Mods & Finishes
Several modifications were made to the van to accommodate our conversion. First, small holes had to be cut to run wiring from the solar panels inside, for the shore power plug unit, and to allow for venting and intake for the propane box and propane heater. Big scary holes had to be cut for the MaxxAir Fan and a CR Lawrence window for the sliding door (we paid someone to install it because ain’t nobody got time fo that…although, if we had, it might have been prettier inside and not leaked). Sound deadener strips - basically big sheets of sticky butyl tape with a silver side - were then used generously on the wheel wells and parts of the ceiling.
A Ranger Rack system was installed directly into the factory mount holes in the roof to carry our solar panels. This avoided the need for drilling directly into the roof of the van. Silicone was used EVERYWHERE to ensure we wouldn’t have leaks or rust issues later on. The existing wiring harness was disconnected from the interior light (which we removed), pulled out from the wall and hidden in our cabinetry.
We installed a ‘Swivels R Us’ seat adaptor on the passenger seat to allow for additional seating when in ‘I live in here’ mode. It was simple to install and functions well with daily use. While installing the swivel seat, we removed the factory-mounted jack and secured it in the garage instead. Much later in our travels, we installed ‘WeatherTech’ floor mats in the cab to better protect the floor and contain our ‘foot mess’ during muddier and snowier times of the year. We are extra in love with them and wish we had installed them earlier.
Finally, before heading out on the road, we swapped our factory tires for a set of beefy Michelin LTX AT tires which have a mud & snow rating and would serve us well all four seasons. Why not BF Goodrich ATs like everyone else? We heard the Michelins were just as good and happened to be quieter. Being a heavy 2WD vehicle, we opted to carry a set of MaxxTraxx in case we got stuck (used once to get out of a parking space we got plowed in to), and also chose to carry a set of tire chains in preparation for spending a winter in BC (used zero times and still in the package).
We have definitely considered other mods - like a light bar and more of a platform rack system - but our philosophy was that we wanted to be prepared for things we knew we would be doing for sure and leave some room in the budget for adding things later when and if needed. So far, nothing but floor mats have been needed!
Gear we keep on hand for vanning it: an axe, a shovel, a jump/air compressor pack (extremely useful and used a lot… for other people lol), telescopic ladder, an extension cord, a set of tools including a caulking gun (silicone everything!!), a doorway bug screen, extra electrical fuses, a spare 6 gallon jug to store drinking water, a Berkey water filtering system, an Eccotemp shower (R.I.P.), a collapsable bucket, a collapsable step stool, fire extinguisher, battery-powered fairy lights (used every night), a kettle and Aeropress, a safe, Strawfoot Handmade insulated window (and vent) covers, a plethora of baskets and bins to house all the little things, and an RGB LED light strip in the garage set to RED (red light doesn’t attract bugs!).
Stuff we wish we had? Actual bug screens front and back, a shower tent (which we intend to get), a fruit hammock, a slightly bigger fridge without a freezer, a plug-and-play solar generator (so we could have more garage space), an Oru Kayak, more insulation on our wheel wells, Ryan’s mom to cook for us every night and unlimited funds for food and gas.
We really didn’t know how this vanlife thing was going to go. We figured the more it felt like home, the better. Worthwhile touches include the tin tile backsplash, the Pembrooke pine tongue-and-groove, the attractive ‘slate tile’ vinyl floor, custom door pulls from our friends at Watson’s Bazaar (Stratford, ON), faux leather upholstery for the door cavities, a salvaged wooden cold-return cover (used for shelving over the sliding door) from friends at Artefacts (St. Jacob’s, ON), a few farewell gifts lovingly displayed, our duvet from ‘home’, a sack-pillow made from a vintage St. Mary’s Cement bag (Pass It On Store, St. Mary’s, ON), and a blanket from one of our mums.