As first-time vanlifers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “I need this… I want this…”. But in hindsight, how much of this is actually necessary to minimalist, nomadic life?
About Laurie and Shahar
French citizens Laurie and Shahar bought their first van just over one year ago in January 2020. It was a Nissan NV 2500 HD, which they converted from top to bottom in just 22 days. Dreaming of a simpler lifestyle, Laurie and Shahar spent the following months touring the van around central and North America.
Over time, however, their mind-set and priorities changed. They realised that their van wasn’t perfect – there were several elements in which they’d fallen short. So they decided to have a second bite of the cherry.
In late 2020, the pair established Vantastip – a company for converting and selling vans. From here, they purchased Charlie version II – a 2013 Citroen Relay van. Their main priority with this build was functionality – they wanted a van high enough to stand in, with enough room to cook and live for extended periods of time. Their design is very much an upgraded version of Charlie v.I; they transferred all of their favourite elements and left out anything that didn’t work.
- 2013 2.3L Citroen Relay LWB L2H2– Laurie and Shahar’s van is 18 feet long and 8 feet high, which is perfect because it’s tall enough to stand up in yet short enough for them to park in standard bays. In homage to their previous van, the Citroen is nicknamed Charlie.
Kitchen and Appliances
- 3.3 x 2 feet kitchen– In their opinion, a good kitchen setup is what enables full off-grid independence.
- Sink– This is a standard metal recessed sink equipped with hot water and connected to their 18-gallon greywater drainage tank.
- Thetford double burner gas cooker– For cooking, Laurie and Shahar chose the Thetford stove. It is intuitive to use, easy to clean, and compliant with all French and European safety laws.
- 1.5ft drop-down cutting board – This adds extra countertop space to their kitchen area, which is particularly handy when they’re cooking large meals.
- CRX50 12v fridge– Located underneath the sink is Laurie and Shahar’s sink. It is a 12-volt compressor fridge with 45-litres of fridge space and a 5 litre freezer compartment. Despite its moderate size, it’s extremely efficient.
- 2 x bins– In their everyday lives, Laurie and Shahar strive to show compassion towards the earth as much as possible. So it was important for them to incorporate two bins into their van – one for regular trash and one for recycling.
- Fixed twin bed
- Single bed– This is built from the two adjacent bench seats. It’s a good size, approximately 5.9 feet long. They find it quick and easy to set up and repack.
- Dometic cassette toilet– In their last van, the pair didn’t have a toilet and found it pretty inconvenient. This one of the main things they wanted to change when developing this van. They opted for a Dometic cassette toilet, which is stored inside one of the kitchen cupboards when not in use.
- Outdoor shower
- Cabin window– For peace of mind, Laurie and Shahar wanted to be able to look through to the back of their van while driving, so they created a square window in the divider. For security and comfort, they then added a blackout curtain.
- 2 x bench seats– These are located across from each other, there is one single and one double.
- Dynamic table– Laurie and Shahar designed the van with all kinds of people in mind, including those who work remotely, students, travellers. The tabletop is stored on top of the overhead cupboards. It’s attached to the swivelling leg and can be adjusted accordingly.
Power and Electrical
- 12v plug-in light– This is waterproof and magnetic so can be put anywhere either inside or outside of the van.
- Concealed control panel– When living in a van, Laurie and Shahar understand that there’s nothing more annoying than tiny lights everywhere. They wanted to build a control panel that was hidden away yet still easily accessible. Therefore they built a little box in the wall which is covered by a wooden door. It contains controls for the indoor and outdoor lights, the water pump switch, and the battery monitor.
- Victron Energy battery monitor– This details the current status of the lithium batteries in terms of how much percentage they have, how much they’re consuming and how much they’re generating.
- 100-amp hour lithium smart battery– Even though lithium batteries are more expensive, Shahar was keen to avoid AGM after experiencing difficulties in their last van.
- Vehicle alternator– This allows the battery to be changed by driving.
- Victron 20-amp hour shore power hook-up
- 3 x 100 watt solar panels
- 12v to 230v inverter– This converts the 12v system to 230v, which gives them normal wall sockets exactly like you would find in a regular house.
- 10kg gas tank– This is located in the garage space underneath the bed.
Heating and Cooling
- No heater– As it stands, the pair do not currently have a heater in their van. However, this is something they plan to implement in the future so they’ve kept a dedicated space for it next to the fridge.
- No windows– To enhance stealthiness, Laurie and Shahar didn’t want to add windows to their van. When you look at the van from outside, you would think it’s just a regular working van.
- Fiama turbo rooftop fan– Air circulation is important in a van this size, so the pair added a Fiama rooftop fan. It is 12-volts and has two different airflow modes.
- 31.7-gallon freshwater tank– This is located inside the van to protect it from freezing.
- 18-gallon greywater tank– This is underslung, fixed to the chassis of the van.
- 2.6-gallon water boiler
Cabinetry and Finishes
- Door latches– Throughout the van, each cupboard door and drawer is fitted with a metal latch so that nothing can break or fall while they are driving.
- White overhead cupboards
- Garage access window– For easy access, Laurie and Shahar built a little window into the frame of their bed which provides access to their garage space. This means that when the weather is bad they don’t have to go outside and open the double doors to retrieve what they need.
- Pioneer Bluetooth head unit– The van has four speakers, each located in a different corner of the van.
- Vankyo movie projector