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How to Make a Simple Camper out of Your Van the Best Way

Updated on November 16, 2017
Titia profile image

Titia has a broad interest in photography, poetry, family, art, dogs, cats, insects, wildlife, history, war, camping, writing, environment.

Easy Way to Make a Simple Camper out of Your Van

My 16 year old Ford Transit van
My 16 year old Ford Transit van | Source

I Love to Be Independent with My Temporary Camper

Sometimes I need a place to sleep when I'm on the road for a few days and I'll show you here how I turn my Ford Transit Van into a temporary one person camper.

Let's start at the beginning: We own a 13 year old Ford Transit Van with a double high roof, which we use for all kind of things and one of them is using it as a one person camper. You ask why? Well, I'm an inspector of a very rare Dutch sheep breed called Drenthe Heath Sheep and I have to travel through my country during the summer to visit our Association members/breeders to inspect their sheep. As I don't like to stay in hotels, I turn my van into a temporary one person camper each time I have to go somewhere for longer than one day and that's fairly often during July and August, our inspection months.

Places I Have to Go in My Country

Map of The Netherlands
Map of The Netherlands

I Travel All over My Country

On the map on the right you can see where I have to travel to this year, once in July and once in August. Most of these trips involve a more than two hour drive from my home and sometimes a 5 hours drive just to get there. Inspecting sheep the whole day long is very tiresome and it would get me in trouble if I have to drive long hours first, then inspect the whole day and drive long hours back. I would fall asleep in the car and we don't want that to happen. I even have to go to Luxembourg his year, we have two members there who's sheep we inspect every other year. It takes me at least 5 hours too to get there.

As I like to go fishing on trout in fishing ponds, I always search for a fishing pond in the area where I have to be and then search for a nice mini camping nearby. I don't like the big, noisy camping sites, because they have strict rules on when to arrive and when to leave and most of the time they don't correspond very well with my movements. In The Netherlands we have an organization called SVR camping sites, which provides addresses of mini camping sites at active farms. Those are small ones for only max 10 to 15 places and you camp either in the meadow or in the orchard. They don't charge much for one night and all of them have nice and clean toilets and showers. I just love to stay there.

I Love to Sleep in My Van

Camping at a Farm

Some farmers in The Netherlands earn some money by giving campers the opportunity to camp on their property. Very often they're still active farmers where the guests can see the farm animals like the cows, chickens, pigs and/or sheep and horses.

Then there are the mini-camping sites, run by private persons who happen to have an overload of land.

They all have to play by the rules of the camping law though, but they're much cheaper and certainly more peaceful than the big family camping sites.

Most of them are a member of a coordinating organization called "Camping at the Farm" and you can become a member by paying them a small fee each year (10 Euros) and then you get a reduced price at all the mini and farm camping sites.

I like Small Camping Sites

camping at a farm
camping at a farm | Source

Best Way to Make a 'What Do I Need' List

When you plan to turn your van into a temporary camper, you need to make a 'what do I need' list and what you need depends on how basic you are willing to camp or what form of luxury you think you can't do without.

My 'what do I need' list:

* a bed

* a portable toilet

* a cooler

* fresh water

* electricity

* portable tv (a bit of luxury)

* something to cook on

* pots, pans and cutlery

* cleaning material

* curtains

* heater for Fall and Winter

A Bed to Sleep In

I Used to Take My Dogs Along

Travelling with the dogs
Travelling with the dogs | Source

Taking the Dogs Required a Different Kind of Bedding

I used to take my dogs and then I used a different kind of bedding because they needed their benches to sleep in. We set the benches apart from each other and put an old flat door on top of it and on top of that I put the mattress. I needed a setup to get into my bed and I had to move slowly, because the benches would move a bit with me, but the dogs got used to that and they loved camping with me.

I don't take them along anymore, because I have to travel in summer and it's getting too hot in the van for the dogs and some camping sites won't allow dogs and most fishing ponds won't allow them and then they had to stay in the van all the time and I didn't like that.

Now I Use a Normal Bed When Camping in My Van

A normal bed in my van
A normal bed in my van | Source

It Is Easier to Sleep in a Normal Bed

As I am not a young teen anymore and since I have had two hip operations, it is not so easy for me to sleep on a mattress on the floor, because then I have some trouble standing up again.

A couple of years ago I found this lovely small bed, which fits into my van perfectly. The braces (I hope that's the right word) where it stands on, can be folded when I have to stash it when not in use.

A pro for using a regular bed is that you have room underneath to store some stuff.

A Portable Toilet

A Portable Toilet Can Be Very Convenient

Well, you know, once in a while a woman has to go to the room where even the Queen is alone and those rooms are not always directly available when you're travelling on the road. So at one time I stumbled upon this 2.6 gallon portable toilet which I immediately bought and I have used it ever since to my great satisfaction. I love being selfsupporting. Today I even take my portable toilet along when I'm not camping in my Van, just because it can be so convenient at times you know.

The portable toilet on the picture on the right looks very similar to the one I use, it only has a different color. When you buy such a toilet don't forget to buy the necessary chemicals too to keep your toilet clean.

A Portable Toilet Is Very Useful When You Travel Long Hours

My portable toilet
My portable toilet | Source

A Cooler

You need at least one cooler

An Electric Cooler Is a Must....When Temps Are High

When you're on the road for a couple of days, you need at least one cooler to keep your stuff from getting cooked before its time. I take along two coolers and a whole bunch of ice packs. One not electric cooler I use for my own stuff and the electric cooler I use for when I catch some trout or salmon. I love to go fishing in between sheep inspection.

The Koolatron P25 26-Quart FunKool Cooler on the right looks exactly like the electric cooler I use. These coolers can either run on your car battery through a cigarette lighter or on electricity when I'm on a camping site.

A Cooler Is a Must When You're Travelling in Summer

electric cooler
electric cooler | Source

Ice Packs - You'll Need More Than One

I always take a load of ice packs with me, because they keep the cold in much longer. Sometimes I'm lucky to hit a camping place where I can put them in the freezer for the night.
Sometimes I fill empty bottles with water and put them in the freezer. They function like ice packs too.

A Fresh Water Container

Don't go away without a fresh water tank of some kind

I Always Take a Container with Water with Me When I Travel

I use bottled water for me to drink and I use a bigger water container for my portable toilet and to clean my boots after I've inspected sheep. I have to keep my clothes and boots very clean, because one can easily transport diseases from one flock to another.

One doesn't always know what microbes are lingering in the meadow and one doesn't surely want that breeders point their finger to you as being the cause of a disease outbreak.

So we shrub our boots with water and citric acid till they are all clean again before we trespass the meadow of another breeder.

I Need Water for My Toilet and for Cleaning My Boots

Water container
Water container | Source

Don't Spare on a Fresh Water Container

A fresh water container is a must when you're travelling long distance and are camping in a Van.

You could end up in a situation where there is no fresh water available, so you have to take at least one reasonable size fresh water container with you. Choose one that's not pliable, but rather firm like the water container on the right, because it should be able to stand a bit of rough handling.

My water container doesn't have a filter, like the 7-Gallon Rigid Water Container on the right. I've never seen those in my country, but if I had a choice, I would've bought one with a filter. Why? Because you could end up in a situation that you have to drink the water and then it's always safer to have filtered water available.

Most of My Trips Are for Sheep Inspections

Inspecting sheep on a very cold day in February
Inspecting sheep on a very cold day in February | Source

An Electricity Converter

Make sure you buy the right one

You Might Need an Electricity Converter on Camping Sites

When camping in Europe you need an electricity converter in order to be able to get electricity in your camper or van on a camping site. Most camping sites have a lower voltage than the normal 220 in houses in Europe. I don't know if that's the same in the USA or other countries outside of Europe.

I use a normal cable reel and then I need either this converter or they put the cable directly into a socket. I have two cable reels, so I can cover quite a bit of distance, because sometimes the electric point is a bit far from where I can stand.

My Electricity Converter for Camping Sites

Electricity converter for camping sites
Electricity converter for camping sites | Source

A portable TV?

Having a Portable Tv Is Not a Must

It's not an absolute must, but it might shorten the evenings when you don't want to read a book or do something else. My trips are not only in summer, but also in Fall and then the sun sets rather early. I don't have an iPhone or iPad/Pod. I recently bought a second hand laptop, but having internet connection is depending on where I sleep. Not all mini camping sites have Wi-Fi available.

I Never Forget My Lenco Portabel Tv

portable tv
portable tv

What About Food

If you want to eat, you need something to cook on and pots and pans and clutlery and a plate

I Use a Portable Butane Gas Stove for Cooking

I used to take only cold food like buns, butter, cheese, some pastry, fruit with me and then in the evening I bought some French fries or something like that, but those were not always available and sometimes I just fancied something hot to eat. So I bought a one pit burner to cook my own hot meal.

I just love my Portable Butane Gas Stove. I can make some hot coco, or boil some eggs and even cook a meal. Sometimes I take a small pack of those pre-baked French fries with me and then bake them in a little frying pan. Then you have baked potatoes in the shape of French fries.

You Need to Eat and a Portable Gas Stove Comes in Very Handy

gas cooker
gas cooker | Source

Cutlery and cleaning stuff

Don't Forget the Cleaning Stuff

You might think you don't need that much when you go camping for one or two nights, but take it from me, if you don't have it, you sure going to miss it.

I once forgot a spoon and a knife and you don't want to know how I ate my meat and pudding ha ha. I have a crate that's packed constantly with all the things I need. So when I have to go on a trip, I just take that crate and I've all the stuff I need.

The Pots and Pans, a Plate and Cutlery

Pots, pans and other stuff
Pots, pans and other stuff | Source


Some Extra Lights Might Come in Handy

This Van has light in the back, but I don't like to use it for the whole evening, so I take some extra light with me. As I have electricity most of the time when I'm on a camping site, I took an old floor lamp so I could read a few pages before going to sleep. Don't forget a flashlight either for when you have to step outside at night.

Having some extra light is important for when you have to go outside in the middle of the night. I always carry at least one, but mostly two with me, so I won't fall without light.

Portable led lanterns are vey handy and they last long.

Easy to Forget: Some Extra Light

Lamps | Source

Covering the Windows

You Don't Want Peeking Toms at Night When You Have to Undress

In my Van I have windows at three sides, the front, the back and the side door. I use old, but nice bed sheets to cover the windows and they stay in my 'tool' crate, so I'll never forget them. I also use them when I have to use the portable toilet.

In the back I span elastic binders and I hang the sheet over it. In the front and on the side I use clamps to tighten the sheets. It's very easy to hang them and very easy to take them off.

I also take some extra blankets, because it can be rather cold at night, especially in Fall season.

I Needed Curtains to Shut out the World


A Heater

For the cold days

It Can Be Quite Cold in Autumn or Winter

Because I do not travel only in the summer, but also in the fall season and winter too, I needed something to keep me warm from the time I stopped driving and going to bed. So I went to this local camping shop and they had those cute little fan heaters, specially made for campers. Mine looks almost the same as the Ceramic Fan Heater on the right and the beautiful part is that it's very safe, because when you accidentally would knock it over (happened to me more than once) it immediately stops, so nothing can get burned. The moment you lift it from its 'feet', it stops, put it down and it runs again.

I never let it run at night, because I'm warm enough under my eiderdown and on top of that a fleece blanket, but it's very agreeable during the evening when I'm watching TV or read a book.

When the Car Engine Is Off, the Cold Sets in Quickly

Alpina-ceramic-heater | Source

That Pretty Much Wraps It Up

Ornanizing Your Stuff


When You Organize It Well.... - Turning Your Van into a Camper Only Takes About 30 Minutes

I keep all the stuff I need for these short trips apart in boxes, so I don't have to go looking for stuff when I have to leave. All has its place, even my fishing gear (under the bed). I once forgot my bag full of clothing and it was a four day trip, so first thing in the morning I had to find a store like Wall mart, to get some shorts, t-shirts, underwear, toothbrush, toothpaste and more. And you never discover that when you still have a change to turn back to pick it up.

I use my pillow and my eiderdown from my bed at home. So when I return home late, those are the only things I have to take into the house right away, the rest can stay till the morning.

Those little trips during summer are always little holidays for me. Sheep people most of the time live out in the country and I get to see a lot of my country this way. Place where I otherwise never have thought of going to. Obviously I take my camera along to capture the treasures of early mornings and late evenings. What else should I wish for.

I Don't Need Much Space on a Camping Site

Click thumbnail to view full-size
My temporary Camper
My temporary Camper
My temporary Camper | Source

Update April 2, 2016

From today on my dear old blue Van will be history. She will be replaced by a younger version. After 19 years of joy I have to say goodbye, because her body is rusting away. To get her through the yearly inspection this year would cost us a huge amount of money, but that will only help us for a short time, because once it starts the rusting process will go on forever. We'll face the same next year.

A Van like ours is hard, if not almost impossible to find in the second hand market. Last month we stumbled upon one that would certainly fit our need. It's not as high as the present one, but high enough for me to go around in. It's 12 years old but has a very low mileage, so we decided to buy it and will trade-in our old van. Today I will drive my Van for the last time and I must confess: I'm totally not happy about it. After 19 years this van has grown on me.

Starting New Adventures in My New Van

My new Temporay Camping Van
My new Temporay Camping Van | Source

© 2011 Titia Geertman

Love to read your Comments

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 2 years ago from Central Florida

      We did some camping in our converted van about 25 years ago in Australia. It worked pretty well for some outback treks.

    • Lynn Klobuchar profile image

      Lynn Klobuchar 3 years ago from Minneapolis, Minnesota

      Comprehensive! You are busy. Hope it's lots of fun, too.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 3 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @Nancy Hardin: I could have slept in a VIP cottage at the local Center Parc Holiday Resort. It was offered to us to use it this weekend for free. Four of the other inspectors are sleeping in the cottage, but I prefer my van. Did some fishing tonight and caught two big trouts (about 1 kilo each).

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 3 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Sounds like you're well equipped for just about anything. Great that you can be self-sufficient on the road. Take care, and thanks for sharing.

    • flinnie lm profile image

      Gloria Freeman 4 years ago from Alabama USA

      Hi you know I think this is the prefect way to travel. I love the way you have your van setup. Great pictures. I don't watch much tv, so my Kindle Fire would travel with me. Thanks for sharing.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 4 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @GardenerDon: I don't think there were even kindles at the time I got my lenco tv. I like to read too, but I don't like the electronic gadgets like Kindles. I like to hold the old fashioned book in my hands and smell the paper and ink. I collect children's illustrated school books, among other books and my oldest school book is one from 1904. I think I could easily fill a library with the books I have.

    • GardenerDon profile image

      Gardener Don 4 years ago

      The only thing I'd do different is trade the portable TV for a Kindle! I'm more of a reader than a TV watcher & reading seems more in tune with the whole concept of camping to me. Loved your pics!

    • profile image

      nhoudek 4 years ago

      Some really great ideas. Thanks.

    • profile image

      kimadagem 4 years ago

      This is a really well done lens. Thank you for all the great ideas.

    • am23g23 profile image

      am23g23 4 years ago

      Very nicely put together lens! I enjoyed going through it!

    • a2zcamping profile image

      a2zcamping 4 years ago

      Love it. Very down to earth and humorous to boot. Made me smile.

    • profile image

      DebMartin 4 years ago

      Thanks for the memories. I used to travel/camp in a van and I loved every minute of it. Blessed.

    • tonybonura profile image

      Tony Bonura 4 years ago from Tickfaw, Louisiana

      I love camping, but I have never done it in van; I've always slept in tents or (rarely) under the stars. I really liked this lens a lot. I especially liked the way you used the way you outfitted your van to build modules for those same items. Hope you have a lot of sales from this lens. :-)


    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 4 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @anonymous: Hi, thanks for visiting my article. The clamps are not attached as in permanent. There are ridges in my van and I just fold the sheets over it and put the clamp on top. At the back I use elastic cord and hang the sheet over it. Good question, I'll need to explain that better.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago


      A question, how are the clamps that hold your curtains up attached to the car?

    • CampingmanNW profile image

      CampingmanNW 4 years ago

      I love any form of camping. Thanks for a great and complete lens.

    • profile image

      WeirdStuff 5 years ago

      Perfect complex lens, I just need to get some van and let's go!

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 5 years ago from Southampton, UK

      I always wanted a campervan, and these days it's a lot easier to work on the road, with internet and mobile phones and satellite television. You seem to have things worked out really well in your van, I think camping like this is really practical, and a lot cheaper than using a hotel.

    • Knuckledown LM profile image

      Knuckledown LM 5 years ago

      I dream of owning a day maybe...come and see my lens, they're not about camper vans, i'll do that one when I eventually get one :)

    • robertzimmerman2 profile image

      Robert Zimmerman 5 years ago from SE Florida, USA

      I think I would make sure the toilet and cooler were different colors. Don't want to mix that up in the middle of the night! Great topic!

    • pinkrenegade lm profile image

      pinkrenegade lm 5 years ago

      Well written lens. You've covered everything about camping/road trip.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 5 years ago from Canada

      Just fluttering over once again. I sure miss the camping van that we had as it was so nice to just pull over to the side of the road for a nap if needed. They really are a handy vehicle to have if you travel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Titia, it looks like you can be completely self-sufficient in your van when you travel. I would think staying warm would be one of the biggest challenges when you have five degree below temps. I can see where the heaters are a must! I enjoyed your lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      what a great write up on this topic, who hasn't slept in the vehicle, right!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I enjoyed this so much, camping in a van looks homey to me. Love how you put the dogs pens under the bed to save space.

    • yourselfempowered profile image

      Odille Rault 6 years ago from Gloucester

      Interesting lens! Blessed. :)

    • Linda BookLady profile image

      Linda Jo Martin 6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

      I also have a van. I haven't used it as a camper yet but I bought it with that idea in mind.

    • Paul Ward profile image

      Paul 6 years ago from Liverpool, England

      I love your lenses that are about you managing life - Angel Blessed.

    • Craftymarie profile image

      Marie 6 years ago

      Extremely informative and personalised lens. Really well put together and a good read. I have blessed it.

    • glenbrook profile image

      glenbrook 6 years ago

      Love the lens, but I think I'd go with a station wagon or maybe a 62 F-100 with a camper shell:)



    • profile image

      RinchenChodron 6 years ago

      A person after my own heart. I have an old 1986 Toyota Hippie van - it even has flowers painted on it and a bed in the back. During warm weather I camp in mine as well. Enjoyed this lens. Nice to meet you.

    • KiwiSanet profile image

      KiwiSanet 6 years ago

      I enjoyed your lens.I loved camping with our van. We had an 8 seater Mitsubishi Delica which we used for camping trips around New Zealand. The two back seats folded more or less flat into a double bed. We added some padding for a more comfortable sleep. The more we went away the more organised we got. We sold the van more than 3 years ago and I still miss the van and the good time we had with it.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I love it. This is my style of a van. I actually believe it to be so much safer than a travel trailer as you can just hop into the front seat and drive away if there is a need to. Thank you for this delightful peek into your world.

    • profile image

      TravelingRae 6 years ago

      Blessed by a Squid Angel 8/9/11

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 6 years ago

      Very resourceful. Interesting lens.

    • littlelotus profile image

      littlelotus 6 years ago

      very must have had lots of fun camping around...... :):) I never tried camping but it looks like so much fun :)

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @justholidays: I had a lot of fun, but I'm not done yet, second round of inspections starts next weekend and then in September or October I have to go to Luxembourg.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @LisaAuch1: Thank you so much.

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @LisaAuch1: Don't know if benches will hold the weight of two people, but you can always make something easy to set up for your bed and put the dogs beneath it. Those sheep inspection weekends are always little holidays for me. My hubby is staying home to take care of the house and the other animals. He only likes sheep when I serve them on his plate LOL

    • Titia profile image

      Titia Geertman 6 years ago from Waterlandkerkje - The Netherlands

      @Shoputopian: You're welcome, glad you enjoyed it.

    • justholidays profile image

      justholidays 6 years ago

      I hope you had fun travelling through the Netherlands with your van :)

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      ....-Blessed by a passing Angel-....

    • LisaAuch1 profile image

      Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      I love this! We are lookingat buying a camper van and found a double transit fitted out, basic but just what we need, and now we can see how the dogs get on with you make us even more excited about this! you have a wonderful lifestyle i love the picture of your dogs looking over the fence! Dinner!

      Wonderful page on how to convert your VAN!

    • Shoputopian profile image

      Karnel 6 years ago from Lower Mainland of BC

      What a great idea, we are in the process of considering purchasing a van so I found this very helpful, thanks for sharing...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Loved all you post.You are one fantastic lady.