Basecamp for Adventure
Note: build gallery at bottom.
The van was designed to be a luxury basecamp for backpacking and adventuring.To be fair, it was also due to my limited skills in carpentry, electricity, solar power, and plumbing. Throw in a limited “retired teacher” budget and that’s what drove the build. I purchased a used 2019 Ram ProMaster 1500 high-roof from CarMax in May 2020 with 12,800 miles for $25k.The budget for the built was $10k. Yep, this was right in the middle of the beginning of the covid pandemic.I started on the first of June and finished the end of July. Not particularly a good time of year in Texas for a van build, but it was Covid Summer and a perfect time to be busy. I worked 12 hour days during June and 6 hour days in July taking regular afternoon dips in the pool at the condo. Planning occurred a full year before the build watching countless YouTube videos, creating folders for each phase of the build, plus taping out the floor plan in the garage and using boxes to visual the layout.
The entire build was completed with basic hand tools, a skill saw, and jig saw. The birch plywood walls and ceiling are insulated with 3M Thinsulate and covered with upholstery which I hired out. The floor has 3/4” polyiso rigid insulation board, 3/4” plywood painted with mold resistant Kilz, and a custom fit Van Rug. I used the Van Rug as a template for both the insulation board and plywood, which made the flooring much easier. The van is powered by a 1400w lithium battery which is primarily charged by 260w of solar panels. It can also be charged while driving the van or via a shore power connection, both of which I rarely use. A Dometic cooler holds a weeks worth of food and drinks (no freezer) and runs 24/7 off the battery. There are two vent fans, one above the bed and one near the front, that can be set as intake or exhaust and create a nice circulation of fresh air. Overhead lighting consist of 6 LED puck lights on dimmer switches (4 in “living space” and 2 over the bed). A 700w microwave does most of the cooking plus I occasionally use a small sandwich maker for melts. Coffee / hot water is provide by a single serve coffee maker. The bed is 60x70” of 5” memory foam (I am 5’7”) on an aluminum tri-fold ATV ramp. A large tool chest secured to both the floor and wall ribs serves as countertop and drawer storage. I used two front-open storage bins for dry food and misc. items. Shock cords were added across the front of the bins to keep plastic containers in place. Clothes are stored in the overhead above the cab in color coded packing cubes. Each with basically a weeks worth of items. A luxury setup for anyone accustomed to backpacking or car camping.
Naming the Van
It seems like naming your van is a thing. There’s Van Gough, Vanna White, Captain Vantastic, and so on. I was thinking I’d let the name reveal itself to me once I got on the road, but while driving to work one day Vanpe Diem came to me. It certainly fits my philosophy of seize the moment or seizing the day or just seizing life in general. I’m a fan of living in the now, not dwelling on the past, and not overthinking the future. I have embraced carpe diem in van life so the name is a perfect fit.