How to Convert a VW Van Into a Camper

How to Convert a VW Van Into a Camper
The idea of converting a Volkswagen van into a camper brings thoughts of brightly colored peace signs and flowers painted on the side and shag carpet on the ceiling. But your VW conversion can be both contemporary and comfortable. A VW van camper can be made from any year, including the classic from the '60s or one of the more current, spacious models. Not only will you be able to build your camper for your own needs, you'll save thousands of dollars over buying a ready-made camper.

Instructions

Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Preparation

Things You’ll Need:
  • Two 4-by-4s Two pieces of 1/2-inch plywood 5/8-inch wood screws Bolts Eye bolts Silicone sealer Polyurethane sealer Plastic storage cubes with drawers Foam mattress Bungee cords Plastic dish pan with lip Table saw Electric drill Screwdriver Socket wrench Optional: attic insulation and paneling Paint and stain
  • Two 4-by-4s
  • Two pieces of 1/2-inch plywood
  • 5/8-inch wood screws
  • Bolts
  • Eye bolts
  • Silicone sealer
  • Polyurethane sealer
  • Plastic storage cubes with drawers
  • Foam mattress
  • Bungee cords
  • Plastic dish pan with lip
  • Table saw
  • Electric drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Socket wrench
  • Optional: attic insulation and paneling
  • Paint and stain
Step 1
Remove the seats and armrests from the back of the van with a socket wrench.
Step 2
Thoroughly clean the interior. You may have to scrape areas and clean with a wire brush. Take care not to damage anything you are planning on keeping.
Step 3
Prepare the walls and ceiling. If your van has a good interior in the back, you may want to keep it as is. However, remove it if possible, put the insulation in the walls and ceiling and reinstall the interior panels. Alternatively, you can install wood paneling. Adding insulation will keep the van camper warm for cold-weather camping.

The Kitchen

Step 1
Cut a countertop out of the plywood. Since the interior size of VW vans vary depending on make and year, the dimensions will vary. Allow enough room to get between the counter and the bed, which will be on the other side.
Step 2
Cut a hole in the counter the size of the dishpan. You should be able to suspend it by the lip without it falling through the hole.
Step 3
Sand the rough edges of the counter and apply a coat of polyurethane to make it water-resistant. Let it dry, sand lightly and apply another coat.
Step 4
Cut six legs from the 4-by-4. Attach them to the counter with wood screws. Brace the legs with smaller pieces of 4-by-4 on each side of the legs.
Step 5
Screw eye bolts in the upper and lower portions of the legs. This will be to attach the bungee cords to hold in the storage cubes. Bolt the counter to the wall.

The Bed

Step 1
Cut a piece of plywood the size of the bed.
Step 2
Cut six legs from the 4-by-4 and attach them as you did for the counter. Secure them firmly with more 4-by-4 bracing the sides. Make sure the bed is tall enough so that storage cubes can be stored underneath.
Step 3
Screw eye bolts into the legs for the bungee cords.
Step 4
Secure the bed to the van with bolts. Use silicone sealer to seal any gaps.
Step 5
Put the mattress on the bed and the storage cubes underneath.

Tips & Warnings

 
If you have room, build a folding dining table by cutting a top from plywood and secure it to the van with hinges. Add another hinge with a leg to the front of the table. Stain or paint the furnishings and interior to your taste.
 
If you have room, build a folding dining table by cutting a top from plywood and secure it to the van with hinges. Add another hinge with a leg to the front of the table.
 
Stain or paint the furnishings and interior to your taste.
 
Make sure there are no loose items in the back of the camper when you are driving. Check state and local laws on van conversion to make sure that you comply.
 
Make sure there are no loose items in the back of the camper when you are driving.
 
Check state and local laws on van conversion to make sure that you comply.

Article Written By Catherine Rayburn-Trobaug

Catherine Rayburn-Trobaugh has been a writer and college writing professor since 1992. She has written for international companies, published numerous feature articles in the "Wilmington News-Journal," and won writing contests for her poetry and fiction. Rayburn-Trobaugh earned a Master of Arts in English from Wright State University.

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