Once a cliche vehicle for surfers and rock climbers, the Sprinter-based camper van has branched out to outdoor enthusiasts, adventurous professionals, minimalists, and world travelers. Recently there has been a huge influx of families and solo travelers investing in vans to support their lifestyles and family dynamic. If an adventure van is something you’ve considered for yourself and your family, there are a few things to consider before jumping off with your design ideas.
It’s important to map out your lifestyle and intended uses for the van before jumping headfirst into the blueprints of your layout. If you’re too quick to configure different components, it may lead you to subconsciously shut down outside ideas and proceed down your build journey with blinders on. Some important questions to ask before getting started:
- How many people will need to travel and sleep in the van
- Will the van need temporary seating solutions for more passengers?
- Will I camp at designated sites, or off-grid
- What type of gear do I need to bring along for my trips?
- Do I want the ability to shower inside the van?
- What does my general cooking routine look like? (ie microwaveable meals or fresh food and hand cooked meals)
- Will I need to work from the road?
- How long do I plan to keep this van
You may find many companies offer prefabricated design packages, but to get the best quality and build for your van, you’ll want to choose a company that will make one specifically for your lifestyle.
Since 2009 we’ve had the opportunity to build hundreds of adventure and campervans for people with various uses and lifestyles. That experience allows us to collaborate with a customer to outline and develop an ideal conversion for their lifestyle.
Van Conversion Features
Here are a few of the main conversion elements that will affect your lifestyle and the ones you will most likely need for the campervan. This article doesn’t mention other features like fans, air conditioning, power, and solar because every conversion can include those in all the layouts we design without taking up much room.
Seating is the first area to start because everything else will be designed around these. If you don’t think you need any extra seats now, consider the future and possibly adding to your family. It’s much easier (and less expensive) to add seats at the beginning of the conversion instead of coming back later.
- How many people are you planning to travel with?
- Will you ever have one additional guest if you plan on primarily solo traveling? Two?
Now that you know how many seats you want, what kind are they? Of course, you will have your primary seating upfront, but do you want bench seating or the captain seats behind you?
When choosing a camper van, one of the most important details is how and where you will sleep? If you are a solo traveler, your bed layout is easier to choose. Some of the most common layouts include a Tri-Max Folding Bed, Dinette Seating, and a Fixed Bed.
Tri-Max Folding Bed
This is an excellent option if you are more of an adventurer and need a more modular setup. When your bed is folded away, you can store taller gear and more of it. It’s great for keeping bikes, surfboards, and even safely storing dog crates when they are on the road with you. You can also convert the rear of your van as a workstation as it allows for more mobility when the bed is stowed away.
The dinette option is the preferred layout choice if you are planning to travel with a lot of people in your van – It’s also a great option for an everyday vehicle. The table between the two benches makes a great entertainment space that is perfect for a couple or family to sit down and enjoy their meals, play games, and do any work. When it’s time to go to sleep, the back cushions fold down to make a comfortable queen-size bed.
Not everyone wants to make or break down their bed every day, which is why the fixed bed is an excellent option. You will have ample gear storage and an arrangement similar to the Tri-Max, but you will be able to conceal it as a garage. This allows you to separate your home from your gear and equipment.
Many people would love to have the luxury of a shower in their camper van, but you’ll be surprised by how many don’t include this feature in their conversion. However, if you consider yourself an active outdoor enthusiast and are constantly on the road, you may want to install a shower in your van, but there are a few things to consider before doing so. With the addition of a shower, you will lose a lot of space in the conversion layout for other features like a kitchen, fridge, storage, and seats. It will also make a considerable difference in the amount of water storage you have. If you are set on adding a shower to your build, we recommend choosing a 170 Sprinter that would give you ample room to add the shower along with the other conversion elements.
In place of a shower inside, many of our customers have opted for a shower outside the van. The shower hose is often installed into the rear door, taking no room, and the curtain will hang between the two back doors creating a spacious and private area for showering.
Having a kitchen in a camper van to cook delicious meals isn’t just a luxury. For some, it’s a necessity because of their lifestyle. When you have a fridge, sink, and gas or electric burners, you can now make a home-cooked meal whenever and wherever you are. This adds a tremendous amount of convenience when traveling and saving money on going out. There are several different kitchen options for indoor and outdoor applications, but the best kitchen setup will be contingent on your van’s uses. Whether it’s a microwave to heat meals or a two-burner stove with a drying rack, we’ve done it all.
Having proper storage is essential in a camper van. Whether it’s cookware, bedding, camping gear, food, personal items, or any of your recreational equipment, staying organized is vital. When you have a small space to work with, finding those creative storage solutions in the interior and exterior of the van is more important than ever. This is why we encourage you to design the van conversion around the items you’re planning to bring.
Recreational Activities and Design Layouts
With every lifestyle comes different recreational activities, and at ADF Sprinters, we’ve seen almost all of them. So whether you use your van to travel to the most incredible biking destinations or the best backdrop for your office on wheels, we break down the key features that are most suitable for each lifestyle.
Cycling and Mountain Biking is a popular hobby for most people and something we’ve seen a lot with our clients. Designing a conversion that safely and securely stores your bike is something we’ve applied on both the interior and exterior for many of our builds. One of our clients who love the outdoors and is an avid cyclist wanted a camper van where he could sleep comfortably, make a quick meal, and have ample room to store his bikes. Take a look at this particular build which we call The Jared.
Surfers have always had a longstanding relationship with vans. However, it wasn’t always well-received as it is today. What started as a way to save money, camp out at surf spots, and bring extra boards has now matured into a way to travel the world searching for waves while living and working remotely in the van. Living and operating in Southern California, we are very familiar with this lifestyle. Over the years, we’ve built dozens of campervans for surfers, paddlers, and all types of watermen and women that travel up and down the coast. When approaching a build for this group, we always focus on safely storing their boards, hot water on-demand, water-resistant fabrications, and a place to house their wet gear.
We recently converted a 4×4 Sprinter 144” into the ultimate surf vehicle that the customer calls Ramona. This conversion has a custom surf rack inside attached to the ceiling through the L-Track Mounting system and holds two boards. This conversion also has a custom aluminum roof rack with SUP racks on the side of the van, allowing you to bring boards of all lengths. Inside we built a half shower with instant hot water that doubles as storage for all her wet gear.
Skiers & Snowboarders
Whether it’s snowboarding, cross-country skiing, or snowshoeing, there is always something fun to do in the snow. With campsites shut down during the winter and resort lodging either closed or very pricey, a four-season camper van is a perfect alternative – It’s also more accessible to the chairlifts. If you’re interested in getting a van conversion for your winter recreation, make sure it is well-insulated, has a comfortable interior, lots of room for gear, and most definitely a heater.
A typical conversion layout that our skiing and snowboarding customers often use is the Tri-Max. With this layout, you have a bed that securely folds into the wall, giving you additional space to get ready for a long day on the slopes comfortably. (Some info about heater/ electric power usage might be helpful here)
Hikers and Climbers
Hiking and rock climbing are two completely different activities, but their gear is similar in size and quantity, so that is why we’re grouping them together. Furthermore, some of the best trails and climbs are off the beaten path and the best time to go is early in the morning before the crowd arrives. A campervan will give you the freedom to sleep in your car the night before, have all your gear, and also a comfortable space to come back to after a long day – Then do it all again the next.
We’ve seen hikers and climbers use either the dinette or raised bed layouts in their conversions, so it’s a personal preference in design. We will suggest separating the adventure gear from the living space in the van to keep it clean and organized.
Photographers and Videographers
If you’re an outdoor photographer or content creator, this section is for you. When designing a custom campervan, we encourage you to create a comfortable place to work, enjoy a meal, and have a great night’s sleep so that you can continue to do what you love the very next day. We’ve often seen a feature adding monitors that can easily connect to your laptop to edit your content. We also suggest getting insulated window covers to completely blackout the space and block out any distractions so you can focus.
We’ve had the pleasure of building campervans for two exceptional photographers, and their conversions are entirely different. Both the Sue and the Ashwin have the comforts of home and an office all in one but the ability to venture out to the most remote locations, putting them in the heart of your landscape.
The mobile office isn’t a new concept, but it’s beginning to be widely accepted by people wanting to travel but also have a reliable place to work. As more companies allow their employees to work remotely, many of those people find themselves traveling to different locations. With the flexibility to work anywhere, lots of individuals are choosing a camper van that allows them to travel, work and still have the comforts of home any place they go. For anyone choosing this lifestyle, you’ll want to have a dedicated workspace, a cell booster, sufficient power for your electronics, and potentially air conditioning for a climate-controlled space.
Designing a Custom Van Conversion
Ultimately, when designing a camper van, there is no cookie-cutter option for someone as unique as you, which is why we believe in custom van conversions. Whether you need a van that can double as a daily driver, keep you in a remote location for weeks at a time, or bring your gear from point a to point b, ADF Sprinters can help design the van for you.