UK Couple in early/mid build process

Hi Everyone,

We’re from the UK and have been together for 5 years.

We own a 2014 Citroen Relay, high-top, LWB that we’ve had since Oct 2019 and are in the process of converting it into a camper to enable us to travel more.

we’ve just been learning from Youtube and getting involved more on in Insta.

We’re complete amateurs that have just been learning everything from Youtube - taking inspiration from Instagram. We’re hoping to learn as much as possible from this community :slight_smile:

Thank you

Greetings & Welcome!

Youtube & Instagram aren’t the best places to learn about van life. Most of what you’ll find are promoters, more accurately described as sleazy sales people. Many hide their true agenda quite well, but make no mistake, their suggestions are bought and paid for.

The best advice in my humble opinion is to move your interior in and secure it, rather than building it in. Keep everything as cheap as cheap as possible, but don’t compromise on durability or reliability. Buy locally whenever possible, and try to stick to items that can be easily and cheaply replaced if they break, and available almost anywhere.

Don’t get persuaded into buying expensive fridges or solar panels etc. A cheap junkyard battery will work just as good, and last just as long as the more expensive ones. A cheap generator is far more useful and versatile than a roof full of solar. Fridges break, but ice is available almost everywhere.

You’re camping, don’t try to recreate a house or apartment. The systems are different, but you can still maintain 100% comfort. Don’t forget a toilet & a shower, you want to be 100% self contained, just like a motorhome. That doesn’t mean you need plumbing though, plumbing can freeze, clog, or break. The KISS (Keep It Stupidly Simple) principle should be your guiding light.

You want comfort, convenience, and reliability. It doesn’t need to be expensive. My entire conversion cost under $300 and it has kept me perfectly comfortable for over 10 years. In contrast, in the past I spent over $30k converting a cargo van. It was both miserable and uncomfortable, even though I followed all the promoters suggestions. I lost over $30k on that van when I sold it a year later. It was beautiful inside, on par with a very expensive luxury motorhome, but cargo van campers are extremely hard to sell, people want windows, lots of opening windows. Me too! Living in a box without windows isn’t stealthy, it’s torture.

Good Luck & keep us posted.


"Stay home, stay safe, and remember social distancing." ~ Van_Dweller

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Hi Van Dweller, thanks for your reply.

I’ve seen both types of people of Youtube and I don’t mind watching the more ‘promoter’ type channels. I feel that if you can make money via your living situation/passion for travel etc… then why not. The other/more realistic channels do provide more clarity on the day-to-day of van life - the ups and downs.

I agree with making it cheap but balancing it with quality materials. We do have 2x100w solar panels already. Good point on the fridge. What would you recommend as an alternative?

We’re going to have a composting toilet but we don’t want a fixed shower solution. What is in your opinion is a good shower solution? We were just thinking a bowl of hot water and flannel with wet wipes.

We’re not jumping on any ‘stealth’ bandwagon… our van has two big windows either side :slight_smile:


Hi! Welcome!

I’ve only been doing this since September last. I have not ever used a fridge and other than the first week I haven’t used ice in my cooler either. I’m I’ve been urban camping so there’s grocery stores everywhere and it was easy for me to just get produce as I needed it.

Most of what I get is done shelf-stable oil syrup honey that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. and I’m one of those weird types that prefer my beverages at room temperature so.

I had heard a lot of people say things like they didn’t know what they wanted when they first started, or after they lived in a while they realize they did need something or didn’t need something they did put in, so the first 3 months other than take out the two middle seats I didn’t change anything about the van.

I added a few plastic shelves and drawers something psuedo sturdy and cheap just to kind of get by.

But after living in here for the better part of a year I feel like I know better how for it to function well for my needs. I wasn’t in a rush to build just to start living in it.

And my shower situation I have a shower curtain that I attached to my back two doors for some privacy I put a rubber mat on the ground so my feet don’t get muddy. And then I attach a solar shower to my roof and do that there.

when gyms are safely opening again that’s a wonderful option and what I did the first several months.

I also someone got in a 2-gallon deckk deck sealant spray bottle thing… What’s a 3 foot hose so you just pump it and then spray I kind of like that idea better than the solar shower I’m always worried about leaking. and I think the guy had even painted it matte black on the outside to help attract more heat from the sun during the day so the water warm on its own.

most days during quarantine I just boil some water and do a cowboy bath. Are baby wipes if I’m in a hurry. The neighbors on the street where I’m parking don’t particularly like me showering outside in the street. Further than that they’ve been very nice. :slight_smile:

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Hi Gypsy_Fairy,

Thank you! That’s a lot of useful tips, especially the fridge part. Might get a portable fridge instead - one that isn’t connected to a leisure battery.

The shower as well! We aren’t having a built-in shower but did plan on a solar shower. Baby wipes will be a fall back haha.


Re: Fridge

An ice chest is the easiest, cheapest, and most reliable and worry free for me. I normally go shopping once a week anyway, so picking up ice isn’t even out of my way. For powered fridges, the 3-way are probably the best, so they can be run on propane or converted to run on kerosene or diesel.

Re: A Shower

I have a storage tote that’s about 2’ x 3’ and my toilet sits inside it. That catches my shower water, and above I have a hula hoop for a shower curtain rod, hanging from a clothes bar that runs the width of my van. For water I have a weed sprayer with a kitchen sink sprayer for the shower head. Works beautifully and I can sit on the toilet when showering if I choose to, or if I have a low top van.

Re: Composting toilets

I just use a bucket style toilet, composting ones are to expensive for my tastes, need to be vented to outside, and use power constantly. Since I don’t like putting holes in my van, or needlessly wasting power, my bucket toilet keeps me perfectly happy.


"Stay home, stay safe, and remember social distancing." ~ Van_Dweller

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