Easy and Helpful Van Build Tips + Ideas

Dee | Lady Bugout
by Dee | Lady Bugout

After more than three and a half years of being in my tiny home on wheels, I know some things that have served me well with my van build.

I am going to share with you the things that I wouldn't change. I hope they can help give you some van build ideas to make tiny living on wheels easier.

Van set-up

1. Set-up and layout

I would not change the set-up of my van. Up to five people have sat in here comfortably, which I like. I like that I can sit across from somebody, talk with them, play cards, or eat, and we can be inside this little van.

I also like how it flows in the way I move inside the van, which is very important, so it's something that you might want to consider.

How will you be using your van? Will you need it for anything else besides just sleeping? I like to feel like I am in a room in a house, so I want a seating area.

I wanted there to be a cooking area for myself because I didn't want to go outside to cook if it was raining or if I was somewhere that I couldn't be outside to cook.


2. Size of the van

Something else that I would not change about my van is the size. I know that that sounds crazy to some people, but I was riding around here in the National Forest and realized that my little van can get almost anywhere that I need to go.

I haven't challenged it to go up way way way up in the mountains or anything or off-road. For what I do and where I go, even little rougher spots like when we were in Colorado in Alamosa, where it is a big sand pit, my little van didn't get stuck once in that sand.

I like that even when the roads get tight, I'm little, so I can squeeze in there, and my van doesn't get stuck with branches or anything like that.

I also love the fact that it gets great gas mileage. I have been tempted to look at other vans when I see others, and I think their builds are so beautiful, and they can stand up, and all of those things.

I have considered it, and I've gone as far as to investigate things, but then I come back to gas mileage, and it gets me every time because this thing gets 28 to 33 miles per gallon on the open road.

Van set-up

3. Van scale

Something else that I wouldn't change is the scale of my van. What I mean by that is when I first sat in my van, I thought about how things would fit, and when you're in a mini space, you need to make a mini design.

For instance, 24 or 19-inch cabinets will not seem the same in a smaller space, so I worked hard to think how wide, low, or high things needed to be so that they would still feel like I had a lot of space.

These cabinets are only about, I think, 13 or 14 inches wide, and I think about 26 high so that when I'm sitting on my bed, which is also lower to the ground, it feels right, and I still have room up above my head.

It's something to consider because I see people in smaller vans getting a huge bed, and you do have to consider the bed if it is the most important thing. If you have a huge bed and take up as much space as you want with your bed but also want this indoor cooking space, you need to consider scale.

Cleaning pot

3. Not having a gray water tank

Something else that still makes sense is not having a gray water tank system. I know that seems ludicrous, especially for those of you who have bigger vans and can put that together in a system you have enjoyed.

Still, I didn't want to mess with carrying around one gallon or two gallons of gray water, the waste that comes off when you wash up, do the dishes, or brush your teeth.

That is something that I thought about what my specific needs would be. I prefer to use hydrogen peroxide; one to one ratio works fine, then I use the spray bottle to do my dishes and clean off surfaces and things like that.

It even gets out red wine stains from these beautiful cushions. It's spot cleaning and then just cleaning up things.

I love that it helps me to conserve water. It also helps me not to have gray water for my dishes and things like that. I use a little container I got at the dollar store to spit into after brushing my teeth.

It has a screw lid which is very important because if you have a lid that snaps on if you're on a rocky road and it spills, even if it's in another container, it can get all over the place.

Even if I have a pot that needs extra cleaning, so I use water with it, and it ends up being some gray water matter that I need to dispose of, I can just put it in the jar.

Van set-up

4. Taking out the passenger seat

I can't tell you how much space it created for me, and because I don't have another passenger going along it has been great for a couple of reasons: one, I have this seating area, and it's nice people find it very comfortable when they come in here to sit.

It creates another environment where I can sit back, read, and enjoy looking out the window because I don't have window space.

One of the other big reasons is that it created another sleeping area for me, and I didn't even anticipate how much that would change how I do things.

I initially did it so that it would fold out when I was at a truck stop or somewhere I didn't plan to be for a while. It folds in quickly, so I can hop from my passenger seat over here to sleep for the evening, get it up real quick, and I don't have to move anything else around in my van.

Fold-down bench

Also, a lot of storage was created by just taking out the seat and creating a little box I can access from inside and outside the van.

Van build tips

What are your van build must-haves? What works best for you when traveling in your van home? Share your plans and ideas in the comments below.

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