It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that van life can be lonely - long hours on the road with only yourself as company. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, John and Emily’s shared love of vans is what brought them together.
About John and Emily
John first bought his van over 4 years ago, back in May 2016. At the time, he was working a standard full-time job and wanted a little side project to keep himself occupied. Over the next 18 months, he worked on the van in the evenings and at weekends until it was up to scratch.
Shortly after, he met Emily. The pair hit it off when they realised they both shared a passion for nomadic, off-grid living. Long story short, John and Emily now live in the van together, along with their cat Joey.
Their first trip together was during the Summer of 2019, in which the pair travelled from the UK down to the Amalfi coast. Currently, however, the pair are in Norway, exploring Scandinavia.
- Mercedes Sprinter 315 LWB Van
Kitchen and Appliances
- Baby Belfast sink– This is made of real porcelain so it weighs quite a lot but looks exquisite.
- Two ring burner– This runs off LPG gas, which is stored in their garage.
- Hot and cold water tap.
- Waeco 12v fridge– John and Emily’s fridge is 65-litres and includes a small freezer compartment at the top. This is really handy for when they’re wild camping and want to go off-grid for a while, as it allows them to freeze food supplies.
- Extendable countertop
- Collapsible double bed– Located at the front of the van, John and Emily build their bed by taking down the extra kitchen countertop, pulling out the bedframe from under the sofa seats, and adjusting the cushions. Simple.
- Fixed single bed– Unlike most other vans, John and Emily’s creation also incorporates a guest bed. Located at the back of the van is a fixed single bed, which is primarily used by the pairs cat, Joey.
- Thetford Cassette Toilet– This features a removable waste-holding tank and a swivelling base to allow for extra comfort.
- Thermostatic shower– When building the van, one of John’s main priorities was to incorporate a full bathroom. While travelling in 2019, the pair only had cold water in the van, but they quickly realised this was negatively impacting their comfort. Therefore, during the COVID lockdown they decided to upgrade their current boiler so they can have hot showers too!
- PVC lined
- Wet room vinyl floor
Power and Electrical
- Standard UK plug sockets with USB ports– Allows the pair to easily charge their phones and camera equipment.
- 2.5 kW solar inverter– This is pure sine wave, which means it can handle pretty much everything in the van, including Emily’s hair straighteners.
- Bosch 230-amp hour deep cycle leisure battery– This is one of the pair’s most recent upgrades. In their own words, their previous battery ‘wasn’t up to the job’. So far they’re loving their Bosch battery.
- Epivert MPPT solar controller
- 300-watts of solar panel– This is located on the roof of John and Emily’s van.
- Sterling battery to battery alternator– This allows John and Emily to charge their battery by driving.
- Control panel– This is for the fridge, pump, night heater, inverter, and battery to battery alternator.
Heating and Cooling
- 2 x Skylights– There’s one at the front and one at the back of the van. They’re really good for ventilation.
- Thermomate Instant LPG Boiler.
- 70 litre water tank– Having a water tank this big was necessary in allowing them to go off grid.
- Fly net– This is safety pinned to the wall above the sliding door. While travelling last summer, the pair didn’t have a fly screen and quickly learned that they’re vital when you’re wild camping.
- Ikea blinds– John chose these as he wanted something cheap and easy to trim. They’re thermal blinds which helps to keep the van cool/warm depending on the outside temperature.
Cabinetry and Finishes
- Hatch doors– When designing the van, John opted for a closed layout meaning you cannot walk freely from the living space to the driver’s cabin. Despite this, he included a small hatch for two main reasons: 1) Rain – if it’s raining outside and they don’t want to get wet, they can climb through to the cabin without getting soaked. 2) Safety – if they’re in the back of the van and they feel uneasy, they can quickly jump through to the cabin and drive off. They’ve needed to do this a couple of times over the last few years.
- Custom-built shelves– This is primarily where the pair store their clothes. They are wooden shelves lined with plastic boxes.
- Cassette toilet hatch– The waste tank for their Thetford Cassette toilet is accessed via the outside garage. John purposely designed it this way as he didn’t want to be walking through the van with a full tank of waste.
- External hose– This is ideal when they’ve just come back from the beach or a muddy walk and they want to quickly rinse off their feet and equipment.
- Samsung 32-inch Smart TV– According to John, their TV setup is surprisingly energy-efficient. It is 240-volts and runs off the inverter, topped up by the solar panels. This means that when they’re off-grid, they can run it for days and days without depleting the battery. In terms of functionality, the TV is also on swivel hinge so it can be repositioned based on where the pair are sitting. Additionally, it is built into a remote-controlled shelf, which can be raised or lowered to the perfect height. This means the TV can be stored away discretely and safely when not in use.
To see the full tour of John and Emily’s van, check out my YouTube channel: