7 Budget-Friendly Van-to-Camper Conversion Ideas

Man enjoys the night sky with the best van-to-camper conversion ideas.

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The feel of the open road is waiting for you. Tranquil nights under the stars, days exploring the unique trails and a life of adventure are all possible with camper vans. You want to travel and camp in these astonishing landscapes, but the hassle of driving a massive RV or roughing it in a tent every night can be exhausting. 

However, converting a van into a camper means your transport is easier to drive and can fit in driveways and even drive-thrus for a quick bite. Renovations can also be temporary or budget-friendly, depending on if you are embarking on a road trip or plunging into camper life for good. 

Explore these 7 incredibly cool van-to-camper conversion ideas to jumpstart your next adventure. 

Van-To-Camper Conversion Essentials

Before starting your renovations, take stock of what you want and what you need. What is most important to you in this van-to-camper conversion? Is a comfortable bed a must-have, or would you sacrifice some space for kayaks and bikes? Reevaluating your travel destinations and needs is essential to making the right renovations for you. 

Next, check out your van. If you are still in the market for one, always check second-hand sources for the best deals. You’re probably going to gut the interior to make way for beds and storage anyway, so avoid that brand-spanking-new van. Check out these key areas before you purchase:

  • Tire quality: You’re probably taking some rocky trails. 
  • Air conditioning and heat: Desert or mountain air can get below freezing!
  • 4WD, RWD or FWD: Are you driving up winding mountain trails?
  • State of carpets and interior: How big of a cleaning job will this be?
  • Exterior dents or structural issues: How long will this van last? 
  • Dimensions: Are you bringing a furry pal, beloved SO or friend with you? Larger vans are probably in the cards for you. 

After gutting and removing seats and interior structures, thoroughly clean everything. Upholstery sprays and car vacuum cleaners are a must at this stage. 

Finally, it’s time to make your plan. Use a layout designer website or draft your ideas onto paper. Will you go as far as to have a kitchenette, or will you use the warmth of the fire? What about power sources? Take measurements of your van to ensure your plans can come to fruition.

Creativity is key in conversions because squeezing necessities in such a small space is like a puzzle. Exploring others’ van-to-camper conversion ideas is the best way to spark your own projects. 

1. Try a Pull-Out Kitchen

Building pull-out cabinets and stands allows ease of storage and saves space. With the back doors open and the smoke drifting away in the breeze, you have better ventilation too. 

Use a camping stove to make this pull-out kitchen even more organized. Some small stoves use matchless lighting and are powered by gas instead of electricity. You can also find a variety of recipes perfect for a camping stove, like pizza, pie and of course, hot dogs. 

2. Use a Cooler As a Fridge

Save space with a cooler instead of a mini-fridge. Coolers don’t need any power to keep food cold, but you will need to make some trips to the store for ice. You will also need to secure your cooler so that the ice doesn’t slosh out when driving. 

This is a great hack, but should only be used for temporary trips. Spoiled food is no joke. Try to pack foods that don’t need cooling or run the risk of becoming hazardous if spoiled. 

3. Seek Simple Sleeping Arrangements

People try all sorts of ways of sleeping in their van-to-camper conversions. Some beds fold up and sink into a subfloor or the walls, while others are fixed to a platform for a permanent sleeping area.

If you’re short on cash, stick with simple solutions. A camping map, yoga mat or air mattress are all cheap and comfortable options to snooze under the stars or inside the cozy van on your trips. 

4. Install a Rooftop Deck

Gazing up at a sky full of stars is an experience like no other, so take that experience to the next level and install a rooftop deck. Imagine a cool summer night on the roof with a cold drink, a warm blanket and nothing but the dazzling views all around. 

Rooftop decks and benches are always heavily secured with supports and bolts so that no one can slide off. Other mods allow the bench to fold up when it’s not in use. This way, you can still drive safely and traverse any low-hanging bridges. 

5. Project Your Movies

Taking the living area outside is another way of saving valuable space. Most of us can access our streaming channels or movies through our phones, so invest in a Bluetooth projector to enjoy your shows on the big screen. A white sheet can be a great screen, and you can take air mattresses and pillows outside for an amazing watch party. 

6. Explore Exterior Solutions

Chances are you’re looking to explore some rough terrain and roaring rapids on your trips. This may mean hauling bikes, kayaks or climbing equipment in an already cramped space. Try hitches on the back of the van to fit storage bins without hindering other conversion ideas like pull-out kitchens. You can also move bike racks and surfboard storage to the front bumper or roof to save space. 

7. Organize with Thrifted Materials

Finally, it’s time to fill your space with decorations and storage. Thrift or reuse everything to keep these van-to-camper conversion ideas budget friendly. Check out recycling centers for old pallets and plywood for securing your bed or building cabinets. Old bins, baskets and bags are great for storing clothes and gear. 

Camping Can Be Budget-Friendly

You could be exploring the breathtaking views of the nation all in the cozy comfort of a converted van. Small, budget-friendly and easy to customize, your vehicle is ready for any road you set your mind (and your wheels) to. Happy trails!

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