How to Make a Simple Camper out of Your Van the Best Way
Easy Way to Make a Simple Camper out of Your Van
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
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
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
* portable tv (a bit of luxury)
* something to cook on
* pots, pans and cutlery
* cleaning material
* heater for Fall and Winter
A Bed to Sleep In
I Used to Take My Dogs Along
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
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 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. portable toilet
A Portable Toilet Is Very Useful When You Travel Long Hours
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 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. Koolatron P25 26-Quart FunKool Cooler
A Cooler Is a Must When You're Travelling in Summer
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
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 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. 7-Gallon Rigid Water Container
Most of My Trips Are for Sheep Inspections
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
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
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 . 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. Portable Butane Gas Stove
You Need to Eat and a Portable Gas Stove Comes in Very Handy
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
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
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
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 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. Ceramic Fan Heater
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
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 SiteClick thumbnail to view full-size
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
© 2011 Titia Geertman