’ll additionally discover within the above photograph that the desk prime and leg are saved on the entrance aspect of this driver’s aspect galley, which provides the desk a house and retains it out of the way in which when it’s stowed. The desk easily slides out and in and may be very safe after we drive.

Customized Flooring to Ceiling Closet

Transferring additional again, now we have a flooring to ceiling closet. This isn’t for garments, though you might retailer folded garments in right here for those who needed. As a substitute we’re utilizing this house for meals, smaller gadgets, work stuff, and a few of our cooking home equipment like our blender.

I measured the size of every shelf, after which I went to the Container Retailer and located some light-weight bins that might assist hold this house organized. The deal with on the bins make it straightforward to tug them out and get what we want, and every shelf has a lip that forestalls the bins from sliding round. 

The door of the closet is manufactured from Sileather. It’s comfortable and it zips and rolls up, clipping on the prime. I selected a roll up door as an alternative of a door that swings open for 2 causes. First, this roll up door is lighter-weight than a door made out of wooden, and it’s all the time good to chop weight wherever you may. Second, having it roll up means I can entry the within of the closet from the mattress or from the entrance of the van any time. A swing out door would have solely allowed entry to the closet from one aspect. That is the primary closet of its form that Outdoors Van has constructed, and it might be certainly one of my favourite options of my van conversion. 

Once I was designing this van, I puzzled how we (and our canine) might simply stand up onto the mattress. Outdoors Van got here up with this genius concept to have a pull-out step straight beneath the closet. This step is the proper top for climbing out and in of the mattress and likewise serves as an additional seat that has are available in handier than we anticipated when cooking or placing on our footwear. The step has a load score capability of 300 kilos, and we depart it out after we are driving since Charlie likes to trip within the mattress.

Beneath the step is a big open cupboard. We designed this cupboard to be sufficiently big for a transportable bathroom if we determined to have one (try the greatest campervan bathroom choices right here). We at the moment don’t carry a transportable cassette bathroom (extra on our bathroom beneath), so as an alternative we use this space to retailer our pet food and our air fryer. And sure, we carry our air-fryer – it requires 1500 watts on the highest temps, and we are able to bake, make toast, cook dinner tofu and extra with it.

Storage in a Sprinter Van conversion built by Outside Van

Overhead Cupboards

On each side of the van, there are overhead cupboards. On the motive force’s aspect, now we have one above our galley the place we retailer cooking elements, oils, cleaning soap and extra. We prefer to hold stuff up right here in a lazy susan for simple entry.

Overhead cabinets in a 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter Van conversion built by Outside Van
We hold generally used cooking elements in a lazy susan in our overhead cupboard

On the motive force’s aspect above the third passenger seat now we have a protracted overhead cupboard. That is the place we retailer our dinnerware, espresso and morning drinks, paper towels, and toiletries.

Overhead cabinets in a 4x4 Mercedes Sprinter Van conversion built by Outside Van
Our passenger aspect overhead cupboard

Outdoors Van Sprinter Van Three-Panel Mattress

Subsequent on the rear of the van is Outdoors Van’s normal three-panel aluminum platform mattress that goes all the way in which to the again doorways with Outdoors Van’s exoskeleton cupboard for clothes storage. The mattress is a queen-sized mattress. All three panels are secured to the mattress rails through spring-loaded threaded fasteners. The mattress panels will also be eliminated if I needed to make use of the again of the van to maneuver furnishings, for instance.

I selected a {custom} 4″ latex mattress which was a dear improve. To be trustworthy, I don’t discover it very snug (it’s much more agency than I anticipated), and it’s the one factor I remorse within the van. With a purpose to make it extra plush, we added the identical three inch latex topper that we had in our final van. Now it feels superior, however we misplaced three inches of headspace as a result of topper, making the mattress really feel a bit extra cramped.  

My comforter for individuals who are curious is made by Rumpl. It’s a fantastic choice for pet homeowners as a result of it’s machine cleanable and canine hair doesn’t cling to it. 

Three panel platform bed in Sprinter camper van that is big enough for two adults and two dogs
The three-panel mattress in our Sprinter Van is massive sufficient for the entire household

Exoskeleton Cupboard Clothes Storage

On the passenger aspect of the van, I’ve what Outdoors Van calls an exoskeleton cupboard which is open with no cupboard face. This type of cupboard is stuffable, detachable, modular and extra light-weight than conventional cupboards. We use this exoskeleton cupboard to retailer packing cubes containing all of our garments.

We every have one packing dice for pants, one for shirts, one for underwear, and one for socks. Take a look at my full van life clothes packing guidelines right here.

The open type cupboard has its professionals and cons. I like that it’s straightforward to stuff a jacket in there or shortly seize one thing. On the identical time, until you might be tremendous diligent about placing your garments away in your packing cubes, it may well shortly look messy and unorganized, which is usually the case for us. 

This cupboard hangs over Ryan’s aspect of the mattress and our canine Charlie usually sleeps beneath it.

Clothing storage in a sprinter van
Our garments are saved on this open cupboard in packing cubes

Sprinter Van Storage

Beneath the mattress is a ton of storage within the space referred to as the van storage. Similar to I did for the closet, I measured this house fastidiously after which went to the Container Retailer and acquired light-weight bins that match completely within the space. I like storing stuff in bins as a result of they’re straightforward to tug out and swap out what’s in them based mostly on the season and the precise gear we want. The bins additionally don’t add numerous further weight to the van like a sturdy drawer system would.

Proper now in our storage now we have room for all of our tenting and outside gear, footwear, further canine and folks meals, my Starlink, and different miscellaneous gear, with a number of room to spare. 

Gear organization in the garage of a 170" 4x4 Sprinter Van conversion built for outdoor adventure
Here’s what is in the entire bins in our Sprinter Van Storage

Outdoors Van additionally constructed a {custom} slide out gear tray that may we are able to use for extra bins, extra gear, or our two Specialised e-mountain bikes. With my being pregnant, we aren’t at the moment touring with our bikes, however the gear slider is particularly superior as a result of it makes it a lot simpler to load our bikes or bins into the again of the van. It additionally permits for simpler entry to gear bins with out having to crawl round beneath the mattress. 

Gear organization and a gear slider in the garage of a 170" 4x4 Sprinter Van conversion built for outdoor adventure
The gear slider tray in our Sprinter Van storage makes it a lot simpler to entry gear

All the pieces will get secured within the storage utilizing Mac’s Versatile Tie Down System – mainly a model of L Observe. Utilizing Mac’s tie-down rings, we cinch all of our bins up utilizing straps or bungees so nothing strikes whereas we’re driving. The bikes use the identical system. We merely take the entrance wheel off of our bikes, put the bikes in going through the other way so we are able to get them as tight as potential collectively, after which mount them to the Mac System utilizing fork mounts. It takes a couple of minutes to unpack and put the bikes collectively, but it surely offers me peace of thoughts having the ability to retailer our electrical bikes contained in the van to forestall them from getting stolen or broken.

We will entry the storage through the again doorways or from the within of the van which was a necessity for me. I didn’t wish to must go outdoors to the again of the van everytime I wanted to entry one thing beneath the mattress.

Beneath the mattress, you’ll additionally discover our our electrical system (driver’s left aspect cupboard) and water tanks (passenger proper aspect cupboard).

The garage area underneath the bed in a 170" 4x4 Sprinter Van conversion built for outdoor adventure
An empty view of the storage. {The electrical} parts are within the cupboard on the left, and the water tank is within the cupboard on the appropriate. Photograph by Outdoors Van

Sprinter Van Electrical System

In my very first van, I used to be all the time fearful about energy. I didn’t have sufficient battery storage or photo voltaic, and I discovered that to be very traumatic. This taught me that it’s higher to over-estimate your energy wants, which is what I’ve carried out ever since.

My second Sprinter Van had excessive performing electrical parts with 660 watts of photo voltaic and 440 Ah of AGM batteries. The one time I fearful about energy was in winter if we had been parked someplace for every week with no solar. In any respect different occasions, the system was loads ample.

Zamp solar panels on the roof of a Sprinter Van designed for off-grid living
The roof on my second Sprinter Van had 440 watts of Zamp photo voltaic panels

On this third van, I opted for most of the identical parts I had in my final van however a beefier system general. I additionally upgraded from AGM batteries to lithium. 

We at the moment spend about 6-8 months straight dwelling in our van yearly and have a wide range of digital tools we have to run. This contains electrical bikes, my laptop, digital camera, induction range, the heater, water heater, and different electronics. 

Lithionics Battery System

On this new Sprinter Van conversion, now we have two 315 Ah Lithionics lithium batteries, for a complete of 630 Ah financial institution. The battery capability may be very straightforward to observe with a display proper above our galley that tells us how full it at the moment is. 

Monitoring electrical components in a Sprinter Van
All of our electrical parts are monitored on this panel above our galley.

With lithium batteries, you need to use 90% of the battery capability earlier than you should cost them (not like AGM the place you may solely use 50% earlier than you danger damaging the batteries). With a purpose to stop injury in my present van, every Lithionics battery has a security constructed into it. As soon as the batteries are depleted to the ten% mark, the system will shut off as a reminder that the batteries must be charged – which is so simple as turning on ignition within the van resulting from our secondary alternator. 

Outdoors Van use the Lithionics system for quite a few causes.  First, it is without doubt one of the few lithium methods which gives you a exact and correct SOC (State of Cost) studying. Second, lithium batteries normally have a tough time charging beneath freezing. To unravel this subject, the Lithionics batteries have an inside heating blanket that mechanically activates if the temperature of the batteries ever drops beneath 34°. 

To date, I’m extremely impressed with my system. In 5 weeks on the street, our batteries by no means dropped beneath 75% capability which implies, we should always by no means have to fret about operating out of energy.

Secondary Alternator

In my second Sprinter, the batteries had been linked to the autos alternator so they might cost whereas I used to be driving, however solely after the car’s battery was fully charged.

In my third Sprinter Van conversion, Outdoors Van put in a secondary 280XP Alternator Equipment with a Wakespeed Regulator. This secondary alternator is devoted to charging the home batteries, which begins as quickly because the car engine is turned on. It fees the batteries extraordinarily quick. In my actual world expertise up to now, it seems to be like it may well add 10% cost for each 20 minutes of driving, so we virtually all the time arrive to our campsite with our batteries fully full. 

Photo voltaic Panels

On the roof, I’ve 310 watts of photo voltaic panels made by Zamp Photo voltaic. They’re the identical model I had on my final van, and Outdoors Van makes use of Zamp as a result of their panels are made proper right here within the US, and out of the businesses they’ve tried, they’ve discovered Zamp’s panels to be the best performing. I’ve two 90-watt panels and one 130-watt panel. 

Zamp solar panels on the roof of a Sprinter Van designed for off-grid living
On the roof, there’s a 130 watt Zamp photo voltaic panel within the entrance and two 90-watt panels on both sides. This leaves loads of room for hanging out and storing extra gear

Because of the elevated capability of my batteries and the effectivity of the secondary alternator, I used to be in a position to barely downsize my photo voltaic system and achieve again from roof house. The principle objective of the photo voltaic now’s to maintain my batteries topped off if we’re parked for a number of days.

>> Learn Subsequent: Planning your electrical system in your van conversion

Roof Rack

My photo voltaic setup on the roof is secured to a custom-made Outdoors Van roof rack. The rack may be very low profile, so you may barely see it from the bottom, and it has a walkway down the middle of the van that I take advantage of to hang around or entry the photo voltaic panels for cleansing. It really works out nice as a platform for taking photographs too.

One other neat function of the roof rack is it has 4 rows of Mac Observe which makes it very straightforward to safe gear to the roof of our van. 

Inverter

The ultimate piece of our van’s electrical system is the inverter. I’ve a 2000 watt Magnum Pure-Sine Inverter which converts energy from the batteries to AC energy that I take advantage of to run the induction range and different issues that plug into the 110 retailers. I’ve 6 USB retailers and 6 common 110 retailers, together with two 110 retailers within the storage that we use to cost our e-bikes. They’re positioned all all through the van so charging is all the time handy.

Large galley in a Sprinter Van designed for off-grid living
Our air fryer is plugged in to a 110 outlet on the motive force’s aspect galley

Temperature Management in my Sprinter Van Conversion

The temperature in our Sprinter Van is managed with two ceiling vans, window vents, and a diesel run heater. I opted towards a rear AC in my Sprinter Van conversion which might cool the dwelling space even when the car is just not operating. Whereas temperatures appear to be getting hotter yearly within the mountains and a rear AC unit sounds very nice, they draw a ton of energy. Since we prefer to be off the grid as a lot as potential, an AC unit didn’t seem to be the perfect match for our way of life. In fact, for those who plan on dwelling in Florida or Arizona in summer season, you could must plan in a different way.

Outdoors Van did do a couple of issues although to maintain the inside of the van snug, even on sizzling sunny days.

Vented Home windows

First, they changed the entrance aspect manufacturing facility home windows with CR Laurence Home windows that vent. Subsequent to the mattress, we even have small slider home windows that pop open.

4x4 Sprinter Van Conversion built by Outside Van with a third passenger seat that doubles as a desk and dining area
All the home windows within the van open to supply for higher airflow after we are parked

Ceiling Followers

I’ve two Maxx Followers. One above the galley and one above the mattress. They every have a rain sensor and create very nice airflow within the van. We usually have one pulling air in and the opposite pushing air out.

Over cab storage and a insulating curtain in a Sprinter Van conversion built by Outside Van
There are two Maxx Followers – one close to the slider door and one above the mattress.

Insulating Window Shades

All the window shades in my Sprinter van conversion are manufactured from a Sunbrella materials with a layer of closed cell foam within the center which helps insulate the van from the warmth in the summertime and prevents heat air from escaping by the home windows within the winter. The shades are quite simple to place up and take down through the snap buttons and more often than not, we discover ourselves driving with them in place to maintain the solar out.

I even have a full set of Outdoors Van window coverings that cowl the entrance, driver, and passenger home windows. These are very straightforward to place up, and we use these each night for privateness and to dam out the morning solar.

To assist regulate the temperature throughout the day after we are out on hikes or away from the van, we use this insulated comfortable wall curtain that separates the cab from the dwelling space. This comfortable wall is extraordinarily efficient at preserving the warmth within the cab from coming into the again of the van throughout the day. Usually within the evenings, we use our entrance window protecting as an alternative of this comfortable wall with a view to use our swivel seats, but when it’s only a fast night time stealth tenting someplace, this comfortable wall is available in actually helpful. There’s additionally a center portion that zips up that creates a walkway from the entrance to the again of the van.

4x4 Sprinter Van Conversion built by Outside Van with a third passenger seat that doubles as a desk and dining area
The comfortable wall fully rolled up

Sprinter Van Heater

My Sprinter Van conversion makes use of the Webasto Air High EVO 40 Heater to warmth the air within the van. This can be very environment friendly and produces a major quantity of warmth in a little bit as 6-8 minutes. The very best function is an auto operate that permits you to digitally set the temperature and as soon as the ambient air in a van reaches that temperature, the system idles till the temperature drops once more.

It additionally has a timer mode that permits you to set a day, time, and period for the heater to run, even if you find yourself not there. On a ski day, this lets you exit and return to a heat van with out having to warmth it the entire time you might be gone from the van. We’ve solely used the van within the sizzling summer season up to now, however now we have briefly examined the heater, and it really works very effectively.

Sprinter Van Plumbing System

It’s normal at Outdoors Van to have the entire plumbing contained inside the van, quite than having tanks and pipes operating on the skin. That means the system is extra insulated for 4 season use. The plumbing in my third Sprinter Van conversion is streamlined and easy to make use of. For a complete put up all about water tanks, bathrooms, showers, and extra, go right here.

Water Tanks

I’ve a 28-gallon water tank inside a driver’s aspect cupboard within the storage. The BPA-free water tank is everlasting, however it may well simply be crammed utilizing a hose or 5-gallon jugs if I can’t discover a spigot with potable water. Fortunately that’s by no means been a difficulty. If we aren’t showering, 28 gallons will final us between 8-10 days. Study the place to replenish your water tanks on this put up.

To fill the tank, we simply join the hose to the spigot and stick the hose within the inlet on the skin of our van.

Below the sink, there’s a very fundamental water filter. With a purpose to be sure that the water we’re consuming is secure, I just lately invested in a three-stage Clearsource Extremely RV Water filter system that filters out viruses, micro organism, sediment, unhealthy style, and even heavy metals. It was costly, however contemplating we depend on public water sources (with pipes which can be probably very previous) greater than half the yr, I needed some further safety for the sake of my long run well being.

Water refill in a Sprinter Van
Filling up the water in our second Sprinter Van. The fill mechanism is similar on our third van.

Water Heater and Out of doors Bathe

The water heater in my latest Sprinter Van conversion is totally different than what I had in my final two vans. In my earlier vans I’ve the Webasto Twin High Evo 6 which heated the recent air and water by siphoning a little bit of diesel from the van’s fuel tank. It did the job, but it surely took about half-hour to warmth the water and the boiler might solely warmth 3 gallons of water at a time. In consequence, we didn’t actually use it that a lot.

On this van, I’ve the Rixen Espar Hydronic system which is a furnace that heats a closed loop of coolant. Then a warmth exchanger is used to switch the warmth from the coolant to the recent water.

This technique has a number of benefits. First, the recent water is offered inside 5 minutes of beginning the unit. It additionally heats the water hotter, and by utilizing a mixer valve, we are able to nice tune the temperature of the water that comes out. Lastly, the system will constantly warmth the water till you flip it off. Meaning, as soon as the system is sizzling, we might warmth all 28 gallons in our water tank. We probably wouldn’t do this, but it surely’s good to know if we needed to take a protracted bathe, we might. 

For the bathe, Outdoors Van does construct light-weight indoor showers for these of you who really want a daily indoor bathe…however based mostly my expertise with the indoor bathe in my first van, I made a decision this wasn’t a necessity for me or definitely worth the sacrifice in house.

For showering, we are able to shortly hook up a bathe hose to the again of the water tank, which permits us to take sizzling outside showers. Nonetheless, since we prefer to preserve our water, as a rule, we take showers at gyms, neighborhood facilities, campgrounds, or homes of household or pals. I’m going to get certainly one of these transportable pop up bathe privateness tents although and I believe it would incentivize me to make use of this outside bathe extra.

Outdoor shower hookup in a Sprinter Van conversion
The outside bathe hose hooks into the again of the water tanks in our Sprinter Van storage

Collapsible Bathroom

In my first Sprinter Van, I had a Thetford transportable bathroom. It did the trick, however I hated utilizing it for #2 as a result of dumping it was gross. Plus, discovering a dump each 5 days to empty the bathroom was a problem.

In my second and third van, now we have ditched the transportable bathroom and now depend on pee jars for #1 and this foldable Go Wherever bathroom that makes use of wag baggage for #2 when a public bathroom isn’t out there. The bathroom folds up actually small so it doesn’t take up as a lot room as a cassette or composting bathroom. When you’re carried out doing your small business, the bag simply goes in any outdoors trash can.

Portable GoAnywhere toilet in a Sprinter Van conversion
The Go Wherever Bathroom matches within the aisle of our Sprinter Van conversion. When packed away, the legs fold up into the underside making for a compact van life bathroom resolution

The baggage do get expensive, and I’m not loopy in regards to the plastic waste, however for the occasional use, it’s labored out nice for us. The house we save by not having a standard bathroom is greater than price it, and I take pleasure in not having the toilet-related chores. Examine the perfect bathroom choices for van life on this weblog put up.

A observe on bathrooms: When at dispersed campsites, I used to dig a gap and go poop outdoors in accordance with Depart No Hint rules. Nonetheless, as our public lands have gotten crowded and over-used, I now not really feel that this can be a accountable choice for individuals who spend vital quantities of time on the street. That was a giant consider our resolution to start out carrying the Go Wherever bathroom that now we have in our van. 

Sprinter Van Flooring

Now on my third Sprinter Van conversion, I’m satisfied that there are only a few flooring choices that keep wanting clear if you find yourself dwelling in and utilizing the van for outside adventures.

In my first van, I had darkish laminate wooden flooring. They appeared nice clear, however grime confirmed very simply on darkish colours and with our canine, all we noticed was footprints. The laminate additionally felt slippery and didn’t present any traction. 

In my second van, I had a excessive density vinyl weave within the dwelling space. It was a beige coloration with texture, and I believed the grime would mix proper in, however I used to be improper. Like my first van, it confirmed grime actually simply and was much more tough to scrub as a result of weave.

In my third van, I selected a Lonseal vinyl product that has a little bit texture for grip, however no grooves that traps grime. This time I went with a grimy brown coloration with specks. When it’s clear, it seems to be fanastic, however once more, with canine it’s practically not possible to maintain it wanting good.

Sprinter Van conversion with Lonseal Ridge vinyl flooring
The ground in my third Sprinter Van conversion known as Lonseal Ridge.

Our interim resolution has been to cowl the complete flooring with some grey door mats I acquired at Goal that I can simply vacuum. My long-term plan is to get a set of {custom} flooring mats made by Inhabit Design Works you can take away and hose off. In addition they present cushion and a few further insulation, and that is the primary improve I plan to make.

So far as flooring set up, the very first thing Outdoors Van does when constructing their flooring is to take away the manufacturing facility flooring. They then construct a brand new flooring out of marine grade plywood and cling a layer of high-density vinyl to the highest. It is a barely heavier than the manufacturing facility flooring, however its a little bit thicker and far more sturdy, so there’s no flex within the flooring once you place heavy options on it.

>> Learn Subsequent: A Information to Flooring Supplies in your Van

Tires and Suspension

We do numerous off-roading in our Sprinter Van, so having a wonderful all-terrain tire and upgraded suspension was important. 

Tires and Wheels

Like my final van, the tires are the BF Goodrich K02 265/70/R17. They carry out effectively on rocky roads, snow, and even in muddy circumstances (with the appropriate driving abilities). 

The wheels are Black Rhino Stadium 17″ Wheels, that are one inch larger than the inventory wheels that the van comes with. I selected these particular wheels as a result of they’ve a heavy responsibility load score at 2,450 lbs/wheel. 

Black Rhino Stadium wheels on a 4x4 Sprinter Van
BF Goodrich K02 265/70/R17 on Black Rhino Stadium Wheels

Agile Offroad RIP Equipment Suspension Improve

The inventory suspension that the Mercedes Sprinter Van comes with is just not meant for going off-road or dealing with bumpy terrain. In bumps, windy circumstances, and even pulling out of the driving, a transformed Sprinter Van with inventory suspension will expertise an unnerving quantity of sway. That’s why upgrading the suspension is without doubt one of the greatest issues you are able to do if you wish to enhance the efficiency and general really feel of the trip. Upgrading the suspension can also be essential once you’ve added numerous weight to the van. 

Sprinter Van off-roading in Utah with upgraded suspension
The Agile RIP Equipment made the trip in our Sprinter Van conversion loads smoother after we had been just lately off-roading in southern Utah

In my third van, I selected the Agile RIP Equipment for the upgraded suspension bundle which has fully remodeled the driving expertise. Within the entrance, a coil over spring is added to the manufacturing facility McPherson strut, together with an upgraded Fox shock.  The result’s an incredible distinction in how the van handles weight shift round corners, improved dampening within the bumps, and the van responds extra shortly to the motive force’s controls.

Agile Offroad RIP Kit coil over spring and upgraded Fox shock on the front wheel of a Sprinter Van
The Agile Offroad coil over spring and upgraded Fox shock on the entrance. Photograph by Outdoors Van

Within the rear, the manufacturing facility leaf spring system is changed with a progressive six leaf spring system, and also you selected a load based mostly in your rear axle weight so the system is personalized. This will increase the payload functionality and removes any sagging within the rear of the van. It additionally leads to a smoother trip as a result of progressive nature of the springs. There’s additionally a further Fox shock added within the rear, once more for improved dampening of the motion.  The results of the shock is that the van sways a lot much less aspect to aspect over uneven terrain, particularly with the excessive roof Sprinter Van.

The Agile RIP Kit eliminates any sagging in the back of a fully loaded Sprinter Van
Discover how the Agile RIP Equipment eliminates any sagging at the back of the van, regardless of the entire weight over the rear axle. Photograph by Outdoors Van

Owl Engineering Rear Equipment

All the rear aluminum equipment on the van are made by Owl Engineering. The principle cause I selected Owl for my rear equipment is that you simply don’t must first swing out the field and spare tire earlier than opening the rear doorways. As a substitute, the entire Owl Engineering gear on the rear opens mechanically once you open the again doorways.

Owl Engineering Ladder, Spare Tire rack, B2, Medium Expedition Box, and Mini Sherpa plate on the back of a 4x4 Sprinter Van designed for outdoor adventure
Shut up of Owl Engineering Gear. Photograph by Outdoors Van

B2 Service, Mini Sherpa, and Medium Expedition Field

The B2 Service is a modular storage system designed by Owl Engineering that may be personalized relying in your storage wants. On the underside, now we have the Medium Expedition Field the place we retailer our shore energy hookup, hoses, instruments, trekking poles, and different soiled gear with a view to hold the within of the van cleaner. 

Owl Engineering B2, Medium Expedition Box, and Mini Sherpa plate on the back of a 4x4 Sprinter Van designed for outdoor adventure
The Owl Engineering B2 Service, Medium Expedition Field, and Mini Sherpa

Above the B2 Service, we initially had Owl’s Bike Mounting Tubes that might permit us to hold our e-bikes on the skin of the van if we select utilizing 1Up Bike Trays. The benefit of carrying your bikes on the B2 provider quite than a hitch mount is that you simply don’t lose any floor clearance and it additionally doesn’t scale back entry to your again doorways. Additionally, I like that Owl has designed their bike provider to deal with the burden of e-bikes, that are loads heavier than regular mountain bikes. As a result of my being pregnant, we determined to go away the bikes at house for the close to future, so we eliminated the mounting tubes for now. 

On the prime of our B2 Service, now we have Owl’s Mini Sherpa Plate. This provides us the choice to mount of a wide range of restoration instruments – resembling an ax, shovel, a spare Rotopax diesel canister, and even our Maxtrax restoration boards if we had been to take away the Expedition Field on the underside. 

Owl Ladder and Spare Tire Rack

On my earlier two vans, I had the spare tire saved beneath the van within the manufacturing facility spot. With the entire off-roading we do, I made a decision that having the spare tire beneath the van may not be the best place to entry it if we acquired in a pickle on a dust street.

The Owl Ladder +  Tire Service supplies an answer to this by combining a ladder and spare tire rack on the again door. The tire provider permits us to hold a full sized 17″ spare that’s equivalent to the remainder of our tires. The ladder/tire combo rack solely weighs 25 kilos and once more the again doorways can open with out having to swing out the rack first. 

The ladder is streamlined and has pegs that reach beneath the spare tire rack that you simply use to stand up on the ladder. I’ll say it’s a little bit tricker the primary couple of occasions to step up onto than conventional ladder, however when you get the hold of it, it’s fairly straightforward. 

Climbing the Owl Engineering Ladder on the back of a 4x4 Sprinter Van designed for outdoor adventure
The place of the decrease pegs on the Owl Engineering Sprinter Van ladder

Rolef Bug Screens

In my earlier two Sprinter Vans, we didn’t have bug display resolution. We tried a number of totally different manufacturers, in addition to some make shift choices with magnets that we purchased off Amazon. Nothing actually labored or was very handy to get out and in of the van.

For my third Sprinter camper van, I knew I needed the Rolef bug screens. They’re pricier than the opposite choices, however having the ability to hold the doorways open after we had been just lately in Canada was priceless. The mosquitos had been completely brutal, however we had been in a position to hold our slider and rear doorways open on these sizzling summer season evenings and hold the within of our van bug free.

The Rolef bug screens are completely put in, however you may roll them up once you don’t wish to use them. There are easy clips on the prime that maintain them up.

On the rear bug display, the highest half is display, and the underside half which you’ll be able to roll up individually is strong. This lets you entry your gear within the storage whereas preserving the mattress space bug free.

Rolef bug screen on the rear doors of a 170" Sprinter Van conversion
The Rolef bug display within the rear protects the mattress space from bugs whereas nonetheless offering entry to the gear beneath.

On the slider door, once you wish to use the bug display, you unclip it, and zip it down. Then to simply get out and in of the van, there’s a magnetic strip that permits you to shortly open and shut the appropriate aspect with out having to cope with the zipper. It’s a reasonably nice design and I’m so glad now we have them.

Rolef bug screen on the slider door of a 170" Sprinter Van conversion
Rolef Sprinter Van slider door bug display

Sprinter Van Awning

On my second Sprinter Van, I made a decision towards a everlasting awning as a result of I needed as few issues as potential hanging off of the van. As a substitute, we used the Moonshade which is a transportable, budget-friendly shade resolution that units up fairly shortly.

In my third Sprinter, I opted for a Fiama awning. We’ve used it a couple of occasions up to now, and I believe a everlasting awning has it’s professionals and cons. It’s faster and simpler to arrange, and I do assume it supplies extra shade than a number of the transportable choices resulting from the truth that you may regulate the angle.

Nonetheless, with a everlasting awning, it’s a must to be very cautious and pull it in if it will get windy, and there are additionally numerous components that may break. We’ve solely used ours a couple of occasions, and we’ve already been having some points attempting to shut it. There’s additionally the added price of a everlasting awning, so it’s a must to actually take into consideration how a lot you’ll use it and whether or not or not it’s price it.

Fiama awning on a 170" 4x4 Sprinter Camper Van
The Fiama awning spans virtually the complete size of our 170″ wheelbase Sprinter Van

Thanks for studying by my Sprinter Van conversion weblog put up. You may watch the excursions of all three of my vans on YouTube so you may see how they’ve developed over time. Ensure to subscribe so that you get notified of any future movies.

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