What was the first thing that you purchased for your Van?

Thank you for letting us to join the group. My fiancé and I just purchased a 2008 Ford E150. We are from Tampa Fl and have been dreaming of doing this for a while. It was super exciting to finally pull the trigger on getting a van. Doing our first camping Test trip this weekend with just the basics to see what we really need to have in the van. What was the first thing that you purchased for your Van?

Peace and Chicken Grease,


Greetings & Welcome!

Great looking van, and so much easier to convert than a cargo van, and stealthier too. Just remove the rear seats and move your new interior in. If you keep everything portable (but secured), you can rearrange everything until you find the best layout. Beats the heck out of multiple builds like many people do trying to get it right.

The first thing I bought was a complete mechanical inspection. I didn’t do it pre-purchase, because I was happy that it wouldn’t need much through my own inspection. The mechanic gave it a clean bill of health, but I had them change all the belts, hoses, and oil to give me a good starting point. I don’t believe in flushing the transmission, and neither did the mechanic.

Since the van (a hightop 1973 Dodge Travco Camper van) had been stripped prior to my purchasing it, my next purchase was from wrecking yards to restore the carrpeting and padding, wall panels, and window trim back to factory original for a passenger van, because that is what it would have come with originally. This step was completed the day after bought it. That evening I bought 2x 4" foam camper pads, a sleeping bag, a pillow, and 2x $6 kerosene lanterns, for less than the cost of a motel room, and slept in my van instead. The following day I picked up a futon sofa/bed frame for free, a student desk for a kitchen counter, an old desk chair for seating, and a handicap style bucket toilet, then went to Walmart and purchased a few sets of plastic drawers, 2x $6 flannel sheet style summer sleeping bags, a camp stove, and ice chest, a couple of water jugs, and several wood TV trays. Across the street at a dollar store I purchased dish pans for sinks, and spray bottles for water delivery, rope, a hula hoop and shower curtains, dinnerware, and cookware.

Back to Walmart, I purchased dinner and cooked it. After dinner, I wrapped the foam sleeping pads in the flannel sleeping bags, and put them on the futon/sofa frame, and put my toilet/shower enclosure together using the hula hoop and shower curtains. Then back to Walmart for a weed sprayer, kitchen sink sprayer, a storage tub to catch my shower water, and a 12v fan. Back in the van, I assembled the weed sprayer & kitchen sink sprayer, heated up some water, and had my first good shower in a couple of days. By the end of the second day, my camper van was totally livable and comfortable.

All I was missing was power, heating, and cooling, so the next day I went to a battery shop and had a used deep cycle battery installed with an isolator, in a marine battery box, and they added low battery cut offs on both my house battery and my starting battery, all for $80. At a truck stop, I got what I needed to add a total of 8 accessory outlets to side of my house battery box, along with 12v heating/cooling blankets, and 12v heating/cooling seat cushions. Bought a kerosene heater and a dead swamp cooler on Craigslist, and by the end of day 3 I was nearing completion.

The following day, I converted the swamp cooler over to a 12v model, and fashioned a mounting system for it inside the front passenger window. Later I added a cheapie generator and a battery charger for backup or emergency situations.

By the end of the week, I had a little over $1,000 in the van and the conversion, to make a totally livable and comfortable tiny home on wheels. As you might have guessed, this wasn’t my first time. I knew in advance what I wanted, what I needed, and how to get there. In over 10 years, my only modification has been building a new and improved swamp cooler, adding a second smaller kerosene heater/cooker, and switching out my propane camp stove for kerosene as well. I am now on my 2nd house and starting batteries, which I purchased from wrecking yards for under $20 each. Propane has been totally eliminated from mt set up.

I had over 30 years experience living on wheels before I did this conversion, so I had already made all the mistakes, and knew how to avoid them. No more solar, heavy insulation, roof vents, cargo vans, 12v fridges, expensive batteries, gym memberships, or “building it in” for me. I’ve paid more than my fair share of dues on all of those newbie mistakes over the years. Never again…


"Be the reason someone smiles today!" ~ Van_Dweller